Monday, January 19, 2015

Hot Stove Update: Nationals Sign Scherzer

SABR enthusiasts like to talk about a future "perfect storm" team that has elite financial resources and makes use of statistical analysis to leverage those resources into an imagined perfect team that crushes everything in its path and dominates MLB for years if not decades.  While those SABR enthusiasts are busy dreaming about future juggernauts in Los Angeles and Chicago, the Washington Nationals, while maybe not fitting the ideal SABR model of doing business, are combining great baseball decisions with financial muscle and creating a team that outclasses everybody else, at least on paper.  Before last night, the Nationals were looking at a starting rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Tanner Roark.  That is already one of the best rotations in all of baseball, maybe even THE best.  Then, the Nationals signed Max Scherzer to a 7 year/$180 M contract.  Holy moly!  The deal does not even put them into the Luxury Tax range!

This deal is not about 2015, though.  The Nationals ran away with the NL East last year and the rest of the division did not get any stronger this offseason.  The Nationals also did not lose in the playoffs because they did not have enough starting pitching.  Just ask Jordan Zimmermann!  The Nationals are approaching a crossroads that often trips up teams who think they are set up to be dynasties in that several of their key young players are approaching free agency and several of them are Scott Boras clients.  The Scherzer signing, while extremely expensive, gives the Nationals options for the future.  They can trade a Zimmermann or Fister or even Stephen Strasburg for even more young, inexpensive talent and still have a great rotation left over.  On the other hand, they can keep Zimm and Fister for another season and just move Roark into a Yusmeiro Petit role in the bullpen.  What I really like about what the Nationals are doing is the methodical way they are proactively addressing each potential loss to free agency to continue being an elite team into the foreseeable future.

They did that once already this offseason by acquiring Ian Desmond's eventual replacement at SS in Trea Turner.  They have a well stocked farm system led by a couple of high ceiling pitchers in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez and that does not count Erick Fedde who was their first round draft pick in 2014.  They have OF replacements lined up for Denard Span who is a FA after 2015.  The Nationals are just in really good shape for the future.

Of course, things can still go wrong.  The history of big, longterm contracts for pitchers is known more for its negative outcomes than positives.  Prized draft picks from the past who have turned into young stars, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, are about to become extremely expensive with no guarantees they will stay in Washington at any price.  Their many pitchers who have undergone TJ surgery could start having recurrences of their UCL tears.  And having the best team on paper does not guarantee postseason success as the Nationals already know all too well.  But for now, wow!  The Nationals look like the best team in baseball, now and going forward.

22 comments:

  1. Yeah, kinda amazing what the Nats have. They have been crazy good with the draft, through both circumstance and scouting:

    Track it back to the 2008 draft when they didn't sign Crow.

    2009, Strausberg & Storen (compensation for Crow).
    2010 Harper.
    2011 Anthony Rendon.
    2012 Lucas Giolito looks like he's going to be very, very good.

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  2. Impressive signing. I think only injuries and contract $$$ to the next round of FA will derail this team. Plus I think Williams learned something about managing in the post season from Bochy. Dangerous team the next two years.

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  3. Nice. We just moved up a spot to #18.

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    1. 1 slot in the draft can be a big deal. Think Michael Wacha vs Chris Stratton.

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    2. That is what I thought too. Second round would move up maybe?

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  4. BA is reporting that the Giants have held a private workout for Yoan Moncada. They are also reporting that the Giants OWNERSHIP is pushing to become more active on the Cuban front! Now THAT is really big news as a Moncada signing would have to involve an ownership decision to use WS windfall and possibly RDF money to get it done.

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    1. Do you really think the Giants can outbid the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers for him?

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    2. The definitely can if they want to. It all comes down to what ownership wants to do with their money. The Giants have plenty of it!

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    3. It will be a lot easier if Moncada isn't cleared by June 15. Then the Red Sox and Dodgers can't bid on him.

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    4. I assume Moncada will be cleared by the State Department before June 15, but it does seem to be taking longer than I thought it would. Yoan Lopez already cleared.

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    5. Well said: "It all comes down to what the ownership wants to do with their money."
      It seems that people with a lot of money are smarter making it than spending it, so there's a chance.

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    6. Up to now, Giants ownership has been unusually disciplined, as opposed to penurious, with their spending on the team. There is precedent for them goosing interest in the team by signing a big name. Barry Bonds transformed the franchise, Barry Zito did not, although in the end, the Zito contract was strangely successful.

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    7. If we do end up signing Moncada, where will we play him? The hot corner in 2016? Center Field when Pagan's contract is over.

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    8. I would say if he does not stick at SS, other IF spots would be a waste of his tremendous speed, so CF. On the other hand, 3B is a harder position to fill than CF.

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    9. Egads, he's only a year older than my youngest...

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    10. I can't think of a more unlikely expenditure of SFG ownership's money than Moncada. Yes, they have laid out big money on a single player in the past, but those were proven big league players (and where did that get them?). Sure this guy is the most likely next superstar to come along, but it isn't a guarantee and who wants to give that kind of money to a guy who might be an average player? Big gambling like this just isn't their modus operandi. I am very suspicious of the BA's report that the ownership is very interested in Cuban talent, when have they been vocal when it comes to any player acquisition? Why would they push for getting a guy with no name recognition? That would just mean they have to spend money to promote him to the majority of their customers who aren't as into baseball as we are. Although I'd be very excited to see them sign him, I'd be very suspect about the repercussions with regards to the rest of the budget. I know this sounds cynical (and I'm not calling them cheap), but I believe they have done this just to drive up the cost for other teams. Also, it doesn't hurt to look like they are trying to get better. I'm not getting my hopes up and neither should anyone else.

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    11. It would certainly represent a sea change in philosophy, but you have to think the Giants are absolutely swimming in money and maybe ownership is more fanboy than we have thought. We'll see, but I wrote a whole past awhile back on why I thought it was unlikely that the Giants would sign Moncada and all those factors are still true.

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  5. Since the Nats have 6 starters now, what's the possibility we trade for Roark. Maybe Crick and a bullpen arm?

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    1. I would say not gonna happen. Nationals don't really need anything and can use Roark in the bullpen themselves. They will hang onto him for next year when 2 of their starters become FA's.

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  6. I want Moncada, Doc what are the rules with these IFA and how long will he be under team control, or is there no team control outside of the contract. Signing tax and how it affects the luxury tax?

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    1. OK, great questions, RBJ! Standard IFA amateur signing. 5 years protection from Rule 5, 3 options, 6 years of team control after reaching MLB. 100% tax on overage over international bonus pool. Essentially will cost twice his signing bonus. In next signing period, no IFA FA's for more than $300 K. Does NOT count toward Luxury Tax.

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