Three Reasons the Nats Should Not Trade Denard Span

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Nats are listening to trade offers for Denard Span.

Now, this doesn’t mean the Nationals are going to trade him, or even that they want to trade him. This might be a smokescreen. After all, somebody leaked this story, and they did it for a reason.

1.  He was one of the most valuable players on the Nationals last year.

I don’t think most Nats fans understand what a good player Span was because, lets face it, he was 8th best hitting position player on the team.  That is another way of saying he was the worst hitting everyday player.  He did lead MLB in triples this year.  That has to be worth something right?

Span’s play in Center Field this year more than makes up for hitting.  Wins Above Replacement was invented for a guy like him.  WAR takes into account all aspects of a players game.  By using WAR, you get a much better picture of how good of an all around player Span is.  He had a WAR of 3.5, which means he had the forth best season on the team.  Every player contributes both on offense and defense.   If you combine his base running and hitting he was a little above the league average  of 0.0, but well above if you count his fielding.  He won the Wilson Defensive Player of the year for the Nationals. If you take Span out CF and don’t replace him with Carlos Gomez  you make the Nats pitching staff worse, that’s just math.  His ability to catch balls in the gap with as much grace as anyone in baseball, improves the Nats in ways that don’t necessarily show up on the score cards.

Name Offense Defense WAR
Ian Desmond 15.4 11.6 5
Jayson Worth 36 -9 4.6
Bryce Harper 22.6 -2.1 3.8
Denard Span 0.2 12.4 3.5
Ryan Zimmerman 20.7 -12.3 3

2.  He is one of the best Center Fielders in Baseball

If the Nats were to trade Span they would still need to fill the position.  Lets see how Span stacks up against the rest of baseball.  Here are the top 10 CF in baseball last year as per WAR.

Name WAR
Andrew McCutchen 8.2
Carlos Gomez 7.6
Jacoby Ellsbury 5.8
Shin-Soo Choo 5.2
Adam Jones 4.2
Coco Crisp 3.9
Denard Span 3.5
Brett Gardner 3.2
Desmond Jennings 3.2
Austin Jackson 3.1

Well, it turns out when you factor in Span’s Defense he is a top 7 CF in baseball.  Remind me again why we are even engaging in this “trade Span” speculation.  Of the other CF above him it just so happens that Ellsbury and Choo are free agents this off-season.  Ellsbury wants a huge contract (100 mil +) and Choo is not actually a CF, he is a corner outfielder that runs out to CF every inning (-17 UZR/150).  Anybody else in baseball would have actually made the Nats worse last year.

Span was also a finalist for the NL Gold Glove this year, but rightly lost to Gomez.  If he had been in the AL, advanced metrics say he would have been the best fielding CF in that league.

3.  He fits perfectly into the Nationals big picture

The Span trade was so good for the Nats for a couple of reasons.  He has a very reasonable contract for the skill set he provides. This year he is owed 6 mil and the team has an option to bring him back in 2015 for 9 mil.  To put that into perspective, Fangraph places his value at 17.6 million.

The second reason he fits into the team’s plan is the top position prospect in the Nats Organization in Brian Goodwin who is currently playing in AA.  He is probably a year or two away from contributing at the MLB level.  It seems like Rizzo knows what he is doing.

Let me shoot down right now some of the arguments  for trading him:

Span can’t his lefties:  He didn’t his lefties last year, but for his career that hasn’t been the case.  Even with his bad split this year he is a career .281 vs L and .284 vs R. Span has played 6 season in the Majors, he has a track record, and it is good.  2013 was his first year facing many of the NL pitchers.  He should be better in his second year in the league as his second half stats indicate.

Span isn’t a good lead off hitter: Span doesn’t have a great OBP for a lead off hitter, but in the second half of the year he was 3rd on the team behind Werth and Harper.  The whole lead off hitter thing is a little overblown.  The lead off hitter only is guaranteed to actually bat lead off in the first inning.  He is a good base runer (20 SB) not a disruptive force, but he also doesn’t make dumb mistakes either.  I think the Nats have been in search of a lead off hitter for 10 years, Span is the closest they have come to an actual one yet.

Finally, this team in a two year window with this current group of players.  It should be adding talent not trading it away.  Span’s skill set matches perfectly with Worth and Harper in the outfield.

