Washington Procures Brandon Kintzler

Mere minutes before the MLB Trade Deadline, the Washington Nationals reached an agreement with Minnesota to acquire RHP Brandon Kintzler for LHP Tyler Watson and international bonus pool money.  A 2017 all-star for the Twins, Kintzler has worked as Minnesota’s closer the past two seasons, and should immediately upgrade the Nationals’ bullpen.  In a related move, the Nationals have designated RHP Jimmy Cordero for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster.

The 32-year-old Kintzler was a middling reliever for Milwaukee the first six years of his career, before breaking out the past two in Minnesota, posting a 2.98 ERA and 45 saves over 99.2 innings with 62 strikeouts against only 21 walks.  While Kintzler lacks big swing-and-miss stuff (only 6.3 K/9), he limits his walks (2.2 BB/9), home runs allowed (0.8 HR/9) and induces ground balls at a strong 57.8% for his career.  He features primarily a 94mph sinker, along with a mid-90s 4-seam fastball, 87mph slider and upper-80s changeup.  There is some question whether he will work as the primary closer for Washington, but he should form a strong trio with Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in the late innings.  Washington is on the hook for the remainder of Kintzler’s $2,925,000 salary before he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

In return for Kintzler, Washington was forced to part with Tyler Watson, the team’s 2015 34th round pick who was signed to an overslot $400,000 bonus.  Blessed with a projectable 6-5 200lbs body, Watson possesses an impressive 3-pitch arsenal, featuring an 89-91mph fastball, a low-80s changeup and a mid-70s curveball.  Watson is a polished lefty with impressive command and an advanced approach attacking hitters.  Both his fastball and changeup project as average to above-average, with his curveball lagging behind as a probable fringe-average pitch.  Watson profiles as a #5 starter or long-reliever, with the ceiling of a #4 if his curveball improves with experience.

For more on Watson, please see my scouting report here -> http://natsgm.com/2017/05/10/scouting-tyler-watson-lhp-hagerstown-suns/

Also, Washington will send international bonus pool money to Minnesota in this trade, reported to be $500,000 by MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.  Due to ramifications from last year’s budget-breaking international crop, Washington is facing penalties internationally this year, making these funds somewhat extraneous.  However, it is still disappointing to see Washington not investing the portion they could trying to discover the next Victor Robles.

Washington and Minnesota completed a rather traditional trade deadline swap, as the contending Nationals acquired an impending free agent to bolster their bullpen from the rebuilding Twins.  Minnesota should be commended for obtaining a intriguing prospect plus international money for two months of Kintzler.  On the other hand, Washington’s bullpen and roster are stronger now with Kintzler, who lengthens the bullpen and gives them another closing option.

Unfortunately this feels like a small “overpay” by the Nationals, giving up yet another left-handed pitching prospect and a hefty international sum for the pure rental of a non-elite reliever.  Kintzler does not feel like the “significant upgrade” Washington arguably needed to compete with Chicago and Los Angeles to reach the World Series.  Considering superior option Justin Wilson was traded and Zach Britton and Brad Hand were likely available, this deal feels underwhelming like getting a pair of Latrell Sprewell’s Spinner shoes rather than classic Air Jordans.  Eventually I would have likely made this same swap, but I am left feeling like this was not the best move Washington could possibly make.

NatsGM Grade  ->           C / C-

THE Joshua Kusnick Experience #17 – Vans & A Beanie?

This is a very special MLB Trade Deadline Episode of THE Joshua Kusnick Experience, as Josh clears some time ahead of the deadline to talk.

Our conversation begins with Josh reflecting on his All-Star week experience, opening baseball cards from 1992 and buying WBC jerseys.  Then Josh talks about the recent 1-on-1 matchup between clients Carlos Asuaje vs Seth Lugo, touches on the relationships, or lack thereof, his clients have with each other, and mentions several clients performing well.  Next the conversation shifts to the trade deadline, the responsibilities of an agent and some of his favorite deadline stories.   And to conclude, Josh gives his take on his favorite baseball stadium, the best hockey goalie ever, and the benefits of a worldwide baseball draft.

Follow the show on Twitter @JoshKusnickPod – Thanks for downloading!

Washington Acquires Howie Kendrick

Friday evening the Washington Nationals made their second significant trade deadline acquisition, receiving IF/OF Howie Kendrick and cash considerations from Philadelphia in exchange for LHP McKenzie Mills and international bonus money.  Due to injuries to OFs Jayson Werth, Michael A. Taylor, Ryan Raburn and Chris Heisey, Washington found themselves with only three healthy outfielders on the roster earlier this week, forcing the team to look for reinforcements.

The 34-year-old Kendrick has battled injuries much of this season, but has been productive when healthy, batting .340/.397/.454 with 2 homers and 8 stolen bases.  For his 12-year major league career, Kendrick has a .290/.334/.418 batting line with 97 home runs and 119 stolen bases.  Kendrick has impressive barrel skills and a compact swing, giving him an easy plus hit tool.  Additionally, Kendrick has added defensive versatility the past two seasons, seeing time at first base, third base and left field, along with his natural second base.  He is not a great defender, but his speed and reasonable arm allow him to be passable at each spot.  He should see plenty of at-bats in left field for the Nationals until either Werth or Taylor returns, when he should slide into a super-utility role.

