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Posted at 3:36 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

The Nationals and the arbitration deadline

By Adam Kilgore

Tomorrow is another one of those deadline days in baseball's offseason. Teams must decide whether or not to tender contracts to players eligible arbitration, which means players with at least two years, 125 days of major league service but no more than six years.

The Nationals this year have 10 such players, and they are, in no particular order: relievers Sean Burnett, Joel Peralta and Doug Slaten; starters John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang; outfielders Josh Willingham and Michael Morse; catchers Jesus Flores and Wil Nieves; and utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez.

The Nationals will release their decisions tomorrow, but it's likely that they'll part with only Nieves and Wang, with Gonzalez also a candidate to be non-tendered. There are a interesting cases in those 10 players, and here's a look at them:

Chien-Ming Wang: He believes he'll be healthy and wants to be a National, and the Nationals would probably like to get something out of their $2 million investment last season. However, based on rules in the collective bargaining agreement, Wang could not be tendered a contract at less than $1.6 million, 80 percent of his 2010 salary. The most likely scenario is the Nationals not tendering Wang a contract and then negotiating a cheaper one-year deal.

Josh Willingham: Willingham has drawn some interest from around the league and could still be traded before the offseason ends. If not, he could still be a valuable, middle-of-the-order bat for the Nationals. He'll likely make between $6 million and $6.5 million in arbitration, a great value for his production.

John Lannan: He saved himself from becoming a non-tender candidate with his remarkable turnaround following a six-week demotion to Class AA Harrisburg. Lannan regained his delivery and, in his mind, pitched better than ever. In 11 starts, Lannan went 6-3 with a 3.42 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings. He'll again be near the top of the Nationals' rotation.

Wil Nieves: Nieves has been a professional, reliable backup during his time with the Nationals, but with Flores healthy and Wilson Ramos and Ivan Rodriguez able to form a competent platoon, there just seems to be no room for Nieves.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 1, 2010; 3:36 PM ET
 
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Comments

Nieves get non-tendered. No place to put him. I bet they work a deal with Wang at about the $1.6M (he's likely get at least that on the market). Willingham and Lannan will get offers.

Yahoo reports that clubs have interest in Ian Desmond via trade. Nats hopinh to get a comparable service time SP. Pull the trigger Mike. Pull the trigger!

Posted by: dfh21 | December 1, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

BTW, regarding comments like "no winning teams seem to want Dunn," I'm not sure that's a reliable metric. FWIW: Aubrey Huff never played a full season on a winning team until this year (he finished seasons with Houston and Detroit and they had winning records). Now, 11 years into his career, he's the first baseman of the defending World Series champs.

Posted by: baltova1 | December 1, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

"BTW, regarding comments like "no winning teams seem to want Dunn," I'm not sure that's a reliable metric."

How about this for a reliable metric, then. No teams, winning or losing, want four years of Dunn at $15M per.

Posted by: nunof1 | December 1, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Agree with dfh21. If they can trade Desmond (and parts) and get a legitimate SP, do it. If defense is the trend in MLB and the way forward for the Nats, Desmond is expendable (especially with Espinosa to play SS). But that requires a 2B through FA or trade. It doesn't look like we're going to get the pitching we need through free agency.

Posted by: fpcsteve | December 1, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I'm not certain that it would be in the best interest of the Nats to trade Desmond. They've just gotten a pretty productive rookie year out of the kid, and while he was by no means consistent throughout the year, he has plenty of time to get better. In order to get a pitcher like Greinke in trade, the Nats would have to give up a huge package, and Greinke isn't really worth that to a team who is more than one SP away from contending. So, you plug Greinke in at #1, and the rotation is him, Zimmermann, Lannan, Detwiler and just for giggles, Webb. So, Greinke wins you 7-8 more games than whatever motley crew of guys you would throw out there at #5 if he wasn't in the rotation...maybe. Because, now, there's no second baseman and you are playing another rook at short.

Also, not really sure how the logic works that the Nats should re-sign Dunn and then get rid of the promising young talent they have to add one arm.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | December 1, 2010 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I tend to think that Espinosa has more value as a SS rather than 2B, plus it appears that the Nats have other 2Bmen in the pipeline. I would not be at all surprised if Desmond was part of a trade package. Espinosa certainly has the tools to play SS and it is interesting that he was playing SS in Winter ball prior to being hurt. I think he would be a step up defensively, but, unless he changes his swing, might not hit for a high average.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | December 1, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

My view of Desmond is shaped by what I saw of Troy Tulowitzki when he played for the Rox' AA farm club in Tulsa. He really worked at his game. You saw it in drill work before the game and his approach to the game. You could hear it in interviews. He was always dialed in. I'm not in a position (Nebraska) to see Desmond up close, but from what I read here and on other sites, Desmond doesn't have that ethic. What I'm saying is just opinion based on perception--I'll own that. I just wish I could see or hear that he has "it" when it comes to his approach to the game. That is one reason I see him as a part of a trade package for pitching.

Posted by: fpcsteve | December 1, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Adam said:
"However, based on rules in the collective bargaining agreement, Wang could not be tendered a contract at less than $1.6 million, 80 percent of his 2010 salary."

Actually, the rule states: A Club may submit a salary figure for salary arbitration that is at least 80% of the Player’s previous year’s salary and earned performance bonuses (and at least 70% of his salary and earned performance bonuses two years previous).

The "and" before "at least 70%" should be capitalized, because it's an important clause in the CBA.

The players union wont stand for an offer of $1.6 million, because in 2009, Wang earned $5 million, meaning any offer less than $3.5 million would be loudly contested by the union.

It's a no brainer for the Nats, and it's very probably already been agreed upon. Wang will not be tendered, so they can then negotiate a more reasonable contract, that includes performance bonuses.

Posted by: KenzAFan | December 1, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Given the current FA market, Desmond might just be a marketable commodity at SS. If Rizzo could flip him for either a #2-3SP or LH-hitting OF with power & years left, I'd say do it.

However, a deal like that would probably need a 'backside' signing of someone like Bartlett [TB, $4M], Izturis [BAL FA, $2.6M], Punto [MIN FA, $4M], Eckstein [SD FA, $1M], Hudson (MIN FA, $5M], or others to fill the defensive hole unless an in-system player like AGonz, Lombardozzi, Bixler, McConnell, or Josh Johnson really steps up in Spring Training.

With two gaping holes (LH power hitter & #1-2SP) in the roster already, I personally dislike the thought of surrendering one spot just to fill another; That's just moving sideways, at best.

Posted by: BinM | December 1, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

@Jurgensen9: I'm just one voice, but when I think about Desmond & Espinosa, I come up with the following rough equivalents...

Desmond = Robin Yount; Desmond is older than Yount was as a rookie, but has range to die for, a great arm, and a 'take charge' attitude to control the OF for 5-6 years at least.
Espinosa = Rico Petrocelli / Miguel Tejada; Has the home-run power / SLG capability, but has better range & arm than either ever hoped to have, but may never hit for a high BAvg/OBP.

Posted by: BinM | December 1, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you BinM on the second signing. That would be a stopgap measure because it looks like Lombardozzi is a keeper. I hate to say it, but next year really feels like a transition year with 2012 being the season where the Nats make their move. It may be tough to watch them in the short run, though.

Posted by: fpcsteve | December 1, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Hey! I agree with BinM for once, I think.

Posted by: seancollins121 | December 1, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Agree with BinM.

But you never know ... they just might win the Jayson Werth sweepstakes? There's your left handed power that is good fielding.

fpcsteve is right too. In order to do things right (for once) the team will have to suffer through yet another transition year. Snake bit by injuries to pitchers like Strasburg, Zimmermann, McGeary, Jaime, plus Mock and Detwiler ... its hard to for the FO to plan any kind of "move". Instead its still build by collecting lots of pitching through the draft and trades.

But you never know? Mock might finally step up? Detwiler might get over his mechanics which keep creating injury. Zimmermann did not look like Zimmermann nor did Maya? But this spring perhaps they will? You just never know ...

Having two switch hitters at the top of the order in Espinosa and Lombardozzi may not be a bad thing. Follow with Zimmerman and very soon Norris. Then perhaps Morse and then Ramos.

It may not be as bad as we think ... things may actually improve a lot as the year progresses ... as long as double-switch doesn't muck things up with his idiosyncratic managing.

Posted by: periculum | December 1, 2010 8:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to keep Desmond and Espinosa; IF they develop you think about 3/4 of the infield set for years and years. At some point you have to gamble and say players are going to grow into what we hope they would become; I'd do it with them. Spend the time and effort shoring up the rest of the team... because realistically if these guys fail then, outside of Zim who played here right away, we have developed no one, which is never a recipe for success.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 1, 2010 9:07 PM | Report abuse

@fpcsteve, seancollins121: Heaven help the both of you, as the wrath from the likes of Brue, dfh21, & many other regulars are about to rain down upon your heads.

Posted by: BinM | December 1, 2010 9:10 PM | Report abuse

The Nats will regret it someday if they trade Desmond--unless he's a part of a trade that gets them someone like Rasmus.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | December 1, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Wrath? Nahh. But if the club wants to be make a move in 2012 it has to get much better for 2011. They have the money to add pieces now. They should do so. Trading Desmond for comparable quality pitching is a no brainer. They have middle infield guys they need more pitching.

It is time for them to start going big. To inject some hope. Some life. The Division is miles ahead, eve club kicks are butts. They need to build the roster now so that they can be in it when Stras is back.

I have to say that comparing Desmond to Yount is the kind of thing that calls for a wrath shower.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 1, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of what happens on free agent signings/trades this off season, if the Nats take the Troy Tulowitzki extension to heart and make a move to extend Zimmerman to a similar contract, I'll take that as a sign that ownership is taking this seriously...

Posted by: TimDz | December 1, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

@TimDZ...Take seriously the Tulo signing???? Go onto some of the Denver sites. Look at what the professionals are writing, not those like Dfh, Brue, etc., who are repeated (along with absolutely parallel nonsense) on sites for all 30 ML teams. The pros all say that the Tulo signing was simply a repeat of mistakes that the Rockies have made time and again, over the years, where they get stuck with the back end of long term contracts, for what are now overpaid players.

The one caveat is that (and this was a calc that one of the Denver professional baseball writers made) for the Tulo contract to make sense, MLB salaries must average a 10% increase each year during the lifetime of the contract.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 1, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

@ mikecatcher50: trust me when I say I am no expert like those professionals or even those like Brue, et al...
I guess my point was that the Lerners have a known quantity in in Zimmerman and they need to lock him up...

Posted by: TimDz | December 1, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

"But you never know ... they just might win the Jayson Werth sweepstakes? There's your left handed power that is good fielding."

Um, peri, the last time I checked, Jayson Werth bats righthanded....

Posted by: baltova1 | December 2, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

"How about this for a reliable metric, then. No teams, winning or losing, want four years of Dunn at $15M per."

nunof1, assuming you're not Adam Dunn, his agent or a GM for any of the teams talking to him, how do you know what any team wants to pay him?

Posted by: baltova1 | December 2, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

I almost hate to agree with Baltova, but, IMO, there are a number of teams that would go for 15x4 for Dunn. The key is that they are all in the AL.

Despite what Boz said (and I'll admit that the Nats' timing might have been awful), what their assumed offer for Dunn was, was probably about on target.

In the long run, he's going to have to decide between the two leagues.

Personally, if I were him, I'd go for more $ and smaller ballparks. If he can prove himself as a reasonable 1b defensively, all the better.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 2, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Having read Boz's column today, I want to be sick. His observation about the Nats being left behind in FA signings was what I thought I was seeing, but hoped I was wrong. That the Lerners are cheap awful owners with no baseball sense (or even the sense to hire and listen to those who do have the knowledge), I already knew.

