Monday, April 14, 2014

Replay Ball!!!!!

So we have two weeks of the baseball season in the books, which is definitely a large enough sample to effectively evaluate the impact of the new replay rules.

As I am sure that you know, the 2014 MLB season allows for replay to be used to review questionable calls by the field umpires.

I won't bore you with all of the rules, they can be found by clicking here, but I will tell you that we have already had controversy.

To completely understand how replay came to be, we should explore the path that brought us here, and that path begins in 1987.

1987 was an incredible year.  President Reagan told Mikhail Gorbachev to "Tear down that wall!", AZT was approved by the FDA for use in the treatment oh AIDS/HIV, Michael Jackson released the album Bad,  and The Simpson's first appeared on television as a short during the Tracy Ullman Show.

The world mourned the following people in 1987; Andy Warhol, Danny Kaye, Woody Hayes, Liberace, Rita Hayworth, Fred Astaire, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin, and.....these people were born; Ke$ha, Ellen Page, Bow Wow, Joss Stone, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Justin Upton, Hilary Duff,  Zac Efron, Colin Kaepernick, and Snooki.

Everyone set out to Walk Like an Egyptian on their way to see The Oscar winning film, The Last Emperor and the Giants (NFL), the Twins, the Oilers (NHL), the Lakers, Hoosiers, Hurricanes, Mike Tyson, and Sugar Ray Leonard were all Champs.

Michael Jordan was still three years away from winning an NBA championship, in the NHL there were North Stars, Whalers and Nordiques, over in the NFL these teams existed;  Houston Oilers, LA Rams, and St. Louis Cardinals, and the number one overall picks in each draft were as follows; Vinny Testaverde, Pierre Turgeon, Ken Griffey Jr. and David Robinson.

But the number one life changer/deal breaker in 1987 came from Hollywood.

Arnie Schmidt scraped together $13M (or roughly what Clayton Kershaw pays for a haircut) and made a movie called Robocop.  This sci-fi thriller about a Detroit Cop who gets shot and is brought back to life as a half man, half robot cop, captivated the attention of Americans everywhere. (There were 2 sequels, video games, and a remake).   

This concept was not so outlandish because just three years earlier we watched as Arnold Schwarzenegger come back to the present after a war broke out between humans and machines as an 800 series Terminator, and we all certainly remember that the six-million dollar man was part machine making him faster, stronger, and better. (six million, wow, that's a coffee table at Albert Pujols' house) 

So instant replay in baseball is just another step in the direction of machines taking over the world.  We will soon see automatic strike zones, laser pointed fair and foul calls, automated cleaning of the plate, the whole nine yards, and it will suck.

This is not new folks, back in the 1960's Major League Baseball actually experimented with robot umpires as proven by historycomestolife on You Tube. Watch now! 

The plain and simple truth is that the human element is one of the most endearing parts of baseball.  The umpire turns his back to the field to clean the plate so that he doesn't put is rump in display of the paid attendance, the catcher learns to "frame pitches" making balls look like strikes, phantom tags, traps, balks and appeals are all part of the storied history of the game.  If they all go away, what will we have to argue about.

As of Sunday April 13th there have been 84 plays challenged with 28 of them overturned and still at least 3 blown after review.  This system makes the games last longer which in turn makes them harder to attract the casual fans, and it the delays significantly impact the flow of the game.

Take a look at this video, for if we continue to progress at this rate, you will never see anything like this again.

So ask yourself this very telling question, is it a coincidence that Robocop was remade and released in 2014?  The same year that MLB approved replay.  HMMMMMMM!

The only redeeming part of instant replay in baseball is that we can finally see replays on the jumbo-tron.  Nuff said!

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jerry Blevins: Have the Nationals Finally Replaced Sean Burnette?

Jerry Blevins is the latest refugee to come to Washington from War torn O-Town.  Blevins comes to Washington via a trade which sent minor-leaguer Billy Burns out west allowing for this 30 year old specialist to bring his left arm to the nations capital.

