Do the Nats band-aid 2021 and then go all in with money in 2022?

Nationals Source- The real question for the Nats is do they want to band-aid 2021 and go all in with money in 2022… or sign the big one this year.

Steve – I have wondered the same if you step back for 2021 and let COVID go away and watch the Braves and Mets duke it out and eat your popcorn. Or do little and hope for a Nats miracle and retool for 2022. Or do you get methodical about adding 5 players who can add 10.0 WAR combined and go for it. Plenty of good names and bargains out there.

If you go for it, the team improves by removing neg or low WAR players with every good player you add. Maybe you go DJ LeMahieu for 1st base (yes expensive) and add 3.2 WAR and a rightfield platoon of Joc Pederson 2.4 WAR and Kevin Pillar 1.0 WAR and Tommy La Stella for 2nd or 3rd base at 2.3 WAR and Wilson Ramos 1.2 WAR to backup Gomes. That is +10.1 WAR total all for the bargain price of $32 million.

Nationals Source – Yes you could certainly add 10 WAR this year with a combination of 3-5 players but if they don’t do it wisely it could stunt their ability to spend on a much more stacked free agent market next year. I think they can actually have the best of both worlds but it hinges in a Kris Bryant trade. Getting him for a low prospect cost would be our big addition this offseason and then adding bargains around him like La Stella and Pillar would give us a competitive team this year while still giving us cash flow next year to add a real team changer.

Steve – Bryant is a 3.3 WAR on the FanGraphs projections  but we know projections are only as good as being healthy enough to perform. If you spend on Bryant, I think Andrew Stevenson would probably start in default due to Bryant eating up most of the budget. I’d love to platoon him up with Pillar. Do you play Bryant at 1st base or 3rd base because then maybe you do look at LaStella.

The crazy thing about FanGraphs WAR rankings of free agents is for the catchers their #1 is J.T. Realmuto which makes sense but they have Wilson Ramos ahead of James McCann at catcher.

To cover your other point on setting up for 2022, Bryant as a trade would be a 1 year deal and the others could also be one year deals as well.

Nationals Source- Bryant provides flexibility. He could be at 3rd, Corner OF, 1b. That flexibility allows you to look at the best cheap options for the team at any of those openings. If somehow there was an extension worked out (highly unlikely and I don’t prefer that) I would put him at first base allowing for less stress on the shoulder.

In regards to Realmuto I have long said if any team gives him near what he wants it would be a huge mistake. There are many reasons for that but we can simply start with giving a huge contract to a 30 year old catcher is never a good idea. Also, he ended this year with a hip flexor issue which just adds to the likelihood that he will move off of catcher at some point of his new contract. Him moving off of catcher diminishes his value massively… if he was at 1B during his best WAR year ever in 2019 his WAR would have been 3.8 instead of 5.7.

Going a little further he just finished 2019 with a negative win probability added and has only finished above 1.05 WPA once in his career while having a negative WPA 3 times. If the team decides to make an addition at catcher the real prize is James McCann, he gives you a boost in performance with a fraction of the financial commitment.

If the team wants to have financial flexibility going into the stacked free agent class next offseason there are certainly one year options to make this team better for 2021 while keeping the money available next winter.

Steve: I moved off of Realmuto a while ago because of that price tag and just mentioned him for the WAR rankings.

I just don’t know how Wilson Ramos could be ranked higher than McCann and that leads me to say that the Nats should look into The Buffalo as a less expensive option to pair with Yan Gomes. The other thought is spending more on McCann and trading Gomes.

I’m okay with Bryant as a salary dump but I would not want to give up anyone of value. The Cubs remember when Rizzo handed them Daniel Murphy for Andruw Monasterio who was gone nearly as quick as he was sent over. Heck the Nats gave them Brandon Kintzler for Jhon Romero. I hope Jed Hoyer doesn’t claim amnesia. Now they can return the favor and I hope it is a favor because Bryant was a 0.5 WAR in 2020.

Again the goal is to add real value if the Nats intend to be a serious contender this year. I think we agree that it will take a few upgrades. As Mike Rizzo has done in the past, he has been creative on doing that. Last year he gambled on Starlin Castro and Carter Kieboom could add enough WAR to equal Anthony Rendon and that fell short along with the 2020 rotation falling into the abyss.

If Bryant can put up a 3.3 WAR then Rizzo needs to find another 7.0 WAR approximately to get to his 90 wins and I’m sure part of that is that he expects the starting pitchers to rebound. Maybe he thinks he can start Andrew Stevenson and he will be a star. Let’s give credit that Atlanta looks very good at 88 wins now (on Fangraphs) without replacing Ozuna and the Mets are planning to spend.

Nationals Source- personally I’m not looking too much at catcher. I think Gomes will do well with more playing time and we can find a cheap backup or use Read or Tres. There are more quality options elsewhere that I think have the potential to make a bigger impact.

When it comes to the Cubs I highly doubt they cut us a better deal because of our trading past, but I do think the Nats can get it done with a package around Eddy Yean. I’m high on both him and Lara and I think we will likely regret moving either of them years down the road, but as their value stands today I think it can get it done and that is as high as I’d go. If not they need to look elsewhere for improvements. Our pitching will be improved day one adding Stras and to a lesser extent Ross. That will go a long way but they need a bat. If they add that bat and the pitching is healthy this team has just as much potential to compete as anyone in the East. Lets be honest yes the Braves look great and you can’t deny their recent success, but they lost one of their biggest bats, their 2nd best pitcher is coming back from an Achilles injury in his plant leg… they added Morton and Smyly which is wonderful and all but Morton is 37 and outside of the playoffs he just posted his worst year in a very long time. Smyly just posted one of his best years but that’s 26 innings. Will 2020 be real for both of them or the fake season many think it is?

When it comes to the Mets, Cohen is exciting! I said if I’m a Mets fan I would be extremely excited, but another NL East team just spent “stupid money” and they’re on the doorstep of a 10th season in a row at .500 or worse. Lets see how it plays out.

The Nats still have top level elite talent at some important spots and financial flexibility incoming. If they fill some holes they can compete. They just have to be very wise about how they do it because if they don’t do it wisely extending this “window” becomes much more dependent on the development of Rutledge and Cavalli.

Steve – So it sounds like you’re not in favor of trading anyone of value for Bryant because even Yean is too much. Normally they say you have to give quality to get quality but Bryant is a super expensive 1 year rental who didn’t hit his weight in the previous season. He has been hampered by multiple injuries. I say wait for the Cubs to commit either way and move forward and wait for them to either non-tender him or trade him for what he is — a salary dump. They have no plans for him in their future.

Nationals Source- Yes, I don’t think you can trade real 2020 value for Bryant. I keep going back to the Paul Goldschmidt trade. He had a much better year before the trade, didn’t have a injury concern and cost 13 million less. They got a AAAA infielder, a career 5 ERA pitcher and Carson Kelly who was a top prospect but his value was diminishing by the year and he had no path to the bigs because of Molina. The Nats should be able to get Bryant as a salary dump and if they can the plans for both 2021 and 2022 can come into focus.

Steve – That is a strong comparison on Goldschmidt but like you said Goldy was raking and cost so much less. This is why I keep thinking the Cubs know their back is against the wall.

Great discussion, the non-tender/tender deadline is days away! Thanks for doing this with us!

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