Washington Acquires Marc Rzepczynski

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Thursday morning news broke that the Washington Nationals have acquired left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski and cash considerations from the Oakland Athletics for prospect Max Schrock.  Recently the Nationals have placed Sammy Solis on the disabled list and seen Oliver Perez struggle, making the acquisition of an additional left-handed reliever vital.  Rzepczynski should immediately step into a left-handed specialist role in Washington’s bullpen, and gives manager Dusty Baker another weapon in the 7th and 8th innings.

The 31-year-old Rzepczynski has been a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster season for Oakland, providing the Athletics with a 3.00 ERA, 3.62 FIP and 1.722 WHIP, with 37 strikeouts against 24 walks over 56 appearances and 36 innings pitched.  His 24 walks allowed are rather alarming, although 6 of the 24 were intentional walks, making the true number more palatable.

Traditionally a lefty specialist during his 8-year career, Rzepczynski has struggled this season against lefties, allowing a .296/.360/.395 batting line in 2016.  In fact, he has been more successful against righties this season (.674 OPS vs .755 OPS) than lefties.  However, for his career Rzepczynski has held left-handed batters to a miserly .225/.295/.302 line, with only 8 home runs allowed in 640 at-bats.  In general, Rzepczynski is successful because he strikes out hitters as a healthy rate (9.5 K/9 in 2016, 8.6 career) and limits home runs allowed (0.3 HR/9 in 2016, 0.8 career).  A free agent at season’s end, Rzepczynski is likely a pure rental for Washington.

To make this upgrade, the Nationals were forced to part with Max Schrock, their 13th round pick in the 2015 draft.  Schrock was signed to an over-slot $400,000 bonus last summer and has proven the Nationals’ decision wise thus far, reaching High-A Potomac several weeks ago, and hitting .333/.378/.456 across two levels this season.

The nearly 22-year-old Schrock is a polarizing prospect, as few question his hitting ability but focus on his defensive limitations.  Schrock has below-average speed and a fringe-average (or worse) arm, making him a poor fit in the infield.  He has strong baseball instincts so he plays a quality left field, although his arm strength will never allow him to be more than average there.  So Schrock’s detractors point to his defensive limitations and label him as a Quad-A player or bench player at best.  Conversely, his supporters point to his “60” hit tool, extra base power and baseball IQ to make the case that he is a future major leaguer who will overachieve his physical ability.  I tend to fall into the latter camp, as I think he is a big league player in a non-impact capacity, perhaps as soon as 2018.

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My instant reaction to this trade is mixed, as I fully comprehend the position the Nationals are in needing bullpen help, and the limited players obtainable in August to improve their roster.  Not to mention their successful record and the way reverse waivers work in baseball further limits those available.  So considering those caveats, Washington did well to secure a lefty who immediately improves their bullpen.  Rzepczynski gives the Nationals a second left-handed option and could easily surpass Perez as the top lefty down the stretch.  The Nationals’ 25-man and 40-man roster is stronger now than it was prior to this deal, so in a vacuum that is a successful trade.

That said I still feel strong reservations about making this deal.  Rzepczynski has struggled against lefties this season and does not feel like the dominant specialist the Nationals’ covet.  So while the team is better, I wonder how much better they are.  In addition, I am a big fan of Max Schrock and his potential to be a major league player.  No question there are warts in his prospect profile, but his ability to barrel the baseball should allow him to reach the majors.  A future big league player, even one lacking impact potential, is a significant price for five weeks plus playoffs of Rzepczynski.

While I certainly respect the team’s pressing need for bullpen help, I do not see Rzepczynski as enough of an upgrade to part with an intriguing bat like Schrock – Because of this, I would have passed on this proposal and sought another option.

NatsGM Grade ->      D

THE NatsGM Show Episode #76 – Special Guest James Ellsworth

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THE NatsGM Show Episode #76 has dropped and we are proud to welcome promoter for Adrenaline Championship Wrestling and WWE Enhancement Talent James Ellsworth!

James recounts his recent appearance on WWE Monday Night RAW facing Braun Strowman, how he received the opportunity to cut a promo, and where he came up with his catch phrase “Any man with two hands has a fighting chance”!  Then we talk about his promotion ACW, working as an independent wrestling promoter and some of their upcoming events.  Finally we play a quick game of the lightning round, where James shares his favorite “jobber”, Offspring song, and dream opponent.

Thanks to James for joining the show, and to our sponsor, No Halftime.  Please Rate, Review and Subscribe to the show on iTunes and thanks for listening!

Dollars Bring Burnett Back To Washington

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Friday afternoon reporter Chris Cotillo broke the news that the Washington Nationals had acquired veteran left-handed reliever Sean Burnett from the Minnesota Twins for cash considerations.  He will report to Triple-A Syracuse and provides a potentially intriguing piece of left-handed depth for Washington.

Many will remember Burnett from his previous stint in Washington from 2009-2012, when he established himself as one of the top lefties in the National League.  The Nationals acquired Burnett, along with Nyjer Morgan, in June 2009 from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Joel Hanrahan and Lastings Milledge.

Furthermore Burnett spent spring training with the Nationals this spring, but requested his release when he was told he would not make the Opening Day roster.  He has spent this season at Triple-A for the Braves, Dodgers and Twins, posting a 1.91 ERA and 28 strikeouts against 14 walks in 42.1 innings pitched.  Of note, Burnett has allowed only a .164/.203/.236 batting line over 55 at-bats against left-handed hitters this season.

Once one the top starting pitching prospects in baseball, early career injuries forced Burnett to reinvent himself as a reliever who combined good deception with a solid sinker, slider and changeup to get outs.  The 33-year-old rarely touches 90mph, but is productive because he limits his walks and hits allowed.

Typically a trade for Triple-A depth on an August Friday would go unnoticed, but this transaction has a chance to be impactful down the stretch.  Washington just lost LHP Sammy Solis to left-shoulder tendonitis, a particularly large concern considering his past shoulder injuries.  The other lefty in their bullpen, Oliver Perez, has struggled this season to a 5.61 ERA, 4.49 FIP and a .698 OPS allowed against lefties.  The Nationals have LHP Matt Grace on the 40-man roster and Nick Lee and Bryan Harper in the minor leagues, but might feel more comfortable turning to the veteran Burnett to get lefties out than that inexperienced trio.

If Burnett continues to get Triple-A hitters out the next 10 days or so, do not be surprised if he receives a promotion to Washington when rosters expand in September, or possibly before.  Every team needs bullpen depth in September, but the Nationals could particularly use additional arms to spell some veterans if they capture the division crowd with games to spare.

Another potential benefit of this deal is this could “rattle the cage” of Oliver Perez, who is under contract for next season.  This deal is the definition of a low-risk / medium reward trade and the potential benefit of Burnett have a two-month run of excellence, or Perez regaining his focus, is greater than parting with a small cash sum. Not all moves are major, but these are often the deals that separate mediocre front offices from the elite –  This is a good gamble for the Nationals.

THE NatsGM Show Live From SaberSeminar – Guest Kate Morrison

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THE NatsGM Show was at SaberSeminar 6 this past weekend and we were fortunate to catch up with Baseball Prospectus author Kate Morrison.

During our conversation, I ask Kate about her terrific 4-part article she co-wrote this summer about getting a job in baseball, the value of internships and the rise of hiring from the Ivy Leagues.  Next she gives her thoughts on the Texas Rangers, the moves they made at the trade deadline and their prospects of making the playoffs.  Finally, I ask her about Joey Gallo and his future as a major league hitter.

Thanks to Kate for sharing a few moments with us and to our sponsor, No Halftime and the No Halftime App.  Please Rate, Review and Subscribe to our show on iTunes – thanks for listening!