Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie - Lots of stuff

Monday, January 06, 2020

Monday Quickie - Lots of stuff

Remember last week when I noted nothing happened when we were gone? Well now stuff happened - a lot of stuff! Over the weekend the Nats signed both AsCab and Starlin Castro. The question is... what does this mean?

Option 1 : They hate Kieboom. This sets up 2B and the backup MI as they try to bring in Donaldson.

Option 2 : They trade Kieboom. This sets up 2B and the backup MI as they try to trade for maybe Kris Bryant.

Option 3 : They are out of the 3B market. This sets up 3B and the backup MI as they get ready to give Kieboom his long trial

Take your pick.  To me #1 is the least likely. Donaldson has seemingly set his asking price (like 4/110) and also presumably has a better deal on the table from the Twins than the Nats. Sure maybe "defending champs" speaks to him and he'll take whatever deferred heavy deal the Nats have out there, but if it wasn't about money he could have done that already.

#2 is more possible. Yes Byant will be a FA in a couple seasons, but he's also in that underpaid control period of this contract making him a value.

#3 is also possible though then you'd have to wonder what happens to the money the Nats would have, but didn't spend, as there aren't a lot of options out there on where to place it and "the Lerners bank account" is the one we want to see the least.

How are these guys?  I like Castro. He likes to play especially for winning teams. He's ok! Probably a little better than he was last year. Boz seems to think his 2nd half could portend a break out.  Oddly enough he doesn't say that for AsCab who had an equally crazy August and September. We know him. He is also ok. But older. And at times it looked like the Nats were lucky to get what they got because what were you swinging at Asdrubal?

My take is that this is a fine platoon or starter/back-up situation for the 7th or 8th man in your line-up.  You can get an average player from these two and for about 8-9 million that's a good deal. Much like Will Harris though these are the finishing touches around picking up someone to replace Rendon... or honestly to replace like 80% of Rendon.  If they get that - all is well - successful off-season, time to defend.  If they don't then this team is a step back from last year and while that probably means a similar end spot for the Nats (comfortably in the WC discussion with around 90 wins) it's not where they could have or should have been, imo.  But let's see


Ole PBN said...

I don't get the negativity on Castro, the player. He doesn't strike out a ton, though I'd prefer that OBP to be a bit higher. I think people want a splash and Donaldson would represent that big off-season acquisition. My biggest worry if we don't land Thames or Donaldson is that Soto is going to be exposed with this lineup as currently constructed. It's not the 40hr potential of those two guys, it what their presence does for Soto.

Otherwise, good depth signings this weekend Rizzo!

DezoPenguin said...

The problem with Castro is that his expected value is basically "average MLB starter"--about 2.0 WAR/PA. Maybe a little higher, maybe a little lower, but basically around 2. Ditto Cabrera, but with a little higher expected result but also higher risk of being spontaneously chomped by age. These are great depth pieces to have on hand either as injury replacements or in the event Kieboom flames out. (For example, if we get Donaldson and Kieboom starts at 2B, but Kieboom repeats his 2019 performance, having AsCab or Castro on hand to immediately plug in leaves us way, way better off than we'd have been last year.) They're less great if you're counting on multiple of them as full-time starters.

Potential good outcomes:

1. Sign Donaldson. Don't resign Zim or another 1B and use Kieboom, Castro, Cabrera, and Kendrick as the 1B/2B rotation.

2. Trade Kieboom as the centerpiece for Bryant or Arenado, resign Zim, and use Castro, Cabrera, Kendrick, Zim as the 1B/2B rotation.

(In either scenario, I envision Kendrick in kind of a supersub role, Zobrist with less glove. He gets a bunch of starts at 1B, is the DH in AL parks, gets some starts at 2B and when the regular 3B is out (though probably then he gets 2B and the regular 2B moves to 3B), and is the primary PH option on days he doesn't play, ending up at around 350 PAs of Professional Hitting(tm) while keeping his aged legs fresh like in 2019.)

Without picking up a Donaldson, Bryant, or Arenado (or, alternatively, a Lindor or Bogaerts or the like), though, these guys look a whole lot worse.

Steven Grossman said...

What you have written makes sense...but I am still not sure you are right. The only conclusion I can draw for certain is that they have given up entirely on Difo (which given his record makes perfect sense).

