Nationals Baseball: July 2022

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

On vacation

 I'll jump back in here if like Soto is traded. That seems like something worth noting.

Friday, July 22, 2022

The Return of... no wait FOR Soto

Understand when we start this, you can't get a return for Soto that is equal to Soto.  Soto isn't just a great player, he's a HoF player with a good chance of being an "inner circle" Hall of Fame player, the type that gets in first ballot with no doubts. That means even if you trade for a Hall of Famer you might not get an equal return*

But what would you ask for? Here's a general sense of how I read prospect lists. Top 20 = gonna make majors, likely good, possibly great, unlikely bust. Top 50 gonna make majors, likely decent, possibly good, small chance great, small chance bust. Top 100 probably makes majors, likely usable, possibly decent, small chance good, tiny chance great, possibly bust. Also relievers - they like to put good relievers in 50-100. Often the "small chance great" and "tiny chance great" is an age thing.  A 18 yo surprises, ends up on the bottom of a Top 100 list then repeats performance and boom is a Top 20 guy. Or like Soto big surprise - Top 50 guy, repeat then in majors. So this isn't perfect it's general.

What I would want, looking at this Nats team, is two Top 20 prospect starting pitchers and one Top 50 players, a long with some random other pieces.This would be two pitchers likely to be decent major leaguers to add into a rotation with Gray and maybe one other guy in the minors now (Cavalli? Henry?) and a player likely to play and be something to add to Ruiz, Garcia and probably someone else (House? de La Rosa?).  There's holes to fill sure but a #1 starter and a big time bat, which you should have the money for, and the team is looking pretty competitive. 

See that's the thing. You can't replace Soto BUT if the Nats are garbage in 3+ spots (and they are) you can be better than you are with just Soto, by getting fixes for those spots.  Soto may be like +8 by himself, but going from -1 to 2 in 4 spots is +12.  Of course you gotta get that right AND you gotta assume they can't pay Soto and do that through free agency which obviously they can but fans and media and definitely the owners like to pretend they can't so whatever. Anyway that's a big ask that may end up with zero or one possible partner and they might not even be competitive, so you can scale it down to try to find partners.

Maybe two Top 20 and one Top 50 - no positional terms, or one Top 20 and two Top 50, or one Top 20 and one Top 50 and two Top 100s.

Who has that kind of prospect haul available?  (I'll put what they max out at)

Blue Jays (20, two 50s) - It'd be one pitcher and a catcher - which is oddly what the Nats don't need. SS/3B guy is looking like a high K 3B, but the pitcher is a fast riser and pitcher is what I want most

Cardinals (10, 50, 100) - Put them on here because a 10 is better than a 20 so I could drop from a 50 to a 100 for that. Get a possible star bat in Jordan Walker, but Liberatore the pitcher looks like he needs major league work

Dodgers (10, 20, two 50s, two 100s) - Best guy is a catcher, but can give a Top 20 pitcher and a Top 100 pitcher that looks decent. Or the pick of some other guys. Deep system

Giants (10, 20, 50) - I can't see them doing it.  One looking good pitcher around 20 and a great young bat in the 10s. Third guy might be busting down fast though

Guardians (10, 50, SIX 100s) - that's a lot of low level depth. I won't talk about it though - they aren't dealing

Mets (10, 20, 50, 100) - no pitchers, top guy is a catcher (what's up with these catchers?) The Nats could solidify multiple positions but again - no pitchers. 

Rangers (two 20s, two 50s, two 100s).  Possible but I'll tell you right now - Jack Leiter has to be part of it for me. Their other pitchers aren't good enough. 

Sox (10, 20, 50, 100) - This fits and it makes a nice Soto/Williams connection. And a SS that can play SS! Only one pitcher though and it's the 50. GIVE ME PITCHERS 

Yankees (10, two 50s, two 100s) - again pitcher isn't great, in the 100s. But the Yanks have TWO SSs that can play SS so they won't even feel losing that

Who doesn't?

Astros (100) - system is tapped out

Braves (-) - same

Brewers (three 50s) - all OFs - which is interesting but Nats need at least one pitcher

Mariners (20, three 100s) - Have the top guy in Marte but he doesn't look as good ditto the barely in 100s pitcher

Padres (20, 50, 100) - not enough unless you add a current major leaguer like Gore

Phillies (two 50s, 100) - two 50s pitchers is... interesting? But not enough especially because the last guys is a C.  the Top 100 is 1/3rd catcher apparently

Rays (two 50s, 100) - Huh, figured a deeper list but they gotta do something off-plan for me to give up Soto.  Maybe they have like a bunch 100-200 where they can throw in like 4-5 of those.

Twins (50) - not enough

White Sox (100) - reallly not enough. see Braves, Astros

Now this assumes no current major leaguers - only prospects. But there aren't a ton of young guys new to the majors good enough to want but not good enough to be helping this good team right now, so no big deal. You'll notice there are no two Top 20 pitchers on the same team. That was a stretch. There are multiple pitchers on the same team other than the Dodgers but they are on non-contending teams (Orioles, Reds, Marlins) so that makes a trade unlikely.

So by default almost - to get the two best pitchers - I lean toward the Dodgers. They also could give you the best set of prospects with the best pitchers. If you want just the best prospects - maybe the Red Sox, if they give you their two best. The best individual players? The Mets, Blue Jays, or Cardinals probably.  The Mets and Jays present a C issue - their best guys are C that can play C. But Ruiz plays a solid C too. Trade Ruiz then?

Anyway - that's the setting we're at in terms of prospects.  Plenty of teams that can give what would be a reasonable, but not even, return. But will they? And will the Nats accept?

*yeah there are things like getting value at a cheap contract

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Soto wins. Nats fans lose?

 Juan Soto won the HR Derby which is usually fun but a pall has been cast over everything with the news that Soto doesn't seem likely to sign with the Nationals. A PALL!

What does Soto want? 

The contract total (440 mill) and years (15) are probably ok on their own but the combination makes his AAV only 29.3. That's 20th most in baseball. That's not good enough. I know you are thinking that "biggest contract ever" is the most important thing but I think really the years and AAV matter. The total contract is a brag at the end. It comes along for the ride based on your other things.

A player most wants a contract that shows the team values them as a long term piece. But players aren't dumb. They don't expect a 10 year deal when they are 36. They know their window - which depends on current age and recent success and health. At 23, health is probably ok and you can buy out anywhere from 12 to 17 years to get to the end of his career depending when you draw the line. While 12 would possibly let another contract happen and 17 would not, there's a clear message with any contract of this length : "We are building around you. You are a franchise cornerstone". I imagine Soto wants something in this 12-17 range. 

The player also wants an AAV that shows where they think they should be valued. Players aren't dumb here either (well most aren't). They know about where they rank. Sure, they'll push it - who wouldn't? - and they know that contracts only get larger and you aren't being compared to contracts from 3 years ago even. It's a simple clear message. We think you are this valuable in the sport today and going forward. The Nats are saying they value Soto at about what the sport says is the 20th best player in the game today. Soto thinks he's about the best. Soto is right here.

What does that mean? Well the highest AAVs are 43.3 Million (Max signed 2022 - 3 yrs), 36 (Cole 2020 - 9), 35.5 (Trout 2019 - 12), 35.1 (Correa 2022 - 3), and 35 Stras/Rendon 2020 - both 7). None of these are great comparisons. Trout was THE BEST and it was four seasons ago. Even the Rendon deal is only 7 years. Probably the best comparisons from the last two years are

Lindor - 34 10 

Seager - 32.5 10

Betts - 30.4 12

Those are the numbers Soto is looking at. And he's better than Lindor and Seager and Betts. Or at least certainly figures to be over the life of the deal.So figure Soto to be looking at no less than 35 mill a year. Probably something over Trout's 35.5 not because he's better than Trout but because that was 4 years ago and Trout's deal is no longer the line in the sand.

There is wiggle room here. At 12 years you better be right on what Soto thinks, at 17 you can be further below. Figure 12/36 maybe (that $432 million)? 17/30 ($510)?  Those would stand a chance at working more than 15/30. If you think that's too much maybe it is. But then again you might have felt Bryce's contract hamstrung a team. Now three years later it's high but workable. Things change fast.

 Tomorrow we'll talk about what's out there in deals. Probably. You know things come up.  

Monday, July 18, 2022

Monday Quickie - the trade guys

Nats are going to be getting some kids soon.  Are they going to be any good? Maybe! A better chance than most if the Nats don't screw it up! But let's remember prospects aren't major leaguers. They often are NEVER major leaguers and the ones that make it are often average or worse. How best to remember this?  Time for a trade return review. 

It's the Trade Return Review. Coming right at you!

Aldo Ramirez (Schwarber) - 21 -  SP - Jesse confirmed that the injury Aldo had was in fact Tommy John.  See you in late 2023!

Riley Adams (Hand) - 26 - C - Got sent down at the end of June to play some 1B (because they are trading Bell) and started to hit and then got hurt and has been sitting until presumably after the ASB.

Richard Guasch (Gomes/Harrison) - 24 - SP - Struggled badly in AA so was recently dropped to High A and has looked much better.  A necessary reset? Is that just his level? We'll find out as if he keeps pitching like this he'll be back up in AA soon.

Drew Millas (Gomes/Harrison) - 24 - C - Back to A+ after not hitting in AA. And he's back to doing what he was doing before which was not all that much

Seth Shuman (Gomes/Harrison) - 24 - SP - Had a rough patch right about when you'd expect him to get moved up but he's been pretty good after that as well.  I'd expect to see him in AA this year. I don't expect him to do well there, but he deserves the shot.

Gerardo Carillo (Scherzer/Turner) - 23 - Came back after the 4th and has had one outing in High A and it went poorly but it was one outing and frankly I'd just be pleased he's back on the mound.

Donovan Casey (Scherzer/Turner) - 26 - OF - K-See.  Like I don't see the point unless he's a great fielder and I don't know about it.  I can't see him not getting steamrolled at the plate in the major leagues.

Josiah Gray / Keibert Ruiz (Scherzer/Turner) - the Gray Ace has slowly rounded into form giving you no reason to think he won't be a rotation mainstay for the next 5 years.  As a good 2? As a bad 4? Still figuring that out but he's on the way up.  Ruiz still can't get power, still doesn't walk, so is still at the BABIP.  He doesn't have to do either a lot but if not he needs to do both at least a little.

Lane Thomas (Lester) - 26 - OF - Goes on runs where he looks good, then longer runs when he does not.  Is he the worst 4th OF out there?  I guess not, but is he an upgrade from Andrew Stevenson? I'm not sure.  Play out the year and see. 

Mason Thompson (Hudson) - 24 - RP - Came back to the majors and has been effective but oddly so. No Ks. No BBs. Just getting outs. But not like a ton of GBs. So probably just lucky.

Jordy Barley (Hudson) - 22 - SS - Not a professional baseball player

Saturday, July 16, 2022


Soto has rejected a eminently fair contract offer from the Nats 15yr / 440 million.  The Nats are now publicly considering a trade.

I say "eminently fair" because it's an offer that is a TON of money. In fact it's the most money in total ever offered in a baseball contract. But it's also a contract that weirdly avoids getting to that 30 million dollar a year number, falling just short. Does that matter? Depends on what you think you are worth and what you think you can get. 

Still unlike the Nats first offer - which as insulting as a 350 million could be - this was acceptable and if Soto took it no one would have blinked an eye.  Could he have gotten over 30 million? Yes. Could he pushed closer and maybe even gotten to 500 million? Maybe. But "biggest contract ever" is still, you know, the "biggest contract ever". So Soto isn't here because he doesn't want to be here for anything less than the most money he could ever make. 

What do the Nats do now?  Shop around I guess.  What could Soto be worth? In my mind the "fair" deal would get the Nats back A Top 10 prospect, a top 50, and a top 100 at least.  That's 3 major leaguers of various potential. Maybe two top 20s and a 100 - two guys likely to be pretty good in the majors. What will the Nats get? Something less.

There's also the possibility of putting Corbin or even Strasburg into the deal, lessening the return but cutting ties with some contracts that seem to be albatrosses. 

And how does the Nats sale figure into all this? Did the buyers want Soto but specify limits? Do they have a buyer in place who wants this deal put on the table?  Is this just the Lerners feeling that they can only offer him so much or else clear the entire table?

The next few weeks just got a lot more interesting but let's not assume the Nats are going to deal. The value they'll get over the off-season would probably be very close to the value they can get now. 

Well at least they aren't still boring and bad.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

So who haven't we talked about?

Given that the Nats have been very bad all year - and in the years leading up to this year - we haven't had much to talk about in terms of the season as it stands.  Who cares about their wins or their schedule or how other teams are doing? I can bring it up occasionally of course but it's more of interest in a competitive year.  

The Nats don't have many young prospects but we talk about them as much as we can - Ruiz, Gray, Garcia... we go over the minors occasionally and all the young players. I'll do it again at the ASB. 

And of course we talk about Soto. And how bad Corbin is. And Bell being good. 

And then we fill in other stuff - Can Cruz be traded?  Escobar stinks! Lane Thomas isn't good! Fedde isn't good either! What's up with Robles? Sometimes it feels like we've talked about everything but I guess we haven't exactly so today let's talk about some guys we haven't. 

Cesar Hernandez - Cesar is just a guy but from 2016 to 2021 he's been healthy (missed some games in 2017) and decent (OPS+ of 98). The idea was to bring him in, have him crank out another average year, then send him out for some low A 24yo lottery ticket. Maybe even get lucky and have him be hot through the trade deadline - he did have an unusually high 21 homers last year. He hasn't held up his end of the bargain. After a decent April and May, Cesar has been dreadful - hitting .168 / .243 / .219 since the start of June. He also has no homers for the year. Zero. That dramatic loss of power is what's keeping his value down more than anything.  Can he be traded? Maybe. Stats still suggest he's a decent bat from the right side and he can man 2B ok. I can think of worse players to man the last spot on the bench. For anything? No. This isn't lottery ticket territory anymore. It's going through discarded scratch-offs hoping someone missed something. A 24yo in low A? Yep, but this one has never been good. 

Maikel Franco - I have talked about Maikel just a little but he's here for the same reason Cesar is - come in, do well enough to deal, maybe luckily really well, trade. He also hasn't lived up to those very modest expectations. To be fair to Maikel it's not on him. This is totally on the Nats taking a chance on a guy who has been awful every other year starting in 2017. This year is different for Maikel where as before he was what he was, this year he looks bad. K's are up. BBs are down. No power. Swinging at everything. He looks like a guy one short 2023 stint away from forced retirement. I can't think of a reason any team would want him. 

Ehire Adrianza - We haven't talked about a recent addition to the Nats team in Ehire because there isn't much to say. He's a defensively versatile guy but he doesn't hit.  He Ks way too much, he doesn't have power. And since he was starting at "bad" instead of Franco's "maybe sometimes good" this means he has the potential to hit terribly. Which he is now. I don't think he'll be in baseball after he's done with the Nats. 

Erasmo Ramirez - Brought in to be the "longer" reliever* he had some decent seasons, and last year pitched better than his stats suggest. He's older and hasn't pitched well though. He depends on keeping the ball in the park and not walking too many and too many balls have left the park this year. He's not here to be traded which is good because he wouldn't be.  He's a FA but could be back next year because prior to this year he showed some success and the Nats don't have depth. However, he'll have to have a better finish to the year as he's been very bad recently

Andres Machado - He's fine! Machado is a guy! There isn't anything he does particularly well, but not anything he does particularly poorly. The end result is a very average pitcher getting very average results.  I don't think he'd be traded because there isn't anything very enticing about him. He probably makes your pen better by replacing the last or second to last guy, but you can't count on him to hold a close lead late or something like that. And he's not a young fireballer that can strike his way out of trouble if you are lucky. Anyway I see him as a Nat for a while (under control through 2027) and he's fine. Which on this team is good actually. He'd be like 5th in ERA+ with his 99. (and like 6th in FIP - this is who he is. Average!) 

