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After a disappointing 2015, what’s next for the Nats?

Oct 9, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today

The 2015 season was a massive disappointment for the Nationals, who fell short of the playoffs and a World Series title they were expected to compete for. In attempt to make sense of what went wrong for them and how they can prevent it from happening again, we’ve put together a three-part series on the 2015 season. In our third installment, we look at what the Nationals have to accomplish this offseason…

PART I: WHAT WENT WRONG?

PART II: WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT?

AFTER A DISAPPOINTING 2015, WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE NATIONALS?

Mark Zuckerman:

If this was the most eventful season in Nationals history, this very well might be the most fascinating offseason in Nationals history. There is so much that needs to be done, so much more that could be done and so many different directions the club could go to try to make it happen.

Consider everything on Mike Rizzo’s plate in the days and months ahead…

— Hire a manager and coaching staff
— Replace four key free agents
— Reconstruct a bullpen
— Gauge the trade market for Drew Storen, Yunel Escobar and others
— Figure out what to do with Jonathan Papelbon
— Potentially start negotiations with Bryce Harper on a long-term deal

What makes this winter fascinating for the Nationals is that there are no simple answers/fixes to any of those issues.

Is the search for a new manager as simple as Bud Black vs. Ron Gardenhire, or does Rizzo give a long, hard look at guys without big-league managerial experience but years in the minors on on major-league coaching staffs?

Do the Nats use in-house replacements for Jordan Zimmermann (Joe Ross), Doug Fister (Tanner Roark), Denard Span (Michael Taylor) and Ian Desmond (Trea Turner) or do they look outside the organization to fill some of those holes?

How do you reconstruct a bullpen? Free agency? Trades? Promotions from within the system? All of the above?

Do you try to sell high on Escobar, or do you need the veteran to be part of your 2016 infield? What is Storen’s value on the trade market right now, and might he be more valuable in the end to your team?

Are you willing to eat $11 million to dump Papelbon, or might somebody out there be willing to give up something for him? Or is there any possible way you bring him back and hope all is forgotten?

And how serious do you want to get right now into extension talk with Harper, who is three years from free agency but is only going to cost more with each passing day?

Ultimately, I think you can lump all of this into one overriding issue: This is an offseason in which the Nationals need to restore their good name.

This franchise was held in high regard not long ago, but the events of 2015 (especially over the final month) put a serious dent into that reputation. Rizzo and the Lerner family have an opportunity to correct that this winter, both by making smart baseball decisions but also by establishing an organizational philosophy for everything they do.

Do they really value character above all else? Do they have faith in their home-grown talent? Are they willing to spend the money it will require to address roster holes, hire an experienced manager and lock up the best young player in baseball for years to come?

That’s a tall task for one offseason, but the Nationals left themselves in this position through their on-field performance and the manner in which they handled things off the field.

It’s up to Rizzo and ownership to make significant strides toward fixing that overarching problem during what promises to be a fascinating winter.

Chase Hughes: 

Several of the Nationals’ objectives for this offseason are obvious. For one, they need to find a new manager and ideally one who will be around for a while. Their bullpen is an absolute mess and will likely need a complete overhaul. Not only do they need to add a large group of relievers, they may have to sell low on both their setup man and closer in trades.

The Nationals, however, do still have plenty working in their favor. They have one of the best players in baseball to build around and another wave of young pitchers emerging in their system. Their payroll is also dropping considerably with the expected departure of four key players who combined to make $47.9 million in 2015.

The Nationals have financial flexibility even with Max Scherzer’s contract and even with the salaries of Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman. Even though they have few holes on their roster, the Nats can pretty much do anything they want to retool and reload.

Speaking of money, that Bryce Harper guy is someday going to command a lot of it. One would have to imagine the Nationals will at least try to have a conversation this winter about a long-term extension. Getting something done three years before he can test free agency is unlikely, but the attempt has to be made. Perhaps a seed can be planted, a foundation can be laid to get an extension done next offseason or the following winter.

As far as actually adding players, the most obvious non-bullpen hole is outfield depth. They signed Nate McLouth two years ago to be their fourth outfielder. They thought he was a starting-caliber player who could fill in for the inevitable 100 games or so that would be up for grabs with the dubious health histories of Werth, Harper and Denard Span. That didn’t work out, of course, but expect the Nationals to be on the hunt for a similar player this offseason with the hope for better results. Maybe they circle back to Ben Zobrist, whom they have long been known to covet.

