Nationals Baseball: March 2022

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Clippard Back, Robles buried, Garcia shipped down

 Some quick notes 

Old Friend Tyler Clippard has been brought back to DC.  The season is pretty clearly focused on turning some veterans into organizational depth (as we'll talk about in a few paragraphs) so this shouldn't be surprising. What is surprising is how little Nats fans think of Clippard. 

Clippard leads all Nats in games pitched with 414. (60 more than 2nd place Storen and the next guy Burnett is 100 games fewer).  His ERA for the Nats was 2.68. ERA+ 148. WHIP 1.047.  There's a pretty strong argument to be made he's the best reliever in Nationals history. Hell, I've made the argument he might be the greatest middle reliever in baseball history (It's not a good argument.  He's up there but there are a few guys who last I looked were definitely better) And yet fans treat him like he was a trash reliever.  I don't get it. 

Outside of a 2017 flop (which you should be happy with - he was garbage for the Astros and my Yankees) he's been better than average every year since 2008.  He's good. HE'S GOOD.  Or at least he has been.  The question now if age has finally caught up with him. He's 37. Last year he was hurt and admittedly more lucky that good. He's losing the ability to miss bats and that could cause trouble.  Still if it was the injury and that's cleared up, the Nats have a good arm to thow 60-70 innings which they'll need because their rotation is trash.  It's a smart gamble.

While pretty much every starter is in "every day" mode, one player who isn't is Robles. Yesterday Dee Strange-Gordon got ABs in CF. Robles was already a question coming in. He didn't have a good year last year and the Nats management seemed to question his desire to be the best player he could be. Now he's in an arbitration battle with the Nats.  For most teams that's inconsequential. For the Nats... well history isn't great about this.  I said before only Bell and Soto mattered for arbitration but what I meant was they are the only ones that HAVE to play so you'd know if the Nats were screwing with them if they didn't settle and things looked funny.  For a guy like Robles is it his attitude? His play (He's also hitting poorly in Spring but as you know SPRING TRAINING STATS DON'T MATTER*)? Or retribution? Or more likely some combination of all three? 

Anyway Robles in CF matters because he can be here cheaply for another two years beyond this one and outside of last year even when he was a below average hitter he was a worthwhile start. They need him to get right and should want him to do so and I'm not 100% sure they do at this point. 

Another guy who should be playing everyday in the majors but isn't is Luis Garcia.  Garcia rocked AAA last year and has done everything he can with the bat in the minors to show he should be in the majors. His half-year stint last year wasn't overly impressive but as we've talked about before he's only 21 (22 in May) and should be given at least another full year if not two to see if he can round that bat up to at least average.  His fielding wasn't great at SS so they seem resigned to move him to 2B but the Nats don't have a star in either position so it's not like he's taking up anyone's rightful spot. 

It COULD be said he's going down to AAA to work on 2B then... but that's not what they are saying. They say they could still play him at SS. So what is this about?  

The immediate take is service time manipulation but the Nats have never been shy about playing guys in the majors when they should be in the majors. I just don't see that being the reason. Instead I think it's about the goal for the season.  I think they want to restock the minors and to do that they want to play as many vets as they can. But not GOOD vets for the most part. They don't want a good record. Just vets someone would trade a lottery ticket for so the Nats can grab a half-dozen of them and get one major leaguer out of it. That's the goal. And Garcia playing everyday does nothing toward that goal. At least that's how I see it, because there isn't any other reason Cesar Hernandez should be playing instead of him. 

*He's hitting .083 but with only 1 K.  He's putting the ball in play.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Season Over

 Two posts ago I pondered how the Nats could actually be playoff competitive this year.  While involving luck it didn't involve anything crazy. It did however hinge on Strasburg pitching the majority of the season and being his usual self. This is unlikely. 

Earlier this Spring Stras noted he'd likely take his usual time getting back into form. That would be the roughly 6 week time frame from pitchers and catcher to Opening Day. This should seemingly be unecessary. Any smart player would be winding up to pitch as if Opening Day would happen anyway, but whatever. Players could report to Spring Training as early as March 11, making 6 weeks from that April 22nd.  Given the week push back of Opening Day that would mean missing only 16 games or about 3 starts. Fiddling conservatively you could say "ready last week in April" and that's right before a long road trip so if we were being VERY careful the Nats could hold him back until after that. He'd miss 30 games in that case, being ready for the second Mets homestand May 10th-12th.  Worst case that should still put Stras in line for 27ish starts. 

Yesterday Davey noted they were hoping to get 20-25 starts from Strasburg.  That's not late April.  That's not early May.  Best case would carve out another 2 starts and 10 games - starting him either around the 20th of May (away series in Milwaukee) or the following home set starting with the Dodgers. Worst case and it's another 35 games out bringing him back smack dab in the middle of June in a long homestand against the Braves or Phillies. 

The Nats cannot compete without Strasburg. 

It looks like the Nats will be without Strasburg for 20% to 33% of the season right now. 

It looks like the Nats cannot compete. 

