Nationals Baseball: February 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Bryce to Phillies

Demands a new locations. Have at it for now

Update :

Now free to talk about details, Barry notes the Nats deal may have up to 100 MILLION in deferred money.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Happy Zimm Day - we think


According to reports we should see Zimm today.  This is good, not because Zimm really needs to play in a lot of Spring Training games but because of last year's nonsense. If you are 1 year old and reading this blog, first off - EVERYBODY BE SCARED OF SUPER SMART BABY, second - a recap.

Last year Zimm skipped out on Spring Training. He and the team told everyone it was a new take on Spring, a veteran trying to rest up and a team willing to let him. Meanwhile, everyone with a brain said "Hmmm, that doesn't seem right considering no one has chosen to do that in the history of the game.  Perhaps he is injured?" For questioning the team, Chelsea Janes got real snarky with fans about it basically saying "I know and you don't", while Boz wrote "Sounds like an interesting plan" columns.  Turns out the fans weren't stupid. He was injured.

Today should be a nice little come-uppance day but Chelsea (who half apologized with a "that's what they told me!") has since moved on to a political beat, and Boz (who ignored it) continues to ignore it, framing last years No Zimm in Spring still as a choice they made, as opposed to the reality of being an injury avoidance/recovery measure. Oh well. I guess we'll just have to be happy about being correct.

One thing Boz noted in his Q&A yesterday, or maybe it was the column last year was that Zimm was tired of hitting so well in the Spring and feeling like that was being wasted. Of course that's a stupid thing to think but did he even hit well in the Spring? Turns out - he totally did! I didn't do any math but it's like he's a lifetime .320 hitter with 40 homers in 180 Spring games.  I only saw like one Spring where you'd say he didn't hit well. Guy loves to hit off mediocre pitchers trying out things.

 The other talk of yesterday was Rendon's contract desires and how that will be adjusted compared to Arenado's extension. Rendon is a weird cat, who actively talks about not really liking baseball and not making this his whole life, so there's no real telling what will happen.  The numbers would put his contract between Altuve's effective 7/168 and Arenado's 8/260.  8/210? 7/200?  But for all we know he could take a 5/100 deal to go back to Houston. Or quit the game. Or demand top dollar and a NY team.  Seriously I can't read this guy.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday Quickie - Let us be free

Is today the day (like I was saying last week, as it is probably the best day marketing wise) or perhaps tomorrow (as I'm hearing more buzz around)? Regardless, please let it happen. Let us be free of the Bryce Harper story, and let the other chips fall where they may so we can really start figuring out the lay of the land going into the season.

The Nats continue to sell Bryce as the reason they didn't win anything, which I guess is as good as anything they are going to come up with that's not "It's Davey's fault and we're sorry we didn't keep Dusty around basically wasting a year to take this shot"

The big news from the weekend, in case you were off doing other things, is that Koda Glover couldn't make it through his first appearance, leaving with elbow tightness. Koda was always supposed to be the next big thing in the Nats bullpen, which especially matters for a team like the Rizzo-led Nats, who tend to put all their pitching hopes into one young basket. But performance has lagged and injuries have dogged and we stand today no real idea of if Koda will ever be an effective pitcher.

The Nats bullpen is the one glaring question mark for a team otherwise deep (line-up contstruction) or top heavy and no worse than any other team at the bottom (rotation). 

Assuming the Nats start with 8 men in the pen (reasonable - especially at year's start). Here are the men you can expect will be there and their stats from last year

The Given
Doolittle  1.60 ERA, 0.600 WHIP, 1.89 FIP,  45IP
Rosenthal DNP
Barraclough 4.20 ERA, 1.329 WHIP, 4.98 FIP, 55.2 IP

The Likely
Miller  3.61 ERA, 1.127 WHIP, 4.44 FIP,  52 IP
Grace 2.87 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, 3.40 FIP, 59.2 ERA

The Probable
Glover  3.31 ERA, 1.408 WHIP, 4.69 FIP, 16.1 IP
Suero 3.59 ERA, 1.217 WHIP, 3.48 FIP, 47.2 IP

That's... ok? Doolittle can be a dominant closer but his health is in constant question. 2017, when he threw 51.1 IP was the closest he's been to a full season since 2014.  Rosenthal has to be considered an unknown. The rest is a mish-mash. There's potential to be decent but also potential to be lousy and you split the difference and you get the uninspiring likely situation.

The 8th space is a wild card. Joe Ross (5.06, 1.313, 5.85, 16) as a long reliever makes the most sense. Especially given a repeat of the "Hellickson for 5" plan from last season. Solis (6.41, 1.551, 4.92, 39.1) would give them another lefty and also is up for his last chance. Cordero (5.68), Williams (5.59), Voth (6.57), and McGowin (5.87) are all also still on the 40 man.  You do see something in common though with these guys. They all kind of stink. It's a lot of small sample sizes, but still, no one is really fighting that impression. 

With Koda getting hurt you are already looking to dip two deep into these guys and frankly that's probably two deep too many. 

We'll see how this shakes out. I'm sure someone is going to look good in Spring, get fans excited, and win a job by that alone. And if Doolittle and Rosenthal look healthy and right - that's a strong back end. Still, if you are looking for an Achilles heel for the 2019 Nats, that isn't "injuries", this is it. It's a place where the Nats are walking into the season where an average performance would be welcome, and a poor performance unsurprising. 

Friday, February 22, 2019

Let's talk about... *gasp*... baseball!

Could it be? Baseball is really back! I mean meaningless Spring Training games but still, real baseball players, doing real baseball things. More importantly - not contract talk!

Ok, yes, we are just biding time between now and my annual "pay no attention to Spring Training stats" post and then between that and the first game, but still, baseball!

So what baseball things do we have to talk about? For one, we can talk about what we need to be watching for from the Nats this spring. The Nats are mostly set - you can probably guess all the starters and 24 of the 25 man roster right now. However that doesn't mean spring will be entirely without interest.

How does the bullpen shake out?

We know how it's supposed to shake out. Doolittle closes. Rosenthal sets up. Then someone steps up to be that "7th inning guy" - or if you hate that term "next in line, who comes in during important times". Then the rest fills in.  BUT...

  • Doolittle spent most of the 2nd half of 2018 injured, putting in normal use during a scant two week period from Sept 8th through Sept 20th.  He did look fine and the low use finish to the season was the usual "why push our guys" tapering that'll happen with a non-playoff team, but still that's only 6 real inning of pitching after around July 4th. 
  • Rosenthal spent ALL of ALL of 2018 injured, having last pitched in a major league game in August of 2017.  I hope I don't need to tell you why this might be concerning. 
  • The rest of the Nats pen didn't step up last year.  Solis had a moment, then flopped. Miller had a moment, then cooled. Glover is still waiting for his moment. Suero is just fine and unlikely to have a moment. Grace... I can't be snarky, he was good. Out of the Nats "other" relievers last year the most effective by FIP were Greg Holland (gone) and Brandon Kintzler (gone).  It's not that there isn't a decent pen here, it's just that it's the usual mess that once every three years gives the Nats a 2016 bullpen, and the other two years gives them something less than that. 

So there is something to watch here - are Doolittle and more so Rosenthal ok? Is anyone stepping up in Spring, if only to get the first shot at that 3rd best man role in April?

What's on second?

Howie Kendrick was another Nats injury from 2018, rupturing his Achilles in mid May and missing the rest of the year. Supposedly he's fine, but the Nats weren't so sure themselves bringing in Brian Dozier to help man second. Dozier has a stronger history at the base, but has seen his production taper in recent years and at the end of 2018 looked unplayable in the field.

If Howie is ok, and all early indications is he is, who starts? Dozier is a righty so there is no natural platoon and Howie can play anywhere, so the strong likelihood is that Kendrick starts off on the bench as a super-utility player. But how long can you not start a guy who when healthy has hit to a tune of .311 with solid pop? What if I tell you Dozier - who hit .215 last year - struggles all through spring?

Is 5th starter up for grabs?

The 5th starter position seems like it is a secret battle. Sure they did sign Hellickson to fill that role, but at 32 and spending half of 2018 out, everyone recognizes he is merely a stop gap until they find something better. They have two pitchers who might be that. Joe Ross, the other guy in the Trea Turner trade that was supposed to make that a "best trades of all-time" dealie, and a guy with 3 more seasons of control, finally is healthy and looks ready to see if he can get back to 2016 form. Erick Fedde, the guy they gambled on being the best of their AAA bunch when they traded away their starting pitching depth, is still here and is almost certainly their preferred winner of this battle.

Most likely it will be Hellickson. Fedde has looked bad in the majors and it is easy enough to send him back down to AAA under the guise of getting more work.  Ross, while harder to justify sending down to AAA (what are you going to say you are doing - stretching him out? He started 3 games at the end of last year.) can be shifted to the pen to be the 2-3 inning long man the Nats are currently without. However, I don't take this to be given since I think the Nats prefer Fedde, Ross, then Hellickson in a perfect world.

