Nationals

Quick Links

Nats Stock Watch: Scherzer's masterpiece tops the week

usatsi_8661480.jpg

Nats Stock Watch: Scherzer's masterpiece tops the week

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 4-2

Team slash: .300/.333/.405

Team ERA: 2.00

Runs per game: 4.16

STOCK UP 

Max Scherzer, SP: 9 IP/ 0 H/ 10 K/ 0.00 ERA 

There was no way that Scherzer was going to be able to top his magnificent one-hit shutout of the Brewers last Sunday, right? Wrong, apparently, because all he did was go out in his very next start and make history last weekend at Nats Park. Dominating a pretty good Pirates lineup, the 30-year-old ace hurled the second no-hitter in club history in front of a sold out crowd. Were it not for Jose Tabata taking an inside slider to the elbow (something Nats fans are still steamed about), we'd probably be talking about a perfect game. But, alas, Scherzer had to "settle" for the no-no, a problem most starting pitchers would love to have. With his latest performance, you could easily make the fact that he's just turned in the best back-to-back starts in baseball history. And given the way he's going these days, this may not be his last no-hit bid we see from him this season. 

Stephen Strasburg, SP:  1-0/ 0.00 ERA/ 5 K

Whatever Strasburg did to address the early-season struggles during his time off, it certainly showed in his first start back from the disabled list. The right hander looked like a completely different pitcher Tuesday night against the Braves, and in doing so provided the Nats with hope that he might be able to turn his season around. He only went five innings, but he looked about as crisp as he has all season long. His fastball touched 98 mph at times, and his command was much improved. If this is the new Strasburg (who, by the way, looked a lot like the old Strasburg), then the Nats rotation is in pretty good shape moving forward. 

Yunel Escobar, 3B: .364 AVG/ HR/ 5 RBI 

Maybe a change of scenery did Escobar some good, because he's quietly having one of the best seasons of his career in his first year in D.C. He's hitting .325 and is on pace for 59 RBI, which would be the most he's had in a season since 2009. It probably doesn't hurt that he's hitting atop one of the better lineups in the NL, but Escobar has yet to go through a prolonged slump at any point of the season. Who'd have guessed that at the beginning of the year? 

STOCK DOWN

Doug Fister, SP: 0-1/ 8.44 ERA

With four straight good outings by Nats' starters, it's east to forget that the last time one of them struggled was late last week vs. the Rays. To be fair, that was Fister's first start back from the DL, but his results were eerily similar to earlier in the season; he allowed five runs on nine hits in just over five innings of work. It was the fourth time in eight starts that he allowed five or more runs. At some point, the Nats a need Fister to recapture his 2014 form. If he can, then this staff might finally be able to live up to all the preseason hype. 

Quick Links

Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

Nationals are receiving calls about Tanner Roark

LAS VEGAS -- On Line 1 is a team interested in Tanner Roark.

They should be. Durable, trustworthy, rather effective, affordable. These are traits for Roark, even considering a down season in 2018.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has fielded inquiries on his 32-year-old fourth starter since signing Patrick Corbin. Other organizations wonder if the Nationals now have a pitching surplus. They don’t. For that reason, and the same ones that make Roark attractive to others, his final season before free agency is very likely to occur in Washington.

“Teams look favorably on a one-year guy that could help them,” Rizzo said. “We’ve spoken to a couple of teams about it, but nothing serious or imminent that’s happening at this point.”

Receiving a proper return would be difficult. Moving Roark would increase a risk of 2018 when the Nationals’ rotation picked up two injuries and went careening into a bad place outside of Max Scherzer. The high-end organizational depth at the spot is limited to non-existent. Washington will cross its fingers about Joe Ross or Erick Fedde in the fifth spot. It wants to move with assurances in spots 1-4. Dealing Roark undermines that idea. 

“We always talk about depth,” Rizzo said. “And to eliminate a pitcher like Roark, we would certainly like to strengthen that strength, if we were to make a deal for him.”

In other words, thanks for calling.

Taylor is wintering in the Dominican

Michael A. Taylor typically spends his winters in Florida. He’s spending a chunk of this December in the Dominican Republic, where he is playing winter ball.

Taylor knew at the end of a dismal offensive season he wanted to do extra work in the offseason. The plan was for him to get with hitting coach Kevin Long.

An idea came up: What about winter ball?

Taylor was reluctant at first. He’s entering his age-28 season with five years in the major leagues behind him. Going to winter ball is atypical for such a player.

But, there’s a lot to fix. Taylor’s voluminous strikeout rate and lack of overall contact have undermined his plethora of other abilities. The Nationals need him to make more contact so he can also be a problem on the basepaths. Taylor stole 24 bases in 2018.

The Nationals don’t expect him to be is a .300 hitter. Anything close to the .270 Taylor hit in 2017 would be more than fine. 

“Hopefully he hones down in his swing and puts the ball in play and help us out a lot,” manager Davey Martinez said. 

Martinez sees a path for Taylor to play quite a bit. Victor Robles will need breaks. Adam Eaton will need breaks. Juan Soto … not so much. But, that leaves room for Taylor to tag some starts as well as certain spot usage later in games defensively or on the bases. If his swing is improved, all the better for the Nationals. 

What is Corbin bringing?

Arizona manager Torey Lovullo watched Corbin for two seasons. What he saw was someone who adopted the gameplan born of analytics, added an effective off-speed pitch while shelving another, then turned into one of the top left-handed starters in baseball. 

“I think he was sent to the bullpen [earlier],” Lovollo said. “In '17 he started to develop a lot of confidence in a couple different pitches that he was landing at any time. And that's all that hard work that he's putting in behind the scenes to make good things happen.

“He believed in scouting reports. He believed in pitching plans that we put in place. And he was starting to have a lot of success that he carried over into 2018.

“When I first met Patrick, he had a lot on his mind. He was frustrated by a lot of things and maybe being a little bit misunderstood. I encouraged him to be himself and trust those around him. He did that. He had a couple of pitching coaches and really good catching corps that he developed a strong relationship with. And you could see it yielded very, very good results.

“So Washington is getting a very special player. We're going to miss him in Arizona. We knew that was a strong possibility that was going to happen.”

Interesting to hear is Lovullo suggesting Corbin wasn’t all-in with what analytics were saying about pitch selection. That changed after further conversations with the coaching staff. So did his results.

“I think at the beginning when we were bringing some new normals into the organization, the start of the '17 -- more specifically, in Spring Training '17, he was kind of resisting it and he was going to rely on some of the things that he was good at that worked prior to that point in his career,” Lovullo said. “But the more he trusted and began to develop relationships with very important people inside of that, inside of that pitching room, he started to see some really good results.

“So I know that, like I said, he delivered the pitches. He made all good things happen by him going on the mound and dialing it up. But he went out there with a lot of confidence, had a great plan in follow-up. Took some time for him to develop that relationship, and it became very powerful.”

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

The specifics of the six-year, $140 million deal Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals have come out, and unsurprisingly, much of the money is backloaded. 

Here are the details, courtesy of Jon Heyman:

As you'll notice, the Nats will be paying Corbin $35 million in 2024, his age-35 season. That's an $11 million jump from the previous year, and $22.5 million more than he'll be making in the 2019 season. 

That may sound like a lot of money to be paying an aging pitcher in the final year of his deal. But with the Nats, that's standard operating procedure.

To demonstrate, let's take a look at the contracts of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Washington's other two marquee starters (contract details found on spotrac.com)

Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nats before the 2015 season, the average annual salary sitting at $30 million. However, he's only been receiving a base salary of $15 million a year -- plus signing bonus money and incentives -- through his first four years in D.C.

Why? His contract is very backloaded: starting in 2019 until his contract expires in 2021, he'll start earning a base salary close to or more than $30 million. In addition, much of his money is deferred: from 2022-28, Washington will be paying Scherzer $105 million, good for $15 million each year. 

As for Strasburg, his contract includes an even more dramatic salary jump than Corbin's or Scherzer's. Since he signed his seven-year $175 million deal, he's earned base annual salaries of $10.4 million, $15 million and $15 million from 2016-18. 

In 2019, that number balloons to $35 million, then down to $25 million in 2020 and back to $15 million in 2021 and 2022, before rising once again to the tune of a whopping $45 million in 2023!

In conclusion, the Nats will be paying their top three pitchers a ton of money, but Washington has decided to delay cutting those checks to give themselves more financial flexibility in the present. 

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: