Nationals Baseball: You're going to make me argue CHEEEP again? Plus - Rule V stuff!

Friday, December 09, 2022

You're going to make me argue CHEEEP again? Plus - Rule V stuff!

I'm starting to get a little angry here because you guys (ok well TWO guys in the comments) were arguing a point I didn't make which was "the Lerners are generally CHEEEEP and that cheapness got them to this point"  First off somewhere in the 2015/6 range it became clear that the Lerners would spend money to maintain a title contending team. Fears of thriftiness dominating the teams future, which were legitimate given that was most of what we saw before then, were dismissed. The Lerners were not unilaterally cheap.  Second, we don't really know if the Lerners dislike of spending money led to here. Yes they like to offer lower-market deals with deferred money. But lower-market deals with deferred money are still market deals and some guys take them. Strasburg did. Corbin did. The question we'll never know is if Stras and Corbin looked like a 1-2 going into the end of 2021 - how would that have affected the future. Do they keep Trea around? Do they sign Soto long term? We don't know. But the fact was the huge outlay of money they put into two pitchers was giving them very close to actually nothing and even with the good players they had it was tough to keep them in contention. They would either have to spend like the Yankees/Dodgers/WhateverTeamsAreCurrentlySpendingATon* or they would have to rebuild. While I lie squarely on the "SPEND MONEY ON YOUR HOBBY YOU ARE INCREDIBLY RICH AND THE VALUE OF THE TEAM IS INSANE" side I'm not going to deny the Lerners, by not doing that, are no different than at least 25 other owners. 

What I WAS saying is that the Lerners, when the team IS BAD, have shown themselves to be CHEEEEP. It was true 2005-2010. It's been true the past few years.  It seems a fair thing to believe as long as the team is bad they will not spend money. You can hope that that means they are just planning to spend later when the young players develop but you are assuming these young players will develop to a similar point where the Nats were post 2010 and when they began to take on bigger contracts for the first time. That's a big question mark. And if they DON'T develop into a Stras/Bryce/Zimm+ core... do you still think the Lerners will spend? I would bet no, but we've never seen them face that "rebuild 1 didn't work" scenario so maybe I'm wrong. 

Of course this is all complicated by the sale which it's reasonable to think that the team, if it can't be good, wants as little useless money on the books as possible. 

So wrapping up

  • Lerners have shown themselves (twice is a pattern) to be selectively cheap
  • We don't know how this would play out for an extended down period
  • The slightly better guess is they'd continue not to spend and the impending sale of the team also suggests little money coming in for now. 

In conclusion

DOOOM (for the next year or two if you want a team that can pretend to compete)


The Nats drafted Thad Ward in the Rule V draft and later traded for Rule V pick Francisco Tostado.   Thad has to stay on the 40 man all year but Frankie is a AAA Rule V guy so he does not. Are these guys any good? 

Thad Ward - former 5th round pick who looked good at 22 in A ball but after the COVID year the Red Sox moved him up to AA and he flailed and got hurt. They restarted him this year and he ended up in AA and looked pretty decent but again didn't pitch as much as he could do to injuries. As far as pitching goes his problem is control as he has hard to hit, swing and miss stuff that stays in the park. Walking 4-5 guys per 9 in the minors usually is a bad sign. But really the problem is those injuries. He's thrown a total of 59 innings since 2019. Can someone like that at 26 stay on a major league roster even if he manages some control? It's not a bad Rule V pick - this is what the best of them look like. Legit talent, big questions.

Francisco Tostado - a 19th round draft pick with overall ok stats. Moderate power, ok average, doesn't strike out too much, could walk a bit more. He was both hurt and in the lower offense AA side and he's a fan favorite for some reason. So there's worse bats to stick in AAA for a year. Frankly the Nats have so little he's really blocking nothing and could hit terribly and it still be fine. 


Nats to sign Trevor Williams! -  He's better than Ryan Yarborough but that lead to a potential issue. The Nats need that long reliever but they might be tempted to start Williams. In fact, Williams might only agree to come to DC IF he can start. That's not terrible for the Nats but it's not optimal for a team that is putting out 5 guys who may not go 5. They NEED a middle reliever. So if Williams is starting, well they still need to go out and get a long reliever. Or two or three. But as signings go this is perfectly fine and acceptable any way it goes. He was good last year showing a bit better control while not owing to a lot of luck. Kept guys more off-balance. Maybe he learned something he needed to and if you can turn anything into a real prospect it's a pitcher under contract for another year.

*Mets, Phillies, and Padres for now


G Cracka X said...

Harper, would you say that Steve Cohen has embraced your spending philosophy?

Nattydread said...

Any assessment has to look at the entire picture, which you do.

The Lerners spent big at the right time. Harper and Rendon weren't going to stay --- not for "reasonable" figures. They did spend big on Strasberg and Corbin --- and both of those contracts in hindsight were major disasters.

Agree that it was player development that failed this team. Fedde. Kieboom. Romero. Stevenson. Johansen. None turned into real MLB talents --- and the lower drafts were just as bad. Since 2017, its been a mystery to me why Rizzo --- whose strength was supposed to be scouting --- let things get this bad. The Dodgers, Yankees and Phillies seem to keep their minor league cupboards in good shape. Always.

Rizzo was also --- at one point --- the masterful trade guy. 2019 World Series team had half a dozen key parts that came from trades that seemed closer to swindles. Trea Turner? How did he manage that one? Juan Soto? Where did he find him?

I can't fault Rizzo for letting Max and Trea go, for selling the rest of the 2019 WS team like spare parts. Soto will be much happier on a contender --- and if the deals had been better, the Nats might have been talking to him when he hits free agency.

It seems as if Rizzo's magic touch is gone. No more water in the well. Even the guys we got back from all of the "trades", the latest signings --- so far no big spark, no firecrackers.

We can agree on one thing fully. It's Dark.

Mike Condray said...

*shrugs* At least I feel recognized?

The question becomes whether it makes sense to pour spending on top of a rebuilding roster or to 'keep your powder dry" for when the team is clearly on an upswing to get them into WS contention/keep them there as long as possible. It's arguable that not throwing good money after bad is rational strategy, not "being CH33P!"

I do think the Lerners can be justificably accused of being "CH33P" on some areas. Coaching salaries is one. More important is on analytics and player development (not helped by Rizzo's pro-old-school inclinations). I would argue the true source of the Nats Collapse 2020-2022 is the utter failure of team drafting/development to keep a steady stream of new talent to backfill as most of the "old talent" becomes so expensive it can only be selectively retained at anything like a rational level.

There are signs the Lerners and/or Rizzo have at least recognized there is a problem with drafting/development/analytics and upped team spending on those areas accordingly. The jury remains out on whether they've gone far enough to correct the problems.

A key on the payroll spending will be whether team ownership can extend its most promising young talent in the pre-arb years a la Atlanta. That's something that was very difficult to do when the team was already up to/over the CBT (the "cheap" pre-arb players being the balance to allow signing the Murphys/Scherzers etc). But that option will be available circa 2024-2026...and if the team uses its financial maneuvering room to convert a few $700K/$1M pre-arb players into $5-15M/year extended players that could give the team a talented AND affordable core. Players have more incentive to sign for life changing but not "top of the market" rates when they still have yet to start the arbitration years where (for the good/great players one wants to extend) salaries jump up sharply.

I'd rather see the team focus on using its CBT space to identify and then early-extend young players now as well as being ready to pour money back into the team (Lerners or not) circa 2025+ when the next window will hopefully start opening. That makes more sense to me than pouring money into a bad team to make it mediocre while blocking off options for its younger talent, but your mileage may vary.