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Wolf vs. Martis and Balester

Dave Sheinin, on the Baseball Insider, has a tidbit about the Nats' interest in Randy Wolf.

By Tracee Hamilton  |  January 14, 2009; 9:44 AM ET
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It's not clear to me why Nats info gets posted on Baseball Insider but not on Nationals Journal, or simply posted both places, but this is what Dave Sheinin has to say:

When I asked a Nationals official recently about Randy Wolf as a prospective signee, the official basically laid out this equation: At, say, $7 million (a guess as to what it might cost to sign Wolf), would he be so clearly better than, say, Shairon Martis or Collin Balester (at around $500,000 each) as to warrant the additional cost? The only honest answer is: we don't know. We don't know if Martis or Balester will blossom or crash in 2009. But we can be fairly certain that Wolf will win you 10-12 games and pitch 170-190 innings -- and yes, to me, that (near-) certainty is worth $7 million.

But as I often point out, that's easy for me to say when it's not my money.

Posted by: Traveler8 | January 14, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Hear, hear Traveler8...why the heck is there even a "Baseball Insider" and a separate "Nationals Journal"? I know that NJ came first and we have a certain attachment to the name/club/community - but how about just combining the two into one clearinghouse of baseball info?

At the very least, the Nationals-centric stories posted on Baseball Insider should also be posted on NJ (and not just via an announcement and link from Tracee).

Posted by: combedge | January 14, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I'm appreciative of Boom-Boom's work wherever it appears.

I agree with him that Wolf is a good investment. Given the National's Pitching injurry and performance histories it seems like a no brainer. It's not Martis/Balester or Wolf, its Martis and Balester and Wolf. If there is an 'or' in there somewhere it seems more likely to be Wolf or Cabrerra. Either way, Wolf won't be blocking anybody's development. And if all are successful, then someone will be tradeable mid summer for another valuable asset.

Posted by: natbisquit | January 14, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I think a 'heads-up' post here and a link to BI are enough.

The key to signing Wolf is doing it with a contract we can move at the trading deadline. If we have to pay too much of a 'loser's premium', we'll have a much harder time moving him for more pieces if we so choose. But I agree that there are plenty of question marks that signing Wolf or another vet, would not hold us back. I see the Cabrera experiment ended with him as a closer, using only his fastball and change (or whatever his #2 pitch is). Simpfy things for him and get some use out of his talent. I think he should be given the chance to be a starter, but ultimately, I don't think he'll make it.

Posted by: sec307 | January 14, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Carrying over the Dunn discussion from the last post, he does hit righties better than lefties, to the tune of .248/385/.549 (as compared to .237/.366/.455 vs. lefties). (These are three-year averages.)

As you can see, the principal difference is not the batting average but in the power department -- over the past three years, he's hit 90 HRs against righties, against only 30 vs. lefties. Of course, he has about twice as many ABs against righties, but still, his HR/AB ratio is .084 vs. RHPs and .057 vs. LHPs. So, he's definitely a lefthanded power bat, and we need that.

But what about that low average? What does that really mean? Well, a .300 hitter would get 150 hits in 500 ABs, whereas a .240 hitter like Dunn would get only 120 hits. If Dunn somehow transformed himself into a .300 hitter without losing his power, he could hit 50 homers and have 120 RBIs. In short, he'd be an MVP. But he's not that, he's a .240 hitter with pop, particularly against RHPs.

And he' a liability in the field. Here's a scouting report from

Assets: His combination of light-tower power and profound patience at the plate is among the best in Major League Baseball.

Flaws: Has tons of trouble making consistent contact, which prevent him from becoming a better hitter for average. Defensively, he struggles in all areas.

Career potential: A perennial contender for the home-run title.

So, do we want a flawed slugger for our flawed team? I guess so, but I wish there was something behind door #2 for us to look at.

Posted by: BobLHead | January 14, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Here's why I like the idea of signing a guy like Wolf: development.

