Skip to content

Revisiting last winter’s transactions

Nov 21, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Associated Press AP

Before the offseason really heats up — I mean, heats up here in D.C. Based on last night’s earth-shattering trade, I’d say the offseason is now in full swing in both Detroit and Texas — it’s perhaps worth one final look back at last offseason. The Nationals didn’t conduct many transactions during the 2012-13 winter, but nearly every one of the decisions they made about their 40-man roster was significant.

Below are the six major transactions the Nationals made, with revisited analysis of each…

NOV. 29, 2012: ACQUIRED OF DENARD SPAN FROM TWINS FOR RHP ALEX MEYER

The rationale: The Nationals had been searching for a leadoff-hitting center fielder since … well, really since the franchise arrived in town in 2005. Mike Rizzo had his eye on Span for several years but balked at a potential July 2011 trade in part because of concerns about Span’s concussion history. Once that issue moved to the backburner, Rizzo pulled the trigger on the deal, sending 2011 first-round draft pick Meyer to Minnesota. It was a steep price, but the Nats felt like they had enough pitching depth to deal Meyer, and they knew they’d have Span under contract for at least two years.

The result: Span got off to a sluggish start at the plate, his timing thrown off by some mechanical tweaks the Nationals tried to get him to make. He hit just .257 with a .310 OBP through June 29 but then found his stroke at last. Over the season’s final three months, Span hit .300 with a .343 OBP. He also posted the majors’ longest hit streak of the year (29 games) and finished with a .279/.327/.380 split line, all slightly below his career norms. Defensively, Span was brilliant, tracking down balls in center field with ease and earning recognition as a Gold Glove Award finalist. Meyer, meanwhile, put up solid numbers at Class AA (3.21 ERA, 84 strikeouts in 70 innings) but missed two months with a shoulder strain. He returned strong in the Arizona Fall League, and the Twins continue to have high hopes for him.

The verdict: Though Span wasn’t as good as the Nationals expected, his first season in D.C. was an overall success. He brought much-needed stability to center field and took pressure off Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth at the corners. He made the necessary adjustments in the second half to give the team reason to believe he can productive throughout 2014. And he became a popular clubhouse figure who will continue to hold a key role for the Nats for at least one more season. Meyer may ultimately develop into a frontline, big-league starter, but he’s not there yet and the Nationals continue to boast farm system deep in pitching.

NOV. 30, 2012: NON-TENDERED LHPs JOHN LANNAN and TOM GORZELANNY, C JESUS FLORES
The rationale: The Nationals didn’t believe any of the three were worth retaining, certainly not at the prices they figured to command through arbitration. They could have optioned Lannan back to Class AAA yet again but showed some mercy in letting the lefty become a free agent and sign elsewhere.

The result: Of the three, only Gorzelanny enjoyed anything close to big-league success this season. Signed by the Brewers for two years and $6 million, he posted a 3.90 ERA in 43 games, mostly serving as a long reliever but making 10 starts due to injuries to others in the rotation. Lannan got a one-year, $2.5 million contract from the Phillies and opened the season as their No. 5 starter. He struggled mightily, with a 5.33 ERA in 14 starts, and wound up needing knee surgery. Flores never played in the majors in 2013; he hit a combined .174 with two homers in 74 games split between the Dodgers and the Rays’ Class AAA clubs.

The verdict: The Nationals certainly made the right decisions with Lannan and Flores, and they probably did as well with Gorzelanny. Though left-handed relief was an obvious problem-area this season, Gorzelanny’s value was as a long reliever and spot starter, not a late-inning, matchup lefty.

DEC. 7, 2012: SIGNED RHP DAN HAREN
The rationale: In need of a No. 5 starter, Rizzo took a bit of a gamble on Haren, who was coming off a rare down year with the Angels. Ultimately, the right-hander’s track record of durability and dominance, plus the fact he was willing to take a one-year deal, convinced Rizzo to sign him for $13 million.

The result: Haren didn’t have a particularly encouraging spring, and that proved an ominous sign of things to come. He was terrible through the season’s first half, racking up a 6.15 ERA while serving up a staggering 19 homers in 82 innings. The Nats placed him on the DL with a made-up shoulder injury to let him clear his head, and Haren did return much better. He posted a 3.29 ERA over his final 15 starts to somewhat salvage the year, though it still proved a major disappointment for the right-hander and the Nationals.

