Through my constant urge to check Federal Baseball on
an hourly a daily basis after the Nationals crushing Game 5 loss to the Cubs, I came across an invitation from Max Reiper of Royals Review. The invitation was for a Nats fan to step into Mike Rizzo’s shoes for four days in early November and participate in a simulated offseason. Knowing I would be without live or fantasy baseball for the next four months, I happily accepted the job to be the Nationals GM for this offseason.
There were guidelines and budgets that each GM had to follow, but for the most part we were free to sign free agents and make trades to better our teams. The basic rules can be found here. One of the most difficult things we’ve had to deal with as Nats fans is knowing that after the 2018 season Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Wieters, and Ryan Madson will all enter free agency. However, for the purpose of this simulation, GM’s were not able to negotiate contract extensions for players under contract. So you can eliminate the idea of resigning Bryce!
For purposes of this post, I will focus entirely on the moves that were made within the Nationals organization only. Though I will point out that Giancarlo was traded to Boston, the Orioles traded for Miguel Cabrera and signed Yu Darvish, the Cardinals signed Wade Davis and Jake Arrieta away from the Cubs, and David Price AND Michael Fulmer were dealt to the Phillies, just to name of few of the crazy transactions that took place. You can review the rest of the transactions here.
As everyone knows, the Nats are in a position where it’s World Series or bust in 2018. This is the same philosophy that I operated under, and I believe is the same philosophy Mike Rizzo and his team are operating under for this upcoming season. I tried to make moves and signings that benefited the Nationals for this season and improve our chances of winning the World Series without jeopardizing the core of this team. I think people underestimate the value of playing together for so many years so I think keeping the team mostly the same was important. Without further ado, here are a breakdown of all the moves I decided would finally help bring a championship to D.C.
Exercised option on Adam Lind
Okay, well we know this isn’t going to happen anymore, but I think it is important to have a player like Adam Lind on this roster. A quality bench bat with power that can play first base. We know Zimmerman was entirely healthy in 2017 and we hope that’s the case in 2018, but it was only his first full since 2013 and so alittle insurance never hurt. So whether we find a way to bring back Lind or can find an alternative that is reasonably similar, this is an important move to make.
This is a move I made thinking about our clubhouse. After not bringing Dusty and the rest of the coaching staff back, I wanted to bring back some familiar faces. Lobaton is a good game caller and is there to back up Wieters. Hopefully Wieters can rebound from his tough year in 2017, but Lobaton is a relaxing clubhouse presence, and he loves catching Gio. Kendrick is a guy we brought in last year to add depth at 2B and the OF. He played very well for us and I still think he’s got a lot left in the tank. However, what I really liked about him was how people raved about his veteran leadership and his presence in the clubhouse. Plus I love "this is Howie do it" after each of his hits. Let’s bring that back for 2018.
I love our lineup and I love our starting rotation. I think both are top 4 in baseball. However, I am not in love with our bullpen. We need arms, and a variety of reliable arms. We have Doolittle to close and Madson in the set-up role, but after that there isn’t anyone who has constantly produced. Every year we wait till the deadline to fill this need, but I think it would be beneficial to address it now. Tony Watson and Brian Duensing are both left handed relievers who have proven track records. Watson has a career 3.38 ERA and was very good in Pittsburgh and Duensing is coming off a great year in Chicago. I think they can both be very effective and trustworthy as left handed options out of the bullpen. We need more viable left-handed reliever and these are two good ones. Zack Duke was a last minute signing. He has been very effective since he left Washington halfway through 2013, posting a sub 4.00 ERA in each year.
These are minor league deals so they don’t come with a lot of risk. Nick Hundley is a good alternative if something were to happen to Lobaton or if he is simply not performing in his limited opportunities. Jered Weaver said he is retiring but I at least wanted to illustrate that a veteran arm in reserve is something that can always benefit a team looking to win it all. Stephen Drew is a guy I've really enjoyed watching come off the bench in big moments and could still help in the infield if there are multiple injuries at any point (we know this happens!). Joaquin Benoit has been a proven big league reliever for years so might as well add him for the depth. Seth Smith adds OF depth (especially after some of the next moves discussed) and can really hit right handed pitching.
Traded Andrew Stevenson to the Diamondbacks for Matt Koch
With Joe Ross on the shelf till at least mid July, I wanted to get a decent arm to slot in the 5th spot of the rotation or be a long reliever out of the bullpen AND without much cost. Koch is a guy who I liked out of college at Louisville and relies primarily on his cutter and fourseamer, which sit at around 91mph and 95mph, respectively. He can make spot starts and come out of the pen when we need to eat up 2-4 innings. Parting with Stevenson was tough but like I said earlier, we are trying to win NOW. We have the outfield depth already. This move really doesn’t move the needle too much… but the next three will.
Traded Juan Soto and Shawn Kelley to the Marlins for Drew Streckenrider, Kyle Barraclough, and Dillon Peters
The organization loves Juan Soto and so do I. He’s going to be a good major leaguer… someday. He could potentially become an all star... someday. He’s only 19 and prospects are never guaranteed to pan out like you project. As much as he would look fantastic in a Nationals uniform 3 or 4 years from now, he is not going to contribute for awhile. Additionally, I have no idea what Shawn Kelley’s issue is. He was great in his first year with the Nationals, but was very ineffective last year, had injury issues, and just couldn’t be trusted coming into a game.
The return for this trade was great for our bullpen now and in the future. The bullpen is something we need to improve, but I would like to also include some pieces that have controllable contracts that can, not only help immediately, but help for many years. Barraclough (prounouced Bear Claw; pretty sweet right?) throws fire and is a potential closer in the wings. In three years with Miami he’s struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings with an ERA of 2.87 and a FIP of 2.93 (This measures a pitchers run prevention independent of the defense behind him. Essentially it is a pitcher's ability to avoid HRs, walks, and HBPs and induce strike outs). He has all the makings of an effective major league closer and I would love to slot him that role after Doolittle departs. But for now, he can dominate in high leverage situations out of the bullpen.
Streckenrider throws gas on the mound. He sits 95-96 with his fastball and in his first season in the majors struck out 14 batters per nine innings in 34.2 innings pitched. He had an ERA and FIP of 2.34 and 3.10, respectively, and was very effective against the heart of the Nationals order this year. He can immediately contribute to the bullpen or be an arm in reserve. And lets be honest, Barraclough and Streckenrider are two pretty badass names coming out of the bullpen!
Lastly, Dillon Peters is a good lefty starter who experienced some ups and downs in his 6 starts this past season but his future looks bright as a 3rd or 4th starter in the majors. We could really use the left handed pitching depth in our organization (and even starting rotation) which seems to be heavily dominated by righties. This was my favorite transaction throughout the process. Which brings me to my least favorite transaction I made in this process…
Traded Dillon Peters and Brigham Hill to the Athletics for Matt Joyce
Oakland wanted Peters and I really wanted to acquire another bench bat. I felt like Brigham Hill, although he has had success at Hagerstown, was just a throw in for this deal. I liked the idea of Joyce as he has been a reliable bench bat that can play in the OF. He hit a career high 25 homers but struck out twice as much as he walked. I don’t know if I just wanted to make more deals and pulled the trigger prematurely, but I don’t think Joyce is the kind of player the Nationals are really looking for. I definitely regret this trade, mainly because Peters would be a nice 5th starter to fill in while Joe Ross is rehabbing. The next trade, however, will probably upset people a lot more than any of the others I made.
Traded Michael A. Taylor to the Mariners for Edwin Diaz
My boy! Mickey T! He’s my father's favorite player. My girlfriend's favorite player. Probably my dog's favorite player. I love the kid. He had an incredible season last year and played gold glove caliber defense in CF. His grand slam in game 4 of the NLDS was amazing and his 3-run blast in game 5 was one of my favorite moments in Nationals Park… ever! With all that being said, I was fixated on fixing our weakness (the pen) by subtracting from one of our strengths (outfield depth). If I had made this trade before the 2017 season, I will admit, we would have been screwed. MAT saved us after Eaton went down, but I am hoping Eaton will return to form in 2018. I also have a lot of confidence in Victor Robles. He just won MVP of the Arizona Fall League and I love his plate discipline and speed, both translate well at the major league level. Moving Eaton to CF, and platooning Robles with Kendrick, Joyce, and alittle bit of Lind and Brian Goodwin would give Dave Martinez a lot of line up flexibility for all types of pitching matchups.
Now let me mention the guy we get in return, Edwin Diaz. He has an electric arm. He averages 98 mph with his fourseam and throws a slider at 88mph. He causes a lot of strike outs and has significance experience closing out games for the Mariners. He saved 34 games in 2017 and 18 games in 2016 while finishing fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. He can be utterly dominate at times and will be a force in this bullpen for years to come.
That’s it! Those are the only moves I made. Other teams made a lot more transaction but I thought this team is already well positioned for 2018, we just needed to improve some parts here and there. Here is the projected 25-man roster on Opening Day (plus more guys who can come up and make an impact this season).
RP: Edwin Diaz, Brian Duensing, Tony Watson, Kyle Barraclough, and Zack Duke
DL: Koda Glover and Joe Ross
Overall this was a great experience and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to participate in this process again in the more eventful 2018-2019 off season as World Series Champs! GO NATS!
Feel free to leave your thoughts below!
- Fake GM CJ S.