Nationals Baseball

Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday Quickie - It begins

The Winter Meetings are now in full swing and we are seeing movement, finally, of real players.How do these effect the Nats?

Stanton to the Yankees 
This has been a garbage story from the beginning but we're going to focus on how it effects the Nats which is - it's good! We joke about the NL East basically being the AFC East, where the Patriots are not only good but get to beat up on three bumpkins every year. But it's got a grain of truth. In this case, Miami is now under leadership who can't afford them meaning Stanton had to go. He could have gone to St. Louis or San Fran but he demanded NY, LA, or Houston and his no-trade meant he could. NY made the best deal shipping out Giancarlo from the NL and making the Nats road that much easier. They should win more games in division, making it easier to get HFA situations in the playoffs, if they make it.

This also (possibly) has the effect of taking the Yankees out of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. However, I'm not entirely sure I buy that. The Yankees will get under the salary threshold this year, resetting their penalties. Sure they could find themselves over in 2019 and 2020, but quite possibly it could reset again in 2021 because some big contracts come off (maybe Stanton's!) and the rookies will still be a season away from FA contracts. Also Headley, Robertson, and Gardner all become FAs after 2018 and none need to come back saving the Yankees over 35 million in salary right there. I think the biggest impediment to the Yankees and Bryce meeting up isn't Stanton, but Machado, who would fit in perfectly at the hole at 3B.  But if Manny goes somewhere else or if the Yankees just want pure starpower, I think it could still happen.

Cubs sign Brandon Morrow

The Cubs are trying to make up for losing Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis by buying pitchers who may surprise. First was Tyler Chatwood, who was the youngest guy out there and pitched very well outside of Coors (though that means mostly in LA, SD, and SF) and now it's Brandon Morrow a guy who was mediocre in an injury filled 2016 and great last year in LA. This should be worrying to the Nats, not because the Cubs know something about these guys you don't. They are fine and should mostly do the job but nothing more. No, it should worry you because it's setting up the Cubs for buying during next year's potential FA bonanza*. It also forces their rivals into an all or nothing situation. Pay a lot for the Arrieta's or scrape buy with the dregs.

In good news though - the Cubs should be less talented. Now does that translate into fewer wins? I'm not sure - depends on the rest of the central. Also I felt the Cubs underperformed a little in 2016. 

Cardinals sign Luke Gregerson 

This is a gamble. Gregerson had been one of the better relievers in baseball since really 2010. Last year though he struggled and at basically 34 next year. You'd think his age is catching up with him. I'd take this to mean that the Cardinals are trying though to piece together a playoff team. The more legitimately competitive NL teams the worse for the Nats. What you want is the NL East to be garbage and the other NL divisions to be filled with mediocrity fighting it out. Let everyone else be 81-81. No 90 win teams who could beat you in the playoffs. No 60 win teams who could feed another squad to 100 wins.

Rockies sign Chris Iannetta

Kind of like the Cardinals thing except gambling on someone decent last year with a less reliable history. Iannetta is at best an average backstop and he's old (35 next year) but the Rockies catching situation before Lucroy was garbage so he's going to be an improvement unless he pulls a Wieters style crash. It's a canny signing at the price they paid, and much like the Cardinals signals a team that is going to try in 2018 (as well they should being a playoff team) 

Mike Fiers to Tigers

This doesn't effect the Nats at all other than I suppose Fiers was a guy they might have picked up to fill out the rotation in February in a panic. He's the dregs I talked about before. Cheap (6 million - 1 year) but young enough that you can shake off last year's badness and be probably sure he'll just do what you think he will - put up a fullish season of 4/5 worthy stuff. Trends in the wrong direction though so its not a signing for a team in contention.

Ok let's see if the Nats do anything. The have holes but they don't have to do anything to maintain favorite status in the NL East. They could be a reactive player making moves only if the Mets seem to jump in on something. I still think we come out of the Winter Meetings with a starter or reliever, though don't be surprised if it's an underwhelming, but reasonable player. Like I said - I'm betting on Lackey, JJ Hardy, and oh I don't know. Pat Neshek.