This whole idea of trading Denard Span is simply foolish.

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The list of players Bryce Harper out hit this year will surprise you

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What to make of Bryce Harper’s second season in the majors.  Most people will say that he had an OK year.  He had good points and bad points and got hurt.  Looking at his stat totals will paint that picture.  3.8 WAR (3rd on the team, worse than last year) He hit .274 (pretty good,  but not great) 20 home runs and 58 RBI (fine, not a lot of RBI for a guy who hit 4th)  less than 500 ABs (didn’t even quality).  Most average or casual baseball fans will stop there.  I know this because listening to sports radio in DC I heard the Harper season summary end there on the National’s flagship station (OK, it was the Junkies).

One of the problems you have when analyzing Harper’s season is that he missed an entire month, zero at bats in June.  I am a big fan of wOBA and wRC+ to analyze player hitting.  I like this stat because it, like batting average is not impacted by a player like Harper missing a month of the season.  wOBA is the stat general managers use to calculate players total offensive contribution and wRC+ is a park adjusted stat that give a % rank of how good a player is compared to the average MLB player.  Here is how Harper stacks up: Harper had a .371 wOBA and 137 wRC+.

Putting that into perspective

Harper was the 7th best hitting outfielder in baseball behind Trout, Werth, McCutchen, Choo, Holiday and Cuddyer.  That’s it.  That is the list.

The more interesting list is the players who Harper out hit this year.  Stanton, Bautista, Pence, Beltran, Upton, Bruce and Adam Jones

If you want to take that out to all positions, he also out hit: Beltre, Molina, Longoria, Posey, Zimmerman, Fielder and Hosmer,

Continue reading “The list of players Bryce Harper out hit this year will surprise you”

About that 12 year contract for Harper

Scott Boras
Scott Boras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scott Boras just made things interesting. Before he showed up at Nats park no one had ever uttered the phrase 12 year contract. So lets break this down a little bit, because the idea does have merit.

Questions to consider:

Would it really be a 12 year contract? No, not really. It would be a seven-year contract added to the end of the five years Harper is under team control.

Why 12 years? Because 12 years puts Harper at 32, in line for another big payday. Trust me, Boras knows exactly when the contract would end. There is a reason ARod had an opt out at age 32.

Is there any comparable? Nope, there are a few guys that come close. Evan Longoria signed a 15 year contact for 144.5 mil that will expire when he is 37 and Joey Votto signed a 13 year 236 million contract that will expire when he is 40. The difference between these contracts and a potential one with Harper is his young age. A Nats contract will have all off his “peak years” and none of the downward slide due to age every player goes through eventually.

What is in it for the Nats? Security and commitment to the fan base. It removes the obnoxious taunts from trolling New York fans. It also locks in the biggest contract in team and maybe baseball. With that knowledge, the team can put the pieces around him. Zimm, Desmond and Strasburg all come to free agency before Harper would. By locking in a 12 year contract, Rizzo and the Lerners know exactly how much money the team can afford to resign these players. Harper is the centerpiece of this team and he gets to go first.

Why would Harper want this? Money, but besides that, he has mentioned in the past that he greatly admires players like Cal Ripken, who played for one team their entire career. Also, his stock is very high right now. He has followed up his rookie of the year with a very strong season, if for some reason he slumps next year it changes the dynamic. Other than the DL stint this year, there is really nothing that would scare the Nationals about his future.

What is the risk? Boras points out that the injury risk can be mitigated by insurance. I think we all know his work ethic. He isn’t a pitcher that could have his season snapped with a tear.

Is it going to happen? I say not until the TV rights with MASN are worked out.

How much? 12 years, 241 million. Remember the 2 years he has before he is arbitration eligible are only a little over 2 million per and his arbitration numbers will not be anywhere near FA numbers. So, we are talking about a 7 year 30 million per year contact. Is that fair? I think so. Is that what the Nats and Boras have in mind? I have no clue.

Is Harper going be worth it? That is a lot of money.

Mets Broadcasters Troll Nats Over the Strasburg Shutdown

I had a chance to listen to the Mets broadcast team of Gary Cohen and Ron Darling

It is amazing to me how much the Strasburg Shutdown is not understood.

So, now I will go through and correct the record:

The very fact is if they had Stephen Strasburg starting in that series instead of Edwin Jackson it would have gone very differently.  

Edwin Jackson was always going to start for the Nats.  Ross Detweiler was the pitcher who was added to postseason rotation.  How did Ross do: Six innings, zero earned runs.  He was the most effective pitcher for the Nats in the postseason.

In your biggest game you had a weapon you decided not to use.  

By the end of Strasburg’s year he was far from the Nats biggest weapon.  Strasburg was showing fatigue in his arm (like Rizzo said he would)  He gave up 5 and 7 runs in two of his last three starts.  He was nowhere near as good a pitcher at the end of the season than he was at the beginning of the season when he was April NL pitcher of the month.

The decision to shut down Strasburg was based on health, but it was also based on a feeling in the Washington Organization that said “Hey, we have a lot of young talent, we are going to be good for a long time. We will get plenty of chances to pitch in the post season.  It smacked of a bit of hubris then, and it still feels that way.  

This is the biggest lie about the Starsburg shutdown. That Rizzo and the Nats made their decision based on anything other than the set injury recovery plan.  The truth is, he was treated like every other pitcher in the Nationals system recovering from Tommy John surgery. He pitched the same number of innings as Jordan Zimmermann the year before and will have pitched under the same recovery plan the Nats have for Sammy Solis and Lucas Giolato. The only people treating Strasburg different are the willfully uninformed national media like Gary Cohen.

The Nats are remarkably consistent in their rehab program.  I won’t even touch the hubris comment.  At one point Ron Darling commented that the 86 Mets thought they would be back in the post season too.  He forgot that int he 80’s there was no wild card and only 2 divisions per league.

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The #Nats Are a Bad Hitting Team

It is getting tougher to and tougher to watch this team.  I love a good pitched game, and the Nationals starters have been fantastic this year, ranking as the 3rd best starting staff based on ERA.  On the offense side of the game, this team is really bad.  With Harper out of the line up (he leads the team in every offensive category except doubles) the team is borderline unwatchable.  Here is where the Nats rank in the National League:

Category Rank
Average 13
Doubles 14
Tripples 2
Home Runs 11
Runs 13
RBI 13
Walk 11
SO 13
wOBA 14
OBP 14
SLG 14
OPS 14

To summarize  this team doesn’t hit for average or power, doesn’t get on base and strikes out a l0t.  If it were not for the Marlins (a team that decided not to compete at the Major League level this year) and in some cases the Mets, the Nats would be last in every hitting category.  Yesterday, the team rolled out a corner outfield hitting .152 and  .121.  At what point do heads roll and new guys get a shot.  Calling Cory Brown and Chris Marrero.

John Feinstein Still Doesn’t Get the Nationals and the Strasburg Shutdown

On CBS Sports Radio, they run commentary from their radio hosts.

John Feinstein produced a remarkably ignorant commentary about the Strasburg Shutdown.

Myth #1

Feinstein, included some obnoxious hyperbole:“Last year, when Strasburg sneezed he was taken to the emergency room.”

Actually, he didn’t miss a single start throughout the year, until his season was ended. He went to the mound every fifth day and had a remarkable season. There’s a belief in the national media that Strasburg was treated differently last year. The Continue reading “John Feinstein Still Doesn’t Get the Nationals and the Strasburg Shutdown”

Pete Kozma and the Nationals from the Cardinal’s TV Side

Pete Kozma, Ryan Zimmerman
Pete Kozma (Photo credit: Keith Allison)

A review of  the Cardinal’s broadcast on Fox Sports Midwest

The game started off with a few swipes at the Nationals and the fan base:

Dan McLaughlin:  I don’t know about you, but I understand it is a cold evening, a little breezy, but I am a little surprised about the empty seats here in Washington. 

Al Hrabosky: With the Cardinals in town?

Then they posted their poll question of the day.  Something to the effect of: Would you tank two seasons if you knew you could get Strasburg and Harper in the draft.  They came to the conclusion that maybe that would be a good strategy for a team like the National, but a team like the Cardinals wouldn’t do something like that.

Continue reading “Pete Kozma and the Nationals from the Cardinal’s TV Side”