Preview: D.C. Baseball
A Blog dedicated to the Washington Nationals MLB team.
There is a Future
It appears a stadium compromise has been reached
. This is good news for D.C. and for the future of this blog. I'm still swamped with work, so I haven't been keeping up with the happenings as well as I should. So, I offer these quick snippets:
We know about the Cordero and Hammonds signings, so I won't belabor those. Cordero shouldn't be a regular and his stats last year were horrible, but I suppose signing a wife-beater is good P.R. I actually like the Hammons signing because it is only a minor league deal and he has always shown flashes of his potential when healthy. He is a good player to take a no-risk chance on.
The rest of the Rule 5 draft wasn't that exciting, so I'm not going to cover the rest of the minor league picks. I'll try to do some minor league prospect breakdown at a later date.
The best news is that Bowden decided to tender contracts to everyone
. There was talk that he would not offer Nick a deal, but that would have been lunacy. The Nationals were also able to avoid arbitration with Tucker
, but I'm not sure Eischen is worth $1 million.
I'm still trying to stay away from talking about the off the field, stadium stuff, but I am happy to see a resolution (albeit one that I still thinks screws D.C.).
The Future of the Nationals
I've been swamped with work and was out of town, so I'm a little behind in my blogging. Since the big news is out that the Nationals may not be in D.C. for the long haul, I've also been a little disappointed in MLB. As a result, I haven't covered the super exciting acquisitions of Hammonds and Cordero (as well as finishing the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft). I'm going to go back and write about those transactions once the situation with the Nationals is more stabilized.
For those of you that know me well, you know I believe Bud Selig to be a truly evil man who is slowly ruining baseball. This action with D.C. is just more of the same in my mind. As much as I want a team in D.C., I think it is plain wrong to ask a poor city with a small tax base to foot the entire bill. I, like Jim Caple, think D.C. is right in this one as much as I want to be able to cheer for the Nationals. I hope this gets resolved soon.
Rule 5 Draft
The Nationals gained two players (they were the only team to draft in the 2nd round) and lost one. As Bryan noted in the comments, Jonathan Searles was taken by his Cubbies (although I can't seem to find a media report of it - does anyone have confirmation? - was he in the minor league portion of the draft?). Truthfully, I know very little about him. He was a Pirates draft pick a while back (I looked it up and he was drafted in the 8th round in '99). He seems to have quite an extensive injury history as I can't find a record of him pitching consistently. He has a high 80's fastball and his plus pitch is a changeup. So, take it for what its worth. I don't think the Nationals will miss him, but the information is so limited on him that I can't say anything for sure.
The Nationals draft picks were a bit odd, IMO. First, the Nationals took Tyrell Godwin from the Jays and then Tony Blanco from the Reds.
I found this scouting report
on Godwin and this is his PECOTA card
from last year. Basically, he is a no power, super speedy OF. He hit a measly .253/.326/.355 in AA last year. He will probably be a pinch runner for the Nationals and he could serve that role well give his speed. However, he is unlikely to contribute much and will probably be a wasted roster spot.
Tony Blanco isn't much better. He has played 3B, but most recently was switched to 1B and OF. Given those are the positions at which the Nationals have the most players, Blanco may not see any playing time. He hit .245/.300/.455 in 58 games after being promoted to AA. Frankly, he looks like he isn't ready to help at all. I think Bowden just wanted a pick from the Reds.
I hope neither player sticks, but I guess Godwin could serve a limited role. However, I said I'd wait to evaluate the Pascucci move until I knew what his roster space was being used for. Now that I know, I would rather have Pascucci back.
Sosa - I hope this is just speculation
"The Cubs are looking to offload Sosa and are willing to pay most of his salary, so getting something back isn't the top order. Brad Wilkerson
, heading to arbitration, might be the return."
That's from Will Carroll at the baseball Winter meetings
I understand Bowden's fascination for Sosa. It is the perfect way to make a "big splash" and "get the fans attention." However, in baseball terms, this trade never makes sense.
Sosa - .253/.332/.517
Wilkerson - .250/.368/.490
Add in that Sosa costs craploads more than Wilkerson and is 9 years older and this trade idea is just stupid. Trading away your best young player for an old player who was worse in 2004 just doesn't make sense.
John Sickels has an article
on a Nationals prospect. This is the summary:
"If Hinckley pitched in the Yankees or Dodgers farm system, or even the Cubs or Braves, he'd get a lot more attention. As it is, attention or not, he is one of the best southpaw prospects in the game. He's not perfect, still needing to improve his changeup, and will need Triple-A time to put the finishing touches on his game. But if he remains healthy, he should see the majors sometime in 2005, then challenge for a Nationals rotation spot in 2006."
There isn't too much happening for the Nationals. Apparently, Bowden decided to make as many signings before the Winter meetings to deplete the team's draft picks.