In terms of the outfield, could the Nationals go bigger than we think and sign a marquee name? There is a lot of depth at there with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes, to name a few. It would be surprising if they bumped Michael Taylor from the lineup, but I thought Tanner Roark’s rotation spot was safe at this time last year. And, with Werth’s durability issues – he’s played in only 68 percent of their games over the last four seasons – there could be plenty of at-bats to go around. Plus, with Werth’s contract expiring in two years, outfield is technically a long-term need.

The Nats’ starting rotation may already be set with Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Joe Ross and Roark returning. Throw Lucas Giolito in and that’s a solid six with a very high ceiling, depending on the development of Ross and Giolito.

But, if we have learned anything about Rizzo, a good rotation on paper entering an offseason does not mean he is comfortable. Each winter Rizzo has had something up his sleeve whether it be signing Scherzer or trading for Doug Fister or Gio. Don’t be surprised if another trade like that is in the works. He has financial flexibility and a farm system stocked with young arms to deal from.

The one other area where I think the Nationals could pull off a surprise move is at catcher. Wilson Ramos was healthy this season, but his production at the plate was not what many expected it would be if he could stay on the field. Does that now highlight the catcher position as a spot they could improve? Matt Wieters, who happens to be represented by Scott Boras, is the best free agent at the position.

The Nationals’ roster has few holes outside of the bullpen, but that hasn’t stopped Rizzo and their front office from being aggressive in the past. I fully expect the same this time around, for them to load up both in free agency and through trades to restock and revitalize a team for 2016 in what should be an improved NL East division.

PART I: WHAT WENT WRONG?

PART II: WHAT WAS THE TURNING POINT?

  1. NatsNut - Oct 9, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    I’m surprised at how quickly the drama has passed for me and how excited I am to see what happens in the offseason. So much tension and drama and disappointment in those final weeks, then one big “bang” of complete shock and a little sadness when ALL of the coaches were fired, and now it’s kind of like, “ho hum. what’s next?”

  2. Ellie - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:03 AM

    Honestly, I’d actually like to see them keep Fister. Given this year’s performance, he’s probably not going to get a great multi-year deal from anyone, but he may want to try and redeem himself in Washington. They could probably get him for a one-year deal with plenty of incentives and a second year option. If he underperforms again, they can DFA him early and it won’t cost that much, but if he does well, 2016 starts to look a lot more like 2014 for the team as a whole…

    • ArVAFan - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:15 AM

      If Rizzo goes out and gets another “big” pitcher, he won’t need Fister. I’m guessing Fister could get a multi-year contract somewhere–maybe not a great number for him, but for more than one year.

      But I could see Span hoping he gets a QO, because that would give him a chance to show he can stay healthy and on the field for a full year, and then get a multi-year deal after that. Of course, the Nats could look at Span’s medicals and say, “meh: we’re NOT giving you a QO because we know you’d take it, and we already have enough can’t-stay-on-the-field players, thank you.”

      • virginiascopist - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:14 AM

        For Span, unless the medicals are really bad, I believe that he will get a QO, but will probably reject it since Boras is now his agent.

      • ArVAFan - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:11 AM

        Good point, I’d forgotten that he’s switched agents. But if he doesn’t get a QO, that would be a huge red flag to any other team–he might have to take a contract with a lot of incentives just to get one at all.

  3. unkyd59 - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    I’m with you, Nut! I’ve been in “next year mode” for about a month now, and seeing Max’s no-no even allows me to end the year on….well not a high note, but a not-so-low note. I’ll be avidly following the manager process (kinda hoping for Francona, but iIn Rizzo We Trust…)

    Also… Ellie, I kinda think you have to go with the current projected rotation, as Roark will need to feel he’s the guy, there in the 4-5 spot. I’m not of the opinion that they “ruined” him, by jerking him around this year, but one year should be all anyone should be asked to endure. And you gotta start Joe Ross because… well you GOTTA start Joe Ross! We could see a couple of likely “sixth men” show up through trades (there WILL be trades 😉)…

    Al in all… Really looking forward to this offseason!!!

