Nationals Baseball: Baseball news dump

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Baseball news dump

Josh Donaldson is a Twin.  4/92 with a possible option putting it over 100 million. The first thing this means is Donaldson - a very good player, is not on the Braves anymore. That's good for the Nats! This would have made the Braves a clear favorite for the division. Instead they remain a minor one with a lot of solid players but lacking that one more big bat to complement Freeman and Acuna*.  Will Albies step up? Austin Riley? Maybe but that's the same thing as guessing that Robles will. Right now they have no real weakness but nothing that can carry the team forward, and an offense that should be a little worse, matching the Nats own situation.

The second thing is Donaldson is not a Nat which means if the Nats really did have a 4/100 million deal out there as was told - that it was so heavily deferred to be comical. There doesn't seem to be an end to the Nats trying this game so expect to fall short on a good number of free agents. But as we've talked about before, this hasn't come back to bite them yet so why not keep moving forward with the plan? The still have enough talent to win and gaps that can be filled. Rendon is another big gap and we'll have to see if what they've done will work, but at this point, not really 8 seasons in because the first two didn't involve much front office work, but 6 seasons in of it working why doubt it?

Also yesterday the cheating scandal punishments came down and ultimately Hinch, Luhnow, and Cora were all let go.  Cora was a Nat in 2011, right before the Nats got good, but there's like a dozen things in between then and now with a bunch of teams, plus a whole different Nats squad so I'm not worried about anything he may or may not have done in DC.  Was it a fair punishment? I think so. Rules are rules, you know not to do that even if it's not explicitly spelled out. I think Hinch, with his anger but no action reaction to others doing this, ends up on a bench somewhere. I think Luhnow is done forever, because if we believe Hinch then either you have rogue coaches and players (doubtful) or direction from on high (sounds like the Astros to me), then he directed it and is lying now. Cora? I don't know. He was deep into it so it's a hard sell getting him back in.

Do I think other teams were trying or exploring similar things. I do.  Success breeds imitation and it's just in the nature of the game. But I think these are the warning shots over the bow (taking out a few sailors) to say "cut it out".  

Sadly all that's left in FA is the righty OF/DH shuffle between Ozuna (best OF), Castellanos (best bat), and Puig (most fun) of which the Nats and no one in the NL East should be a part of ** Yawn.  I suppose the trade market is still there but I doubt that Arenado is coming to the NL East (it's either the Cardinals with their amassing of prospects or no one).  Bryant is a more interesting case. The Braves should do a trade given their surplus of minor league talent. The Phillies should do a trade because they need one more big bat. The Nats should do a trade because the same. But likely no one will.

So we're probably where we are at for the season and I like the Braves and Nats to fight for the division and the WC with a slight edge to the Braves. Not a bad place to be with a WS title in pocket

*The Nats only had two big bats last year but the Nats also had three aces. The Braves do not have three aces. 

**both the Phillies and Marlins could use an OF but a CF specifically. You aren't putting any of these guys in CF.


G Cracka X said...

Good post Harper. How do you see the Phillies and the Mets stacking up in comparison? Are either of those teams in better shape than the Nats coming into the 2020 season?

Anonymous said...

I think the Braves and the Nats are neck and neck, with the Mets a hair behind. Donaldson is a difference maker, and the Braves not having him is a big deal.

One point: we need to be realistic about the Braves' rotation. Soroka overachieved in a big way last year. He will need to improve his performance just to equal last year's results. The projection systems have him as a 4.00 ERA pitcher next year. The opposite is true of Max Fried, so if the regression monster hits both of them, you'd probably expect the effects to cancel out. Still, if I were drafting NL East starting pitchers for the 2020 season, three Nats, two Mets, and one Phillie would DEFINITELY come off the board before I get to a Brave. A case could be made for an additional Met (Stroman) and an additional Phillie (Wheeler) over any Brave, though I'm not sure I'd make it. It's hard to win a division with a rotation that's so weak at the top, unless the lineup mashes, and the probability their lineup mashes in 2020 just got substantially lower.

