Nationals Trade Pedro Avila for Derek Norris

Derek Norris for NPPAs semi-predicted in the penultimate post, the Nats have begun the plug holes via the trade route with the acquisition of former farmhand C Derek Norris from San Diego for RHP Pedro Avila.

Norris, who was traded away nearly five years ago to Oakland, will most likely split time with Jose Lobaton while Pedro Severino becomes trade bait or insurance, given his age and option status.

Avila, 19, rose quickly through the Nationals farm system making the jump from the DSL in 2015 to Low-A in 2016. He went 5-5 with 2.91 ERA in the first half, but 2-2, 4.18 in the second half, which is not uncommon for young pitchers in their first full season. The Venezueln teenager had been rated as the #23 prospect in the most recent listing by the MLB.com.

The Next CBA

New CBAAs expected, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was agreed upon before the deadline last night. As predicted, there will be no international draft.

BUT…
(There’s always a but, isn’t there?)

In this case, the scuttlebutt on the “but” is higher bonus pools – somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 to $6M per team per year – in exchange for more severe penalties on teams that exceed the limits.

As Doug Gray pointed out over at Redminorleagues.com, this new limit of $150M to $180M is roughly 40-50% of what teams spent during the last full year of International Free Agency (2015-16), including penalties.

In essence, Gray says, the MLBPA gave away $120 to 150M from amateurs to the owners in exchange for not very much; slightly higher luxury tax thresholds, tweaks to the qualifying-offer system.

To me this is same shit, different CBA. The players’ union and the owners continue to negotiate over monies spent on (or to) people not at the table. Last time, it was the minor leaguers. This time it’s the foreign-born players.

Bottom line: the players we know and love to watch play are being attached to another object by an inclined plane, wrapped helically around an axis. (Translation).

Don’t even go down the path of what this means socioeconomically… in both cases, young men (or teenage boys) are being asked to trade their youth and/or postpone their education in exchange for a pittance and an infinitesimally small chance to make it to the major leagues.

The Americans at least have the threat of going to college; the (mostly) Dominicans and Venezuelans have nothing. And now they have less.

More details on the CBA are forthcoming, but I’m quite confident we’re not going to see anything that will be better for our guys.

The Preliminary 2017 Watchlist

Preliminary Watchlist 2017
Here we go again on my own, traveling down the only road I’ve ever known with the seventh edition of this site’s watchlist. There’s a certain degree of fear this time around because, CBA uncertainty aside, it feels like this might get blown up in less than a month.

Why? Because even Stevie Wonder can see that the big club’s window may be closing soon, and there are immediate needs at multiple positions. Free agency may solve some of the problems, but a trade or two seems possible, if not imminent.

That means some of these guys might not be here by the time this is finalized. It’s happened before.

Truth be told, I think they should listen to any and all offers for anybody listed below. The December 2011 trade accelerated the timeline from pretender to contender; we certainly don’t want to hear the jokes about no DUIs at Rizzo’s sports bar (because you’re done after just one round).

Now for a quick explanation on what the watchlist is (and isn’t):

Six years ago, I decided to list the players that had shown some promise by position; guys who were worth watching. I don’t give a rat’s @ss about what round a player was drafted in or how much of a bonus he got.

Those two things are decided by the market and the draft rules, neither of which are fair. But I understand that they influence decisions due to the factors of “sunk cost” and reputation (of the drafter, not the draftee).

Now for the “isn’ts”…

It’s not a depth chart. It’s ordered by the highest level played to date. The guys at the top of the column are not necessarily better than the guys at the bottom.

It’s (mostly) based on 2016 usage. The Nats have a history of rotating MIs between 2B and SS, trying to develop utility players, and being weak at the corners of the IF and OF.

It’s preliminary. I can’t spend the time that I used to on this site, so I’m depending on my readers to call me out in the comments. That doesn’t mean that I’ll respond to every suggestion or crticism, but I will listen.

Now, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that I’ve collapsed two categories and expanded another. This is for aesthetics: Washington has a shipload of right-handed pitching prospects, and thimbleful of middle infielders worth listing.

Take a look a look, tell me what you think, and let’s get the 2016-17 offseason started.

