When all factors are considered Angel Pagan could be the best signing made this off-season. There are many outfielders that teams will value more than Angel Pagan, but those players are either going to get long expensive multi-year deals or tear a farm system apart. Pagan is going to get nowhere near the contracts handed out to Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino, Josh Hamilton, or BJ Upton and he costs nothing in prospects like Justin Upton, Denard Span, or Alex Gordon might. The signing of Pagan is the definition of a stop gap.
Pagan is coming off a good season for the World Champion San Francisco Giants and is going to want to cash in, but with the vast number of outfield options available this off-season Pagan could end up being plan B or C for many teams, and this creates the possibility to snag him before the bidding wars find him. While teams are fighting over the more expensive options a smart team will swoop in and sign Pagan for a two year contract in the teens with either a vesting or mutual option for a third season. Pagan will then reward that team with steady production in centerfield while their prospects develop.
It hasn't taken long for the hot stove to heat up and the rumor mill to start turning. It was known long before now that the Angels were unlikely to pick up Dan Haren's option, but yesterday it broke that they will try and trade him before the date they have to make a decision on his option arrives. To a lot of people it doesn't make sense to trade for a player that is about to hit the free agent market anyway, but if you think a little deeper it makes a lot of sense.
With the option Haren is basically going to be on a one year $15.5 million deal. After a down year teams might be reluctant to invite Haren in on a long term deal and if they trade for him it prevents any type of biding war from developing. $15.5 million is a lot of money for a one year deal for the 1.8 fWAR pitcher that Dan Haren was in 2012, but it is a great deal for the 4.4 or 6.1 fWAR pitcher Haren was in 2010 and 2011. For teams with money it could be worth the risk and because it is known that he is likely to be a free agent in a week it isn't going to take a lot in prospects to get him.
This past weekend there were rumors that the Royals were scouting James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners ahead of a potential trade for a hitter. One of the names that came up on the Royals side was Alex Gordon. A Seattle/Kansas City trade holds little interest for Nationals fans, but Alex Gordon is someone who could help the Nationals. Trading young players with years of control left on their contract is becoming the new way that small markets build, but I have to admit I am not sure a minor league starting pitcher who pitched at most 106 1/3 innings last season with a AA BB/9 of 4.1 is worth a .269/.348/.439 left fielder.
What Nats fans can figure out from the rumors of Paxton for Gordon is what it might take for the Nationals to get Alex Gordon. In a world that made sense it would take a package along the lines of Danny Espinosa, Tyler Moore, and Alex Meyer, but we do not happen to live in a world that makes sense and with a known price to beat the Nationals can take Espinosa out of the deal and if the Royals still want a 2B they can offer Lombardozzi instead. Moore would give the Royals an outfield replacement for Gordon that will be cheaper for longer and may not provide much loss in power. Meyer then would be the pitching prospect in lieu of James Paxton.
This is a move that cannot be viewed in a vacuum. If the Nationals are making a trade for Price or Shields it is because they have either retained the services of Adam LaRoche or have signed an outfielder to replace his bat in the line-up. This move may also facilitate a follow-up move. It can be assured that in any trade discussions Danny Espinosa's name will come up and in order to secure a player like Price he will need to be moved. The 2013 free agent second base class is a scary place with the best names being Kelly Johnson and Marco Scutaro. Both might be better back-ups to Steve Lombardozzi than they would be starters.
It is important to consider what a trade for either Shields or Price would look like since either very likely costs at least one MLB player. The Rays need hitting. They scored the fourth fewest runs in the AL and lack depth at short, catcher, first, and corner outfield. What the Rays do have is pitching, and what they don't have is money. Despite winning 90 games and contending for the entire season the Rays finished at the bottom of the AL in attendance. With Price going through the arbitration process after a Cy Young worthy season and Shield's team options starting to get expensive the Rays are entering a crisis point where it might be too expensive to hang onto both.
Josh Hamilton should be the big offensive target of this off-season, and much like Pujols or Fielder in the previous off-season who is currently on the roster should matter little. The Nationals do not have a player close to the offensive caliber of Josh Hamilton. Hamilton is a difference maker in the middle of the order. Furthermore he is what Bryce Harper could develop into, and who better for Harper to learn his offensive approach from than the player he is most often compared to.
The fact remains though that even if LaRoche and Morse are both on the roster at the time Hamilton is signed he is taking one of their spots, and the odd man out is more than likely to be Michael Morse. Hamilton played the majority of his innings in centerfield this past season and his -26.3 UZR/150 speaks to the fact that it is time for him to move permanently to a corner position, and on the Washington Nationals that would be left field.