Jimmy said...

Like anon said the Braves rotation is a cause for concern for them. They replaced Kuechel and Tehran two consistent quality inning eaters with youth and Cole Hamels who is approximatly ancient years old. They are weak in the lineup too they are counting on Nick Markakis to play everyday in RF/LF. Honestly I think the Mets could potentially be better this year although they have less depth rotationally they seem to me to have the higher floor with how many quality position players they have, only issues I really see with them is their up the middle defense at SS and CF and lack of depth at pitching. I honestly think as it stands right now we have the best top to bottom team but it is close. I don't think we can discount either the Mets or Braves. The Phillies are also going to win around 78-84 games.

Harper said...

Phillies need a reverse of last year at the plate - where like everyone was a little down. If everyone is a little up they'd have a carrying type offense, which they need because the pitching still seems suspect. Most likely the offense is pretty good, but Wheeler isn't an ace and they are just fringy Wild Card.

Mets somehow had the Nats bullpen situation last year after setting up one that should have been pretty good. Assuming that settles it comes down to what it usually does with the Mets recently - SP health. If everyone goes 30+ start they could take the division, if not the offense is fine but not enough to keep up with the completeness of Nats or Braves.

Anon @ 7:28 - Soroka is really good. Like he was ace level last year. I can get you going with Nola given his history but it's not a dunk. and no way I'm going Stroman or Wheeler over him.

Which so much young talent there someone is going to be good, someone ok. That's really the key with the Braves. If Ross crashes or the Nats get hurt they are already digging into suspect choices. The Braves have 3 guys who are legit prospects who pitched in the majors last year and one more that didn't - plus a more Fedde like type behind that. The Braves If Hamels can hold up for a year it's solid enough . They also have possible OF issues but have (another) legit OF prospect ready.

Jimmy said...

Personally I believe Austin Voth is the best of the Fedde/Ross contingent. He's been what he is at pretty much every level, Ross has more upside because of plus pitches but I think Voth will end up being the guy that eats quality innings for the next 2-3 years here.

Harper said...

You guys are underselling the Braves pitching. They have a guy that pitched like an ace last year. Two other young arms to at least fill innings pretty decently. Hamels who pitched very well coming back to the NL last year (and was ok in the AL before that). That alone is solid and with a solid offense is enough. After that there is FOUR guys you'd say "better prospects than Fedde" ready throw out there. This is crazy depth.

Jay said...

I think not trading for a third baseman at this point is a mistake. It reminds me a lot of when the Caps won the Stanley Cup and ownership decided they didn't need Barry Trotz around. Rierden was good in the regular season but badly out coached in the playoffs. Go back and watch just the playoffs. I miss Anthony Rendon. Replacing him with Carter Kieboom is foolish. I'd trade Kieboom and some minor league pitching for Bryant. Luis Garcia is now their 2nd baseman of the future.

Jimmy said...

You would be having a conniption if we let say a Tehran equivalent and a Kuechel go and replacing them with a guy whose coming off pitching 140 innings last year at 36. I'll agree they do have impressive pitching prospect depth, no real sure things though lotta risk, Soroka aside who is a total stud and far better than Nola.

Jimmy said...

@Jay Bryant is going to cost far more than Kieboom and a minor league pitcher(if we could I gurantee we'd have done that). By all accounts they are asking for a package that is headlined by Robles. Probably the only guy we could acquire and fit under the cap is a guy like Seager in Seattle who is not a real marginal improvement over what we have now.

DezoPenguin said...

@Jimmy: Yeah, especially if we have to outbid the Braves for Bryant. We can offer more money to a FA, but if it comes to a trade, they can far outbid us in terms of prospects. And if, say, Kieboom+Ross+Taylor would get it done, as you say, it'd have been done already. And Seager--he's basically got just under Ryan Zimmerman's old contract for the next 3 years (the third year becomes guaranteed if he's traded), and while he did have a good bounceback last year he simply has less room to fall. Plus a good chunk of his value comes from his glove, which is more likely to age; he might have been an option a month ago, but I don't think he's sufficiently better than whatever shakes out of the Kieboom/Castro/Cabrera mix.

