Looking at the past before we look forward

I know there are many of you out there who do not consider the Montreal Expos and the Washington Nationals the same franchise, and that’s fine. However, as the recipient of a franchise we have to remember that in order to have this entity that we love, this team, some city which had fans of their own had to give up a team they love just as much. So as we move towards 2011, a year which could bring great new pride for the franchise, let us first pay tribute to our past:

 

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NL East Update: Kissing 2010 Good Bye

The New York Mets need some help in their bullpen, but is the price tag on Brian Fuentes too high?

Fuentes would be the perfect replacement for Pedro Feliciano. The Mets should pounce on him if and when his price goes down. The Mets bullpen is very thin right now and they’re looking at the possibility of having Oliver Perez make the team if they don’t do something quick. I can only imagine what the reaction would be if his name is announced at Citi Field on Opening Day.

Does Freddie Freeman have any competition for first base? Talking Chop has the answer.

Freeman will have his bumps and bruises, just like any rookie, but I like how the Braves are handling the situation by basically just giving him the job. That being said, they will have to have a plan-B ready if something were to go wrong. With Eric Hinske and Martin Prado listed as the backups, Freeman can’t afford to struggle for too long.

Another year come and gone. Fish Stripes gives us the Florida Marlins year in review.

It was another mediocre season by the Fish, but they sure did make it interesting…at their own expense. On May 29th, Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies came to town and mowed down all 27 Marlins who stepped to the plate. And who can forget the drama between Hanley Ramirez and Fredi Gonzalez on May 17th when Ramirez booted a ball into left field and didn’t hustle after it. This earned the star shortstop a benching from his manager, but Hanley had the last laugh as Gonzalez was fired by Florida on June 23rd. Gonzalez left the team with the most wins by any Marlins manger.

Ryan Howard hit for career lows in home runs and RBI in 2010. Has the slugger been neutralized for good?

Its amazing how 31 home runs and 108 RBIs can cause such panic. It’s only natural that pitchers start figuring out how to pitch to Howard because he has been such a dominant force at the plate. So despite spending the season faced with the challenge of the pitchers adjustments, he still put up pretty good power numbers. All anyone can expect from Howard in 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. As long as he is putting up those numbers this shouldn’t be a big issue.

The Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche saga continues…

Both Lee and LaRoche are holding out for their “ideal situations”, but in the end it will still probably come down to the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. The Nats need to settle on one of the two so they are not stuck with a name like Casey Kotchman or Troy Glaus. This waiting game will continue until either side can bite the bullet and reach an agreement.

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With Dunn Gone, Can Lee Fill Void?

The Washington Nationals have a BIG hole to fill in their batting order and at first base, and by big, I mean literally. It’s a hole the size of a 6 foot 6 inch 285-pound lineman first baseman named Adam Dunn.

Dunn signed with the Chicago White Sox for four-years and $56 million on December 2nd, leaving the Nationals without one of their more consistent run producers and home run threats, not to mention they are now left without a first baseman. The team could elect to fix this problem internally in the organization, but they would be best suited going to free agency.

The Nationals have been connected to talks involving Derrek Lee, and I think he would be a good pickup for this team. Lee had a bit of a down year last season in split time with Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. Combined between the two teams he hit only .260 with 19 home runs and 80 RBIs. Over the course of his career, however, Lee is a consistent .280 hitter, has won three gold gloves, and is a two-time All-Star.

In 2009 with the Cubs, Lee hit .306 with 35 big flies and 111 batted in. Signing Lee would give the offense, as well as the defense some stability. It’s no secret that, while Dunn is a prolific run producer and home run hitter, the guy really IS about as mobile as the position he should play, an offensive lineman. He is a hitter, bottom line.

A gold glove first baseman, Lee would save many errant throws across the diamond, especially from young SS Ian Desmond. Also, Lee would be a nice compliment to fellow corner-infielder Ryan Zimmerman, who, with the departure of Dunn, could use some protection in an already weak lineup.

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Catching up with the Texas Rangers: Lone Star Ball

This off-season The Nats Blog will be conducting interviews with sites from all thirty teams. One team a week leading up to the start of the 2011 baseball season. This week I spoke with Adam Morris from Lone Star Ball, one of the top Texas Rangers blogs on the net to talk about the surprise American League champions and what we should expect from the team next season. 

TNB: What is the reaction from the Rangers fan base on losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies?