Is it really Victor or bust? 

Robles is penciled in as the Nats starter in CF. He can play the position well and hit well in his major league time at the end of last year.  But if he struggles in the Spring and MAT, who plays the position great, is on fire - do the Nats stick to their guns?  You have to hope they do, MAT has had his chances and Robles has little more to prove he deserves a shot at starting, but spring stats make teams do funny things sometimes.

There you go - real baseball talk! I had an idea to jibber-jabber about Bryce at the end, but let's leave this nice and pure for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Manny dollars for Bryce?

Manny is a Padre!

Well he isn't really. Not yet. But it's in the "if this falls apart something has gone horribly wrong" stage. It's 10/300 which is right on target for what people were saying he would get, in October. We went on a wild ride to get there, but we got there. Is the same thing going to happen for Bryce?

On one hand the deal with the Padres forces the two known suitors for both (re: White Sox, Phillies) into a bad position. Bryce signs with the other guy and you'er left with an off-season that's probably unsatisfactory to your fanbase. On the other hand, another suitor is removed from Bryce's list meaning if the remaining three (throw in the Giants) aren't as serious about the money they want to give him, then his bargaining power drops.  How much do these guys want Bryce?

Are the Nats still in it? Maybe. It seems like the potential contract won't blow the Nats supposed 10/300 out of the water, and if it's 10/315 or the like would the Nationals let Bryce walk for that difference? But all indications from the Nationals, and Bryce, since the beginning of the off-season has been the same. Bryce is gone. Nothing about that has changed and in fact that take has only grown louder (see Boz's column and recent Rizzo interviews).

When it boils down to it, we want to know two things. Is Bryce coming back? If not, is Bryce ending up in the NL East? That's what matters. The first answer has been a no for a while, despite the attempts to talk it into yes. The second question has been "if the Phillies pay him" for the same amount of time. We continue to sit and wait that out because while contract talk is all well and good, what matters is how the 2019 season plays out.

Why'd the Padres do it? Plenty of reasons. Machado might be worth it on the field. It gives them a star to market around. They are trying to catch the moment the organizational depth develops, rather than be reactive to it. They still aren't good. Maybe they are .500. But the NL West looks pretty favorable for them in the near future. The Giants are presumably about to begin a rebuild. The Diamondbacks are in the midst of one already (for some reason). The Rockies are a good team, but also were lucky last year could lose Arenado which would put them on par with the Padres. If the guys they think will develop develop and maybe they sign one more big pitcher and you've got a high 80s win Padres team.  Now I haven't mentioned the Dodgers, who should remain very good in upcoming years, but it's a should. Things happen and if the Dodgers fall the Padres could find themselves with a nice little run. At the very least they should be a consistent 2nd place team in the 2020-2022 range assuming they keep doing what they are doing and grab a WC or two. 

The Bryce and Manny saga has blinded us to the other decent players still out there who could effect the NL East.  Where is Keuchel going, Marwin, Kimbrel. It's been so very quiet out there on those guys and they could be difference makers in what looks to be a tight race. We should be starting to set-up our predictions for the year, but with these guys still out there, you gotta hold off for now.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monday Quickie - Maybe they listened?

Bryce talk got super-heated yesterday but at the same time until the pen hits the paper and the contracts are signed that's all it is. I've been kind of working with idea that the 300 million contract the Nats offered Bryce was more a "300 million" contract "offered" Bryce.  As in -  maybe the contract was deferred to the end of time, maybe the contract was filled with team options, maybe it was never really offered at all.  At the time it seemed like it served both the Nationals and Boras/Bryce to put it out there that the Nats would pay 300 million but Bryce wouldn't take it.  If that's the case - that this may not be real - who's to say any other contract we hear about is?

Meanwhile Boz wrote a mouthpiece column, speaking for whichever sources wanted to get the idea out that Bryce was a fundamentally bad player that was making the Nationals worse. Is it true? Well, no. That's not how it works. Bryce was too good at the plate (yes - dammit this is true, stop convincing yourself it is not) to hurt the team overall. However, he could still have been fundamentally flawed which hurt his value.

