Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post shares an excellent look at Doug Harris’ road back to the Nationals following a diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia. Harris, the Nationals’ assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel, was away from the team for much of the 2016 season and underwent a bone marrow transplant early last October when the Nats were embarking on their playoff run. Harris discusses all of the elements of his job that were sorely missed with Svrluga, who also spoke to multiple members of Harris’ staff about his influence not only on the team but on their personal careers. Harris would eventually return to the Nationals on March 26 during Spring Training by surprising his staff with an appearance at a morning meeting and drawing a standing ovation from the roughly 45 executives who were assembled. “It was a moment I’ll never forget for the rest of my life,” Harris tells Svrluga. The entire column is wonderfully written and provides a terrific look at Harris’ personality and his importance to the Nationals organization.
A few more notes on the Nationals…
- There’s been plenty of talk about the near-trade of David Robertson from the White Sox to the Nationals this offseason, but USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports the most definitive account of the talks in his latest column. According to Nightengale, the Nats were set to send young lefty Jesus Luzardo (last year’s third-round pick that has yet to pitch professionally due to the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the draft) and minor league third baseman Drew Ward to the Sox in exchange for Robertson. Chicago was to absorb about half of the remaining money on Robertson’s deal, but the two sides were never fully able to agree on the financial component of the trade. It’s now reportedly been months since the two sides discussed a Robertson deal, and one has to imagine that the right-hander’s dominant start to the season has only helped Chicago’s leverage in talks with any interested parties. Robertson, 32, owns a 2.81 ERA with 22 strikeouts against five unintentional walks in 16 innings.
- Within his column, Nightengale also notes that the Nats made a strong run at Greg Holland this offseason and offered a whopping $85MM over five years to Kenley Jansen (with just $5MM of that sum deferred). GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged to Nightengale that it’s “demoralizing” to lose games in the ninth inning and that it has become tired to continually hear about his bullpen needs when the rest of the team is performing so well. “We’re not afraid to make a trade, but the supply and demand of these elite relievers are far and between,” Rizzo tells Nightengale. “They’re so hard to get.”
- Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com observes that the Nationals’ shaky bullpen has significantly taxed the rotation. As Zuckerman points out, there have been 26 instances of a starting pitcher throwing 115 or more pitches in a game throughout all of Major League Baseball this season, and the Nationals are responsible for five of those outings. The Nats also have 11 instances of a starter clearing the 110-pitch threshold in 2017, while MLB as a whole is at 80 such performances. And, furthermore, as ESPN’s Eddie Matz notes (Twitter link), the National League’s top five starting pitchers in terms of pitches per outing are: Tanner Roark, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. While Washington’s top four starters have held up fairly well thus far, both of those obviously represent fairly ominous trends and only serve to underline the Nationals’ need not just for a closer but to deepen the relief corps overall.
In fairness, isn’t Dusty Baker known for leaving his starters in way past they’re done?
Yeah he is known for letting his guys go to far. He is not a big fan of getting out of the dugout of late. I think Herrera would look great in Washington over Robertson.
Herrera would be a nice addition, if you want to be cheap with your prospects and not improve the bullpen very much. Outside of last year (which wasn’t anywhere near as miserable as people try to make it seem), Robertson has been significantly better than him, and he has been ridiculously better than him this year.
You have that backwards. Herrera has been better than Robertson over the past 3 years
Kelvin has indeed edged out Robertson in most pitching categories over the last three years, but they are pretty close overall.
Herrera and Robertson have been very similar over the past 3 years. Despite Herrera having an ERA that’s over a full point lower during that span (1.02 to be exact), there FIP’s have been within 0.06 of each other – and that includes Robertson’s down year last year. Robertson has a long track record of being significantly better than he was last year, and he’s continuing to do just that so far this year, so I think it’s safe to call that an outlier.
And if you want to ignore Robertson’s long track record and only focus on the recent years, you have to look at this year as well. Herrera has been pretty brutal. The only things he has going for him over Robertson are age and contract (and contract is questionable depending on how much the White Sox are willing to eat).