Lone Star Ball: Rangers fans were very disappointed, for the most part.  I think most Rangers fans believed that there was a pretty decent chance Lee would re-sign with Texas, and to have him leave — particularly to Philly, who didn’t seem to be in the hunt until very, very late.  That being said, while the Rangers would be a better team with Lee, the money involved and the length of the contract made that a risky signing, and so I think there’s to a certain extent a feeling that we may have dodged a bullet, much like we did in losing out on the Barry Zito signing.  And at least he didn’t go to the Yankees…

TNB: Brandon Webb has been picked up by the Rangers. Is this low-risk, high-reward move enough to make people forget about Lee?

Lone Star Ball: No.  Brandon Webb isn’t going to make people forget about Lee.  At this point, I think we’re just hopeful that he can give the Rangers 20-25 starts at a league average ERA.  Given that he’s missed the last two seasons, I think even that is very optimistic.

TNB: Mitch Moreland burst onto the scene in the post-season, and even hit a clutch three-run home run in Game 3 of the World Series. What can baseball fans expect from him in the future?

Lone Star Ball: Moreland is an interesting story, a former late round pick who has fought his way through the system and ended up starting instead of the more highly touted Justin Smoak (who was traded for Lee) and Chris Davis.  Moreland is someone who I think profiles as a Lyle Overbay type…he’s not going to be an All Star, but you can play him and he won’t kill you, and he’s especially got value now, while he’s earning the minimum.

TNB: One year ago Colby Lewis was a member of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. The Rangers took a chance by signing him to a two-year contract where he rewarded them by striking out 196 and winning Game 3 of the World Series. Should we expect more from Lewis next year?

Lone Star Ball: I think that you can expect for Lewis, in 2011, pretty much what you saw in 2010.  He’ll give you a lot of innings, throw strikes, and be a solid #2/#3 starter.

TNB: Were the Rangers a one-year wonder? Can we expect them to be competitive next year?

Lone Star Ball: I think the Rangers are built to compete long-term.  That doesn’t mean that the Rangers will be back in the World Series next year, or even necessarily win the West, but this is a team that has a strong farm system, new ownership that is committed to spending the money necessary to win, and a solid young core.  There are no guarantees, of course, but this is a team that should be competitive for years to come.

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Potential Bargain Basement Signings For The Nationals


Sports Illustrated’s John Heyman listed his top 25 best-bargain players
left in free agency noting that in the past several years some of the best contracts came from cheap one year deals. While the Nationals have spent a ton of money already this winter, they still have huge holes in their roster they need to fill, and these players could do just the trick.

Here are the players from Heyman’s list that I think might be a good fit with the Nationals.

1. Brad Penny, SP – Penny was off to a great start in 2010 before he suffered an injury in May to his upper back near his right shoulder. The Cardinals first believed this was just a slight injury and that Penny would miss minimal time, but it lingered and had him out the entirety of the season…Shawn Hill style. Still, Penny threw the hardest of his career last season averaging 94.1 MPH on his fastball while posting a 3.23 ERA in 55.2 innings pitched. His injury and his age (33 in May) should make him a prime option for a cheap, one-year deal which the Nationals could capitalize on.

2. David Eckstein, IF –  Eckstein quietly put together his best season since 2005, as the former World Series MVP earned 2.0 WAR. Eckstein’s resurgence can largely be attributed to his switch from shortstop to second base, the position he probably should have been playing his whole career. With less ground to cover, Eckstein posted a 6.2 UZR, tremendously helping his value. While the Nationals have three set starters in the positions Eckstein could potentially play, his presence would be extremely valuable considering their relative youth and immaturity. Think Adam Kennedy without the locker room issues.

3. Jon Rauch, RP – Who says you can’t go home again? Rauch spent three-and-a-half seasons in Washington before they shipped him to Arizona in 2008. While his uniform has changed several times since then, the one thing that hasn’t changed is Rauch’s reliability and durability in the bullpen. While he will likely try to find a team that will compete, he could be a large edition to a Nationals bullpen that is one arm away from actually being one of the better ones in the NL East. Signing him would be a huge step that would bridge the gap between the starters and the Storen/Clippard connection.