The verdict: There wasn’t much disagreement with the Haren signing at the time, but few could reasonably justify it by season’s end.

JAN. 8, 2013: RE-SIGNED 1B ADAM LaROCHE
The rationale: This was perhaps Rizzo’s biggest offseason question. In the wake of a Gold Glove/Silver Slugger season, LaRoche found himself a free agent. Davey Johnson desperately wanted him back. LaRoche desperately wanted to come back. But the veteran wanted at least a three-year contract, and Rizzo refused to offer anything more than two guaranteed years. The two sides engaged in a game of chicken for two months before LaRoche finally relented, accepting a deal that guaranteed two years and $24 million (though it also includes a mutual, $15 million option for 2015).

The result: LaRoche didn’t come close to duplicating his 2012 performance, at the plate or in the field. His .237 batting average and .403 slugging percentage were the lowest of his career for any non-injury-plagued season. He also regressed at first base, both in his range and ability to scoop up poor throws. LaRoche believes his battle with low weight — the byproduct of ADD medication — was a major contributor to his woes.

The verdict: One year in, the LaRoche deal certainly doesn’t look good. But he’ll get a chance to bounce back next season, just as he did during his first contract with the Nationals. We can’t truly pass judgment on this one until then.

JAN. 16, 2013: TRADED 1B/OF MICHAEL MORSE TO SEA, RECEIVED RHPs A.J. COLE and BLAKE TREINEN and PLAYER-TO-BE-NAMED (LHP IAN KROL) FROM OAK
The rationale: Once they acquired Span and re-acquired LaRoche, the Nationals knew they no longer had a spot in their starting lineup for Morse. Coming off a solid — though injury-plagued — season and eligible for free agency after 2013, Morse was deemed expendable, so Rizzo set out to find the best offer for the popular slugger. In the end, he managed to pull off a three-team trade that sent Morse back to Seattle, catcher John Jaso from Seattle to Oakland and three prospects (including original Nats draft pick Cole) from Oakland to Washington.

The result: When Morse got off to a torrid start in Seattle — six homers in his first nine games — it was easy to complain that the Nationals made a huge mistake. But then Morse’s injury history cropped up again. He spent a month on the DL, and even when on the field never found his groove at the plate. The Orioles acquired him for the stretch run but he was dreadful in Baltimore, going hitless in his final 22 at-bats to finish the year with a .215 batting average, 13 homers and 27 RBI over 337 plate appearances. What about the three prospects the Nats got from the A’s? Cole was OK at Class A Potomac but then dominated Class AA Harrisburg (2.18 ERA in seven starts). Treinen was solid at Harrisburg (3.64 ERA in 20 starts). And the player-to-be-named turned out to be Krol, who made his big-league debut in June, was fantastic for about a month and then slowly regressed over the rest of the season.

The verdict: Though both Span and LaRoche underperformed this season, each proved far more productive than Morse, who unfortunately picked the worst possible time to slump and battle injuries. He’ll now have to settle for whatever offer he receives as a free agent this winter, hoping to re-establish his value. Cole continues to look like a potential No. 2 or No. 3 starter down the road. Treinen is a borderline prospect. Krol showed flashes but will need to prove he can do it over the long haul to stick in the Nats bullpen.

JAN. 17, 2013: SIGNED RHP RAFAEL SORIANO
The rationale: Rizzo insists he was never in the market for a closer, but as the offseason dragged on and Soriano remained available felt he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bolster what already appeared to be a strength. Soriano’s two-year, $28 million contract included tons of deferred money, so the price wasn’t as severe as it appeared. The bigger question would be how this out-of-the-blue signing would affect Drew Storen, who was now losing his closer’s job after blowing Game 5 of the NLDS.

The result: Soriano’s season-ending numbers (43 saves, 3.11 ERA) were solid enough, though he wasn’t as effective as the Nationals hoped. He blew six saves, saw his strikeout rate plummet and wasn’t always well-received by the public. Storen, meanwhile, clearly wasn’t himself. Whether it was a byproduct of the playoff loss or the Soriano signing, we’ll never know. But after Storen was optioned to Class AAA in July, fellow reliever Tyler Clippard publicly criticized the organization for the bad message it sent Storen with the Soriano signing. The Nationals bullpen, which looked on paper like one of baseball’s best, didn’t live up to the billing.

