Nationals Baseball: Monday Quickie : No Donaldson

Monday, January 13, 2020

Monday Quickie : No Donaldson

Fun fact reading the Carter Kieboom articles - just because you play a position doesn't make you a "natural".  Kieboom has played a bunch of short. But he's not better than Trea. Trea is good, but Trea isn't special. So that means Carter is maybe ok? Rizzo admitted last year Kieboom was a bat first guy. It's ok to admit while he CAN play SS maybe he shouldn't or at least you shouldn't plan this for the future? I know I'm nitpicking here but if you say a guy is a "natural shortstop" then I think "oh he can easily play 2B or 3B" as opposed to if you say "he's played SS most of his minor league career" which is a lot less committal on his defensive skills.  Basically he should be fine, even good, at 2B or 3B eventually but he not might be. It's still up in the air.

Which is important because Kieboom is now part of Plan A. Basically confirming any hope of getting Donaldson is over, Rizzo pushed Kieboom and the recent moves as easily good enough to cover the infield holes. And it might be.  You are almost certainly not going to replace 2019 Rendon. But can the Nats get like 80% of it? He's the idea on how that happens with my percent chances attached.

Asdrubal Cabrera has a great season (10%). He was amazing to end the year but has bounced all over the place mainly being around average for full seasons. At 34+ he may have a good full year left but he's probably more likely to crash. His defense was solid last year but in part that's him degrading down the defensive ladder. The former SS aged out of that position, then aged out of 2B.

Carter Kieboom breaks out. (15%) All minor league signs suggest Kieboom will hit at an acceptable level in the majors but there's also not an overwhelming track record of dominance. His best partial season was probably a .296 / .400 / .497 line in Single A back in 2017 which is good but it wouldn't make you excited if he wasn't 19/20 at the time. His short stint last year was so bad that it seems unlikely he'll impress on offense or defense. But again he's young so you are hoping he grows into the role. With that out there I can't expect more from him than say Robles who just three months older than Carter was putting up a basically the same line you see there but in AA in 2017.  So I'm hoping for average this year and will be happy if I see that. Better than that will probably have to wait.

Starlin Casto has a great season (25%).  Boz points out his great half year but I am more interested in a couple seasons that he was almost there and him being a good 4 years younger than Asdrubal. I don't think there's a star turn at 29/30 here but can he put it together for one year? Give the Nats something like .300 with 25 homers? (He doesn't walk). Plus he aged out of SS but he's still a good 2b meaning he could be a very good 3B.  Get all that for one year and you might just give enough to, not replace, but cover for Rendon

Davey works platoon magic (5%). The splits aren't there to suggest this is a thing. Mainly it'd be more luck on getting someone's hot stretch then lucking into another one. Maybe having D not really matter all that much based on balls hit to 3B.  It can happen but don't rely on it.

Now this isn't cumulative.  You can't look at the above and say there is a 2/3 chance of replacing Rendon. If you start with say As Cab and he's not good for two months, well there's your chance at doing it, even if Castro comes in and give you what we say.  4 months of the above won't cover for Rendon. It'd have to be a - you get good AsCab then he gets hurt or something then you get good Castro. That's more like 5% chance.

How you should read the above is the likelihood things work out for the Nats given their OD choice. Maybe pump it up 5-10 based on things like I described above, a string of moves that happen to work. But I figure best case is 1/3rd chance and they can flub it up to be under 10% if say they start with a platoon idea.  That doesn't mean the Nats will have a bad 3B situation, just that they won't come close to replacing Rendon. The most likely scenario in fact is that it's ok to start and just stays ok and you feel the loss of Rendon but it isn't terrible.

The Nats made this bed. Now they have to lie in it (and for the next 4+ months tell us how comfortable they think it is)

30 comments:

mike k said...

In fairness to the Nats - and I think this is fair given how the Nats have broadly attacked the problem - let's judge their replacing Rendon with 2b and 3b instead of just 3b. 2b last year was not good. Dozier was brought in as a stop-gap and was worse than advertised. The Nats tried to cover for him by bringing in AsCab and doing an AsCab/Kendrick platoon which actually worked out really well but we all know you don't want to go with a full year of that if you fancy yourself a playoff team.

Without Donaldson, the situation is:
- Castro starts full time, Kieboom is given the opportunity to start full time, and you have an AsCab/Kendrick platoon either in the beginning of the year if you're playing service time games with Kieboom and/or at the end of the year if Kieboom doesn't work out. AsCab/Kendrick also serve as your injury backups (Castro or Kieboom slide over to SS if that injury is to Turner).
- Premature Conclusion: Probably won't replace what you had last year, even considering last year's issues at 2b. I think you would need both a "good side of career norms" Castro AND for Kieboom to work out for this to even come close to last year's 2b/3b situation. Even then you wonder if having a star hitter + 2b issues is better than two adequate starting guys.