4. Ben Sheets, SP – Before you get upset, remember, we’re looking at the bargain basement here. Sheets, a former all-star and serious Cy Young candidate signed a $10 million deal last year with Oakland to prove he could 1. still pitch and 2. stay healthy. Unfortunately, his elbow injury in lated July cut short what was shaping up to be a relatively strong come back. The injury was the same one that forced him to sit out all of 2009, and is likely to turn off just about every possible suitor, making his asking price about zero. Still, Sheets threw 91.2 MPH last year while healthy and was in the midst of developing a strong slider to compliment his tremendous curveball. If it’s a minimum contract, or close to it, why not go for Sheets?

5. Russell Branyan, 1B – Branyan hit for contact pretty poorly last season batting just .237/.323/.487 in 109 games between Cleveland and Seattle last year. But despite his high strikeout rate Branyan has continued to do two very important things very well while staying under the radar, play defense and hit for elite power. In 2009 and 2010 he posted a 1.6 and 2.8 UZR at first base, which would be a significant step up from Adam Dunn for the Nationals. He has also combined to hit 56 home runs over the past two seasons in which he played just 215 games, 173 of which were in Seattle, one of the worst home run hitters parks in baseball. Imagine what this left-handed power bat could do in the friendly confines of Nationals park.
 

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NL East Update: The one where Andruw returns?

Center field has Braves fans worried. Could Andruw Jones be the answer?

This is an interesting consideration. Jones will only be 34 next season, but he has definitely shown some signs of breaking down the past few years. I still think Jones has the ability to hit for 20 home runs and 60 RBI, but it will be a tall task. He has never been one to hit for average but the power has always been there. I think Andruw would be rejuvenated with his old club. He is a cheap option that has a huge upside.

When will Johan Santana return to the Mets in 2011? Metsblog has some insight.

I think the All-Star Break is a reasonable time period for his return. If he is starting a throwing program by January, I can’t imagine him being sidelined for a significant time after that. The guy is a competitor and will do anything to get back on the field. If the Mets are struggling, Santana’s return won’t mark a mid-season turnaround for the club, but he will bring some buzz back to Citi Field every five days when he’s on the mound.

The Marlins have done a majority of their off-season shopping, but what will they do with center field?

It would seem as though the Marlins have a lot of thinking to do with how to address center field, but they are pretty content with having Chris Coghlan out there everyday. My gut feeling is that Coghlan will have a stint or two to the disabled list, so they should have an immediate backup plan of that should happen.

Every team has to have their left-handed specialist, and the Phillies got theirs by bringing back J.C. Romero.

I have always liked Romero, and applaud Philadelphia for reaching an agreement with him. What impresses me the most about him is that in 13 post-season appearances with the Phillies, he has only given up one earned run, and that came against the Colorado Rockies in the 2007 NLDS. The Phillies will be playing in October in 2011 and they will be happy to have a reliever with a good track record to depend on.

Teddy Never Wins gives his take on the Carl Pavano situation, and what it would take for the pitcher to come back to the franchise that broke him into the league.

Pavano is holding out for a three-year contract but quite honestly, I would not feel comfortable with having that burden on my team. Pavano had an impressive 2010, but I think his attitude is not something the Nationals need in their clubhouse at this time. Pavano is the type of guy who plays for himself, not his team. How can that be good for a young team trying to get confidence and become a contender?’

You’ve Been Updated  

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A deeper look into the Nationals comparative WAR spending

Earlier this week we looked at whether the Nationals overspent for their free agents and concluded that they probably didn’t, all things considered. Now we look at whether they overspent relative to other top spenders.

As we wrote earlier, so far the top spenders have been the Red Sox ($172 MM), Nationals ($128.5 MM), Phillies ($125.5 MM), and the White Sox ($120.25 MM). To compare the effectiveness of each team’s spending, I did some WAR analysis similar to that in my last article.

WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. It is a relatively new statistic which incorporates nearly everything we know about a player—his wOBA, his UZR, his baserunning abilities—into one “total” counting statistic. The contributions of the player being evaluated using WAR are transformed into a number which represents the approximate number of wins the player is worth versus a theoretical “replacement” player. The comparison with a replacement player is necessary because we are interested in how good a player is a relative sense since there is not really an absolute manner in which to evaluate players—if everyone were at least as good as Albert Pujols, would Albert Pujols be a Hall of Famer?