You know what you get for being a cheap tight$@@ in baseball? A first round exit in the playoffs. The Nats bullpen is dog$
Great take. Full of excellent analysis.
If you separate the crassness from the content, he’s not wrong. The Nats’ bullpen is clearly their biggest weakness so far.
He’s known for killing a pitching staff. Will come around in playoffs to bite ass
Nats will never win it all with Dusty. They have successfully wasted away their window
Yes, Dusty is old school, but he also doesn’t have confidence in his relief!
Not to worry. Cub manager Joe Maddon has come down to Baker’s level, or worse, this season. lol
Dusty said when he was with the Cubs, “relievers are not starters because the starters are better pitchers. If I have a choice, I stay with my starter.”
We all know that is not always the case. I would take Andrew Miller or Chapman or Jansen or Kimbrel or Betances or Hand or Britton and at least a dozen other relievers for one inning over any starter including Kershaw who is going through the lineup a third time.
That is why Dusty will never be able to win it all and why he has just one pennant in 22 years as a manager, many of those years with the most talent-laden squad in baseball.
After Robertson’s down 2016, Luzardo would have been a nice get.
Now it’s Kieboom.
Best way to destroy a farm system and your team in the process is to deal for ëlite” relievers.
Relievers need to be developed from within.
I agree. But if you are in your window of contention, and haven’t developed that ‘Pen, you end up having to pay the piper.
The Nats are 7 games up in a terrible division. They have time to make a fair trade and not panic.
Yes. But the price for a competent Closer is now higher than Luzardo.
We’ll see. It’s about supply and demand and the way I see it, there will be four “competent” closers available (DRob, Herrera, Colome, and Watson) and two teams looking for closers (Nats and Rangers). If Melancon gets added to the supply, the cost could come down further. I think the Nats end up getting 2 of the 4 available guys and don’t lose Robles, Fedde, Soto, or Kieboom.
Just a quick look at Fangraphs team rankings for bullpen, and these .500 or better teams are in the bottom half of the league in reliever WAR:
Tigers, Nats, Twins, Cardinals, Rangers, Orioles, Rays
There are many other teams in the top half that will for sure still be looking for help including the Brewers (if they keep up this pace, which I doubt) and Diamondbacks. I can guarantee you that other teams in the top 10 will also be making calls.
I think you’re severely underestimating the number of teams that need bullpen help (especially with how bullpens are used these days) by just focusing on teams that “need closers.” There are VERY few teams that feel 100% confident in their bullpens and won’t be looking for help at the deadline. Remember, the Indians gave up a premium for Andrew Miller despite having a closer already. While I know it was an extreme case because of Andrew Miller’s skills/capabilities, it’s still an example of how teams view the 7th and 8th innings these days (where Robertson has been elite throughout his career, fyi). An elite bullpen arm is an elite bullpen arm, no matter which inning they come in.
Don’t see teams “lined up” to pay those last 3/53m of Melancon’s last 3y for his age 33-35 seasons. SF will be paying some of that deal to move that contract, regardless of how well he pitches this year.
Yeah I looked at a similar list.
Twins and Rays – can’t see either trading prospects
Orioles – have no prospects and have Brach/ODay with Britton probably coming back
Cards – Oh/Rosenthal is a pretty good duo. Their problem is their other guys.
Tigers – maybe but do they have prospects to trade?
Rangers & Nats – definitely
exactly cards and tigers are maybes but the nats and rangers are for sure
Most teams feel this way, which is why the WhiteSox should be thrilled to have a motivated trade partner in the Nats.
Apparently it’s also one of the best ways to put your team over the top when you’re an “elite” reliever away from making a World Series run.
Obviously every team wants to develop elite relievers from within. Sometimes your hand gets forced though (like with Bryce Harper probably leaving in 2 years) and you have to make a deal.