*How are the Nats set-up? Not as well.  They'll have money coming off the books for sure. Like 75 million! But they are losing guys they need to replace. They need a new Daniel Murphy, they'll need a starter for Gio, a good reliever for Madson, a real catcher, and they'll have to either get back or replace that guy in the FA bonanza, Bryce Harper. Also Stras and Max go from counting 40 million against the cap to 80 million. If the Nats are concerned about that then there's a lot of potential spending money locked in to these two players**

** even though they won't be paid this money until much later.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

MOVIES

So here's my quick take on most of the "classic" Christmas movies. Unfortunately when Santa's elves are putting out literally a couple dozen new made for TV Movies every Christmas, not to mention Christmas episodes of TV shows, Christmas specials and the rest, my made for TV recommedations to end that post are already woefully outdated just 3 years later. So let's revisit.

We'll start with some classics I didn't address

Elf

I didn't care much for it at first (I'm mostly miss on Will Farrell) but it's grown on me.  It's kid friendly when surprisingly a lot of the more popular Christmas movies aren't exactly.

Miracle on 34th Street

First one is better but if you have an aversion to B&W the Mara Wilson one is the rare good remake. I don't go out of my way to watch these but if I catch it, it can happen.

Love Actually

I know it's pretty Christmasy but in my head I don't consider it a Christmas movie. So I don't feel any great need to watch it during the holidays. Do I watch it otherwise? Well, I acknowledge it may actually be bad* and we might be fooled by accents but I still enjoy it in parts. So I guess, yes, but it's not like a favorite or anything.

Santa Clause (s) 

Never actually watched one.  I've tried to watch the first one several times and it never keeps my attention.

How the Grinch - Movie

That looks terrible. I'm not watching that.

Jingle all the Way

It is terrible. I am watching that.

White Christmas 

You know - it's also not a real good "Christmas" movie but for some reason I do make time to watch this one every year. I do have an affinity for old movies but there are certainly better ones I could make time to watch. I can't really explain why.


OK now that we're done with the preliminaries what's going on with the schlock! First off I'll recommend a great terrible watch Christmas movie. A lot of people say these movies are bad but really they aren't. You may not like them. They may be sappy and predictable. But that's different. Bad is special. And hitting that sweet spot of being bad but still somehow watchable that you can laugh at the craziness of it is hard. But there are some out there.

#1 on the list is Christmas Belle which will air on ION a couple times. I recommended it before and if the phrase "so much shirtless running" doesn't get you in the Christmas Spirit I don't know what will.  The plot is weirdly slow. Like not time wise but like they had 30 minutes of material but needed to fill two hours. So there's a lot of shots of things not happening. The male lead plays everything very melodramatically. The dialogue is overwrought and at times insane. I can't exactly remember why it's a Christmas movie but I'm sure that's in there somewhere.

Also enjoyably bad for a pop-in is Mariah Carey's Christmas Melody.  The non-Mariah parts are pretty standard but every time she's in a scene she's filmed in a soft-focus close-up that's both jarring and brilliant and worth seeing.

While, like I said this has become a factory product at this point I'm very hopeful for the Tara Reid vehicle A Royal Christmas Ball. to fit the bill. I mean Tara Reid and a budget Christmas movie that involves royalty? The trailer on the site alone involves a terrible photoshop, a terrible attempt at creating a picture on a blank page in a book and neither of the other two leads saying a word! That's very promising. 

For a bigger movie that's garbage yes watch Jingle All the Way. It's horrendous


I'll do some reviews tomorrow barring any actual baseball news.

