As the ongoing LaRoche drama has stretched to infinity and beyond, this is starting to look like a case of the Nats hoping that there is someone out there who will offer LaRoche a three year deal. That isn't because the Nats wouldn't like to have LaRoche for 2013 or even 2014, but with Morse signed through this coming season, Anthony Rendon working his way through the minors, and Tyler Moore already in the majors the Nats have little to no need of Adam LaRoche. What the Nats do need is minor league talent, and the best way to add minor league talent is through the draft.If the Nats do re-sign LaRoche they will certainly work to trade Morse, but the level of prospects they receive for him will be nowhere close to the talent Mike Rizzo and the Nats scouting department have acquired in the first round of the draft. Simply look at the Nats last two free agents that garnered compensation picks. With Mike Rizzo as the head of scouting and player development the Nats were able to turn the Alfonso Soriano compensation picks into Josh Smoker and Jordan Zimmermann, and while Smoker didn't amount to much Jordan Zimmermann's ability as the Nats third Ace more than makes up for that.Read More
For those unaware a LOOGY is a Lefty One-Out Guy, essentially a left handed reliever whose sole purpose is to come in and get dangerous left handed hitters out in the late innings. Carrying a LOOGY is a fairly common practice in Major League Baseball. Last season the Nationals carried such a pitcher in reliever Michael Gonzalez, who was an excellent .179/.257/.269 against left-handed batters.
This season the Nationals have no such pitcher on the current roster, with only one left-hander, long man Zach Duke, in their bullpen. While many have wondered how they will fix this "problem", such as re-signing Gonzalez before he signed with the Brewers or picking up free agent JP Howell, many have ignored that there is no problem at all. The Nationals have no need for a LOOGY.Read More
As I continue to work on a large an unannounced project I continue to write about how Zimmerman is currently the face of the franchise, but that 2013 may be his last season with that title. Younger pieces with higher upside have arrived on the team and 2013 could be the first of many seasons in which their greatness not only outshines their veteran teammates, but all of baseball. Don't believe me. Take a look at the ZiPS projections for the Washington Nationals.
It is noted in the body of the article that one of Bryce Harper's top comps is Barry Bonds, and if you cruise further down to the charts Strasburg's top comp is Roger Clemens. Let that just soak in for a second. The best pitcher and the best hitter of the last generation are good comps for two players on the Washington Nationals. For his career Barry Bonds hit .298/.444/.607, and as otherworldly as those numbers are in his best season he hit .362/.609/.812. That happened to be at the age of 39 and in the midst of the steroid scandal, but still. His SLG that season was a good OPS. Roger Clemens finished his career with a 3.12 ERA, but beyond that he had the lowest ERA in baseball for seven seasons and three of those times his ERA was 2.05 or less.Read More
As my wife and I were driving home from my family's Christmas Eve we had a brief discussion about the Washington Nationals. My main thought that led to the conversation was that what the Nats are about to do will be remembered. For the next few seasons the Nationals are going to be a very good team. They may or may not win a championship but that doesn't matter that much. No one will forget the mid-90's Indians that included Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Jim Thome, and that team failed to win a World Series.
My thought here was that Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, and all them will be memorable players, but they are also good players. Not that long ago the Washington Nationals was often the last MLB stop in a players career, and while some pride themselves on remembering names like Anderson Hernandez, Junior Spivey, and Alex Cintron they aren't memorable players. It is hard to think of any moment or play they were involved in.Read More
As this is a relatively slow period in the news cycle for major league teams, and all the Nats are doing is either waiting on or trying to force an answer from LaRoche depending on who you read, I have decided to get a bit creative. I am certain we all remember what the big story of 2012 was for the Washington Nationals, and if you don't, welcome to the fan base. Nothing was more talked about with the Nationals and perhaps all of baseball then the Strasburg shutdown. There were basically three camps; no innings limits ever this is the Nats one shot, the Nats are doing the right thing, and those that believed in the innings limit but wanted the Nats to find another way.
One idea that was heavily bandied about was that the Nats should have started Strasburg a month later. I want to imagine that that is what the Nats did decide to do and that the following is a column that appeared in reaction to that decision.Read More
One of the big reasons constantly heard for why the Nats need to bring back LaRoche is that he is a middle of the order lefty power bat. That is one of those baseball axioms that sounds true, but may not be so true when the numbers are examined closer. Point in fact for his career Michael Morse against right handed pitchers has hit .292/.343/.487 compared to the left handed LaRoche who has hit .274/.348/.495. Morse is slightly better at hitting for average while they both get on base at the same rate and LaRoche has slightly more power, but overall the numbers are very close.
The staggering thing with all this is the assumption is that left handed batters are so much better against right handed pitchers that a predominately lefty line-up is preferred to a predominately right handed one. But against left handed pitchers Adam LaRoche has hit .250/.305/.445 while Morse has hit .303/.357/.503. While there wasn't much difference between Morse and LaRoche against right handed batters there is a huge difference in them against left handed batters. The power is still their for LaRoche, but he is both hitting for average and getting on base at a rate below league average.
There seems to exist among some, astonishment as to why the Nationals would not make a qualifying offer to Edwin Jackson as he was obviously going to be seeking a multi-year deal. As talks have ramped up between he and the Cubs for a 4 year $52 million deal the masses continue to be perplexed. Baseball is not complicated. It is much closer to connect the dots than rocket science. So, why might the Washington Nationals not be willing to offer Edwin Jackson a qualifying offer?
Beginning with the facts as known to us, the first and primary thing to do is to forget about any subsequent offers that came in for the services of Edwin Jackson. At the time the qualifying offer had to be made he was the sole property of the Washington Nationals and unable to negotiate with any other organizations. Upon laying $13.3 million in front of Edwin Jackson there existed a fear among those in the Nationals organization that Jackson would accept. This fear existed because a year earlier Jackson turned down multi-year offers from the Orioles and Pirates in order to play for the Nationals.
Aaron Fitt of Baseball America has his list of the Washington Nationals top ten prospects up and the top three should be no surprise. Anthony Rendon tops the list with Lucas Giolito and Brian Goodwin following. All three of them have high upside and a chance to be stars in the majors. Rendon will likely be the first to arrive if the Nationals have a spot for him. The list is an interesting collection of players and the article that accompanies it is a good read. Instead of me telling you anymore about it read it yourself.
All of the focus of the Nationals off-season and what is left to do has been on Adam LaRoche, and while signing him or not signing him will have the biggest impact on the team moving forward the Nationals do have another need. In 2012 the Washington Nationals bullpen ranked fourteenth in baseball with 3.3 fWAR. There is some question as to how effective a stat like WAR is in measuring relievers as it heavily weights innings pitched. By all measures the Nationals had better relievers than the Rockies, but because the Rockies relievers pitched so many more innings than the rest of baseball they finished second in fWAR.
By the rate state of ERA the Nationals had the seventh best bullpen in the majors and by FIP the twelfth. Moving forward into 2013 there are questions about the Nationals bullpen. Gone from last year's squad are Sean Burnett, Tom Gorzelanny, and Mike Gonzalez. While Gorzelanny or Gonzalez could be brought back to join Zach Duke as the lefties in the pen, that is unlikely. The Nationals have been tied heavily to JP Howell but until a deal happens nothing can be assumed. As it stands right now the Nationals bullpen lines up with Storen, Clippard, Stammen, Duke, Mattheus, Bray, and Henry Rodriguez.
The one big off-season issue that the Washington Nationals continue to face is what to do with Adam LaRoche. It has been made very clear during the off-season that LaRoche is seeking a three year deal while the Nationals are unwilling to give it, and the 2013 free agent market has made it clear that if Marco Scutaro is worth a three year deal then Adam LaRoche should be as well. The real issue facing Adam LaRoche is that aren't that many places that want him. LaRoche wants to be a National and the Nationals would like him back on their terms. No other team has really jumped into the LaRoche market and the Nationals are leaning on the option of playing Michael Morse at first if LaRoche walks.
