Will The Washington Nationals Offer Ben Revere Salary Arbitration?

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On Episode #80 of THE NatsGM Show, guest Dan Rozenson and I were hypothesizing about possible Washington Nationals’ offseason moves – one particular comment Dan made, namely that Ben Revere would return in 2017, caught me off-guard.  After Revere was left off Washington’s postseason roster, I had made the assumption that Revere would not be offered salary arbitration this winter, making him a free agent.

Considering how shrewd Dan is, I started re-thinking my assumption and decided to revisit the Nats’ decision – Will Washington offer Ben Revere arbitration?

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The 28-year-old Revere suffered through the worst year of his 7-year career in 2016, missing the first 30+ games of the season with an injured right oblique muscle.  When Revere returned, he hit only .217/.260/.300 with 18 extra base hits and 14 steals over 103 games played.   These numbers are not simply awful, they made him one of the worst full-time players in baseball last season.  According to MLBTradeRumors, Revere is expected to command $6.3 million in his final season of arbitration.  Without question, these numbers do not warrant $6.3 million for 2017.

However, prior to 2016 Revere had been one of the more consistent hitters in baseball, batting above .294 each year from 2012-2015.  Even including last season’s woeful numbers, Revere is still a career .285/.320/.342 hitter with 190 stolen bases over 748 games.  Therefore, it is easy to ponder if last season was an aberration or the beginning of a steep career decline?

One must immediately question if Revere was fully healthy last season, as the right oblique is the lead side for a left-handed hitter.  Although his average exit velocity was relatively stable from 2015 to 2016, one must wonder why his velocity dropped so severely on off-speed pitches, going from 83.06mph to 78.41.  A further look into his numbers also shows that Revere’s line drive rate dropped significantly from 2015 to 2016 (26.4% to 18.1%) and his fly ball percentage spiked, going from 18.9% in 2015 to 26.5%.  Certainly these numbers could be a one year abnormality, but this does have me wondering if he was ever healthy last season.

Additionally, Revere struggled through a year with a BABIP of .234, 60 points below league average and 80 points below his career .314.  Furthermore, only Ryan Howard had a lower BABIP in 2016 (.205) than Ben Revere.  Normally players with Revere’s profile, namely very fast runners with good contact skills, do not see their BABIP decline so drastically, so there is good reason to expect this number to normalize in 2017.  Finally, his BB% and K% percentages remained in line with his career averages, and Fangraphs graded him as a positive baserunner and defensive outfielder.

In conclusion, the Washington Nationals have a legitimately difficult decision with Ben Revere.  If the team is convinced he was injured much of last year and/or believes he will rebound next season, it is a slam-dunk to offer him arbitration.  The Nationals have long coveted a 4th outfielder capable of serving as a starter if injuries occur, and prior to 2016, Revere was an ideal major league 4th outfielder.

However, if the Nationals are worried Revere’s disastrous season was not due to injury, but the first sign in a career decline, Washington should obviously redistribute those funds toward other options.  If Revere were to reach free agency, I do think he would have a large list of suitors gambling on an intriguing buy-low option in the outfield.

In the end, I believe Washington will offer Revere arbitration, as it gives the team tremendous positional flexibility and $6.3 million is the going rate for a quality backup outfielder.  With the market rather limited this winter with free agent outfielders, keeping Revere provides Washington with a potentially strong 4th outfielder, a possible platoon option in either center field or left field, and allows the front office to seek additional offensive upgrades from a position of strength.

My 2016 IBWAA Baseball Awards Ballot

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Several years ago the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) graciously invited me to join their illustrious group, one of many humbling moments I have had since creating NatsGM.  One of the perks of this organization is each year at the end of the season they contact each of their members to help select winners for the various major baseball awards.

While the overall vote totals should be released shortly, I thought I should share my ballot, along with a brief explanation for my choices.  Without further ado, here is my 2016 IBWAA Baseball Award selections.

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AL MVP :              1) Mike Trout  2) Jose Altuve  3) David Ortiz  4) Josh Donaldson 5) Mookie Betts

For me, Trout is the clear winner and the best player in baseball.  The next four players could have gone in any order, but being a middle infielder gave 2nd place to Altuve and sentimentality forced me to choose Ortiz third.

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AL CY :                  1) Corey Kluber 2) Justin Verlander 3) Rick Porcello

Again, Kluber seemed like the obvious choice for me as the CY Young in the American League.  The decision between Verlander and Porcello was a coin flip, but the slight nod goes to Verlander for the larger strikeout total and importance to his team.

AL ROY :               1) Gary Sanchez  2) Michael Fulmer  3) Edwin Diaz

This was a difficult decision, as Fulmer pitched well this season before getting shut down.  I gave my vote to Sanchez because of the his outstanding offensive numbers compared to his peers, along with carrying the Yankees to a respectable record this season.