With Donaldson (unlikely), the situation is:
- Donaldson at 3b, Castro at 2b to start the year, with Ascab/Kendrick as your backups, and then you tell Kieboom he has to force his way into the lineup. If he does, Castro becomes your super sub. AsCab probably sees himself as the odd man out roster-wise, but an injury might solve that "problem."
- Premature Conclusion: While I prefer Rendon to Donaldson, this probably does replace what you had last year. Castro/Kieboom would bring stability to 2b, and you have almost replaced Rendon at 3b.

Of course, what *should* have happened is the Nats resigned Rendon and signed Castro anyway...

JWLumley said...

I think Mike K is on the right track, but I think it's broader than 3B and 2B, more like 3B, 2B and 1B + continued advances from Soto and Robles. Even then, I think the offense most likely takes a small step back, but the wild cards here are many. If Castro's second half was the new Castro AND Soto and Robles take another step forward, there's a non-zero possibility that the offense could be better.

As for Donaldson, I don't think it's completely over at all. In fact, I think Donaldson may not have as hot of a market as we're hearing reported. The Barves are going into the season with a payroll of $130M, which is their largest payroll ever. Given that they're owned by a soulless corporation do you think they're going to bump that up another $25M? Sure, there's also the Twins, but if you're Donaldson do you want to gamble that you spend the last four years of your career playing for a non-contender (Yes the Twins could contend, but they could also be bad) if you have a similar offer from a winner in Washington? I guess the whole thing just seems very odd to me since he hasn't signed. So I feel like there's something going on that the media doesn't know about.

Anonymous said...

I agree with @JwL, and let's not forget that if you're Rizzo, there is absolutely no up-side to admitting that you want JD and everything to be gained from a negotiating perspective to say that we're all set at 3B. Harper may be right that it's over, but Rizzo's Winterfest comments to me don't indicate at all that it is more or less likely then if he had said he wants him badly.

DezoPenguin said...

Ditto with everybody else in the "it's not over on Donaldson" yet, simply because if it *was* over Donaldson would be a Dodger or a Brave or a Twin or at the least somebody credible would be Tweeting that the Nats have withdrawn their offer to Donaldson (which the figure I've seen most commonly is 4/$100M incl. deferrals, but Heaven only knows if that's true).

That said, I'm equally on board with the idea that Rizzo has drawn his budgetary line in the sand; he (and the Lerners) are willing to pay $X for Donaldson but nothing more. Plan B is in full effect, with Castro, Cabrera, and Kieboom (plus some occasional Kendrick when he's not facing LHP at 1B) all lining up for their shots at 2B/3B, and the Nats aren't going to get dragged into a bidding war with the Braves, Twins, or anybody else. If Donaldson likes our offer (presumably because the Braves won't get close enough for him to shrug off the money), he's free to take it. If not, we're prepared to go on without him.

Really, I think it boils down to whether or not the Braves are willing to kick in an additional $25M in their annual budget. As JWL notes above, the Braves are already running their highest annual payroll ever, and that's without a big-ticket free agent on top of that. So their penny-pinching may be our best chance.

Meanwhile, the Rangers went ahead and signed Frazier, the Cardinals are talking Arenado trades, and the Dodgers seemed a weird fit to begin with given Muncy/Lux/Seager/Turner in their IF without even talking about the defending MVP playing some 1B. I legitimately think it's Braves or Nats now, with the Braves more likely but still not a lead-pipe cinch.

DezoPenguin said...

In other news, meanwhile, MLB came down on the Astros' sign-stealing operation pretty solidly, with the lost of 1st and 2nd-round draft picks for 2020 and 2021 both, a $5M fine (the maximum allowed under the commissioner's authority), and 1-year suspensions for Luhnow and Hinch, plus Taubman being put firmly on the ineligible list just in case some true idiot wanted to hire him back. Jim Crane, who was exonerated in Manfred's report (which I can believe; a competent owner hires baseball men to take care of his baseball business and confines his involvement to money matters), decided to not bother being uncertain and immediately sacked Luhnow and Hinch; I presume he has Plan B already in place.

Man, how the Astros went from feel-good story with turning the team around, being the bright boys of new analytics, and the victims of literal federal crime committed by the Cardinals' staff into a full heel turn with the Bregman antics, first signing Osuna and then deciding to crow to a group of female reporters about how great it was to have a domestic abuser on the team to getting busted hard for cheating at baseball, I find it hard to believe.

