Josh Willingham Drawing Interest; Extension Unlikely

Although Josh Willingham is hoping to sign a long-term extension to remain in Washington for a few more years, that seems unlikely to happen this winter, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Willingham, who is under contract through 2011, will likely either receive a one-year contract from the Nationals or be traded.

"I think we're going to take him one year at a time, like we've been doing," said Nats GM Mike Rizzo. "That's the short answer. But things are fluid, and they could always change. We'll see what the season brings us."

Rizzo also told Kilgore that several teams have inquired about Willingham's availability, which is to be expected since "there's not a lot of [productive right-handed bats] out there." The Rockies are believed to be one of the clubs with some interest in the 31-year-old, according to Kilgore.

In October, when agent Matt Sosnick discussed the possibility of his client signing in Washington long-term, he opined that Willingham would be worth $10MM annually over multiple years on the open market.


51 Responses to Josh Willingham Drawing Interest; Extension Unlikely Leave a Reply

  1. Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

    After losing him, the Nats need to keep Willingham unless they get blown away.

    • I think the Nats def. need to look to move him. I love him as a player and think he has good value, but trade him now when you can. They made a mistake not trading Dunn when they could, and boxed themselves in a corner at the deadline.

      If they make the deal now, not only are teams getting a full year (more value), but they Nats can find a replacement corner OF. In say a separate deal.

      • NL_East_Rivalry 5 years ago

        Nationals ask too much for their good players. They aren’t Amazing players that you give a top prospect for. Teams may get desperate though. Nats can always hope.

        • I agree they misplayed Dunn, but I think Willingham will return good value. I’d say something in the realm of a top 60-80 prospect (according to top 100 lists) and 1-2 other good but not great prospects (11-20 range of an individual team). Now of course it is all dependent on the actual team. For instance the Rays top 15 is more equivalent to some teams top 8 or 9 players.

  2. Bo 5 years ago

    Pleeeeease Frank Wren go get Willingham. Find a place to put him.

    • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

      I’d do Freeman for Willingham and Millone.

      • Natinals 5 years ago

        You think of Millone that highly? He throws like 84 mph

      • Natinals 5 years ago

        By the way what was up with you and Dierkes in the Chat today

      • bbxxj 5 years ago

        I wouldn’t. Only National worth Freeman is Zimmerman.

        • Surely Strasburg, even with the injury, is worth Freddie Freeman…

          • bbxxj 5 years ago

            Yes and no. Overall potential obviously Stras but Freeman is our 1B in 2011 and would have a hard time replacing him at cost next year and over the next half decade.

          • BrocNessMonster 5 years ago

            Freeman is a great prospect and all… but you’re nuts.

          • bbxxj 5 years ago

            Of course Strasburg is a much better prospect. I’m not arguing that. But the fact is the Braves want to compete in 2011 and Strasburg would have not effect on that goal while taking a valuable piece away from our 2011 team. In a vacuum of course Strasburg, but for this particular offseason it would be Freeman.

          • NL_East_Rivalry 5 years ago

            Although true, you could always re-sign a Glaus type or have Prado bat 1B. If Nats asked me for that even trade or even Freeman + a small prospect, I’d do it. We may not be NL East Fav, but the WC should still be a solid bet.

          • Yeah I think you are over valuing Freeman quite a bit. No doubt he is legit and can be a starter in this league, but he is closer to Adam LaRoche then he is one of the top tier guys (Gonzalez, Votto etc.). Maybe the Nats would have to kick in a prospect or something else, but Freeman for Willingham is in the ballpark.

            The Braves could use Uggla at 1B or sign a Derek Lee, Pena etc. to man the spot.

      • No. No. Hell no.

    • Is there a place to put him? He obviously can’t play CF, which is the only real full-time spot that’s open. Prado will be in LF when/if Chipper is ready, Heyward’s in RF. I suppose you could stick Heyward in CF and have Willingham and Prado on the corners.

      I’d love to have Willingham, but that puts Prado back into his super-utility role most likely and his bat is too good for such a role. If the Braves make another impact trade, it’ll be for a guy who can play CF.