If they get Donaldson (or Bryant), then Castro plays second, AsCab is your utility infielder and Kaboom stays in the minors for some more seasoning (or the first injury or a trade deadline trade of Castro or AsCab or a DFA if one isn't having a good year). Kendrick can platoon at first and otherwise PH and also be a utility player.

Alternatively, this could be a prelude to signing or acquiring a full-time first baseman. One hopes someone in the FO is unsentimental enough to appreciate that Kendrick/Zimmerman is a wing and a prayer deal...i.e. very uncertain on health and production. Maybe trade for Josh Bell? As long as you are getting a power bat at 1st, you don't need anyone else for 3rd than AsCab.

If there is anything that I have learned over years of watching Rizzo: we think we know what he is up to...but at least 50% of the time his actions are both unexpected and much better than we imagined.

Ole PBN said...

Good point about a deal for 1B... Eric Hosmer? Would Kieboom+ get it done?

Jon Quimby said...

To me, this signals that Rizzo is now able to go after 1B, 2B or 3B as the big bat in the lineup. He still needs to land the big bat, but he has more options to do so now.

DezoPenguin said...

Hosmer has been sub-replacement level for the last two seasons, with wRC+ in the 90s. In his years as a full-time starter, he's had more sub-replacement seasons (4) than seasons of 2 fWAR or more (3). He was never as good as his reputation and ever since going to San Diego has been awful AND way overpaid. Just play Cabrera and Kendrick at 1B and you'll almost certainly get better production.

G Cracka X said...

@Jon Quimby Good point. There aren't any established starters on the team at any of those positions, so Rizzo can put a big bat in any of those spots, either by FA or trade.

Interesting FG article here:

To me, the most interesting thing was that CK is only projected for .8 WAR next year, and a 93 wRC+. I don't think he'll be blocked (if he's not traded), but I also think the Nats are smart not to count on his bat mirroring Keston Hiura's rookie season.

Anonymous said...

Kieboom plus for Hosmer and his league average bat, below replacement value overall production and the 6yr / 116M deeply underwater contract (with an opt out in 2022 if he somehow figures out how to hit again)?

I know the most stereotypical fan error is overvaluing prospects but, man, some of the conversation here is the bizzaro equivalent of "Let's trade Garcia and Crowe and MAT for Bregman".

Steven Grossman said...

Agreed. We want to acquire value and not just give up value. Josh Bell (and the Pirates presumed willingness to make trades) makes for an enticing target. He makes $6 million this year and has two arb years before he hits free agency. And he is 27. Meantime, he drove in more than 100 RBIs on a team that wasn't very good. He will be costly in prospects, but far more reasonable than Bryant or the equivalent.

SM said...

@Steven Grossman

How do you know Josh Bell would be less costly than Bryant in prospects?

Steven Grossman said...

Good point. My assumption (which may be incorrect, as you note) is that teams with play-off hopes and rabid fans (e.g. Chicago) aren't going to agree to a trade unless they can crow "we won the trade." Pittsburgh is in a position where it should be sufficient to say to their fans "we got equal value"in return that will help with our rebuild.

That said, I would probably want Bell above Bryant even if he cost the same or more.

Anonymous said...

Oh, oh. Any Pirate fans wish to respond?

TwoGloves said...

Not a Pirates fan, but live near the Burgh and all I can say about the Buccos is that they are real life dumpster fire!! Ultimately the only deals that they make are to potentially save money. Until revenue sharing is fixed or eliminated, the ONLY thing their owner cares about is making money, which they do!! If trading Bell can save them money, they will difinitely consider it. So I would say yeah, he is a potential target. Also, I think Boras is his agent so the Nats would know what to expect in dealing with him.

Steven Grossman said...

The Boras angle is interesting. On the one hand, if it is a trade then he really has no say. On the other hand, he may have some ability to help broker a trade...and I am sure he would tell Bell that his future is brighter in DC than Pittsburgh.

DezoPenguin said...

Bell would absolutely cost less than Bryant. Both have the same years of control (2, assuming that Bryant loses his grievance), but Bryant is a former MVP whose "down" 2019 was still a better season (135 wRC+, 4.8 fWAR) than Bell's ever had. If the price for each is the same, you absolutely get Bryant, but if their prices are the same then either Epstein is on drugs or you're laughing Cherington out of the room. Bell ought to be available for a reasonable cost in prospects or low-end MLB players without having to talk about Kieboom, Denaburg, or the like.

SuburbanSteve said...


DezoPenguin said...