Just makes it all the sweeter to be a Nats fan, I guess!

SuburbanSteve said...

It ain't over until it's over, but, if Donaldson doesn't sign and we stand pat, by how much $$ are we under the payroll penalty zone?

Jimmy said...

I think many many people are sleeping on the bat Robles could bring. The guy was excellent every year in the minors, really could see him taking a step forward with the bat offsetting Rendon a bit as well.

blovy8 said...

Yeah, what seems obvious is that no one is offering his asking price, so Donaldson is going to wait to see if the Braves blink, because that's where he wants to play. The Nats have no reason to change their status, because the worst case scenario would seeem to be that the Braves have to pay more than they seem to want to for him as long the Nats offer is there, albeit with deferrals. I agree that the Nats are a long shot, but, it'll be interesting to see the contract he ends up signing after all this.

I think the Nats shape up to have a worse offense regardless, but it's possible that their D wont' suffer as much as you'd think. The new statcast defensive numbers like the new additions. Maybe a little more stability in the pen actually prevents enough early meltdowns to gain some traction and still be a 90-win club.

Harper said...

mike k - this seems right (especially the conclusion) I will say that Dozier played pretty good D so he wasn't unusable - it was just a place that could be improved cheaply at the end so they tried (and succeeded)

All - I think Donaldson is a Brave. I think they just stare each other down until one breaks down. Braves don't need to find back-up plan, but also will keep money on table so Donaldson can take it whenever. If it gets to mid Feb, Donaldson might as well wait until early March just to minimize his time in FL.

SubSteve - 10-15 million is a good guess. Figure you want to add 5-10 with trades at year's end if you are competitive (and don't want to go over)

Jimmy - Agree here. I've heard a lot of people say Kieboom may break out but Robles breaking out is more likely than that (though I'd still say it's more likely not to happen at all). If you make me bet on something with a young player I'll bet on Soto becoming a superstar. (Nats fans treat him as such and youth/stats have been great but he's not quite there just yet)

Anonymous said...

Love how you assume bad results for Castro and Cabrera yet assume great things for Donaldson. What is known is that for half of his major league career Donaldson has been injury prone. There is just a better chance of Washington National Cabrera being the same guy in 2020 and the 2019 3rd baseman version of Castro continuing apace as for Donaldson to stay healthy a full season. Signing Donaldson has the feel of becoming a dumpster fire when the inevitable injury occurs.

Ollie said...

Still hoping that this is all a convoluted Rizzo psych-out of Theo Epstein to lower Kris Bryant's asking price.

Jimmy said...

I just don't see it with Castro. Sometimes you just get hot. Think we replace Rendon with an improved pen, improved Righty slugger, Robles taking a step forward, Trea Taking a step forward and Kieboom putting up a decent defensive season at third with the glove and a league average bat. Even than it still doesn't replace Rendon, but close enough for a wild card and maybe giving someone a run for the division title. I just don't see us winning the division with this team without the Braves taking a step back in their pitching(very possible) and the Mets suffering crippling injuries to key players(also likely). Hamels is incredibly old and they lost a guy in Tehran that does nothing but eat innings with average pitching (pretty important).

Jimmy said...

but as constructed right now this is a 88-92 win team in my mind. Which is incredibly impressive that we are maintaining that after losing our best offensive weapon for the second year in a row and going on almost 10 years of .500 and above baseball.

Jimmy said...

Also Harper the Comp for Robles is Lorenzo Cain with better defense and more power(thank you ball). Look at their profiles and tell me that's not what Robles is going to be pretty soon.

Harper said...

Anon @ 2:01 - I don't predict bad results for Castro and Cabrera - just expected ones. Not breaking out into a great seasons isn't bad. For Donaldson I'd probably cautiously pencil him in for 130 games - and his worst offensive season in recent history (an injury filled 2018) was still by AB better at the plate than the best Castro has ever put up and just under AsCab's best. Figuring better D too... It's not hard to see why Donaldson is a better bet to be a better player in 2020. There's a better chance for Castro and Cabrera to be versions of their averages for next year than Donaldson stay healthy yes, but tack on the 'AsCab/Castro keeps hitting like EOY' and I have to say no. This all isn't to say signing Donaldson is a smart long term move if you care about money but I don't care about the Lerner's profits.

