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Updated: 2017-12-16T10:19:19.414-08:00


Last minute gift guide


For the Nats this is easyA trade for JT Realmuto - The Marlins are having a fire sale but that doesn't mean you can walk into their house and demand they sell you their TV for $5. The Ozuna deal wasn't the best - but it was a haul of prospects that immediately gives depth to the Marlins system, if not a legit PROSPECT type. Like Ozuna, Realmuto is the ideal player for a team rebuilding - young and cheap. But he'll also start costing a bunch more this year as he heads into arbitration and he's marked for FA in 3 more years. The Marlins, if there is any truth to the rebuilding talk, are not planning to be good in that period of time.So Realmuto should be available but he's going to cost you. However, based on the Ozuna deal I think he can be had with a bunch of younger prospects from the 5-15 of a good system rather than a top prospect. For the Nats that could mean something like Drew Ward, Joan Baez, and Yasel Antuna. Or Daniel Johnson, Luis Garcia & something. Like that. Names you might have heard of, or might not have. Not top guys but a bunch of mid-level guys with youth on their side.A steal of Jaime Garcia - There's been talk about the Nats going in on Arrieta and trying to tie that to how they got Max when they didn't necessarily need him but that was a different time. The Nats were looking at a future where ZNN and Strasburg were coming up on FA and signing Max gave them the freedom to not feel the need that they had to sign both of them. Today the Nats are still locked into long term deals with Max and Stras, so another high-priced FA pitcher, while it would be great, wouldn't fit the same way.  Instead they need a guy to fill in for Gio as the lefty change of pace after the Nats let him walk. Jaime is not a great pitcher but he can be that.It takes a little faith to see it, but when you are looking for bargains that's going to be the way. The things you can count on are Jaime Garcia being a GB pitcher (which the Nats prefer) and to not have a HR problem. The things you worry about may be a rising walk rate and the fact he may have settled into a low 4.00s rather than high 3.00s for his base level. But if you believe last year's issues were as much about being moved around 3 times than his pitching, then you might be able to grab him for 2 + a favorable team option and set him in the back of the rotation to eat innings. The injury he recovered from (thoracic outlet) is a worrying one but he does seem to amazingly be back for it (almost to the point where you wonder if it was a misdiagnosis) and again it's by taking these chances that you get your bargains (and your money to sign Rendon long-term).  MLB Trade rumors has him at 2 years 16 million, throw in a team option for a third at say 9 million and you could find yourself set at 1,2,4/5 for three years. Any where in the rotation you are set is a good thing.What about for us? What about for REAL Christmas? It's 10 days to Christmas so you still have a chance to get some last minute shopping done Here's some idea of things I like Anker's Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker - You know what I want out of a Bluetooth speaker? Long time between needed charging and a low price. This succeeds at both. How's it sound? Fine to me, but you know what I don't care about from a speaker? Audio fidelity. Ok is good enough for me since it's generally playing podcasts or baseball games.  (I also like Anker's batteries for car trips and grabbing if going to be away from charging for a while. I have this and something like this the former is probably enough for most unless you need tablet charging mid travel.Are you a fancy laptop carrying professional that feels your college backpack days should be over (and also don't have enough to carry to justify a backpack).  Well then this might be for you. Timbuk2's Hudson briefcase. I've had it for over a year now and I'm very happy with it as a traveling companion. For a guy who likes to be cheap it's pricey but I needed something that was not only sturdy but looked nice as I occasionally go to places for meetings with peo[...]

Kintzler Redux


Busy day so a short one.  The Nats brought back Brandon Kintzler.  That's fine. What I said at the time Nats traded for him still holds true. He's not going to blow things up by giving up big homers. He's not going to shut things down by striking out two in a row. He's gonna come in, get someone to hit a groundball somewhere and if the groundball is not too hard and/or at the right person things will work out.

The Nats IF in uniquely split in that a GB to the left side is great news for the Nats and will almost certainly be and out, while a GB to the right side will be a hit maybe more often then a GB hit to the right side of any other team. So Kintzler isn't the perfect reliever. But a GB reliever is someone you need. You need someone who can induce the big DP or keep the ball in the park.

Would a more dominating reliever have been better. Of course. People talked just a few days ago about "Hey Stanton to the Yankees isn't a guarantee of success you can pitch to these guys and strike them out!" but to do that you need guys that strike out anyone. Kintzler is not one of those guys.

The Nats needed someone in the 7th-8th-9th range to fit Doolittle and Madson into general roles*  We preferred a 9th inning type that would set Doolittle and Madson back and make the bullpen back end as strong as it's been for the Nats. We got a 7th inning type that keeps Doolittle and Madson forward which worked fine to end last year. Check one thing off the off-season list.

 *Not advocating strict "Xth inning guy usage" not expecting "can use at anytime" rather aiming for a compromise of having a general feel when you may come in.  I think that'll work.

Are the Phillies sneaking up?


So deals are coming - not fast and furious - but steady and with a mild sense of anger.  The relief arms are getting the most interest. Pat Neshek is back in Philly and are nearing a deal with Tommy Hunter - taking two of the better RH relief arms off the market.   Another one, Bryan Shaw, is headed to the Rockies. The Nats can wait it out and see what falls into their lap at a discounted price, but much like Blanton, there will be an underlying reason why this was the guy leftover.

The Cubs continue their gambles on guys who could be really good or nothing by picking up Drew Smyly who last threw a pitch in the regular season in 2016. He may not even get on the mound in 2018 making this a play for a cheap arm in 2019.

In the last big news the Yankees traded away Chase Headley to the Padres (who will try to flip him for something better than the gave up) and freed up his salary to let them go after one or two more free agents and stay under the luxury penalty cap. Some people see this as linked the the Orioles potentially offering up Machado in a deal, but it's very unlikely the O's would send Manny to a rival in division (and I kind of doubt the Yankees would trade in Jan for a rent a player they probably plan to pursue in 2019 when they are at the start, not the end of a run)

Most of the above are not surprises as you see good teams maneuvering to stay good or get better. This isn't great for the Nats, who'd rather see teams like the Cubs and Rockies do nothing. More interesting is the Phillies move. Most people think the Phillies are (at least) a year away from relevance but they made plays to shore up the pen. Is this for the future?

The Phillies didn't hit or pitch well last year but they are young.  It's possible their oldest starter will be just 28 next year, so there can fairly be an expectation of improvement. And with a star bat in their line-up, which is what Rhys Hoskins was to end last year, the lineup is... ok. They have a handful of pretty good bats and while they have holes their next set up of bats JP Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, and Scott Kingery slide right into these holes. If these guys are any good they will be a tough out.

The pitching though is where things fall apart right now. While they have a super young staff, they only have one legit starter in Aaron Nola. The other four (currently Velasquez, Lively, Eickhoff, and Pivetta) are fighting over who can fill in spots 2-5 but seem to have 4/5 talent. There isn't anyone on the immediate horizon any better, Sixto Sanchez being no earlier than a 2019 talent.

So these relief moves do look like moves for the future. 2018 will be about finding out which of the young players are real and which ones aren't as a lot get extended second chances. 2019 FA will be about filling up by spending money.At least that's what I think. So the Nats don't have to worry... this year.