And we get Hudson, too. Rizzo making moves fast here in the New Year. Doolittle+Hudson+Harris is a solid back end of the 'pen, much better than we've started with in recent years (2018 the possible exception, when we got hit by Madson crashing rather than poor starting material). Rainey and Suero as guys 4 and 5 aren't bad at all with plenty of upside, and then we have Elias and Strickland and...Kyle Finnegan is on a MLB deal, isn't he? Though of course he has options since he's never pitched in MLB yet. Then Abad and Hernandez waiting in the wings. Rizzo must have some kind of plan for Voth/Ross/Fedde, though, since neither Voth nor Ross have options left (Fedde does, so he's pretty much stuck in Fresno to start the season to be SP6 or 7).

Jeff Passan reports 2/$11M with up to $1M in potential incentives.

Ole PBN said...

I like the Bell angle as there's a benefit for both sides to do a deal (i.e. Pittsburgh isn't contending). Since the idea of Hosmer in DC was laughed at (fine, fine, I get it) - just scrolling through some 3B/1B trade options that haven't been discussed:

Matt Olson, OAK (age 26; 4yr team control; 5.1 WAR last season)
Eugenio Suarez, CIN (age 28; 5yr team control; 4.5 WAR last season)
Anthony Rizzo, CHC (age 30; 1yr team control + team option for 2022; 3.9 WAR last season)
Jose Ramirez, CLE (age 27; 2yr team control; 3.3 WAR last season)
Christian Walker, ARI (age 29; 5yr team control; 2.8 WAR last season)
Evan Longoria, SFG (age 34; 3yr team control; 2.4 WAR last season)
Danny Santana, TEX (age 29; 2yr team control; 2.3 WAR last season)
Garrett Cooper, MIA (age 29; 4yr team control; 1.4 WAR last season)
Renato Nunez, BAL (age 26; 4yr team control; 1.1 WAR last season)

Others possibilities are seeing if the Yankees are interested in dealing Voit or if Rizzo wants to buy low on Andujar? Obviously Kieboom isn't a part of each of these deals, but wondering if these are deals worth making and if we have the horses to make it happen?

Anonymous said...

Yep - now it looks like a league average bullpen!

Harris, Hudson, Castro and AsCab instead of Donaldson?

Yah, I make that deal. And we still have some money left over to spend (if you believe 110/4), so that gives Rizzo some more leeway at the deadline than he would have had.

It's probably a slight loser in terms of expected WAR next season, but given this team's weaknesses, I think shoring up the pen like that actually will win us more games next year. And in terms of flexibility over the next 4 years, it's a much much better situation.

I'm really liking the offseason. (Only better thing would have been to just pay for Rendon....)

Mainelaker said...

Would we be comfortable playing Castellanos at first? He is a righty I beleive but only costs money(less than JD) but no prospects (except for QO). We could then ride w Kieboom or Cabrera or whoever at third.

DezoPenguin said...

Olson isn't going anywhere for a couple of years, not while the A's are competitive and he isn't expensive. Ditto Suarez.

Rizzo and Ramirez, on the other hand, aren't impossible--if their teams are open to trading Lindor or Bryant, Ramirez and Rizzo are just as much in play, having the same level of team control. Either would be a great addition, especially if Ramirez is back to being himself (...okay, "back to himself post-injury" Ramirez would actually be *improving* on Rendon, as ridiculous as that sounds). They would, however, cost the proverbial arm and a leg.

I don't see the guys at the bottom end of the list being worth trading for. Kendrick, Kieboom, Cabrera, and Castro are as good as they are.

Chas R said...

Those salivating for a reunion with Huddy might have a look at his career stats. I don't want to take anything away from his contributions to the Nats WS win, I doubt they get that ring without him. He has mostly not been very good. Why does anyone think we will get the Hudson that pitched a partial season for the Nats and not the other guy from most of the rest of his career?

Chas R said...

Oh well:

DezoPenguin said...

Eric Thames is the latest Nat. So basically Lind/Adams 3.0, a 1B power bat who can't hit lefties and can fake it in the corner OF if necessary. Most likely this means no Zim, and with Kendrick the 1B against LHP, plus DH/PH duties and playing agains RHP whenever one of the other IF needs a day off. The lineup sort of looks like this:

C - Suzuki/Gomes
1B - Thames/Kendrick
2B - Castro
SS - Turner
3B - Kieboom
LF - Soto
CF - Robles
RF - Eaton

Addl. bench: IF Cabrera, OF Taylor, OF Stevenson

And that's a full 13 position players. So unless Kieboom is starting in the minors or getting traded, it looks like there's no place for Zimmerman to come back, and no place for a high-impact 3B.