To conduct my analysis, I tried to predict how much WAR each relevant player would produce while under contract. I then priced 1 WAR to be worth $5 MM—the going rate during the winter according to FanGraphs writer Dave Cameron—and predicted how much each player will actually be worth. I then compared this to how much they were promised in 2010 dollars and calculated the difference. (My data is available here)

According to my analysis, the Nationals ended up spending about $10.75 MM more than they should have, but this was actually second best out of the four top spenders. The Phillies did the best, underpaying by $19 MM (Yes, I think Cliff Lee is that good), the White Sox overspent the second most, and the Red Sox easily overspent the most, dropping $39.71 MM over value, including a contract for Carl Crawford nearly 25% more expensive than his “actual” value. Naturally, the spending per WAR follows the same order.

As mentioned before, I think there is a possibility that the Nationals had to pay the “Nationals Tax” for getting good players, aka Jayson Werth, helping to explain their fairly significant overpayment for Werth (15% above value). The Red Sox, in case you haven’t heard, are loaded and the vast majority of their overpayment came from signing Carl Crawford, suggesting either they wanted to keep Crawford out of someone else’s hands or that they were very optimistic about his future prospects, or some combination of the two (or maybe they just don’t care how much money they spend). By my estimation, the Phillies seem to have gotten a very good deal on Cliff Lee, explaining their surplus, while the White Sox seemed to have overspent (considerably) on Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.

The long story short is, though, that almost everyone signing high profile free agents seems apt to overpayment. Because the bidding for these players is much more intense than for lower profile free agents, the winners seem to be those willing to overpay the most for a player’s services after they do their projections for the player’s future performance. Perhaps part of that overpayment comes from a “Nationals Tax,” a desire to not let the player fall into the hands of another team, recklessness with funds, or simply a very optimistic projection of his performance. At any rate, bidding in baseball seems to be a very confusing process and far from worked out. But at least the Nationals seem to have been one of the better bidders this offseason, though let’s hope they aren’t finished.

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Brandon Webb signs with Texas, Nationals still in search of a starter

According to FanHouse.com’s Ed Price, Brandon Webb has reportedly agreed in principle to a one-year, $3 million deal with the Texas Rangers, pending a physical. This news is unfortunate for Washington Nationals fans and their front office because the team had been aggressively pursuing Webb.

The Nationals failed in an attempt to sign Cliff Lee this winter, and had also been in talks with the Royals in an attempt to land Zack Greinke, but that fell through and he was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for prospects. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has said that upgrading the starting rotation is a priority this off season, and Webb would have been a good start had the team been able to land him. However, with the recent news of Webb passing on the Nationals, the question now looms: what’s next?

Webb would have been a strong fit because he would have been a low-risk high-reward type of acquisition. The risk being that he just came off major arm surgery (Tommy John and shoulder) and has not pitched in two years, so a pitcher in his situation would not command a high, long-term guaranteed contract because they have no leverage. The high-reward part of it is that if they sign him and he reverts to his old form, they have caught lighting in a bottle.

Whenever a team misses out or gets passed on by a free agent, the team needs to have a backup plan. The Nationals are supposedly the front-runners for free-agent starter Carl Pavano, who after spending five years plagued with injuries, had one of his best career years in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins, going 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA.

The team should be wary of giving Pavano a long-term contract like the Yankees did, because in three years with the Yankees, he did not pitch over 125 innings and had horrible luck with injuries, including cracked ribs in a car accident on the way to a start.

Should the team look to acquire a pitcher via trade, the Nationals front office could look to get in on Matt Garza. Reportedly, Rizzo and the front office have been in contact with Tampa Bay. However, many in baseball believe that Garza, or even James Shields who the Rays have been shopping, will not be traded in the off season and that the Rays will wait to see if they are in contention by July. Either way, Garza would be a good pickup for Washington, who might be in contention in July for the first time in the history of the still young franchise. Last year he went 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA with 150 strikeouts and threw a no-hitter.

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Looking at the Washington Nationals 2014 Lineup with Baseball America – What does it tell us?

Each year Baseball America releases its Top Ten Prospects for each team and it provides a bevy of speculation and debate on questions such as; who has the best farm team? Is he really their best prospect? How could they leave off that guy?