C 1B 2B/SS 3B OF RHRP
Severino Skole Abreu Ward Goodwin Glover
Read Marmolejos Sagdal Gutierrez Bautista Brinley
Barrera Simonetti C. Kieboom Davidson Stevenson Mendez
Harris Bogetto Keller M. Sanchez
Robles Pantoja
Agustin Peterson
Wiseman Fuentes
Johnson F. Peguero
Soto
Florentino
RHSPs LHPs DSL Bats DSL Arms Notable Arms
Notable Bats
R. Lopez Crownover Cabello Sisneros Mapes Ballou
Giolito Borne Falcon Guillen J. Rodriguez S. Kieboom
Voth Guilbeau Mesa Chu Baez Banks
Simms
Watson Morales Duran Rivera Corredor
Valdez McDonald Pascal J. Peguero Rishwain Franco
Avila Braymer
A. Lee
Dunning
W. Davis
Sharp
C. Peña

Happy Thanksgiving

As it did a year ago, it seems quiet on the minor-league front, like January before the prospect books arrive. The two major Top 10 lists — Baseball America and John Sickels — haven’t been published yet and most of the online stories center on the exploits of the AFL contingent.

Yesterday, the first salvo in the PR war for the new CBA was fired, with MLB threatening a lockout if a deal’s not agreed to by next Thursday. Who shot first is telling because ownership knows it has a built-in advantage — casual/uninformed fans will favor them over the players because the former is jealous of the latter — but I sincerely doubt we’ll see an international draft rather than some changes in the new rules regarding IFAs.

This may explain some of the quiet, of course, so I’ll let this lie here — especially since some of the national writers who actually understand law and labor negotiations haven’t weighted in yet.

Back to the original purpose of the post...

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I’m nine days removed from stomach surgery. I’ll be stuffing nothing, just eating sides and in small portions. But we’ll be celebrating my oldest son’s 17th birthday, and not out on the roads in any way, shape, or form.

This is by no means the worst Thanksgiving I will have ever had because I’ll be home and with family; 20 years ago, as I was finishing up my master’s degree in Oregon, I was neither.

So with that, I’ll dispense with the usual Thanksgiving instructions:
• Stay safe
• Show some plate discipline
• Call your mother

Saturday Smorgasbord

A lot of this has already been discussed in the comments, but for the sake of posterity…

NATS ADD FIVE TO THE 40-MAN AHEAD OF THE RULE 5 DRAFT
• Matt Skole
• Austin Voth
• Rafael Bautista
• Raudy Read
• Jose Marmolejos
Let’s be blunt: the Rule 5 Draft is like the pickings at a singles bar at the end of the night (or so I’m told 😉 ) – it’s a function of attention relative to what else is available. It’s not difficult to break down: They’re all relatively cheap backups to the backups, as were Bostick, Lee, and Kieboom a year ago. I’m always happy to see our guys win this “lottery” because the system otherwise is stacked against them — especially the guys from the D.R.

But let’s not kid ourselves that this is anything more than procedural maneuvering. GM Mike Rizzo just raised the price on five trading chips as the Winter Meetings approach (yeah, I know they’re local this year, but I don’t think I have the guts to go *rimshot!*).

AFL THOUGHTS
Very little that’s been posted in the comments I would disagree with… Andrew Stevenson has raised his stock and scouts have noticed, which makes other folks more tradeable. It’s no secret that the ideal path for Trea Turner is Robin Yount in reverse, but Rizzo appears to be showing folks with the placements of Stevenson and Bautista that he does have CF depth and therefore Victor Robles may be had (albeit along with someone else, no doubt).

Drew Ward had the kind of fall that everybody has been waiting for while Osvaldo Abreu held his own, thought not enough to be protected from next month’s Rule 5. Nick Lee wasn’t re-added, so he’s eligible to be drafted, as is Jake Johansen, whom I suspect the Nats wouldn’t mind terribly if he were taken because it’d take away some of the disappointment that’s almost entirely due to his draft position. Ryan Brinley, who got lit like Kennedy at an open bar at AA, seems to have re-established himself.

IT’S THE BUIES CREEK ASTROS
Those of you on the Twitters have already seen this rant, but for the rest of you: Yesterday, the new, 10th team in the Carolina League was officially introduced — the Buies Creek Astros.

Ultimately, the team will be located in Fayetteville, but for two seasons the Astros affiliate will call tiny (pop. 2,942) Buies Creek, NC its home on the campus of Campbell University.

It’s a boon for the small, private college, which will see its facility upgraded by the Astros and will reportedly collect all revenue generated by the games. And it’s a HUGE MISSED MARKETING OPPORTUNITY.

Why? Well, anything with “Buies Creek” is already a collector’s item. But they could have had fun with that it’s a dry town and (mostly) a dry county and called themselves the Buies Creek Bootleggers. Instead, they chose the least imaginative name and logos.