Ole PBN said...

@Dezo, are you factoring in a 26th roster spot? Zimmerman will be the 14th position player. So 12 pitchers; 7 relievers (Doo, Harris, Hudson, Rainey, Suero, Elias, and the last spot left up to Voth, Fedde, Strickland, Guerra, or Hernandez?) Any new guy will come up mid season after one of these are DFA’d. I’m also assuming Ross will be the 5th starter on OD. There’s room for Zimmerman, albeit for sentimental purposes. Or maybe Stevenson stays down and Zimmerman takes his spot? Thames can cover a corner and be the 5th OF. That way every position player offers some offensive value; Stevenson does not.

JDBrew said...

I think these last couple of moves put to rest the idea of signing Donaldson. While I am cautiously optimistic that this group can get it done, I find myself still hoping for a trade for a big bat. With Thames it definitely means that big bat will not be 1B. I was secretly hoping that they would sign Castellanos and turn him into a 1B. But my gut tells me that this is your 2020 Washington Nationals. I don’t think even Rizzo can work out a deal for Bryant, Lindor, or anybody else that would be worth losing Kieboom over. And all that silliness about teams asking for Robles. They’ve gotta be smoking something. I guess they are in Illinois, so maybe they are. They might as well have said Scherzer. It would’ve gotten the same result. Robles is WAY too valuable an ask.

I get the feeling they think Kieboom going to be good. If that’s the case, the stage is yours young man, show us why they have this faith in you. I do, now please please reward that faith.

Edge said...

If they liked Kieboom, we wouldn’t be a top three finalist for Donaldson. That says all you need to know about the confidence this team has in putting a rookie on the hot corner of the defending world champs.

DezoPenguin said...

@PBN: Rizzo's already said earlier this offseason that they intend to run with an 8-man pen, something a fair number of teams did anyway (including the Nats at various times throughout the season). So that's 5 SP, 8 RP, 13 position players for the 26 slots. For the RP I assume Doolittle, Harris, Hudson, Rainey, Suero, Elias, Strickland, and the Ross/Voth loser start the season, with Fedde, Abad, Hernandez, and Guerra (the latter three were all signed to MiLB deals, and Fedde has an option left) in the minors to step up.

They could still bring back Zimmerman if they were willing to ditch Stevenson and use Kendrick and Thames as extra corner OFs in a pinch, but there's really no place left for him on the team. He can only play 1B, so he's basically only good as a platoon partner for Thames (Thames should be getting as many 1B starts against RHP). At that point he's stealing the easiest source of ABs from Kendrick, who's a much better hitter. (Kendrick could play 2B against LHP in place of Castro, who's better against RHP though not to Thames's degree.)

The only way I can see a viable route to bring Zim back to the roster is if Rizzo swings a trade which includes, for example, Kieboom and Taylor together to somewhere like Chicago (they've had crap in CF for several years now, so might be inclined to see if MAT can do any better) in exchange for Bryant. That would free up a roster spot with no immediate replacement.

Barring something like that, though, I think it's time to let the man go out a champion instead of bringing him back largely for sentiment.

blovy8 said...

I bet they announce Zim is back right before Natsfest

Chaos56 said...

Zimm signs, starts Opening Day. If he starts hot (by some miracle) he stays for as long as that lasts. More likely, first injury=retirement.

DezoPenguin said...

Making things even nuttier, MLBTR reports (per Bob Nightengale and Jon Heyman) that the Nats are keeping their offer to Josh Donaldson "on the table," although they're also not increasing it. That tells me that Rizzo knew exactly what his budget was and made these other moves to get to it but not over. (It also suggests that the "make a trade for Bryant/Arenado/etc. is still on the table.)

And, of course, it means that the Braves can't just retreat to a lowball offer for Donaldson if we're standing there saying "We'll take you for 4/$100M if you sign here"; why play nice for a division rival.

It does look more and more like Kieboom is not going to be part of the 2020 Nats' Opening Day roster one way or another (sign Donaldson and he starts in the minors, ready to take over 2B in 2021; else he headlines a trade unless Rizzo is a freaking genius...which he may be). I still think bringing Zim back would not be a wise move, though. Obviously the 2017 model of Zim would be a fine addition to any team, but I have zero confidence that that guy is out here three years later.

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