The verdict: This will be another one that can’t truly be judged for at least another season. Rizzo signed Soriano because he felt he needed a veteran closer to get the Nats over the October hump. They never got themselves into a position to find out if Soriano could be the final piece to the puzzle. They’ll try again next year, though Storen’s future with the organization remains a significant question mark.

  1. trochlis318 - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Liked the span trade a lot at the time to now thinking it was good for both sides.

    agreed wtih all non-tenders except gorzo last year, same opinion now except glad we parted with gorzo,

    liked the haren signing at the time, don’t like it now,

    liked the morse trade at the tiem, love it now,

    impartial with soriano, disappointed now.

  2. Joe Seamhead - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    I’m still a big fan of Mike Rizzo, but I thought there was an awful lot of turnover for a team that had the best record in MLB the year before. I also believe that the intangible of chemistry plays a big part on how well a team performs, and the makeup of the Nats locker room changed dramatically with the changes made.From Davey Johnson to Michael Morse to Gio’s infectious smile to Sean Burnett’s crooked hat, the 2012 Nats were a special group. Not sure what was the single most change that was responsible for the different attitude, but somehow it seemed to have lost something from the year before.

  3. tcostant - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Not sure ef everyone saw that P. Fielder got dealt to the Rangers last night. Word on the street is that the free up cash will go towards the Tigers Cy Young winner, so the mighty Max is off the market. David Price’s price just went up…

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      I don’t think it changes the market much on Price. It just means Detroit won’t be bidding if they resign Scherzer and I’m not sure Texas was a contender for Price.

      The price for Price was always going to be high regardless. We are talking about the Rays.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Mark, good analysis except I disagree about the slumping comment you made on Morse. Morse started the season like he finished Spring Training, “en fuego”. He had 6 HRs in 9 games to start the season then got hit on the wrist on April 11th. He then missed 4 games and was never the same even though he got his OPS back above .800 a few times and then he sustained another hand injury in mid June and went on the DL for a month .

    If Morse is healthy he will be a beast in 2014. Some team will figure it out and take a 1 year deal. I hope it’s Rizzo.

    • jd - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      Ghost,

      I agree completely I just think Morse needs to find a team that will give him a regular job and that implies an American league team.

    • scnatsfan - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:59 AM

      Again, if healthy and we all know that isn’t likely. Which is too bad for the guy who seems like a really good guy.

    • Doc - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      Ghost, thanks for picking up for Mickey Mo.

      He needs to play regularly, and stay out of harms’ way. Maybe wear a suit of armor????

      • therealjohnc - Nov 21, 2013 at 7:40 PM

        Except that’s Beast Mode’s kryptonite – he just. can’t. stay. healthy. Signing him on the theory that he’s going to repeat the one year that he was able to stay healthy rather than the rest of his career when he couldn’t stay on the field is … interesting.

  5. sjm308 - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    Seamhead – I battle about once a week with one of my STH partners in 308 about “chemistry”. He was a huge Morse fan and continued to harp on his absence the entire year. It made no difference to him how poorly Morse was playing last year or how poor his defense was in 2012. He believed and still does that “chemistry” is a huge part of a teams success or failure. All I can say as an ex-coach is that we had good “chemistry” when we were winning and poor “chemistry” when we were losing. I have no idea what “chemistry” is and will continue to believe that our “chemistry” this year will depend on whether we are winning or losing.

    Go Nats!!

    • unterp - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:20 PM

      concur…

  6. Joe Seamhead - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Steve, I’m not totally adverse to getting Morse back, but I don’t know where/how he’d get much playing time, baring injury, unless it’s at first base. Like it or not, and neither of us do, but Scott Hairston is a bench outfielder already signed to guaranteed money.

    • sjm308 - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      +

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM

        Joe, my 10:18 reply below was meant to go with your comment here. Thanks.

