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?
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.