Jordan Weems - Fireballer! In his lifetime he's shown flashes of being unhittable or being hard to homer off of. As he's always walked WAY too many he needs to do both of these to be any good. He hasn't really been able too. You can see why multiple teams took chances on him but at 29 you have to produce.  He's org depth that's up because someone has to be.... well ok ok he was decent in AAA. but a 3.60 ERA in AAA isn't anything to get excited about

Hunter Harvey - Fireballer! Less of everything than Jordan, fewer Ks but fewer walks, and younger. He's a fireballer who's more of a "hard to hit" than "strike them out" guy. Squint and maybe something is there? Maybe the combo works out? Or maybe something starts to stand out? There's just too little major league IP to really say though. the minor league stats are all over the place.  I'd say he's worth a look in the majors - which he's getting. He's probably worth holding for a minor league deal for a year - maybe Baltimore was just bad at developing pitching. Then again - the Nats aren't great here either. Seems like a guy that might hit his stride... for a Dodgers or Yankees or Braves in 2024.

*There is no long relief anymore for some reason. Guys don't come in and go 2-3. They come in and MAYBE go 2 if they are cruising.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Monday Quickie - Oakland, the Nats new mortal enemy


The Nats "last stretch of winnable games" started as we kind of hoped it would, split vs Balt, 2 of 3 from Tex, 2of 3 from Pit.  5-3 run and a pretty decent feel that the Nats, while bad, weren't as terrible as they were showing.  Then the wheels came off the they were swept by Miami. They've won one game since then putting them it the middle of a 1-10 streak. 

Of course as I am always the devil's advocate (he pays well to keep me on retainer) I'll note this stretch includes 4 one-run losses, and 2 two-run losses. They should be more like 3-8 or 4-7. 

I mean Davey should be fired.  He won't be for the various reasons we've talked about (WS vibes, who cares who manages when they are bad, selling team means keeping people in place for new people to be fired) but... yeah. If Counsell doesn't think Hader is a two-inning pitcher, if Will Smith's fly ball travels 6 feet further, if the Cardinals...well if the Cardinals were a whole different team, if AJ Hinch and the bots that tell him what to do didn't beep-boop that they should pull Greinke or that they shouldn't use Gerrit Cole in relief, we'd have no Davey. But all those things did happen and Davey kept the spirits up and here the Nats are, a title and three terribly disappointing seasons later. How do you manage to win it all so fans can set the bar to be reasonable then go under the limbo bar like Ant-Man?

2020: Just make the playoffs again. No we'll be below average

2021: Just be watchable. No we'll be bad

2022: Just don't be the worst. No, we're the worst. 

As a team in the last week the Nats have a .209 / .276 / .302 line. This is with Juan Soto hitting .500 with 2 homers. Guys hitting under a .530 OPS include Robles, Garcia, Bell, Thomas, Franco and Hernandez.  That's 2/3rd of the lineup being TERRIBLE. Cruz and Ruiz are simply kind of bad.  That makes the pitching 5.66 ERA in the past week seem almost decent. The main problem is only Gray is giving them good starts. The pen is up and down but when they have to enter games in the 5th already down 3 they need to be perfect. They are not close to that.  

But at this rate they can definitely catch Oakland for the first pick!

In other news - Josh Bell didn't make the All-Star team.  I wouldn't have said it was a longshot but it's always tough to make it not as a favorite or close-runner up. You have to be undeniably good, or very very good and in a position they don't fill with "lone representatives" CJ "Home Cooking" Cron got in from Colorado, so Bell gets pushed out.  We'll see if someone begs out and he gets his deserved spot. But don't call it a snub please.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Josiah Gray - still gaining acceptance

 I generally don't like the "except for" type of analysis because most of the time it's ignoring something important for the sake of making an argument. Like "except for the 9-25 start the 2007 Nats were a .500 team." It DOES matter what they did for 1/5th of the season! 

 But one odd event, ok I can exclude that and if you remove last week's errant game against the Marlins, Gray has been fairly dominant since memorial day 

WITH start : 40.2 IP, 30H, 15BB, 48Ks, 6 homers  2.66 ERA

WITHOUT : 35 IP, 20H, 13BB, 42Ks, 5HR, 1.54 ERA

Now that ERA is a bit lucky - you put on 33 baserunners and give up 5 homers you expect a couple runs a game. but still that's very good. It's #1 like. 

But still I hold off on saying he's an ace in the making for a couple reasons. 