Monday Quickie - It begins


The Winter Meetings are now in full swing and we are seeing movement, finally, of real players.How do these effect the Nats?Stanton to the Yankees This has been a garbage story from the beginning but we're going to focus on how it effects the Nats which is - it's good! We joke about the NL East basically being the AFC East, where the Patriots are not only good but get to beat up on three bumpkins every year. But it's got a grain of truth. In this case, Miami is now under leadership who can't afford them meaning Stanton had to go. He could have gone to St. Louis or San Fran but he demanded NY, LA, or Houston and his no-trade meant he could. NY made the best deal shipping out Giancarlo from the NL and making the Nats road that much easier. They should win more games in division, making it easier to get HFA situations in the playoffs, if they make it. This also (possibly) has the effect of taking the Yankees out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. However, I'm not entirely sure I buy that. The Yankees will get under the salary threshold this year, resetting their penalties. Sure they could find themselves over in 2019 and 2020, but quite possibly it could reset again in 2021 because some big contracts come off (maybe Stanton's!) and the rookies will still be a season away from FA contracts. Also Headley, Robertson, and Gardner all become FAs after 2018 and none need to come back saving the Yankees over 35 million in salary right there. I think the biggest impediment to the Yankees and Bryce meeting up isn't Stanton, but Machado, who would fit in perfectly at the hole at 3B.  But if Manny goes somewhere else or if the Yankees just want pure starpower, I think it could still happen.Cubs sign Brandon MorrowThe Cubs are trying to make up for losing Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis by buying pitchers who may surprise. First was Tyler Chatwood, who was the youngest guy out there and pitched very well outside of Coors (though that means mostly in LA, SD, and SF) and now it's Brandon Morrow a guy who was mediocre in an injury filled 2016 and great last year in LA. This should be worrying to the Nats, not because the Cubs know something about these guys you don't. They are fine and should mostly do the job but nothing more. No, it should worry you because it's setting up the Cubs for buying during next year's potential FA bonanza*. It also forces their rivals into an all or nothing situation. Pay a lot for the Arrieta's or scrape buy with the dregs.In good news though - the Cubs should be less talented. Now does that translate into fewer wins? I'm not sure - depends on the rest of the central. Also I felt the Cubs underperformed a little in 2016.  Cardinals sign Luke Gregerson This is a gamble. Gregerson had been one of the better relievers in baseball since really 2010. Last year though he struggled and at basically 34 next year. You'd think his age is catching up with him. I'd take this to mean that the Cardinals are trying though to piece together a playoff team. The more legitimately competitive NL teams the worse for the Nats. What you want is the NL East to be garbage and the other NL divisions to be filled with mediocrity fighting it out. Let everyone else be 81-81. No 90 win teams who could beat you in the playoffs. No 60 win teams who could feed another squad to 100 wins.Rockies sign Chris IannettaKind of like the Cardinals thing except gambling on someone decent last year with a less reliable history. Iannetta is at best an average backstop and he's old (35 next year) but the Rockies catching situation before Lucroy was garbage so he's going to be an improvement unless he pulls a Wieters style crash. It's a canny signing at the price they paid, and much like the Cardinals signals a team that is going to try in 2018 (as well they should being a playoff team)  Mike Fiers to Tigers This doesn't effect the Nats at all other than I suppose Fiers was a guy they might have picked up to fill out the rotation in February in a panic. H[...]



So here's my quick take on most of the "classic" Christmas movies. Unfortunately when Santa's elves are putting out literally a couple dozen new made for TV Movies every Christmas, not to mention Christmas episodes of TV shows, Christmas specials and the rest, my made for TV recommedations to end that post are already woefully outdated just 3 years later. So let's revisit.We'll start with some classics I didn't addressElfI didn't care much for it at first (I'm mostly miss on Will Farrell) but it's grown on me.  It's kid friendly when surprisingly a lot of the more popular Christmas movies aren't exactly. Miracle on 34th Street First one is better but if you have an aversion to B&W the Mara Wilson one is the rare good remake. I don't go out of my way to watch these but if I catch it, it can happen.Love ActuallyI know it's pretty Christmasy but in my head I don't consider it a Christmas movie. So I don't feel any great need to watch it during the holidays. Do I watch it otherwise? Well, I acknowledge it may actually be bad* and we might be fooled by accents but I still enjoy it in parts. So I guess, yes, but it's not like a favorite or anything.Santa Clause (s) Never actually watched one.  I've tried to watch the first one several times and it never keeps my attention.How the Grinch - MovieThat looks terrible. I'm not watching that. Jingle all the WayIt is terrible. I am watching that. White Christmas You know - it's also not a real good "Christmas" movie but for some reason I do make time to watch this one every year. I do have an affinity for old movies but there are certainly better ones I could make time to watch. I can't really explain why.OK now that we're done with the preliminaries what's going on with the schlock! First off I'll recommend a great terrible watch Christmas movie. A lot of people say these movies are bad but really they aren't. You may not like them. They may be sappy and predictable. But that's different. Bad is special. And hitting that sweet spot of being bad but still somehow watchable that you can laugh at the craziness of it is hard. But there are some out there.#1 on the list is Christmas Belle which will air on ION a couple times. I recommended it before and if the phrase "so much shirtless running" doesn't get you in the Christmas Spirit I don't know what will.  The plot is weirdly slow. Like not time wise but like they had 30 minutes of material but needed to fill two hours. So there's a lot of shots of things not happening. The male lead plays everything very melodramatically. The dialogue is overwrought and at times insane. I can't exactly remember why it's a Christmas movie but I'm sure that's in there somewhere.Also enjoyably bad for a pop-in is Mariah Carey's Christmas Melody.  The non-Mariah parts are pretty standard but every time she's in a scene she's filmed in a soft-focus close-up that's both jarring and brilliant and worth seeing.While, like I said this has become a factory product at this point I'm very hopeful for the Tara Reid vehicle A Royal Christmas Ball. to fit the bill. I mean Tara Reid and a budget Christmas movie that involves royalty? The trailer on the site alone involves a terrible photoshop, a terrible attempt at creating a picture on a blank page in a book and neither of the other two leads saying a word! That's very promising.  For a bigger movie that's garbage yes watch Jingle All the Way. It's horrendous I'll do some reviews tomorrow barring any actual baseball news. *Except the Emma Thompson / Alan Rickman parts because they are both awesome. [...]

Still nothing


Free agency can be like a set of dominoes. Teams make plays for certain trade commodities and FAs and wait to see how that plays out. FAs wait to see where the top guys end up so they can figure out how to best get paid. There is usually some action early. Low level guys, the 3 million 1 yr or minor league contracts - tend to go whenever. Some teams get itchy triggers and will pay market value and if they match up with a FA who doesn't want to wait out the process you have yourselves an early big signing. But it is limited until the Winter Meetings.

Here are some recent dates
2016 : 12/4 - 12/8
2015 : 12/6 - 12/10
2014 : 12/7 - 12/10
2013 : 12/9 - 12/12
2012 : 12/3 - 12/6

In 2017 it begins on the 9th as well so our best comparison time wise is 2013. I don't see much in November.  Jason Vargas? Dan Haren? Hey! Javy Lopez was still playing!  There was a bunch of low level trades around the 3rd. We also have our first big signing then - Brian McCann, some more on the 4th Kazmir, Joe Nathan. But really the 7th was the start of things the Yankees grabbing Tanaka and (officially) Ellsbury culminating in the Robby Cano signing on the 12th.

So my take to you would be - we should hear a couple things go down in the next couple of days but there should be a run on activity as we hit Mon/Tues next week. If not, well then you can call the silence suspicious.

Reading material

ESPN took a look at the Nats and found the same needs we all see - get the pen piece, get a 5th starter, shore up the bench again, and sign Rendon long term if you are going to do it.

MLB's reporter (which you have to take as somewhat of a mouthpiece) says the Nats are fine with Difo starting if Murphy can't get back quickly. That's not terribly surprising. So don't expect a play for a MI who's really good. Instead expect a cheap MI who can play SS (and therefore could shift elsewhere as needed).  Twist my arm and I'll say JJ Hardy bc he's great in the field, he had a decent year two years ago, and he's played in Baltimore since 2011 and the appeal of staying in the area might mean he stays for cheaper than he might take elsewhere.

Monday Quickie - No-tani


Not that it's a surprise but the Nats are out on Ohtani. It doesn't mean much directly for the Nats. Ohtani has noted that he wants to be on a West Coast team meaning no team in the NL East will get him. However his list does suggest some problematic team. 

If he goes to the AL that's great. Meeting him in the World Series isn't something you worry about it's something you hope for.

The Dodgers or Cubs? Yeah that's no good for anyone. Even though neither of these teams seem like favorites - he said he wanted a West Coast small market team - they are still on the list. That should worry Nats fans because the hierarchy of the NL right now is clearly LA - CHC - WSN with maybe ARI knocking on the door (COL will have to prove they are moving to the next level for me) and anything the first two do to separate from WSN is worrisome. Of course some will say "Just get into the playoffs and blah blah blah"  I wonder how many NLDS losses will it take for them to stop saying that.  Probably like 100!  Nah.  It was just 100 runs of bad luck!

Anyway I digress. It's obvious Ohtani to one of them would be bad. Could Ohtanit to the Padres or Giants be bad in the short run (which is all we can really judge) too? 

The Padres is a big fat no.  Did you know that the Padres Pythag last year had them winning 59 games and they got INCREDIBLY lucky to win 71. Now - they may not have been 60 win bad but they were no better than the Giants, while also showing no particularly strong set of young players. They were the worst in the league in offense and it wasn't particularly close. One player isn't going to change that. They were bad in pitching as well. I don't see how this team competes for anything. I have to think they are more likely to deal some of their better players (like Brad Hand) in the offseason as they try again to reset.

The Giants? Well that's interesting. They did have a bad offense. Second worst in the NL and clearly worse than everyone else except the Padres. If they sign just Ohtani that's probably not enough. If they sign Ohtani AND get Stanton that would radically transform the offense. The pitching staff wasn't terrible last year and that's with only half a year of Bumgarner.  There is potential here for a big jump.  Now of course that matter less for the Nats than the NL West teams but it's another potential NLDS opponent to stand in the Nats way - assuming the Nats make the playoffs. 

Happy December - Nothing is happening


Last year at this time RA Dickey, Bartolo Colon, Charlie Morton, Andrew Cashner, Josh Reddick, John Jay, and Yoenis Cespedes had been signed and another dozen lesser luminaries had been traded or picked up as well.This year, until yesterday, the biggest name officially signed might have been Rubby De La Rosa.*It could just be a slow time, pushed by Ohtani. Usually the Winter meetings speed things along. After a couple of  minor things in the first few days of December, during the meetings last year you saw Steve Pearce, Rich Hill, Carlos, Beltran, Mark Melancon, Mitch Moreland, Matt Holliday, and Joaquin Benoit signed. More importantly you saw the trades for  Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Wade Davis, and yes, Adam Eaton go down. So while things have been slow before we worry about it being a trend we have to at least until... the 14th. Man they are a little later this year. Ok, well the 14th it is.So what do we talk about until then?  That's up to you. I'll gladly fill these blog posts with talk about the Hallmark movies I'm watching or breaking down Christmas songs or perhaps list my favorite things that you may yourself want (or want to buy for others) for Christmas. Or you could just throw questions at me. That's ok too. We'll fill these spaces with something every other day or so, don't you worry. For today I'll revist the "former guys" post just because that interests me.Tyler Watson (for Kintzler) - nothing beyond what I said at the time.  Some promise looks hittable in A-ball but young. McKenzie Mills (for Howie) -  Another post column trade. Phillies bumped him up to High A and he was knocked around a bit in 3 games. However control looked good still. In 2016 he showed he can be hard to hit. In 2017 he showed he can control himself. But doing both at a higher level is another thing. He'll have a couple High-A years to try.  Jesus Luzardo - A's moved him up to low A from rookie to end the year and he looked just as good there. The IP is still small but all you can ask of any prospect is they do well and make you want to see more at a higher level and that's what he's done. Sheldon Neuse - Ended up hitting really well in High A to end the year. So well they moved him up again to AA and he hit there too (though without the brief power surge seen in High A). They sent him the the Arizona Fall League and he hit there too, named an AFL "Fall Star".  At this point Sheldon is a half-season of AA performance from being a real PROSPECT. Jeffrey Rosa (for Enny) -  On the flip side you have Rosa who couldn't hack it in rookie ball for the Rays. His first half of 2018 is about showing the Rays there is some reason to keep him before the draftees come in. It doesn't look good. Dane Dunning - Found a wall in High-A. A mix of good, mediocre, and bad performances. Still there's enough there with the Ks and the performances not being consistently bad that it's hard to believe he's topped out. He may not be a major leaguer but I don't see him as a low minor wash out either. Not sure if the Sox will push him the AA just to do it or leave in High A another year. Lucas Giolito - Moved to the majors at the end of the year and had really good results. However the fancy stats suggest that it was mostly smoke and mirrors. He didn't strike anyone out, and had a  too low BABIP.  I watched a lot of Giolito at the end of the year though and I saw a guy that had learned how to pitch who wasn't rattled by situation. I think he can be hard to hit, keep the ball in the park, and not walk too many. I do think there was luck involved here with the level of success, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't at least a reliable back-end starter in 2018 (as a 23 yo remember) putting up an ERA ~4.00. And if he can dial things back-up again without losing control... well that's the million (+ 100 of millions) dollar question[...]

Offseason Position Discussion : Relief Pitching


Last year discussion revisitedI guessed that nothing would happen as by the time I wrote this up it was mid December and both Melancon and Jansen were signed. I didn't see a clear trade partner as everyone left was too expensive or not going to go for who the Nats had left to trade (this was post the Eaton trade). I figured they'd wait out the Greg Holland market to see if they could get him on their standard "low market, with deferred money" deal and if not just sign someone but not make them closer.  It would just be to fill out the bullpen. That is what ended up happening as they signed Blanton as the off-season  closed out.I was pretty fine with this. I understood the risk - that the Nats were basically where they were in 2016 when Papelbon was out and the bullpen failed except now they were trying it with an Kelley who would be less reliable because of injury. But I figured the Nats were too good for it to really matter and as long as they went out again and got a dominant closer if they needed it things would be fine. Well they never did get that dominant arm, but they did get three good ones and things were mostly fine. They performed well in the playoffs and the biggest failures in the pivotal Game 5 in relief were Max Scherzer and a Sammy Solis who should have never been in the game at that point.Basically this was my best Svengali position discussion, but to be fair a lot of the market shook out before I wrote it up. I could nail all of these is I waited until March.  My OOB idea was to draft a closer for 2017 in 2017 like they ended up doing for Storen. Apparently my choice wasn't even good enough to be drafted (I don't get it but I don't try to) Nats went SP SP first two rounds. Presumed Plan : Doolittle, Madson, Romero, hopefully Glover. Solis? Kelly? Probably another arm for depth. Reasoning on Presumed Plan : They didn't trade for two guys under contract for 2018 just to trade them away... I don't think. Doolittle and Madson were good, so of course they get to hold down the 8th and 9th.  If you've got two guys you feel you can count on, that's a start. You can work with that and the Nats have a couple arms in Glover and Romero, that they'd like to see if they could be special. That means using these guys in the 7th and later and thus you don't really need to go out and get that late inning guy.Still this isn't a deep pen for the 98th season in a row so chances are they will sign a cheap arm or two at the end of the FA period to give them some of that depth.Glover and Kelly are injury returns. Solis still hasn't proven anything. You can't roll with just these guys alone. Problems with Presumed Plan :  Madson himself is an injury risk given his finger injury and then performance in the playoffs. Doolittle is an injury risk because he seems to get injured often. (His 51 IP this past season was most since 2014). That means with Glover that 3 of your top 4 relief arms are injury risks and your fourth, Enny Romero, is a Treinen-esque guy who keeps getting sold but the league never seems to buy.After that it's mop-up / Loogy guys like Solis and Grace and a Shawn Kelley who may never be good again.  I'm not sure what isn't a problem with this pen. My take :What we have here is a pen with its head cut off. It needs a dominant closer to set everyone in place. Madson/Doolittle in 7th/8th. Maybe Romero/Glover working into those roles. Letting Solis/Grace focus on Loogy stuff. Letting Kelly focus on his last chance. Instead everyone is pushed up. It'll work ok... until it doesn't. It's basically a key injury away from another terrible situation.The Nats are better off than last year. You'd rather have talent that may get injured then healthy guys that may be talented. But still the Nats don't need just a couple nobodies to fill out the pen. They need either a dominant guy to[...]

Offeseaon Position Discussion : Starting Pitching


Last year discussion revisitedThe thought was in 2017 it would eventually be Max, Stras, Roark, Gio/Ross, and one of the Nats "on the cusp" starters - Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez. It made sense. The Nats love their bargain players, who doesn't?, and they had two starters with potential to be just that. At the same time Gio was trending down and Ross couldn't stay healthy, but both still had value. Bailing on one wouldn't be the worst idea. And indeed the Nats explored some deals for Gio or Ross that might have cleared up that issue.We also acknowledged that the Stras/Gio/Ross trio presented a bunch of performance/injury questions and the Nats may go after another starter to shore up the rotation with a non-question mark. And indeed the Nats explored trading for at least Chris Sale.  But instead they ended up trading Giolito and Lopez in the same deal for Adam Eaton and watched as Sale went to Boston. The Nats now needed both Ross and Gio.The end results in 2017? Max was great again. Strasburg did stay relatively healthy and was great. Roark was good after a shaky first half. Gio would end up having his best season in a while. He didn't actually pitch too much better than recent years but everything came up Gonzalez. Ross though failed to make it a clean sweep. He had a poor first half and then went under the knife for another TJ surgery. The Nats internal solutions (AJ Cole, Jacob Turner, Erick Fedde) were mostly failures, so the Nats brought in an old friend Edwin Jackson to round out the rotation for the remainder of the year. He started well but unraveled in September. With Max being Max, Stras being Stras, and Roark/Gio being healthy, it was enough though.My OOB plan would have been AWESOME. I traded (somehow don't ask me how) Gio, Ross, and Roark and prospects and got back Goldschmidt and Charlie Blackmon. That's an offense. Made more sense before 2017 when neither team looked to be all that good.  Presumed Plan : Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, and some cheap free agent at firstReasoning on Presumed Plan : Max just won his 3rd Cy Young. Strasburg finished 3rd.  Gio finished 6th. Roark finished the season still under team control.To expand on this a little. Max and Stras are both paid liked aces and pitched to match that. They are in. Gio, even though he probably won't have as good results in 2018, is a deal for his salary, is left-handed, and is a reliable innings eater.  All things any team would be foolish to let walk. Roark is a little up and down but for his cost, general success, and recent health you pen him into any rotation.That leaves one spot that is wide open. They would have ideally hoped that Fedde would have matured quickly into that role, but that doesn't look like the case. No other Nats "prospect" looked ready.  That leaves a trade for a good pitcher, or waiting out the FA market to try to grab a bargain.Problems with Presumed Plan : There are some warning signs because of the age of the rotation. Max will be 33 and can now miss a game if he sleeps wrong. Gio will be 32 and is Gio. Even Tanner is over 31 now. These are the ages where nicks and dings are likely to spiral into something more. Gio's fancy stats suggest he won't pitch as well next year, and Tanner's suggest last year wasn't a huge fluke. He could simply be a back of the rotation guy.  Strasburg will still be under 30 but is the question mark. He was relatively healthy last year but he still pitched only 175 innings, making it the third season in a row where he didn't pitch a full one. Having no one for that fifth spot, even a pencilled in name, is pretty worrisome. The Nats don't have depth in starting pitching (Rizzo even acknowledged this) and we saw last season one bad option trotted out after another. When your saving grace is "more than half the time Edwin Jackso[...]

A little clarification


I forget that you guys aren't all reading this blog religiously and these things aren't as fresh for you as they may be for me so as we wind down the offseason-previews (SP and RP to come) just a couple reminders.

Plan - What I expect Nats to do
Positives/Negatives of plan - self-explanatroy
My Take - What I think of the plan given those plusses and minuses with a strong dose of what I would do.
Out of the Box idea - some sort of idea that has little chance of coming to pass that I throw out there for discussion purposes.

So I don't want JD Martinez. I don't think the Nats should get JD Martinez. However, I think it's not CRAZY that the Nats could sign JD Martinez, and it would sort of address some problems so why not talk about it. The OOBs don't work as an overall plan though because they don't work together. You can't trade for Dozier AND sign Moustakas and move Rendon to 2B.

Anyway there you go. What would I do so far?
  • I'd trade for Realmuto and because I don't want to trade any real propsects I'd eat whatever salary that isn't Chin's that Miami wants me to eat. (not my money)
  • I'd let Zimm start but make sure to either bring back Lind or get the best back-up 1B out there. 
  • Unless they know something I don't, I'd sit on Murphy for now assuming he's back early next season, signing a decent MI back-up in the vein of a Stephen Drew (but not him - he's done now) but be prepared to go after a starting 2B in trade later in the year if Murphy can't recover and Difo is not above average. 
  • I'd start Turner and Rendon - duh - with that MI signing covering for them as well. 
  • I'd say I'm going with Eaton - MAT - Bryce, but I'd dangle MAT out there and see what bites I get. Probably nothing but maybe some GM is really feeling him. At the same time I don't NOT listen to Bryce deals but you gotta blow me away here. If the Nats do get a deal and no replacement OF is in it then Robles is starting for whoever is dealt.
GM Meetings are closing out soon. They will lay the groundwork for the Winter Meetings after Thanksgiving. We'll see how that all shakes out. Rizzo seems inclined to fix the margins again. A Marco Estrada, an Ivan Nova, a George Kontos in deals if the price is right. A John Jaso* or a Brett Lawrie in FA if the money makes sense. That's what we are probably looking at.

Very Side note : I'd totally sign Tim Collins again to a minor league deal. The Nats picked up the former Royals reliever last year with the idea that he may be able to help them by the end of the year. While he was able to pitch again, when they rushed him up to AA (which is totally understandable) he wasn't good enough to go further. But I'd like to see what he could do after an off-season of rest and training.

*Jaso is an interesting case as he CAN play catcher. Hint, hint Nationals

Offseason Position Discussion : Outfield


Last year discussion revisited"Werth, Bryce and something new" was how I put it, expecting a deal for a CF because that's how the Nats roll. This wasn't too surprising a spot to land on. Bryce was an "of course" and Werth was a "has to", leaving CF open. The Nats had Revere and MAT but you had to doubt either of them would start given their 2016 performances. I threw some names on that hoping for McCutchen but expecting maybe Lorenzo Cain.Both had good years and would have worked, but the Nats ended up trading for another name we bandied about before (though not in that post) Adam Eaton. He had a very favorable contract so the Nats had to part with their two best SP prospects to make it work. Adam Eaton was everything the Nats could have asked for though... for 23 games before tearing up his ACL and his meniscus AND spraining his ankle. Done for the year.MAT would be forced into action and would proceed, after two seasons of being told he was ready to break out and seeing nothing, to do really well. Between taking over the position and July 7th he would hit .295 and slug 12 homers. He would miss a month for injury (Brian Goodwin would come up and hit some homers) and upon return put up a pretty bad August, but in Sept would have a month very similar to his first starting stretch. It wasn't plan A but plan B worked well giving the Nats some more direction on the future of the outfield.Meanwhile Bryce would be a star again, though not OMG BRYCE. He would injure his leg late in the year and be out until the playoffs and hampered in it but can't do much about that. Werth was injured too and would play about half the year hitting like an injured 38 year old and playing defense not as well as that.  But Adam Lind (25g) and trade deadline acquisition Howie Kendrick (39g)  would slot in along with Goodwin (69g) in the OF and do well covering for the team nicely as your bench should for short periods. All in all it wasn't as they planned but it worked for 2017. My OOB plan - Jayson Heyward would have been meh but at the same time wouldn't have cost the Nats three SPs. And maybe he could have speeched the Nats to a DS win.  He had a whole rain-delay day off!Presumed Plan : Bryce, MAT, and Eaton, Robles starts in AAA and if he forces himself into the conversation - so be it. Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Bryce is Bryce. He's got a superstar bat and he's competent in the field with a very good arm. If he's healthy he plays.Eaton has a long history of playing well, and well, you traded for him to play. He was doing well before he got injured so there's no reason not to give him 2018 to work through his recovery. Plus he seemingly (seemingly) was getting close to full strength by the year's end. It wasn't enough to make him a serious contender to play in the playoffs but it bodes well for March if you think you can play in October.MAT was good when he was healthy. He was always a top notch fielder with some pop, but if he can hit .275+ he becomes a key piece to the team, not just Robles' placeholder. Also his post-season performance was good enough it'd be a shame not to let him start some more.Robles was ok, and looked like he could be ready but wasn't dominating in a way that forces you to play him. More minor league time couldn't hurt. Problems with Presumed Plan :For Bryce and Eaton the problem is the same. Both were injured to end 2017. You do have to question how ready they will be for 2018, even if they seemed pretty good at year's end. You really won't know until Spring Training. Injury recovery takes time and if you aren't right - you don't play well. Bryce has several injuries that have turned his star bat pedestrian. Also - since both were leg injuries that could effect their defense.As for MAT you are talking abou[...]

Offseason Position Discussion : Third Base


Last year discussion revisitedPerhaps the easiest single position. The plan had to still be play Rendon even coming off another injury recovery year that looked merely ok. He was too young, too cheap, and too good when healthy to contemplate someone replacing him. Espy was the back-up at the time, which was fine.The Nats of course did this (well they traded Espy but that didn't matter for 3rd) and Rendon stayed healthy all year. After a slow first month, he took off and might have been the best player in baseball from May through July. From the 6-6 10 RBI day on the last day of April, through a 1-3 double, RBI, and RS performance on the first of August Rendon hit .346 / .455 / .693 with 21 homers, 23 doubles, and 65 RBI in 75 games.  Just about then everyone started to notice him and the "maybe Rendon should be MVP" talk started.  It quickly ended as he had his worst month of the year, followed by a good to very good but not great September. Not that he shouldn't have been in the MVP discussion though.It didn't really matter who backed-up Rendon as he started 143 games at the position. Drew was the early replacement. Difo and Adrian Sanchez took the games down the stretch.OOB idea was trading Rendon for a young Red Sox player which would have worked out great for the Red Sox in most circumstances. I ended up bringing this up again later in the year making the "Well if you take sabrmetric analysis to its illogical end, you should only try to win as many games as it takes to make the playoffs. Any wins more are 'wasted'. The Nats are going to make it easily so they should trade a good player for future help. How about Rendon for Devers?" barroom argument. No one is going to make that deal, but dammit if it didn't strangely make a lot of sense at the time and even in hindsight. Still wouldn't have made it though. Presumed Plan : Rendon plays.  Whoever backs-up is presumably going to be the guy they bring in to back-up MI to start year (or Difo if they bring in a starter) but we've talked about that enough. How this fits into 3rd base coverage is secondary Reasoning on Presumed Plan : See above for what Rendon did this year - he was near MVP worthy for the season and maybe the best player in the game for half the year. You play those guys.Rendon has pulled off two straight full years of play. Murphy's injury makes 2B a question mark to start the year, if not longer. It only makes sense that you worry about someone playing 2B first, then see how that fits with your 3rd base back-up plan. Problems with Presumed Plan : Well those two straight full years of play are the first time Rendon has pulled that off since presumably high school so you are still taking a risk. The other question is that planning needs to start one way or another on what happens after 2019 when Rendon becomes a free agent at 29. Do the Nats sign him and lock up 3rd base for hopefully the first half of the 2020s? If so, starting him every game should be the goal. Do they let him walk? If you are thinking about it, then maybe you start giving those youngsters some games, and maybe look at what you can get back for a guy with his talent. My take : You can't dismiss Anthony's LOOOOONG injury history.  Add that to Murphy's injury and it's almost like the Nats need to bring in two starter worthy bench players just in case. Now if you love Difo I suppose he can be one, but I feel it's apparent the cheap last guy off the bench shouldn't be an option for the Nats in 2018. So Anthony starts - duh - but there should be a good option sitting on the bench if he gets hurt.As for the post 2019 argument? You can't really worry about getting players time if you are shooting for a World Series. Plus enough guys get hurt that if [...]

