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Nats decline options on Janssen, McLouth

Nov 2, 2015, 4:09 PM EST

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The Nationals declined to pick up contract options for reliever Casey Janssen and outfielder Nate McLouth on Monday, making both veterans free agents along with six others who officially hit the market on the day after the World Series ended.

Janssen and McLouth join right-handers Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, shortstop Ian Desmond, center fielder Denard Span, left-hander Matt Thornton and infielder Dan Uggla as new free agents.

The Nationals have until 5 p.m. Friday to make qualifying offers to the latter six. They are all but guaranteed to make the offer (a 1-year contract worth roughly $15.8 million) to Zimmermann and Desmond but must decide whether to do likewise to Span and Fister.

If a player accepts the offer — and none have in three years since MLB instituted this system — he returns to the club one that 1-year contract. If a player declines the offer, the club then receives draft-pick compensation once the player signs with a new team.

Zimmermann and Desmond are certain to command significant long-term offers this winter, so there’s no reason to believe either would accept the qualifying offer. The market for Span and Fister, though, is less clear after disappointing 2015 seasons that saw bother former stalwarts deal with injuries and Fister deal with a demotion to the bullpen due to poor performance. Either could consider accepting a qualifying offer from the Nationals and attempt to reestablish his value with a bounce-back season before becoming a free agent again next winter.

The decisions to decline contract options on Janssen and McLouth were fairly straightforward.

Janssen was a disappointment this season after signing a deal last winter that paid him $3.5 million to be the Nationals’ new setup man following Tyler Clippard’s trade to Oakland. The 34-year-old right-hander went 2-5 with a 4.95 ERA (his highest since 2009) in 48 appearances, never fully earning former manager Matt Williams’ trust to pitch in high-leverage situations.

Janssen’s contract included a $7 million mutual option for 2016. The Nationals declined their end of that option, but in doing so picked up a $1.5 million buyout. Thus, Janssen wound up costing the club $5 million for one season on the mound.

McLouth’s 2-year deal proved a bigger mistake for the Nationals, who were counting on the veteran to be a reliable fourth outfielder who could step into a starting role in case of injuries to the likes of Span, Jayson Werth or Bryce Harper. McLouth, though, hit a paltry .173 with one homer, seven RBI and a .517 OPS in 79 games in 2014 before requiring right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum. He never returned to play this season, requiring another surgery on the shoulder.

Thus, the Nationals wound up paying McLouth a total of $10.75 million ($5 million apiece in 2014 and 2015, plus a $750,000 buyout instead of a $6.5 million club option for 2016).

  1. mlblogsnatsboy - Nov 2, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    So they paid Janssen $5 mil to do what he did. If they had kept Clippard, he would have been making $8.3 million. Was watching the bullpen implode every eighth inning worth that $3.3 million savings?

    • infideljack - Nov 2, 2015 at 4:38 PM

      He was not good in the WS. That said, I have no idea why we got Janssen or Papelbon or even Scherzer

      • jfmii - Nov 2, 2015 at 5:46 PM

        Don’t follow the Scherzer logic

    • veejh - Nov 2, 2015 at 6:29 PM

      We gained Escobar out of the deal. It was well worth the savings.

  2. dryw4nats - Nov 2, 2015 at 4:30 PM

    It’s been said before, but if they can pay McClouth $10.75 million to not play, they can pay Papelbon $11 million to not play. At least for the latter they gain something of value!

    • infideljack - Nov 2, 2015 at 4:45 PM

      Maybe we should pay Werth and RZim to sit on the bench

    • janebeard - Nov 2, 2015 at 5:38 PM

      Exactly right. #Papelgone, whatever it costs.

  3. Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 2, 2015 at 4:49 PM

    To be fair, McLouth wasn’t a mistake so much as just bad luck.

    • sunshinebobby - Nov 2, 2015 at 5:00 PM

      @Sec 3, My Sofa.

      I respectfully disagree. McL is right up there with Brian Lawrence for recipient of Worst. Acquisition. Ever.

      Of course, PLoD and Pap are also in the running as well.

      I loved McL in Baltimore, on paper he looked like a great fit, but, man, did that 40 mile trip down the Parkway take a toll on him.

      Both these cuts are addition by subtraction. Pap will give us the hat trick.

      • ehay2k - Nov 2, 2015 at 5:15 PM

        Mclouth was brought in to be the 4th outfielder, someone who could also hit off the bench. He slid hard into the bottom of the LF wall early in his first season. He cut his hand, banged his knee, and likely caused the shoulder problem as well in that impact. In any case, he was never the same. He only needed to approach mediocre, which any baseball scout would have likely thought possible. Instead, he didn’t even get up to atrocious.