This kind of back tracking is completely in line with how the Nats have played injuries in the past. Stras will be fine for Opening Day, no a few weeks later, no a couple months in... that's par for course. What I'm wondering is how much longer will it be than that? July 4th? All-Star Break? Labor Day??

Strasburg's surgery was a big one. It was expected he would take time to recover. It was (is) possible he wouldn't recover at all. There was no reason to spin it to fans. We get it. And yet here we are. Back in the same place we've been before. Listening to the the team tell us there isn't anything wrong only learning how bad things are when it's painfully apparent. At this point we can only take say... Memorial Day as a best case deadline from a team who's looking to paint the rosiest picture possible. Given that you can also paint the Nats out of the playoffs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Nats "Come Back" tour 2021

Note it's not a "comeback" tour.  The Nats aren't coming back to anything. But some former Nats are coming back to the team. Doolittle! Parra! Why not make it complete and grab any former Nats out there? Turns out there are just too many to do that! But you can pick and choose some of the better ones. 


Lobaton, Ramos, and Lucroy  - Yep the only available catchers are ALL former Nats.  Lucroy was the best last year in EXTREMELY limited at bats. Lobaton was terrible, as you can imagine being he was almost out of baseball. Ramos has aged to the point he can't keep his average up and can't generate enough power to make up for that. PASS PASS PASS


Matt Adams - the only available first baseman is also a former Nat... huh.  He's been flat bad for three years now which includes his last year with the Nats.  The Nats have Bell and don't need a back-up who bats from the same side of the plate, even if he was ok, which he's not. PASS


No Former Nats! (Drury should find a place somewhere. Lowrie maybe - he's old. Sogard and Panik are trash) 


Jordy Mercer - I mean he's not any worse than what is here. But what is here is already here. PASS (the non-Nats Freddy Galvis is nothing special but should find a home somewhere on someone's bench.  He'd possibly be better than what the Nats have! But also not that much better that I'd care to sign him) 


Asdrubal Cabrera, Starlin Castro - PAAAAASSSSS on Castro. Asdrubal did not have a good year last year but it was the first time that's happened. Maybe it's age or maybe it's a blip.  Either way with Kieboom out the Nats could use a guy and this is a guy. A good one. SIGN (Culberson is the other guy and like Galvis - meh - probably ends up on a bench) 


Brian Goodwin! - You know... I think you can make this case.  I mean the Nats are what? Soto then... Robles if he gets his head on straight and Lane Thomas because he had a good two months last year?  Yadi Hernandez? Donovan Casey?  It's not a great signing but this is about the COME BACK tour!  I think this can be justified  SIGN

Adam Eaton - no power, no average, can't walk enough to make up for that. OK in the corner I guess but when you hit like Stevenson you gotta field better than him. Eaton doesn't. PASS

At this point there are too many to go over all available - Conforto is still out there and is the best. Dickerson and Pham are decent players


No former Nats - also Nats really don't need one. 


No former Nats - Shame bc Nats really do need one.  Only three guys out there could be said to do more than fill space. Brett Anderson, who'd be a decent 3/4/5 depending. Johnny Cueto who is not quite done and would be a fun vet guy to have around, and maaaybe Drew Smyly who occasionally looks ok so trying him as a 5th wouldn't be necessarily giving up to fill space.  I'd like to see Cueto here. I like Cueto


Clippard, Holland, Kintzler, Petit, Rosenthal, Strickland, Abad, Detwiler - Clippard still gets results, even if last year was a little lucky, the previous two were not. He was just good. Petit is solid - basically his Nats year was his worst. Strickland is good? And very importantly we thought he'd come in here and be a big dumb baby and he wasn't.  Still... his time with the Nats was pretty awful.  Makes it hard to want him back even if he was ok last year. Rest are trash So in conclusion SIGN PASS PASS SIGN PASS PASS PASS PASS

Give it up for your returning 2022 Nats Asdrubal Cabrera, Brian Goodwin, Tyler Clippard and Yusmeiro Petit!

Monday, March 21, 2022

Monday Quickie - Kie-Bust

Carter Kieboom is done. 

Ok, that's hyperbole.  He's not done for his career, or the season, or even April maybe. But he is hurt and that means he won't start Opening Day. He might not have anyway but now it's sure.

Technically the Nats have a boatload of guys in camp that could replace him. Adrianza, Urena, Fox, Hernandez, Strange-Gordon, Sanchez, Franco, Noll, Cluff, Young... but they are only seriously considering Maikel Franco, Ehire Adrianza, and maybe Richard UreƱa.  Personally I feel Hernandez makes more sense, with Garcia everyday at 2B, but the plan seems to be Hernandez at 2B, Escobar at SS, Kieboom at 3B, Garcia in AAA until he seems more ready. 

Kieboom himself.. man what happened? 

He was a low first round draft pick in 2016 (some, like me, believed the Nats wanted him so much they took his brother to sweeten the signing pot).  His progression seemed to be going great. 