Here is the scouting report on Blevins from

Jerry Blevins / LHP / reliever
Blevins has a solid four-pitch repertoire for a reliever. His fastball seems to rise as it approaches home plate and he owns a big breaking curve that he can drop in for strikes. Blevins spins a glove side slider to LHs and pulls the string on a changeup to RHs. Blevins pitched collegiately at Dayton. 4/6/11
[fastball(88-92), curve(70-74), changeup(79-82), slider(83)]
Jerry saw action in 67 games last year going 5-0 with and ERA of 3.15 and a WHIP of 1.067.  He brings with him 3 playoff appearances and in those outings he surrendered only one hit in 3.2 innings pitched.

Blevins moves to the National league after playing the previous 7 seasons in the Junior Circuit and has compiled one career at bat.  Sadly, Jerry struck out in is only plate appearance.  Perhaps he can trade that bat for an actual uniform when he gets to Florida. (email) or
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Meet Doug Fister: Newest Member Of The Washington Nationals Rotation
Doug Fister will be 30 when he arrives in Florida to make his debut as a Washington National, making him the most senior member of the Washington Nationals starting rotation. 

To say Fister is in his prime is actually a gross understatement and his transition to the NL East should bode well for him, much in the way that it has for Gio.

Although the Nationals have fared worse at the plate than the Tigers of late, the defense in Washington's infield is certainly an up-grade.  With Adam LaRoche's gold glove over at first and All-Stars Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond covering the right side, fewer ground balls should leak through for hits.  This will definitely support lower ERA and WHIP numbers for the newcomer.  

Fister stands at an imposing 6'8" and throws in the low 90's with a deceiving curve ball that draws strikes a rate of over 43%.  His arsenal also includes a nasty cutter and a change-up.  Oh, and he eats innings, surpassing 200 in two of his five Major League seasons.

Fister began his career in Seattle, was traded to Detroit during the 2011 season, and lands in Washington after celebrating his best season in 2013 going 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 32 starts.

Not only does Fister bring maturity to the mound, but he has some desperately needed experience.  Doug Fister has pitched in eight post-season games compiling a 3-2 record with a post-season ERA of 2.98.

And tough, check out Fister getting drilled with a come backer in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series.

He has every upside to be what we expected Dan Haren to be last year.

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Celebrating Valentines Day: Nats Pitchers and Catchers Scheduled For First Spring Stretch

Cold enough for ya!  As Washington hunkers down and attempts to survive the Polar Vortex (due to amazing new trend of naming every weather system that happens along; this is a weather system that is defined as being a few degrees colder than what we suffered through last year and never warms up long enough to wash the salt and black sludge from your car) we can begin to get excited about the prospect of Baseball.

Our winter blues are hardly quelled by the tumbling Capitals poor performances of recent weeks, or by the Bullets Wizards average enough play to keep the corner of our eyes glimpsing over at the "Phone Booth", or even the exciting news that the Redskins have once again done exactly the same crap in the off-season to get our hopes up just enough to be completely crushed by the 3rd week of October. Thus, we are free to turn our attention to Florida.

Not only is Florida warm, but in three weeks, the diamonds of Vera Beach will be littered with young arms that are gearing up to drive us through the oppressive heat that is sure to follow this arduous Winter.  (Polar Vortex sounds like a Disney Movie about a Polar Bear who throws discus at the Summer Olympics while trying to save the love of his life, a Bengal Tigress who is has Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and will only be afforded the life sustaining procedure if our hero can win the Gold despite suffering from heat exhaustion due to his thick fur coat)
On Valentines Day, new National, Doug Fister will climb the mound to join mainstays, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman as they become "The Mount Rush-Four" and Ross Detwieler will begin the battle to secure the fifth spot in the starting rotation.  "The National Det" will face significant  challenges from RHP's; Taylor Jordan, Nathan Karns, Sammy Solis, Tanner Roark, and Ross Ohlendorf with the potential for Matt Purke to overwhelm the coaching staff and slide into the rotation a year or so ahead of schedule.
The bullpen welcomes newcomer Jerry Blevins who will put his left arm on display as the front
runner for the specialist position but he will face tough competition from youngster Xavier Cedeno. The competition doesn't stop there as the mix of right arms will include intriguing youth with the entrenched and seasoned arms of Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Rafael Soriano.