Again I ask, what did this town do to simultaneously deserve owners like Dan Snyder and Ted Lerner? Can we collectively sacrifice a goat to the sports gods to cleanse us of our taint?

Posted by: NatsFly | December 2, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

What, Pants has another 30 million to work with that he hasn't spent yet? And all of the top starters are already off the market? Oh dear. Shame on you, Pants. Shame on you. Fix that bench, Pants. Fix that bench. You can't have those lowlifes whining about a lack of playing time. You need compliant ballplayers who are desperate for a contract to go along with the Plan. You know, like your announcers, marketing people, baseball people, etc. Like Boz says, 'you can wait five more years' right? It's only been five so far. Yeah, let's trade Desmond for some pitching. Rizzo ain't gonna trade JACK because that would require balls. Oh and that 30 million they're saving this year? Don't expect prices to go down, kids.

The Great Boz following logic that even the great unwashed on here can follow:

>But, for the Nats, several of their best opportunities may already have passed. Not only did they miss signing Dunn in July, when he might have grabbed the same three-year, $35 million deal that he spurned when it was finally offered in the season's final week, now it looks like the Nats misread November's fireworks, too.

As recession panic recedes, the baseball market is abandoning the bargain prices of the last two winters; and the Nats, apparently still hoping for wholesale, are being left behind.

Since the end of the season, $30 million in old contracts have dropped off the Nats' bottom-tier payroll. They could afford to add $40 million a year in free agents if they chose to do it. Shouldn't they follow the advice of former team president Stan Kasten, who said, "Now, it's time to add key pieces."

For two months, Kasten said the Nats should spend this offseason to be "competitive (near .500) in '11." Why? Because by the time Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper were, hopefully, playing together in the '12-to-'16 window, "the jump to contender can happen fast."

General Manager Mike Rizzo chimed in, too, saying several times, that the Nats would add two "top of the rotation" starting pitchers for '11.

How's that working out?

So far, in the hot stove league, starting pitchers like Ted Lilly ($33 million for three years), Jorge De La Rosa ($32 million for three years) and Javier Vazquez - who were logical Nats targets - have all disappeared in the last week. Poof!

Posted by: Brue | December 2, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

From the above, we have two different stories:

Per Ladson and Phil Wood, a 3-year / $36 million offer was on the table by late July.

Per Boswell, a 3-year / $35 million deal was offered by late September.

Which is it, folks?

Posted by: bertbkatz | December 2, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Brue - I've tried. I can't figure it out.
Please give me a hint about where the name Pants comes from.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 2, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"From the above, we have two different stories:

Per Ladson and Phil Wood, a 3-year / $36 million offer was on the table by late July.

Per Boswell, a 3-year / $35 million deal was offered by late September.

Which is it, folks?"

Myself, I'd tend to believe the journalists from the organization that DOESN'T have an acknowledged problem in accurately reporting stories involving numbers. In other words, if numbers are involved you really can't trust what anyone at the Post says.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/linkset/2009/02/25/LI2009022502075.html

Posted by: FeelWood | December 2, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

FeelWood, I'm torn on this, only because I think Ladson's a tool and Boswell, while out of touch on a day to day basis, did seem to have a very direct pipeline to Stan Kasten.

This is one mystery of 2010.
The other mystery is did Rizzo have a trading deadline deal for Dunn or did he not.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 2, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

FeelWood, I'm torn on this, only because I think Ladson's a tool and Boswell, while out of touch on a day to day basis, did seem to have a very direct pipeline to Stan Kasten.

This is one mystery of 2010.
The other mystery is did Rizzo have a trading deadline deal for Dunn or did he not.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 2, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

"I almost hate to agree with Baltova, but, IMO, there are a number of teams that would go for 15x4 for Dunn."

C'mon, mikecatcher, don't hate it, agreeing with me is fun...

:-)

Posted by: baltova1 | December 2, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

>Brue - I've tried. I can't figure it out.
Please give me a hint about where the name Pants comes from.