Ideally, Kieboom steps up and becomes a 3-ish win player as a rookie, and we cobble together another 2.5 wins or so out of the second base mix, and another 3 or so at first. That's not impossible. It doesn't replace Rendon, but if we get a little positive development from Robles and the bullpen is anything better than the raw garbage it was last year then another 90+ win season is well within reach.

Anonymous said...

Harper, how many aces continue to be aces while striking out ~7.3 batters per 9 innings, which is what Soroka did last year and is completely consistent with his minor league career? Maybe he will be consistent at generating weak contact like last year, but history is littered with guys who look to be good contact managers but can’t sustain it. Even still, Soroka’s upside is just inherently limited because he doesn’t strike enough people out?

Anonymous said...

Jay... replace Rendon with Harper and your comment reads like last year when Harper left. Only the 2019 outfield turned out twice as good as the 2018 version (by WAR). Can Kieboom step up like Robles - I think there is a good likelihood. The possibility certainly exists.

Anonymous said...

Here are the Steamer projected ERAs for some NL East starters:

Scherzer: 3.28
Strasburg: 3.59
Corbin: 3.57

deGrom: 3.12
Syndergaard: 3.89
Stroman: 3.90

Nola: 3.82
Wheeler: 4.13

Fried: 3.61
Soroka: 4.13
Hamels: 4.26
Folty: 4.73

Steamer is not the be-all-end-all, and I'd like to see what Zips and others say about Soroka. But he's a massive regression candidate given how poor his K numbers are.

Jimmy said...

I also think that the correct calculus for Rendon is to think not about his 2019 as something he will continue to do offensively going forward because that quite possibly is his all time peak year, but what we are trying to replace is a guy whose more likely going to put up closer to his 2018 line. While still tough becomes a bit more manageable. Of course also without his year last year this team doesn't win 92 games but this team is deeper at our biggest buggaboos than last year right now in infield depth and BP.

G Cracka X said...

Its notable that Steamer projects a (slightly) lower ERA for the Nats #3 than the Phillies or Braves #1. Of course, a projection is just that, but I do find that interesting. Soroka is the key there for the Braves. Can't tell if Steamer is realistic or pessimistic on him.

Ole PBN said...

2017 NLDS: Astros 2-0 at home; 1-1 at Fenway Park
2017 ALCS: Astros 4-0 at home; 0-3 at Yankee Stadium
2017 WS: Astros 2-1 at home; 2-2 at Dodger Stadium

2018 ALDS: Astros 2-0 at home; 1-0 at Progressive Field
2018 ALCS: Astros 0-3 at home; 1-1 at Fenway Park

2019 ALDS: Astros 3-0 at home; 0-2 at Tropicana Field
2019 ALCS: Astros 2-1 at home; 2-1 at Yankee Stadium
2019 WS: Astros 0-4 at home; 3-0 at Nats Park

Those are some bizarre home/road splits prior to the 2019 WS (15-5 home; 6-10 road). Notice the two times they got blanked at home (2018 ALCS vs Cora's Red Sox, and 2019 WS vs Nats who said they anticipated this behavior and had a complex pitch-calling scheme to counter it).

Not hard to infer that they flopped at home vs the Nats because they were either waiting for that trashcan slam and: a) never came, or b) was incorrect in predicting the pitch. I've never seen guys like Altuve or Bregman look so foolish on some pitches--only at home--and then revert to their normal ways in DC. I gave all the credit to our pitchers at the time, but looking back through video, its apparent the Astros lineup confused themselves.

The sad thing is, when they were in DC and just playing baseball and not trying to cheat because there wasn't an expectation of a solution, they dominated us. They were the better team, but that wasn't good enough for them and they paid the ultimate price: a WS loss and the fallout of this mess.

DezoPenguin said...