The Nationals only have three catchers on their active roster.  Sandy Leone and Johnatan Solano will compete for the right to back-up Wilson Ramos, but they will have to ward off the 715 MLB games of experience that newly signed (to a minor league deal) Chris Snyder brings to Vera.
Position players report a few days later and the games begin against the Mets on February28th.  It may not be much, but knowing thst there will be baseball in just over thirty days, warms me up a little.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

What Are The Washington Nations Gonna Look Like Next Year? Part 3: The Contracts

Well here it is.  It's time to finish off the team.  I have made a trade before the deadline,  acquired 2 strong arms for the rotation, solidified the short stop position for the future, unloaded some dead weight, and now I am going to wrap it up in a nice tight bow.

After the Winter Meetings I took a small vacation and got right back to it.  My first trip of the new year was to Ann Arbor for the Winter Classic and I slipped down to Chicago after the game to speak with the crew at SFX.  They represent Jordan Zimmermann and I felt like he should be my fist priority of the new year.  (The Red Wings won 5-2 by the way, run on out to Vegas now if you wanna be rich)

The team at SFX and I spoke for a while and laid down the ground work for structuring a deal before I returned to Washington.  We would later meet in my office and strike a deal that would pay Jordan Zimmermann $94 million over 7 years.  That deal was pretty easy and made everyone very happy.

During the meeting with Jordan's agents, I mentioned that the Nationals would also like to lock up Wilson Ramos, who is also represented by SFX.  They offered to send a representative out and boy did they.  I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but Greg Landry knocked on my door during the afternoon on Tuesday January 21st.  Landry and I made awkward conversation considering that the last time that I had seen him was in the restroom in Florida and I was certain that he wanted to punish me for sticking him with Dan Haren.  I offered to take him to Chinatown for an early dinner and Caps game.  He graciously accepted.

After a full meal at Zengo consisting of 72 hour short ribs and American Wagyu beef we headed down to the arena to catch the rest of the game.  Landry indicated that he was looking for a long term deal for Wilson
and I explained that we had some top out payroll issues to address within the organization.  I made it clear that as much as we love Wilson Ramos, anything in excess of 5 years was too rich for our blood.  He was adamant at 8 years but I could see that he was more eager to get a deal done than to be a hard liner.

So with a few minutes left in the 3rd period, Greg and I agreed in principle to a back loaded progressive contract for 5 years at $22.5 million.  Wilson Ramos was locked up through the 2018 season and it will cost us only $3 million next year.   We finished the game, a win by the Capitals, and headed over to Old Ebbitt to celebrate.

After an hour at the Oyster bar, I headed back to the office.  Landry was happy, Wilson was happy, but I still had one big deal to get done.

Putting the name Scott Boras in your to do list is like committing to getting into a shark cage.  I am confident in my skills as a negotiator but tangling with the man who represents, Alex RodriguezPrince Fielder, and many other high profile baseball players, is a little intimidating.

Boras has negotiated contacts that could (with achieved incentives) exceed 300 million dollars.  He even got money for Manny Ramirez when no one on the planet could even find him.  So now, I have to sit with the baseball agent of all baseball agents, and discuss Stephen Strasburg.

When negotiating a deal, the cardinal rule is that whomever speaks first loses.  I went into this negotiation thinking that if I spoke at all, it would be a miracle.   My argument was simple.  We have a lot invested in Stras already, that we are committed to his development, but that he has not delivered the golden egg yet.  He has a history of injury and a long term, big money deal is just too risky at this point.  My strategy was sound.

Boras had only one point to make.  In his first 70 starts, Stephen Strasburg has better numbers than Nolan Ryan had at the same place in his career.  I caved.  Stephen Strasburg would be a National for the next 5 years to the tune of $52 million.  Another progressive deal was achieved where we only had to pay him 5.5 Million in year one, but a sixth year was made possible with a mutual option at $20 million.  The contract could be bought out for 2.5 million after year five.  Ouch!  But worth it.