A rotation addition would mean you could send someone like Balester to AAA for the year (or half a year given performance and opportunity are present - like Lannan in 2008). I'd like to see Chico get a full year in Syracuse.

Think about it. A full year of Balester, Chico, Martis, and Zimmermann for the Chiefs. Maybe a AAAA spot starter like Clippard rounds out the rotation.

It's not good news for a guy like Mike O'Connor, I guess. But really, I want these guys in DC because they're ready, not because we're needy.

Could a rotation be cobbled together out of New Guy (Wolf?), Olsen, Hill, Lannan, Bergmann, and Cabrera to allow the Nats to comfortably assign the rest? We have a few months before we can start to figure that out.

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 14, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Sec307 is correct... I'd like to add someone like Wolf. He allows us to season our young pitchers a little more. We can always bring them up mid-season if they are tearing it up at Syracuse or Harrisburg. The veteran (Wolf etc) could then be moved to a contender wanting to add some experience, and we get another young talent to add to the minors! It IS getting frustrating sitting on the pot without any signings! (But like everyone says... it's not my money!) If it WERE my money, I say add Wolf and Dunn, and integrate them into the roster. These two hopefully wouldn't exceed 20M per year - a reasonable figure.

Posted by: 1of9000 | January 14, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

OMG is it time for that whole mischegass again? What did that discussion take last time, two months? Three? Not counting the whole Team-That-May-Not-Be-Named aspect.

Hear, hear Traveler8...why the heck is there even a "Baseball Insider" and a separate "Nationals Journal"? I know that NJ came first and we have a certain attachment to the name/club/community - but how about just combining the two into one clearinghouse of baseball info?
Posted by: combedge | January 14, 2009 11:06 AM

Posted by: CEvansJr | January 14, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

So 170-190 innings, 12-12, is worth $7M? Is that really what the market is paying nowadays?

Posted by: CEvansJr | January 14, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

But to answer the question, there's a separate baseball blog because (some) folks here last spring seemed to favor the idea, and some adamantly opposed any significant mention of non-Nats baseball news here.

Posted by: CEvansJr | January 14, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I understand the sentiment, JiM, but you will know they are (not) ready when they (don't) perform up here.

But really, I want these guys in DC because they're ready, not because we're needy.

Posted by: JohninMpls | January 14, 2009 12:37 PM

Posted by: CEvansJr | January 14, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

>I understand the sentiment, JiM, but you will know they are (not) ready when they (don't) perform up here.

The major leagues isn't some experimental training ground. Players are supposed to have a pretty good idea of how to succeed by the time they get there. As was said before, Balester and Martis need a minimum of a year in AAA. Say with Martis - he has some major league pitches, but he doesn't have any idea how to use them consistently. If you only throw them for strikes half the time, a big league hitter will just wait for something that's not only over the plate, but in his zone. There's no way, imo that Balester deserving a starting spot is nothing more than an experiment, because in the 4th and 5th innings, he fell off a cliff - which is exactly what inexperienced pitchers do - they throw the kitchen sink at the hitters until their arm is shot and everything starts hanging or sailing. It's pretty obvious that he has a couple of big league pitches, but so do a lot of guys, and getting knocked out in the 4th-5th inning every start with 100 pitches doesn't help anybody's development. That's the big myth for some people - is that any major league experience is better than minor league experience, because it helps 'devlopment'. That's complete bs. It can get your guys injured from overthrowing, and it can ruin your bullpen at the same time. You see how Rauch and Ayala were used up by the time they left, same thing will happen to the rest of the guys if they have to make 50-80 appearances. This rotation as it currently stands is a disaster waiting to happen imo.

Posted by: Brue | January 14, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

MLBTR had a chat yesterday that covered some Nats-related topics:

[Comment From Derek]
Do you think the nationals can sign dunn and hudson?

Both, no.

[Comment From Hello]
Has there been a trend in the MLB in which teams have been holding onto and locking up their young talent? if so how will this effect the trade market in coming years?

Certainly. Weakens the FA market, which should lead to more trades. I am guessing.