        However, it’s pretty unfair to use hindsight to retroactively damn prior deals. I recall that quite a few people thought it was a pricey deal, but I don’t recall anyone saying he’d be too injured to contribute for almost the entirety of his contract.

      • ArVAFan - Nov 2, 2015 at 5:42 PM

        I’m sure he would have rather been healthy and effective. Two shoulder surgeries later–if he makes a serious comeback, we’ll be looking at a “Comeback Player of the Year” nomination. It made sense at the time. Oh, well, (to coin a phrase), that’s baseball.

      • natsguy - Nov 2, 2015 at 6:05 PM

        If he comes back from those surgeries it would be “Comeback of the Millenium”.

      • jd - Nov 2, 2015 at 6:40 PM

        ehay2k

        ‘However, it’s pretty unfair to use hindsight to retroactively damn prior deals’.

        What? next thing you’l insist that we should all be reasonable. The nerve of some people !.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 2, 2015 at 7:22 PM

        Brian Lawrence is an interesting choice. They got him for Vinny Castilla, basically, who was my favorite 2005 Nat, despite The Chief’s catchy run-in tune on the radio. But Vinny was almost no use to the Nationals in 2006, with Zimmerman up, and I don’t care what the Padres say about Bowden and Kasten selling them damaged goods, everybody knew Vinny was on his last half of a knee, so it should have been no surprise when it blew out almost right away.

        Lawrence, OTOH, had pitched 200 innings, or nearly so, for the past five years, and he insists (to this day, afaik) his knee was good up until it blew out pretty much within minutes of getting here.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 2, 2015 at 7:27 PM

        ‘However, it’s pretty unfair to use hindsight to retroactively damn prior deals’.

        Well, you can’t very well use hindsight in advance, now can you?

    • unkyd59 - Nov 2, 2015 at 7:53 PM

      But, Sunshine… McLouth was nothing, if not unlucky… You’re not actually disagreeing, at all…

      • sunshinebobby - Nov 2, 2015 at 8:54 PM

        Didn’t really mean to start a firestorm. Just comparing McL to Lawrence in that both were above-average players when we got them, then got doomed by injuries. And, bottom line, they were bad trades. Not purposely bad. Not blaming Rizz or Jimbo for making them. Just, yes, in retrospect, they were disasters.

        But thanks for the Vinny Castilla memory bubble. Yeah, I remember he couldn’t bend over far enough to field grounders. Turned out to be a blessing: Zim made to the bigs just that much faster.

  4. philipd763 - Nov 2, 2015 at 5:48 PM

    McLouth’s major league career is likely over!

  5. mwgchess - Nov 2, 2015 at 6:44 PM

    I don’t think that Desmond is worth a Qualifying offer after the season he just had. I would definitely offer Zimmerman one however it is doubtful that he would except. Of the remaining free agents to be I would only offer a Qualifying offer to Span. I think that he has great value as a good pure lead off man which is a role that the Nats are lacking. Furthermore, it would eliminate the need to take on a big contract for a proven outfielder. There is a decent chance that Span would except it. His value will be down after this year and he will want to regain some value before hitting the free market. Even last year, he hit .300ish while playing through injuries so I don’t think there is a big concern of him not hitting. I would be very happy to have a Span, Harper, Werth/Taylor platoon outfield for the Nats next year.

    • sunshinebobby - Nov 2, 2015 at 7:23 PM

      @mw:

      Accept = to take or receive (something offered); receive with approval or favor:

      Except = with the exclusion of; excluding; save;

      It’s confusing enough around here, even using correct language. Without it, we have no hope.

      Try Webster’s sometime. He’s a good-fielding, no-hit type.

      • mwgchess - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:28 AM

        I am terribly sorry my language confused you. You are absolutely right I did use the wrong word. I do however wonder why you don’t have anything better to do than to post aggressive comments about linguistic errors. Perhaps we can ask around the forum to see who was unable to comprehend my language. Once again, I am deeply appreciative of your help. I’ll be sure to put all of your comments under the same scrutiny so I can offer you a similar service. Thanks!

      • hersheyman - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:27 PM

        wow sunshine, you embarass yourself with notes like this. I wouldnt vave excepted the criticism so graciously if I were mwgchess.

    • unkyd59 - Nov 2, 2015 at 8:05 PM

      I know that others have feared Desmond would accept a QO… But for the life of me, I can’t see how. It’s not like he gets to shop himself around, first. He doubtless believes, as do I and many others here, that he’ll get a nice deal, with a good team. Accepting is pretty much a lose/lose prop, for Desi.

      • Section 222 - Nov 2, 2015 at 10:03 PM

        I don’t know of anyone who thinks Desi or JZnn will accept the Q.O. It’s Span and Fister who are the question marks, as Mark’s article says.