2016 :  18 : Decent stats with nice power in Rookie League

2017 : 19 :  Was hitting great for Hagerstown and looked to be a shoe-in for High A Potomac, but hurt his hammy and had to finish the season rehabbing through the low minors back to A ball

2018 : 20 : Brought up to High A anyway, hit great there, and decent in AA really his first real struggle as he wasn't hitting for the power he had. Still 20 in AA holding your own is great so the Nats...

2019 : 21 : ... moved him the AAA anyway and he thrived. He got a brief call-up in the majors and looked overwhelmed - he'd hit .128 in 43 PA and strike out a crazy 16 times.  But he was 21!  The Nats took him off the table for trades (rumors abounded but nothing clearly specific) He did seem to wear down a bit at the end of the year in AAA - the power kind of went again, but 2020 was going to be his year to shine. Rendon would leave and he'd step in, not unlike Soto steppin in for Bryce.

2020 : 22 : Pandemic year kept him from playing until July but he got his chance and unlike every other time he failed. Miserably. Not only did he not hit (.202 / .344 / .212), but he looked bad across the board, like he didn't know what he was doing on the field, on the basepaths.  He didn't look like a guy struggling, he looked like he didn't belong at all.  The Nats sort of floated the idea that they'd listen to offers but that year was so bad and the turn around for the Nats from "UNTOUCHABLE" to "make us an offer" so quick, no one bit with anything good.

2021 : 23 : New year fresh start! The Nats would start him back in AAA, let him get his legs under him then get him back up. But the plan didn't work.  He scuffled for two months in AAA playing mediocre ball. They called him up around the trade deadline but again - nothing came of it and despite an immediate fast start (11 hits and 2 homers in his first 11 games) he'd end up much like 2021, maybe not as bad in the field but not close to a major leaguer

What to do now?  He's not old (24 pretty much all year) and he's not expensive (aribtration a couple years away, FA after 2027) so they can hang onto him. And given that he's getting almost zero interest they might have no choice. He needs to play. If he does well then the Nats have a difficult decision - do they trust the development through AAA and what they see to double down on him as a 2023-2026 cheap starter? Even if he's average it's worth it. Or do they trade him while they can, getting something out of a guy who has spent basically every moment of the past 3 years when in the majors looking like he should be anywhere else?  Development matters but everyone has a ceiling and part of the game is finding it.

It'd honestly be easier if he failed. Package him up for whatever and let someone else try to fix him. It probably isn't going to work here. You might even get a lottery ticket back given Kieboom has a lot of control left. 

For now it doesn't matter because he won't play right away. But he will and when he does if he can do well the Nats will face a tough call.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Spin it, let's begin it

So... could the Nats make the playoffs? 

This is a transition season for the Nats. After two years of trying to keep the window open using chewing gum and bailing wire and failing miserably, the Nats are accepting they won't be competitive this year. But just because you accept it doesn't mean it will happen.  Can we work out a way that the Nats will be in the hunt for the playoffs this year? Of course we can! I can make the Pirates contenders if I best case scenario everyone on the team. A better question is : how crazy does that work have to be?

Let's start with the biggest factor in the Nats favor.  They expanded the playoffs. It's likely that teams in the 83-85 range will make the playoffs, so if the Nats can break .500 they have a shot.  How far are they away from .500?

 While the Nats only won 65 games last year they were a better team than that.  They pythag numbers (runs scored and runs allowed) pegged them at something more like 71 wins and the 2nd and 3rd order wins (trying to peel even more luck away) put them around 77-78.  This isn't wishful thinking. The offense had the best BA and OBP in the NL and the 5th best slugging. They should have scored more runs. They lost more games by 2 (12-19) and 3 (8-18) runs that one would think. They should have won more with the runs they did score. 

So let's say this is true. Last year's team was a 75 win team that got pretty damn unlucky. They only need to get 6 wins better to do it!  

But wait!  That can't be the starting point though.  They lost Max. And Trea. And Yan and Josh and Schwarber and Zimm and Daniel Hudson. That's lets see... carry the one... factor in the wind... like 10 wins, let's say.  Replace them with blank slates and you have a 65 win team. Can they make it from there to 81? 

Let's make Strasburg, who gave the Nats nothing last year, around peak Stras.  That's 5 wins himself. 70 wins. Corbin is somewhere around his useful 2017 level. That's 3 more.  Bingo bango 73 wins. The guys that replace all those won't be nothings... let's replace Max with a 1.5 win guy... 74.5. Gomes with a ROY type Ruiz, let's say 2.5 wins... 77.  The other guys... welll they manage not to hurt 1 win 78 total.  We're getting close.  

Cruz you say! Well yes, we could in theory get 3 wins just from Cruz BUT everyone is getting a Cruz in the NL. Well not a Cruz but a DH. So that will effect the relative wins for everyone.  I'll say Cruz gives the Nats a good season, 3 wins, and is about 1.5 wins better than the average DH... 79.5.   Hell from here you can "maybe the pen is a little better" the rest of the way.  You could probably do that and add 2-3 wins. We're there!  The Nats have ~82 wins!  Nothing crazy! We didn't ask for Soto's best year ever or Josiah Gray to be a ROY candidate or anything! 