[Comment From Underdog]
So you figure 2/16 for Hudson and 3/40 for Dunn, and the Nats topped the Yanks $ for Tex, but there's no way the Nats could sign both Hudson and Dunn?

I am just going with what I've read, I dont have Jim Bowden on the other line. If you are asking if I think the Nationals plan on spending $180 million on free agents, the answer is no.

[Comment From Chad Cordero]
Where am I going to play next year?

Maybe the Tigers, so he can at least sniff the ninth inning

[Comment From Underdog]
No I'm asking why you think they can't sign two guys who fill huge needs for 56M combined and no more than 3 yrs of commitment when they were willing to do a megadeal for just one player

I think they thought of Teixeira as a very special case and otherwise the budget shrinks to fit one big name player. Same with the other Tex suitors, they are not spending huge amounts after missing on him.

[Comment From Jim Bowden]
Shouldn't I be willing to give L. Milledge a chance to be a starting OF in DC, he played very well at the end of last year. Why would I try and trade him?

Well they do have quite a few OFs. If Bowden can get a quality young MLB-ready starter back its worth exploring.

Posted by: BobLHead | January 14, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse


I hear what you're saying, but the Nats have to play the best they have, and if it's the young guys then so be it.

But I think you're wrong when you say Balester needs a full year at AAA. His second half numbers are better than Redding's, including innings per start (CB had 64 2/3 in 12 starts and TR had 67 1/3 over 13 starts). He ran out of gass, but so what. I don't think he necessarily needs to be demoted because he's young. If he's one of the five best come April, then he should come up. Same for Martis.

Posted by: sec307 | January 14, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Not to beat a metabolically-challenged horse here, but Dunn's AVG is at least partially offset by his OBP. He walks a TON. And that's a good thing. Sure, a single's better than a walk, but a walk is a lot better than an out. And his career OBP would match that of our best OBP last year, Dukes. This fascination with Ks and AVG just has to stop; it's not 1899 anymore.

Posted by: Section406 | January 14, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse


The only reason Balester and Martis would be one of our five best is if we didn't go out and get someone better. That's the only way. By default. Saying that Balester did better than Redding's 6+ ERA in the second half is about as low as you can go as far as comparisons go. You're saying that Balester ran out of gas at the end of the year, right? I'm saying he ran out of gas in every start. I'm trying to explain to you why they need more work in the minors, and from what I saw from Martis, you'd be lucky to get one quality start in 4 this coming year. He just doesn't have the control, or the catalog of pitches (knowing which pitch works against which hitters in which counts - which is the physical description of experience). A young guy can throw well, but he doesn't have the library of knowledge it takes to be successful REGULARLY.

The first thing he has to do is command his stuff in a general way, (like I can get my curveball over most of the time when I'm behind in the count) and Balestar showed signs of that, but still has much work to do. Once you do that in the minors, you move up to the bigs and begin working on your CATALOG of the hitters. See, because you're basically pitching against yourself in the minors, you're looking inward by working on your stuff, you don't care about the particular hitters, because a lot of those guys can't hit breaking balls, so if you throw them for an out pitch the same way in the majors that you do in the minors, you'll get killed. It's not a crime to be young, I'm just going off of what I saw from these two in particular, and using general principles to describe the hurdles they need to clear. And neither of them is going to be anywhere near consistent this year. No way in hell. They're just not ready yet as pitchers. Martis lacks maturity - he was simply happy to be up at the end of the year. That's completely natural - but that's his station in life right now.

Posted by: Brue | January 14, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Agree that a link is fine. The Wolf point was an add on to a post about 3 guys who have actually signed.

As for the substance, by the exec giving "it's wolf v Balester or Martis," it sounds like Zimmermann is ahead of both in-house options for the #4 slot. Consisten with hints Chico has reported in his interviews. Lannan / Cabrera / Olsen / Zimmermann / scramble.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | January 14, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Bob l. head thank you for including my questions in your dus

Posted by: Baseball95der26 | January 14, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

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