@Ole PBN:

I don't know if it's actually the case, but I love the idea of the Astros going full "Dirk Dastardly Stops to Cheat." Can't you just see Bregman saying in the dugout, "Yeah, I know we can beat 'em fair an' square, but how am I supposed to be satisfied with something I didn't steal?"?

Jay said...

I agree that I was not happy with Harper leaving last year. The idea of letting a guy of Harper's talent leave and sign a $25 million dollar a year contract (granted for 13 years) is a little crazy to me. However, you are correct that the outfield and team as a whole were better this last year. Keep in mind that a big part of the reason the outfield was better was because of Soto. My concern is that Kieboom is at best going to be average next year. He may improve, but he is not a can't miss prospect in my mind.

I will say that I trust Rizzo. His strength is scouting. If he thinks Kieboom is going to be fine at third, then I am ok with that. I will also say that I don't care how they do this year. They won the World Series. I'm good for the next decade.

Final thought. It saddens me some to see Rendon sign with LA. There is a very good chance that he may not make the play offs again. Their starting pitching is just awful. You see Backstrom sign with the Caps acting as his own agent. He wanted to stay in Washington because the people there have become his family. Rendon and Harper both left for the best possible offer. There was no thought of even trying to stay in DC. Give Strasburg credit (Zimmerman too). They wanted to stay in DC. They wanted to be Nats for life. At the end of the day players are entitled to their right to sign for top dollar as free agents. However, how much is enough? Does it really matter that you signed for a few million more than you would have received to stay here? Rendon was offered 7 years $210 with deferrals. He received 7 years $245 from LA. A difference of $5 million a year. Now I know everyone is going to lose their mind over the deferrals, but Strasburg's deferrals are over 3 years, Scherzer's over 7 years. We're not talking Bobby Bonilla money here. You add in the higher state income tax in California. 12.3% vs 8.9%. The is a difference but not one I would characterize as huge (granted it is about 16% difference). I chose my current job in part because of the region of the country, family life, quality of life in general. I did not go with the highest possible offer. Sorry for length of the post.

Anonymous said...

Last year the bullpen was easily responsible for 10+ losses that should have been wins. Now the Nats did salvage a few they should have lost (i.e the glorious 9 runs against the Mets). But a decent bullpen and the Nats were a 100 win team last year. Are they that much worse than last year. Pitching always trumps hitting and if the pitching holds I don't understand the angst. I guess Kendrick didn't count as a big bat last year if we only had 2 big bats?

JWLumley said...

Here's hoping that Bryant wins his grievance, in which case, Kieboom + prospects might be enough to get him.

I think this is a lineup that is hoping guys take a step forward (Soto, Robles, Turner and Kieboom), but is set up to try and deal for a middle of the order bat at the break.

Jimmy said...

The angst is we replaced Rendon with essentially Castro that's like a 5 win dropoff. Even with our current pen we don't win all 10 of those so your looking at a wash or close to it. It's just a ton of change on the infield and people as a rule don't like change. We'll be fine. Flags fly forever.

mike k said...

@Harper (and generally): I've said this before, but the reason why I don't like the deferments is not because I think it makes the Nats cheap - they have shown a willingness to go "above" market value to hit "market present day value" in exchange for the deferments (I don't think losing on Rendon and Donaldson changes that because the Nats have also signed other free agents with this approach; you're not going to sign every free agent you make offers to). The reason I don't like the deferments is because it requires the Nats to offer a contract with a higher luxury tax number than they would have to without the deferments, and then they also like to stay under the threshold at least once every few years. When you combine the two, that's when you start imposing limits on yourself that you otherwise would not have to impose if you offered less deferred contracts. For instance, the Nats signed Strasburg and Scherzer at "over" market value (i.e. market present day value), which is fine, but now that limits their offers to other players. Maybe I'm wrong, and the Lerners are willing to have a higher "luxury tax budget" than if they didn't offer the deferments, but considering how they play with the luxury tax threshold, I don't think this is the case.