      • bbxxj 5 years ago

        In a Willingham situation he would play RF and Heyward in CF. For the next few years Heyward can play center and Wren has said he would be comfortable with him there.

        • I don’t like Heyward in CF, not even sure if he’s ever played an inning there in pro ball. He could probably handle it, but he’s going to be a great right fielder and I do worry about his legs in center. They just need to let Heyward get comfortable in right field and go after a guy like BJ Upton or Crisp for CF.

          • bbxxj 5 years ago

            He logged more than a few innings in center in the minors. As Wren said when he was discussing the subject – “There are fewer walls to run into in center”

          • NL_East_Rivalry 5 years ago

            I was at one of those games. The one against the Brewers too where he had that amazing throw to 3rd! I’d like to see him in CF a few times this year, just to see where he stands. I want McLouth & Young in CF for ST.

    • Heck, no. Willingham has missed too many games to even consider such a thing. If Freeman projects to be a starting 1B with some pop and above-average D, how does Willingham equal that, especially considering Freeman will be getting the league minimum for a couple yrs? I’d consider Randall Delgado as a fart in the wind for Willingham, then the euphoria would wear off, no brownies, and I’d come to my senses. Prado in LF is a better option than Willingham.

    • Heck, no. Willingham has missed too many games to even consider such a thing. If Freeman projects to be a starting 1B with some pop and above-average D, how does Willingham equal that, especially considering Freeman will be getting the league minimum for a couple yrs? I’d consider Randall Delgado as a fart in the wind for Willingham, then the euphoria would wear off, no brownies, and I’d come to my senses. Prado in LF is a better option than Willingham.

  3. TwinsVet 5 years ago

    Did he really say “things are fluent”, and not “things are fluid”?

    The former makes no sense.

    • Luke Adams 5 years ago

      Hah, nice catch. The quote did originally say fluent, but presumably that was a typo rather than Rizzo misspeaking.

      • TwinsVet 5 years ago

        Just glad the typo wasn’t on MLBTR’s part… I know Tim is a stickler on spelling! (and that’s a good thing)

  4. TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

    Josh Willingham is a guy who has nice slash numbers yet doesn’t drive in runs. He’s only half the package of a middle of the order hitter. I think the Nationals are bright not to offer him too much long term security. Willingham still has a lot to prove.

    • RBI’s are a product of people being on base in front of you. Him not driving in runs is far from his fault.

      • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

        Is that all there is to it?

      • johnsilver 5 years ago

        Are you kidding? This guy played for the 2008 Florida marlins. Cantu, Ramirez, Uggla, Jacobs all were terrific sluggers on that team. granted, Ramirez didn’t knock in a lot (67) but he hit leadoff and ALL had 30+ HR and the others knocked in over 90 runs each. Willingham Knocked in 50 that year in 416PA

        Willingham is a complimentary power hitter who needs to hit 6-7 in an order, a tad lesser quality than Werth, but still a very good ballplayer.

    • Well, he has an .800+ OPS in his career with RISP, but I pretty much agree. But he’s a consistent bat who can hit both righties and lefties well, as well as some pop. He can take a walk like the best of them, which factors into his low RBI totals.

      Consistent at least up until September, that is….

      • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

        I don’t know enough about the Nationals lineups to say he’s had any protection. Needless to say, if he’s had no one behind him, walking with runners on may often be a good option.

        • comish4lif 5 years ago

          That’s the problem here in Washington, there was no one on for Josh to drive in, and when Zimm and Dunn were on, opposing pitchers were happy to walk him and then get Pudge to ground in to a double play…

    • BrocNessMonster 5 years ago

      So if he was a better hitter he’d just make base runners appear out there? Then he’d have enough RBI’s for ya?Oh, ^ guy beat me to it…

      • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

        What makes you think he’s good at driving in runs? Below is the stat that makes me think he’s bad at it.

        • BrocNessMonster 5 years ago

          You’ve one flaw in your argument. Driving in runs is not a skill. Hitting the ball hard is. Or far. Or just hitting it instead of missing it. Those are skills.

    • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

      Adding in here: Over his career Willingham has driven in 14% of runners in front of him while the league average during that time is 15% Over the last two years he’s managed to plate only 11%.Happy to have anyone’s input as to how that makes him an RBI machine.