Rizzo will make a deal (or two). I have no doubt. But he’s fairly disciplined in his trading and when he trades a top prospect, there is a good reason why (i.e. Giolito).
I don’t disagree with you on that. I don’t see any way they’re trading Robles or Fedde at this point since there are no Chapman’s/Miller’s available. Soto and Kieboom are on the bubble IMO (Soto moreso than Kieboom to me) – as in, either “could” be moveable in the right deal, but it’d be a great pickup for someone. I DOUBT either gets moved (Soto specifically), but it wouldn’t be unbelievable to me. Anyone after that is fair game IMO.
I’d talk about trading Soto/Kieboom to get Gerrit Cole or someone like that. But for a non-elite reliever?
Soto/Kieboom would be secondary pieces at best for Gerrit Cole or someone like that. He’d take at least one of Robles/Fedde (most likely both) IMO.
As for Soto/Kieboom for a “non-elite reliever,” like I said, I could see it happening (especially Kieboom), but it’d be a good get for the trading team, and it’d be an excellent reliever, albeit not “elite.” If an “elite” reliever were available, we’d be discussing Robles instead of Soto/Kieboom… Despite Kieboom’s hot start, he’s still not THAT highly regarded around the league from what I’ve seen. In Baseball America’s latest rankings (May 11th), he’s only up to #98 (and I still haven’t seen him ranked anywhere else).
In regards to Soto, I see him shooting up boards if he continues doing what he has been doing. Outside of Robles, he was the main guy I wanted the White Sox to go after in a Sale or Eaton trade with Washington. He’d be an excellent get for someone trading a very good reliever. He’d be right at the top of the list for prospects that “could” be available in the right deal.
Best way to avoid getting to the World Series is not going all in. The Nats are the 2nd biggest joke in the MLB (Orioles).
The biggest joke is that idiot ChiSoxCity! Damn! Who in his family messed him up! Or maybe he knows he has 10 more years of watching that horrible team in that horrible stadium! GO CUBS!!!
Like the Cubs and Chapman? Without him, they do not win the World Series. Or the Indians and Miller. Without him, they don’t get to the WS.
Wondering if you can name one WS team with an elite reliever that was developed from within?
Who else would want DRob if the Nats were to trade for someone else (Herrera, Watson, etc)? Further, Ward is on a tear in AA. As a Nats fan, I think that is a fair trade, but wouldn’t go any higher. There are no other buyers, and thus the Nats would be bidding against themselves.
You really think the Nats are going to be the only team looking for bullpen help at the deadline? Just because the Nats are the only team that has been linked to him thus far (they are easily the most desperate) doesn’t mean they’ll be the only team calling at the deadline.
Yes, I looked at this the other day and all contending teams have strong closers except the Nats and Rangers. Who else is going to give up a Miller/Chapman type of return for a guy like DRob/Herrera/Colome/Watson this year (guys who aren’t nearly as good anyway)?
They don’t have to be closers on their new team
Fair point, but would they be willing to trade more than Luzardo and Ward to get a set up guy?
Probably, because Luzardo/Ward isn’t actually a great package. Really tough to not upgrade your best team in franchise history because you don’t want to give up something better than that (not Robles, Soto, or Fedde, but everyone else should probably be on the table)
No, because I looked at the closer situation on the contending teams. All, except for the Nats, got their guys in the offseason. Dyson is the one closer on a real contender that has failed since then.
Wh;y would a team pay more than any other potential buyer would? There are at least 4 comparable options on the market – the Nats will be able to get one of them without selling their best prospects.
Last year the Nats got the 3rd best closer on the market for Rivero and Hearn. That turned out to probably be a better trade for the Pirates than for the Nats given how well Rivero is doing (and Hearn was an interesting prospect als0). I think Luzardo and Ward is a decent trade, although other guys could be substituted without trading our best 4 prospects.