Jimmy - helps tremendously to find/develop another young in control star. In 5 or so years it may be apparent that the Nats had say... 3 of the top 20 offensive players since 2012. That can cover alot. They also came from a good place (the 2012-5 window when everyone was young & good) and a smart GM (which Rizzo is) can use that to help set up the next one. The one after this will presumably harder bc as good as this team is - it's not young and good

Jimmy said...

Nothing lasts forever. Most runs don't even last 3-4 years.

DezoPenguin said...

Anon @ 2:01 - The idea that Donaldson has been "injury-prone" for "half his major-league career" is flatly false. He broke in with the A's in 2012. Then in 2013-2016 he played 158, 158, 158, and 155 games. He was injured in 2017 (still playing 113 games), then aggravated that injury and got hurt again trying to come back too fast, which destroyed his 2018 season. He played 155 games last year. So that's 5 out of 7 seasons in which he played over 155 games, and the time missed to injury dealt entirely with a single incident and the botched recovery therefrom.

By comparison, Rendon's career covers the same 2013-2019 timeframe and he has only one season (2016) in which he played 155 or more games.

No, the one and only genuine knock on Donaldson as a player is his age, with the corresponding fear that he will *become* injury-prone or that he will *enter* a decline phase of some level of steepness. But those things haven't happened yet; they're strictly a risk-assessment metric to factor into the length and cost of what a team would offer him for a contract.

Anonymous said...

Was going to post the same thing as DezoP: calling Donaldson "injury prone" is absurd and contra all evidence. He's had one injury that wrecked two seasons. Apart from that, he's been *exceptionally* durable, including the most recent season. This doesn't mean he will continue to be durable going forward, but for him in the past, durability is a strength, not a weakness.

Jimmy said...

Donaldson immediately probably the odds on favorite to win the series this year, and to me that's all that matters.

MNB4 said...

Donaldson to the Twins. 4/92 feels like something the Nats could've swung

DezoPenguin said...

So we're ALL wrong, and he ends up with the Twins instead of the NL East! 4/$92M--or 5/$100M if the Twins exercise his Year 5 option instead of paying the buyout--is probably not too far off our rumored 4/$100M with deferrals.

Great move by the Twins--in the DH league, even if he slows in the field if his bat stays healthy he's got a spot to contribute. (And the Twins have immediate understanding that great hitters can still be great in their late 30s; all one has to do is look at their present DH, Cruz.)

And while I'd really have liked him with us, at least he's not a Brave, which is a *major* hit to their team. I mean, when you get right down to it, Donaldson was a five-win player for them, which is only two wins worse than us losing Rendon. And their Plan B (hope Camargo reverts to 2017 or Riley suddenly becomes a good hitter in his second year) looks shakier than ours. So net gain to the Nats against their biggest rival.

So, not my preferred outcome, but not worst-case either. Let's hope Kieboom can deliver; I don't see any chance of him being Rendon 2.0, but a 4-win player might be in his range.

G Cracka X said...

Alex Cora fired. The Nats decision to go with Martinez back in the 2017/18 offseason isn't looking so bad now. I remember many Nats fans being upset during the 2018 season, lamenting how the Red Sox had picked a much better manager.

DezoPenguin said...

@ GCX:

Yep! World Series wins as a manager: Cora-1, Martinez-1. Being at the heart of two separate major sign-stealing scandals with different teams in consecutive wears: Cora-1, Martinez-0.

PotomacFan said...

Donaldson signed with Minnesota. Better than signing with ATL, but not as good as signing with the Nats. Anyone think that Rizzo is still looking at Bryant or (less likely) Arenado? Could Bryant be a mid-season signing if the Nats current roster is inadequate at 2B/3B?

Nattydread said...

Donaldson to Minnesota is arguably the best outcome.

Atlanta is now significantly less likely to win the division. Though both teams lost superstar level 3B players, the Nats have made more substantive changes to the team and have lots of potential upside with incoming infield.

Letting Donaldson go will allow the Nats to focus on getting the roster younger. As the oldest team in baseball, they need to make room for younger players to stay competitive. If Kiebooom is the new infield guy, 2020 is his year.

Jimmy said...

Making room for younger guys is pretty dependent on having good younger guys to plug in. I think Kieboom ends up taking the third base job by June. Who knows with a guy like Garcia, had a bad year last year. Really need one of these Pitchers to hit for us. You can find cheap decent middle infielders.

Ole PBN said...

As of today, yes, this is a big win for the Nats. But I think the Braves are going to be much more aggressive with trades for Bryant or Arenado, or another bat. They have the prospects to reel someone in, and with their preferred target (Donaldson) no longer available, they are much more incentive to do so.

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