*Except the Emma Thompson / Alan Rickman parts because they are both awesome. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Still nothing

Free agency can be like a set of dominoes. Teams make plays for certain trade commodities and FAs and wait to see how that plays out. FAs wait to see where the top guys end up so they can figure out how to best get paid. There is usually some action early. Low level guys, the 3 million 1 yr or minor league contracts - tend to go whenever. Some teams get itchy triggers and will pay market value and if they match up with a FA who doesn't want to wait out the process you have yourselves an early big signing. But it is limited until the Winter Meetings.

Here are some recent dates
2016 : 12/4 - 12/8
2015 : 12/6 - 12/10
2014 : 12/7 - 12/10
2013 : 12/9 - 12/12
2012 : 12/3 - 12/6

In 2017 it begins on the 9th as well so our best comparison time wise is 2013. I don't see much in November.  Jason Vargas? Dan Haren? Hey! Javy Lopez was still playing!  There was a bunch of low level trades around the 3rd. We also have our first big signing then - Brian McCann, some more on the 4th Kazmir, Joe Nathan. But really the 7th was the start of things the Yankees grabbing Tanaka and (officially) Ellsbury culminating in the Robby Cano signing on the 12th.

So my take to you would be - we should hear a couple things go down in the next couple of days but there should be a run on activity as we hit Mon/Tues next week. If not, well then you can call the silence suspicious.


Reading material

ESPN took a look at the Nats and found the same needs we all see - get the pen piece, get a 5th starter, shore up the bench again, and sign Rendon long term if you are going to do it.

MLB's reporter (which you have to take as somewhat of a mouthpiece) says the Nats are fine with Difo starting if Murphy can't get back quickly. That's not terribly surprising. So don't expect a play for a MI who's really good. Instead expect a cheap MI who can play SS (and therefore could shift elsewhere as needed).  Twist my arm and I'll say JJ Hardy bc he's great in the field, he had a decent year two years ago, and he's played in Baltimore since 2011 and the appeal of staying in the area might mean he stays for cheaper than he might take elsewhere.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Monday Quickie - No-tani

Not that it's a surprise but the Nats are out on Ohtani. It doesn't mean much directly for the Nats. Ohtani has noted that he wants to be on a West Coast team meaning no team in the NL East will get him. However his list does suggest some problematic team. 

If he goes to the AL that's great. Meeting him in the World Series isn't something you worry about it's something you hope for.

The Dodgers or Cubs? Yeah that's no good for anyone. Even though neither of these teams seem like favorites - he said he wanted a West Coast small market team - they are still on the list. That should worry Nats fans because the hierarchy of the NL right now is clearly LA - CHC - WSN with maybe ARI knocking on the door (COL will have to prove they are moving to the next level for me) and anything the first two do to separate from WSN is worrisome. Of course some will say "Just get into the playoffs and blah blah blah"  I wonder how many NLDS losses will it take for them to stop saying that.  Probably like 100!  Nah.  It was just 100 runs of bad luck!

Anyway I digress. It's obvious Ohtani to one of them would be bad. Could Ohtanit to the Padres or Giants be bad in the short run (which is all we can really judge) too? 

The Padres is a big fat no.  Did you know that the Padres Pythag last year had them winning 59 games and they got INCREDIBLY lucky to win 71. Now - they may not have been 60 win bad but they were no better than the Giants, while also showing no particularly strong set of young players. They were the worst in the league in offense and it wasn't particularly close. One player isn't going to change that. They were bad in pitching as well. I don't see how this team competes for anything. I have to think they are more likely to deal some of their better players (like Brad Hand) in the offseason as they try again to reset.

The Giants? Well that's interesting. They did have a bad offense. Second worst in the NL and clearly worse than everyone else except the Padres. If they sign just Ohtani that's probably not enough. If they sign Ohtani AND get Stanton that would radically transform the offense. The pitching staff wasn't terrible last year and that's with only half a year of Bumgarner.  There is potential here for a big jump.  Now of course that matter less for the Nats than the NL West teams but it's another potential NLDS opponent to stand in the Nats way - assuming the Nats make the playoffs. 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Happy December - Nothing is happening

Last year at this time RA Dickey, Bartolo Colon, Charlie Morton, Andrew Cashner, Josh Reddick, John Jay, and Yoenis Cespedes had been signed and another dozen lesser luminaries had been traded or picked up as well.

