Monday, December 15, 2008

Questions for Jim

Here are ten questions I would pose in today's chat if I could, most of which are intended to be totally fair, honest questions and none of which would include any thrown shoes:

If Jordan Zimmermann is in the rotation on opening day, you will be setting him up for a potentially dangerous jump in innings from the 134 he threw in A+ and AA ball last year. Will you promise to keep his innings below 165 to ensure that he doesn't break down as a result of the "Verducci effect?"

2. A year has passed since we traded for Elijah Dukes, and he's been more or less a model citizen. However, he's had more personal support than any player in the league. Has he grown up enough to take care of himself, or will he still have ex-cop James Williams watching over him?

What's the latest on getting Ryan Zimmerman re-signed? Every day he gets closer to free agency he gets more expensive. What will it take to get it done?

4. If you had waited until the last week of May 2006 to bring up Ryan Zimmerman, he'd still be a year from arb and 4 years from free agency, keeping him under team control for a full additional year and making it that much easier to re-sign him long-term. Wasn't it a mistake to bring him up when you did, considering that you're essentially trading his entire age 27 season for 200 age-21 at bats?

5. By any metric that factors in defense as well as offense, Willie Harris was clearly a superior overall left-fielder then Josh Willingham in 2008. Will he have a chance to compete for a starting job?

6. With no more than two established starting pitchers on the team, how can we afford to just toss aside 180 innings of relatively cheap, near-league average pitching from a guy like Tim Redding, especially since the team has said it will not go after any free agents?

7. Is J.D. Martin a candidate for the rotation?

8. Really, what's with all the ex-Reds? Do you think we could get Daryl Thompson for Austin Kearns? (OK, that's one cheap shot... sorry)

9. Joel Hanrahan's ERA was 3.95, just about .10-.15 better than league-average for a reliever. Are you satisfied with him as an ace reliever? If the season started today, who would be your 7th, 8th, and 9th innings relievers?

10. Is the team no longer considering Lastings Milledge for center field? And if he's a corner outfielder, isn't he really a below average bat?

11. At the end of the season you said that if the Nationals had been healthy in 2008 that we would have gone 82-80. How many wins then do you see the Nationals winning in 2009? How many if we add Mark Teixeira? As a 5-6 wins above replacement player, would Tex put us in the running for the wild card, in your view? If not, why? Where have we gotten worse?


Hendo said...

Some answers from me:

3. In this environment, every day that goes by makes Zimmerman less expensive. And I really think we need another season to gauge the wisest long-term deal to offer.

4. It was not a mistake to bring Zimmerman up in 2005. The Nats were a visibly aging and collapsing team running on fumes. Zim brought a shot of hope, as did Sori the next season. Had the FO, as you yourself are wont to point out, done some things smarter (and as I am wont to point out, not pulled the trigger on the horse trade), the team would be much further along the rebuilding path than it is.

5. Sure, but it'll be a challenge getting both Harris and Willingham enough PAs. (If the Nats lose out on Dunn, how about competing Willingham for the 1B job?)

6. Because they can do it cheaper later. And of course they'll go after free agents, no matter their posturing, just not high-priced ones.

7. That or the back of the bullpen, either of which would solve one of your problems.

9. ... ah, whatever; you know how I get.

Hendo said...

Oh, and lest we forget:

1. They jolly well better. They may already have a risky situation with John Lannan, who saw big innings boosts in his age 19 and 20 seasons. There's absolutely no need to run that kind of risk.

Steven said...

I would be interested in Jim's answers to these questions, but while we're at it...

3. Zimmerman is not becoming less expensive. To the extent the economy is depressing salary growth, it's a reduction in the pace of inflation, not an absolute reduction. And it's not the elite players that are seeing their rate of growth reduced, it's the middling players.

4. In 05, Zimmerman didn't even play until the Nationals were out of it. There's an argument to make that it was worth having Zimm around on opening day 2006, since I guess plan B would have been a probably-not-yet-ready Brendan Harris or another free agent, but there's no argument to make that it made sense to start Zim's arb clock so the 20-year-old could sit on the bench and watch the last month of the last place 2005 Nationals season.

6. I doubt it very much. I don't see much if any chance that he won't get as much or more in FA than he would have gotten in arb. Non-tendering him was very likely saying goodbye, and even if we do resign him, is the risk of losing him worth the tiny amount of money we stand to possibly but not likely save?

7. the point is are we really counting on guys like this to play key roles in 2009? Is that why we felt safe dumping Colome, Perez, Redding?

8. I hope you're right.

Hendo said...

Well, since you mention it...

7. Yes. We're talking fungible pitchers here.

I popped the Martin question just now on the chat. (Since my moniker is 'hendo1', we know what the chances are of it getting answered. 'wilnieves' seems to pitching most of the BP this morning.)

Steven said...

A pitcher who can give 180 innings is not a fungible commodity.

The biggest thing I'm concerned about is how we can effectively break in these pitchers. Based on Jim's answer today, I see us going right down the same road the Marlins did a few years ago when they broke in 4 rookies all at once and broke 3 or them with the innings load.

Steve Shoup said...

Steven; As for the Zimmerman questions I have to agree with Hendo. You are right that its a reduction in inflation and that elite players aren't feeling the affects. Where I disagree is the implication that Zimmerman is an elite player. Don't get me wrong I love him I think he could be one of the 5 best all around 3B in the league, but he's not there yet. Be it injuries, players surrounding him, pressure of being the face of the franchise, Zim has not taken his whole game to the next level. I do believe that Zimmerman's value is less than it would have been 2 years ago. His value would be less on the trade market and free agent market. Now i'm not saying no one would want him, obviously his age has value and if he was on the open market right now he'd have a ton of interest but thats a supply and demand issue not overall talent. If you put all the 3B in the league on the open market right now Zimmerman would not be among the top 5 to sign.

Secondly I think you are wrong on the characterization of the Nats bringing up Zimmerman being a bad idea. Especially if you are resigned to the fact that there was a solid arguement to start him opening day. If thats the case (and yes I realize you aren't 100% behind the idea) than bringing him up as a Sept. call-up was a positive, the minor league season was over (unless a team was in the playoffs) and the Nats were able to give him 62 ML plate appearences. That helped get him ready to start the next season with the big league club. Also he wasn't really 'sitting on the bench' of the Nats 28 games during his call up he played in 20 of them and started 12. For a guy who was only in college a few months before thats a pretty good amount. Look at the number of games that Andrew Miller, Detwiler, or Conor Gilliespe got into during their callups. Bringing him up didn't force his arb. clock, if the Nats wanted to get around an arbitration year they could have brought him up in June/July instead of May/June to hold back his arb. clock. Finally I agree with Hendo Nationals fans needed someone to build the franchise around and Zimmerman was the right man for the job.

Steven said...

The right thing to do with Zim would have been to leave him in the minors till the last week of May, 2006. You make do until then, because it's not worth trading a couple months of 20-year-old play for a full season of 27 year-old play.

Every team in the league has learned to manage the arb clocks of their best prospects this way.

Steve Shoup said...

Steven I agree in principal with your point that in certain cases teams should go that route. I think that esp. rings true for rebuilding teams, for instance I think thats exactly what we will see from the Orioles this year with Matt Wieters, and Pirates have said unless McCutchen wows them in ST he will start the year in the minors. That being said though there are plenty of examples(mostly from contenders) where they buck the trend and have their prospects up at the beginning of the year, Joba, Ellsbury and Cueto. Even the Rays could only hold Longoria in the minors for 2 weeks last year and at the time they weren't really in the playof mix. Just think though if they tried to hold him the entire 2 months they might not have even been in the playoffs. This year I think Rasmus, A. Escobar, Price, Laporta and Snider are all safe bets to start with the big league club.

I think in the Nationals case Zimmerman was the future, a 'face of the franchise'. It made sense to start him in the majors and help build excitement and build a product that people wanted to see. I don't have a problem with it I think the Nats new at the time what they were doing and know that it could cost them a few millions, but it was worth it to appease the fan base.