Off topic, but what is worse:
The trolls on this website, or the people who get so upset by said trolls on this website?
both but probably the latter since they can’t control themselves and look past the trolls
Despite his offensive struggles in the minors, I still wouldn’t mind seeing the Nationals #8 prospect Pedro Severino as a component of a potential David Robertson trade. Severino is a MLB ready defensive backstop who would be an ideal fit on the South Side with a potentially elite pitching staff that will only get younger in the coming months and years. The White Sox lack catching depth and what they currently have aren’t particular good defensively. Severino is extremely athletic with a 65 arm and 60 field grade on the 20-80 scouting scale. An excerpt from his MLB.com scouting report:
Scouts have long viewed Severino as a plus defender behind the plate, where his athleticism and agility make him an excellent blocker. His pitch-framing and overall receiving skills have steadily improved as he’s climbed the ladder, and club officials praise his game-calling. Controlling the running game is where Severino truly shines, as his advanced footwork and cannon arm have helped him nab 35 percent of attempted basestealers in his career. Severino’s bat lags behind his defense and he’ll never offer much in the way of power, although the quality of his contact did improve in 2016.
With his strong defense chops and some hitting ability, Severino currently profiles as more of a backup than an everyday catcher in the big leagues. Regardless, he would be a nice defensive complement to current White Sox catcher Omar Narvaez and even moreso for future backstop Zack Collins who was the White Sox #1 draft pick last June and is currently rated as the organizations #6 prospect. Collins has an advanced college bat but needs work behind the plate if he is to remain as a catcher in MLB.
As a Nats fan, I like Severino a lot. His defense is fantastic, he has good running speed, and he’s very high energy. His hitting has been much better during his cups of coffee in the big leagues than in the minors. I think he will be a .240-.250 hitter eventually, so a low-level starter or very good backup. That being said, the Nats are flush with catchers in the minors, so if adding Severino is what it takes to get the deal done, that’s fine with me.
The nats should talk to the Yankees about Clippard. He has been great in a 7th (now 8th) inning role, has closed before, is on the last year of his deal to keep the money cost down. Not sure what New York would want.
The Yankees have the second – best record in baseball. Doubt they’re moving anyone of significance, at least right now
If I was NYY and a team offered me a solid prospect for Clippard I would take it and just move everyone up 1 spot because their bullpen has been very good.
Why trade a strong reliever in May to another contender? It’s counter productive
I think it’d have to be an excellent prospect, not just a “solid” one. Otherwise it really wouldn’t make sense right now.
Does a non-contender like the WhiteSox really want to be paying a closer $2mm/month?
Do they want to? Probably not… Will they? Yes…
If they were looking for a pure salary dump, he would’ve been traded already. They aren’t going to trade him for pennies on the dollar just to save money. It’ll take at least 1 good prospect to get them to pull the trigger on a deal, especially with how well he has been pitching this year.
I’d imagine that the White Sox feel like they can wait for their price in prospects since they’ll be paying a lot of his salary whether he’s playing for them or not. I would imagine the Nats hold out some hope that a similar deal can be had for Robertson since less money has to go into it now. But they need more than one reliever. Even if Glover steps into the job and is effective, you have to worry about his hip. Kelley still isn’t right yet, and the rest of the pen can’t throw strikes except for the hittable ones that Fatt Albers throws. Even if they want to bring up a “fresh” reliever on the 40-man roster like Rafael Martin or Trevor Gott, they have to come up with a legitimate injury reason. Then again, I suspect “rag arm” was more appropriate as a cause for Blanton to be DL’d than “shoulder inflammation”, so it’s just a matter of time. The lingering question is how long the Enny Romero experiment can remain on display.
I think the Sox missed their window on players like Frazier, Robertson, Cabrerra and Quintana. Most are under performing, and I read that players that are in a contract year actually under perform. I don;t see that their will be a lot of competition for their players. Their will only be a few contenders that will want their players at a high price.
1) Frazier and Melky are underperforming. Robertson has been fantastic, and Quintana has also been extremely good after a horrible start (has been excellent in 4 starts this month).