The rest of the column is classic Nats excuse making and sanctioned sniping. An unnamed player hilariously told Boz "Write it!" regarding an insult about Bryce but couldn't be bothered to attach his name. In the column it's noted that they have tried to be good fundamentally and last year it failed. Of course it's pretty easy to note that Bryce wasn't just on the team last year, although a certain skipper was. There are digs at Daniel Murphy's fielding, which is fair, but none for Ryan Zimmerman who couldn't field and faked being ok to start the year. There's digs on Bryce's fielding, playing a good deal of time out of position, but not a word of wunderkind Juan Soto who with the athleticism of a 19 year old couldn't put up even a blah season in the field. There's digs on Bryce as a leader, but then praise for Jayson Werth who, as I remind you constantly, also "led" the team to two missed playoffs season, no playoff series wins, back bit every manager he had, and couldn't be bothered to stay out of jail. There's talk of Howie Kendrick being a team leader (one playoff series wins since 2009) and Brian Dozier being a clubhouse leader (no playoff series wins until the Dodgers drug his body to the world series last year) and Yan Gomes being a clubhouse leader (remember the 2016 Indians playoff run? Yeah Gomes got hurt and barely played) and Suzuki being a clubhouse leader (nope).  Apparently finding a clubhouse leader who plays well in the playoffs leading to a team winning a series is impossible.

The Nats are good at looking at themselves and identifying flaws, but they aren't good at then accepting that the current team are the ones with them. It's always the guys who are gone. Be it the managers who get blamed and tossed at an alarming rate. Or the relievers traded away after they get mad at questionable usage patterns. Or, as we see now with Murphy and Bryce leaving, the star bats with bad fielding. The fix has always already happened it seems.

I don't know. It feels like we've heard this story all before. We have enough talent to win the East. Win the East and no one can control what happens in the playoffs. Rinse. Repeat.  I don't know what I'm after right now, but I know it's something different.

Thursday, February 14, 2019


We're moving into trying to will something into existence territory now.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Nothing in a vacuum

The Nats should pounce.

I mean some team should and the Nats are as good as any.

The ownerships are playing a long con on the fanbase. The way the payment in the game for a while now was kind of unfair, but tacitly agreed upon. Players would give up value at the beginning of their career, providing potential production for minimal cost, for the chance at a bigger pay day down the line. It was clear that FA contracts were often not going to pay for themselves, but that was part of the point. The "survivors" - those that proved they could produce with some consistency and remained healthy - would reap the benefits from age 26-35 of the value everyone lost from 18-26. In place of production we talked about leadership and presence and nonsense. It was a little bit delusional but everyone bought in.

But now the ownerships are pointing to the back end with analytic numbers and saying "See you aren't worth it. We want to pay you what you are worth!" and trying to sell that to the public. The obvious problem is they aren't pointing at the front end as well and saying the same thing. They are looking to continue to underpay to start, but no longer make up for that later. They are trying to squeeze more cash from the players, plain and simple.

And people are buying it.

Not everyone. Maybe not even most. But a good percentage of fans fall back on the "greedy players" who can't be happy even making millions. I've talked about this before but I think a big big big part of this is how athletes are perceived in general. "Baseball player" isn't seen as a real job.  "Owner of business" is.  Owner makes billions - that's just the way the world works. Baseball player makes millions - I can't believe it! For a kids game! I'd do it for free!.  But I digress, the point isn't the why, just the fact that it is working for some, and if it works for enough they can keep pushing it.

We already give the owners a lot of leeway. Another thing we've talked about is how I don't see this as a business but a hobby. You don't make money on hobbies - you spend money on them. Owners should. And if it IS a business - it's a lucrative one that makes money not so much on the day to day, but in the eventual sale. The team end up being worth far more than what you paid for it. Do owners lose money each year knowing you'll make it up in the end? Rarely ever. See we give the owners leeway on these things. We pretend it's a regular business that has to match annual revenue to expenditures and assume that's what teams are doing. We accept small-market designations (even for teams that are clearly not small-market) and allow for rebuilding periods where we accept low spending. All in all we give ownership more than enough chances to make money. We don't have to provide them with another.

Bringing this back around, ultimately you can only effect your team. For me it's the Yankees, and honestly I'm pissed they aren't just giving Machado 250 million for 8 years or whatever. Being a fan is a hard thing to walk away from but at the very least my feet are on a path of "what's the point of rooting if you aren't really trying" For you it's the Nats. And while the Nats have made a good faith effort in the old ways, or at least their "minimum of what the best teams" effort that they have settled on over the last few years, I see no harm in taking them up to spend more. Sign Bryce, extend Rendon and build a core that's Bryce, Rendon, Corbin, Soto, Robles - that's a core that's still under the cap with room to fix SP as Max and Stras do what they do. (because that money frees up). Or look at this market and think - "the overpays we have to make for a Kuechel or a Kimbrel are less than normal. Let's get in there" so the Nats aren't essentially running with the same back end of the rotation and question mark pen that failed last year.