  • It's just a stretch, not a season. Seven games is a good long while but it's also not enough to make any definitive statement, just as his first nine games pitching to a 5.54 ERA wasn't either.   
  • The competition has not been fierce. Colorado on the road (pitiful), Cincinnati (bad), Miami (not good) x2, Bryceless Phillies (maybe average?) x2, and Texas (they are ok).  Not a team I'd call good on offense among them. 
  • We don't know how he'll do in the stretch run.  Gray's most IP ever is 130. That was in 2019 in the minors.  He's about what he threw last year and he didn't throw in 2020. So I'd expect his performance to degrade over the rest of the year.  And that's perfectly fine! 

What all these means isn't that Gray is bad (I've always said he's a rotation worthy guy already), or that he hasn't impressed (I myself have shifted my view of him from a 3-5 to a 2-4). What it means is that a season is long and just as a hot summer doesn't mean Kyle Schwarber is the best home run hitter of all-time, a good June doesn't make Gray and ace.  But it doesn't hurt.  

Take it for the good sign it is and let's let the whole season play out. If he's this good the rest of the year - watch out NL.  If he's a little bit worse - that's fine, still learning, and still where the Nats want him to be. If he crashes - well on to 2023 and see if now stretched out his arm is ready for a full season.

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Monday Quickie - Bad Teams Bad Play

We're halfway through the season and the Nats are garbage.  They are 1-12 against the Marlins, which luckily for the NL East doesn't matter because the Marlins are themselves bad (and also a bit unlucky) so they aren't kocking on the door of anything that six more wins against the Nats can get them. The Nats have scored 32 runs in those 13 games or about 2.5 per which is pathetic. 

Ultimately we have to wonder how bad can it get. The Nats are on pace for 58 wins. They have a harder schedule in the second half than the first. They are likely to trade away some good players (Bell, Cruz, a reliever or two if they can) making themselves worse. Soto got hurt and any injury with him is going to be treated very conservatively (as it should be).  How many runs could a lineup like this score? 

  • Thomas RF
  • Ruiz C
  • Garcia SS
  • Hernandez LF
  • Barrera DH
  • Adams 1B
  • Robles CF
  • Adrianza 3B
  • Fox 2B 

Answer? Not Many!  There's a non-zero chance that group would end up with no one with double digit homers.  OK Thomas playing everyday is likely to hit 15 or so but after him the likely end totals are 6, 7, 10, let's say 7, 12, 2, 0, and 0.  Doesn't take much from there to see no one over 10. 

The starters won't change but when you have a league worst 5.56 ERA from them that's to be expected. At least we'll see some Cole Henr... hurt you say?  Huh Tetreault was the next best starter in high majors (seriously - but to be fair to Henry it wasn't close. Henry is good. And to be honest Cavalli is the next after him but isn't doing great so you let his young self figure it out) so I don't know what would be next. The guys that are decent are high A guys.  You can't go from there to the majors. God not Jefry Rodriguez again, please.

Ok NOW I'd forgive Davey for having that above team win 4 out of every 10.  Of course it's Davey so they'd only win 2-3 out of every 10 but hey whatever. You guys like him.

Eh onto the league quick perusing so I don't take up a post about it


Yankees are running away and the Sox/Jays/Rays are all in the playoff hunt and it's going to be at least two of them so that's going to be fun. Astros are safe. Twins will have to hold on.  Other guys are hoping someone gets beat up out of the AL East trio so they can sneak into the playoffs. 


Dodgers are putting some space between them and Padres again and you'd figure they'd keep it. Brewers have a small lead over Cards. Mets holding off a Braves charge. That's probably your playoff teams, though Philly does have a chance. They do keep playing the Nats! Giants aren't out of it either and have two trash teams to play. 

Draft Lottery

There's a solid three maybe four that look to be separated in 2023, but you gotta play the games. There isn't one generational prospect. The Nats are very very bad, but they aren't the worst. Both the Reds and As have worse records. How they will do is up in the air but the Reds probably have a decent chance of passing the Nats even if they don't try. Their division is not strong. The Athletics I'm not sure. Don't count out the Royals though at ending up last. I feel they have a lot of selling to do. Overall I like the Nats chances of staying in that Top 3-4