@ all: Even if the Braves trade for someone like Bryant, that still sets them back in terms of prospects. There's an interesting implied debate here between star starters v. many good young arms starters. What's good about the latter is you not only have injury insurance, but you can send them all out there and then play the ones that shake out. If some of those young arms are included in the trade for Bryant, it might seem like a net positive for the Braves, but if they guess wrong on who to send out then maybe their rotation does look like the rotation that Jimmy and Anon@9:11 are describing.

@ Anon@9:10: There's a difference between the discussions on Harper leaving and the ones we're having now with Rendon. We knew that Robles would be good for at least some value because of his defense, and he'd shown some offense at the major league level already. Also Eaton was finally healthy. Also there was some expected increase in value from Soto. Also even if all three of those things failed, it was only corner outfield and you can go out and grab someone. Now we're hoping for an increase with Robles (as opposed to going from him not here to him here), another increase from Soto, and league average guys improving last year's 1b and 2b situations. It's simply not as much. Also the Nats probably make those moves anyway even if they resigned Rendon.

I also think Rendon is better than Harper, have felt that for a while, and I think other teams agree which is why he's getting 10M more/year (albeit less years).

@ OldPBN: Verrrrrry interesting. Not quite sure I agree with your reason, but those numbers are too juicy to be coincidental.

@ Jay: I think it's dubious to think they owe the organization anything. They didn't ask to be drafted by the Nats. And sure the Nats paid for their development but they got waaaay more than that in surplus value in their seven years in the majors. Ooops, did I say seven, I meant six, because the Nats, being so loyal, didn't *&$^ them with service time. Wait, of course they did. Also, Strasburg's deal was definitely more than he would've gotten in the free market (was probably free market value after deferments are considered), and there's a pretty heavy difference between what Rendon was offered and what he got. I think you can say Rendon wanted to be a Nat for life (which I would prefer too but you can't blame him if this wasn't the case) but the difference in the offers was just too great for him to pass up.

Anonymous said...

@mike k

You're wrong that luxury tax calculations use nominal figures. Maybe the discount rate is off, so there is a penalty for deferments, but it's definitely not just total dollars guaranteed over total years. For example, number i've seen for Max's hit is $28,689,376.

Anonymous said...

@Jay - I think we tend to overvalue how much athletes love the place they're currently in. Rendon might not feel as strongly about DC being a great place to live/raise a family as other people. I mean, until this year, Rendon has had no choice where to play baseball, until this year. Money means a lot, but I think preference on where to live matters too. Just funny how shocked/hurt people get when they find out its a different view than their own.

Ole PBN said...

@mike k/anyone else who'll find it interesting: just Youtube the evidence of the Astros cheating throughout the 2017 season, it's insane. This one especially got me riled up haha.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

Gotta agree with Anon here, we assume that Rendon loves it in DC because we like DC. But the reality is, through the internet rumor mill, it came to light that Rendon's wife hated DC (don't feel like digging for a "source", I saw it on the most trustworthy of sites: reddit). Heck I'm no longer in DC because my wife didn't like it there either.

@JW, but if Bryant wins his grievance, then why would we give Kieboom up for less time for Bryant..? Unless you can guarantee an extension, that package seems like an overpay.

mike k said...

@anon1:08: Every site I've seen, so far, has stated that the luxury tax amount is average annual value. However, they are simplistic explanations which give examples that do not include deferments. Only spotrac has given me something marginally different, and they state "generally the AAV of the contract". It states that Strasburg's luxury tax hit is $35M, which is his AAV including deferments, despite $80M being deferred. I do not have an explanation, then, why Strasburg's cap hit is $35M and Scherzer's is not $30M. A lot of Scherzer's contract seems weird to me, such as: how is $105M deferred (half the contract) when his total salaries are higher than that; how is his "yearly cash" lower than his salaries; how come his cap hit is lower than the true AAV (30M), way higher than his "yearly cash" (15M), and about halfway in between his "adjusted salary without deferment AAV" (which I calculated) and 30M.