{* Editors Note – Fulmer was NOT shut down, he has failed to reach the 162 innings requirement for the ERA title.  I/We did not explain ourselves properly.  H/T to Dave Hogg @Stareagle for identifying our error.}

AL Manager  :    1) Terry Francona  2) Joe Girardi  3) Jeff Banister

Easy choice here, as Cleveland dealt with plenty of injuries and still ran away with the American League Central.  Francona did a fantastic job getting 94 wins from this roster.  Girardi takes 2nd as his front office sold at the deadline and he still got 84 wins from his aging club.  Finally, Jeff Banister gets 3rd as he quietly got 95 wins and a division title from a team several predicted to finish in 3rd place before the season.

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AL Reliever  :      1) Zach Britton    2) Andrew Miller  3) Dellin Betances

All three pitchers were outstanding this season, but Britton’s complete dominance gives him my vote, with Miller’s numbers giving him the nod over Betances.

NL MVP :             1) Kris Bryant  2) Anthony Rizzo 3) Daniel Murphy  4) Nolan Arenado  5) Corey Seager

If this ballot was cast on September 15th, I would have chosen Murphy 1st, but missing the last two weeks of the season has him fall to third.  Bryant is the best player on the best team, making him my choice, with Rizzo a close 2nd.  If Arenado’s team had been better this year, he might have merited more consideration, but 4th feels about right, with Seager’s magnificent rookie season capturing 5th.

NL CY  :                 1) Max Scherzer  2) Jon Lester  3) Kyle Hendricks

I know wins should not matter, but 20 victories, plus all the innings and strikeouts made Scherzer my sentimental choice for this award.  Lester’s advantage in wins, innings and strikeouts gives him 2nd over his teammate Kyle Hendricks.

NL ROY  :              1) Corey Seager  2) Trea Turner  3) Trevor Story

Another slam-dunk choice, as Seager’s .308/105/26/72 stat line from a shortstop is one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory.  Turner’s energy and impact for the Nationals barely gives him 2nd place over Story’s 27 home runs this year.

NL Manager  :   1) Terry Collins  2) Joe Maddon  3T) Dave Roberts and Dusty Baker

Considering all the injuries the Mets suffered through this season, it is miraculous they won 87 games and have home field advantage in the NL Wild Card game.  Even fully acknowledging recency bias, Terry Collins job this season is one of the best I can ever remember.

Joe Maddon’s ability to manage expectations and the hype placed on the Cubs gives him 2nd place.  We should not overlook Dave Roberts’ effort with the Dodgers, who suffered through injuries and a mediocre bullpen to win the NL West.  Finally I had to include Dusty Baker, who reunited a divided clubhouse and helped the Nationals achieve 95 wins this year.

NL Reliever  :      1) Kenley Jansen  2) Seung Hwan Oh 3) Mark Melancon

One of the best relievers in baseball, Jansen had a tremendous season for the Dodgers in spite of a lackluster relief corps in front of him.  I wanted to include Oh in the rookie of the year award, as he has stabilized St. Louis’s bullpen and replaced the suddenly mediocre Trevor Rosenthal.  I guess he will have to “settle” for 2nd place in the reliever category. Finally Melancon quietly had another fantastic season, posting 47 saves and resolving Washington’s major hole at closer this summer.

* Any issues with my choices?  Post your thoughts in the comment’s section!

Talking Koda Glover

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Recently THE NatsGM Show Producer Josh Owens asked me a relatively simple question – “Where did Koda Glover come from?” Certainly there was some humor implied in the query, but also plenty of truth, as Glover has gone from a relatively anonymous prospect into a force in Washington’s bullpen in one year.

Washington selected Glover in the 8th round of the 2015 MLB Draft from Oklahoma State, where he served as the Cowboys’ closer.  Glover pitched only 23.2 innings in 2015, allowing 20 hits and 7 walks against 28 strikeouts.  Coming into the draft, Glover was known to have legitimate 94-96mph fastball velocity, along with a woefully inconsistent upper-80s slider.  Possessing a large 6-5 225lbs frame and easy plus velocity, Glover was still difficult to scout due to his lack of collegiate innings, and his pure relief profile made him project outside the top-5 rounds.

Washington signed him to a $200,000 bonus and aggressively promoted him to Low-A Hagerstown last season.  The Nationals continued to challenge the 23-year-old Glover, starting him at High-A this season and pitching 9.2 innings before a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg.  22.1 dominant innings at Double-A forced yet another promotion for Glover, who continued to overwhelm hitters at Triple-A, posting a 2.25 ERA over 24 innings.  A combination of injuries to Washington’s bullpen and his impressive statistics allowed him to reach the majors in late-July, making his debut on July 20th.  In limited time thus far in Washington, Glover has continued to gather outs, posting a 3.00 ERA with 12 strikeouts against 7 hits and 4 walks in 12 innings pitched.