All of the remaining players were offered one year deals or the opportunity to gamble in arbitration.  We offered:

Drew Storen        $2.2M
Ross Detwiler      $2.1M
Roger Bernadina   $1.8M
Steve Lombardozzi  $565K
Tyler Moore            $565K
Christian Garcia      $550K
Ryan Mattheus          $565K
Ian Krol                   $500K
Taylor Jordan          $575K
Matt Purke               $500K

There you have it.  Your 2014 Washington Nationals.  And now it's off to Florida for Spring Training.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

What Are The Washington Nationals Gonna Look Like Next Year? Part 2: The Trade

François Bozizé
So, I have posed the question to you, the fan, what would you do with the Washington Nationals contracts going into the 2014 season?  Last time we discussed the Winter Meetings and all the reviews about our progress are good.  If you remember correctly, according to my theoretical tale, the Washington Nationals will have Ian Desmond for a long, long time, Matt Garza has joined our pitching rotation, and Dan Haren was run out of DC faster than François Bozizé from the Central African Republic.  

But, to be thorough, we must first discuss what needs to happen before the rapidly approaching 2013 trade deadline.  So, for the purpose of this revelation, I will once again take you on a fantastical journey to the General Manager's office on South Capitol Street and place you in front of a mahogony desk that contains a name plate reading; MetalDawg10, General Manager.

We fall back in time from our trip to Florida and land in the very near future..............................

July is a busy month.  It ends with the trade deadline at 4pm on the 31st but, it begins with the All-Star break, which is a very natural time to evaluate the state of affairs surrounding the organization.  A team must decide how to approach the trade deadline and execute a strategy which sets the tone for the remainder of the season and possibly for the next.  In some years the process is easy.  If a team finds itself in last pace and has virtually zero shot at the post season, all you have to do as a General Manager, in the waning days of July, is answer the phone and entertain offers for your veteran players.  If you find yourself  in first place however, and it seems that you have virtually assured a playoff berth, then a bonus piece may be all that is required. A player that won't cost too much but fills a small hole in your arsenal is preferred.  

In July of 2013, the Washington Nationals did not have the luxury of either position.  At the break, the ball club was exactly one game above .500 and full of unknowns with the one exception being that the team was falling short of expectation.  This was a very tough July as the options were endless.  When a team finds itself in a position similar to that of the 2013 Washington Nationals in July, it becomes very difficult to decide which way to go.  Through trades, a team can either strengthen itself for a run at the post season, or a team can sell off its payroll to set the table for the future.  A great team can do both.  Here is what happened the last week of July, 2013.

Scott Hairston with the Mets, one of his six MLB teams.
Having acquired Scott Hairston before the break, I felt that our defense and batting options were as secure as they could be going into the second half.  These guys had to start hitting at some point, afterall.

Hariston is the younger brother of Jerry Hairston Jr., a former Nat, who brought 10 years of MLB experience to the bench and could provide a little pop from the right side of the plate.  Hairston has been a career utility player; having played all three outfield positions as well as second base. 

So not only did I have to asses the Washington Nationals needs, I had to find a team with which to trade that mirrored the clubs situation.  I found one.  

The 1-2-3 in the Nationals starting rotation had been stellar.  Records aside, this top three is as good as anybody's in the Majors.  If the Nats were to start a playoff series right now, there is doubt that they are set on the mound.  Three pitchers, will not however, get you in to the post season. At that time, the four and five spot had accumulated a 6-20 record and had yielded 108 earned runs in the process, 2 more than the first, second and third spot combined.

Granted, Ross Detwiler had been injured, and I think we all know how I feel about Dan Haren.  Haren is averaging only one walk per start on average and normally that stat would be very good if not for the nineteen HR that he has allowed. (Dan ranks first in the National League in HR allowed and second in losses).  With Ross Detwiler expected to miss a few more weeks, I felt that I had to bolster the starting rotation.  I swallowed my pride, prepared for some backlash, and called my old friend Jack Zduriencik.  Jack had been great to deal with during the Michael Morse off season switch-a-roo, so I thought to give him a try.

Hisashi Iwakuma has a 3.09 career ERA
Seattle went into the break 13 games back and in need of some rebuilding.  I put together a package that I felt addressed some of the Mariners needs and offered it to Jack.  It took a little bit of convincing but he took it.    

Hisashi Iwakuma became a Washington National just before the 2013 trade deadline.

I dreaded the conversation that was looming in the hallway and when the light rap on my office door broke my intense thought, I took a deep breath and said, "Come in."