MLB has an article
on the potential coaching hires for the Nationals. Jose Rijo, come on down.
Who is on First?
I just noticed this little quote from one of Bill Ladson's recent beat columns
"If the Nationals have an outfield of Sledge, Endy Chavez and Guillen, and Wilkerson plays first base, that would mean Nick Johnson would be on the bench."
I don't know who is source is, but if this is true, the Nationals are just screwing themselves. Really, is there any justification for believing Sledge or Endy-freakin'-Chavez is a better player than Nick Johnson? And this just has me more worried that Endy will be starting next year. And I could see Frank filling the 1 and 2 holes of the lineup with Endy and Guzman to form one of the worst twosomes in recent history.
I hope Ladson is just speculating and has no actual information.
The Nationals have sold him to the Chiba Lotte Marines
for $300,000. Pascucci had some nice AAA stats (.298/.423/.577 over the last 2 years) and although he is past prospect age, I think he could have been a nice contributor for the Nationals. Bowden said they needed to free up a roster space. If that's the case, I'll be interested to see how he uses the space before evaluating this move.
More on Johnson and Rios
It seems like I'm the only one in the Nationals blogging community that thinks this trade is a bad idea. Of course, it is probably just a rumor without merit, but if it is true, I want to try to examine it further. Assuming either Rios or Wilkerson could play CF, we really only are comparing three players. Sledge (or Chavez) would probably round out the OF in either scenario. If that is the case, we would be comparing:
In other words, it is a straight swap on offense between Rios and Johnson and a defensive move that slides Wilkerson to first.
These are the relevant defensive stats for Wilkerson and Johnson.
Wilkerson - RAR2(1B) - 10 in 136 games, RAR2(LF) - 28 in 264 games, RAR2(CF) - 18 in 133 games (but most of that was in 2002)
Johnson - RAR2(1B) - 18 in 226 games
It seems Wilkerson is a below average LF and CF and an average 1B. Johnson also seems to be a pretty average 1B according to RAR2. That means the defensive loss at 1B is nonexistent. Rios doesn't have an adequate body of work to assess his defense in LF, but by most accounts it is pretty good. He did play more CF in AAA, but it remains to be seen if he has a future there. Right now, people are just speculating on this point without hard data.
That means, the trade should be evaluated on offense between Johnson and Rios. This is how they measure up:
Nick, 26 years old, .255/.372/.418 career line, 2003 career high line of .284/.422/.472.
Alexis, 23 years old, .286/.338/.383 career and 2004 line.
At age 23, Nick hit .243/.347/.402
They had rather different experiences in the minors. Rios was a toolsy player that suddenly had a break out year in AAA where he showed power after putting up average performances in the lower minors. Johnson, on the other hand had an amazing year at AA and was dominant at the lower levels. After a mysterious hand injury, however, he put up less than expected numbers in AAA.
Nick, obviously has an injury history that needs to be accounted for. However, his most recent injury seems so random and unrelated that it is hard to hold it against him. Still, he is less likely to play a full season.
In the end, I'm still going with Nick as the slightly better player/value. With Rios you do have more cheap years, but I just don't know if his power numbers are ever going to come. If his AAA numbers were legit (.352/.404/.521), he is clearly the better player, but in 426 MLB AB's, he has barely shown a hint of that power. Johnson, while unlikely to breakout much more, is still young, and if he could come close to repeating his 2003 numbers, would be a solid, core player for the Nationals.
The trade is probably fair on both ends and depending upon how you assess Johnson's health and Rios's power numbers, you can reach very different results. For now, I'm sticking with Nick. That is, until this year's PECOTA numbers come out.
Alexis Rios for Nick Johnson?
Gammons rumors are normally unreliable, but with Bowden running the show, who knows what will happen? It would be sad if my favorite National never plays a game in D.C. Anyway, Gammons says a Rios for Johnson swap is being discussed
I don't know how this trade makes sense in terms of need. Rios is a good prospect and showed potential as a 23 year old in the Majors last year
, but where is he going to play? He is not a CF and the corner spots already have depth. He would be a potential upgrade over Sledge if Wilkerson plays CF or 1B, but then the Nationals would have a big hole at 1B or CF (wherever Wilkerson didn't play). And if this trade means re-signing Endy Chavez, then nothing good can come of this. I think Rios represents a toolsy, but still good prospect. And I always have doubts about Nick's health, but I just don't think this trade would make the team better.
Slow News Day
I'm going to stay clear of the steriods stories and try to focus exclusively on the Nationals. I've also tried to focus on the team and am ignoring most of the stories about the stadium and owner's votes. However, that hasn't left too much in the way of news. I've seen a couple rumors that Bowden has $6 million a year offers to Wright and Perez. I don't know how reliable those reports are.
The Nats blog has an interesting breakdown
of the free agent pitchers with ERA+ and BABIP stats for all of them. I think he overstates DIPS in regards to pitchers like Lowe (since extreme groundball pitchers are more reliant on defense and often have a higher BABIP than extreme flyball pitchers), but the data is nicely laid out and serves as an ominous guide for the team that signs Pavano. I think people have overstated that he has had only "one good season" - I think his last two seasons have been pretty good. However, his declining K rate is a big warning sign and I think he is unlikely to be a consistently good or great pitcher.
Nationals Triple Play Day at BP
You can find it here
A notable part assessing the job Bowden has done (and taking a pot shot at the Cubs which is always fun):
"Having just seen The Producers on Broadway recently, we can't help but wonder if Bowden is pulling some sort of Bialystock and Bloom scam in which he builds a woeful collection of talent and then reaps the profits--no, that doesn't make sense when you study on it--but it might be something somebody in baseball is bound to try. Wait, don't the Cubs do a version of The Producers almost every season?"
According to Will Carroll, there have been Sosa trade talks with the Nationals
. Even ignoring the obvious problems in Sosa's game and contract, where is he going to play? RF is Guillen's (although I assume he could move to left), LF is Wilkerson (unless they try him in CF again), and 1B is Nick's. Assuming that Bowden isn't pursuing the Wilkerson in CF full-time option, that implies he is looking to deal either Wilkerson or Nick (possibly in the Sosa deal). I'd rather see Wilkerson and Nick in the Nationals lineup than Sosa for years to come, but I'm not Bowden.
Free Agents I'd Like to See the Nationals Look at
Now that I've identified our needs, I'd like to turn to decent players to fill those positions.
I'll start with CF. Now, everyone wants to have Beltran and if the Nationals had an ownership group, they may be interested in signing him. As it stands now, however, I don't think Beltran is reasonable. And I expect no matter how good he is, he will still end up overpaid.
Unfortunately, the options for CF in the free agent pool (beyond Beltran) are ugly. If J.D. Drew could play CF, that would be an option. Finley is too old for a team going nowhere in 2005, so I think the Nationals will have to go the trade route if they want to upgrade at CF. These are probably the best values available:
- if he can play CF, it may be worth taking a risk on a very inconsistent player who has had some good seasons in his career.
- I'm not really a fan of his, but his 2004 numbers with PHI were great. Of course, his 2004 numbers with SF were horrible. I think he could be worth a cheap signing. He would also be a potential 4th OF option.
On second thought, maybe Bowden should talk to the Phillies about Marlon Byrd.
Here are some affordable SP options that should be explored:
- playing in LA surely helped his ERA and helped him with his nasty HR habit, but I still think he is a good value. He is not a 200 IP starter, but has shown a willingness and ability to play a swingman role for the Dodgers. He should be available pretty cheap (assuming loyalty alone doesn't bring him back to LA) and would be a nice addition for the Nationals.
- I think he could be the steal of this free agent class. Unfortunately, it appears as though some of the SABR-inclined teams are already talking with him. Still, he is one of the best pitchers available and his price tag shouldn't be as high as the other highly regarded pitchers.
- I can't explain his inconsistency and apparent decline, but if he is available for less than $5-$6 million, then I think a short team deal for a 29 year old pitcher with potential may be worth it. I think the league has soured on him more than the numbers justify, so he could be a good value signing.
- As I said before, if his health is ok, you should take a chance on a 27 year old quality starter.
What the Team is Looking Like
The starting lineup for the Nationals is looking something like this:
C B. Schneider
1B N. Johnson
2B J. Vidro
3B V. Castilla
SS C. Guzman
LF B. Wilkerson
CF E. Chavez (assuming he is re-signed)
RF J. Guillen
The starting rotation probably is something like this:
J. Patterson/J. Rauch/T. Armas
I'm really not sure if Kim is secure or how health considerations will factor into things, but those seven players will probably fill the five rotation slots.
The bullpen has a few useful pieces
T. J. Tucker
Basically, the team needs SP improvement and a quality CF. I'd say 3B and SS were areas of need as well, but we are stuck with Guzman and Castilla. As much as I like Nick Johnson, his health means we could use more OF depth (presuming Wilkerson slides to 1B when Nick is out). So, a better than average 4th OF would also be nice.
Gary Bennett and Rumors
A bad backup C
signed to a 1 year, $750,000 deal.
Nationals Acquire Fourth New Player
The article mentions other players Bowden is looking at:
"Though Bowden wouldn't comment on which players he is pursuing, the Nats are believed to have held conversations with the representatives for at least four free agent starters -- Jaret Wright and Russ Ortiz of the Atlanta Braves, Odalis Perez of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Paul Wilson of the Cincinnati Reds -- within the last several days."