Does the NL East getting better matter?  Probably not. The Nats tanked against the league last year going a combined 19-38 against the Braves, Mets and Phillies combined. It would hard to do worse even if their improvement doesn't track with the rest of the division.  AL Opponent?  It is the AL West which is not super strong, Angels & Rangers could be better, Mariners should be less lucky and A's are tanking. But the Nats did a surprisingly decent 10-10 against the AL East last year that was 4 teams deep with 90 wins teams. They probably won't improve on that. 

Nope if everything goes right - just right not crazy - the Nats could be good enough to challenge for a playoff spot.  The bottom of the playoffs sure but it's there. The division?  Probably not. The Braves were a better team than their 88 and haven't made themselves worse. The Mets should have been around .500 and could be much better. The Phillies.... well they could be better than that 82 wins too. Chances of ALL these guys failing in a way that the Nats catch them would be the same as the chances we find another 5 wins for the Nats... unlikely. Could a huge signing (Correa) or a couple smart not huge signings do it? It's possible I guess. I think it would still take at least the Braves falling off.  

But playoffs? Maaaybe. It basically does mean there can't be disappointments.  Bell can't be close to average. Ross can't be missing all year and have Sanchez bomb. Ruiz can't have growing pains. The pen can't be below average. There also can't be fall-offs from some better-case scenarios.  Strasburg can't just be Strasburg for 20 starts, it needs to be close to 30. Corbin can't be usable, he needs to be good. Soto can't be only All-Star level, he has to challenge for an MVP.

But... could the Nats make the playoffs?

Crazier things have happened.*

*Ed note - I do not think they will make the playoffs

Thursday, March 17, 2022

More moves - but not much in the NL East

The big NL East move... well I guess the big one is Olson signing long-term, which cemented the Braves as a "win-now but long-term" team I pegged them as yesterday. Acuna, Albies, and Olson are now all in ATL forever. None of the young pitchers are up for FA until after 2024. This isn't a death knell for the rest of the NL East. The Braves weren't THAT good last year, rather they were good enough and got hot at the right time (these things happen), so without improvement they are beatable the next couple years.  BUT I'll add they are young enough in a lot of places that that may happen. They also should have money to supplement what they do have. It COULD be a death knell. 

Of course the Mets are trying to force the issue for the next couple of years and the Phillies did something! They signed Kyle Schwarber to a 4 yr 79 million deal. That's a lot! Schwarber might be worth it - the tear he went on last year was crazy but everyone has loved him for years as a pure hitter. While he has tried to improve on D, he feels more like a natural DH and it might just keep him hitting at that highest level.  He also might NOT be worth it but given his history he'd still be giving the Phillies something at the plate. It probably helps last year's Nats hitting coach, Kevin Long, is now on the Phillies. Still they need rotation help and bullpen help and probably another OF... They are a clear third here. 

Rizzo re-signed with the Yankees, Chapman was traded to the Blue Jays, Bryant signed with the Rockies, Freeman ended up with the Dodgers, Giants signed Boyd and Pederson, Greinke went back to the Royals, Cutch is on the Brewers now... it's a lot. But a lot that doesn't directly affect the Nats unless you care about draft picks.

Who's left? Correa, Story, Castellanos, Conforto, Villar, Jansen, Tepara, Danny Duffy.

As far as the NL East goes it's dead quiet when it comes to any of these players. It would be wise of the Phillies to grab BOTH those reliever. Seems far more likely they'll try to get the injured middling pitcher who managed a surprising good stretch Duffy on the cheap. A Matt Moore move. 

Could the Nats be in on any of these?  Probably not. Any reliever would work but they aren't giving out the multi-year deals these guys are looking for. Correa would make sense - the Nats don't have a SS close to ready. Brady House is there but he is far down there so who knows if when and at what position he ends up. Correa could be the guy for Soto to look at and believe the Nats are serious about competing and stay.  But it'd still be a surprise bc if Correa isn't getting the money (which is like at least 300 mill) you figure he'd go back home. No, unless one of these guys wants to sign a 1 yr challenge deal (Story?) I can't see it happening.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Tuesday - Doolittle and the NL East

The Nats didn't stop signing people, yesterday bringing in old friend Sean Doolittle. Like a lot of Nats relievers (Clippard, Storen, Soriano, Treinen, Kelley) people tend to forget the good and remember the bad. I don't know why I guess a reliever that isn't outright dominant is like a good umpire - you don't notice them. But Doolittle was good for the Nats more than he was bad.  He excelled for the remainder of the season he was traded over (2017), the complete next season, and through nearly mid-August of the Championship year. But the Nats bullpen was ridden extremely hard that season and Doolittle broke in the dog days of 2019. He managed to come back to throw some decent innings but if possible the Nats kept him out of important situations.  The exception being holding down the fort at the end of Game 1 of the World Series after Hudson, himself stretched into a second inning, had given up a run and left a man on second, with two outs in the eighth. 