      Link to stats: link to baseball-reference.com

      • The problem is you are assuming all base runners are equal, that stat shows just that he is roughly league average in driving in runners. There is little evidence to show that hitters are truly better or worse hitting with runners on since the sample size is too small. What if he has a disproportionate number of base runners on first as opposed to 2B or 3B? Also since Willingham usually hit 5th or lower (esp. with the Nats) he didn’t have as many fleet footed baserunners in front of him. I love Adam Dunn but he isn’t going to score from first or 2nd a ton on singles and even some doubles (and lets be honest he was never on third). Coincidently Willigham batted fourth a lot more (not all the time but more than with the Nats) in 2007 and 2008 and those are the highest percentage of converted base runners into runs.

        I just don’t think that is something you can really knock Willingham for when it seems more situational than anything else. He has always been on pretty bad teams so his RBI chances, potential runners and protection are worse than league average.

        • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

          That was pretty thoughtful. Of course all base runners are not equal, and as such, your point about hitting behind Adam Dunn is especially pertinent. Small sample sizes are also an issue.

          But we’re talking about league average numbers for runners driven in – and those numbers include every Mendoza line guy who’s never heard of an extra base hit. Hitters who are put in RBI slots have power, and power alone should allow them to outperform league averages with some consistency.

          Willingham has been below the league average for his career and his two and three year averages show an increasing gap. For me, it’s enough to say I think he’s not a quality run-producer.

          Nonetheless, I respect what you wrote and you brought up good points.

    • The RBIs would be the least of my concern, he always seems to get hurt. Whether its his back, knees, or whatever..

  5. BrocNessMonster 5 years ago

    Dodgers need a LF, get all over this Ned!

    • Definitely agree. Don’t know what the Dodgers would have to give up to get Willingham though.

  6. BG921 5 years ago

    Willingham’s bat is enticing, but I think the Braves should take a look at some other options. If the Braves are looking to trade for a hitter they should consider guys like B.J Upton or somebody that can play better defense. If they could take Willingham’s defense then they should look into signing somebody like Ryan Ludwick or Pat Burrell. Willingham, Ludwick, and Burrell all put up about the same offensive numbers. Just some thoughts…

  7. bdcape 5 years ago

    Teddy, RBI’s are not some special clutch batting skill. They’re a function of opportunity. Willingham batted 5th behind Adam Dunn most of the last two seasons — the same Adam Dunn who hit 76 HR. That’s 76 PAs for Willingham with nobody on base to drive in. Dunn also hit 65 doubles, but he’s so ridiculously slow he can’t score from second on anything but an extra-base hit. Willingham’s playing time was limited by injury both years, and he made just under 800 total trips to the plate. Dunn had over 1300 PAs over that same span. If you prorate Willingham’s RBIs over Dunn’s playing time, Josh would have driven in 190 runs the past 2 years.

    • bdcape 5 years ago

      Forgot to mention that Dunn also had a total of 341 singles and walks the past two seasons. Based on Josh’s playing time, we can estimate that 210 of those came with Willingham batting 5th. As I noted above, Dunn cannot run — at all. It’s literally impossible for him to score on ANY hit except a triple or homer, or a double fielded by a guy with a crappy arm or who’s just as slow as Dunn is. You’re looking for answers as to why Willingham’s RBI% dropped the past two seasons, and now you have them.

      • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

        In your first post where you say Willingham had less opportunity because of Dunn’s HR, I have to tell you that looking at the number of opportunities when given a ratio based statistic is not mathematically sound. 100/300 produces the same ratio as 1000/3000.Opportunity only applies when the number of chances is so low as to render the sample size irrelevant. Since Willingham’s entire career number is below average, that’s not the case.As for Adam Dunn being slow, that’s a factor. But even so that didn’t affect Willingham when:A. When Dunn’s hits and walks put ANOTHER runner in scoring position.B. When Dunn and Willingham weren’t on the same team.You went through a lot of numbers but didn’t consider the possibility that Willingham is an RBI hole hitter who is less than league average at producing RBI. That’s what the gross numbers say: he’s not average when measured against a sample of all the other players including every singles hitter and every guy who hits behind pitchers, or behind slow runners, etc.

        • bdcape 5 years ago

          I have no earthly idea what you’re trying to say in your first two paragraphs.

          Regarding your A point, that is potentially valid. Had I more time to pursue this, I’d run a Perl script to pull up the exact number of instances that this occurred. I’d also seek to identify who those specific runners were, establish a baseline for their speed, how often they were on 2nd or 3rd with Willingham at the plate, and how often they scored on balls he hit in play. As for B, I only sought to address your question about why his RBI% dropped in his last two seasons, when they were teammates on the Nationals, and I answered it as completely as possible.

          The first sentence of your final paragraph is absolutely correct. I did not consider that possibility because it’s a meaningless calculation. That was the point of the first two sentences of my initial post, which I’ll repeat here: “RBI’s are not some special clutch batting skill. They’re a function of opportunity.” But, as I noted, they’re also a function of circumstance, including baserunner speed, opposing defenses, whether a batter gets pitched around, and whether he’s patient enough to draw walks. The percentages you cite do not contradict this. There are myriad reasons those numbers are what they are, and they extend far beyond whether or not Willingham is better at his job when men are on base.

          Sports statisticians have spent the better part of the last decade seeking to prove the existence of clutch hitters — those who possess some mystical ability to drive in runs in key situations at a greater rate than others relative to their natural hitting ability. Yet despite the efforts of some of the brightest baseball minds on the planet, no definitive normalizing correlation has been revealed that can be consistently or even occasionally applied.

          • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

            Sabermetricians have had trouble quantifying driving in runs as part of the greater statistical universe they’ve created with exact values that can be used to create things like WAR. That doesn’t mean that individual personal variances don’t exist.

            They do, and in the face of being presented with a stat that shows the variance, you’ve written volumes in ignoring that stat.

            As for not understanding what I wrote in the previous post, that may be my problem in being able to write coherently. But the point there is completely valid. I apologize for not being able to explain it better.

          • TapDancingTeddy 5 years ago

            Sabermetricians have had trouble quantifying driving in runs as part of the greater statistical universe they’ve created with exact values that can be used to create things like WAR. That doesn’t mean that individual personal variances don’t exist.

            They do, and in the face of being presented with a stat that shows the variance, you’ve written volumes in ignoring that stat.

            As for not understanding what I wrote in the previous post, that may be my problem in being able to write coherently. But the point there is completely valid. I apologize for not being able to explain it better.

        • bdcape 5 years ago

          I have no earthly idea what you’re trying to say in your first two paragraphs.

          Regarding your A point, that is potentially valid. Had I more time to pursue this, I’d run a Perl script to pull up the exact number of instances that this occurred. I’d also seek to identify who those specific runners were, establish a baseline for their speed, how often they were on 2nd or 3rd with Willingham at the plate, and how often they scored on balls he hit in play. As for B, I only sought to address your question about why his RBI% dropped in his last two seasons, when they were teammates on the Nationals, and I answered it as completely as possible.

          The first sentence of your final paragraph is absolutely correct. I did not consider that possibility because it’s a meaningless calculation. That was the point of the first two sentences of my initial post, which I’ll repeat here: “RBI’s are not some special clutch batting skill. They’re a function of opportunity.” But, as I noted, they’re also a function of circumstance, including baserunner speed, opposing defenses, whether a batter gets pitched around, and whether he’s patient enough to draw walks. The percentages you cite do not contradict this. There are myriad reasons those numbers are what they are, and they extend far beyond whether or not Willingham is better at his job when men are on base.

          Sports statisticians have spent the better part of the last decade seeking to prove the existence of clutch hitters — those who possess some mystical ability to drive in runs in key situations at a greater rate than others relative to their natural hitting ability. Yet despite the efforts of some of the brightest baseball minds on the planet, no definitive normalizing correlation has been revealed that can be consistently or even occasionally applied.

  8. I think one interesting option would be the Rays. They could use corner OF help or a DH. It could be part of a package for Garza/Shields (or even B.J. Upton) or for a couple of their minor league arms. It might make a lot of sense, since he is fairly cheap and the Nats could throw in money.

    Giants, Reds, and even the Cards could make sense as well.

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