Regardless, it's clear that deferments either 100% (with Stras) or close to 100% (with Scherzer) count against the "cap", so by having to increase the nominal amount, you're still dealing with a larger cap hit.

Anonymous said...

" if the Nats really did have a 4/100 million deal out there as was told - that it was so heavily deferred to be comical." - Not really. Donaldson's agent may have blown this one. The Nats were very heavily involved in trying to get him and there were a couple occasions, where the media felt his signing with someone was very very close but each time his agent raised the stakes. I think when he decided to wait for 110M offer, the Nats got tired of waiting and pursued their other options before they were signed elsewhere.

JW said...

I think it's fairly clear that Donaldson's representatives overplayed their hand. Not that I feel bad for him, he's still getting $92 million guaranteed. At the same time, I think it's hard to know for sure whether the Nats offer was or was not better than the Twins offer because of the way that the timing of everything played out. And who knows, he might just have preferred playing in Minnesota to DC.

Anonymous said...

Some guys are all about the money and from everything that was reported about his free agency, it appears he was. Did he blow an opportunity, I don't know as obviously I don't know the offers.

G Cracka X said...

Beltran steps down. What impact will this have on the Mets' season?

NG said...

While Hinch, Luhnow, Cora, and Beltran have justifiably been criticized for the Astros cheating scandal, one name stands out that deserves a lot more criticism than he's been getting.

Brian McCann, Mr. Play The Game The Right Way, was on that cheating 2017 Astros team. Mr. Integrity is in fact a hypocrite and a cheater, and that should be his legacy.

Anonymous said...

I would love for the details to leak, but sounds like a bunch of noise from agents and teams and Donaldson' made out well (wasn't he projected for a three year deal??). The $110M noise was an interesting play...

mike k said...

I don't think Donaldson's camp "misplayed" the $110M demand unless it meant an offer was pulled, and I don't think one was.

Harper what are your thoughts on Jose Altuve and buzzergate? If true that's a HUGE moment he took from the Yankees.

Ole PBN said...

I have a problem with the players not getting any punishment, when MLB stated it was a “player-driven” initiative. Sounds like MLB has no problem throwing managers under the bus, but just just as the NFL and NBA want to protect their “stars,” so does MLB. All they have to do is watch the video, you can implicate guys from that alone. If we’re going to punish players with 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs being in their smoothie, unknowingly, then I think some action is justified for Altuve, Correa, Bregman and the gang.

Media is insinuating that by cheating and getting your manager fired, players will “feel bad” and think twice before cheating again. Ha! That’s rich.

Mr. T said...

Man. I'm rewatching the video of Altuve's homer off was weird at the time, the whole don't touch my jersey thing, and the "I get shy, my wife doesn't like it" was funny but kind of weird too...and then he runs into the clubhouse instead of celebrating, and comes back in a tshirt...I don't know, guys. The trash cans were one thing. Obviously there's no proof, but would anybody really put it past the Stros to wear a device? And would anyone put it past Manfred to pretend it only went as far as the trash cans, seal off the infection there?

JE34 said...

Every friggin player in Astros dugout knew what was going on. Every one. How could they not? Were there players that said "no trashcan signals for me, please"? they should all suffer some consequences.

SM said...

Ole PBN:
If, on the one hand, only players were suspended, the cry would be, "See, protecting owners again!."

On the other hand, you correctly note the players' complicity.

Perhaps the Solomon-like judgment would have been simply to disqualify the Houston Astros for the entire 2020 season.

Cautiously Pessimistic said...

I saw an interesting suggestion that parallels NCAA punishments: disqualify them from the postseason for 2-3 years. That leaves the Astros in an uncomfortable position because they either go out there and continuing beating up the AL West but then have nothing to show for it, or they do a soft rebuild recognizing their players don't want to be on a team where they can't compete for a ring. I don't know the exact number of years to do it, but 2 seems like a sweet spot where the team can't just "weather the storm" of 1 year, but not overly harsh with 3 years

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