Offseason Position Discussion : Shortstop


Last year discussion revisitedI expected and wanted Trea to start despite thinking he'd sophomore slump and wasn't as good a fielder as Espy. He was great in a long audition as a rookies. I thought he'd still be fine. He did sophomore slump (though I expected higher average and less power in my slump) and didn't field as well as Danny had, but was fine.When healthy. He ended up missing 2 months to injury.I expected Danny to back-up, but Danny was dealt and the Nats brought back Drew to back-up. He was hurt too. That meant Difo did most of the backing up. When starting Difo did very well. It would have surprised 2016 Harper that it held together after Turner/Drew injuries, but it did.My OOB idea was - deal Danny, let Trea play CF, start Drew.  Eh. Maybe Trea hits better playing same position as 2016? Maybe Drew doesn't get hurt? Or maybe they both play as they did and things bomb? Didn't matter as the Nats did trade for a CF and made this plan DOA. Presumed Plan :Turner plays short. At the beginning of the season the primary back-up may be Difo or it may be someone new. It depends on who they get to be the MI back-up. If it's more a 2B guy they may shift Difo over to SS if needed and let that guy play 2B.  When Murphy comes back Difo will be primary back-up.Reasoning on Presumed Plan :Turner did not repeat his ROY type opening year but hit well enough, fielded well enough, and remained a big threat on the basepaths. Even if you believe "Starting Difo" is the real Difo* Turner's hitting was still better than that. Plus after coming back from the injury Turner hit much better. There is no compelling reason not to start him at short.As for the back-up, it is an easy call if Murphy is at 2B. Difo did well and is fine slotting in this year as the primary back-up (though since you are relying on one year of mixed results I would recommend a solid second back-up). Early it the year it could go in a lot of directions. If the Nats do as I think and let Difo start at 2B, then who is Trea's back-up will follow who gets signed to be a MI back-up to start year. If it's someone with little SS experience, Difo will likely shift when needed. If it's someone that can play SS then they will likely back-up but may not take the position if there is a full-time injury. If it's someone that is defined as a SS, they'll back-up and will take the position on if needed. If the Nats instead sign a 2B to start, then Difo is the main back-up.Of course this only matters when Murphy is out, which ideally will be a limited time. The above paragraph is showing there are a lot of ways to hopefully travel one mile. Problems with Presumed Plan : Well Turner now has to be looked at as a mild injury risk and he didn't hit great last year so you can worry about some sort of repeat. Average at the plate and missing a large chunk of time. That's a possibility. You could also worry about the potential for other teams to have figured Trea out. In the 2016 playoffs they reduced him to a singles hitter. In 2017 they made him average. In the 2017 playoffs he was terrible. With more focus on him he has not been the transformative player he was for half a season in 2016. What if that continues?There are plenty of decent worries that the back-up for this injury risk won't pan out, be it Difo or which ever cheapo FA they likely sign. My take : I guess Turner is a mild injury risk but given his age (25 in late June), his general health historically, and his performance in September you can't be overly concerned by it. Let's just hope it was a one-off.As for his reduced performances, the playoffs are so limited and so different it's hard to use them as any sort of fair judgment. The full season 2017 performance is [...]

Monday Quickie - Long Live Wieters


He's back.  Please no anger at the guy for picking up the option. First, like 999 out of 1000 of us would do it. Second, if the team could drastically underpay a player it will. It's not a good guy being cheated here.

Fans, we tend to side with the management because underpaying is usually better for the team. But in a strict employee/employer relationship Wieters did what he should have done. The Nats were stupid. Now they pay.

There was a bit of a hope that something was going on after a "He's picking up his option" "Oh wait not yet" news cycle.  My best guess is that the Nats were trying to convince Wieters to defer some of that money beyond 2018. Of course to do that they'd have to make it worth his while, offering more and there you get to the sticking points. How much more? How far out?  Just a guess.

Wieters will be here and will be getting paid 10.5 million so he'll likely get first crack at starting. Let's hope he figures out what's wrong and gets back to his more average self.

Anything Else?

Robles was the AFL All-Star MVP. How is he doing in the AFL? He's only played 7 games (4 before being named) so you can see what a serious business this is. .261 with a a couple homers.  Anyone doing well?

Taylor Gushie (C) - nope .156  (.480 OPS)
Dacota Bacus (RP) - nope 7.36 ERA
Kyle McGowin (SP) - yes  3.00 ERA, 20 K, 0 BB in 15 IP
Jimmy Cordero (RP) - yes 0.00 ERA, 8K, 0BB, in 7 IP
Austen Williams (RP) - meh 3.86 ERA, 8K, 3 BB, 2 HR, in 11.2 IP
Kelvin Gutierrez (3b) - yes .429 with a homer
Daniel Johnson (OF) - nah .241  no homers, 5 SB but a .281 OBP

These are here solely for entertainment purposes - no one has played enough for it to really be telling you anything.

That's it - holding serve until the Winter Meetings.

Offseason Position Discussion : Second Base


Last year discussion revisitedPretty simple. Murphy was awesome in 2016 so we figured he would start in 2017. Despite being not a good fielder, and betting on a single great year, it's what we all wanted to.It was the obvious choice and it worked. Murphy hit .322 / .384 / .543 this year. It was a step down from his MVP worthy 2016, especially given the offensive climate, but still All-Star level. His fielding was still suspect but when you hit like that as long as you aren't outright terrible, you take it. A late season injury would hurt Murphy's performance in the playoffs and an off-season surgery would put his 2018 in question but that's for the next section.My OOB plan of extending Muprhy doesn't look great right now, because of the injury, but I wouldn't say it would have looked bad either. He still hit. Presumed Plan : Currently the plan has Murphy ready a month in or so into the season. For the first month it is likely that Wilmer Difo will man the position. If not him, then whoever they bring in, in the Stephen Drew role. Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Murphy hit great again. He will play once he is ready to play. In the meantime, given that the current expecation is only a month out, it's not a huge deal who plays. Wilmer Difo was pretty good in a starting role at SS this year while Trea was out, so it seems fair that he gets the first crack at this spot as well. He'll be a big defensive upgrade at the very least.The Nats may grab someone else to fill in the back-up IF role or the 5th bench spot guy might fit naturally into 2nd base. I'm not saying a Josh Rutledge type who is signed for nothing at Spring's end and then makes the team.  More say if Brandon Phillips is unsigned and the Nats can get him cheapThere is a possibility that the Nats will aim for some thing more earlier. Phillips, Asdrubal, Howie are out there (Neil Walker is probably first on any list for those wanting a starting 2B so I don't look to him). However, I don't expect them to go this way unless they find out that Murphy is going to be out longer than originally planned.  Problems with Presumed Plan : Let's go with the most likely scenario - Murphy stays on track and the Nats use Difo. That seems reasonable for a month. Well the very real problem could be Difo can't hit and then either Murphy is out for longer than expected or comes back not ready to play like expected.   Difo not hitting should not surprise anyone. He didn't hit well, in fact he hit terribly, when he wasn't starting. This makes his overall 2017 numbers well below average. His minor league stats aren't encouraging either hitting basically like overall 2017 in two extended AA stints in 2015 and 2016. Difo is a guy who relies completely on singles. He doesn't have power or patience. Maybe something clicks for him like it did for Ian Desmond but more likely he struggles along, as a back-up IF playing everyday because he has to.Daniel Murphy - at the end of his contract - will be motivated to get back and hit as well as possible but there's just no telling. The fact that he would be out until likely May already was a shock. He's no longer young and injuries tend to take longer to recover from as you age. Something else to think about - even if he recovers and is able to hit just fine, a knee injury will likely hurt his mobility and turn him into - what - the worst 2B in the majors? It'd be one thing if 1B was manned by prime Keith Hernandez, but Zimm also has range issues. That's quite a problem with the right side of the infield you could be exacerbating.Of course signing someone better is putting money somewhere where it may not be necessary for questionabl[...]