This year, until yesterday, the biggest name officially signed might have been Rubby De La Rosa.*

It could just be a slow time, pushed by Ohtani. Usually the Winter meetings speed things along. After a couple of  minor things in the first few days of December, during the meetings last year you saw Steve Pearce, Rich Hill, Carlos, Beltran, Mark Melancon, Mitch Moreland, Matt Holliday, and Joaquin Benoit signed. More importantly you saw the trades for  Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Wade Davis, and yes, Adam Eaton go down.

So while things have been slow before we worry about it being a trend we have to at least until... the 14th. Man they are a little later this year. Ok, well the 14th it is.

So what do we talk about until then?  That's up to you. I'll gladly fill these blog posts with talk about the Hallmark movies I'm watching or breaking down Christmas songs or perhaps list my favorite things that you may yourself want (or want to buy for others) for Christmas. Or you could just throw questions at me. That's ok too.

We'll fill these spaces with something every other day or so, don't you worry.


For today I'll revist the "former guys" post just because that interests me.

Tyler Watson (for Kintzler) - nothing beyond what I said at the time.  Some promise looks hittable in A-ball but young.

McKenzie Mills (for Howie) -  Another post column trade. Phillies bumped him up to High A and he was knocked around a bit in 3 games. However control looked good still. In 2016 he showed he can be hard to hit. In 2017 he showed he can control himself. But doing both at a higher level is another thing. He'll have a couple High-A years to try. 

Jesus Luzardo - A's moved him up to low A from rookie to end the year and he looked just as good there. The IP is still small but all you can ask of any prospect is they do well and make you want to see more at a higher level and that's what he's done.

Sheldon Neuse - Ended up hitting really well in High A to end the year. So well they moved him up again to AA and he hit there too (though without the brief power surge seen in High A). They sent him the the Arizona Fall League and he hit there too, named an AFL "Fall Star".  At this point Sheldon is a half-season of AA performance from being a real PROSPECT.

Jeffrey Rosa (for Enny) -  On the flip side you have Rosa who couldn't hack it in rookie ball for the Rays. His first half of 2018 is about showing the Rays there is some reason to keep him before the draftees come in. It doesn't look good.

Dane Dunning - Found a wall in High-A. A mix of good, mediocre, and bad performances. Still there's enough there with the Ks and the performances not being consistently bad that it's hard to believe he's topped out. He may not be a major leaguer but I don't see him as a low minor wash out either. Not sure if the Sox will push him the AA just to do it or leave in High A another year.

Lucas Giolito - Moved to the majors at the end of the year and had really good results. However the fancy stats suggest that it was mostly smoke and mirrors. He didn't strike anyone out, and had a  too low BABIP.  I watched a lot of Giolito at the end of the year though and I saw a guy that had learned how to pitch who wasn't rattled by situation. I think he can be hard to hit, keep the ball in the park, and not walk too many. I do think there was luck involved here with the level of success, but I'd be surprised if he wasn't at least a reliable back-end starter in 2018 (as a 23 yo remember) putting up an ERA ~4.00. And if he can dial things back-up again without losing control... well that's the million (+ 100 of millions) dollar question, isn't it? Trend says no though
 
Reynaldo Lopez  - Also moved the majors with less successful results but similar pitching to Giolito. The other guy pitched like the other guy. He's still got a year or two before you anoint him AAA talent and he's shown in the minors some tendency to need some time but I don't see anything really getting better. Still again - he's just found it before once.

Max Schrock  (for Rep) - People noted, probably rightfully, that I got over excited about Max's performance. Hitting for high average in AA even at a young age isn't all that special. It probably means he can make the majors, but it doesn't make him a PROSPECT. A lot of career bench guys fit that role. He's still raking singles all over the place (like a .350 average in Aug/Sept) with no pop (4 XBH) so he'll probably get a bump up to AAA to see what he does there. Does the power come with age? Can he learn patience? Can he turn a .330+ average in the minors to .300+ in the majors? At least one of these answers will have to be answered yes for this to be a big loss for the Nats.

Taylor Hearn (other part of Melancon deal) -He got hurt and JUST got back healthy enough in time to throw some at season's end so nothing new to report here. Read last year.


You miss Giolito the most here. You can totally see where he'd fit in with the Nats in 2018 and beyond. But since he hasn't shown himself to be a top of the rotation guy yet you can't say you'd take him over Eaton. Lopez and Schrock today just look like fill-in pieces to a major league team. 5th starter/long man and bench guy.  They could end up being better but could also not even be that. The guy you'd most worry about other than Giolito is Neuse who right now looks like Schrock but with some power and some patience. The floor for him is higher though he needs more time in AA to prove it's not a one-year fluke. Luzardo looks slightly better than Dunning right now but that's all about "upside".

Ten minor leaguers dealt in deals for 8 GOOD major leaguers (well 7 good ones and 1 maybe good one in Enny). Even though some were just rentals, that's months of helpful performances to the Nationals.  You probably lost some ok major league starting pitching but that's all you can say today. Sure it could get worse but history tells you it usually goes on as planned. Really what matters is trading away a star more than anything and right now there isn't one. Giolito could click. Neuse could not slow down. Another guy could surprise or just keep coming up the ladder. But that's hard to do.

This is why you shouldn't balk too much at trading guys, especially guys that aren't like Top Prospects. Being a major leaguer is hard. Very hard. Extrememly hard. Take the guy who is doing it over the guy who may do it down the line if he doesn't get injured and keeps improving over time. 

*Yusmiero Petit's deal was finalized yesterday if you were wondering about him.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Offseason Position Discussion : Relief Pitching

Last year discussion revisited

I guessed that nothing would happen as by the time I wrote this up it was mid December and both Melancon and Jansen were signed. I didn't see a clear trade partner as everyone left was too expensive or not going to go for who the Nats had left to trade (this was post the Eaton trade). I figured they'd wait out the Greg Holland market to see if they could get him on their standard "low market, with deferred money" deal and if not just sign someone but not make them closer.  It would just be to fill out the bullpen. That is what ended up happening as they signed Blanton as the off-season  closed out.

I was pretty fine with this. I understood the risk - that the Nats were basically where they were in 2016 when Papelbon was out and the bullpen failed except now they were trying it with an Kelley who would be less reliable because of injury. But I figured the Nats were too good for it to really matter and as long as they went out again and got a dominant closer if they needed it things would be fine. Well they never did get that dominant arm, but they did get three good ones and things were mostly fine. They performed well in the playoffs and the biggest failures in the pivotal Game 5 in relief were Max Scherzer and a Sammy Solis who should have never been in the game at that point.

Basically this was my best Svengali position discussion, but to be fair a lot of the market shook out before I wrote it up. I could nail all of these is I waited until March. 

My OOB idea was to draft a closer for 2017 in 2017 like they ended up doing for Storen. Apparently my choice wasn't even good enough to be drafted (I don't get it but I don't try to) Nats went SP SP first two rounds.

Presumed Plan : Doolittle, Madson, Romero, hopefully Glover. Solis? Kelly? Probably another arm for depth.

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : They didn't trade for two guys under contract for 2018 just to trade them away... I don't think. Doolittle and Madson were good, so of course they get to hold down the 8th and 9th.  If you've got two guys you feel you can count on, that's a start. You can work with that and the Nats have a couple arms in Glover and Romero, that they'd like to see if they could be special. That means using these guys in the 7th and later and thus you don't really need to go out and get that late inning guy.

Still this isn't a deep pen for the 98th season in a row so chances are they will sign a cheap arm or two at the end of the FA period to give them some of that depth.Glover and Kelly are injury returns. Solis still hasn't proven anything. You can't roll with just these guys alone.

Problems with Presumed Plan :  Madson himself is an injury risk given his finger injury and then performance in the playoffs. Doolittle is an injury risk because he seems to get injured often. (His 51 IP this past season was most since 2014). That means with Glover that 3 of your top 4 relief arms are injury risks and your fourth, Enny Romero, is a Treinen-esque guy who keeps getting sold but the league never seems to buy.

After that it's mop-up / Loogy guys like Solis and Grace and a Shawn Kelley who may never be good again.  I'm not sure what isn't a problem with this pen.

My take :What we have here is a pen with its head cut off. It needs a dominant closer to set everyone in place. Madson/Doolittle in 7th/8th. Maybe Romero/Glover working into those roles. Letting Solis/Grace focus on Loogy stuff. Letting Kelly focus on his last chance. Instead everyone is pushed up. It'll work ok... until it doesn't. It's basically a key injury away from another terrible situation.

The Nats are better off than last year. You'd rather have talent that may get injured then healthy guys that may be talented. But still the Nats don't need just a couple nobodies to fill out the pen. They need either a dominant guy to stick in the 8th/9th role or a couple of solid arms to give them flexibility. 

Out of the box suggestion :
Make Joe Ross a reliever when he returns from injury. The arm is a ticking time bomb so don't try to coax it back into starting form. Let him air it out as a reliever. I recommended this approach way back when with Christian Garcia. They didn't do it and no one got anything from their attempt at making him a starter. This is different. Ross is coming back from injury but the point is the same. Clock's ticking and you can't be sentimental. Get him healthy and get him throwing two pitches as best he can.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Offeseaon Position Discussion : Starting Pitching

Last year discussion revisited

The thought was in 2017 it would eventually be Max, Stras, Roark, Gio/Ross, and one of the Nats "on the cusp" starters - Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez. It made sense. The Nats love their bargain players, who doesn't?, and they had two starters with potential to be just that. At the same time Gio was trending down and Ross couldn't stay healthy, but both still had value. Bailing on one wouldn't be the worst idea. And indeed the Nats explored some deals for Gio or Ross that might have cleared up that issue.

We also acknowledged that the Stras/Gio/Ross trio presented a bunch of performance/injury questions and the Nats may go after another starter to shore up the rotation with a non-question mark. And indeed the Nats explored trading for at least Chris Sale. 

But instead they ended up trading Giolito and Lopez in the same deal for Adam Eaton and watched as Sale went to Boston. The Nats now needed both Ross and Gio.

The end results in 2017? Max was great again. Strasburg did stay relatively healthy and was great. Roark was good after a shaky first half. Gio would end up having his best season in a while. He didn't actually pitch too much better than recent years but everything came up Gonzalez. Ross though failed to make it a clean sweep. He had a poor first half and then went under the knife for another TJ surgery. The Nats internal solutions (AJ Cole, Jacob Turner, Erick Fedde) were mostly failures, so the Nats brought in an old friend Edwin Jackson to round out the rotation for the remainder of the year. He started well but unraveled in September. With Max being Max, Stras being Stras, and Roark/Gio being healthy, it was enough though.

My OOB plan would have been AWESOME. I traded (somehow don't ask me how) Gio, Ross, and Roark and prospects and got back Goldschmidt and Charlie Blackmon. That's an offense. Made more sense before 2017 when neither team looked to be all that good. 

Presumed Plan : Max, Stras, Gio, Roark, and some cheap free agent at first

Reasoning on Presumed Plan : Max just won his 3rd Cy Young. Strasburg finished 3rd.  Gio finished 6th. Roark finished the season still under team control.