I've been a fan of Odalis Perez, but BP has expressed some concerns about his likely career path. Will Carroll gives him a "red" health warning
and had this to say:
"Young doesn't seem to be the same across cultures. The route that Latin pitchers take to the minor leagues is often much harder than their American counterparts and some, like Perez, seem to age faster. This isn't an "agegate" thing at all, just a workload consideration. He'll be a back of the rotation guy for a few more years before fading."
Still, I'd rather see him than Wilson, Wright, or Ortiz playing for the Nationals. Given his postseason meltdown, I think he could be signed on a relatively cheap 2 year deal. Assuming his health is enough to pass the physical, he might be worth the risk.
Ortiz could be a decent signing but for the fact that Bowden will surely overpay the pitcher who "knows how to win." Wright just seems like too big a risk based on one year and Wilson is just an innings eater.
If I had to wager, I'll bet Bowden signs Wilson since he signed him with the Reds and he is the type of reclamation pitching project that Bowden seems to love. At first glance, Wilson seems better than he actually is (and that will surely appeal to Bowden).
2004 - 4.36 ERA, 183.2 IP, 11-6 W/L record
Unfortunately, his 117/63 K/BB ratio and 26 HR's allowed mean that Wilson was more lucky than good. BP's expected win-loss record for Wilson last year was 10.9-10.4. In other words, he is a pretty much an average pitcher. He would be an acceptable 4th or 5th starter, but only if he is paid for that value. I predict Bowden signs him to a multi-year (probably 3-year) deal at $4-$5 million a year. I hope I'm wrong.
Another Trade (Yawn)
And just to keep his dialing finger active, Bowden has made another boring trade. The Nationals give up prospect (using the term very loosely) Antonio Sucre for former prospect J.J. Davis
of the Pirates. Davis had been designated for assignment so the Pirates had no interest in keeping him. He adds another OF player to the mix for the Nationals, but I doubt (and hope) he won't see much action. His career line of .163/.236/.213 (in only 80 AB) makes Endy Chavez look impressive. But I bet his 6'5", 250 lbs. frame looks impressive. The Nationals gave up a toolsy borderline prospect, so maybe taking a chance on Davis isn't a bad idea. I just don't think corner OF is a position where the Nationals have much need and Bowden's focus there is a little odd.
Fall and Winter League Report
I must have missed this Baseball America article on Bill Bray in their AFL coverage.
Arizona Fall League Notebook
Since that article, it doesn't look like he has been doing that well. So far, the biggest positive is his 16/4 K/BB ratio in 16 IP. However, his 7.31 ERA is not so hot. Still, with only 1 HR given up, hopefully this is just bad luck.
It is sad when you have to search this hard for anything resembling a prospect in the Nationals system.
The other highlights for the Nationals in the Fall in Winter leagues are just retread reports:
Ron Calloway has a .340/.365/.680 line in 50 AB's in the Venezualan Winter League. The power is nice, but a BB or two wouldn't hurt. And this is a league where Henry Blanco has an .864 OPS.
Endy Chavez has a .298/.377/.447 line in 47 AB's in the Venezualan Winter League. The reports that Bowden is thinking of bringing him back bring me physical pain. And the thought of Frank Robinson leading him off again continues to keep me up at nights.
John Patterson has allowed only 4 R's in 30 IP in the Dominican Winter League. I've always thought Patterson has some ability and his 31/7 K/BB ratio in 2002 with Arizona left me hopeful for the former top prospect. If he could stop giving up HR's and find more consistent control, he could be a valuable member of the rotation. Or, then again, he could continue to suck.
And to confirm that Bowden has no clue, he offered these gems:
"What I especially like about Guillen is that, at the age of 28, his best days are clearly ahead of him." - "Clearly" Bowden is unaware that players normally peak at 27 and that more likely than not Guillen's best days are behind him. I'll be interested to his PECOTA forecast because free-swingers usually don't age well.
"Cristian Guzman is a critical part of the future of the Washington franchise. You never see a winning team without a good shortstop.... Cristian is only 26 years old. He has been on a division winner the last three years. He has tremendous range. It doesn't show up in statistics, but baseball people know what it means to win baseball games." - Oh, brother. Bowden doesn't even ownership looking over his shoulder and he is already defending his decisions by say "baseball people know." Maybe Bowden should look up Luis Sojo's number.
"He has never scratched the surface on what he's capable of doing offensively, but he's only 26 years old. He will develop into a hitter in time. He has been decent—he hit [.274] last year. But he can do a lot more than what he has done. To be able to get a shortstop at this age, with the potential that he has, is a great first start for the Washington franchise." - Maybe Bowden missed the first 3277 AB's that prove otherwise. If Guzman didn't "scratch the surface" in six full seasons in the majors, what would possibly lead a GM to believe he would find it now?