Offseason Position Discussion : First Base


Last year discussion revisitedI was convinced Zimm was done. After three straight injury filled seasons and consistently degrading performance I wanted the Nats to move on. I didn't think they would. I didn't know what they should do exactly, but I felt sure it was time to bring in someone else to play that position. Adding to this feeling was the belief that Clint Robinson, ok in 2015, wasn't going to cut it as a fill-in player anymore after a bad 2016 outing. The Nats would bring in Adam Lind, who could have served as a very effective platoon player for Zimm but Zimm would get first crack at keeping the job full-time and he responded by being player of the month for April hitting .420 / .458 / .886.  I mean that's like his best month ever. He would peak a few days later at .435 / .475 / .907.   The rest of the year played out more as expected for "best case" Zimm with more reasonable ups and downs but a line of .269 / .328 / .486. It was a bit scary there as July and August were both not good suggesting April being some sort of last gasp but September picked back up. In short, I was wrong and a healthy Zimmerman was still a capable hitter. Meanwhile Lind was not free-falling (a worry given his 2016 performance) and smartly used would hit .303 / .362 / .513. He would spell Zimm now and again but given Zimm's production and the injury situation for the Nats he'd be used almost as much in the outfield. That's a scenario no one would have predicted or wanted to start the year.  He also was a killer pinch hitter with 16 hits and 4 homeruns in 45 at bats.My OOB idea was interesting. I had the Nats trading for Eaton (and Quintana or Sale) and shifting Bryce to first. Would have been neat. Of course Zimm hit so any OOB idea that didn't involve him playing was ultimately dumb in practice.   Presumed Plan : Zimmerman will play first base and I don't know. Lind is an expensive back-up at 5 million, and even if the Nats agree to bring him back he would need to buy into it as well (it's a mutual option).  I'd expect he's gone just because we have two keys that have to be turned at the same time here. I'd expect the Nats to find a cheap back-up on the FA market as the off-season nears its end Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Zimmerman has a big contract and he hit last year. Is he fielding better now? Nope. Still garbage. But that's something you can suck up from a first baseman who's hitting. The Nats have two more years left with Zimm (there's an 18M team option for 2020 but don't expect Nats to take it - I'd think they'd likely rework the deal if they do want to keep him at that point) and they are going to try to get their moneys worth. So he's starting. And he should so this is easy.Lind should be back. There is always a place for a guy who can mash right handed pitching. He fits well as someone that can spell Zimm and play some emergency OF. He was great as a pinch hitter. And he serves as a strong back-up for Zimm who missed like 40% of 2014-2016. But as noted he's expensive. It felt like the Nats were pushing it paying 3.5 million for Drew. Paying 5 million for Lind? It's tough to see that.  On the flip side, given how well he hit last year it's not crazy to think Lind could get a DH contract from an AL team (or a 1B contract though DH is more natural) for a few years at at least 5 million per. Sticking around with the Nats would only be tempting fate.  Still for a guy that has never made the playoffs before and is turning 34 - sticking with the Nats may be tempting.I'm not ruling out Lind coming back, I just think it's more likely not. Given that the Nats like[...]

Monday Quickie : It's Dave(y?) Martinez


Here's the Washington Post story

In a vacuum it's a pretty innocuous hire. Dave Martinez has been a well regarded coach in line for a managerial job for a while now. He seems to fit into the "I'm ok with analytics" mold that has been the expectation for a decade now. He seems to fit into "Oh yeah, we have all these Spanish speaking players it would help if he was bi-lingual" mold that is becoming more in vogue. The Nationals, in general, have hired several managers that have led the Nationals to the playoffs. The contract, at least in initial reports, seems like industry standard. 

See you next season?

Well this decision was not made in a vacuum. The points of interest include the fact that yes they've hired managers that have been successful - all within the past 6 seasons - which brings up longevity questions. Yes, they've paid a normal contract - this time - after years of offering less money to arguably better candidates. This brings up the question of "why now?" Presumably it's because Dave Martinez felt he could wait out for a better contract than the at best 2 years the Nats usually offer. Bud Black felt this way and walked away and did get a better offer. Dusty couldn't wait. The Nats had to up their ante to get this guy if they wanted him.

But the big lingering question is how does Dave Martinez guarantee the playoff success the Nats claim was the reason they fired Dusty? The fact is - obviously - he doesn't. Martinez is an unknown and can't guarantee playoff success anymore than a naysayer can say he'll definitely fail. 

But this is ok. The Nats wanting to win in the playoffs doesn't have to be just a manager switch. It can be a more complete attempt to build the best possible team to start the season and to react accordingly during the trade deadline. Which each successive season the Nats have done more and more of this. Last season you really only entered the year with a back of the bullpen question, and you really only exited the trade deadline timeframe with a starting catcher issue*  Of course both of those things ended up wreaking havoc on the Nationals this year so that should lead you to believe - don't do that! Don't leave holes if you don't have to.

What does that mean? Off the top of my head - get a catcher, get a closer, add another starter for depth (doesn't have to be top of rotation or expensive), bring back Lind. That's my minimum. Do that in the off-season and now I'm looking at a franchise that is committing to putting the best team on the field. Maybe they don't have a "playoff winner"** in the dugout but I'd take this over the alternative of having brought a Girardi in and then just rolling with the guys they have on contract now.

*Assuming they had good reason to believe Strasburg would be back fine. And he was so we'll assume that they did. The Bryce injury would create a new problem but after the trade deadline which makes it harder to account for.

**Is Girardi good enough to guarantee a playoff win? Of course not. But he has proven himself to be not a playoff detriment (his teams are about .500 in the playoffs which is on expectation) Dave Martinez has not proven anything - so Girardi is the hire here but there's no guarantee he would come. Farrell with two straight DS losses is hard to see as much better than Dusty even with a WS in hand.

Firday and Girardi


So I figured I'd paste what I wrote about Girardi in the comments - just in case you guys don't read those :  I have a hard time characterizing Girardi. I guess he's like a Showalter but not as much a martinet. He is definitely a "I'm manager, my decision" guy not the type to be a player's manager type who lets things go if the performance is there, but he doesn't take that to the extremes guys like that usually do, like extra practices or dress codes. It's kind of strictly in between the lines. He also mixes analytics with gut feelings. He is not dismissive of the former, which is why talk of a "more analytic" manager is probably nonsense. You'd have to get a strict number cruncher to find a real difference.He's good. He's flexible in his line-ups, doesn't mind benching players who aren't performing (stars or not). His biggest issues are learning to manage desperately (he's better but still not good) and, in my opinion, not being aggressive enough on the basepaths. He's a long term thinker - during a season and during a series and it tends to work out just as well as any other method but it can be frustrating if you are used to more "win every game" managing. If you think that, along with all those wins and a couple seasons where the Yankees did better than expected, sound good you might wonder why the Yankees let him go. A popular theory is that they wanted someone more invested in analytics, but I don't really buy that as a primary reason. Go back and read articles when Girardi was hired. He does buy into analytics, maybe not full-throated (which honestly I like) but enough so that the difference between him and most "modern" managers is slim. The other reason, which I think has more credence, is they don't think he relates to the players well. In kind of the Buck to Torre transition, the Yankees have a young team - now they need someone who will better connect with those players. Of course - one game from the World Series so I call nonsense on that as well as being a worthwhile reason to fire somebody, but I do think that's more of what's driving this.Would Girardi be good for the Nats? Sure. He's good for anyone. Would he guarantee a NLDS victory? Eh - take away 2009 and he's a .500 type playoff manager. Like I said - I think his biggest issue is managing in urgent situations. I think he'll set up the team better going into each game, but during it isn't anything special. Of course basically anyone you hire is an unknown, so the question is will you take a guy who is as expected in the playoffs, vs a guy that will be a complete unknown? I guess you would given the time frame.The unknown could learn to be a good playoff manager - but he'd have to learn and the Nats really don't have that time right now. It's either he's good right off the bat or not. Other notes - Trade for Ramos? You know... I do kind of like that idea. The Rays are forever rebuilding and the contract is short (1 yr) and reasonable (8.5 million). Rays also seem to like to deal with the Nats. I like this. This is fun. Let's do this.Mike Maddux is gone. I have no idea how important coaches are in general. I have less that that concerning how this coach was important to this team. It's been said the Nats wanted to keep him so it's a shame in that regard but beyond that I don't know.There's kind of a general feeling of... unsettledness with the Nats. No Dusty, who regardless of whether you think he should have gone or not, had undeniably become a fan-favorite face of this team in 2 years. No Werth, while Dusty was A important face, Werth was [...]

Offseason Position Discussion : Catcher


Last year discussion revisitedMy thinking was that the Nats would trade for a starting catcher that wouldn't cost much and would cover the position for a year or two while they figured out a longer solution.It made sense at the time. They like Severino but he didn't seem ready. That meant more AAA playing time for him. They were fine with playing out the string with Lobaton as the back-up as he was familiar with the pitching staff and cheap and here already. They needed a starter.  But starting catchers weren't really available. The best FA available was Wieters who wasn't really good and likely to get a longer more expensive contract, and after that  it was fill-in players. The Nats generally don't sign those types so I figured they'd trade for one.Turns out they DID trade for one, Derek Norris, who I dismissed because his 2016 was SO bad. But he was cheap and available for a low-minors propsect years away*.  Then they either realized he wasn't going to be good or heard about his off the field issues (or both) and went in another direction. They would sign Wieters who didn't get cheaper but did get forced into a shorter contract, for 2yrs - 20 million. The expectation was he'd give the Nats his typical average seasons and that'd be ok, if a little pricy. If the Nats got lucky he'd maybe have a minor rebirth.Wieters though collapsed hard and was probably the worst starting catcher in baseball in 2017. Severino wasn't ready and couldn't fill his spot. Lobaton was the diminishing back-up they thought he was and couldn't help either. The end result was a line-up hole. It could have been addressed at the trade deadline. Old friend Kurt Suzuki might have been available. Old tease Jon LuCroy was. But the Nats stood pat here and were rewarded with more terribleness and possibly a series losing performance in Game 5.My outisde the box suggestion would have been awful as Mesoraco was an all or nothing gambit that would have gotten the Nats nothing because he was hurt. Presumed Plan : Nats stick with Wieters for one more year because they are paying him. Severino is moved up to back-up or take-over depending. Really though the Nats are waiting out their new catching flavor of the year, Raudy Read. Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Wieters has a 10 million dollar player option for 2018 and will not make anything close to that on the open market. Once he picks up that option the Lerners won't want to pay for another catcher just so this guy can sit. Lobaton is a FA and there is no reason to bring him back as his bat is too far gone. Plus it's time to see if Severino can hit, so it's time to get him 150+ ABs in the majors. Moving Severino up to the majors permanently allows for Raudy Read to go up from AA to AAA to see how real his bat is. It all works out if you can accept the fact Wieters has to be on the team in some capacity.The fact that signing a catcher isn't likely isn't a terrible thing. The three most likely guys to garner interest are LuCroy, who's probably fading; Wellington Castillo, who is selling high; and Alex Avila, who has an injury riddled history. There's going to be one bargain here, one overpay, and one bad overpay all for average play. Trading for a catcher (that doesn't cost much) is a possibility. Though if JT Realmuto goes on the market expect the young, overall solid catcher who's still in arbitration for 3 more seasons to fetch a nice set of prospects. Likely more than the Nats are willing to give when they (again) think they have a possible replacement coming up in a year or two.Also, i[...]

A couple things more on Dusty's departure


Do I think this effects whether Rizzo stays? Probably not as an individual item. I think Rizzo really wants to finish what he started. He took a job to make the Nationals a winner and he hasn't made it over the playoff hump. He'd like to see it happen before he leaves. I think he's at least somewhat annoyed by the constraints placed on him in terms of working with deferred money or getting Boras clients forced on him and that is something that builds over seasons. Not taking his Dusty advice would be one more thing, but it's not as if Dusty staying would have set everything right.I think he'll go when he wants to go and that could very well be when the contract is up. But Dusty here or not isn't the driving factor.It would NOT take a lot of money to re-sign Dusty I don't think. I think Dusty understands this is his best and possibly last chance and could be underpaid again on a short term deal. I think he might have been able to be forced to take the 1yr - 1 option yr deal with a low payout. Nothing has changed in two years.The idea that Dusty put too much stress on the pitching staff is nonsense. Stop believing something that maybe had a kernel of truth almost 15 years ago.  Who had the top two pitchers by IP in September? Terry Francona's Indians. Carrasco and Kluber by far outpacing everyone else. Other playoff starters who pitched more than Scherzer. Gibson (MIN), Santana (MIN), Gray (NYY), Gray (COL), Verlander (HOU), Kershaw (LAD). The Nats had two starters in the top 30 of IP in September, with Scherzer at 33.1 IP and Strasburg at 32.2.  So did the Cubs with Quintana (32.1) and Lester (32.1). As a team the Indians and Astros threw more starter innings than the Nationals and the Yankees exactly the same. Gio threw more pitches than either of the two in September, but Verlander and Sale (BOS) and Porcello (BOS) threw more pitches than him. I know that thing about Scherzer trying to stretch himself to go deep got in your heads but please understand there is no fundamental difference between how Dusty runs a pitching staff and how most managers do it. This has been true for more than a decade. The Nationals tend to throw more starter innings and pitches because they have good veteran starters. It's as simple as that. If you are reading this any other way you are lying to yourself trying to fit a narrative that hasn't been true for years (and maybe was never true). Don't be a Cubs fan, people.One of the things I noticed about college basketball is that you'll hear CONSTANTLY, "He's a good recruiter but he can't coach".  You'll hear this about nearly every successful coach. This kind of philosophy carries on into all sports, including baseball. When your team wins and you are supposed to be good it's because of talent, if it loses it's because of poor in-game managers. Here are some links. Joe Girardi - bad in-game managerJoe Maddon - bad in-game managerJohn Farrell - bad in-game managerPaul Molitor - bad in-game managerBud Black - bad in-game manager let's not forget the guys in the World SeriesDave Roberts - bad in-game managerAJ Hinch - bad in-game managerThe fact of the matter is unless you are a new coach that is winning right now (Hey Torey Lovullo) or some sort of master coach in his prime, you are going to be thought of as a bad in-game coach. It's the opposite of Lake Wobegon. It's Nogebow Stadium. Is EVERYONE a bad in-game coach? Can't possibly be true. Are some? Of course. Is Dusty? I don't know. I think if you win 95 and 97 games you probably are at least a[...]

It's getting Dusty in here


Dusty has left the building. Or more accurately, Dusty has been asked to leave the building as the Nats move to their 5th manager since Jim Riggleman officially took over prior to the 2010 season.  Being a few days out has let me absorb everything out there and the story appears to be as follows (Apologies in advance to anyone out there that wants to take Nationals press releases at gospel).Rizzo was all in for extending Dusty before this season. The Lerners, not keen on having another Matt Williams situation, declined. Dusty spoke out over the season about his contract and that rubbed the Lerners the wrong way. They decided that if Dusty couldn't advance the team, then that would give them the out to let him go. They didn't advance. Dusty was let go.Can it be justified as a baseball decision in general? I suppose it can. Dusty didn't manage a perfect NLDS either year and now is on a long losing streak of deciding playoff games. If I was managing a team desperate to make it past the first round and looking to hire a manager I would not hire Dusty.At the same time that idea, that getting past the first round is a primary goal, has never been the way the Lerners and Rizzo have run the team. They have always taken the approach that you win enough games in the regular season to make the playoffs, then what happens, happens. You don't mortgage the future for trade deadline deals. You keep costs down with smart trades for good talent held for a couple years. You let Scott Boras talk you into signing... wait, digressing. For this plan of attack there is hardly anyone better suited than Dusty, who has won over 90 games in 5 of his last 6 managed seasons, and who probably has had 3 disappointing years in his last 15 managed. Dusty gets the talent he has to play to their level.We must also consider the all important follow-up question. If you let Dusty go, aiming to hire a manager to win in the playoffs, who exactly are you looking at? There aren't a lot of available managers who have led teams to multiple Championship Series, let alone further. In the past dozen years you have :The retired : Manuel, Leyland, LaRussa, Torre.The youngest of these will be 73 next season (Dusty will turn 69 next year). They maybe would take a short term deal like the Lerners like to give but they wouldn't do it for cheap (and none of them seem desperate to manage).The unavailable : Maddon, Francona, Roberts, Bochy, Gibbons, YostThese guys are all well-regarded with their current teams and under contract. I suppose the Nats could wow these teams with a trade offer but come on, who thinks that will happen or wants that to happen?  The probably unavailable : GirardiManaging the Yankees can be tough, and Girardi wavers on whether he should hang it up. The team wavers on if they want him back. But the results can't be denied and if Girardi is telling the truth about having his family have a big input on the decision I don't see how "Walk away from a great team, take less money on a short deal in DC, away from us" would be what they want. Still because it's not impossible he gets his own spot. The ones you might be able to get : Scioscia, Matheny, WashingtonThe Cardinals aren't exactly happy with Matheny and it certainly feels like he's got one more playoff missing season before he's gone. However, people really aren't high on Matheny as a manager so why would the Nats want him? Scoiscia dominated the 2000s and generally wins more games then you think he should but hasn't had very ta[...]

