With the rumours about the Nationals looking to fill multiple holes, I thought it might be fun to imagine a Ross Atkins / Mike Rizzo conversation
The setting: Ross Atkins`office. Ross is sitting at his desk. The phone rings.
Mike Rizzo: Hey, Ross. It’s Mike. How are you doing?
Ross Atkins: Hello Mike. I am good, thanks. What can I do for you (as if I couldn`t guess)?
Mike: Just looking to fill some holes. Same old, same old. Thought I would touch base. You interested in talking trade?
Ross: Always interested in that, Mike. I hear that your primary interest is in a catcher, but that you also need starting pitching, bullpen help, and perhaps a second baseman. Is that right?
Mike: Pretty much, yeah.
Ross: How are the J. T. Realmuto discussions coming? Miami still asking for Robles plus?
Mike: Something like that. We would love to get JTR, but with so many teams competing for him, and with Miami telling me that they would want a premium price to trade him in-division, it is looking ugly.
Ross: Could I tempt you with a Reese McGuire? He was a top-100 prospect a few years back, but it took a while for his bat to come around. Now that he has embraced the line-drive paradigm, he is a near-elite defensive catcher with a probably league-average or better bat.
Mike: Reese is no JTR.
Ross: True. But he could easily turn into another Sal Perez. 2-3 WAR for six years of cheap team control is nothing to sneeze at. But, if you don’t like Reese, how about four years of team control over Luke Maile? His defensive rating in 2018 was (adjusted for innings) 9th best in baseball – better than Perez, better than Yan Gomes – and the pitchers love him. And 1.2 WAR in only 68 games is not too shabby.
Mike: OK, both interesting. Can you help me anywhere else?
Ross: You said that you need at least one more starter – how do you feel about Marcus Stroman? His stuff is crazy-good when he is on, and you would get two years of team control.
Mike: Yeah, but he had a poor 2018.
Ross: So did Chris Archer, and you saw the haul that Tampa got for him. In fact, when you compare Marcus and Chris’ aggregate stats over the last three years, they are crazy similar – 4.10 ERA vs. 4.12, 3/56 xFIP vs. 3.44, and so on.
Mike: Hmmm. And in the bullpen?
Ross: Trivia question for you, Mike. Over the last two years, Kenley Jansen had the highest save conversion percentage of all closers in baseball. Who was second?
Mike: Why do I have the feeling you are going to tell me it was Ken Giles?
Ross: You got it, Mike. “Hundred Miles Giles” had 64 save opportunities over those two years and converted 60 of them. 94%. Could you imagine what a two-headed monster you would have with him and Sean Doolittle? And Giles has two years of team control, so you would have both him and Sean through 2020.
Mike: You sure know how to pique a guy’s interest, Ross. Now I suppose you are going to tell me that you have a second base solution for me too?
Ross: A few options, Mike. Devon Travis has struggled with injuries recently, but he was a 3.5 WAR/600 as recently as 2016. The Yanks gave up their #8 and #14 prospects to get Brandon Drury just last offseason – and whatever else you say about the “Evil Empire”, they are no fools! And Aledmys Diaz was an All-Star in 2016 and put up a 2 WAR/600 in 2018 playing shortstop. Move him to second, and his defense can only improve – much like when Adam Eaton was moved from centre field to the corner, right?
Mike: So what would you be looking for in return?
Ross: Thing is, Mike, you and I have many of the same needs. Starting pitching and bullpen, for example. The only area where I see a fit is a deal built around one of your young outfielders – Robles or Soto
Mike: Whoaaaaaaa ….
Ross: Hear me out. You already said that you were seriously considering offering Robles in a JTR deal, right? Now JTR is a beast, granted, but he has only averaged 4 WAR over the last three seasons. A great upgrade, but maybe not enough to change your fortunes all by himself – even if do you get him, which is far from certain. And even if you did get him, he would likely not have the same impact as the aggregate of the players I am talking about.
Mike: Well, yes, but …
Ross: And answer me this, Mike. Are you guys serious about re-signing Bryce?
Mike: Between us, Ross, we really are.
Ross: Then it seems to me that you need to do two things. First, you have to convince Bryce that you are serious about contending in 2019 and 2020. Filling these multiple holes would do that. And second, you would need to fill those holes cheaply, to leave enough money in the budget to win the Harper’s Bazaar and to spend at the 2019 trade deadline. Sure, you could fill these holes with free agents – pay Corbin $130 mil, and Kimbrel $70 mil, and Grandal $64 mil, if you can even get them – but it will do ugly things to your payroll. Not one of the players I have mentioned will even cost $10 mil next year.
Mike: Still, trading a Robles …
Ross: Your window is closing, Mike. You have been one of the best teams in baseball over the last few years, but your best hitter (Rendon) is a free agent in 2020 and your best pitcher (Scherzer) will be 35 next year. Trading a little bit of your future for a whole lot of right now makes a lot of sense.
Mike: OK, I hear you, Ross. Let me call Miami again and then maybe get back to you.
Ross: Always a pleasure, Mike. Happy Thanksgiving! <click>