Nationals Baseball: Which lane do you take?

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Which lane do you take?

Lane Thomas is not the Nats best player.  That's probably Candelario who is hitting fairly well and fields great. He's not the most valuable Nats player. That's likely Gore who has as much team control as Gray but has better peripherals, a better scouting history, and is a year younger. But Lane Thomas is a productive player who has team control in 2024 and 2025 marking him as something that could be traded for something else. 

Why to trade Thomas? 

He's 27 and he's having a terrible year in the field. If this isn't a fluke than he's likely to be a DH / 1B guy going forward and those guys tend to be easier to find. Meaning while you could have a DH/1B cheap if you can turn that into almost anything else cheap it would be a good idea. 

He clearly can hit but there isn't a lot of history saying he can hit this well.  The BABIP is too high (.369 compared to a usual number around .300) and only some of that can be explained by stats (he's not hitting it different, but he is hitting it harder).  Sell high is the idea and it's hard to think he's going to be higher than looking like a .300 / 30 type hitter with two more years of control

If the Nats have one thing it's young OFs. Of their Top 10 prospects 6 are OFs.  You trade from a strength to fill out an issue which for the Nats... well could be anything. 

Why not to trade Thomas? 

He's 27 and having a great year at the plate. If this isn't a fluke he could be a multi-year All-Star at the plate. Even if he's not that if they power is real he gives something the Nats don't really have from anyone else. Power. Candelario is ok, but it's unclear what the Nats plans are for him.  Ruiz and Abrams have shown flashes but don't hit well enough to make it count. Teams need power.

He's not fielding well but his history clearly shows a guy that is... well he's ok. Serviceable in the corner. There hasn't been much talk either about him working on fielding so maybe telling him to do better and having him try will make a real impact. But anyway history says he's not this bad and he should be a corner OF and those guys are not hard to find but you do need two of them and if you have one on hand that's cheap, hits well, and fields ok you should keep them. 

The Nats have a lot of young OFs and a history of having development issues. Wood looks good and on target but both Hassell and Green are having issues to the point they may drop out of the Top 100 by the ASB reviews. The other 3 are high skill guys who are very young but also having issues turning talent into production in High A. There's not guarantee three of them work out or even two. So if one does then you definitely do need Thomas filling in another role. Or someone but Thomas is right here right now. He's Jesus Jones. 

My take today - I don't trust the Nats to develop talent. But they might find something in a trade that is undeniably good from someone deep and desperate (hey Dodgers!).  I'd float Thomas out there to teams that might need him that have guys I definitely like that are like Top 20/30/40 guys.  You'll probably get a no, but you won't know until you try.  Sometimes Capps does get you Ramos.  If no one bites, try to sign him until he's 32/33 eating up some control years for a favorable deals in 2026/2027/2028. If he does have to go to 1B/DH it's not like the Nats have a bunch of guys blocking those paths either.  There's a lot of space for Thomas, if he can hit ok.


Anonymous said...

Jesus Jones. I saw what you did there.
Well done.

Anonymous said...

How about A Lotta Things To Do by Arrested (Player) Development.

John C. said...

FWIW I have read that Thomas's defensive metrics have improved greatly after a truly abysmal start. Apparently the difference is tied to the Nats having him play a bit deeper in RF.

What's fun about the "trade him or keep him" debate about Thomas is remembering that the Nats got Thomas in exchange for a few weeks of the decaying remains of Jon Lester on his way to retirement. It's not quite getting Tanner Roark for the decaying remains of Cristian Guzman ... but it's in the same neighborhood.

Steven Grossman said...

"Sometimes Capps does get you Ramos." And a Jon Lester gets you a Lane Thomas and a Brad Hand gets you a Riley Adams (who many of us believe should be getting more AB's to see if he is a ML'er).

You don't stop trading because your coaching and development staff is inadequate. Instead you fix your development team. The results are still out on that (and many of us are skeptical), but you don't want to stay the hand of Trader Mike.

Donald said...

I think your analysis is right, though the value analysis seems complicated. Do teams have a model that projects annual revenue for each player based on WAR, charisma, local connections, etc to decide what Lane is worth to them for the next 2.5 years versus a prospect in the minors? Thomas’s present value may exceed a middling prospect who debuts in 2025 even if the prospect ends up being the better player overall. For instance, how much did the Nats make selling stuffed baby sharks due to Gerardo Parro vs his actual value on the field? If Lane makes the All Star team, how many more jerseys do they sell? Does any of that factor in?

Anonymous said...

Eh, humans are great at telling stories. A winning team will create its baby shark. I think teams do and should treat all that as a rounding error in all but the most extreme cases.

Anonymous said...

Meant to add to that -- I'm not saying that clubhouse intangibles, mentoring etc aren't meaningful contributions and aren't selected for, I just think the bottom line for teams is winning or, more specifically, "maximizing expected playoff series". Win, and marketing takes care of itself.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, sometimes a Ramos gets you a Capps, and a Lane Thomas gets you a Jon Lester. Trader Mike has done all right when dealing with a few sleepy-headed GMs, primarily because of his ability to recognize which GMs are not entirely awake.
On the whole, he's also been very good at identifying other organizations' overlooked or under-appreciated assets, almost as if he knows more about the rival organization's players than the rival organization does.

What he doesn't--or can't--do is apply the same level of focused scrutiny on coaches who are good at developing young players. (I don't think the Nats are any worse at drafting than most teams, by the way.) That Rizzo can cleverly secure major-league ready players from other organizations, but has difficulty providing major-league ready players from his own organization, is why the Nats are where they are.