Lucky or Unlucky - 2017 version


I've done posts like this before but it's always fun to try to look at a season impartially in regards to luck. Most fans percieve their teams as unlucky regardless of what happened during the season. The good is expected, the bad is not. But that's not the way it goes. I don't expect to find that the Nats were super-lucky or anything. This team was built to be good, but I do expect to see a lot of lucky in there because teams don't win 95+ games without some things going their way (or NOTHING going against them)Lucky (Better than expected)  Zimmerman bounces back like one of those balls you can buy for a quarter at the front of a grocery store - For a good chunk of the season Zimm was sort of a "best case" in terms of reasonable recovery.  From May 1st through August 30th Zimm hit .269 / .330 / .476 with 18 homers. Forecast that out for a whole year and .270 with 28 homers? It's almost 2013 pre-injury Zimm again!  That itseslf would have bordered on lucky. But what pushed it over the top was how he hit in the other two months. .325 with 7 homers in the last month. Best hitter in baseball in the first one. These were long stretches of baseball we didn't think we'd see again from Zimm. The Nats got two of them in the same year. There was a minor slump mid-year but there was no low that matched those highs.Anthony Rendon better than ever - It could be reasoned that Rendon doing well as he ever had done was as expected. But Rendon did better than that.MAT breaks out - 75 OPS+, 73 OPS+, 70 OPS+.  See a pattern? We all did and those first three years of MAT in the majors all spelled out the same thing - below average hitter. But an injury to Eaton meant they had to run with MAT and in what might of been his last chance to be a starter MAT broke out. Now, for the seaosn that actually only meant he hit around average. But given his fielding that turned a 4th OF into a starter.Rolling straight 7s on the bench - That any one of Lind, Kendrick, Starter Difo, or Goodwin, would hit like they did isn't too much of a surprise. Difo maybe a little but it was a limited time frame. The fact that they all basically gave you what you would want is though. Gio reborn - Gio was on a slow decline and even though he'd probably do better than he showed in 2016, putting up a Cy Young vote season was beyond expectations. Unlucky (Worse than expected)Adam Eaton misses most of season - pretty self-explanatory. Played 310 out of 324 games past two years. 28. Every team gets this kind of bad luck with a player it's the who and when that determines how bad that luck is and Eaton going out early is pretty bad bad luck.Matt Wieters RIP - While it could be expected that Matt Wieters would continue a decline it was generally considered that he'd float along as a below average hitter for a few more years. With the exception of a month of great hitting in 2014 that was his MO. Usually a little below average, sometimes surprising with a little above average. And at only 31 going into this year there were still a couple more years before you were sure age would play a role. Instead Wieters was one of the worst hitting regulars in baseballTrea Turner gets injured - I can't call his performance unlucky because we only got half a year from the kid so far. However, you don't expect your young SS to miss 40% of the year. Bryce Harper gets injured - ok this is only a mild bit of bad luck because injuries are a thing for Bryce, but he had managed to pl[...]

Monday Quickie - Now you see why Davis pitched 7 outs


While the Nats beaters go down meekly to the back to being all-powerful Dodgers, the Nats themselves must go on. And as the team does, so does the paper of record. Janes managed to put together the 5 biggest offseason questions without actually including the biggest one (extending Bryce). Boz wrote a column about the Nats lacking intangibles that the Cubs have that looks only more ludicrous after a weekend of losing and continued bad managing.   I could pick that column apart but Boz is reeling just as bad as any of you, so I'll pass.* **What we'll do is go through the offseason position discussions again. Probably starting this week. Today though, because some of these decisions may be made sooner rather than later, we'll go over all the free agents the Nats have and what I think will happen with them and why.Dusty Baker - the biggest free agent of all is the manager. While I've made no secret I don't love the Dusty persona as much as most fans (and nearly all media) it is undeniable that Dusty wins games where ever he goes.  It's also undeniable that he doesn't win in the playoffs. Why? I don't know if there is a particularly good reason. I think Dusty is an average tactician so he can get outmanaged, but more often than not it's just the breaks of a short series versus a team of equal talent.I think Dusty will be back because the Nats and Dusty line up really well. Dusty wants to win a World Series so he can make the Hall of Fame. He needs a team that's a good shot to make the playoffs. It's hard to argue that any team is a better shot to do that next year than the Nats. The Nats are all about winning enough to get to the playoffs and using the "quantity, not quality" argument to find themselves in more important playoff rounds. Dusty wins a lot of regular season games.What's the hold up then? Money. That's the only thing that differs between the two. Dusty would of course rather get paid like managers of his record and experience get paid (and probably thinks he deserves a bit more than that). He'd like a contract with some long term assurances. The Nats like to pay their managers around the low end of what managers make and for short term deals so they don't get locked into a Matt Williams situation again (paying a guy not to manage).I expect the Nats to offer Dusty a deal with a modest raise for 1 year with a team option for a 2nd. Does Dusty take it? Well any team likely to make the playoffs and wanting to go further is probably not going to hire Dusty, given his track record. So right away, the teams Dusty would want to be managing to hit his goal are out. That leaves him with teams on the cusp of the playoffs who think Dusty could put them in with a solid regular season. The Mets? The Mariners? The Angels? The Orioles? It would be a gamble for Dusty and a gamble is probably only worth it if one of these teams pays out big time for him. I don't see it happening. So I think Dusty reluctantly signs back on.Jayson Werth - Werth is gone. There's no way around that. With Eaton's return and Zimmerman's resurgance and MAT's... uhhh... "surgance" there isn't a place for Werth on the field. It's possible he could be a bench player but Goodwin showed enough that you'd probably pencil him in as the 4th OF. And we're not even mentioning where Robles ends up (likely AAA but that's not the only development path). No, the team is crowded with OF and the only way you take a Jayson Werth back is in[...]

Lost, goddammit, lost.


Last year I ended up doing a post where I went through any moment I felt was pivotal to that game 5. I feel like if I did it for this game I wouldn't stop writing until next Tuesday. So instead I'm just going to spread the blame around where I feel it needs to go.Worst Player EverMatt Wieters already had an iffy play in the top of the 3rd. With men on 2nd and 3rd and with two-outs Gio threw a pitch that went exactly 60 ft and skidded off the back of the plate. With a man on third a catcher needs to block that pitch and try to keep it in front of him.  Wieters instead reached out with a backhand. It hit his glove/arm and went to the backstop and Contreras scored. This would only be a prelude for things to come. It was supposed to be the inning where the door began to close on the Cubs. Max Scherzer, MAX SCHERZER, was coming out of the pen and he would shut down the Cubs for as long as he could giving the Nats 2 or 3 turns at the plate to expand on their one-run lead. He set down Bryant and Rizzo but then the Cubs got some breaks, an infield single, a bloop right, and a sharp gorund ball down the line to score two. The lead was gone, the momentum was gone, but the Nats were still just a run behind and in this game that didn't feel like anything.  If they could hold them here, at 5-4, surely they could score 1-2 more runs.But they couldn't and the reason why was Matt Wieters. After a couple of errant pitches they decided to walk Heyward and reset. They'd focus on getting out the free-swinging Baez. And Max did it. Struck him out on three pitches. But the third one got away from Matt. It wasn't a particularly tricky pitch. Just a ball in the dirt that a catcher should smother in place. But Wieters stood up, protecting against a crazy high bounce I guess, and the ball went right through his legs. The Cubs scored again.  6-4. Not only that Wieters mailed the ball somewhere to RF allowing the runners to move up. Max would have to bear down again, now facing two runners in scoring position, and on a 1-1 count he got a foul ball that put LaStella behind but wait Wieters wasn't finished. He reached out too far and LaStella's bat caught his glove. Catcher's Interference. Bases loaded. Now Max had no room for error and he made his one true mistake - hitting Jon Jay - to bring in another run. 7-4. The game wasn't over but it sure felt like it to a lot of people.Wieters wasn't done yet. the Nats would come back with two outs in the 6th. They would plate two and Mike Montgomery would IBB Rendon to get to Wieters. Montgomery had already walked one and off of an IBB patience was probably the order of the day. Of course you swing at your pitch but anything close you let slide at first to see if you can't get him into a bad position. Instead Wieters would swing at the first pitch, a fastball high and off the plate, and fly out to RF. A strong hit but not the right move on a 1-0 pitch when literally anything can score a run.Mercifully a double switch would take him out. If this game was normal outside of these instances Wieters would be getting killed today, and maybe he still will be. Second Worst PlayerMomentum is a funny thing. It's an intangible so you can't measure or plan for it, but you sure can feel it when it's there. Gio Gonzalez had already put the Nats behind because of some bad pitching including a Wild Pitch so bad that I can't in any way, shape, or form pin on Wieters[...]