AFL Update: Nov. 18, 2016

andrew-stevenson-11-18-16Alas, the Desert Dogs’ three-game win streak—capped by a 3-1 win over the Javelinas—to close out the 2016 AFL campaign wasn’t enough to get them to the title game, but did secure a winning record at 17-15.

Five Nationals appeared in the season finale: two of the three position players and all three relievers.

Andrew Stevenson (pictured) led off and played CF yet again. He reached base twice with a single and a walk while going 1-for-3 with a strikeout. Defensively, he collected five putouts and fielded eight balls total.

Drew Ward followed Stevenson in the lineup and matched his boxscore line (1-for-3, BB, K). In the field, he had four assists while playing 3B.

Jake Johansen stranded two baserunners in the 6th with a strikeout to end the inning then put on two runners in the 7th before getting two out. His line – 1IP, 1H, 0R, BB, K

Nick Lee kept ’em on by inducing a flyout to finish the 7th, then got the leadoff man in the 8th for a line of ⅔IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 0K

Ryan Brinley completed the Nats reliever sequence with a flyout and strikeout to finish the 8th and a ⅓ IP, 0H, 0R, BB, K line.

It was the fourth, third, and first holds respectively for Johansen, Lee, and Brinley.

                          #                          #                          #

Sad-SpicklesWith the completion of the AFL schedule, the 2016 minor-league season (the seventh this site has covered) is in the books. A shoutout to Lee Magenheim, our photographer in Arizona, who’s provided the AFL pictures for the past FIVE seasons.

AFL Update: Nov. 17, 2016

img_0067Glendale scored in each of the first four innings en route to a 10-0 shutout of Mesa. Combined with a loss by the Saguaros, the Desert Dogs remain alive in the hunt for the AFL West title.

All three Nats position players saw game action again:

  • Andrew Stevenson led off and played left field, reaching base three times with two walks and a single, and scoring three runs. He also stole two bases.
  • Drew Ward (pictured) got the start at first base and drove in two, going 1-for-5 with a walk and two RBI.
  • Osvaldo Abreu handled shortstop on defense and singled and doubled in a 2-for-5 effort that pushed his fall average to .267.

The AFL regular season concludes today. Glendale must win and Surprise must lose for the Desert Dogs to play in Saturday’s AFL Title game.

AFL Update: Nov. 16, 2016

img_0061Glendale got on the board first for a single run in the 1st and a quintet of pitchers, led by Austin Voth, (pictured) made it stand up for a 1-0 victory over Surprise.

Voth, who was named the AFL Pitcher of the week, tossed five scoreless innings and allowed just two hits and three walks to win for the third time this fall.

Nick Lee was the first man out of the Desert Dogs bullpen and struck out the side on 16 pitches (10 for strikes) in the 6th.

Andrew Stevenson scored the game’s lone run after leading off with a single, taking second on a wild pitch, and scoring on an RBI single by Nick Tanielu.

Osvaldo Abreu also appeared in the game but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

The win returns the Desert Dogs to .500 (15-15) and into 2nd place in the AFL West. Glendale visits Mesa this afternoon, then Peoria tomorrow.

AFL Update: Nov. 15, 2016

img_0058Mesa broke open a 1-1 game with a four-spot in the 3rd and poured it on with multiple big innings in a 13-5 romp over Glendale.

Two Nationals appeared in yesterday’s game.

Andrew Stevenson (pictured) remains red-hot as he reached base four times with a walk, two singles, and a triple while batting leadoff and playing centerfield. He had two putouts on defense and fielded five balls total.

Drew Ward started at 3B and batted sixth. He walked twice and scored a run while going 0-for-3.

The loss lowered the Desert Dogs’ elimination number to one. They visit the first-place Saguaros this afternoon, with Austin Voth scheduled to make his final start.

AFL Update: Nov. 13, 2016

ryan-brinley-11-13-16Glendale twice rallied back from one-run deficits to edge Scottsdale, 4-3.

Drew Ward was the Desert Dogs’ designated hitter and batted third. He went 1-for-4 with a double, his sixth of the fall season.

Two Nationals relievers saw game action. Jake Johansen dispatched the final two batters of the 8th inning to earn his third hold while Ryan Brinley (pictured) garnered the save with a 1-2-3, six-pitch 9th to notch his first save for Glendale.

The Desert Dogs remain 1½ games behind Surprise with four games left to play. Glendale hosts Mesa tomorrow, then hit the road for games against Surprise, Mesa, and Peoria.

PROGRAMMING NOTE
Tomorrow morning I go under the knife to fix what put me out of action in late August. Should be out of the hospital by the end of the week, but have no idea when I’ll be next be able to post. It’ll depend on the painkillers 😉