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Beltway Baseball: Did the Nats fix their bullpen?

Feb 12, 2014, 11:22 AM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

The Nationals’ bullpen in 2013 was a bit of a weakness. After ranking seventh in the majors (third in the NL) with a 3.23 bullpen ERA in 2012 , they dropped to 17th last season with a 3.56 mark.

This offseason the Nats helped balance out the unit by trading with the Oakland Athletics for Jerry Blevins. They are also a year older and have prospects emerging on the fringe of the roster. But did they do enough to fix their problems?

Mark and I examined that question in the third segment of our Beltway Baseball spring training preview.

Check the video out here:

116 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. chaz11963 - Feb 12, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Good video Mark and Chase. Personally, I think the bullpen is still a question mark. FanGraphs rank the Nats RP as 24th: http://www.fangraphs.com/depthcharts.aspx?position=RP

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 11:52 AM

      22nd, you mean (excludes Blevins).

      With all due respect to FG, I disagree with their assessment. Our big guys are returning who should not see much of a decline. Clip may not post a sub .200 BABIP but you can expect high Ks and lot of solid innings. Soriano cannot be as “bad” as last season. You know what you are getting from Stammen. Storen is a bit of wild card, given his confidence issues but he did end the season strong. Add Blevins and you have good five relievers. Now sixth and seventh are reliant on who is the number fifth starter.

      If it is TJ or Roark, I say move both RD and Roark/Mattheus/Garcia/whoever impresses in ST to bullpen. You get in another lefty that way. TJ either goes to rotation or AAA. I am comfortable with using Roark in bullpen since he has seen that action last season, if he does not make the rotation.

      If it is RD, I vote Roark and Cedeno, another lefty.

      Ideal scenario is that we sign AJ and have RD and Roark contribute from bullpen.

      In all cases, I see a better bullpen than last season when we ranked 18th.

      • bowdenball - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        Not sure why you think Soriano cannot be as bad as he was last season. He’s old and he’s generally not very fit, and he wasn’t unlucky on balls in play or HR/FB rate or anything like that. His fastball velocity has been trending downward for 5 years now. If anything I’d expect him to be worse than last year. I think we’re gonna see Clippard closing games for this team by mid-May.

    • Hiram Hover - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      I wouldn’t put too much stock in those rankings – they rank by WAR, which is a fickle/iffy stat to measure relievers, and low anyway–the top rated bullpen in their rankings is KC, whose 10-12 relievers are projected to put up a total of 4.8 WAR–less than Ian Desmond last year.

  2. David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    Cole Hamels has tendinitis in his shoulder and won’t be ready for Opening Day. And he’s one of the few players who ISN’T old on that team.

    • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 11:53 AM

      But they’re getting some help. AJ Burnett to the Phils for one year. Oh well.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 11:58 AM

        That sucks big time! Not only he did not join us, he joined a division foe. he has good record against us also.

  3. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:02 PM

    Fangraphs ranking probably reflects things that are unfixable at this point: (1) Soriano, whose contract isn’t going anywhere; (2) lack of LH depth (Balfour the last available LH FA worth having). There’s nothing wrong with the RH pieces behind Soriano: Clippard, Storen, Stammen. The LH thing the Nats have to fix internally. Nothing better than mediocrity will come on the trade market during ST. Maybe the pieces are already in place: Cedeno, Detwiler (though I think he should be starting), Solis, Purke. The Nationals need to get something out those guys/make some decisions. Value from either of them would consist of 45 inconsistent Miss Iowa innings with an ERA around 4.50 to provide an occasional boost, save some other folks’ arms. My money is on Cedeno, gently used in non-stressful situations.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:07 PM

      you know, Balfour isn’t lefty, right?

  4. masterfishkeeper - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Guess Burnett doesn’t care about winning. Strange choice for someone who is at the end of his career. Maybe he felt more comfortable being among players his age?

    • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:13 PM

      Money talks.

    • bowdenball - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      He’d said he wanted to be near his home in Maryland to end his career. Philly isn’t too far from his home in northern Maryland.

      The choice makes a lot of sense for him. He’s getting more than he would have gotten from the Nats or Orioles obviously, and he gets to stay close to home and pitch for a team that doesn’t really expect to contend for much of the year. If he’s as good as he was last year he’ll get dealt to a contender assuming the Phillies aren’t contending themselves. If he falls apart he won’t have a fan base screaming for his head for ruining their high hopes (see Haren, Dan) and can call it a career.