Everyone knows the story of Zack Greinke and the Nationals. Around about the 2011 off-season Mike Rizzo had a deal worked out or close with Dayton Moore and the Roayls to acquire Greinke for Espinosa, Zimmermann, Storen, and Norris. Greinke ended up using his no trade clause because he wanted to go to a team closer to winning. Greinke ended up pitching for the Brewers in 2011 and 2012 going to the NLCS in 2011 before being traded at the deadline to the Angels in 2012.
The Nationals did try and pay Greinke to waive his no trade clause. The deal was reported to be between $80-90 million and for around six years. The deal Greinke gets this off-season should be higher than that. This is a 29 year old who has pitched over 200 innings in four of the past five seasons and pitched 171 2/3 innings in that one season. Years ago Greinke struggled with depression and anxiety issues, but those are a thing of the past and he has been nothing but productive in recent seasons.
I have not talked to a single Nats fan who is mad at Drew Storen. I believe most of us saw the picture of him slumped over, dejected, staring into darkness at his locker after blowing the save and the game in the final game of the Nats NLDS series against the Cardinals. Interesting fact about Drew Storen that was the first time since September 19, 2010 that Storen entered the ninth inning with the Nats having the lead and the inning ended with them down.
That game on September 19 is the one in which Storen's now teammate Jayson Werth hit a walk-off homer off of Storen. Storen responded in Spring Training by throwing at Werth during live BP. Drew Storen is hard on himself, but he isn't one to let a situation consume him. There were 118 games Storen appeared in between the Werth walk-off and the Game 5 disaster. Drew Storen didn't enter the ninth inning ahead in all those games, but that is still a lot of appearances for a closer to make without blowing a game.
At some point it will be said to be wary of paying a player big money when coming off a career year. The fact is that LaRoche isn't coming off of a career year. He is coming off a very good year, but not a career year. In 2006 LaRoche hit .285/.354/.561 compared to .271/.343/.510 in 2012. Both are very good years, but the career year is 2006. Regardless of the falseness of 2012 being LaRoche's career year he still shouldn't be paid like a player that can continently put up those types of numbers. That isn't Adam LaRoche.
There is little mystery to Adam LaRoche and that is why he is valuable. In five out of ten seasons LaRoche has played at least 145 games and in seven out of ten of them at least 130. LaRoche does miss some time, but in only 2011 was it major time. LaRoche for his career has hit .268/.338/.482 and in most seasons is somewhere around that mark. Then it would stand to reason that what the Nationals would be paying for is a decent offensive player that can play excellent defense at first.
The true legacy of the Strasburg shutdown was shutting down an unforgettably beautiful season, leaving a legacy that tastes worse than chewing on dry aspirin. --Dave Zirin
If you have been following the Nationals this season you knew this was coming. As soon as game five was over and the Nationals had failed to advance to the second round it was bound to happen. There had already been echoes during the series when Ken Rosenthal wrote that an unnamed National volunteered to him that if the Nats had Strasburg they would be up 2-0 in the series. With the Nationals then losing the series many got the story they wanted. Some even went so far as to say the true legacy of the Strasburg shutdown was one of failure.
To even make a claim that any legacy exist is missing the point of the Strasburg shutdown. Strasburg wasn't shutdown because the Nats are some arrogant school yard bully trying to prove a point. The Strasburg shutdown plan was put in place the moment it was known he would need Tommy John's surgery. It is the same plan the Nationals used with Jordan Zimmermann, and while it isn't certain that this will prevent any type of injury to Strasburg it limits the risk. This was never a decision for the present it was one for the future.
It was just last season that this discussion focused around Ian Desmond and his place as a slightly below average major league short stop with the chance to be an average to above average short stop with some minor development. That certainly changed this past season as Desmond broke out and posted the highest fWAR for NL short stops. Danny Espinosa is in a bit of a different situation but is being treated the same by some around Natstown.
This morning I turned on my radio out of curiosity because a local sports talk host tweeted that he would be discussing the Nats make over. Now I don't believe the Nats need a make over. The team won 98 games and will see improvement from Harper, Strasburg, Storen, Werth, and Ramos playing fuller seasons, and even that is weird to say of a 98 win team. There should be some regression expected from guys like Gio Gonzalez and Ian Desmond who had career years, but most of the Nationals position players lost at least a month to injury. Health alone will make the Nationals a better team.