He sat there without expression as I gave my "baseball decision" speech, seemingly taking it all in, but I could see him packing in his mind.  We shook hands and wished each other luck, then he left.  I was appeased by the fact that he and Michael Morse were good friends and excellent teammates last year but nonetheless, it was tough to see Tyler Clippard walk out that door.  Clip had simply performed too well this year.  His 6-1 record and supporting ERA would have given him a ton of leverage in an arbitration hearing this February and I would just as soon let that be someone elses problem.  Tyler Clippard earned $4,000,000.00 in 2013 and that certainly will go up.  With Christian Garcia and Ryan Mattheus due back, I felt that his position was fillable.

Syracuse Chiefs Manager, Tony Beasley (on left)
My next move was to call Tony Beasley, the Manager of the Syracuse Chiefs, and inform him that travel arrangements had been made for Danny Espinosa and Jhonatan Solano.  He would be forced to have those conversations as Danny and Jhonatan were under his charge at the time.

The Mariners were having a nightmare of a time in the middle infield. They had been using the rookie tandem of Brad Miller and Nick Franklin as their double play combination. Danny brings some much needed experience to that infield.

Solano is a project for them but he may get some action immediately since the Mariners have already used six different Catchers this season.

Bottom line for the decision to make this deal.......Clippard, Espinosa and Solano are all arbitration eligible in 2014.  Realistically. resigning them would cost about $7,000,000.00 in payroll for next year alone. Iwakumais is due 6,500,000 for 2014 and holds a team option for 2015.   Let's not forget that he was 8-4 with an ERA of 3.02, and in cozy AL ballparks to boot.  Oh!  He was an All-Star in 2013.

So, here is where we stand:

Starting Pitchers
Gio Gonzalez
Matt Garza
Hisashi Iwakuma

Relief Pitchers
Rafael Soriano
Craig Stammen

Adam LaRoche
Ryan Zimmerman
Ian Desmond
Anthony Rendon

Denard Span
Jayson Werth
Bryce Harper

We are almost there, but some very important wok remains.   I will finish the off season next time.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What Are The Washington Nationals Gonna Look Like Next Year? Part 1: Winter Meetings

Last week I posed the question to you, the fan, what would you do with the Washington Nationals contracts going into the 2014 season?  I feel that it is only fair to tell you what I, the newly appointed imaginary General Manager of the Washington Nationals would do.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the job that Mike Rizzo is doing I just picture my name on the door is all.  (If my services are needed in the front office over there on South Capitol Street, feel free to email me at

So here it is, in story form: (none of this is real, it is all purely speculative, especially the part about me in the GM's chair)

At the winter meetings on December 9th, 2013, at 7 am, as I am leaving the basketball courts located at the Dolphin side of Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort, Greg Landry of CAA Sports just happens to bump into me doing his best Ned Ryerson impression.  I give him the slip by inventing a story about an emergency phone call before he can get a word in. What Greg doesn't know is that I am going to break his heart in a few weeks, but I still need CAA to work a few other angles and I don't want word to get out that I am unreasonable, at least not yet.  I head to my suite to take a shower. (of course I have a suite, this is my fantasy so back off)

I showered quickly because I was meeting with a couple guys from Sports One Athletes Management for a quick breakfast pastry and some coffee down at the Java Bar just off the lobby and convention center entrance.  This talk was about resigning Ian Desmond to a long term deal, something in the five to seven year range is what I was thinking.  Desi was my number one priority in the off-season and I figured that these guys would be available all week since their offices are nearby in Coral Springs, Florida.

Desi at the plate for years to come, MetalDawg10 2013
As it turns out, the guys from Sports One Athlete Management were ready to deal.  We closed on Ian before my bear claw and medium Colombian roast were half gone.  (I ended up signing Desmond to an 8 year deal worth $82M which I back-loaded  from year one at $5M and finished the deal in year eight at $16M)

Dolphin Meeting Space

My next meeting on the first day of the Winter Meetings was about Instant Replay and it was held in Asia Meeting Room 4 on the lobby level.

Personally, I hate Instant Replay but I recognize that it has its place in baseball and I had to attend the meeting anyway, all General Managers were required to.

On my way over to the 10:30am meeting, I turned the corner and almost ran over Nez Balelo, another agent at CAA.  This was fortunate because I need to talk to him about his client, Matt Garza, a fantastic Righty Starter who has just turned thirty years old and was shopping his million dollar arm before deciding to commit to resigning with the hapless Chicago Cubs.