Anyway Doolittle tried unsuccessfully to get right in the pandemic year then signed with Cincinnati and pitched middling until he was waived, where he was snatched up by the Mariners to do the same.  He is still very good against LHB but the "No LOOGYs" rule means the opportunities to use that to your advantage are limited. He could fit into this pen, but that's more telling of this pen than of Doolittle's potential to be good again. 


As pointed out yesterday the Nats also brought in Aaron Sanchez a former highly touted arm who broke, then stunk, then got hurt again, then pitched a little for the Giants with good results then got hurt again. The guy is not an injury risk, he's an injury certainty. But maybe he can give the Nats a month or two of better 4/5 starting then they are looking at now. Maybe. Look the staff is a mess. 

The rest of the NL East has not exactly stayed quiet post-lockout, either.  Lets take a look at the competition. 

Braves - The Braves traded for Matt Olson who had a little break out season after flirting with excellence for several seasons. This means Freddie Freeman is out (and likely in LA but we'll see).  What's the trade off there? Olson had been a better fielder - legit gold glove material - though seemed a little off last year. You don't judge D by one year though so I'd assume if he isn't near best he's still very good. Freeman is starting to age into being bad, though isn't quite there yet. At the plate... well it depends on how much you believe last year.  If you buy into it Olson would be just as patient as Freddie while showing more power which makes up for the fact Freddie is a better pure hitter.  If you don't buy into it Olson is a little worse hitter and a little less patient and Freddie very likely to outhit him. 

Of course the second biggest thing is Olson is 3-4 years younger than Freeman meaning he's likely to maintain being what he is vs Freeman who's likely to slip a little. At worst the Braves got an equal player in terms of production. The biggest thing is Olson is far cheaper probably doing this at half the cost of Freeman with no 35+ years hanging out there as would for Freeman on another deal. 

The Braves gave up a bunch of decent prospects for this haul.  Cristian Pache (23) everyone was once very high on and is going to be in the majors. The question is as a super 4th OF because of his D and base running or a very good everyday player. Shea Langeliers (24) is college guy who looks good in limited games and is very likely to be a major league catcher in the next year or two. Ryan Cusick (22) was the Braves #1 pick last year with fantastic swing and miss stuff (but control issues). Joey Estes (20) is another live arm who's biggest weakness (too many fly balls) plays well in Oakland. It's a haul that empties out the Braves system and paints them as a win now team, albeit that NOW period stretches probably 3-5 years given their relative youth.

Mets -  The Mets traded for Chirs Bassit who you may remember as the Oakland pitcher who got hit in the face last year. He has always been pretty good but in the past couple years matured into something even better, as he seems to be learning how to optimally pitch. At 33 he's not in NY for the long haul but he's an EXTREMELY good #3.  The prospects given up were fine but nothing like the Braves haul, as to be expected for a guy Bassit's age with one year left.

The Mets also brought in Adam Ottavino who had surprised in Colorado but hadn't been great in NY or Boston outside of a little luck.  He is still a decent arm in the pen and if you can keep him facing primarily righties, maybe even good.

Phillies - They got Aaron Barrett! Barrett if you somehow forgot is the Nats guy who looked real good in 2014 into 2015 but then his arm "broke" and he needed Tommy John and then after rehabbing that his arm BROKE (no quotes) and he needed a full year to get back from that. He persevered and did it.  Unfortunately his very limited major league stints were terrible and the Nats couldn't bring themselves to give him another shot in 2021 despite good AAA stats. The Phillies will try and given their pen that makes sense - of course same for the Nats! What were they thinking?

They also signed Jeurys Familia who is in theory decent but always seems to be a problem. If you are a Phillies fan reading this last year did look a lot more like his better seasons with some bad luck HR wise. If you are not a Phillies fan, he got hit more and gave up more homers last year so if the Ks go back down he could be toast. Seems like a Phillies reliever to me.

And they signed Brad Hand. Back to the very first sentence of this post Brad Hand was actually good for the Nats, until he wasn't and then he was very quickly very bad and he went to the Jays and kept being that bad. But after the Jays kicked him out he ended up on the Mets and seemed ok again. Just one of those years? If so the Phillies could have a great arm for relatively cheap. But who wants to bet on the Phillies pen?

finally they brought back Odubel Herrera who is just a guy. If he's their worst every day player that's pretty good, but he's usually not.

Marlins - the Marlins have done nothing with suggests the rumors that Jeter left because they weren't going to try to supplement an exciting young pitching staff with the offense it needs is probably true. But hey, maybe Correa signs there today! 

The Nats are better than they were pre-lockout but it's not in a vacuum. Braves aren't better today BUT aren't worse, they are better probably for 2023 and their fortunes this eyar mostly rely on how good Acuna is when he returns (Likely in May).  The Mets are better than they were pre-lockout and they were already better with Max. And the Phillies, well they are at least doing something, throw enough junk at a pen and one year it'll work (rotation still needs work). The Nats might have popped back past the Marlins for 4th but beyond that well it depends on Strasburg. He's supposed to throw today. Let's see how he looks

Monday, March 14, 2022

Monday Quickie - STUFF! Lots of it!