  4. alexva6 - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    I don’t see them investing in another starter nor do I see the need. I would not sleep on Taylor Jordan as the 5th starter behind Max, Stras, Ross and Gio.

  5. natsguy - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:43 AM

    I don’t think all will be forgiven with Papelbon, The rest of the off season has a lot of moving parts.

    • NatsNut - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:52 AM

      Very, very much agreed. It won’t matter what they do in the offseason. They could hire Joe Torre to manage with Tony LaRussa as his bench coach, sign the free agents we thought we were losing, then get any other top free agents left over, win the first 30 games in a row and if Papelbon is still on the team, I’d have a really hard time watching.

  6. bowdenball - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    For all that went wrong this season, we should at least take a moment to note that the current darlings of the baseball world, the Houston Astros, won just three more games than the Nationals. Had the Nationals been in contention until the end that number might have been even smaller. It’s a fickle game.

    • natslive - Oct 9, 2015 at 6:59 PM

      If if if…..however I will point out that the Nationals had superior talent to the Astros and still ended up with a worse record….rooting for Astros in the AL

  7. mauimo22 - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:58 AM

    The only FAs that excite me are Yoenis Cespedes and Jon Lucroy. Both guys take over games.
    It would be poetic justice to get the guy who single-handedly destroyed the Nats this year.
    Cespi in LF, MAT in CF, Harp in RF – the whole year

    The tough decisions:
    * Pap – keep, let him restore his good name
    * Storen – trade, anyone who self-inflicts injuries at the expense of the team is not a team player
    * Esco – KEEP
    * Espi – KEEP
    * JZimm – Re-sign
    * Desi – adios, Mr. K. E. Desmond

    • NatsNut - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:08 AM

      Okay, I LOVE Desi, but this is pretty funny:

      “…adios, Mr. K. E. Desmond”

    • unkyd59 - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:15 AM

      Only with you on keeping Espi and letting Desi go (with QO, of course)

      • letswin3 - Oct 9, 2015 at 4:37 PM

        Gotta admit, I’m worried about the Nat’s making a QO to Desi. Here’s the thing, a QO this year will be about $15 million, and I’m trying to think of a team that could live with over $15 million, along with all those errors and K’s, and a batting average that dropped off last season. If there’s likely not a team like that out there, Desi would then just cozy up to Mr. Rizzo and accept his offer, leaving the team with fewer dollars to go after the other needed parts and delaying the ascension of prospects.

    • natsguy - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      Wow. I disagree with almost everything you just wrote. Also, Espinosa is not a Free Agent. Papelbon is a cancer and has to be excised. Escobar has more trade value than ever right now. JZIM will be too expensive and has already been offered and turned down. Storen’s trade value might be too low right now to jettison. Desmond is gone.

    • bowdenball - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:36 AM

      Lucroy is not a free agent. He’s got two years left on his deal, one a team option.

      Also, 26 year old Jason Heyward >>>> 30 year old Yoenis Cespedes. This is not up for discussion.

      • trfwans - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:06 AM

        Why fixate on Cespedes or Heyward when Gerardo Parra is available?

      • bowdenball - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:39 AM

        Because it’s fun to dream. But I agree, Parra would be a GREAT fit.

      • letswin3 - Oct 9, 2015 at 4:44 PM

        Agree, Parra would be nice. A healthy Werth is a question each year now.

  8. jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    I think the Nats took care of their biggest issue on Monday. I think if they go into next year with a competent coaching staff and a competent manager they will be fine.

    I would give Fister, Span and JZim Qualifying offers. JZim declines for sure and if Fister and Span accept it’s necessarily a bad thing. I would be comfortable going into the season with Roark, Jordan and Cole battling for the 5th spot, I wouldn’t go free agent hunting in this area at al.

    Paplebon doesn’t have a good name to restore. He must be off the team next year, after we hire a coaching staff this should be priority number 1 even if it means eating $11 mil.

    Only trade Storen if you get good value in return. I am not ready to have Treinen or Rivero close just yet.

    See what you could get for Escobar, this could be a classic sell high situation, no way he should come back to 3rd base.

    I wouldn’t count on Espinosa to be an everyday player but if we want to keep Turner in the minors for a month or 2 I have no problem with Espi holding the fort. Difo is also a possibility.

    Jordan Zimmermann is gone. No point beating the drums on this any longer. Try hard to sign Stras to a long term deal.

