Friday, January 30, 2009

Here's how to do it

Here's a tidbit from MLB rumors:

Yesterday Ken Rosenthal wrote that "the Mariners view Bobby Abreu as an ideal fit, major-league sources say, but it is unclear whether they can afford him."  Today,Larry Stone elaborates on Seattle's interest in Abreu.

Stone says Abreu's agent Peter Greenberg confirmed ongoing contact with the Mariners regarding Abreu.  Abreu is open to playing in Seattle or anywhere else.  However, they cannot afford him unless they make room in the payroll by moving salary.  Greenberg confirmed that Abreu is now open to a one-year deal.  Abreu told Greenberg he'd win the MVP and then go out on the market again.

Stone suggests the Ms would have to trade Jarrod Washburn ($10.35MM), Miguel Batista ($9MM), or Carlos Silva ($11MM) to clear '09 payroll space for Abreu.

Get on the phone with Jack Zduriencik, Seattle GM and say "I'll take Washburn or Batista off your hands right now if you give me a Top 5 prospect. Baseball America says these are the Top 5 Seattle prospects:

1.Greg Halman, of
2.Michael Saunders, of
3.Phillipe Aumont, rhp
4.Carlos Triunfel, ss/2b
5.Juan Ramirez, rhp

Washburn has a No trade clause so he'd probably ask for something (hint $$$$$) to waive it.  Batista doesn't.  Both are unsigned for 2010 meaning there is no long term commitment (and if somehow they had an outstanding season there is always  the chance they could luck into Type B FA status).

Mariners get the payroll help they need.  Nats get a prospect they need.  All it costs is money. OK, that prospect would cost between $9 and $10 million (or more depending on Washburn) but it's not like the Nats are dong anything with their unspent payroll. 

Alternatives could be, give us your top guy and we'll take  Carlos Silva and his $35 million off your hands.  Or, give us a lower tier guy whom we like and we'll add Austin Kearns and his $9 million (total $26 million added to Nats payroll.)

If the Mariners have to deal one of these guys to create payroll flexibility, then the team that can take the most salary on (not the one with the best players to offer) should be in the driver's seat.  And, is there another team with the ability to suck up as much salary as the Nats?  Is there ANY team right now other than the Nats that could suck up $9-$10m in 2009 payroll right now?

Monday, January 26, 2009

I think its called a "Straw Man"

Stan speaks:

Do you want last year's -- I won't name the teams in the American
League that had payrolls all over $100 million that ended up last -- do
you want those $100 million teams? Or do you want the $40 million team
from Tampa that went to the World Series? OK. You don't care about
payroll. What you care about is your team. Payroll is not a guarantee
of success, and it is not an excuse for losing. So don't be distracted
by it, no matter how much the media wants you to be distracted by it.

As far as this goes, he is correct.  Although spending and winning are strongly correlated, they are not totally determinative.

The criticism such as it is, is not with major league payroll as it is with the seeming lack of interest in using the considerable revenue streams this team generates to make the team better faster.

One major international signing in two years.  Not good enough.  And, why has there been no attempt to be creative with your considerable financial advantage? Vulture teams with bad cash flows and offer them financial relief for talent.  Olsen and Willingham is a start but I am sure more could be done.

Friday, January 23, 2009

80 million minus 50 million equals 30 million

I imagine Ted Lerner is pretty good about money. You don't end up sitting on a wallet with 4 billion pictures of George Washington through dumb luck.

So I may be being a bit presumptuous when I offer the equation in the post title.

The 80 million refers to the absolute, top limit, can't go any higher payroll figure for the ahem Milwaukee Brewers. That's the metro area that is 38th in size in the U.S. with a little over 1.5 million potential customers, By way of contrast, the Wash. DC market is 8th in potential customers with over 5.3 million.  Furthermore, the Washington market boasts a median household income 18th overall at 43,681.  Milwaukee by contrast is 53rd at 32,447.

