Thursday, April 21, 2011

Nationals Pending Contracts

Today, MLB Trade Rumors posted the contract issues the Nats face in 2012. We're going to go over the issues we think loom largest for the Nats in the next off-season. We know it's a ways off, but it's always fun to get worried really, really early.

1. 11 Pending Free Agents
  • If they don't offer any contract extensions this season, the Nats are slated to have 11 players on the open market this coming off-season. Most are veteran journeymen that will either go by the wayside or sign low cost contract extensions late this season. However, there are some of note: Jason Marquis, Ivan Rodriguez, Chien-Ming Wang, and Livan Hernandez.
  • The Nats have to decide if Marquis is worth re-signing. They may do so before the trading deadline, because according to MLBTR, the team would save $2.5 million if they unloaded him before the deadline. The Nats record in July may have a lot to do with that.
  • Pudge is a Hall of Fame catcher that may no longer be extremely valuable to the club with Ramos, Flores, and Norris in the wings. I understand the player/coach mantra, but a spot on the 25-man roster is a valuable commodity.
  • Wang may make the team's decision easy if he doesn't appear this season. He's cheap for his potential, but the Nats can only wait on him so long.
  • Livo will be the truly interesting case. He's slowly become the recurring face of the pitching staff. First ever Nats Opening Day pitcher, back again to do it in 2011, and he's certainly a fan favorite. With the way the Nats pitching staff is evolving, Strasburg's return, Detwiler's improvement, and Maya's progression, the team may just run out of rotation spots for the old, reliable starter.
2. Arbitration Eligible Players
  • Four players stick out on this list, too: Tyler Clippard, Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Morse, and John Lannan.
  • Tyler Clippard is going to command a massive arbitration payday. He's currently only making $443,000 and is arguably the best reliever the Nats have. I'm not an arbitration expert, but I think Clipp will get the biggest pay bump, whether done before or during arbitration.
  • JZimm is marked for $415,000 in 2011, and so he'll see a huge jump, too. Considering he's widely touted as the Nats #2 for the foreseeable future, it's worth the money, but it'll be expensive.
  • Michael Morse is another beast in itself. Morse makes just over $1 million this season, and if you count 2010 and spring 2011, he was due for a big raise. But he's cooled off, almost staggeringly during the regular season. The Nats may find that Morse isn't worth what he may get in arbitration and might jettison that ship before we get there. Stay tuned to Morse's stats for the rest of this season. This will be a huge development.
  • John Lannan, the Nats 2-time Opening Day starter, is another one of those who knows. Lannan's inconsistencies over the last 2 seasons are staggering, but he's a fine left hander to have at the bottom of the rotation. We're big Lannan fans here at Capitol Baseball, but with Lannan currently making $2.75 million, his net worth might exceed his asset to the club. Stay tuned here, too.
What do you think about the pending free agents and arbitration eligible Nats for this coming off-season? We'd love to hear from you. Sound off in the comments.


  1. Livo gave the Nats a huge "hometown" discount last year because they were willing to resign him early. Assuming he does not regress massively, I could see that happening again.

    As for Lannan, right now he is battling with Gorzelanny to see who gets bumped to the pen when the team is ready to recall Detwiler. Gorzo might just have the edge to stay in the rotation because he is pitching deeper into games.

    Otherwise, I mostly agree. I was one of Morse's biggest backers this Spring, but he has got to get it going soon on it will be permanent bench player status for him the rest of his career.

  2. I could see the team signing Livan to a 2yr $4M deal or something like that, to show provide insurance and a continued veteran presence.

    Marquis (my guess) gets flipped mid-season for prospects. I'd guess he signs a decent-sized deal in the off season if he continues to perform.

    Of the rest of the FAs, possibly could see resigning Hairston or Cora as a continued backup infielder.

    Arbs: i think we'll end up non-tendering Slaten and Morse. I don't think Clippard will be THAT expensive; Joba Chamberlin got 1.4M first year eligible last year pitching in a similar role. Of course Clippard is better, but he's not going to get $4M or something ridiculous. I'd guess $2M max. The rest we absolutely tender contracts to (unless Gorzelanny puts up a 5+ era or something).

  3. Livan: Guys who can dependably give 200 IP with an ERA in the 3s or 4s don't come around every day. Maya, Detwiler, Strasburg are maybe, maybe, maybe. Livan is a proven commodity and is too good to lose out on the proverbial "numbers game."

    Wang: Probably won't ever throw a live pitch as a National. It's sad because injuries can arbitrarily wreck brilliant pitchers, and he was one. But it's time to let go.

    Pudge: Trading him makes sense, but keeping the greatest catcher of the last 20 years (maybe of all-time) on your roster isn't a bad thing. He could be a capable backup catcher and 1B and quasi-coach, or even become a full-time coach a la Jake Taylor.

    Marquis, Morse, Lannan: Performance over the coming months will determine the outcome in all three cases.

    J-Zimm: This guy is a budding star, and he'll get the big bucks accordingly.

    Clippard: Okay, I'm going out on a limb here. Trade him! You heard me. I'm completely serious. I was just in Cooperstown last weekend, and guess what, there are no plaques of middle relievers in there. There are also few middle relievers who have sterling 20-year careers because, let's face it, if they were better, they'd be starters or closers. Batters almost inevitably figure out how to hit middle relievers. Clippard is at his maximum value, and the Nats should find some sucker who will give up good prospects or even a veteran player. Replacement relivers are a dime a dozen, and we'll be able to find one soon enough.