I don't know. To me this has always been pretty clear. Yeah, it's spending other people's money but it's telling them to spend your money if you want me to spend mine.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday Quickie : JT Real-ly Still Not Enough

At the end of last week, while we were mourning Frank, the Phillies pulled off a big trade. They got JT Realmuto, arguably the best catcher in baseball right now to augment their offense.

First off, was it a good deal?
Is JT Realmuto that good? Yes! If we just look at last year offensively here is Realmuto's line
.277 / .340 / .484
And here are the next best offensive lines for "full-time" catcher
.259 / .378 / .431
.241 / .349 / .466

A step behind at least. Only a few catchers - Grandal, Gary Sanchez, Mike Zunino, Sal Perez, maybe Austin Hedges and Robnison Chirinos - showed the power Realmuto showed. Only a few catchers - Ramos, Elias Diaz, Posey, Oscar Narvaez, Suzuki - hit for average like Realmuto. Only a few catchers - Contreras, Lucroy, Grandal, Molina, Barnhart. James McCann, Martin Maldanado, Gomes, Zunino - caught as many innings as Realmuto.

Notice there aren't a lot of overlap here. You see Grandal - another top target this offseason. Zunino - who was targeted in a trade. But only Realmuto is tops in all three categories. This doesn't consider that Realmuto is considered a good defender (he is), that he's relatively young (will turn 28 just before the season starts), has a favorable contract (cheap for another 2 years) or mentioning his level of play has been high for three years now. He's produced 25% more fWAR than the 3rd best catcher, 20% more bWAR - although he's 2nd to Posey here. Don't get caught up in the mumbo jumbo here. Just know the fancy stats agree with what you would get from eyeballing catcher stats over the past few years. JT Realmuto is probably the best catcher in baseball, significantly better than even some guys that might sneak into a Top 5 list, and he's a huge value.

But you don't get that for nothing. The Phillies gave up...
Jorge Alfaro, who is a good athlete (pretty fast for a catcher) who has consistently improved defensively while offensively he is a huge free swinger (very few walks, lots of Ks) with good power. The combination of all that gets you a catcher who is fringy Top 10ish. That's both good (Top 10!) and bad (Top 10 catchers are very average players) but he's perfect for the Marlins giving them a dirt cheap answer at catcher for another two years and a cheap one until 2023. If he improves his approach even a little bit the Marlins will be very happy. If he doesn't, well at least C isn't a worry spot.

Sixto Sanchez, who is a pitching prospect who is battling his first set of questions as he goes into the real deal AA minors in 2019. The first part is being harsh, but such is the life of a prospect. At 18 in low A he had perfect control and was almost unhittable. In High A last year he still had good control, but it wasn't perfect, and still kept the hits down, but wasn't unhittable. High A batters got around on his stuff more often and as he's not a huge strikeout pitcher, there is concern that at the next step he'll begin to see some real obstacles to overcome. This isn't a huge deal, and he'd probably not even be dinged for these normal development questions except for the fact he got hurt last year, only started 8 games, and didn't pitch in the Fall League as expected.  If he's right, he should quickly get into the majors... probably 2020 being cautious. If he's not...

The last piece, Will Stewart, showed some solid promise in A ball last year but is not young (will be 22 in high A this year which is about on target) and is primarily a guy that depends on getting grounders. That can be tough to translate if he can't keep those Ks up above a certain level.

It's a big package but the Phillies  didn't derail their chances over the next two years by doing this trade. Alfaro is ok, but Realmuto is very good and playing the same position as Alfaro is a strict upgrade.  Sixto was supposed to be the next ace for the Phillies, but given his injuries it was probably 2021* at best. Will Stewart wasn't coming along any quicker. Does this effect the long term plan for the Phillies? Yes. But you know what started that effect? The fact that nothing they hoped for last year came to pass. No starting pitcher break out. No OF break out. Kingery was terrible. Crawford remained terrible. Alfaro regressed. Santana aged. They have some pieces in place for the now, but nothing outside of Nola and Hoskins that would reliably bridge the gap between now and when maybe a new batch of young players comes to help.  Maybe.

The team was built to compete in 2019 and beyond and not buying into today means very possibly resetting for another rebuild. This trade helps buy into today.

But is it enough? Is it enough to generate a playoff caliber offense when combined with Segura AND McCutchen? Is it enough without bumping up the starting pitching?  Probably not.  The Phillies hitting was bad.  Not terrible mind you, but the worst of the rest. McCutchen and Segura help. Realmuto helps more. But the end result is still a line-up that you don't see being anything more than maybe above averge. This means the pitching needs to match that above average level to get the Phillies in playoff position** and they were below average in that last year as well.  While the improvements in the pen help, it probably only gets them to around average. This is a team a little over .500 (81-83 wins) as it stands, and probably on the lower end given the level of competition in the NL East.

At this point, signing Keuchel, and getting to two not quite Top 5 groups and around 85/86 projected wins, might work in a normal division but in the East? I don't see it. No they still need what we've talked about before Bryce or Machado AND Dallas.  Do they do it? I don't know. But I do know they still CAN do it after this move, since Realmuto is not expensive. And I also know right now they are a healthy Mets rotation from still being projected 4th in the division despite all their moves.

*Phillies might have pushed it if he looked healthy this year and dominated AA because they really need that last starter. 

**Generally playoff teams excel at both areas (Top 5ish hitting and pitching), sometimes they are the best at one area and get carried by that, and every once in a while sneak in while being just above average in both.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

RIP Frank

Rememberances should be separate not tacked onto my column about Rendon. 

Here's Barry's piece.  (FIXED)

Better than anything I'll write. 

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

The question beyond the question

The Rockies are looking to wrap up Nolan Arenando long-term. The Rockies have the money to do that and something like 5/150 isn't out of the question. (Long terms are all now relative - don't be expecting 7+ year contracts for anyone that isn't 22). Arenando has been a great player - a plus bat with very good defense at a position that's traditionally harder to fill than you'd think. While he suffers from the same home/road question that all Rockies players do, most thought falls into the "that's what happens when you play in Colorado" rather than "Home = Fake. Away = Real".  Arenando is a very good to great player going into his age 28 season and should be locked up.

Anthony Rendon has arguably been better than Nolan Arenando. Not quite the pure power hitter than Nolan is, Rendon makes up for it in other ways. Factoring in the parks, over the past two seasons, he's a better hitter for average and shown more patience, while providing superior defense. I'm not going to fight anyone that argues Arenando is better, but it is an argument. And Rendon is also up for free agency after this year. This begs the question - where is Rendon's 5/150 deal?

 Now there are some key differences between the two. Rendon is about a year older. More importantly Arenando has been a relatively healthy player (156 GP or more in each of the last four seasons) while Rendon has not.  Rendon however has been a lot healthier in recent years then to start his career where he lost huge chunks of 2012 and 2015 to injury. His 136 GP last year is not ideal, but you can work around a few missed weeks.

There's just enough that even though you may argue he's better, Rendon might actually walk away with a little less than Nolan.  5/130?  It's been quiet on this front though with the Bryce stuff making for a nice distraction. There are suggestions that the Nats have made efforts on this front, but given how little has been written about it, these are doubtful to be more than probes and bargain deals the Nats have floated to get some idea of where Rendon stands.

I think the talks will heat up once Bryce gets settled, but make no mistake, this is not an either or situation. The Nats could likely sign both, and can almost certainly fit both under the cap with Zimmerman either leaving, or returning on a deal closer to 5 million than the 18 his option stands at in 2020. It shouldn't be dependent on Bryce.

Is Rendon worth it? There are no real trends to suggest not. He's morphed into a little more of a flyball hitter which is probably better. He still hits the ball hard and to all fields. He was more aggressive last year but still made good contact swinging more, so there's more a sense that this is a conscious adjustment rather than an attempt to cover for something beginning to go wrong. He's probably peaked as a defender but he's coming off a high of "maybe best in baseball" so as long as the fall is moderate he'll be worth playing at 3B for a while and still good for nearly all of a long term contract. He's not a particularly good runner, but not a bad one either and still seems about roughly in the same shape as he was when he came in.

What it comes down to is it's a complete health gamble. When healthy you can pencil in Rendon for .300 and the high 20s in homers with excellent D. That's worth it. But unlike Bryce, who can mostly bash his way to all-star level seasons at the plate when he's not 100%, Rendon seems to suffer more, becoming more of an average bat. His defense is still strong though and an average bat who can play excellent third is not without value. It's just not 25 million dollars worth of value.

The Zimm contract may be a deterrent. He's held up decently at the plate but wev'e watched as injuries have forced him to become unable to hold down a job at 3B, and become a half-time bad fielding first baseman. His contract was actually signed off and injury filled year, but like Rendon he had been mostly healthy before that playing 142 and 157 games. It was a different time though - before the team was good, when the Nats still felt the need to keep certain players around or bring certain players in to feel like a winner to fans. There's not that impetus now, after the team has established it can keep a winner on the field.