So a baseball club, albeit one coming off a playoff appearance, the first one since Cal Ripken STARTED his consecutive games streak, with a population base 350% smaller and 130% poorer has a payroll that is 160% higher than the one in Washington.  Hmmmmm.

Where exactly is this disparity going?  Buying mediocre FA's for long terms would be a great way to waste this advantage.  But what else could you buy?

The largest international bonus ever was handed out this summer to a 16 year old kid from the Dominican.  $4.5 million.  Teddy could afford SIX of them without crossing the Brewers payroll limit.  Not one, not two but SIX (rounding to an even $5 million just to make sure they win the bid).

Dayan Viciedo, who just missed Keith Law's recent Top 100 prospects list just got a whopping 4 year $10 million deal from the White Sox.  The Nats could afford THREE Viciedo's just this year.

Maybe he stuffing the $30 million under the couch cushions waiting for Yu Darvish to be posted. It'll be a few years guys.

Look this is Washington DC.  If there is one town that knows how to spend money it's this one.  Ask any bureaucrat . . . spend every penny of your budget or it'll get cut.  Even if you can't use 500,000 binder clips just get it spent.  Hopefully, it will get spent smarter than government bureaucrats do . . . in fact there should be tremendous opportunity's out there for a team with cash to spend. 

Get creative.  Look to basketball where smart teams take on black hole contracts in exchange for an asset.  Is there a team out there that would surrender a top prospect to rid itself of say $15 to $20 million in payroll?  I don't know but I am willing to bet there is. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wolf, Perez and (Noooooooooooo) Garland

Boz on the Nats FA pitching targets:

The Nats brain trust is serious about Wolf, Garland (200 innings)
and maybe (longshot, if they got out the big wallet) Oliver Perez. Will
the money trust agree?

Right now, they'd have a good shot to get him for $35-M for thee
years. he just turned down $30-M for three years. I don't think he's
worth that. Rather get Wolf or Garland for less.

Sheets is just that __a chance. Kasten and Bowden don't want to take

"chances" this winter. There's no need to do that. There's still too
much quality merchandise available. Stan told me yesterday, "There are
stil 117 unsigned free agents out there. That's unheard of at this time
of year." That's why Hudson, with his wrist, has moved to a middle, not
front burner. Though if you got Dunn, you could go back to the same
agent and, perhaps, do an incentive-heavy deal for Hudson.

Does a guy who has struck out 851 batters over 1,625.3 innings and have 7 season in a row over 190IP sound like a reasonable investment of $10m over the next three years? And in those 7 seasons, he's managed to be just slightly better than average 104 ERA+. All for $10m and the first pick in the 2nd round this year.

Wolf isn't much better. Career ERA+ of 101. 1227 K's in 1468 IP. Two years older and a long history of arm problems too. Looks like his solid second half for Houston was a fluke (3.57 ERA but 4.25 lgERA). It's a telling stat since for the rest of Wolf's career his ERA has generally been higher than his lgERA.

Investing in Oliver Perez might make you look like a genius (239K's in 196IP as a 22 year old ERA+ of 145) or a Bonifay Age 23 and 24 season ERA+ of 72 and 67. Or perhaps he's settled in at last year's 100 ERA+. Perfect mediocratiy. But a mediocratiy gotten to not by blandly churning out 6IP 4ER performances but the 8IP 1 ER 12K followed by the 1.3 8 ER implosion. I guess if you are interested in making baseball exciting in DC, he's your guy.

Really, would anyone be happy with one of these guys if it costs the top pick in the 2nd round of the draft (assuming they can sign him!)? Because it is essentially a trade to sign one of them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

International Scouting Failures

I'll let Keith Law explain it:

What is most impressive about the restocking of Texas' farm system is
that the additions have come from across the board. Texas has been one
of the most aggressive bidders on talent in the international market,
landing Martin Perez, Wilmer Font, Wilfredo Boscan and Esdras Abreu.

