November 22, 2017

Sitting in the Catbird Seat

May 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Washington Nationals find themselves in a National League East Division race suddenly bereft of cloase competition. The Mets’ embarrassing pitching riches have been squandered or become simply embarrassing. Matt Harvey has joined the lovelorn, but is at least healthy. That is something Noah Syndegaard, Jeurys Famila, Steve Matz, Seth Lugo, Lucas Duda, David Wright, and Yoenis Cespedes cannot say. Them cats is beat to hell.

The Catbird Seat is a nice place to be in May. If you are Washington Nationals GM, Mike Rizzo, a perch so seemingly above the fray allows him to wait out the market for closers until the price comes down. Kansas City is falling further off the pace, and Kelvin Herrera would look great with a Curly W on his uniform front. But the problem with being in such an enviable position is failing to understand the market down below where it is still dog eat dog.

The Baltimore Orioles lost the final game of their inter-league match against Washington because Brad Brach is no Zach Britton. In the highly competitive American League East, the Orioles may not be able to wait for Britton’s return in July or later. The good news for Rizzo is that the Orioles don’t have anything much to trade. They have one of the worst organizations in the game and matching up for any notable relief help would be difficult. But there will be other teams like the Cincinnati Reds that find themselves newly competitive and in need of bullpen help.

Overselling The Catbird Seat is always a danger. The food is good, but you are still in Tennessee.

The Washington Nationals have another problem that needs close examination. After Strasburg and Scherzer, the Washington rotation is not as consistently excellent as it has been in past years. Tanner Roark has been hit hard too often for comfort. Gio Gonzalez has been a pleasant surprise, but his demons have not been banished, merely brushed back from the plate. After that it is anyone’s guess who the number five arm in the rotation may be from week to week. Joe Ross is in Syracuse and has not looked good there. Jacob Turner may be the best bet for now and Eric Fedde could be a very good number three starter, but he is still in Harrisburg, though pitching well. Deciding who the fifth starter is would be made easier if the bullpen arms were there to shore it up. Turner has been forced to relieve rather than providing help for the rotation. Hopefully the return of Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley will provide temporary support.

All in all, them cats is worrisome.

As this writer has opined previously, the Nationals have more depth in their minor league organization than John Sickels or Baseball America credit them. Yes, the trade of Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez robbed them of their best major league-ready talents, but ask the White Sox right now what they got in the deal and their assessment might not be quite as sanguine as when the early precinct boxes were counted. Giolito’s velocity has disappeared like a dream he once had and Lopez is just as wild as he was in his Major League debut in DC last season. Maybe the Nationals kept their best talent. Seems like it anyways, and maybe it was there all along, just hiding at the lower levels of the organization and not quite proven.

Juan Soto and Victor Robles could be two of the best outfield talents in anyone’s minor leagues. It would behoove the Nationals to keep them along with others, but there is overlap within the system and enough overall talent to attract bees. Catcher Raudy Read is at Harrisburg and his maturity has spiked and there is Taylor Gushue behind him in Potomac. Gushue came in a trade from the Pirates and he has always been a good defensive catcher, but is pounding the ball for the P-Nats in 2017.

It is the outfield prospects that provide the  deepest wealth of talent from which to deal. This writer has said it before and it bears repeating. The Hagerstown Suns have the best position players of any team in the Nationals organization. Cater Kieboom, Juan Soto, Nick Banks, Daniel Johnson, Blake Perkins and Sheldon Neuse, all have legit talent and many on that list are underrated by evaluators in my humble opinion.

Besides teh Royals and their prize, Herrera, the White Sox are still at the table holding David Robertson close to the vest. Robertson is having a fine enough season to suggest he has something left in the tank, enough to justify his rather pricey two-year deal, but not by much. Maybe the White Sox are not in any hurry to have another bite at the Washington apple after finding that Giolito and Lopez need far more work than advertised. But after Charlie Tilson the White Sox don’t have a lot of outfield depth in the minors. They have enough pitching for two organizations, including a potential closer in Zach Burdi. Does anyone see a pattern emerging?

The puzzle pieces are there if anyone wants to see them. The Royals need to rebuild as do the White Sox. Throw the Oakland Athletics into the mix as well. The guys at the table may think they are the only ones circling, all of them looking oh so smart and cagey, waiting for the perfect moment to jump. And maybe it’s them cats that are circling. Time will tell who was truly in the catbird seat and who them cats knew was lunch all along.

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