Nationals Baseball: Kimbrel and Kuechel - not Nats

Friday, June 07, 2019

Kimbrel and Kuechel - not Nats

Kimbrel and Keuchel are now both off the table. Both would have ultimately helped the Nats. Both went different routes in signing.

Kimbrel took a multiyear package. He didn't get the 6/100+ that he looked like he was gunning for. Instead he got 3/42 (with the potential for 16 more or a buyout) that falls well short. Ultimately he was done in by the new unofficial age guidelines which basically throw you out the door in your early 30s. Kimbrel wanted something that no one is prepared to give a pitcher, certainly not one where you can't get some under 20 years, a multi-year middle 30s commitment. Holding out for that cost him probably that 4th year as guaranteed.

Keuchel looks to be gambling on himself with a 1/13 million dollar deal.  Keuchel was undone by the fact he wanted to be paid for how he pitched in 2014, 2015, and 2017 but 2016 and 2018 happened as well.  The first Keuchel deserved the 5 year / 100 million deal he was likely after.  The latter Keuchel is a 2 year deal guy. Based on fancy stats hes a high 3.00 ERA guy for the next couple of years which means he probably had something out there akin to Lance Lynn's 3/30 at best. Can he beat that next year coming off an age 31 year? Possibly - if he throws like 2015, but that's a long time ago. More likely he rolls out a year around a 3.80 FIP and settles for a 2 year deal next offseason for 15-20 or so million. If he can do that - well he nets himself a couple million considering he didn't pitch a third of this season but it probably wasn't worth it.

Anyway - how does this effect the Nats?

Keuchel is the obvious one to look at as he goes to a division opponent in the Braves.  The Braves rotation, hasn't shaken out like they wanted. While Fried and Soroka have come up from the mass of young starters as they hoped, Folty and Gausman haven't provided the stability in the middle of the rotation they were looking for. With a spotty pen, they need someone to eat innings well and Keuchel might be able to do that. He's been injured in the past, but not is only looking to go 2/3rds of a season. He should replace Gausman and settle things a bit. If Folty keeps pitching ok as he has been, that might be enough to keep pace with the Phillies. If someone else falters, he should keep Atlanta in the playoff mix, by making sure the staff doesn't fall apart.

That's overall. H2H Keuchel doesn't particularly concern me. He's a good pitcher but not great and the Nats hit lefties. There isn't a good reason to think he's going to beat them any more than any other good pitcher. He shouldn't be a game changer here.

The Kimbrel move is less directly impactful but the Cubs who weren't necessarily bad in the pen, did need that extra arm to complete this team.  The hitting is Top 5. The rotation is Top 5.  This makes the pen Top 5 and puts the Cubs in the Dodgers level. If given a choice I think the Cubs would have liked to gone and get an ace. The rotation is good but there's no dominance there. But Keuchel wasn't that so this was the move. What the Nats need to worry about now is how this effects the Central and how that effects the other teams currently in the hunt. Do the hot and cold Brewers make a counter move to stay with the Cubs? Do the Cardinals react to that? If the Cardinals react do ATL or PHI make another move down the stretch to stay in the playoffs. Or whoever is in position in the West? 

 A lot will depend on how things shake out over the next 3 weeks. Best probably case for the Nats is the Brewers drift off and you end up with a lot of middling teams fighting for the WC with no real impetus to spend a lot trying to catch that spot given their mediocre play not indicating a likely WS run. Something like it is now if MIL was at 33-30 instead of 35-28. That would give a closing in on .500 Nats team a punchers chance to emerge from the scrum given both WC would be in play and close.  This is a scenario where high 80s takes the WC spots.

Worst case for Nats is the Brewers stay close, the Cardinals catch fire and as they both gear up to challenge the Cubs through trade neither ATL or PHI falls back and in fact stay close to eachother and someone (ARI?) emerges from the West. In that scenario, even if the Nats are closing in .500 there'd be three teams ahead of them for the WC looking to really try to improve down the stretch to try to win the division who won't do that and will end up in the WC slot. Plus a WC team in whoever comes out of the West. I can't see the Nats managing to come back in this scenario as in here the WC spot probably ends up with a mid 90s and low 90s team.


BxJaycobb said...

@Harper: why do you think there’s just no discussion at all or questions/pressure from media on team etc regarding extending Rendon? I feel like everybody was assuming “well the silver lining of letting Bryce go is they get to keep Rendon”.....and now they seem to just not even be trying to sign him before FA it seems? And like...Rendon is arguably just about the best third baseman in baseball at this point (look at Arenado and Machado’s career hitting away from Coors/Camden, which looks sort of confirmed by Machado’s start)...although not the most valuable one to have as an asset (that would be Bergman who is younger and about as good).....and a top 5 NL player. Does this team really intend to just let two MVP level players walk out the door? I cant recall a single team of the Nats payroll size/resources, etc to do that (let not one but two superstars leave in successive years.) Broke or small market teams, sure. But losing both would almost be they’re not a real franchise or something. (Now if they’re doing a rebuild then that’s fine and it makes sense....but they can’t possibly lose Harper then Rendon to FA having extended neither and then claim they’re trying to win. That’s just not even vaguely credible. The other point I was going to raise is—in a league where every team is taking advantage of the FA scares to extend their young talent—-the Nats appears to again be the outliers. Why not extend Soto? Why not extend Robles? Why not extend Turner? These are all players you know are at least average regulars and probably above average regulars with easy to see All-Star potential (Soto should take over at 1B for Zim next year probably). But unlike everybody else (Red sox with Bogaerts/Braves with acuna and Albies/Yankees with Severino/astros w Bregman/Mets degrom/Phillies Nola, etc.....crickets. Is this a Lerner cash flow situation? It doesn’t seem that it matters whether it’s a superstar approaching FA (Rendon), a 4-5 WAR star who is hitting arbitration (Turner), or super young players where you’re trying to get ahead of their breakout/improvement and save money like Robles and Soto. The Nats just aren’t doing anything.

G Cracka X said...

Arenado and Machado are both younger than Rendon (Machado by >2 years). I would love to have the Nats bring back Rendon, but its hard to say what is happening because any negotiations are behind closed doors. Rendon's bat is outstanding, but the defense appears to be dropping off, from an fDef of 14.3 in '17, to 7.9 in '18, to a projected Def of 5.2 this year (current production plus average of ZiPS, Steamer, and DP). The defense will continue to decline as he ages. The ZiPS three year projection has him at 4.2 fWAR in '20 (less than TT last year) and then 3.8 in '21. Now don't get me wrong here, a 4 WAR player is still very good, but its not 'Must re-sign this guy at all costs!' good. The Nats have the option to extend him, which is sensible, or trade/get QO compensation for him, and then use the savings to sign a FA to 2nd or 3rd and have CK cover the other bag, which is also sensible.

Josh Higham said...

I think Rendon's extension can't happen during the season because of the way ownership is treating the luxury tax threshold as a hard cap. Any long term extension would up his AAV for luxury tax purposes. So if they do a teardown and shed enough salary at the deadline, I'd expect a Rendon extension to happen, if he comes back at all. If they are playing to win through the break, my guess is he hits FA before they give him any kind of fair offer.

blovy8 said...

Rendon has a contract - they can sign him to a future contract at once without affecting the current structure - but I doubt they will.

blovy8 said...

And, while i would love it if they signed Rendon, my feeling has always been that its too late, and the twain shall never meet.

G Cracka X said...

@Josh Higham Thanks for that insight! I never thought it in terms of AAV and luxury tax. That does provide a possible explanation, and it will be interesting to see if they sell at the deadline, and then announce a Rendon extension

billyhacker said...

Maybe they learned from the Harper situation that they should traded at the deadline and then negotiated with the free agent. If there's no discount for extending Rendon, why do it?

BxJaycobb said...

@JoshH: a Rendon extension would be starting next year. He’s under contract for this year already.