Posted by: Sunderland

Pants is something the English use to describe something 'that's a bit of a joke'. I'm thinking about breaking out Short Pants for Rizz one of these days. Like Short bus. But I'll 'give him a chance' like people are saying, until spring training of next year when he starts waving a white hanky and there's no doubt in anyone's mind except the seriously lacking that the guy's full of crap, and the Lerners are only part of the problem. Give Pants a chance! He's only been here two years! Almost three! When did they hire the dumb s.o.b. anyway? I can't remember. Early '07?

Posted by: Brue | December 2, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Ahh, but Baltova, do you agree with me? Is the only way that Dunn gets a better offer than 3/36 to go AL?

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | December 2, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Brue, you are giving Rizzo a chance until spring training? Better chance we sign Lee and Dunn then that happening!

Posted by: SCNatsFan | December 2, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"I almost hate to agree with Baltova, but, IMO, there are a number of teams that would go for 15x4 for Dunn."

You'd have to be talking AL teams here, since clearly no NL team is going to sign up for four years of Dunn in the field. Even the Nats' three year offer would seem to be a stretch, but it can be justified as doing what you need to do to sign the guy without overly constraining yourself four years out, since if he starts killing you in the field you could always flip him to an AL team in either year 2 or definitely year 3. But with a four year deal you're stuck with the guy for at least three years come hell or high water. That's too long for any NL team.

As for the AL, isn't it interesting that every time so far we hear of some team ready to make a move on him, the possibility gets squelched almost immediately? Happened with the Tigers, happened with the A's. What that says is yes, there definitely is a market for Dunn as a DH for a couple of years or maybe even three, but as soon as another GM finds out how stuck on four years Dunn's agent is, suddenly he's no longer interested. Dunn is going to have to back off his demand for four years sooner or later, and when he does the Nats' three year offer will start looking a lot more attractive. That is, if they haven't moved on and signed his replacement already, in which case he's screwed.

Posted by: FeelWood | December 2, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Brue. I was thinking maybe it was short for "fraidy pants', too timid to pull the trigger....

Posted by: Sunderland | December 2, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

>Brue, you are giving Rizzo a chance until spring training? Better chance we sign Lee and Dunn then that happening!

Posted by: SCNatsFan

You're right. I just wanted to say give pants a chance. Need to come up with pants in different languages. So far all I got is that he's known as Pantalones in the Dominican. Remember how he was gonna go down there and start signing players? Maybe he'll go to the Far East now. Far Out. Far Fetched. Here's one - Paycheck Pants. He gets that paycheck if nothing else. Johnny Paycheck. Everybody:: Hey Pants - take this job and shove it, you ain't workin here no more, your woman done left and took all the reasons you were a workin for. How about Worn Out Knees Pants. Or Puffy Pants - like the khaki dockers the scouts wear that went out 20 years ago. How about Two Pants for the Price Of One (big hit in Lerner 'small' ville) but You Gotta Lose Weight Because We Don't Have Your Size On Sale Pants. Or like Ronnie Wood said recently on his new album
when I get the chance
to wear my fancy Pants
I do-hoo

Posted by: Brue | December 2, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"Ahh, but Baltova, do you agree with me? Is the only way that Dunn gets a better offer than 3/36 to go AL?"

In terms of money, probably not. I think if he has to "settle" for a three-year deal, he'll still get more than $12 million a year.

In terms of years, probably, because I think at some point he's got to come to the same conclusion as everybody else: his best long-term option is DH, at least part-time.

I've read that the Cubs seem like they're going to be more sensible in their contracts now, but I'll believe it when I see it. I still wouldn't be surprised to see him go there for a four-year deal.

Posted by: baltova1 | December 2, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

From mlbtraderumors.com

3:39pm: The White Sox and Dunn are closing in on a four-year, $56MM deal, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times.

Posted by: derwink | December 2, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

3:44pm: The deal is "basically done," according to Heyman (on Twitter). Peter Gammons of MLB Network confirms that it's a four-year, $56MM deal (Twitter link).

Posted by: derwink | December 2, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

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