Matt Garza
Sadly, Nez's first words to me were regarding Greg Landry and his unyielding desire to talk to me.  I pushed the conversation in a different direction, mentioning my desire to acquire Matt Garza's services, and he agreed to meet me for a 9:30pm desert  at Shula's Steak House. (they serve a great key lime pie)

Just at the moment when I confirmed my evening plans with Matt Garza's camp, Greg Landry, as if released from a long stretch at Big Pine Key Road Prison, rounded the corner.  I quickly ducked into my instant replay meeting with the speed of Ricky Henderson thankful that there was no instant replay in the meeting rooms corridor.  (I end up signing Matt Garza to a 4 year $52M deal which pays out evenly at $13M a year, Shula's was out of key lime pie; I had the Molten Chocolate Lava Cake instead)

Here's hoping that Dan Haren is on that flight outta here!
I felt pretty good about my success in Florida as two major pieces to my puzzle were in place in the early stages of the process.

The rest of my time at the Winter Meetings was fruitless but I got a lot of pool time in and some much needed sun.  There is still a lot of work to be done as Spring Training is a mere 75 days away and I only have two starting pitchers signed.  (Gio Gonzalez and Matt Garza)

Oh one more thing about the Winter Meetings to report........ Greg Landry caught me at the airport as I was waiting for my flight back to Dulles.  There was no way to escape him as I was in the restroom when he came up behind me.  Surprise!  He congratulated me on my signing of Garza and then asked me about resigning his top client, Dan Haren.  I told him to go F&*K HIM$@*F.   Problem solved.

I will tell you more next time.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Adult Swim, Everyone Out Of The Pool: It's Time For The Nationals To Take A Break!

On March 24th, 1975, Muhammad Ali spent 14 rounds and 2:41 seconds carrying around a lesser opponent before he finally exploded and knocked out the Bayonne Bleeder in Richfield, Ohio.  A sold out arena of shocked boxing fans witnessed this historic event, one of whom was Sylvester Stallone, who was so inspired by the underdog performance of Chuck Wepner, that shortly after the fight he penned the screen play "ROCKY" .

The truth about that fight lies in mental preparation of the superior fighter.  Ali toyed with the unknown opponent until shortly before the final bell, waiting to use his experience and might until the waning moments of the contest.  It was agony to watch for ardent Ali rooters, but an overwhelmingly exciting experience for the casual fight fan, as the undistinguished gladiator kept returning to the center of the ring round after round.  Ali finally knocked out the dark horse with nineteen seconds remaining in the bout, thus retaining his Heavy Weight Title.

I am hoping that the 2013 Nationals are Muhammed Ali in this analogy and that the All-Star break resembles the 8th round of this, the 2013 MLB season.

The Nationals enter the break one game above .500 and a solid six games behind the staggering Atlanta Braves.  The Braves (who will be Chuck Wepner in this tale) actually need the break more than anybody.  This weekend their entire outfield suffered injuries and for today's game the grass was filled with players named Jose Constanza, Joey Terdoslavich, and Reed Johnson en lieu of the regular starting cast (Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, and B.J. Upton).  The Nationals, realizing that they finally had their opponent on the ropes, rallied today to avoid being swept by the Marlins (you heard me) and narrowly averted a six game losing streak to end the first half.

Whew, break time.

When the Nats return home on Friday to face the surging Los Angeles Dodgers and their rising star, Yasiel Puig, the chase will be on.  Do the Braves have enough in the tank to hold off the Nationals?  Will the Nationals be able to climb that mountain to catch them?  Circle August 5th, 6th and 7th on your calendar; "The Duel on the Anacostia " (that's what I am calling it anyway) when Atlanta comes to town to set the tone for the run for the final legs of the division race.

Enjoy the break.

Cheer for Bryce Harper in the HR Derby and pray that Jordan Zimmermann does not get hurt in the one inning of action that he will see from the bump on Tuesday night, but most importantly don't
look back.  The first half is done, put it behind you. Besides, if you look in the rear view mirror, the Phillies may actually be closer than they appear.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Catch A Tiger By The Toe: A Mid-Season Look At The Washington Nationals Payroll

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a tiger by the toe, in 2014, somebody's gotta go.  If last year was a missed opportunity, then this year is most definitely the final chance for the Washington Nationals to win the World Series with the current team intact.  The Nationals front office is set to be very busy during the upcoming off-season due to the simple fact that only 9 players on the current roster have guaranteed contracts for 2014.