There are those that look at Morse and LaRoche and the fact that if you remove the partial year LaRoche played and 2011 in which he missed almost the entire season then LaRoche has averaged 2.5 fWAR a season while as a National, Morse has averaged 1.6. That is the difference of roughly one win and to be fair to Morse he did have a 3.3 fWAR season in the one year he managed to be fully healthy, but that is the issue with Morse. In eight major league seasons he has had over 500 plate appearances once while Adam LaRoche has done it in all but the season he was first called up and 2011.
I'm admittedly not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to international free agency. If the Nats had given a sliver of effort in chasing IFAs since Smileygate went down, I may have shown some effort following IFAs myself. My interest level did bump up a little bit just now, though, as the Nationals have signed 16 year old Dominican 3B Neivy Pilier/Nievi Pelier (I'm sticking with Neivy Pilier for now) for $225,000 (the most they've given to an IFA since Smileygate).
Pilier is certainly an interesting prospect. DPLBaseball.com described him in October as a "solid bat with occasional power, defensive skills and arm strength" and today as a "hard nose (sic) player with game instincts...(with) raw power and shows signs that average game power will come with development." DPL Baseball goes on to note that Pilier is only average with the glove, but has a very good arm, so he should be able to play the corners in both the infield and outfield as he develops. Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball put Pilier close to the end of his 2012 MLB International Preview (61st out of 66 names), but it's always better to be low on the list than not there at all.
Jayson Werth's first two seasons with the Washington Nationals have been disappointing for one reason or another. In 2011 Werth did not perform up to the expectations set by his massive contract and in 2012 he was injured for a majority of the season. When Werth was on the field in 2012 he was the Jayson Werth the Nats expected they would be getting. His .827 OPS in 2012 is close to his career average of .824 and if Werth can stay on the field for the 2013 season and perform to that level then the Nats will get some improvement from the position.
The big question facing the Nationals and Jayson Werth is: what exactly will his role be with the 2013 Nationals? With Denard Span in the fold there is no longer a reason for Werth to lead-off, but dependent upon the signing or non-signing of LaRoche the Nats may want Werth to remain at the top of the order and bat second, a role he faltered in in 2011. As the number two hitter in 2011 Werth batted .222/.327/.389 compared to .256/.346/.419 in his more comfortable fifth spot.
Before the off-season began Michael Bourn was linked to the Nationals more than any other player. The Nats needed to improved their outfield defense and were still looking for someone to lead-off. When it came to free agents Bourn was that guy, but as the off-season has dragged on and the Nationals traded for Span, the Phillies for Revere, the Giants signed Pagan, and the Reds traded for Choo…the Bourn market is quickly evaporating.
As the market for Bourn vanishes he may employ a tact used by other Boras clients and look for a one year pillow deal and hit the free agent market again next season. If this is indeed what happens then the Atlanta Braves suddenly make a lot of sense for Michael Bourn. Sure they signed BJ Upton but it isn't written into his contract that he has to play center and an outfield of Upton, Bourn, Heyward would be the best defensive outfield in baseball.
While everyone else in the world is excited for the holiday season baseball fans are waiting for February for pitchers and catchers to report and beyond that April 1 when the real game begin. All this off-season stuff is nice and all, but April 1 is when we start to find out if the Royals truly are contenders or if all the money the Dodgers spent is going to help them pass the Giants. It is even worse if you are a fan of a team like the Washington Nationals. In years past their would be a segment of Nats fans looking at a deal like the one for Kevin Correia and lamenting the fact the Nationals didn't think of it first.
Those days are gone. The Nationals don't need to make any moves. They would like to bring back LaRoche, trade Morse, and bring in a lefty reliever, but they don't need to. Using the career average fWARs for the Nats current projected 25 man roster if the Nats went into the season with their current roster they would duplicate last season's win total of 98 games. That is without the defense of LaRoche, and since WAR is based on playing time, accounting for injuries. The Nationals have a contending and possible World Series roster as it stands right now, and that means the rest of this off-season is going to be very boring.