2) You’re assuming there was a market/window for Frazier and Melky to begin with. I’d be willing to bet there wasn’t. Just look at Turner’s lack of a market in free agency, and you’ll see the market for third basemen was slim to begin with.
I agree on Melky and Frazier, as they are off to real rough starts. But Robertson is clearly better than last year, and arguably is having his best season in years. Q had a few bad starts at the beginning of the season but has rebounded. In fact this time last month in April his ERA was pver 6. Now it is under 4.
They won’t get much (or anything) for Frazier and Melky. They have always been in a position where they do not need to trade Q (the Sox should be in a position to be competitive in 2019 or 2020 and Q would still be under contract). Teams looking for help in the back end of their rotations would have interest in Holland or even Gonzalez. Teams will always look for bullpen help and the Sox have more than just Robertson in the bullpen they could trade.
I agree, Cashman will be looking for that one controllable pitcher like Cole that will make them competitive in the playoffs without hurting the rebuild.
As a Yankee fan I would move Clippard and promote Heller or another arm but I really don’t know what a return would be. It definitely will not be a teams top prospect or even top 5 prospects.
Yanks need a LH starting pitcher, The timing isn’t there yet with Chapman out and the Nats rotation stretched, but if Ross gets himself right in AAA, and comes back solid for a few turns, along with Turner proving himself reasonably effective as a starter/longman until then – maybe Gardner and Betances for Gio. That would help solve the Nats back end of the pen problem for a while, It sounds like too little, but what the White Sox will ask for Quintana will be ridiculous. Gio is still fairly cheap and controllable next year.
Yeah, I know, the Yanks will want more back and the Nats don’t have the SP depth to pull the trigger on it. More likely they’ll have to burn Fedde’s innings as sixth starter in the summer and cross their fingers on the rotation in September/October with the way arms are going down this year. But they need to start shuffling pen guys like the Orioles did a few years back just so every starter doesn’t throw 115 pitches a game.
The Nats have plenty of experience having Clippard on their team and I am quite certain they don’t want him back.
Dusty lost the Cubs 2003 chances by leaving starters in too long.
Chapman has shoulder issues so the Yanks aren’t as deep as they were. I’m pretty sure the only guy the Nats won’t be willing to trade for is Storen.
I agree that there should be reasonable trade options for the Nats by July, but they also have to worry about the 40 games until then that will have to tell them who’s worth keeping. At this point, the whole bullpen has been inconsistent or hurt enough to wonder how they’ll be able to make that decision properly..
The Nats have the luxury of playing in the NL East. They have plenty of time to figure this out.
Dusty will slaughter this talented rotation, It is not that I fault him for the concept of stretching guys out. It is that he continues to do it despite the results over the last 20 years of his career.
Realistically, what do you want him to do? He has the fourth worst bullpen in the entire MLB according to Fangraphs WAR (starters are in the top 7). If management got him some experienced bullpen pieces that he could trust (like he asked for in the offseason), he wouldn’t need to rely so heavily on the starting pitchers. He’s trying to win games, and he only has so many capable options… I know it’s easy to criticize Dusty, but there’s only so much he can do with that bullpen the way it is right now.
It seems that the Nats could use a full bullpen transplant, and a 5th starter,
Derek Holland, David Robertson, Dan Jennings, and one of anthony swarzak, tommy kahnle, or nate jones…in exchange for…Carter Kieboom, juan Soto, and ???
Wow. That would be quite the overhaul…
I think the Nats should go after Watson, Robertson, or Herrara in that order!
Yah, that 5.12 FIP, 1.475 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 would fit in nicely with the Nats current bullpen…
Amen to Doug Harris, welcome back
Baker is well known for overworking his starters. Nothing different about this season. When he took the job the only question I had was whose arm is he going to blow out.
When is Rizzo going to do something about the bullpen. Worst in the majors and no action from Mike? Come on, I don’t have long to live and I would like the Nats to at least get to the World Series (they don’t have to win, just participate)