Thursday, December 11, 2014

Nats First Hot Stove Action

The Nats pot is finally boiling. The Nationals are cooking. Mike Rizzo put on his chef’s hat. OK, that’s it I promise. However you want to put it, the Nationals have finally entered the fray of the 2014 hot stove season with their first transaction. Although it was more of a George Foreman Grill move than a real stove worthy one (final one, I promise). The Nationals dealt Ross Detwiler to the Rangers for a pair of young minor leaguers. 

From the Rangers perspective, it’s certainly a good deal. The Ranger’s rotation was projected to be very middle of the pack in 2015, even with an ace in Yu Darvish leading the attack. They lost a couple of potential starters to injury in Martin Perez and Matt Harrison at various points last year, so they can’t count on anything out of them. Even their projected #2, Derek Holland, was limited to only 6 starts in 2014 as he tried to come back from injury himself. Picking up Ross Detwiler for relatively cheap fills a big hole in their roster.

What the Rangers will get out of Detwiler and what the Nationals miss out on Detwiler is hard to pin down. The Rangers clearly made this move hoping to get the 2012 version of Ross: the one who put up a 3.40 ERA and one memorable playoff appearance. The Nationals look at Detwiler and see his 4.21 FIP in 2012, subsequent injury in 2013, and resulting ineffectiveness as a starter and out of the bullpen. Detwiler is a pitch to contact guy, with under 6 strikeouts per nine innings, although improving command, limiting his walks to under 3 per nine of late. 2014 was a lost year for Detwiler, though. Relegated to the bullpen, he rarely pitched any meaningful innings as Matt Williams only called on the lefty for mop up duty. Detwiler has youth in his favor, as he will turn 29 in March. From the Nationals’ perspective, though, he was getting to be expensive for a mop up duty bullpen arm at his projected $3.3 million salary after arbitration this year. While the Rangers acquire Detwiler as a piece they believe they can drop into the rotation immediately, the Nationals are definitely selling low. 

In Chris Bostick, the Nationals are getting a middle infielder who has played both shortstop and second base (although reports indicate he likely can’t handle short at the MLB level), wrapping up 2014 in the Rangers high class-A team. He has shown signs of power with ISO scores over .160 the last two years, although has constantly struggled with strike outs, logging strikeout rates over 20%. He has some speed, swiping 25 bags last year. He put up good numbers in low-A ball in 2013, enough to get listed on some top 10 prospect lists for the Rangers, but saw a drop off in average in 2014 with the move to high A-ball, down to .251. 

De Los Santos also spent 2014 in high A-ball as a power relief pitcher. He has strike out stuff, averaging over 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched the last two years, while still limiting his walks. He doesn’t show up on many prospect lists, though, as single A relief pitchers rarely do.
All in all, the Nationals made out pretty well in this deal, considering they didn’t have much leverage to work with in negotiations. Neither piece they got in this deal is projected to be in the majors for several years, if at all, but it is nice to add some depth back to the minor league system that was starting to run very top heavy. Mike Rizzo certainly isn’t done for the offseason, as he continues talks with Jordan Zimmermann’s representatives and rumors continue to swirl around potential trade partners for Zimmermann, Fister, Clippard, and Span.

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