    Kick the tires on Jason Heyward. Upgrade the catching situation.

    • Nats Fan Zee - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:14 AM

      I agree with much of what you said but I have two exceptions:

      1) Considering we are, for the most part bound to what seems like perennial injury prone, 1/2 season players (Werth and Zimmerman for sure and I hope not but history says so, Rendon) why then after three surgeries, would you QO Span? A healthy Span, you bet but I think at this point OQ=contract as there is way too much risk in his stock.

      2) Espinosa is another “sell high”. Yes, I said it, based on his body of work for the Nats since 2010 especially with a bat in his hand, 2015 may be a career year for Danny! Gifted fielder no doubt but .240 is about what you’re going to get from him along with >100 k’s and MANY unproductive outs. Combine that with several slumps, that’s Danny. Ride the pine? Perhaps. Every day, 120 – 150 game MI? No way.

    • infideljack - Oct 9, 2015 at 12:37 PM

      Severino is the upgrade to Ramos. Keep Lobaton and give Severino 40% of the starts.
      Espinos is the SS. Trade Yunel with Rendon at 3rd and Turner at 2nd. Bostic and Difo are in the wings if we have an injury.
      I would like to see Werth used primarily off the bench with Harper, Taylor and denDekker giving us one of the fastest OF’s in all of basball. Of course, I would like to evaluate dD and MAT further during ST but as long as dD continues what he did in Sept and MAT shows better pitch recognition and gets on base more, I am good. MAT seemed to come through with runners on and that compensated for his BA.
      I would love to see a healthy Zim at 1B but I am good with him resting frequently and having That big LHB filling in. The bullpen is scary, but there are guys with potential. Pap must be gone.

      • infideljack - Oct 9, 2015 at 12:40 PM

        I almost forgot. Craig Stammen should be back and I see him as having a stabilizing effect in the pen.

      • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 2:03 PM

        Severino is not ready. He had a hard time hitting AA pitching. He needs at least one more full year in the minors. I don’t think dD is an everyday player, a really nice 4th outfielder but I doubt he’ll hit enough to play every day.

    • letswin3 - Oct 9, 2015 at 4:53 PM

      I think Rizzo’s thinking when he went out and got Yuni was to have Escobar slide into SS when Desi exited at year end … if that’s still his plan (actually it would be an upgrade in hitting and OBP), it could be that Espinosa is traded while at the zenith of his value. Let me pose this question, who would you rather have as an every day 2nd baseman, Danny or Turner?

  9. sjm308 - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    I will be a broken record here.
    I offer all 4 QO’ and am not upset if Fister &/or Span accept. The other two are gone.
    Pap must go. He has no positives. His name was mud when he got here. His skills have slowly eroded. He physically attacked the most important player on our team. Bye-bye.
    Storen, in the right role might work but if packaged with Escobar brings a decent return, I won’t be upset.
    Love to see Heyward here & Werth accept a lesser role.
    I am still upbeat on denDecker playing the role invisioned for McClouth.
    I understand Rizzo loves pitching but I think we have plenty of starters both at the major league level & AAA.
    Bullpen – go crazy Mr. Rizzo. Sign O’Day & whoever else intrigues you.

    • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:45 AM

      Coach,

      I am on the same page as you across the board.

    • natsguy - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:21 AM

      The problem with the QO is that it is set at around 16 mill. Do you think Span and Fister are worth that if they accept which they probably would.

      • sjm308 - Oct 9, 2015 at 1:45 PM

        Not sure anyone is “worth” what is thrown around now but I am taking a gamble that each would bounce back if they did take the one year offer to try for that last big deal. I have more confidence in Span and don’t ask me why. The core injuries he suffered are critical to be sure. My other gamble is that Span does not take the QO and if you look at history, since No One has ever taken one I think we are on decent ground here. Still, your question has to be answered, NO, I do not think they are worth it, but I would still do so.

    • sec112 - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:30 AM

      Agree with you on all of this, though I’m a little less certain that we have more than enough starting pitching (chances are good we will need more than a few starts from 6 and #7 and I don’t think Jordan or Cole are good options). Also – you didn’t directly address it, but as disappointing as Ramos’s offense was this year, he’s still in the top 10 in terms of offensive production and solid defensively. Weiters would NOT be an upgrade, in part because its not clear he can be a full time catcher anymore and we’ve got too many candidates for 1st base. We’ve got more important places to spend money.