In exchange for Kendrick, Washington parts with 21-year-old left-handed pitcher McKenzie Mills, their 18th round selection in 2015.  Mills is having a tremendous season for Low-A Hagerstown, posting a 3.01 ERA with 118 strikeouts over 104.2 innings pitched: this success earned him a promotion to High-A earlier this week.  Mills possesses a 4-pitch repertoire, with a low-90s fastball, a mid-70s slider and changeup, along with a low-70s curveball.  He has a solid fastball and the changeup is promising, but his difficulties spinning a breaking ball limits his ceiling.  If he can improve his breaking pitches, he has a chance to work as a backend starter, with his likely role being a Triple-A starter.  Mills is a nice starter kit for a major league pitcher, but he needs more work than his impressive statistics might imply.

* For more information on Mills, please see my evaluation article here -> http://natsgm.com/2017/05/08/evaluating-mckenzie-mills/

According to various media reports, Philadelphia is sending enough money to Washington to cover nearly all of Kendrick’s salary, allowing the Nationals not to add to their payroll or get closer to the luxury tax.  On the flip side, Washington is sending Philadelphia international bonus pool money, which the Phillies have been known to covet and was somewhat superfluous to the Nationals due to ramifications from last year’s budget-busting international crop.  Essentially both teams receive something significantly more valuable to them than what they are parting with, sweetening the deal for both sides.

Both Washington and Philadelphia did well in this trade.  Philadelphia receives a  prospect and additional international money in exchange for a rental player and his salary, making this a worthwhile swap for the Phillies.  And Washington parts with an A-ball pitcher with a mild ceiling and spare international funds to fill a current hole in left field, while bolstering their bench ahead of the playoffs.  Kendrick is a versatile defender with speed, along with a proven contact hitter, traits that make him particularly valuable as a bench player and pinch hitter.  Not to mention Kendrick has 103 postseason at-bats, giving him plenty of playoff experience.

Washington’s past playoff struggles have often been a direct result of subpar bullpen pitchers and bench options, so this trade specifically targets one of these weaknesses.  Certainly losing Mills hurts the organizational pitching depth, but this trade immediately improves the Nationals’ roster and leaves them in position to make yet another trade ahead of the trade deadline.

NatsGM Grade     ->   Strong B

Evaluating Andrew Stevenson

Andrew Stevenson           OF          Syracuse Chiefs                 L/L

Future Grades     Hit (50+)   Power (30)   Arm (35)   Defense (55)   Run (60+)   

Stevenson was Washington’s top selection in the 2015 MLB Draft, 58th overall and quickly agreed to a $750,000 bonus after three years at Louisiana State University.  Listed at 6-0 185lbs, Stevenson has noticeably filled out since college, especially his upper body, and looks closer to 195-200lbs.  He is a tremendous athlete, with good first-step quickness and outstanding speed, easily clocking in the 4.05 second range home to first from the left side.  He plays with outstanding hustle and a grinder mentality, which contributes to his excellent makeup, although I have seen him frustrated by questionable calls – this is a result of his passion but something to reign in going forward.

Defensively Stevenson utilizes his excellent quickness and speed to cover significant ground in center field.  He shows solid instincts and takes quality routes to the baseball.  He possesses a below-average arm, although it has improved with the additional muscle mass.  His athleticism and instincts allow him to play all three outfield positions, but he profiles best in center or left field.  The arm strength is a concern, but Stevenson profiles as an above-average defender in center and plus in left field.

At the plate Stevenson has refined his swing since being drafted, eliminating some pre-swing movement and shortening his swing to combat velocity on the inner half.  Even with his improved strength, he does not project to hit more than a handful of home runs annually.  Stevenson understands his role as a table-setter who works the count, gets on-base and capitalizes on his speed to score runs.  There is swing-and-miss in his game, but this could decrease in the future as his swing changes become more natural.  Stevenson projects as a .270+ hitter who hits a couple home runs and provides a reasonable on-base percentage.

Stevenson is a high-floor, medium ceiling outfield prospect with the potential for three average or better tools.  In the field Stevenson looks at home in center field, where his impressive skills allow him to overcome his mediocre arm to project as above-average.  Offensively there are concerns within the profile, as his difficulties with velocity and lack of power could leave him vulnerable to major league pitching.  These issues will keep him from being an impact hitter, making his ability to make contact and reach base vital to his major league future.  If he improves these flaws, Stevenson has a ceiling as a 2nd division starter, with his likely outcome being a valuable reserve outfielder.

* Editor’s Note – Early Sunday Stevenson was promoted to Washington to replace Chris Heisey, who went on the disabled list.  He appears to be in line for a 2-week big-league cameo before Heisey, Michael A. Taylor or Jayson Werth returns from injury.*