 The shortened Spring was going to give us a flurry of moves and even a team like the Nats, presumably out of it and rebuilding, would be involved in someway.  They haven't disappointed making one of the biggest signings so far (granted there have been very few BIG signings post lockout). Let's review what they did

Steve Cishek - Nats signed this submarining righty reliever to a 1/1.75M deal. They NEED relievers so this is no surprise. Cishek is mostly good? Probably? His ERA always seems better than his FIP which is good because his 3 year FIP paints him as middling at best. He doesn't have great control.  He doesn't strike out a bunch. But his delivery is hard to square up leaving things to the gods on when those few hits fall or when he blow a pitch. Hard to see him being unusable, might be good? That's a good signing for that price. 

Ehire Adrianza - Utility player who has been consistently... usable since 2016.  He is a contact hitter who doesn't K, or walk, or hit for power, or high average. But he plays decently all over the field and the average is ok. At 1.5 M you think he's bound for the majors but the Nats are now stacked with just decent utility players who'd normally fill out the last spot on a teams 25 man.  Want a take? Nats are willing to deal Kieboom (a bad season away from being untradable) AND Garcia (mildly disappointing so far but very young so still intriguing to Nats and other teams) and doing that would leave two IF roster spots to fill.

Gerardo Parra - Baby Shark guy was here last year and stunk then. AAAA filler who might get another chance to be brought up for cheap pop.

Anibal Sanchez - There's some excitement for his return on a minor league deal but there isn't any reason for there to be. After catching a late career rebirth for a couple season with the Braves and in a lesser way on the mound but greater way in the title getting with the Nats Sanchez was terrible in 2020 and no one wanted an old formerly terrible now terrible again pitcher in 2021. Chances of him being terrible are very good and while I dislike Fedde and Rogers and Espino they aren't likely to be TERRIBLE. 

Nelson Cruz - the big deal. The guy has been one of the premier HR hitters for over a decade now. He's close to 500 though very unlikely to get there this year.  He doesn't walk too much (but has gotten a little better at that), he does strike out a bunch but not a crazy amount especially in this day and age.  He should make good protection for Juan Soto. Should.  Ultimately with a guy like Nelson Cruz you can't ignore the fact he'll turn 42 halfway through the season. At this age guys lose it overnight. There is no ability to compensate for an injury or for the loss of a skill.

And worrying is the 2nd half stats of .221 / .279 / .438. He still hit homers - 14 in 62 games which would be 30+ for a season, but that's all he did and given he's a DH, flawed hitter is not exactly what you want. 

For a team trying who needs a DH Cruz is still a decent gamble. He will be bad. Probably some season soon. But he was good last year and he only needs to be good this year for you.  But for the Nats I'm not sure.  Are they trying?  

It makes them better. There's no denying that so for the fans in 2022 this signing is a good one. Does it make sense beyond that? We have to see what else the Nats do/

Friday, March 11, 2022


I won’t go over the details because other people will do it more thoroughly.  The way I read it the main takeaway is the players got a foot in for pre-arb money while the owners got spending levels below inflation/revenue putting more money in their pockets. Also the players got a change to the worst of the option abusers while the owners got protection from one year crazy spenders. 

The macro view I'll take away is that the players rolled over to a point in the past few negotiations and had to reset themselves in this one. They did that. Who won or lost? It's all a moving target based on where they are, where they could be, and a bunch of things we won't know that'll play out between now and the end of the deal. In the moment, seems reasonable and that's all we can ask for. 

OK so where are we baseball wise?  The Nats depth chart stands like this (with my comments): 

C : Keibert Ruiz (most interesting guy next year - FANTASTIC contact hitter. Should anchor position for years)

1B :  Josh Bell (best case - hidden near All-Star.  worst case - very average bat at a premium position. worth a shot)

2B : Cesar Hernandez (maybe Nats luck into an average season but probably not)

SS :  Luis Garcia (the best ready prospect - I consider Ruiz a starter - needs his ABs.)

3B : Alcides Escobar (if he's not garbage I'll eat an... eskimo bar? Wait do we say Eskimo anymore? It's like Indian right where it's not a slur but there are better terms to use? This is getting off track. Anyway this is real bad. A worst in baseball year if he plays everyday is not impossible)

UTIL : Carter Kieboom (looks terrible, but you decided to ride with him so play him some more and pray)

LF : Yadi Hernandez (really? Yadi? Questionable in the field, maybe average at the plate. Another teams AAAA call-up) 

CF : Lane Thomas (Is he what the Nats saw in 45 games last year? Probably not. But just "probably not" not "no" and last year he was very good so there's at least something to be interested in other than Ruiz) 

RF : Soto (what is there to say other than maybe the best hitter in baseball this generation. Going to get SOOOOO many walks)

4TH : Robles (probably last chance to get head on straight before being jettisoned, should be good enough to start) 

SP : Strasburg? (Simple fact : If he's not healthy, this season starts out nowhere) 

Corbin (Bar has been reset to a low level - just give the Nats 180IP of 4.20 ERA ball. I think he can do it) 

Gray (A half-step better than Ross/Fedde which means he should be in the rotation. But is he good or not? Can he stop giving up a million homers. Third most interesting thing for the team, imo and MOST important) 

Ross? (Good when right, rarely right.)