The good news is that Ryan Zimmerman (locked up until 2019), Jayson Werth (2017), Gio Gonzalez (2016), Adam LaRoche (2014), Rafael Soriano (2014), Denard Span (2014), Bryce Harper (2015), Anthony Rendon (2014), and Craig Stammen (2014) are the nine but as I am sure that you have already concluded, there are a few very important big names not listed.

When we go through the players in question, as we will here shortly, it will be imperative that we take the business side of baseball in to consideration.  It is very easy for you and me to say "Just pay him!" but that is not very practical.  So we will be forced to play General Manager for a moment and face some pretty tough choices.

The Nationals payroll  ranks as the 12th highest in MLB at $112,431,770 as of opening day 2013.  The nine players listed above are going to make an estimated $79M in 2014. If the Nationals signed no other players, and played next year with Gio Gonzalez and Craig Stammen switching off at pitcher and catcher everyday, if they moved Soriano to secondbase allowing Rendon to take balls at short, their payroll would fall to 23rd in the Major Leagues or roughly the same as the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians.  
Is this a potential future battery?

Since my suggestion is not plausible, (Gio does have some experience catching however, he caught for John Wall when the Washington Wizard point guard threw out the first pitch at a home game earlier in the year) it would seem that the Lerner's are going to have to spend some money.  

So I challenge you, the fan, to play the role of GM.  What would you do?

We are going to give the team a modest $50M to spend to secure the sixteen remaining roster spots.  For this exercise their are a few baseball rules for you to keep in mind:
  1. The league minimum for a first year player will be $500,000 in 2014. (so you can easily sign 100 of them)
  2. Players who go to arbitration are first offered arbitration by the franchise (you don't have to offer it, you can just let a player go) and then each side offers a one year contract value and submits the bid to the arbitration board.  A panel of three people then decide which of the two values is most appropriate and awards that value to the one year contract.  Arbitration does not alter either bid, the panel chooses one or the other in its entirety. (as a general rule, the players bid is usually higher than the franchises)
  3. All contracts a guaranteed.  If you sign it, you pay it.
  4. Long term deals can be back loaded. For example: a five year contract for $100M could be structured so that the first three years are at $15M, $17M, $18M respectively with years four and five at $30M each.  Be careful with this.  This type of contract makes it very difficult to trade a player after the third year and you certainly don't want to pay an injured player $30M to sit on the beach all summer in year five.  
  5. We are going to want to save about $16M for free agents, making our total spend on current players $34M.
 So here are the players who have zero obligation the Washington Nationals in 2014

Dan Haren (2012 salary- $13M-2013 est salary $14M)
Chad Tracy (2012 salary $1M- 2013 est. salary $1.1M)

Here are the players with options for 2014 and the options the cash value of the option

Kurt Suzuki ($8.5M)
Here are the players who are eligible for arbitration and what their estimated one year cash value might be

Drew Storen ($2.2M)
Wilson Ramos ($800K)
Tyler Moore ($565K)

Here are players whose status is undetermined, technically they are minor league-rs

Ross Ohlendorf -(est. $1.1M due to service time)
Fernando Abad- ($565K)
Sandy Leon ($500K)
Corey Brown ($500K)
Eury Perez ($500K)
Erik Davis ($500K)
Nate Karns ($500K)
Ian Krol ($500K)

Here are some free agents that will be available in the off-season

Robinson Cano 2B ($18M)
Shin-Soo Choo OF ($10M)
Jacoby Ellsbury OF ($11M)
Brian McCann C ($15M)
Hunter Pence OF ($15M)
Matt Garza SP ($14M)
Hiroki Kuroda SP ($18M)
A.J. Burnett SP ($18M)
Mike Napoli 1B ($8M)

So, have at it, and good luck.  I will be breaking down my thoughts in my next post but I would love to see what you would do.  Your total payroll for 2014 must not exceed $129,000,000 but beyond that, be as creative as you want.  Have fun.

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