We gathered a number of voices around the roundtable and asked them a few pertinent questions on the minds of all Washington Nationals fans to get their perspectives on the latest news in the nation’s capital...
Joining the FBB roundtable this week:
Will Kubzansky - @WKubzansky on Twitter - FBB writer, link poster, columnist
Matt Weyrich - @MattTalksSports on Twitter - FBB writer, columnist
Ryan McFadden - @RMcFadden15 on Twitter - FBB writer, columnist
1. What do you make of the Nationals' plan to move Erick Fedde into a relief role? Desperation? Good way to get his feet wet in majors as GM Mike Rizzo said?:
Will Kubzansky (WK): “I think the decision isn’t a bad one, but it reeks of desperation. Erick Fedde is a valuable asset and could very well be useful in the majors this season, but he's a starter, and in any normal year when one's bullpen isn't a garbage fire, the Nats would love to have him progressing on a track to where he can be a productive major league starter. It will be a good way for him to get his feet wet in the majors, but I definitely think it's off the charted path.”
Matt Weyrich (MW): “While potentially hindering a top prospect’s development will always leave you a little skeptical, this is a need the Nats have to address right now. The offense is sputtering and Tanner Roark hasn't looked like himself, making the bullpen issues all the more glaring. Fedde is a key part of their future and Rizzo and Co. certainly still view him as a future piece of the rotation, but this is a World Series-caliber team and now is the time to go all in.”
Ryan McFadden (RM): “The Nationals’ plan to move Erick Fedde into a relief role is an interesting one. I know he is a starter, but the experience he will gain by pitching in the majors will serve him well. This also gives the Nationals a chance to see how Fedde will do against big league hitters. Also, the Nationals need all the help they can get in the bullpen, so this is a move that Nats really need to consider.
Dave Nichols (DN): “I'm not a fan at all of moving Erick Fedde to the pen. I think it's high-risk, low reward move. I don't think Mike Rizzo ever panics, but this feels like trying to solve a problem by potentially making a much bigger one. Fedde is probably the Nats’ No. 2 prospect and he's a Tommy John survivor just getting to the point of being completely healthy and not worrying about re-injuring himself and now they're putting him in a less-controllable situation -- one he's never been in -- and putting unbelievable pressure to "rescue" the MLB bullpen. And what if he succeeds? Then you're more reluctant to move him back into a starting job where he'd provide significantly more value.”
WK: When I read about this deal, I honestly was fuming because I couldn't believe the Nats couldn't pull the trigger. Ward will be a decent player, maybe even everyday level. Jesus Luzardo is many years away from even potentially making the majors, which he very well may not. What angers me the most is the money. Sure, Robertson isn't exactly an elite closer -- he'll probably come down to earth a little more at some point this season -- but this would have given the Nats a concrete solution to a closer problem, something desperately needed. Suddenly, you're looking at Robertson 9, Glover 8, and Blake Treinen's confidence may not even be shot. I think not making this deal is going to haunt the Nats.
MW: “With no inside knowledge whatsoever, my belief is that the move wasn't approved by the Lerners. The Nats' payroll is upward of $170 million and Robertson didn't have the Kenley Jansen-type resume, so they didn't want to spend the money on a closer that wasn't guaranteed to lock down the ninth. With how well he's pitched now, though, that price is only going to climb. Washington might've missed its chance to hold onto guys like Andrew Stevenson and Carter Kieboom, which is a shame because their ceilings have steadily risen as they've developed through the Nats' system.”
RM: “I feel like the Nationals should have made the deal to get Robertson. I understand that the Nationals probably didn’t want to put in a lot of money on a closer, who hasn’t reached elite status yet. But, the deal for Robertson would have solved the Nationals’ closer problems, which has plagued them so far this season.”
DN: “If that was the cost of acquiring David Robertson (Ward and Luzardo) the Nats should have jumped as quickly as possible. Again, if it's the money, that is a completely separate issue and could be contributing to Rizzo making the risky decision to move the cost-controlled Fedde into the pen. It's irresponsible to not take on Robertson's money if that's the hang-up. On-the-field, Robertson's about as good as what you could expect to get via trade. He walks a few more than you'd optimally like, but makes up for it with terrific strikeout and contact numbers. He would immediately be the Nats’ best reliever.”
3. How would you fix the bullpen? Trade targets? Any internal options you'd like to see Nationals try?:
WK: “I would love to see the Nats go and talk to the White Sox about that Robertson deal again with the same terms and take on some more money in exchange for not doing it earlier, but I wonder if the White Sox will get a better prospect return elsewhere. If the Nats have to put guys like Juan Soto and Andrew Stevenson on the table, then I would aim higher than Robertson -- [Kelvin] Herrera would come to mind. For those guys, something that Dave Cameron brought up was a two guys/one trade situation (Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle for same return). If they manage to spin Robertson for roughly the same deal as before, I'd love to see them go after Corey Knebel, who's pitching to an 0.82 ERA and a 1.36 FIP, if the Brewers are willing to deal him.”
MW: “As I wrote last week, the Nats ought to give Joe Ross a chance in the bullpen. An extra tick of velocity on his slider and facing fewer lefties would serve him well. Fedde will probably (hopefully) be more effective than Blake Treinen or Enny Romero have been, so that should settle things down in the earlier innings. When it comes down to it, however, the Nats need to make a move — and perhaps more than one. An interesting name I haven't seen pop up yet is Reds’ closer Raisel Iglesias, who owns a 0.76 ERA and is a perfect 7-7 in save opportunities. If he continues to produce as the year goes on, the Nats should consider him at the trade deadline.”
RM: “The bullpen needs help badly. The Nationals are a team that can make a run at the World Series, but they won’t be able to do that with a lackluster bullpen. I would like to see how Fedde would do in the majors. In addition to that, I would like to see what Koda Glover can do in the closer role. Ultimately, the Nationals will have to hit the trade market to find bullpen help. I think the Nationals should contact the White Sox about Robertson. Other players that come to mind are Kelvin Herrera (Kansas City Royals), AJ Ramos (Miami Marlins) and Raisel Iglesias (Cincinnati Reds).”
DN: “The longer they wait to trade for Robertson the more the White Sox are going to ask for. That's the first thing I would do though. I know a lot of people think eventually Koda Glover will win the role, and his minor league strikeout numbers are pretty good (10.9/9 innings) but that hasn't translated to the bigs yet (7.2/9 innings), something that is a premium at the position. The ability to blow someone away in the ninth inning isn't just a luxury -- for a team with World Series aspirations, it's a necessity. So far, Glover has mixed a dominant outing here with a mediocre one there where he can't find the strike zone. The Nats need consistency at the back of the pen. Teams are starting to separate in the standings. The Royals are tanking and have several relievers that might be pried away if you dangle a C-level prospect or two like Brian Goodwin, Drew Ward or others. Bottom line is good bullpen arms are out there and can be had without breaking the bank. You just gotta be creative and flexible.”