  6. joemktg - Nov 2, 2015 at 7:12 PM

    Get as many compensatory draft picks as possible. The 2016 draft will be phenomenal.

  7. Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 2, 2015 at 7:31 PM

    Just a thought about Qualifying Offers — we hear it often that “no player has ever accepted” one, and that’s true, but keep in mind, this is only the fourth year they’ve existed. It’s not like they go back to 1920, or somesuch.

    Someday, probably sooner rather than later, somebody is going to take one.

    • veejh - Nov 2, 2015 at 7:51 PM

      I have no idea what the rejection list looks like, but Fister and Span’s current scenarios seem relatively high for a player to accept.

    • slidell2 - Nov 2, 2015 at 10:05 PM

      Have to keep in mind that GMs are very selective as to whom they offer QO’s. The fact that no one has ever accepted one can be interpreted to show that management has been very smart in making the judgments.

      • Section 222 - Nov 2, 2015 at 10:25 PM

        +1

    • Section 222 - Nov 2, 2015 at 10:24 PM

      No one has rejected one because they are made only to the top free agents. From 10-15 players per year have received Q.O.’s. Here’s the list. Not many teams have made two in a year, much less three or four. (Looks like the Yankees made three in 2012.)

      2014 ($15.3 million)
      Max Scherzer
      Victor Martinez,
      Hanley Ramirez
      Pablo Sandoval
      James Shields
      Russell Martin
      Nelson Cruz
      David Robertson
      Ervin Santana
      Francisco Liriano
      Melky Cabrera
      Michael Cuddyer

      2013 ($14.1 million)
      Carlos Beltran
      Robinson Cano
      Shin-Soo Choo
      Nelson Cruz
      Stephen Drew
      Jacoby Ellsbury
      Curtis Granderson
      Ubaldo Jimenez
      Hiroki Kuroda
      Brian McCann
      Kendrys Morales
      Mike Napoli
      Ervin Santana

      2012 ($13.3 million)
      Michael Bourn
      Josh Hamilton
      Hiroki Kuroda
      Adam LaRoche
      Kyle Lohse
      David Ortiz
      Rafael Soriano
      Nick Swisher
      B.J. Upton

  8. lesatcsc - Nov 2, 2015 at 8:14 PM

    Is it $15.8M for any and all QOs? What did the Nats pay Span this year? I can’t imagine they will take a chance with Fister after last season because $15.8M would probably look pretty good to him coming off the year he had, but Span is intriguing.

    • veejh - Nov 2, 2015 at 8:49 PM

      1 year at $15.8M, or whatever it is (and the potential of not becoming healthy) vs 3 or 4 years at $10M from someone willing to pay?

  9. oldtownatsfan - Nov 2, 2015 at 9:29 PM

    Even Desmond’s disappointing 2015 season was better than at least half of starting shortstops in the majors this year. Arguably, even if he produces at the same level next year, he’d be a top ten MLB shortstop. Short just isn’t a premier position around the league right now.

    Of course given his clear downward trajectory, maintaining even this past season’s production level is no sure thing.

    So I won’t go so far as to say I HOPE he accepts a QO (a heretical statement around these parts, I know!), but I think it does go to show that there’s almost no question he’ll reject the QO. Some team out there will be willing to give him a better deal.

    • veejh - Nov 2, 2015 at 9:34 PM

      I don’t think the notion that Desmond would accept a QO has ever been on the table.

      • npb99 - Nov 2, 2015 at 11:25 PM

        Desi’s too proud to do that. But it really would be bad if he did. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then everyone will be trying to imitate the Royals: disciplined at the plate, controlled swing, good defense. Desi is like the anti-Royal. Who is going to give this guy a huge contract?

  10. csorrent528 - Nov 2, 2015 at 10:23 PM

    Rizzo should go after Jason Heyward to play center and protect Bryce in the lineup.

  11. TimDz - Nov 2, 2015 at 10:41 PM

    MLBTraderumors is reporting possible snags with Bud Black and that Dusty Baker may be the man….

    Please contact Ron Wotus…..

    • ArVAFan - Nov 2, 2015 at 10:45 PM

      Well, that would explain why Dusty was saying that the Nats hadn’t called him to say he hadn’t gotten the job. Apparently they weren’t going to call him until they had ink on paper with BB–and that may not happen. First day of Hot Stove and we’ve already got a pot boiling over.

  12. Todd Boss - Nov 3, 2015 at 7:42 AM

    Is it just me, or does this team have NINE major league free agents? Missing from this article is mention of Reed Johnson. He may have been signed as a MLFA but he’s on the 40-man roster.

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