However, as I mentioned last week, my favorite part of these lists is the projected line-ups they provide to try and give fans a sneak peak into the future. Below is this years list projecting the Nationals 2014 lineup:

Catcher Wilson Ramos
First Base Derek Norris
Second Base Danny Espinosa
Third Base Ryan Zimmerman
Shortstop Ian Desmond
Left Field Jayson Werth
Center Field Eury Perez
Right Field Bryce Harper
No. 1 Starter Stephen Strasburg
No. 2 Starter Jordan Zimmermann
No. 3 Starter A.J. Cole
No. 4 Starter Sammy Solis
No. 5 Starter John Lannan
Closer Drew Storen

 
Compared to Washington’s 2011 projected lineup (created in 2007), this lineup is far more exciting. While we examined the massive inaccuracies of the last one, this list is much more believable as it has  more legitimate major league ready prospects, a true testament to General Manager Mike Rizzo’s hard work at re-establishing a strong farm system. Obviously this list doesn’t take into account potential trades or free agent signings, which the Nationals have proven this winter they are more than willing to do, but it does give us our first glimpse into a projected lineup that we can actually see being a competitive ball club…and that’s a major step. 

There are two parts of this projection I find very interesting. First, that Baseball America has decided to finally make up the Nats mind up for them and make the transition from catcher to first base for slugger Derek Norris. Norris obviously is the second best hitter in the Nationals system, and while being a catcher makes him valuable, he projects in my mind to be a Justin Morneau type player who can hit 30+ home runs, get on base, and drive in runs at an elite level. Given the injuries he has sustained this season, which have hampered his development, it is a no brainer that Norris switch to either first base or corner outfield. Especially given the fact that the Nationals have such a log jam at catcher, with potentially good MLB players like Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores. 

Second, I am very impressed at how Eury Perez has established himself as a serious prospect over the past two seasons. At just the age of 20 he has vaulted himself form relative obscurity to be listed ahead of the clubs former top prospect Chris Marrero and to be projected into the big leagues club projected lineup three years out. Listed as the organizations fastest runner and best defensive outfielder, Perez could very well be roaming centerfield in Washington between Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper. His presence on the projected lineup suggests that Baseball America at least sees him as having more talent than Nyjer Morgan, who by and large fizzles out this season. With game-changing speed and a bat  that has serious potential to hit over .300, Perez very well could be the type of player we hoped Morgan would turn into; a .300/.350/.450 guy who will shrink the outfield with his speed and spray line drives all over the outfield. 

A.J. Cole and Sammy Solis are both exciting young arms, although it’s hard to really predict a pitching staff three years out, especially when they are all prospects. We have to remember that at the same point in their careers, Jack McGeary, Josh Smoker, Colin Ballester, and Clint Everts all seemed like potential major league starters too. They didn’t pan out so well.

Interestingly enough, 2006 first round pick Ross Detwiler has been left off this list in favor of the aforementioned two prospects. Detwiler has long been considered one of the clubs top pitching prospects and an important part of their future. Early in his minor league career, he suffered through season-after-season of disappointment, only to show promise in 2009 after some adjustments thrusted him to the major leagues. Sadly a hip injury sidelined him for most of last season,  year he was supposed to break-out. I for one haven’t given up hope on the hurler but this is surely his last season to prove he can be a MLB starter. 
 

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A deeper look into the Nationals spending ways with relationship to WAR

As we wrote about last week, the Nationals have been the second biggest spenders this offseason, ahead of everyone except the Red Sox.

However, we also noted that it’s been shown that the dollars have not been spent wisely with the Nationals spending the most dollars per last season WAR of any Major League team. Is Mike Rizzo being a spendthrift with the Lerner funds?

WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement and it is a metric that has gained some widespread acceptance, appearing on ESPN graphics though not always discussed in the analysis. It is a relatively new statistic which incorporates nearly everything we know about a player, his wOBA, his UZR, his baserunning abilities, into one “total” counting statistic. The contributions of the player being evaluated using WAR are transformed into a number which represents the approximate number of wins the player is worth versus a theoretical “replacement” player. The comparison with a replacement player is necessary because we are interested in how good a player is a relative sense since there is not really an absolute manner in which to evaluate players—if everyone were at least as good Albert Pujols, would Albert Pujols be a Hall of Famer?

At my time of writing this, the major acquisitions made by the Nationals have been Jayson Werth (5.0 WAR last year), Rick Ankiel (0.7 WAR), and Chien-Ming Wang (DNP in 2010, 0.1 WAR in 2009). Did the Nationals overpay for this amount of WAR?