Since the draft, Washington has refined his delivery and improved his slider, watching the pitch go from an inconsistent, fringe-average offering to a present above-average, whiff inducing weapon.  In addition, Glover’s fastball velocity has also increased, as he has averaged 98mph on his heater in the majors.  Furthermore, Glover possesses impressive moxie on the mound, challenging hitters with an obvious bulldog mentality.  Overall Glover has an easy “65” fastball and a “55/50” slider, along with an occasional curveball and changeup.  Combined with solid command and control of the strike zone, this allows Glover to profile as a late-inning, high-leverage major league reliever.

Washington’s scouting and development departments must be commended for finding and developing Glover – first the Oklahoma area scout had to work hard to see him pitch, then be aggressive enough to get his superior to also watch Glover pitch, then successfully lobby for his selection inside the top-10 rounds.  This is no small feat for an area scout.  Next Washington’s pitching coaches worked to streamline his delivery and develop his slider from a “45/50” pitch in college into a “55/50” in a year, another near miraculous development.  Without these improvements, Glover was likely destined to be a minor league reliever: now he looks to be a major cog in Washington’s bullpen going forward.

Certainly none of this occurs without the diligence of Koda Glover, but Washington must also be applauded for seeing his raw talent and helping it blossom.  Getting an 8th round pick to the majors is impressive in itself, but getting a potential impact player that late makes him one of the best values in the 2015 draft.

4 In-House Options to Bolster The Washington Nationals Bullpen

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Now that the calendar has turned past July 4th, it is time to start looking ahead to the August 1st trade deadline and possible ways for the Washington Nationals to improve their roster.  Although the offense could certainly use an addition, the biggest weakness on the Nationals’ roster is in the bullpen, whether it be in the closer position or further quality depth.

Most fans assume the Nationals will look outside the organization to bolster their bullpen, although the team has several options in the minor leagues that could strengthen the relief corps.  I have identified 4 potential options “in-house” that could help the Nationals down the stretch this season.

Reynaldo Lopez

Signed for $12,000 as an international free agent in 2012, Lopez has gone from an afterthought signing to skyrocketing through the Nationals system and up prospect rankings.  Lopez has a powerful 3-pitch repertoire, featuring a legitimate 96-98mph fastball with punishing action, along with an inconsistent but average to above-average curveball and changeup.  He does not possess prototypical size and has had injury issues in the past, leading many to believe his future could be in relief.

However, Lopez has attempted to silence the critics in 2016, posting a 3.19 ERA across two levels at Double-A and now Triple-A, allowing only 78 hits and 31 walks against 109 strikeouts in 87.1 innings pitched.  Quite simply, he was the most dominant pitcher in the Eastern League prior to his promotion.  The Nationals are likely to continue developing the 22-year-old Lopez as a starter, but could look to limit his innings and strengthen their relief corps by shifting him to the bullpen late this year for a probable playoff chase.

Aaron Barrett

Remember him Nationals fans?  Barrett underwent Tommy John surgery last September on his pitching arm, with the hope and expectation he could return late this season to bolster Washington’s bullpen.  When healthy, Barrett is primarily a 2-pitch right-handed reliever, featuring a quality mid-90s fastball and a true plus (or better) mid-80s slider with hard biting action.  If he can recover in time from his injury, Barrett could reinforce the relief corps later this season.

Koda Glover

Washington’s 8th round pick in 2015 from Oklahoma State, Glover is a powerfully built 6-5 225lbs right-handed relief pitcher who possesses a powerful 2-pitch arsenal.  Glover features a 94-97mph fastball with excellent life and quality downward plane, along with a hard 85-87mph slider that induces whiffs.

This season Glover has been dominant across three minor league affiliates, posting a 1.79 ERA over 40.1 innings pitched, allowing only 26 hits and 13 walks against 47 strikeouts.  Glover is a pure relief prospect due to his two-pitch arsenal, but profiles as a high-leverage 7th or 8th inning reliever for the Nationals, perhaps as soon as in September.

Austin Voth

Selected in the 5th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, the 24-year-old Voth has rapidly risen through the Nationals’ organization.  Voth features a quality 3-pitch repertoire, flashing a low-90s fastball with movement, a high-70s curveball with vertical drop and a solid changeup.  Furthermore, his command and control of the strike zone is above-average to plus, making each of these pitches “play up”.

Currently Voth is sporting a 3.44 ERA in Triple-A, throwing 92.1 innings this season, allowing only 84 hits and 25 walks against 81 strikeouts.  While he likely profiles long-term as a #4/5 starter, the Nationals could shift him to the bullpen in a similar capacity to Craig Stammen in past seasons.