Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Matt Stairs stole 2 bases last season? How the hell does that even happen, unless Hideo Nomo is pitching out of the wind-up?

Matt Stairs!!!!


Seriously, when Stairs played for the A's in 1998, he had the sweetest swing in baseball. Sharp, compact, balls just shot off his bat into the cavernous right-center alley in the Coliseum. However, with the body Matt Stairs was given (makes Tony Gwynn look svelte), there isn't much more to his game. He is also about 100 years old and unlikely to make the team, but a fun name to kick around training camp and see if he has another season of late inning at bats in the tank.

Monday, December 13, 2010

If Not Lee, Then Who?

OK, so what would the Nationals Opening Day rotation look like if the season started January 1st?

Well, Jordan Zimmermann is health, and we will assume the same for John Lannan and Jason Marquis. I though Marquis could be a mildly intriguing trade chip at the Winter Meetings if the Nats played up his second half numbers. However, Rizzo likes his groundballers and wasn't going to mail-in his first major signing as a failure.

2) Zimmermann
3) Lannan
4) Marquis

OK, so some in-house candidates to fill in that five-hole are Yunesky Maya, Luis Atilano, and Craig Stammen. I doubt JD Martin figures into the equation anymore, as the front office treated him as an afterthought despite league average numbers. The Pirates took Scott Olsen off the scrap heap, so that is one less headache. The Nats really do not have another farmhand ready to step in and contribute, so unless they bring back Hernandez for another dance (which wouldn't be the worst thing), these are the applicants.

Maya, despite the investment, projects more as a reliever in the long run. The Nats will try to recoup by giving him every opportunity to succeed, but until he moves into that 7th or 8th inning role, expect him to be plagued with inconsistency injuries, but the promise that if he puts it all together, he could be a good #2 or #3 starter.

Stammen seems to have accepted his fate as the team's new Jason Bergmann: too good to pitch in the minor leagues, but not good enough to be anything but the big club's emergency punching bag. He just cannot keep the plane of his fastball down long enough to string together a month of good starts. He also seems to be nibbling more and more and finding himself behind in counts, never good for a starting pitcher.

Atilano has a similar game to Stammen, but more options and fewer gopherballs. If he wins the job out of camp, good for him. If he gets it by default, uh oh.

The #1 guy is a little bit more tricky. There are no in-house candidate with elbows fully intact. Cliff Lee was a wet dream as the Yankees and Rangers have everything to lose by not acquiring his services. The Nats do not have the minor league depth to really go get Zack Grienke or Matt Garza, but they have inflated the market to force those two teams to extend or trade those players at or below market value. The Werth deal is terrible from a cost per win standpoint, but not so bad if they can land Garza or Grienke at sixty percent what Lee gets on the open market.

If the Nats want to roll the dice on other free-agent pitchers, Brandon Webb, Rich Harden and Ben Sheets are fascinating and volatile reclamation projects. Both Harden and Sheets were awful last season, and Webb has been shutdown so long Rizzo may be the only guy who still knows he is out there. Harden was destined to get destroyed in Arlington, and there is no way the Rangers will exercise his option. Sheets should have fared better in Oakland, but never turned the corner. Carl Pavano is slightly safer, but doesn't offer #1 potential. Brad Penny is probably out of gas, but somebody will kick the tires. Everybody else out there is #3 potential as well as quality, and probably not worth the 5 million it would take to sign them.

The conclusion? Much like the first base situation, only a few people in the front office are navigating the smoke and mirrors. 2011 is likely another rebuilding season, so they may not want invest in a one year deal for #1 money, but settling for a #3 like Jeff Francis. After watch Wang rehab all season, the Nats are likely staying off the reclamation projects, so expect a trade or a minor signing. 2011 is more about finding competent corner outfielders and growing the young talent up the middle. If it gets them to .500, good work.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adam LaRoche Thoughts

Honestly, I don't remember much of Adam LaRoche hitting 32 bombs for the 2006 Braves, or much about the 2006 Braves at all. Tim Hudson had the worst season of his career, well, except for the time he blew out his elbow. Andruw Jones had emerged as a Hall of Famer... Chipper Jones hit the DL three times in what could have been an MVP caliber season... Brian McCann came out of nowhere as the next Johnny Bench... and Adam LaRoche hit 32 home runs.

He has since bounced around the league, a first base stop gap for flawed (or bad) teams. And maybe that is why the Nats didn't push for Dunn, didn't push for Pena. Maybe they don't want a flashy free agent first baseman. With all the chips they threw at Werth (my god), you would think they may want to more evenly distribute the wealth. But this looks more of getting a steady clubhouse guy who will sign for just under market value. LaRoche does that. He doesn't have the ceiling of some of the other guys on the market, but he certainly will not bottom out. Much like the Hammer, he puts up a consistent line.

The only problem is that there are other teams out there who will probably far over bid for his services (Baltimore?) and the Nats will have to move to Plan @.

I have seen LaRoche hit bombs in person, but cannot for the life of me get out the perception that he is a glorified #6 hitter.

Monday, December 6, 2010

7 and 126?

If those numbers sound familiar, you are not alone. Those are the exact terms to which Barry Zito agreed in 2007, mind you Zito was two years younger and not far removed from winning a Cy Young award. And the mockery both Zito and the Giants have taken for the deal has only been quelled by their overachieving bunch exorcising those demons and bringing home a world championship... it should be noted that they won that title without Zito on the roster.

Werth isn't a terrible player. Neither is Barry Zito. Werth was miscast as a future star before he was ready. Baseball is funny like that, as players drafted straight out high school with hype often disappear into the minor league abyss before reemerging as a completely different player. Werth showed his five-tool abilities in the Blue Jays system, but those teams were clinging to the notion that they were a couple breaks away from competing in the AL East. He was traded to the Dodgers and, for a number of reasons, never emerged as the top 100 prospect they thought they were acquiring. The offensive numbers are somewhat misleading, playing in the NL West, but after a few hundred at bats and no more options, the Dodgers let him go. The Phillies, having just dealt away Bobby Abreu and unconvinced Shane Victorino could be an everyday play, took a chance. Playing in a hitters' park, surrounded by Utley, Howard, and later Ibanez, Jayson Werth has crushed the ball.

Jayson Werth has been a 5-win player through his prime years and probably has 1-2 5 wins seasons in him, assuming his defensive dip last season was just noise. But over the next 7 seasons? It would be foolish to expect Werth to contribute more than 3 wins average per season over the next five, with increased risk of injury. A 7-year contract to a 29 year-old center fielder would be considered foolish, even to a team with the resources of the Yank/Sox. But a 31 year-old corner outfielder? Much like the contract Ryan Howard received, it isn't an albatross until the numbers drop.

I wasn't at the winter meetings, so I have no idea what the large market was for Werth's skill set. Carl Crawford is younger, facing stiffer competition, and probably should have driven the market. Overpaying for Werth now, unless it is a move to gain a competitive advantage acquiring Cliff Lee or Zack Grienke, is absolutely foolish with Crawford available to leverage. The Nats were not going to overpay for Dunn's skillset with the market flush with first basemen.

In closing, Jayson Werth is a very good player. He is not a GREAT player, though. At no time would he have been considered one of the three best players on his own team. The Nationals, however, have committed to him as such for the next seven seasons. It is a dangerous proposition and could be rationalized for a three to five year deal, but not seven... never seven. Just like Barry Zito was a very good pitcher, he was never GREAT.

* Some people may liken this more to Vernon Wells, but to me, this is the only Vernon Wells.