Jayson Werth

Jayson Werth signed a huge contract: seven years, $126 million. Now, obviously $126 million sounds like a raw deal for 5.0 WAR, but Werth will be playing seven years, and at about 5.0 WAR he could be worth about 35 WAR over that time. But Werth is somewhat injury prone (11 months on the DL from 2002-2009) and he will turn 32 next year, meaning his average and speed could begin to decline in the near future. If we discount him at 0.5 WAR as FanGraphs did then we see that Werth is projected to contribute about 24.5 WAR, and perhaps a bit less due to injury time.

As Dave Cameron writes in the above article, wins seem to be going for about $5 million this winter, meaning Werth should be worth about $122.5 million (note that my calculation was different than Cameron’s) in today’s dollars over the next seven years. This means that Werth may be slightly overpaid, but consider that the tax the Nationals must pay for being the sorry franchise that they are.

What worries me about Werth’s contract are the “fundamentals” supporting the J-Bird’s value. Werth has a very good career BABIP (.333) and his power is not at the elite level (career .210 ISO). The BABIP issue should be worrying because Werth is getting old and his ability to get base hits may erode with age. The power issue is not as worrying because Werth is currently a fleet-footed outfielder. The age issue will eventually push him out of the outfield, however, which will make him much less valuable (there is a positional adjustment for WAR that captures the fact that a good-hitting outfielder is harder to find than a good-hitting first baseman, for instance). A good fielder (career 10.3 UZR/150 in the outfield) expect Werth’s defense to decline as he ages as well. (I also want to note that Werth’s contract should be discounted because of the fact that the Nationals will lose draft picks as a result of signing him, the value of which should be worked into Werth’s contract. I did not attempt to do this, however.)

I have not done a projection which accounts for all of these things, but I would guess that an annual discount of 0.65 WAR per year might be more accurate than my original guess of 0.5. (If there is enough demand, I will attempt a more in-depth analysis.) With the discount of 0.65, Werth should be worth about 21.35 WAR, or a $106.75 million contract. At any rate, $126 million is a hell of a lot better for 21.35 WAR than for 5.0 WAR.

Rick Ankiel

If $5 million per WAR is the going price, then consider Rick Ankiel, 31, a steal at $1.5 million guaranteed (though I hear his contract is “laden with incentives”). Ankiel contributed 0.7 WAR, despite injuries, last season, a contribution worth $3.5 million a.k.a. more than twice the amount the Nationals must pay him.

If he is recovered from his leg injury, I think there is reason to believe that Ankiel could be worth a bit more than 1 WAR over a full season. But with Roger Bernadina and Nyjer Morgan (and Mike Morse) around, I wonder how much playing time The Wild Man will get. It could very well end up that Ankiel accrues only about 0.7 WAR again next year, at which case the Nationals will still come out in the black.

Chien-Ming Wang

Wang signed a 1-year, $1 million contract. If he can recover from his major arm injuries, Wang, 30, may be able to produce 1.5+ WAR season next year. I am saying this because Wang has always had great stuff in addition to a few great years at the beginning of his career, and, reportedly, his stuff looked “filthy” in Instructional League this year. Even at 1.5 WAR next season, Wang would still be worth $7.5 million meaning the Nationals would have again made a good deal. Of course, Wang’s performance could be very poor and his contract is “incentive-laden” meaning he may not end up as such a fantastic bargain as I am suggesting.

In Summary…

If we sum all the WAR I am projecting from Werth, Ankiel, and Wang, then we have 23.55 WAR at a price of a guaranteed $128.5 million which is of course much better than 5.7 WAR for the same price. More to the point, that much WAR is estimated to be worth $117.75, a bit less than the Nationals paid, with all of the discrepancy coming from Werth’s contract. Again, we can think of that as the “Nationals Tax” that must be paid to entice good players to come to Washington. And though the Nationals did likely overpay Werth, it was not by that much and, I think, critical for the Nationals to retain some level of respect around the league (we don’t want to become the New Kansas City, do we?).

But this article only presents a small part of the story, namely, whether the Nationals got ripped off by various sports agents this winter. The answer to that question is, in all likelihood, “Not really” and, in fact, the Nationals seemed to have done a good job ripping off Ankiel’s and Wang’s respective agents.

What this article does not directly address, is the question of what have the Nationals netted out of this. We have lost Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham; have we succeeded so far in replacing them? Or, even better, how much different will things be in their absence next year? This article is already too long, so I will not be addressing that question here, but stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for my answer. As a hint, however, I’m leaning toward “Things will be as good if not better next year in the absence of Dunn and Willingham.” I hope I’m right.