      • sjm308 - Oct 9, 2015 at 1:48 PM

        Agree totally on Ramos and I understand there are stats out there showing me he is statistically a good catcher but I just don’t see it and I also see a ton of double play weakly hit ground balls with a few HR’s sprinkled in.
        You are also correct that we have more important needs and he is still fairly cheap, as are Lobaton and Severino so I am guessing it is an area that will not be addressed so I left it off my list.

  10. veejh - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    We REALLY need some more lefty bats in the lineup. Heyward would be perfect.

  11. natsfan1a - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    Playing armchair GM is not my thing but I’m definitely in the Papelbon must go camp.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:14 AM

      What she said.

    • trfwans - Oct 9, 2015 at 12:06 PM

      Where do you want him to camp? Cuz I’m not parking my Winnebago there!

      • natsfan1a - Oct 9, 2015 at 1:13 PM

        ha – well played.

    • sjm308 - Oct 9, 2015 at 1:49 PM

      You could team up with Sec. 3 and be a sofa GM

      • natsfan1a - Oct 9, 2015 at 4:24 PM

        lol, that’s a thought. Would have to consult with our respective agents.

  12. NatsLady - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Heyward would be great, but, man will he be expensive! Very young for a free agent, lefty bat, great fielder. There will be lots of competition.

    Lots and lots of “good” relievers on the market. You just need a few of them to click, like Ryan Matsun and a couple of others did this year –unexpectedly. I’d take a chance on Rich Hill, but so will a bunch of other teams, on a 1-year incentive deal.

    Papelbon has to go. He will get booed loudly by the fans and you know he doesn’t take that well (crotch grab). I’m of the mind to package Storen and Escobar, selling high on the latter and medium-high on the former. There will be teams who see Storen’s record and “stuff” and figure he would benefit from the change of scenery–which he doubtless will–and pay for that.

    • veejh - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:59 AM

      Yeah, Heyward would be bucks, but would be perfect. Werth off the bench.

      I like your idea about packaging Esco w Storen, and yes, Papelbon HAS to go.

      • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:07 AM

        Werth ain’t going to the bench at $21 mil per. He may get more rest and Taylor may get his role reduced a bit but Werth ain’t going to the bench.

      • sec112 - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:45 AM

        Guys who can’t play get benched even if they make $21M. I think it’s very unlikely Werth remains a starter for the next 2 years. Really, really hope I’m wrong.

      • npb99 - Oct 9, 2015 at 1:07 PM

        Silly to put out a starting lineup based on salaries.

      • letswin3 - Oct 9, 2015 at 5:06 PM

        Section 112 and nbp99, I agree with both of you, but I’m trying to think of one of those guys with the big “back end” of very big contracts who sat on the bench?? Werth isn’t going to be traded, but I wonder about his moping around , or worse, if he were to be relegated to the dugout. He was worth every penny when he was signed, and I would support it again, but what about the negative side of benching him for a Heyward or Cespedis?

    • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:05 AM

      I’m only OK with trading Storen if we are able to acquire someone like O’Day. I am not ready to give the ball to Rivero to close just yet. He showed a lot of nerves when put into tight situations especially in the Mets series.

      • ArVAFan - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:20 AM

        When watching O’Day this year, I couldn’t believe his WHIP wasn’t a flat zero. The way the ball was coming across the plate, I’m surprised anyone could hit it. Of course, I could have caught him on a couple of good nights, but I wouldn’t be displeased to see him pitching for us. Agree that Storen might be good (or even “lights out”) somewhere else: I don’t think Rizzo has confidence in him, and that’s all that matters at the moment.

        I’m with you on Rivero, too: he’s not ready yet to be the everyday closer, but you need more than one. And he may indeed mature into that role. Jury’s still out, and will be for another year, I’m guessing.

      • jfmii - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:29 AM

        Storen needs to go. Unless he is willing to be a situational, late-inning pitcher, seldom used against lefties.