What am I thinking? Well of course, I'm spending the money that's not mine. In the end you make this deal today. Rendon seems to have turned around early career health issues enough that while maybe he's not an iron man, he can be relied on to be out there for almost what would be considered a normal season. Given that assumption, he should hit about .300 with about mid 20s in homers and with very good defense at third he's a keeper. There is nothing other than the spectre of injury that would make you fell otherwise.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Monday Quickie - Is this the week?

Pitchers and Catchers will report beginning sometime next week, depending on your team. There are still a good number of FAs that remain unsigned. You can take a look over here. They rank by WAR but consider that a rough ranking.

We're mostly waiting to see what happens with Bryce (and Manny.. (and Kuechel)) as where they go can change the balance of a division. But given the availability of decent talent is there anywhere the Nats can go to finish up their roster? Or do you consider it complete right now?

Here's the depth chart.  This hasn't been entirely updated. (Matt Adams where are you?) but it's pretty close. And what you see is that the Nats are pretty well set, but they aren't without areas that could be improved. That's in theory doesn't mean you can improve them with what's left, though.

4th OF - MAT.  I like MAT as a 4th OF and advocated him sticking around. He's a top notch fielder to be a late-inning defensive replacement (Hey Soto!) and fast enough to be a pinch runner when needed (hey Zimm!). He's has enough offensive ability that he can give any of the guys out there a rest for a day and if you need him to start for a week or two, he has enough experience to do that as well.  However, he's not perfect as he's a big whiffer and probably peaked at the plate. Is there a better option out there? 

Guys with more reliable bats (Granderson, Span!, Deitrich) are questionable fielders and not as fast so I'm not sure they fit the bill for the Nats (more on that in a second) Craig Gentry I suppose has made himself into a reasonable 4th OF and maybe you prefer a higher average and more contact to MAT's approach but as he's a good deal older than MAT I wouldn't make a change here just to do it. Adam Jones looks tempting but has two years of data now saying he's not a plus OF anymore. So he fits in the Granderson/Span area - just a bit younger for those that are choosing between these guys.

So it's hard for me to pick someone over MAT.  That becomes more apparent when you work out the roster.

If Adams is on, and he should be, as the primary LHB PH / Zimm's rest guy, and Kendrick is on as the primary 2B/3B utility guy that leaves possibly no room for Difo.  It depends on how the Nats roll with the pen, but last year they did start with 8 men. If there is no Difo (or more accurately if they use Difo's one remaining option to stash him in AAA in case a SS is needed) then there is no late inning pinch runner on the team except for MAT. As for MATs offensive hang-ups, well it's likely that Kendrick would take over any long-term OF replacement position (If it's CF then Eaton would probably shift - not ideal but they'd make a go at it).

All in all I have a hard time pulling out MAT for any FA given his fit

UTIL - Difo.  Now we just talked about how Difo could very well be a Fresno Grizzly to start the year. But if the Nats choose to go with a 7 man pen then Difo, or a util player, is in.  Difo's strengths are similar to MATs - good defense, good speed - but he lacks any sort of bat to make him playable as more than a spot start and even that's probably not ideal.  Beyond Turner and Rendon the rest of the bunch (Dozier, Kendrick, Adams, Zimm) aren't top notch fielders so a D replacement is nice, but it's not as explicitly necessary as it might be in the OF.  Is there a speedy, good field option out there who isn't a hole at the plate?

Jose Iglesias is an interesting option. Oh he's definitely a hole at the plate, however while Difo is a good defender Iglesias is a superior one. He wouldn't be quite the pinch runner Difo would be but as a defensive replacement it's hard to get better. Adeiny Hechevarria is probably a little better version than Difo but it's hard to see the point on getting 20% better on a spot you don't plan to use very often. Andrew Romine? No. Sean Rodriguez? No.

All in all I see one option for the Nats here, and that's Iglesias if they are so inclined. I'd like him slightly better in the "last man - super D sub" role than Difo. But this is only if the Nats are inclined to fill that role and not, like I think they may, use the spot for an extra pen arm

Pen - Here is the current state of the Nats pen

Closer - Doolittle - He's really good. He's also a constant injury risk hitting even the low bar of 50IP once in the past 4 years.
Set-up - Rosenthal - Huge question mark given he didn't even pitch last year. He's been bouncing around between lights out and very good for his career outside of one off year but again, he didn't pitch last year.
Next guy up - Barraclough - We talked about him when the Nats made the trade. This role is probably one pitcher too close to the end for Kyle. Maybe someone else in the pen steps up. Then again maybe Doolittle or Rosenthal get hurt and Kyle is needed more.

Rest - Probably Glover, Miller, Grace, Suero and Solis? Glover was hurt and didn't look great. Miller was a revelation until he wasn't. Grace was... actually pretty good! I mean he's not dominant or anything but he filled that middle relief role admirably. Suero was fine. Solis was bad.

Other options - Cordero, Williams, Voth, McGowin. The Nats try to talk up guys like Cordero, who have stuff. They are never good. Voth has converted from starter to reliever and could be a long relief type, except he's not good. McGowin is just an arm.  That leaves Williams who they had high hopes for but didn't come through at all.  There may also be options in the minors, notably Austin Adams,  but consider them Cordero/Williams types. Old, might click, probably won't.

All in all there is definitely a spot here. Now if you ask me it's a top spot.  Getting a Kimbrel would set everything up in a way I see it for a championship team. But I doubt they are going to do that. So that means a checking of what else is still there. There's Tony Sipp who was quite good for the Astros last year. He was also quite lucky (no homers) and has a track record that bounces around a lot. Nick Vincent has been quality bullpen filler for a while now. Romo is intriguing as a guy who may be able to be stretched out a little. Diekman on the other hand is one of those pure talent guys who if he put it all together could be dominant but never has. Still he's enough together that unlike a Cordero or Williams he's useful. You know I love Clippard but he is just another arm, better than most, but that's a low bar. Xavier Cedeno, another former Nat, is an interesting arm. He found himself after leaving the Nats and then became an effective cutter thrower. His speed has dropped after injury but the effectiveness has remained. I feel like there is potential here.  Aaron Loup is also out there as another decent arm.

Any of these guys would improve the Nats pen allowing the Nats to stop "trying out" guys who need to show dominance in AAA first. A Tony Sipp trial or a bet on Xavier Cedeno (who could become a LOOGY type if the bet fails) would be the way I go. Whatever they choose though I see a move here being both possible and necessary.  Ideally it's Kimbrel after watching Bryce walk away, but if not, something else from here would be nice.

OH - they could definitely improve at SP. But I don't think they have any intention of even looking at that so it will be what it is. Three top guys, hope Sanchez works out at 4, see what happens at 5. There are definitely worse rotations than that - like 20+ of them. 

Friday, February 01, 2019

Former Nat Round-Up

Slow news Friday means aggregation. But not links to stories type. The stuff you could look up yourself but haven't.

2018 Nats
Matt Wieters - still a FA, enough interest around him that he's pretty sure to sign somewhere, probably soon.
Mark Reynolds - minor league COL contract
Daniel Murphy - major league COL contract (basically the only person they've signed)
Gio Gonzalez - still a FA, interest has been decidedly minimal with Mets & Padres current newest suitors.  Expect him to end up somewhere on a 2 year deal for less than you think
Ryan Madson - still a FA,  as relievers are being picked up in droves he should get a deal somewhere. Twins are newest suitor.
Shawn Kelley - signed with TEX.
Greg Holland - signed with AZ.
Kelvin Herrera - signed with CHW
AJ Cole - claimed by CLE
Jeremy Hellickson - nowhere - assume anyone else not mentioned is either on the same team as last year bc that's the deal they signed (like Kintzler/Albers) or I don't care enough to mention them

2017 and before Nats
Jose Lobaton - minor league deal with SEA
Enny Romero - playing baseball in Japan.
Oliver Perez - signed with CLE
Wilson Ramos - Sadly reminding you he's on the Mets
Marc Rzepczynski - had a showcase recently, but no signings
Asdrubal Cabrera - signed with TEX
Zack Duke - still a FA, really close to signing with Reds
Ian Krol - signed minor league deal with CIN

Two things you note when you look back. One, this game, like all sports, chews them up and spits them out. A lot of "what about this guy... still a free agent. No prospects either".  Two, if you are going to be anything in this world - be a reliever. Relief corps have expanded which means about 30+ new jobs that have to be filled by someone. On that account I'd expect Tyler Clippard signed and a few guys looking around Storen, and maybe a minor league deal for him.

The only guy at the plate I expect to see somewhere next year not on this list is Denard Span who is still hitting slightly above average though age and injury have sapped his D. If he's ok with it though - hard not to see someone picking him up as a 4th OF.