To expand on this a little. Max and Stras are both paid liked aces and pitched to match that. They are in. Gio, even though he probably won't have as good results in 2018, is a deal for his salary, is left-handed, and is a reliable innings eater.  All things any team would be foolish to let walk. Roark is a little up and down but for his cost, general success, and recent health you pen him into any rotation.

That leaves one spot that is wide open. They would have ideally hoped that Fedde would have matured quickly into that role, but that doesn't look like the case. No other Nats "prospect" looked ready.  That leaves a trade for a good pitcher, or waiting out the FA market to try to grab a bargain.

Problems with Presumed Plan : There are some warning signs because of the age of the rotation. Max will be 33 and can now miss a game if he sleeps wrong. Gio will be 32 and is Gio. Even Tanner is over 31 now. These are the ages where nicks and dings are likely to spiral into something more. Gio's fancy stats suggest he won't pitch as well next year, and Tanner's suggest last year wasn't a huge fluke. He could simply be a back of the rotation guy. 

Strasburg will still be under 30 but is the question mark. He was relatively healthy last year but he still pitched only 175 innings, making it the third season in a row where he didn't pitch a full one.

Having no one for that fifth spot, even a pencilled in name, is pretty worrisome. The Nats don't have depth in starting pitching (Rizzo even acknowledged this) and we saw last season one bad option trotted out after another. When your saving grace is "more than half the time Edwin Jackson was here he was pretty good... and the other time he was awful" well... I hope you realize that's not ideal.

My take : Max has been healthy his entire career. Gio has had one missed month in his. In three seasons of starting in the past four years, Tanner has missed a handful of starts total. These are rotation worthy pitchers who are healthy. Are they bigger injury risks today than going into 2015? Yes. But you'd take "standard injury risk due to age" over "injury risk due to past injury" every day.

As for Strasburg, you can't deny the past, but you also can't deny the trends. 2017 was another step up from 2015 and 2016. I don't think the Nats will get the full season they are hoping for from Stephen, but another 180 IP doesn't seem unreasonable.

However, Strasburg's history only makes the gaping hole in the #5 spot that much scarier. Baseball tells you that for most of 2018 the Nats will need more than one starter other than the four already named. That they have zero is a bad start. I fully expect the Nats to bring in someone. While I'd like it to be a trade for a Gerrit Cole type, odds are they are going to come in asking for Soto and that's not going to fly.  So instead I see them waiting out the FA market.  What does that mean? It depends on how cheap the Nats want to go.

If they want to go with a warm body it could mean a Chris Tillman, a Jason Vargas, maybe even a Jhoulys Chacin or Jaime Garcia if the market is in their favor. If they don't mind if the body is cold we could see a Jeremy Hellickson or a Wade Miley.  If you twist my arm I think the body is more cold than warm and the Nats end up with a former Cubbie to match their manager. John Lackey's health (27+ starts since 2009) plays in his favor, along with his fair performance. I'd also imagine he'd want another crack at a World Series, something the Nats give him.

Out of the box suggestion :
Strasburg has an opt-out after 2019 (and 2020). He's finally put together a great season. So now's the time to sell high right? Package Strasburg and Bryce together - send them to the Dodgers and gut that farm. Can you imagine Strasburg back in CA in a pitcher's park? Bryce in his natural confines of Hollywood? The Nats with Bellinger and Walker Buehler and Alex Verdugo? Yeah, yeah, no trades clauses. Yeah, yeah "What do the Dodgers want to do, though?".  This isn't the section for rational thought. This is the section where the Nats squeak out another NL East title with 86 wins, miss the playoffs in 2019 with 84, then are set up again with a young dominant offense to carry them through the 2020's

*Plus the trade market probably won't favor the Nats. The FA after this year are "maybe Kershaw" - who won't be traded to Nats even if he walks. Drew Pomeranz, eh.  "maybe Price" I suppose the Nats could get him. Anyone else worth talking about has more years and if they are any good will fetch a hefty price the Nats are unlikely to pay.