Fedde? (Good occasionally, a better team's long relief) 

Rogers (lucky bastard, but sometimes 5th starters are like that and you ride that hot streak)

Closer : Kyle Finnegan? Tanner Rainey? Mason Thompson? (Might be the worst bullpen this team has put together to start a year and that's saying something. The Nats NEVER care about their bullpen to start a year)

This is a team that was bad last year and has only gotten worse. The focus is not on 2022 it's on 2024 and keeping Soto for 2025 and beyond. To that end you'd like to see a big long term signing (Correa) but you won't.  Failing that you'd like to see all the Nats young players get good.  You probably will see a couple do that, but not enough. Failing THAT, you'd like to see all the Nats top prospects continue to develop. Who knows? 

Assuming no big roster changes - if things start with Strasburg out things could get very bleak very quickly and the worst case scenario is nothing but Soto trade talk that the team at least entertains (probably wouldn't do it this year) for a squad who might be the worst in baseball.  Best case - with Strasburg starting and healthy - hard to see playoffs but maybe Corbin is good and Ross is healthy enough and the team stays over .500 for a while giving fans an unexpectedly decent season through Labor Day? 

Baseball is back. Good baseball back in DC though... that's probably too far to say.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

We’re back!

 And by “we” I mean baseball players. Major league ones.  In Florida.  

And by “back” I mean have agreed to a collective bargaining agreement to restart the season

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

Getting closer

 No seriously they are! 

One could argue (if they were me) that the owners made their first serious offer yesterday. The minor league minimum is now just window dressing (MLB is 700K gradually to 770 by end, MLBPA is 725K to 745 to 765K followed by a CPI adjustment in last years).  The Pre-arb bonus pool is still a bit away but common ground seems findable (MLB is 50 mill flat, MLBPA is 80 mill rising up to 100 mill). Players seem amenable to quicker rule changes the owners want.  Players might give on international draft (which will help suppress salaries but might help curb some of the worst of the things going on internationally with pre-teens being hounded but also might hurt the "immediate help" aspect for younger players in need.  It's a complicated topic) IF owners agreeable to ending the QO system (which helps suppress salaries by tying FAs to teams. It's not as complicated). That'd be a slight win for the owners - the QO system not being used much and more and more of their money going to international signings that wouldn't happen in a draft system.

But it comes back to the CBT

MLB : 230 to 242, new extra penalty level so penalties at 20/40/60 over (unclear current levels - last I saw was 45% / 62% / 95%)

MLBPA : 238 to 263, penalties at 20/40 million over (12%, 45%)

MLB wants its cake (Lower total for salaries) and to eat it, too (defacto cap with onerous penalties).  MLBPA wants its cake (Higher total) basically already can't eat it because there's almost a defacto cap as is.

I can see the players accept a lower total, even another penalty level, but not those penalty rates. They want teams who want to spend to spend. Owners want to save themselves from themselves.

Monday, March 07, 2022

Monday Quickie - holding in place

There's nothing to report lockout wise. The MLBPA came back with an offer a tiny bit closer to the MLB one to which the MLB said "YOU ARE GOING BACKWARDS!!!" which tells you the state of things. 

Alternate baseball

There is baseball right now! In America! College baseball.  

I'm assuming most of you live in the NoVA, DelMarVa, whatever dumb acronym that doesn't really capture the area that you like. If so Maryland Baseball is pretty good - last ranked 21st in the country but losers of 2 of 3 in a little showcase to end last week which will probably drop them out of the rankings, but still pretty good. They have a home and home against VCU this week and a couple games against Georgetown after that.  I don't know DII or DIII schools off the top of my head but I see Johns Hopkins and Lynchburg and Washington & Jefferson and you can view the pre-season polls here :

In a few weeks, there will definitely not be major league baseball but their will be minor league baseball. The Nats farm system, if you don't know it, is :

Fredericksburg Nationals (Low-A) : the Fred Nats who AREN'T EVEN LISTED AS AN AFFILIATE  Man, what a second rate org the Nats became after winning the title. In theory the drive is an hour or so and Brady House should be here at least to start.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (High-A) : before you head to the beach that's Delaware, not NC. 2 hour drive

Harrisburg Senators (AA) : The little city with nothing in the middle of everything usually has the best prospects though the Nats system is slim and the best guys will be in AAA and Low-A to start the year.  Hmm not selling it. It is only a 2 hour drive!

Rochester Red Wings (AAA) : You want to see Cavalli? Get a hotel in NY's "Oh yeah I guess Kodak built something here a long time ago.  Wait, it's not on the lake outside of a technicality?" city, Rochester! 6 and a half hours away.   

If you don't have to see Nats players there are even more choices

Aberdeen Ironbirds (High A - Orioles) 

Reading Fightin Phils (AA - Phillies) 

Delmarva Shorebirds (Low A - Orioles)

Bowie Baysox (AA - Orioles)

Richmond Flying Squirrles (AA - Giants) 

and that's just the closest

PA has Altoona, Allentown,  and Scranton / Wilkes-Barre, NJ has Somerset and Lakewood (Jersey Shore) VA has Norfolk, Lynchburg and Salem. A bit of a drive south and NC has the most of any state with 10. And this is just the affiliated teams. You gotta have family somewhere!

Put any recommendations you have in the comments. I can answer any NC Qs you might have.

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Well I guess I should write something

On Tuesday the talks fell apart.  It's probably more accurate to say the talks were never actually building as we had hoped and the pieces remained unassembled on the ground, but why quibble?  The results are the same - no baseball, not now, probably not soon. 

There are a faction of hardline owners who have drawn a line in the sand. They must make more money out of baseball regardless of what happens going forward and that means limiting salaries. The best way to do that is to keep salaries for controlled young players low; so a lower minimum than the players' ask and no arbitration expansion, and to limit the amount anyone can spend for players; with a cap that doesn't increase with revenues or inflation and harsher penalties for going over.  Why do they want this? Because who doesn't want more money and more security? But its not about the difference between making or losing money. Don't believe that. It's about making money or making more money.

Sports labor fights are hard for fans.  I often have said fans are likely to side with owners because we understand what ownership does. They might not actually do the day to day stuff but someone is doing real work as we understand it. They run a business. You've got to hire and fire, and deal with contractors, and worry about prices, etc. etc. It might be a crazy lucrative spin on jobs we know of in a weird industry, but it's still a spin on jobs we know of.  

Athletes though, that's not a job to us. There is no relation for us to think "ok this guy should get paid just for playing a game" on an instinctual level. It goes against everything we took in growing up. We PLAY sports, for fun, all throughout our youth. We don't play at being boss. It's a game for kids. It's something most of us would love to do for a fraction of their salaries. Of course if we step back and think about it, it makes sense.  An entertainer draws a crowd and you pay to see them. These guys aren't just playing a game, but playing a game better than anyone can right now. But it takes those extra steps.  That makes a difference. That often makes fans side against the players. 

It's also tough because when we think of labor fights we aren't really thinking of people getting paid fair wages, but reasonable ones. We want people to be able to have the basics; food, clothes, shelter. We want people to be able to pay their bills and not worry about health care and be able to put their kids through school.  If a business is profitable we don't want the CEO driving his fancy car to his mansion to pack for a week his vacation home if the guy on the line can't take his family to the beach once a year. But what is reasonable when nearly everyone involved lives like that CEO? 

OK yes, minor league players and guys who have cups of coffee in the majors aren't living that life. A prorated 2-3 seasons doesn't set you up for life and a guy like... let's say James Borque might have played 8 years of baseball for about 100K total.  But the CBA isn't about them, officially so. It's about major leaguers. About major leaguers who stick around.  Changes to the minimum salary and arbitration are nice and needed but they don't really change the facts on the ground.  If you can stick on a roster for the equivalent of 3+ years, you are set for life (assuming you are smart enough to invest some, not waste money, and are planning on doing SOMETHING for income) If you can make it on a roster the full team control time you may not even have to do all that, and if you can get one contract post control you are officially idle rich.

So how does one deal with that? How does one deal with a labor issue that the guy we see as incredibly rich being robbed of some money by the guy with unimaginable wealth? How do we deal with it when this robbery materially changes nothing for the rich guy? He is still rich.  How do you get us to care? 

 It's very hard! Which is again why most of these things have ended with the majority of fans booing the players. Just get rich playing your game and shut up!

But this time it's a little different. We've come to back the players more because the owners haven't even bothered to try to make us care. They are the ones locking the players out. They spent a month doing nothing. Their offers to the players haven't shown movement. They sent up the unlikable Manford to smile his way through public appearances. Why? Because they don't need us to care. It's nice not to be yelled at.  It's nice for the fans to put pressure on the players. But this plays out the same with or without fans. This isn't about the fans. 

What now? 

The owners have some money coming in their mind from additional revenue sources in the CBA; Ads on jerseys, extra playoffs. That extends the time they can have no games. Eventually though that pressure of having no income will wear on ownerships and around 140 games TV deals start to break down into per game payments costing them a lot of money.  Does it wear more than on players? Maybe so.  The players have their personal pressures but it's internal. The ownerships often have external pressures. Other ownership members, debt collectors, shareholders, gambling partners; that don't care about wringing the last dollar from baseball. This is why ownership often loses. 

This is going to go on for a while. Ownership is willing to play chicken with the season . Players are willing to take that bet.  Since everything so far has gone as worse as possible I'll assume the same without the armageddon of losing a whole season. I'll say we're out until somewhere near Memorial Day.