Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How Much Is That Dog Team In The Window?

Before we get tooooo far ahead of ourselves, and charting out the future course of National- and mankind, it's probably important to take stock of where we are for next year's roster. Some salaries are estimates, and I could be way off on them; those are noted accordingly.

$1,000,000 -- John Patterson (arbitration elgible, was $322,500)
$400,000 -- Mike O'Connor/Beltran Perez (estimate, pre-arb)

$1,500,000 -- Chad Cordero (arbitration-eligible, was $525,000)
$1,300,000 -- Luis Ayala
$700,000 -- Jon Rauch (arbitration-eligible, was $335,000)
$700,000 -- Ryan Wagner (likely arbitration-eligible, was $380,000)
$400,000 -- Saul Rivera (estimate, pre-arb)

$3,500,000 -- Brian Schneider

$7,500,000 -- Jose Vidro
$5,500,000 -- Nick Johnson
$4,500,000 -- Felipe Lopez (arbitration-eligible, was $2,700,000)
$4,200,000 -- Cristian Guzman
$500,000 -- Ryan Zimmerman (estimate, pre-arb)

$3,500,000 -- Austin Kearns (arbitration-eligible, was $1,850,000)
$500,000 -- Ryan Church (estimate, pre-arb)
$400,000 -- Nook Logan (estimate, pre-arb)

That's it. Those are the only sure bets to return. The others are all roster-filler-types (like Micah Bowie) who could come back, but aren't locks -- and wouldn't come back at a significant price anyway.

That's roughly $36 million for 16 players. Assuming the payroll holds steady in the $65 million range, that leaves about $30 million for the remaining 9. And, as you can see, there's a gaping maw in the rotation and the outfield.

Let's, for the hell of it, plug some values in to get a better picture.

We need a backup catcher, so let's bring back Harper at $400,000. We need a Fick-type, a veteran pinch-hitter. He can catch, play first, and backup the OF. He made $850,000; we'll stick with that. We need a LH reliever. Mike Stanton (or his ilk) can be had for $1,000,000 or so. St. Claire seems to like 12-man staffs, so we'll take one of the New Orleans Columbus crew at $400,000. They liked Castro's speed. Maybe he can be the new Jamey Carroll at $400,000. (or Dorta or Casto or whoever at the minimum). How about an Alex Escobar/George Lombard-type as the fifth OFer? That's, say, $500,000 (to be generous).

That motley crew eats up $3,550,000.

What does that leave us with? Three empty rotation spots and a starting outfielder (either in left, if Logan's your guy, or in center, if you prefer Chuch -- and don't think he can handle center).

So we have about $27 million for three starting pitchers and a starting outfielder.

What would you do with that money? Re-sign Soriano? Let Soriano walk and dump it in pitching? You could entrust another starting spot to one of the Traber/Perez-types, to free up more money for the other positions.

Here's a fairly comprehensive list of free agents. You can sort by position to see which SPs are available, although it includes players with options that are likely to be picked up, so blogger beware. Is there anyone realistic (ie: Not Zito) that you'd target? How would you spend that money.

If I don't get fatter and lazier, I'll give you my answers later. That's a pretty big if, though.


  • Pitching staff composition will be shaped by the pitching coach who comes in with the new manager. I like R. StC., but he might be looking for work next month.

    Not that that has anything to do with your question, just thought I'd mention it.

    By Blogger Nate, at 10/11/2006 10:49 AM  

  • Good point. Although there's not a pitching coach who'd turn down 12 pitchers. ;)

    So flip one of the minimum pitchers to one of the minimum batters. It's unlikely to make much of a difference in the fiscal calculus.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/11/2006 10:50 AM  

  • For a bit more than 27 Million I'd love to see Schmidt and Zito.

    Realistically I think we can get Lilly, Meche, and Weaver for that money. "Overlength" Meche and Lilly to get them here. Overpay Weaver to make him accept a 2 years deal so that money can free up with Vidro's salary about when we're ready to jump up the pay scale and make a run at a premier pitcher. (Sabathia, Bonderman, Peavy, Penny, Sheets) assuming one of them is still good and available

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 10/11/2006 11:08 AM  

  • Zito and Schmidt would be nice! I wonder if they'd be able to drag the offense enough? Given how poor we were, it's likely.

    Weaver would be an interesting case. We need two of those guys to be durable and give us innings. Meche isn't really that guy. Batista is old, but he's durable. Lilly is interesting.

    There do seem to be plenty of names out there, at least. We shouldn't have to pick up all our guys from the chum bucket this season.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/11/2006 11:16 AM  

  • No real basis for saying this other than . . . well, other than I say so, but if we target 3 FA pitchers, we'll likely get 1, if we target 6, we'll likely only get 2, and so forth.

    So unless we just basically canvass the potential FA and expend all our time and effort (or, more accurately, the think tank does so), we're not going to fill a rotation with Lilly, Weaver, Meche, etc., etc. But we could get two of them, I suppose. Or one good one and bring back Ramon Ortiz, as exciting as that is.

    By Blogger Basil, at 10/11/2006 11:28 AM  

  • That's very true. It's not like we're the only team that needs/wants pitching.

    We NEED to fill in at least two of those spots with innings. That third spot could be a reclamation guy, an Ortiz-type.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/11/2006 11:30 AM  

  • I really like Lilly. In the last 5 years he's really only had one bad one. Fairly durbale and importantly left-handed. (If Mike O' Conner or Billy Traber don't show up in ST, which isn't a crazy thought, we'd be without a lefty again).

    Weaver is worth a gamble on. He's got the talent, but doesn't seem to handle stress (pitching for Yanks, pitching for position against brother) well. That won't be a factor in DC for the next few years.

    Meche is more durable than you think. He had 10 starts in Tacoma in 2004, so if you can get past that shoulder surgery that caused him to miss 2001 and part of '02, he's been real durable. Plus, I saw him pitch twice this year and think he might be putting it together. That jump in K's is heartening.

    (I also think moving AL pitchers to the NL can boost their confidence getting even greater returns)

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 10/11/2006 11:39 AM  

  • You have more faith in Meche than I do. I guess I've read too much of USS Mariner dumping on him for three years now. If the K Rate thing really is him getting his shoulder up to normal, then there's a chance. If It's just one of those things, then... gulp.

    I like Lilly, but I'm just terrified of his delivery. If you've seen it, you've probably patted your elbow in sympathy. He throws directly across his body, and the way his arm snaps, you'd think he was trying to pat himself on the back.

    I could get behind him, I guess. We'd need him to shave his eyebrows though.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/11/2006 11:41 AM  

  • yeah, Meche could be good or Meche could be Tony Armas, revisited.

    By Blogger El Gran Color Naranja, at 10/11/2006 11:55 AM  

  • Shoot for the moon on Zito or Schmidt. Make competitive offers to Mulder and Padilla.

    But be assured you'll end up with two of these guys: Eaton, Kim, Marquis, or Meche; and one of these guys: Lilly, Chen or Wolf

    By Blogger Brian, at 10/11/2006 12:22 PM  

  • Rickey.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 10/11/2006 1:50 PM  

  • Did you see that your hero was at the game yesterday? He either did, or is scheduled to, throw out the first pitch one of these days.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/11/2006 1:52 PM  

  • I think before pondering free agents the Nats need to figure out where they are going with Vidro. There's bound to be one team out there that would swap a marginally good starter for Vidro and Kearns if the Nats were to pick up half of Vidro's salary. One would assume said pitcher could potentially be a wash ($7 million) with the other half of Vidro's salary plus Kearns' post-arb salary. With Vidro gone, the Nats can go with Guzman and Lopez starting in the middle, and Church give you pretty much the same OPS as Kearns in right for about $3 million less.

    From there the Nats would need to fill another bench slot for $500,000-$1,000,000, but they would have met a more pressing need at relatively little cost. (If Frank Diaz or Larry Broadway can get their poop together in spring training, I wouldn't be shocked to see either of them make the team next year in that slot.)

    Assuming Casto can earn the starting outfield slot (I think he will), that leaves most of the $27 million for two starting pitchers. It would be very neat if the Nats could reunite Mulder and Zito, or find another top tier starter to bring in. But with the warnings about building for the future, and considering the weakness of the free agent pitching class, one would expect, and maybe even hope, that we'll just see them bring in some more stopgap guys like Steve Trachsel and Aaron Sele.

    By Anonymous Tito, at 10/11/2006 1:55 PM  

  • I'm not so eager to trade Kearns. Even at that price, he's still a valuable player, when you consider offense and defense. He has the injury risk, and his value might not be higher, but.... I think I'd rather live with his potential.

    I'm also not convinced that any of the minor leaguers you've mentioned are ready. Diaz, definitely not. I suppose that Broadway could do a Fick impersonation, but then you'd need another player for some versatility. Casto probably deserves a crack at some point, but he's going to be Rickey Ledee (a 4th outfielder) unless he takes a quantum leap soon.

    Stopgap guys are certainly important. The key for the Nats is that they need innings from their starting pitchers. They simply can't do what they did last year, if they don't want to completely murder the arms in the pen -- and alienate the fan base! ;)

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/11/2006 1:59 PM  

  • I know we probably can't be that picky, but with a potential middle infield of Vidro/Lopez and a home ballpark of RFK, we probably want to avoid groundball pitchers. Of the guys discussed so far, this means no Batista and Mulder.

    By Anonymous Will, at 10/11/2006 2:16 PM  

  • That's a very good point, too.

    If it's Vidro AND Lopez, it's trouble. Maybe we could petition the league to add a roving infielder? It's a shame there's a rule about the catcher needing to be inside the box on each pitch. ;)

    No matter what pitcher you bring in, he's going to be affected by the defense, and it's not just the infield -- although with Kearns and Logan in right and center, the outfield will be pretty good.

    By Blogger Chris Needham, at 10/11/2006 2:18 PM  

  • Spending the last $30 million is a no brainer. Spend it on pitching. We didn't win with Soriano and we can't be any worse without him if some decent starting pitching is brought in. Besides, spending big bucks on Soriano is too risky. His game has too many flaws. Further, he will be 31 next year, so his best years are probably behind him. Vidro signed a long term contract when he was about 28 and that has proven to be a bad deal.

    By Anonymous phil dunn, at 10/11/2006 3:21 PM  

  • Nice estimate, but you're way low on what Cordero is going to get. Based on recent history for first time eligible closers, he's an absolute lock for $3M, and could make a very good case for $4-4.5M.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/13/2006 12:41 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/03/2009 8:04 PM  

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