    • tcostant - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:55 PM

      Burnett cared about who would pay him the most, while still being a few hours from home. It fits.

  5. sjm308 - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    I would like to know more about what the difference was between our offer and theirs (if we indeed did make an offer). If it was just money, I wonder hat stopped Rizzo from going higher although if its north of 12 million I guess I would not be upset. Still, its not my money and I think he would have been a nice addition.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      were we really in the market or it was just us fans’ wishes?

    • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      $16M for Burnett. That’s a lot.

      • masterfishkeeper - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        Way too much. Glad the Nats didn’t blow that kind of money on Burnett, although I’m sorry we’ll have to face him multiple times.

      • sjm308 - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        agreed

  6. David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    Burnett got $16M. I understand not wanting to give him that type of money. He’d be the third most expensive player on our team and the most expensive pitcher. Hard to justify that for a guy who would be our 4 or 5.

    If it were something similar to what Haren or Jackson got, I would’ve done it.

  7. adcwonk - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    “Soriano cannot be as “bad” as last season. ”

    Well, that’s my main worry of the BP. Fact is, the two worst years of his career have been in the last three years.

    Thoughts, anyone?

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      welcome back?

      • adcwonk - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:27 PM

        Thanks! Yeah, I usually take the winter off. As I’ve said in the past, even though I think I’d make a brilliant manager ;-), I don’t think I’d make a good GM. And too many secret deals going on. I never have any ideas about what’s happening in the hot stove league.

        But, now, with pitchers and catchers back to report . . . . !!!!

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:29 PM

        Folks were getting worried around here after not seeing some regulars such as yourself and GoSM among others post.

        I wish I could have your patience to stay off this board all off-season.

      • adcwonk - Feb 20, 2014 at 11:51 AM

        Wow — I’m flattered. Seriously.

        But I’m in good health, thank Gd. I just needed some time to attend to the rest of my life (which keeps getting disrupted during the months of April thru October each year ;-) )

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 20, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        That’s what I thought.

      • adcwonk - Feb 21, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        I’m flattered enough I need to say, again: Thanks!

    • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:30 PM

      Eh. He was hurt in 2011 so I dunno how much faith to put into that, especially since he was excellent in 2012. On MLB Network Radio, they were saying that Soriano is good as long as he’s on a one-year deal because he always performs better when playing for his next contract. Well, that’s the case this year. So let’s see if it’s true.

  8. water47 - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    Burnett to Phillies – 1 yr $16 Million. Makes sense when there is talk of other troubles with their SP.

  9. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    $16 Million for AJ Burnett is not a waste. He was worth 7 fWAR over 2012-13. I don’t like market prices for players any more than other fans but paying $16 MM for his one year service is worth it given how many wins he adds and how much depth we get by such a signing. $16 MM over two or more years would be troublesome.

    • water47 - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      Agreed. Especially, if as normally happens with rotations, one or two SP go to the DL for a decent amount of time. He would have been a nice signing.

    • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      $16M in a vacuum isn’t a waste, but I think relative to our needs, $16M is too much to reasonably justify a #5 starter. For instance, let’s say he’s worth 3.5WAR this year. Last year, our #5 starter was worth about 2.6WAR. In 2012, our #5 starter was worth about 1.6WAR. So the question is, are you willing to pay $16M for 1-2 wins. To me, that’s way too much. A win is generally valued at about 6 wins, which for us, would put him at about $12M of value. I think Rizzo would have pulled the trigger on that number.

      Now for a team that has a black hole in their rotation, like the Phillies do behind Lee and Hamels, it makes more sense to do that because you’re getting the full value of 3.5 wins.

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 12:50 PM

        “A win is generally valued at about 6 wins, which for us, would put him at about $12M of value.”

        Make that $6M, not 6 wins.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        I understand your point but for me, his signing was more than just #5 starter. His signing sends RD and Roark to bullpen and that gives us one of the better bullpen units on paper. On the other hand, it also adds depth since TJ, Ohlie, Cedeno, Mattheus (assuming options exist for all) go to AAA.

        I understand the whole ‘how many wins are enough?’ dilemma or ‘should we pay for fourth WAR the same price as first WAR?’. If adding a player strengthens two sides of the equation, you do it.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:11 PM

        It is not necessary that we need only 1-2 WAR from our fifth starter. Tigers’ fifth starter had 3 WAR last season and they made it to ALCS (I thought they were better than Red Sox actually).

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:14 PM

        My point is that we’re already getting 1.5-2.5WAR from our 5 starter. So you’re basically paying $16M for the 1-2 extra wins that Burnett would provide over what we already have.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:34 PM

        Like I said, it is not just one additional WAR from starting pitching. You are getting better options in the bullpen which improves as a unit.

        Anyways, Burnett has signed so we have to move on and fixate on something else. :)

    • tcostant - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I agree. Burnett is good and it gives the Phils a good pitcher. That the cost of doing business. If he is pitching well (and the Phils are out of it), plenty will bid for him at the trading deadline and won’t think twice about the remaining $8M left.

    • tcostant - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      I agree. Burnett is good and it gives the Phils a good pitcher. That the cost of doing business. If he is pitching well (and the Phils are out of it), plenty will bid for him at the trading deadline and won’t think twice about the remaining $8M left.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    Burnett’s time w/ the Yankees was cautionary. I’d always worry about which side of the hammock he rolled out of.

    • tcostant - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      That is why a one year deal is golden.

    • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:11 PM

      Theo,

      That’s the point I was trying to make previously. Burnett has had a long career and he hasn’t always been good. Let’s see how many home runs he gives up in that ball park?

      David,

      I agree with your point entirely. You shouldn’t pay $16 mil for the possibility of 1 to 2 extra wins and I completely disagree with Faraz about the cascading ‘benefits’ of having Burnett. by moving every other candidate to the pen even those who are good enough to start and who may in the end match Burmett’s value.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:38 PM

        Come on son. No one of RD, Roark, or TJ will match Burnett’s value. None of them will contribute as many innings as Burnett and none of them are better than Burnett to outproduce AJ in less number of innings. What’s done is done. AJ has signed with Phillies. Nats have not. That’s the end of it.

  11. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:42 PM

    “Soriano cannot be as “bad” as last season. ”
    What’s encouraging is how he ended the season. 0 ERA in last 12 appearances from August 27th until end of season. Even with a lower K, he posted his best K/BB ratio over last 3 seasons. The only thing we need to worry about is him keeping the ball down.

    • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      What we have to worry about with Soriano is that he doesn’t really have a putaway pitch. He throws strikes and he only has to pitch one inning at a time so he has good odds in his favor anytime he pitches but he’s far from an elite closer.

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:06 PM

        His putaway pitch has traditionally been his slider. He didn’t have it at all last year. He dominated with his cutter, though. Batters hit .133/.161/.133 against it in 2013. That’s compared to .248/.310/.356 against the fastball and .284/.294/.507 against the slider. As you can tell by the slugging, he was hanging sliders and they were getting hit hard.

        More cutters next year, please.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:13 PM

        many closers don’t have a putaway pitch. looking at his pitch usage, he used fastball much more than he did in 2012. he did not use his slider as much. so if he goes back to that 2012 mix again, I am hoping we will see better results from him.

  12. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Bonifacio on minor league deal?

  13. jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Faraz,

    That’s all Bonifacio is; a minor league player.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:43 PM

      I would rather have him in our minor leagues then.

      • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        He’s one of these players that if he ever plays significant innings on your big league team you are in real trouble.I would rather have Jamey Carrol than Bonifacio.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:07 PM

        Jamey Carroll? Bonifacio has at least one tool (his speed) with him. I don’t think Jamey has much left at 39 YO.

      • pdowdy83 - Feb 12, 2014 at 5:10 PM

        JD I think you may want to compare the 2 again. Bonifacio is a nightmare for pitchers and catchers when he is on base. He also is pretty comparable defensively to Carroll at this point in Jamey’s career.

  14. Doc - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Just read the linked Fan Graphs on BPs.

    Their listing of individual BPs includes players all up and down a team’s farm systems. Not sure how relevant to MLB competition that is?

    If it is any comfort, the Cards system is also buried in the standings.

  15. NatsLady - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Take a look at this article. It may (partially) explain the Soriano signing. The thesis is that paying an “established” closer instead of promoting your cheaper but qualified relievers saves money.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/how-paying-established-closers-saves-teams-money/

    • tcostant - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:12 PM

      In fantasy baseball, you never pay for closers…

  16. jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    NL,

    That’s very enlightening. I never thought about it in those terms. It’s the most logical explanation yet as to what Rizzo was doing. The risk of course is that he may have lost Storen in the process especially coming of the game 5 situation.

    • NatsLady - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      I suppose it’s no worse than leaving a guy in the minors for service time reasons.

  17. Section 222 - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    I would have loved to see Burnett in a Nats uniform, but I’m not surprised that Rizzo/Lerner didn’t want to pay $16 million or more for him. If he had signed for Haren money and we took a pass, that would have very disappointing. Of course, he made $16.5 million each of the last three years courtesy of the Yankees, so I’m not surprised he was asking for that much.

    I’m a little surprised, though, that he went to the Phillies. If you had made $120 million in your 15 year career, and were just about to retired, wouldn’t you want to play for a team that has a shot to make the playoffs, assuming your other desires (location, National League) were met? Wouldn’t that be worth, say, a $4 million discount to make it happen? Unless he thinks that by joining the Phillies he puts them in the hunt. I don’t.

    • Section 222 - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      I suppose I should add that one thing I know absolutely nothing about is what it’s like to make $120 million over 15 years. Maybe $4 million is a big deal to guys like that.

    • Doc - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:17 PM

      The Phillies are in the hunt all right. The hunt for the last position in the standings!

    • masterfishkeeper - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      Section 222, this is exactly my thinking, but obviously not everyone thinks like you and me.

      Maybe Burnett felt like he would feel younger on the Phillies, given that he’ll be right in the middle of their age distribution.

      • Section 222 - Feb 12, 2014 at 5:49 PM

        Yes, you put it much more succinctly and entertainingly above. I guess there’s at least one guy who doesn’t think like we do — Burnett.

        Too bad. He would have been a great fit in our rotation.

  18. David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    I’d much, much rather have Bonifacio than Carroll.

    • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:52 PM

      I’d much rather have neither.

      • sjm308 - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        jd – as much as I like Mr. Carroll, I am with you on this one. Having either of those guys on our bench means that everything else pretty much failed.

  19. adcwonk - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    Why not $16M for Burnett?

    My guess is that in part — and I was surprised to see this — the Nats already have the 4th highest payroll in the NL (on the front page of http://www.baseball-reference.com/).

    • Sonny G 10 - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:36 PM

      Wow, that surprises me also.

    • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      Yep and also keep in mind that the arbitration deals with Desmond and JZimm do not stop them from negotiating during the Spring. In fact, most long-term deals are done during camp. While I’m not saying we should expect something to get done for either or both, I do think they’ll continue talking and having the payroll flexibility to get something done would be nice.

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        Although I really think it’s unlikely anything gets done with JZimm, Desmond I do think is a possibility.

    • natsfan1a - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      Woo hoo! Evil Empire, here we come! (or not)

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      We will still be fourth after signing Burnett for $16 MM so not much difference, is there? :D

      Besides using HBT’s article logic, we keep down RD’s value some next time around arbitration. we save some money there. :D

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/2013-payroll-salaries.shtml

      • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 3:55 PM

        why do you suppose the Pirates passed on Burnett? I mean they have more knowledge about him than any one else and they just made the playoffs for the 1st time in about 100 years (exaggerating) and their rotation isn’t quite as good as the Nats.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:04 PM

        I could be wrong but it seems like they already have five starters under control. Cole, Liriano, Morton, Wandy, Locke. and then there is volquez. of course burnett is as good as anyone they have but they may have budget restrictions that we don’t.

      • DaveB - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:02 PM

        Sure seems like the Pirates screwed up & “got too cute” by counting on Burnett’s statement that he would play there or retire. In retrospect, they obviously could have given him a QO and still gotten a bargain, but apparently tried to lowball him instead.

      • Section 222 - Feb 12, 2014 at 5:54 PM

        The Pirates have budget restrictions we don’t? Now that’s an understatement. Remember, they only paid $5 million for Burnett in 2012 and $8 million in 2013. The Yankees picked up the rest.

        jd, you’re just positive that Burnett will be a bust this year, aren’t you? Why do you hate the guy so much? Were you a Yankees fan in 2010 or something? Tell you what, I’ll bet you a virtual beer that Burnett starts 25 games or more with an ERA under 4.00 for the Phillies this year. That’s good enough for a #5 isn’t it?

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 9:31 PM

        Pirates also have a budget around $70 MM. You are telling me that a contender cannot add to this?

      • Section 222 - Feb 12, 2014 at 11:47 PM

        Do you know the history of the Pirates since Barry Bonds left? There is no way they are spending money like the Nats or the other big budget NL teams.

        Take a look at their contracts. They’ve got two significant multi-year deals — McCutcheon and Wandy Rodriguez. No way they were going to pay Burnett anything close to $16 million.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/PIT/2013-payroll-salaries.shtml

        Not a

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 13, 2014 at 6:49 AM

        I know they have not, but can’t they afford to is my question. They don’t seem to be stuck with bad stadiums like Rays or As. Their attendance will keep trending up, so will other sales if team keeps coming back to postseason. I think $70 MM is a bit low for a contender. They should be able to afford few more dollars.

  20. David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    Marc Topkin ‏@TBTimes_Rays 3m
    Hearing #Rays and #Nats talking again about Lobaton trade, with RHP Nate Karns the potential return. Could involve others too.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      how is he defensively?

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        Average. Decent pitch-framing numbers and +2.7 on Fangraphs, so slightly above average. Only a 27% CS rate though. Pretty good bat. I think he’s a switch hitter.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:20 PM

        WOW that CS% scares me. I hope we aren’t giving up Karns for that.

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:25 PM

        Keep in mind that those numbers are very pitching-staff dependent. Ramos has a great arm but only had 29%. Suzuki was a great thrower for the A’s but then couldn’t throw anyone out once he got here. Suzuki threw out only 13% last year. Jonathan Lucroy is one of the best catchers in the game for the Brewers, but he only had 21% last year.

        It’s very possible that the Rays just have deliberate guys like we do (and we’re trying to fix). I’m not sure how to find that info out though.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        there is a pace variable on FG, if that helps.

        I am still not comfortable giving up a starting pitcher for a player that essentially trying to get rid of since they have no room.

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        Well, think of it this way: What impact do you see Karns having on the team the next several years? He’s one of the prospects I’m least high on personally. I think his future is in the bullpen and so do most scouts from what I’ve read. So you’re essentially giving up a bullpen arm for a backup catcher. If you think Karns is going to be a dynamite closer, then maybe he’s an overpay. But if you think Karns is going to be a middle reliever, it seems appropriate.

        We’ll see what the return ultimately turns out to be. The Rays never lose trades, so that’s a red flag. But Rizzo rarely loses either.

      • sjm308 - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:23 PM

        Only thing I remember about Lobaton was that he hit a clutch HR in the playoffs last year. Not sure it was a walkoff but I think it won a game for the Rays.

      • Steady Eddie - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        C’mon Faraz, you know baseball 101 better than that! As DP implied —
        You steal on the pitcher, not [mainly] the catcher.
        Lather, rinse, repeat.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:40 PM

        Yeah, I realize that but do we know for sure that the pitchers are doing something wrong in Tampa. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jesus Montero had that CS%. His reputation is that he is not a good catcher. That’s why I ask about Lobaton and his CS%.

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      Even straight up, Karns for Lobaton would be only a slight overpay on our part.
      Karns is blocked in our system by Roark and TJ now, by Solis and Cole next year, and by Giolito the year after that. His secondary pitches are still a question mark IIRC. So he’s of less value to us than he might be to someone else, and this is the kind of trade the Rays make.

      Some would depend on what’s in the rest of the deal.

      But if we make it and Leon does in AAA the kind of hitting he did in the Venezuelan winter league, and Ramos stays healthy, we might be able to get good value tradin Lobaton to an AL contender in late July for something else we need.

  21. sjm308 - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    Last comment on Burnett from me. When the Pirates had their one game playoff with the Reds he was their starter and pitched 8 innings of shutout ball. Now, maybe it was just his turn in the rotation but that says a lot to me that in their first playoff appearance in decades, Burnett was the guy that got the job done. Just that should have been enough to bring him back but maybe he honestly thought he was going to retire. Onward and upward, on to that backup catcher and reports from Mark, Chase and natsjack.

    • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      sjm,

      Last one for me on the topic as well. The Pirates skipped Burnett in his ALDS start against the Cardinals because the Cards pounded him in game 1. From what the Pirates writers say he was pissed off about that as well. So there are 2 sides to every coin I guess.

  22. sjm308 - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    David – I am no expert on our young pitchers but I totally disagree with you on Karns. I actually see him as a huge plus in our system and would be very upset if he is the trade piece. Where I see Karns in a year or two is being in contention to close for this team. I realize that sounds ridiculous with the talent we have here but I think you have to consider this is Clippards last year with this team, Soriano will be gone and while I love Storen as well, I just think that highly of Karns. Now, he is still probably going to be a starter this year in AAA but I am a faux GM that thinks outside the box and I loved the movement on his stuff the brief time he was up. Remember also that he was the first young pitcher the Nationals brought up when we need help. That speaks to what they think of him as well. Anyway, I realize we need that backup catcher but I am honestly hoping its not Karns!!!

    Go Nats

    • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:42 PM

      sjm,

      I agree. I thought the same about Karns. I think that he doesn’t have the repertoire to be a starter but as a reliever he can amp up his fastball a couple more miles an hour and I think he can dominate. What you say makes perfect sense because as our young relievers get very expensive it’s perfectly reasonable to reset the clock by bringing in the next guy up.

      • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:50 PM

        I’d argue that we have plenty of arms to fill that role. A guy like Jake Johansen (who the Nats say they see as a starter, but I don’t buy it). Or Aaron Barrett, who has absolutely dominated. And there’s free agency, which isn’t how you want to build the bullpen, but if you need 1 or 2 pieces, you can get it there.

        I think if we wait and Ramos gets hurt, it’s going to cost us a much better prospect to acquire a catcher during the season. This is insurance for that.

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Sjm, Clip becomes a FA in 2016, not next year. Nats have control through 2015.

  23. David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    One more thing on Lobaton: let’s say Ramos goes down. Lobaton could step in and play (he got over 300 ABs last year). Without Lobaton, if Ramos goes down, you’re looking at giving up a much better prospect than Karns to acquire a starting-caliber catcher mid-season.

    • jd - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:52 PM

      Lobaton makes a lot of sense and it may even be a fair deal for Karns, I’m just saying that I like Karns potential as a future closer. I wouldn’t mind trading Purke though.

      • pdowdy83 - Feb 12, 2014 at 5:18 PM

        I have a feeling it won’t be Karns for Lobaton straight up if it happens. I think it becomes a deal to also acquire an infielder for the Nats and involves another minor leaguer on our end. Sean Rodriguez could be expendable on their end with already having Logan Forsythe, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar on the 40 man roster and they brought in Jayson Nix on an MiLB deal.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      That’s a valid point about Ramos’ injury but I guess it is just a matter how you perceive Karns and how other Nats fans such as myself and sjm do.

      One reason I will favor trade for Jose is that we don’t have to solve this backup catcher problem every season from now on.

  24. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    If there is one thing I have learned from watching Cards utilizing their pitching prospects, is that if your starting prospect is ready to start and you don’t have room, send him to bullpen. They have done that with multiple prospects such as Carlos, Lynn, Wacha, trevor (who apparently has moved to closing for good it seems). if karns become a decent starter and we have room, we can use him. if we don’t, he can go to my bullpen.

  25. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 12, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    I found an interesting site to kill time : Oracle of Baseball

  26. Doc - Feb 12, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    Lobaton really doesn’t offer the Nats anything in backup catching talent that can’t be better supplied by Leon.

    A little bit of a bat, but that’s it. Poor defense is not what you want in a backup C.

  27. David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 7:14 PM

    Adam Kilgore ‏@AdamKilgoreWP 1m
    On Nats-Rays talks about Lobaton, per sources: 1. Nothing is done. 2. The Nats’ interest in Lobaton goes back at least to winter meetings.

    • David Proctor - Feb 12, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      Adam Kilgore ‏@AdamKilgoreWP 3m
      One source points out that, “Andrew (Friedman) likes to bundle” in trades. Multiple players would mean it takes a while to come together.

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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.
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