        Not that it matters, but after his latest set of failures, I will probably will never be confident seeing him used with the game on the line. Too bad. He was so good April through July. In that 13-12 game against Atlanta, he came in and shut the door against Freeman and Pierzynski. I remember him striking out Chris Davis to save a game in Bal’mer. But man, watching him get trotted out there and lit up time and time again, with the season on the line…

      • trfwans - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:25 AM

        As the Orioles were finishing off the Nats day after day in that final homestand, O’Day (not their regular closer BTW) picked up all three saves. Phil Wood speculated after those games that it might have been O’Day’s audition for Rizzo. If so, I bet he passed the audition.

    • sec112 - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:43 AM

      I don’t get why everyone seems to think we can “sell high” on Escobar. Don’t you think all the other GMs know he just had a career year in his early 30s? You might get something of value for him, but I don’t think selling high is likely. It’s much more likely you could sell high on Espinosa (who is younger and couks be viewed as moving toward a peak, not falling off of one). Or Joe Ross, who though he looked promising, is as likely to stall or regress as he is to progress. I’m not advocating trading Espinosa (only because we need him till Trea Turner is ready and just in case the apparently fragile Rendon misses a lot of time again) or Ross, just saying you can’t generally “sell high” on a 33 year old coming off a career year.

      • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:49 AM

        sec112.

        By sell high we don’t mean you can trade him for Trout but I think his numbers last year were such that if you absolutely need an infielder you might be willing to trade a mid level prospect for him.

      • letswin3 - Oct 9, 2015 at 5:15 PM

        I’d like to think that a 300 hitter who can consistently put the ball in play is worth more than a mid-level prospect. I would keep Yuni and start him where Rizzo projected him for ’16 (SS), unless a respectable offer is on the table. Turner and Difo look to be the middle infielders of the future, but Yuni still has real short-term value in Washington, unless he is a stimulus for a nice trade.

    • NATSONE - Oct 9, 2015 at 2:49 PM

      Why isn’t anyone mentioning Colby Rasmus? Sign him to share playing time in the outfield with Werth and MAT (there’ll be injuries). Maybe even have Werth ready to play first when/if Zim goes down too.

      • natslive - Oct 9, 2015 at 7:07 PM

        He’s having a nice series for Astros right now 🙂

    • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 4:47 PM

      nb99

      really?

      show me how many players in the majors earning $21 mil a year are sitting on their benches.

      • npb99 - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:10 PM

        What’s the logic of that? You play the team that helps you win. Period. Look at what the Giants did with Barry Zito when he was struggling. He was one of their highest paid pitchers, but not one of their best, so they minimized his use.
        You shouldn’t run a team based on salaries or sentimentality, only what helps you win.

      • sec112 - Oct 10, 2015 at 1:34 AM

        Most of the high salary players who have been “benched” have been pitchers. But for position players, off the top of my head, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton.

        Actually – looking at the list of players in recent years who have been paid in the vicinity of $20m, it seems to me that close to half have been benched for extended periods not due only to injury. Basically, the tail end of these high value contracts is always difficult and players need to adjust.

  13. joemktg - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    — Hire a manager and coaching staff No longer has the luxury to go with unproven staff.
    — Replace four key free agents What, have a Steinbrenner-like payroll? Comes from within.
    — Reconstruct a bullpen Can’t dumpster dive with 1/3 of your total innings comes from these guys.
    — Gauge the trade market for Drew Storen, Yunel Escobar and others And pull the trigger.
    — Figure out what to do with Jonathan Papelbon That’s already figured.
    — Potentially start negotiations with Bryce Harper on a long-term deal “I want to be a part of it…”

  14. Whack-A-Mule - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:40 AM

    A healthy Span (and that is a rather large “if” given all the rebuilt internal parts) or some one comparable (Heyward, e.g.) is essential to any future success. A lead-off hitter+center-fielder is a rare bird.

    Michael A. Taylor is not that bird, at least not yet. Might serve team as the 4th outfielder to play the 120 or so
    games that Span and Werth don’t, but he is NOT (repeat “NOT”) the starting center fielder for a championship team in 2016.

    A serious & heavy bat is needed in the line-up to hit behind Harper. It amazes me that he had such a good season with nothing or nearly nothing in the line-up after the 3-hole this season.
    RZim can do that when 100%, but that may only be 70-90 games/ season.

    And then there’s the bullpen . . .

  15. JamesFan - Oct 9, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Very interesting and very complicated winter ahead for Nats fans. This is a serious restructuring period ahead. First priority, after hiring a manager, is the bullpen. Both Papelbon and Storen should go and both have value. Realistically, Papelbon cannot reject any trade out of Washington.
    -First priority the pen. Spend money and prospect in this area. Rizzo has a terrible track record in this one area.
    -Give Span a decent one year contract if he can pass a physical. He needs it to recover his value. Use Taylor to back up Span and Werth in the outfield.
    -Stay with the starting pitching oh hand but add depth with a mid-level free agent starter and maybe a reclamation project.
    -Recognize that Ryan Zimmerman will never be the player he was. He is fragile and his foot issue is chronic (See Pujols). Otherwise, the infield is fine with assets on hand..
    -The Nats need another bat. Don’t pay high for Heyward. He’s had one good year in StL.

    • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:44 AM

      JamesFan –

      Hyward – one good year eh?

      2010 – 4.7 WAR
      2011 – 1.9 WAR
      2012 – 6.5 WAR
      2013 – 3.4 WAR
      2014 – 5.2 WAR
      2015 – 6.0 WAR.

      More like one bad year out of 6.

      You can’t give Span a one year contract. You either give him a QO in which case he plays for about $15.5 mil or you don’t in which case he’s a free agent and can sign with anyone he wants and you don’t get a draft pick for him. He may reject the QO (likely) in which case you lose him but get a draft choice.

      Paplebon has zero value – everyone in the industry knows he’s an Ahole and he’s owed $11 mil. and he has a no trade contract. We may just need to eat that one.

      • bowdenball - Oct 9, 2015 at 12:15 PM

        Exactly. And the thing is, they don’t need another bat. They scored a ton of runs this season and should score just as many next season if Rendon can stay just a little healthier and Taylor draws a few more walks.

        What they need is an improved defense, and Heyward in the field is the equivalent of Bryce Harper at the plate.

      • JamesFan - Oct 9, 2015 at 12:55 PM

        Forget WAR. He played for years in Atlanta and I never recall him doing much. The Braves didn’t try to keep him around.

        Yes, you can offer Span a one year deal. You do not have to offer a QO. He would not reject a QO.

        Papelbon is a capable closer. Teams need them and I suspect Rizzo has had several calls already. Yes, his value is reduced, but he has value in prospects or some amount of money. The Nats just need to reduce the loss of $11 m. His no trade contract is worthless. He has no leverage to stay in Washington if they want to move him. When the Nats make a deal, he will take it.

      • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 2:36 PM

        JamesFan,

        Your comment on Heyward is so outrageous that I don’t know where to start. Let me just say for simplicity’s sake that you are wrong. Heyward did great in Atlanta and they dealt him to avoid losing him to free agency and to acquire Shelby Miller.

        Of course you can offer Span a 1 year deal but so can every other team in baseball..

        As far as Paplebon goes. There were only 3 teams on him at the trade deadline, Us, Toronto and the Cubs. Toronto had very mild interest and moved on exactly because he is an Ahole. The cubs by all accounts have moved past him also. Contrary to your thinking there won’t be a line forming to get Paplebon even if we eat $10 mil. Keep in mind also that the Nats got Paplebon for Pivetta who is a grade ‘C’ prospect and that was before he attacked our best player on national TV.

      • chaz11963 - Oct 9, 2015 at 3:58 PM

        jd- +100

    • trfwans - Oct 9, 2015 at 12:03 PM

      Funny you should mention Pujols as a comp for Zim. Yes, lots of people wrote off Pujols after he developed plantar fasciitis. Yet he seems to have bounced back from that, hasn’t he? And Zim is younger than Pujols. No reason he won’t also bounce back.

      • JamesFan - Oct 9, 2015 at 1:01 PM

        It has taken Pujols years to recover at the plate. It is painful to watch him run the bases. He is a designated hitter and that would be suitable for RZ, not everyday 1st baseman. We need to get real about Zimmerman.

    • sec112 - Oct 9, 2015 at 1:38 PM

      In general, it doesn’t make sense to trade prospects for bullpen help (unless Mariano Rivera was available). Maybe if the prospect is a relief pitcher, or is low or mid level (in which case you’re probably not getting a great pitcher. The bullpen help will have to come from free agency.

  16. peewilly - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:41 AM

    Interesting factoid, Dan Uggla was the 5th highest paid National at $13.2 mil. The Nats paid, what, $500k?

    I haven’t heard anything about Strasburg’s situation. He’s heading into his walk year and most players don’t negotiate once the season begins. Do the Nats try to extend him now or have they already decided one $200m pitcher is enough?

    • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 11:47 AM

      I am sure they will try to do a long term deal with Stras. I am not sure they will be able to. His overall numbers suggest a midlevel contract but his performance in the 2nd half may convince him to bet on himself and go for the big dollars in FA. Of course the Nats can also bet on him being the pitcher he was at the end of the year and offer him a mega contract. Stay tuned.

  17. nattyboh1 - Oct 9, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    I would not consider a change at catcher to be a “surprise move.” Ramos has always been a fan favorite and I like him too, but that was a bad year. We’re locked in at so many positions we absolutely need to look at upgrades wherever we can. Catcher is one of the more obvious ones. Even better if we can get someone who bats left or switch.

    It might make sense to hold off until the trade deadline on Esco. I do like the idea of selling high but worry about putting too much faith in too many things at once – Turner’s development, Rendon’s health, and Espy not regressing at the plate.

  18. Whack-A-Mule - Oct 9, 2015 at 3:02 PM

    Signing a defensively competent starting catcher would be a huge upgrade.
    (Included in that skill set is the ability to stabilize and foster young pitching).

    Ramos’ deficiencies in these 2 areas have been overlooked because he was a
    reasonable (not great, but reasonable) offensive contributor. Take that away,
    as in the 2015 season, and you are left with a ” B- ” starting catcher.
    Strong consideration should be given to a Free-Agent (such as Wieters) while
    trading Ramos to whomever may have need of such .

    • jfmii - Oct 9, 2015 at 3:35 PM

      Wieters? I would be very leery of a catcher who has had TJ surgery. And on that same element of catching, you certainly can’t argue with Wilson’s success at throwing out base-stealers.

    • chaz11963 - Oct 9, 2015 at 3:56 PM

      Ramos is actually a very good defensive catcher; #3 in MLB by fWAR.

      • natsguy - Oct 9, 2015 at 6:32 PM

        Crappy pitch caller which is not quantified.

  19. Ellie - Oct 9, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    Something I haven’t seen mentioned, and I’m wondering if it’s a possibility, especially if the Nats go after Cespedes or another FA outfielder, could they trade Werth to an AL team for maybe some ML ready middle relief help and/or a AAA pitching prospect/6th starter?

    Werth could do well as a DH, and he’s only got two years left on his contract. If the Nats offered to offset some of that, I think there are plenty of teams that would take him.

    I like him, and I think he’s been a great clubhouse presence for the Nats, but there just might not be a place for him if they acquire a full time outfielder. Because I think we’re all in agreement after the last two weeks that den Dekker is going to be the 4th outfielder, yes?

    • jfmii - Oct 9, 2015 at 3:38 PM

      I am not ready to let go of Werth.

    • jd - Oct 9, 2015 at 4:21 PM

      His salary makes him untradable.

      • Ellie - Oct 9, 2015 at 5:15 PM

        That’s why I suggested the Nats offer to offset some of it? Does no one here read full posts?

        I’d rather the Nats effectively pay a little extra to a free agent than pay Werth another $42M when some significant upgrades are available in Cespedes and Parra, and when Werth isn’t necessarily going to be worth (sorry) that much.

        The question is, is a player not even on the team worth $5-$8M a year?

      • dhamm6500 - Oct 9, 2015 at 9:21 PM

        So does his no trade clause.

    • letswin3 - Oct 9, 2015 at 5:32 PM

      Also, I’m with a couple of others who see Werth as a possibility for First Base if Zim is again sidelined. Which reminds me, Clint Robinson has become much more valuable as the season ended. But I think Werth might possibly agree with a trade to an AL club where he could play a little outfield and DH most of the time.

      • npb99 - Oct 9, 2015 at 8:14 PM

        Is he a good enough hitter to warrant a DH spot? I’m not sure.

        Look, it’s time to pay the piper. The Nats gave Werth an overly long and overly rich contract to get him to come here. Now we’re in the declining production, high pay part of the contract. He’ll get his dollars, but how many at bats he gets should depend on his production.

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