Monday, November 22, 2010

Arbitration, AFL and Upton

Photo courtesy Bill Scheuerman
Bryce Harper more than held his own in the Arizona Fall League.
This being Thanksgiving week and all, here's a smorgasbord of quick-hit Nats stuff to ponder over while you make your grocery list and prepare your strategy to walk into Best Buy at 4:30 a.m. Friday and snag a new HDTV...

There are several important dates over the course of the baseball offseason. One of them came Friday when teams had to add players to their 40-man roster to ensure they couldn't be lost in the Rule 5 draft. Another comes tomorrow, when teams must offer arbitration to Type A and Type B free agents to ensure draft-pick compensation if the player signs elsewhere.

The Nationals have only one free agent who fits either category, Adam Dunn, and it's a no-brainer they'll offer the big guy arbitration. That will ensure they get two draft picks as compensation should the Type A player leave. They'll definitely get a "sandwich" pick between the first two rounds. And they'll get either a first-round or a second-round pick depending on which team ends up signing Dunn. If the signing team owns pick 19-33, the Nats will get that club's first-round pick. If the signing team owns pick 1-18, the Nats will get that club's second-round pick.

Pretty straightforward stuff. There is, however, one unlikely (though still potential) wrinkle to this situation: What if Dunn accepts the arbitration offer?

Assuming the Nationals offer him arbitration tomorrow (they'd be crazy not to) Dunn then has until November 30 to either accept or decline the offer. If he declines, the Nats ensure that draft-pick compensation. He could, though, accept the offer and in doing so remain with the Nationals for one more season. The two sides would either have to come to terms on a salary figure or else go to binding arbitration. Either way, Dunn would be a Nat in 2011 and then become a free agent next winter.

Why would Dunn do that? Only if he felt like the market really wasn't going to produce the kind of long-term contract he desires. If, say, no one is willing to give him more than three years and $39 million, he could elect to roll the dice, go to arbitration with the Nats this year, perhaps make $15 million through that process and then take a crack at free agency again next winter.

I still think that would be a foolish move on Dunn's part, because it would be trading away a couple of years of security in exchange for maybe a couple extra million dollars this year. I really believe his No. 1 interest right now isn't the money. It's the long-term security he's never had before in his career. He wants to be locked up for as many years as possible so he doesn't have to go through the annual trade rumor mill yet again. Accepting arbitration from the Nationals would basically put him right back in that situation again next summer.

But it should be noted Dunn does have that option should he so choose.

As you know, the Arizona Fall League season wrapped up Saturday with several Nationals prospects helping lead the Scottsdale Scorpions to the league title. Let's look at their final stats for the AFL season.

Bryce Harper: 10 G, .333 AVG, 3 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 13 SO.
Derek Norris: 17 G, .281 AVG, 5 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 11 BB, 18 SO.
Michael Burgess: 19 G, .246 AVG, 3 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 5 BB, 20 SO.
Steve Lombardozzi: 22 G, .291 AVG, 9 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 10 BB, 8 SO.
Sammy Solis: 7 G (6 GS), 2-0, 3.58 ERA, 27.2 IP, 25 H, 15 R, 11 ER, 8 BB, 15 SO.
Cole Kimball: 12 G, 0.69 ERA, 2 SV, 13 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 16 SO.
Adam Carr: 10 G, 2.08 ERA, 1 SV, 13 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 8 SO.
Brad Peacock: 9 G, 4.50 ERA, 12 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 17 SO.

As far Harper's overall performance, I think it's safe to say the 18-year-old held his own and came out of the AFL with a better sense of what it takes to succeed as a professional ballplayer.

"I've learned so much," Harper told's Jonathan Mayo. "Not playing every day, sitting on the bench, I think was a huge experience. Being able to watch the game, seeing what the guys are doing -- to be with these guys who've been in the minor leagues a while, it was a great experience."

Lots of talk over the weekend about the possibility of acquiring Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton, whom Arizona is willing to trade for the right package.

Well, let me quash what little hope you might have of the Nationals pulling this blockbuster off. According to a source close to the D'backs, for GM Kevin Towers to trade Upton to Washington, the Nats would probably have to give up four top young players. Like Jordan Zimmermann, Derek Norris, Ian Desmond and Drew Storen.

Now, Mike Rizzo absolutely loves Upton. He did draft the kid No. 1 in the country. But can you really see Rizzo giving up those four players in exchange for one? Maybe if the Nats were one star player away from contending. But we all know they're not. Rizzo isn't going to sacrifice four potential key pieces of the long-term puzzle just for a short-term fix in right field.

Where were you on November 22, 2004? Were you at Union Station for the unveiling of D.C.'s new baseball team's new name and logo?

Wow, where have those six years gone?


Anonymous said...

"Wow, where have those six years gone?"

The toilet?

PAY TO PLAY said...

Great recap piece Mark.

I understand that the White Sox who hope to keep Konerko met with Dunn as did the Tigers who hope to get Victor Martinez. Seems Dunn is 2nd choice for most of the teams. In the back of Dunn's mind has to be a replay of this same point in time in 2008 where he was a 2nd or 3rd option for teams and nobody's 1st choice, and while the teams were calling nobody was making decent offers.

With the improvement of the 2010 squad given the injuries and the poor bench and CF problems, I had hoped to see the same core of players which included Dunn.

The fans of DC deserve better and this is a pivotal year for fan loyalty. Sure, Bryce Harper can be here in June of 2012 and Stephen Strasburg can be back in time for Opening Day 2012 so we can have much optimism about 2012 but what about 2011?

This team cannot afford to take a step backwards in 2011 and while I agree with you Mark that the price is too much in terms of prospects to do the Justin Upton deal, the price is right to sign some Free Agents as the Nats have it to spend right now.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

November 22: A date that will live in infamy.

Doc said...

Apparently, Towers would also want the Lerners to give up a 1st born grandson as part of the trade for Upton!

dj in Fl. said...

What do you make of the Jason Bartlett to the Nats rumors going arond over the weekend ?
I could not understand the reasoning behind trading away a solid bullpen piece for another shortstop.

Anonymous said...

It is probably just me, but I have a feeling that Norris will never play for the Nats. I believe he's going to be a great player in the big leagues, but he has so much trade value and with the Nats "depth" at catcher I think he's going to be shipped out. FWIW, I think one of the Desmond/Espinoza combo will be gone too. They're both big league shortstops and to play one at 2B is somewhat of a waste of their talents.

Steve M. said...

I believe Espinosa can be an immediate impact Gold Glove calibre 2nd baseman.

The trades the Nats should be looking at is seeing what they can get for Willingham or packaging up some of the extra arms like Mock, Martin and Martis and spare parts like Maxwell and a bucket of balls.

This team has been building for the future and to get off that path for the sake of making a trade is not smart. Stick to the plan and add a key piece through free agency and strenghten the bench. Speaking of the bench, Lombardozzi did a good job to make a case for himself as a bench role player.

It will be interesting to see how Baseball America rates the Nats farm system after the great showing at the AFL.

Anonymous said...


The Dunn draft pick has another possibility, I believe. If Dunn is signed by team owning pick 19-33 AND that team signs another, higher rated free agent (and Dunn was about the lowest rated), then the Nats would get a sandwich pick AND the other team's second round pick. The team losing the higher rated FA would get their first round pick instead of the Nats.

If the signing team signed TWO FAs, we'd get the sandwich and their third round pick, etc.

I was at Union Station 6 years ago. Didn't realize how big a deal it was at the time. Like the first responder, I read baseball blogs 365 days a year now. Can't wait to see what the next 6 years bring!

Steve M. said...

In other news, Ryan Zimmerman got 16th place in the NL MVP voting today with Joey Votto taking home the big prize!

I think a Top 20 finish in the MVP from a last place team is another nice accomplishment for Zim.

Steve M. said...

Sorry, I forgot to mention Adam Dunn was Top 25 in the MVP voting in 22nd place. Amazing, 2 players in the Top 25 and still a last place finish.

JayB said...

There are only 15 teams so that means several other players from the same teams split votes before Zim got any respect....I do not see any light at the end of the tunnel from that data.

Unknown said...

In response to two of the comments:

1. I think down the road Ramos will be the catcher and Norris will be moved to first. I bet they sign a 1 year free agent to bridge the gap.
2. I agree with Espinosa as the long term 2B gold glove caliber type guy. Dustin Pedrioa came up as a short stop and that transition worked out pretty well.

Anonymous said...

JayB, you did notice that by your criteria, Dunn and Zimmerman "split" the Nats vote? Geez. There's a difference between being "realistic" and being "negative."

Anon @1:41pm is right, there are other contingencies if on what the Nationals would get for Dunn if he signs elsewhere. There was a pretty good writeup of the best- and worst-case scenarios on Federal Baseball:

John C.

PAY TO PLAY said...

JayB, there are actually 16 teams in the NL and 32 voters and Zim got the right amount of respect being from a last place team.

I want to know who was smoking crack that would give Ryan Howard a 2nd place vote?

JD said...

1)I think Espinosa is the long term answer at short; I think Desmond should be considered as trade bait (don't give him away but do not consider him untouchable).

2) I would pick up a good veteran 2nd baseman from the FA market (yes Orlando Hudson is available again; 2 years at 8 mil sounds just about right; Bartlet is a good option too).

3) I would not give up on Norris as a catcher just yet he is just 21; by all accounts he is a better prospect than Ramos overall.

4) FA starting pitcher is vital; Delarosa would be my first choice but competition may over price him; I would not sign any pitcher for longer than 3 years. Pavano sounds pretty good too.

5) I don't think that Greinke is an option because they would want a package which contains Zimmermann + and Zimmermann may become Greinke in a couple of years.

6) There is zero justification for not penciling Morse in the lineup for 2011; either at first or in RF.

7) We should upgrade the outfield via trades focusing on high OBP players.

8) Forget about big time FA's like Lee, Crawford and Werth; they are not coming to DC and it would be a stupid spend of resources to overpay them.

9) Willingham's trade value may never be higher but I would absolutely consider keeping him for 2 - 3 years; he is our best OBP guy.

10) .500 should be an absolute minimum goal for 2011.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

Ladson (Idiot) has the Nats making an offer to J. Vazquez, which was probably a good idea, oh, 10-12 years ago.

Diving into the Dumpster once again for those half-off cut-off items...

Happy Thanksgiving, Lerners. The half-price turkeys are around the back, rotting in the alley. Enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Sunshine, Vazquez got a votes for the NL Cy Young award in '09. So he had a bad year in New York. Tons of pitchers have that problem. Its hard to consider him dumpster diving when we used to have the likes of Mike Bascik, Tim Redding and Odalis Perez. Those 3 are dumpster diving.

Now don't get my wrong, I don't think Vazquez is a number one or anything like that but saying things without actually thinking about some of the pitchers that have been here over the past 5 years seems to me to just be negativity.

Oh why don't the lerners spend money? Oh why are they signing that bum? Make up your mind people.

Anonymous8 said...

If I were the GM I wouldn't waste my money on Vazquez as I would spend it on Carl Crawford which gives you the ability to trade Josh Willingham and some of those AAAA pitchers on Adrian Gonzalez.

Ok, yah, I am dreaming.

Anonymous said...

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE MIKE RIZZO Mark, That may soon become your new mantra ... hah!

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...


Could not Dunn finally accept the NATS offcer belatedly made and still on the table--3 years uppers 30's?

Mr Baseball said...

Think outside the box if Dunn doesn't sign. Move Desmond to 1st, play Espinosa at SS and consider Lombardozzi at 2B. Go with the youth!

michel khoury said...

I might be in the minority but I would like to see the Nats sign Javier Vazquez. He is actually the most underrated pitcher of the past decade. He is in the top 50 all time in strike outs. Look at his career stats and you will notice that his two worst years were both in new york (something about the city doesn't sit well). The rest of his career has been excellent/good (2001, 2003, 2007, 2009) to above average. If anything, with the young arms the Nats are trying to develop it would be great to have a veteran mentor them. Starting pitching was horrific for the Nats and I think they should sign Vazquez (esp. since it probably won't cost much) AND another free agent like Webb (a small risk) or Pavano (but shouldnt overpay for him. I am not a big fan of De la Rosa but he would probably still be an upgrade.

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