  7. 3on2out - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Joe: I am pretty much in lockstep with you. I continue to drink the Rizzo KoolAid but worry about team “chemistry” too. My problem wasn’t so much the subtractions but the additions. When Soriano threw Bryce under his 4-year old son’s bus I worried. When he violently untucked after Span saved his bacon with the catch of the summer, I was convinced. Soriano…in spite of his so-called serviceable numbers (3.11 ERA for a stud closer? Please) is a big minus. Clippard only touched on the surface I think.

    But I have to take a moment to comment on Burnett’s sideways cap. I HATED IT! Fernando Rodney of Tampa Bay takes it to an extreme that is comical and embarassing. Am I the only one that things the cap askew thing is ludicrous and makes the wearer seem like a total punk? I hate to think I am being a big fuddyduddy…i got no issues with earrings, long hair, fauxhawks, facial hair, tats. Hell, Brian Wilson is all right by me. But that hat thing drives me crazy!

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:25 AM

      I hate the sideways caps, the stupid haircuts, the obnoxious tattoos, and the Brian Wilson schtick. I’m not even a fan of Werth’s beard when it gets to look unkept. I’ve always admired the Yankees grooming policy.

      I do like HR celebrations and playing with emotion and I don’t mind the untuck but NEVER throw a teammate publicly under the bus.

    • Doc - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:56 AM

      Jon2out, look at baseball history through the pictures.

      That’s the way the cap is worn by 90% of lefties–mostly pitchers. It ain’t gonna change unless you change them to righties. The Babe did it, in the outfield.

      Lots of lefties do it driving their trucks down the road.

      Unconfirmed research, but it probably has to do with lefties having mixed dominance, a status issue which tends to make them better hitters, but control problems as pitchers.

      it’s a baseball tradition, and I love it. By the way, it also drove Joe Morgan nuts too!! He has never seen a tweeked cap that he liked. LOL

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      Two chemistry comments, FWIW
      1) Chemistry, if it exists (and I think it does), is not at all the same thing as “everybody likes each other.” Lots of players on losing teams get along fine. I would describe it as something like everybody being on the same page as focused professionals, and “getting along” in the sense of being able to work well together. I know I have worked very well in a few cases with people I couldn’t stand, personally (and I’m sure the feeling was mutual), but admired for their professionalism (and I hope the feeling was mutual). I have a feeling that Jayson Werth and Matt Williams share very similar ideas between them about what constitutes “good chemistry,” and will work together on it.

      2) There’s clubhouse chemistry, and then there’s fan favorites chemistry. I think it’s not unusual to mistake what we, here, like or don’t like, with what the players care about, feel, or think.

      Free bonus prediction: Danny Espinosa will try to learn how to pitch, to resurrect his MLB chances. You heard it here first!

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    There lies the problem that even if Morse was offered a deal with the Nats he won’t take it as he wants more than 200 at-bats. I’m just dreaming but here’s what we learned on Hairston that if he was DFA’d and picked up by another team immediately the loss is about $1.5 million given the receiving has to only pay league minimum and the Cubs are paying $500,000 of the $2.5 million contract. If Rizzo traded Hairston the impact could be even less.

    You keep Hairston until you have a better option. Right now he’s on the team. I just can’t get excited about his limitations even if his OPS vs LHPs was .752 as I don’t see that as anything great and his PH OPS was .850 in a small sample size of 20 ABs with 7 K’s. His ineptitude against RHPs is hard to shake from my mind as that .000 BA and a .500 K rate is unacceptable. Again small sample sizes but his 2013 numbers overall were bad. Not sure why Rizzo traded for him. His defense is below average and his arm rates about as poor as Lombo.

  9. sjm308 - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    3on – agree, but if we are winning, the cap thing or the tuck thing or just about anything that is outside the box goes away because winning trumps all of it. Its not chemistry, its winning that drives the bus. Look at the football team in this area. Things aren’t going their way this year and its all falling apart, on the field and in the locker room. Winning heals most of that.

    On another thought about transactions, I just read a great piece in another blog (Nationals Arms Race) and the comments left me feeling very very positive about our prospects. One commenter listed both outfield and pitchers in our system and there is no doubt we have pieces to make some very interesting offers to other teams and still have depth going forward. Rizzo should be applauded for building this entire team into something that should be enjoyable for years to come. I have just started following the younger guys and it is amazing to me the depth we have in CF just as an example.