There is more but basically the Rangers are doing all the things the Nationals should be doing.  Smiley Gonzalez is nice but there should be four or five more in the system already.  All it takes is money and Uncle Ted has plenty.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rejected Names

Surprisingly, the most difficult part in setting up a blog was choosing the name.  The technology part was a snap though my graphic design skills may be charitably described as "horrific."

Ah. but the name.  It perplexed me from the get go.  What would it be called?

I could follow the Nationals <blank> but it seemed that the good opne had already been taken and the sheer number of them meant no matter how cleverly I filled in the <blank> it would just be another one in a vast list.

That's when I turned my attention to a name with some connection to the franchises history.  As you might imagine, there isn't much there.

I nearly settled on Frank's Tears.  I even found the photo of our First manager after the Matt LeCroy debacle.  But it seemed unduly harsh and besides F. Robbie is an important figure in baseball history. No need to even approach clouding his legacy with a stupid blog title.

Then I went down the path of "minor, insignificant players I could memorialize for all time with a cynical blog name" road.  Of course, for me it would have began and ended with the immortal Levale Speigner.  Joe Horgan already had his place in franchise lore, so did Rick Short.  Nook Logan maybe? Levale, the erstwhile Gal Revels in Pee, would be the choice and the Levale Speigner Experience was nearly born.  But I decided that was just waaaaay too inside.  A dimly remembered player should have a little bit higher profile.

The 9000 was on the radar screen for a while.  Certainly a memorable number from franchise history and sort of descriptive of any one who might read this.  One of the 9000 as it were. 

So, I finally came back to Bang Zoom.  Charlie's signature phrase.  I was stealing from him and I was concerned that several of the entertainment companies named Bang Zoom would send me threateneing letters.  That's why I had rejected the name in the first place.  Well, I decided to brave the wrath of trial lawyers and go ahead with it.  It has a nice, bloggy name. Here's what BangZoom said.  That was the clincher. 

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2005 Toronto Blue Jays

Gustavo Chacin and Josh Towers will soon be competing for the Jason Simontacchi memorial roster spot reserved for sub mediocre starter on the 2009 Nationals.  Maybe sub mediocre is not descriptive enough.  Let's call him your #7 starter.  Or perhaps warm body that has enough skill not to balk on every other pitch and can resonably be relied upon to be in the vicinity of home plate with most of his pitches.

11 different pitchers started games for the Nats last year. And two of those (Redding and Od. Perez) who started over 30 games are not on the roster at the moment.  To me, if the over/under on starters for the Nats in 2009 was at 11, I'd play the over.

So, who might be ompeting for those coveted spots.  Why it's the surprising Toronto Blue Jay pitching staff circa 2005!

Chacin's 2005
203 IP  213h 121K  3.72 ERA  119 ERA+

(we'll ignore the obvious warning signs like the 4.45 lgERA and the 70BB driving the WHIP to 1.39.)

Josh Towers' 2005
208 1/3 IP 237H 112K 3.71ERA 120ERA+
(warning signs: 4.45 lgERA hit and k totals)

I wonder is someone has done a study of how these two managed to get bitchslapped with the lucky stick in the same year for the same team?

Anyway, fast forward to the 2008-09 offseason and these two are both NRI's for the Nats.  Which means it's damn likely that one or both will be on the hill for the Nats come August.

They both feature strong Simontacchi credentials since their one good season:

2006  ERA+ 54
2007 ERA + 83

2006 ERA+ 90
2007 ERA+ 80

Towers is hittable but doesn't walk anybody. Also (to understate it slightly) is homer-prone.

Chacin gives up fewer hits but walks way too many batters. 

The possibility exists for Towers to be somewhat useful if used properly.  First, under no circumsances should he be allowed to take the mound in Cincinnati or Philadelphia.  Colorado too just to be safe.  Second, defense will be important especially in the OF.  Maybe that's the game L Millz takes a break and Kearns gets his one start a week. 

If we see Chacin, it will be time to start scouting for the #1 pick in the 2010 draft.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Blogosphere Here I come

Shout out to Nationals Fanboy looser who is the first ever to mention something I wrote. My semi-serious proposal to sign Elijah Dukes to a long-term contract right now while he needs the money.

Really, its not a bad idea. He'll be cheap this year but if he has a decent season or hopefully a break out season he would get expensive fast. The danger of course is if the dawg really dies.

Personally I couldn't care less about the "moral" character of players. They are there for my amusement between the white lines. But I can understand a team not wanting to have someone who has (a somewhat overblown) reputation as a troublemaker as a keystone player.

And before we start judging Elijah's handling of his finances, let's just take a look at how those who's JOB IT IS TO MANAGE MONEY have been doing the last few months. Compared to Lehman Brothers and BoA, he's in comparativly little trouble.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Winter time blues

I suppose a baseball beat writer in the winter, used to frantic pace of game stories every day during the season, must feel like winter goes by at a snail's pace.

So, unless you cover the Yankees, its almost inevitable that a "no big moves" article will appear. Here it is

So far, there hasn't been an FA signing that looks like a even a good deal for the team. CC, AJ and Tex all overpaid. Derek Lowe? Good to great pitcher very overpaid. F-rod? How'd that Billy Wagner signing work out in terms of stabilizing your bullpen Omar?

The main move so far is one that fits right in with the Plantm. Dealing three ho hum prospects for two arb-eligible major league ready talents that their teams can't (or won't) pay for. Not to say that Olsen and Willingham are going to set the world on fire or even that they will be key pieces of a great Nats team but for the cost (virtually nothing except Uncle Ted's money) there are two more legimite major leagures on the roster than there were at the end of the season.

And I know the doubt among some fans about Olsen. ERA+ of 101 in 200ip. That's almost exactly league average. What's that worth on the open market? Tim Redding got what $2.5? and he's a far cry from league average. Olsen likely to get just north of $3m. A tidy profit to be turned there.

As for other signings, what's the hurry? The price is rapidly plunging. How many teams are looking at the 2009 projected payrolls, looking at the economy and saying OH MY GOD we are so screwed!

Long term deals for FA's of questionable value just aren't going to be there . . . unless you find the greater fool. In this game of chicken, the teams with payroll flexibility RIGHT NOW have a huge advantage.

I could live without Adam Dunn. Really, his maximum value would be as a DH. Playing him in the field even as a 1B just kills his value.

Orlando Hudson makes the most sense. 2B is a position in flux, lots of candidates but no one who looks more than a futility infielder at best. Belliard's bat vs. one of the Hernandez/Gonzalez's gloves? Either way its the position player most likely to significantly underperform the league average. Hudson would give us at least league average. He could lead off where the Nats don't really have a good option right now. And yes, he's not an ideal leadoff hitter but when your options are Guzman or Hudson he looks a lot better.

Signing Hudson means losing that first pick in the second round. Not sure its worth it but from the FOs perspective they might prefer to buy the FA rather than have to fork out another $2-$3m signing bonus on top of the Strassburg Brink's truck and the 10th picks demands.

So fret not Zuckerman. The hot stove season is not over. In fact, we may see at lot of action as ST gets closer as teams realize they have way too much payroll. Some arb-eligibles may shake loose and the Nats have just the right amount of almost prospects and payroll felxibility to go cripple shooting. Dan Uggla anyone? Prince Fielder? Zach Grineke?

Thursday, January 15, 2009


First off, don't expect long statistical studies.  Not that I don't READ them but I don't produce them.

Stats matter and they can tell you important things about players and the game. 

All I hope to do is have a place to publish the transient thoughts about the Nats that go through my head.  Period.  I suppose I could just comment at other sites but if they choose not to talk about what I think, then I need an outlet.  Here it is.