  10. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    So, how is next year’s version of this post going to read? If only in terms of the list of transactions, putting aside any evaluation of the results? Thus far, there are no indications that the Nats are planning to make any significant moves in the OF (apart from a few early, non-specific mentions of Dennard Span that don’t appear credible to me). And it seems the Nats will stick with Adam LaRoche at 1B, thus the IF would appear to be set, as Mark Zuckerman discussed the other day. So that only leaves a hole (or two?) in the rotation and a few more-or-less open slots in the bullpen. I know it’s still early, but I’m pretty much convinced that the Nats front office has concluded that last year was an aberration — a sophomore slump, if you will — and that they can succeed next season with the same line-up performing up to each individual’s norm. We’ll see. But I’ve got to believe that Mike Rizzo will be trading for a high-impact pitcher (like a David Price, if not Mr. Price himself) and not simply signing one of the so-so or otherwise questionable free agent SPs available. Which brings us full circle. To get a high-impact SP do you have give up a regular (Mr. Span? Anthony Rendon?), thus opening up a hole in the line-up everyone thought was set? Ah, the joys of the hot stove league!

    • sjm308 - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      Mr. Oregon: love the hot stove league!! So many scenarios, so little time, and the great thing is, its not our money or our job that is on the line.

      Here is my one big move. I want to start by saying it should not happen and will not happen because it is between Divisional teams but here it goes: I offer Miami their choice of any outfielder not named Harper, any infielder not named Rendon, Zimmerman or Desmond, and any two pitchers not named Giolito, Strasburg, Gonzalez or Zimmermann. If they want to skew this by taking two outfielders instead of two pitchers, I can deal with that. They have their choice of veterans or prospects, makes no difference to me. I realize they will stay away from Werth and his huge contract but I put him out there, same with LaRoche. In exchange I get Giancarlo Stanton! I am hoping they take Span but realistically, Goodwin is the better choice. I am hoping they take Soriano but again, Storen is the better choice. They can have Stammen but if they take Storen, I take Clippard off the table and vice versa. As I have completed this fantasy move, I now have to figure out how to play everyone and this is when I call in Ghost to have him work the entire off season with Werth and a first base glove. I also now put LaRoche out there and try and make whatever deal possible for prospects. If I get lucky and they take Span, my problems are solved. I don’t play fantasy stuff but I love doing this kind of thing. Go ahead and rip it and again, I would not do it if I was the Marlins but you never know? They could end up with either a Gold Glove CF or a hot prospect in Goodwin. They could have their closer for the next 10 years in Storen and a reliable set up guy in Stammen. They can gamble on Espinosa or Walters or play it safe with Lombo and I am open to adding another player if they really are serious about letting Mr Stanton go. So much fun.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        Sign me up for that and it won’t happen now but I believe Stanton will be traded in July. Miami has shown that they don’t mind trading inter-division. This also gives Rizzo time to really see what he has in TJord and Roark.

      • Andy - Nov 21, 2013 at 6:31 PM

        You think Miami would trade the most powerful outfielder in the game for Span and Storen, both of whom are older than Stanton? Yeah right. Maybe Rendon + Giolito gets it done.

    • Hiram Hover - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:32 AM

      Eugene

      Great analysis – but why are you so certain that Rizzo is going to trade for a “high-impact” SP like Price?

      I agree that with the doubts about Detwiler and the other candidates for the 4-5 slots, they need another SP, but I don’t see why it needs to be or should be a top-flight guy like Price.

      Haren was a bust in 2013, but EJax in 2012 largely did what the Nats needed him to do. A back of the rotation guy like that on a short term contract (or a question-mark guy with an incentives laden contract) would be fine by me.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 21, 2013 at 3:10 PM

        Well, I’m not ‘certain’ but I strongly suspect — trying to read between the lines and such, looking at who is and isn’t available on the free agent market — that Mike Rizzo has had enough of the one-year-rental, marked-down, slight-damaged-goods type of free agent signings. I think he — Mr. Rizzo — is in a strong enough position both bureaucratically within the organization and in terms of financial resources to seek a solid starter to round out the rotation. Okay, maybe it’s not a 1/2 (e.g., David Price) but a 2/3 level starter. But I don’t see him going for any of the 4/5 levels SPs currently on the market. But, the very fact that I’m predicting it probably means that it won’t happen, so don’t bet the mortgage on it, please.

  11. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 21, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    I know that this won’t happen but if werth were to be traded in a similar deal like last night, which player would you trade for that is signed to a long term extension?

    • sjm308 - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:13 AM

      Great question. Like you said, they won’t do it and the team I am going to list definitely won’t do it as they honestly don’t like spending money but if I could get Nick Markakis for Werth, I would make that deal. We get a little younger, a little bit better defensively but we lose some offense in that Nick has been trending downward lately. The more I think about it, Werth is really not an attractive candidate for a trade like this but of course neither was Fielder.

      • TimDz - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:21 AM

        You all have to remember that Werth has a full no-trade clause….

    • Jw - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:31 AM

      Werth has a no trade clause, so trade him for another guy with a no trade clause, Ryan Zimmerman.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Nov 21, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        it was a hypothetical question.

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM

    In the aftermath of the Fielder trade the numbers look real good if Prince stays healthy and consistent even at 2013 stats because he essentially replaces Kinsler’s production and +62 points in OPS. If Prince returns to 2012 stats it’s a big gain for Texas.

    With the $30 million cash Texas receives down the road, Prince then costs them overall $19.7 mil a year over 7 years and they shed Kinsler’s frontloaded deal that would cost them $16 mill a year for 2014 and 2015 and $14 mill for 2016 and $11 million for 2017 and possibly a $12 million option for 2018.

    • jd - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:17 PM

      And it gets Profar into the lineup. That’s a great middle infield defensive duo they have now in Andrus and Profar.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        Agreed. Kinsler’s defense was dropping off so they get a big defensive boost and if they are smart they DH with Fielder as often as they can. If Texas adds McCann they really gain big overall and probably become on paper a lock for postseason.

        Detroit on the other hand has holes to fill all over the field. Great rotation if they retain Scherzer who they still control regardless for 2014 and they still have good offense even without Prince. I’m just not sure they are a better team today as they were before the trade. You can now pitch around Miguel Cabrera unless they get a bopper behind him.

  13. Hiram Hover - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    I like Mark’s year end review, but would suggest a different approach to some of the questions he raises.

    For example – rather than judge each signing on an individual basis and in isolation, think about the part of the team it was intended to address as a whole.

    So rather than ask, was the Soriano deal a good one, ask, how did Rizzo do last off season in addressing his bullpen? I don’t think the jury’s out on that one.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      That’s a great point and also consider the options Rizzo had.

      Soriano was an overpay which also forfeited the Nats #1 pick. Was there a better reliever or closer to sign instead?

      Haren didn’t come with a small price tag and you have to ask if there were better alternatives available which seems to be the discussion for this off-season as there’s still a few dozen choices Rizzo has to fill out his rotation. Rizzo can’t make this same mistake 3 years in a row. I still believe EJax to a lesser extent was a fail and Haren was a huge fail. EJax didn’t improve from his 2011 results as a Nat as most expected and he in fact was worse, and the main thing he was touted for was his postseason abilities and he just wasn’t good at the most critical of times making it a fail.

      • jd - Nov 21, 2013 at 1:31 PM

        Ghost,

        No question that both EJax and Haren were busts but to be fair that’s hindsight. At the time of the moves there was a real good chance in my opinion that they would succeed. The fact that they both got 1 year deals lessens in my opinion the degree of the failures.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        jd, I don’t play the hindsight game. Rizzo was let down by both players who just didn’t get the job done and he made both moves with good intentions. After each trade I was a supportive fan looking at each optimistically, but each year I play GM and lay out what I would do. Last year I wanted Lohse who would have cost less on an annual basis and the year before that I saw Burhle as the fit. This year I would get Nolasco if you make a move at all.

        Personally I like the in-house starter candidates and would spend the dough on a quality 4th outfielder and reassess the team in Spring Training and holdout for a trade for possibly July 31.

  14. DaveB - Nov 21, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    The one “move” from last year that wasn’t mentioned was the decision NOT to give a QO to EJax. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty clear it would still have been in his best interest to decline it, giving the Nats another 1st round pick. Worst case he accepts it, and wouldn’t have been any worse than Haren. It’s not often that I think Rizzo’s decisions are clearly wrong (at the very least I understand his logic), but that one seemed like a big mistake at the time.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 21, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      Wow, forgot about that one.

    • therealjohnc - Nov 21, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      Actually, by virtually ever single metric known to mankind and baseball fans, EJax was worse than Haren. If you look at W-L, ERA, ERA+, WHIP, K/9, BB/9, H/9, ERA+, K/BB ratio, bWAR, fWAR. It’s impressive, actually, when you look at their numbers.

      It may have seemed like a big mistake at the time, but in hindsight not so much.

      • DaveB - Nov 21, 2013 at 9:39 PM

        I’m not sure whether you are comparing Haren with EJax in 2012 (to get more apples to apples in terms of defense, field, etc.) or 2013, but I didn’t remember an “impressive” difference between them, so I just went to fangraphs to get a quick comparison:

        ERA FIP xFIP WAR
        Haren (2013) : 4.67 4.09 3.67 1.5

        EJax (2013) 4.98 3.79 3.86 2.0
        (2012) 4.03 3.85 3.79 2.2

        Doesn’t look that overwhelming of a difference (and my main point was that Rizzo should have been able to read the market well enough to know that EJax could get a better deal than 1/13, so would choose to decline the QO).

  15. Joe Seamhead - Nov 21, 2013 at 2:29 PM

    I don’t consider the Soriano signing a complete bust, but it didn’t work as good as Rizzo hoped for. In fairness, the Nats 1st draft choice was a very low first rounder in a draft that was considered relatively weak. I honestly thought Soriano’s quip in SF was directed more at the coaching staff than it was at Harper. And he was right, a Babe Ruth League player would’ve known that the positioning of Harper in that game situation was stupid. The Giant’s announcers were in amazement that Harper wasn’t positioned deeper,i.e. in a no doubles defense.But the blame goes to whoever is responsible for positioning 20 year old outfielders that are still learning the position. I think you want to throw blame regarding the bullpen, in my opinion the biggest error last year in that regard was made by Ryan Mattheus. I really think that his boneheaded locker tirade caused Johnson serious bullpen problems that quite possibly ultimately cost us 4-6 wins, or if you look at the final standings, the wild card. The guy is a knucklehead.He’s paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to pitch for a team trying to win baseball games. Breaking your throwing hand due to hitting a locker is just a knuckle headed move.
    BTW, would it be on Tarasco to position the outfielders?

  16. jd - Nov 21, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Joe,

    The bigger problem with Soriano is that for the most part he pitched mediocre at best.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 21, 2013 at 4:07 PM

      I never thought of Soriano as being an elite closer. I also wasn’t crazy about the Nats signing him. Honestly, I thought Storen got a bit of a raw deal, but the decision was made the Soriano was the closer. I also felt that something was taken from Drew and it was up to him to get it back, but he wilted.That said, yes, Soriano blew 6 saves, but he had 43 saves, an 88% save percentage which was 3% better than his career average. I’m not saying that his overall stats were as good as his career average, but they wern’t all that far off. I think saying that he “pitched mediocre at best” is a bit harsh, though I’ll give you that he didn’t pitch as an elite closer, but he never really had before. He did remind me many nights of an old bluegrass song that said.”I ain’t broke, but I’m badly bent.”

      • nats128 - Nov 21, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        Sorianos results were good howevver how he got there can give you a bad case of indigestion.

Archives

FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 96 66 --
ATLANTA 79 83 17.0
NEW YORK 79 83 17.0
MIAMI 77 85 19.0
PHILADELPHIA 73 89 23.0

NL POSTSEASON SCHEDULE

NL WILD CARD GAME
WED: Giants at Pirates, 8:07 p.m. (ESPN)

NLDS
FRI: Game 1, Pirates at Nats, 12:07 p.m.,
OR Giants at Nats, 3:07 p.m. (FS1)
SAT: Game 2, PIT/SF at Nats, 5:37 p.m. (FS1)
MON: Game 3, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (MLBN)
TUE: Game 4, Nats at PIT/SF, TBA (FS1)*
OCT. 9: Game 5, PIT/SF at Nats, TBA (FS1)*
*if necessary

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at ESPN980.com. Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter