Nationals Baseball

Friday, January 20, 2017

Plop Plop sure. Fizz Fizz? Not yet

The Nats need relief.  Honestly they probably need 2-3 decent arms to have any real confidence that the pen will be good. They aren't likely to get that which means while the pen will probably be ok, there will be a lot more variability on performance, especially on the "oh they could suck" side. That's not to say they should throw up their hands and do nothing if they aren't grabbing all the good arms left. Any single good arm will help reduce variability.  Are there good arms still out there?

Quick run through of the more interesting names

Greg Hollland - Was fantastic up through 2015 as a closer then got hurt. If he's 2013-14 Holland he's a steal.  If he's 2015 Holland he's good but wild. If he's something worse uh oh. And he hasn't pitched in 18 months so he's a straight up lottery ticket.

Sergio Romo - Nats can really complete a set of Giants relievers with him and Javy Lopez (missed out on Casilla though) in FA this year. Romo is the epitome of solid. Last year was a step back and injury plagued but he's still effective. Big drop in FB speed might be concerning.

Joe Blanton - reinvented himself as an effective reliever after years of mediocre starting. Hard to read with only 2 relief years to look at but everything seems in order.

Jerry Blevins - Outside of arguably unlucky Nats stint has been decent and improving over time. Stikes out a lot more guys now then before. Not a LOOGY. Good against all but hard to see him wanting to come back here after he was unceremoniously dealt because he took Nats to arbitration.

Boone Logan - Solid reliever who didn't let Rockies stint mess him up permanently. Really good against lefties, but decent enough against righties to not be LOOGYd. There's some boom potential here if you like guys coming from Colorado.

Luke Hochevar - like Blanton but figured it out 5 years earlier. Solid but a little prone to the long ball. Had another arm surgery in off-season after TJ in 2014 so might miss start of season.

Tommy Hunter - decent control but no strike outs.  Keeps the ball in the park.

Travis Wood - an effective long man. Could develop into a LOOGY as he ages

Javier Lopez - Old guy (39) who made living killing lefties while being good enough against righties. Last year took a step back against both. Not at all a K guy and poor control. Big spike in HR/FB last year. Usually that's fluky but again 39.


There are actually more decent arms out there than I thought. My guess is the dominoes are waiting for Greg Holland to end up somewhere before falling. If I were the Nats - yes I'd take a gamble on Greg Holland - there's greatness potential there, however unlikely, that isn't with any other arm available. The Nats have effective but lack dominance. I'd also pick up Boone Logan to add another lefty arm that's more LOOGY than Solis or a pick-up like Blevins, but not so LOOGY that he can't be useful in the regular way. Plus I like the way Logan's K's went up and HR went down in Colorado. I think there's sneaky potential for him to be really really good away from Colorado. Although it might take a year to right himself. THEN I'd still pick up whoever is left standing in this group (well not Lopez) come March 1st because you can't have too many arms. That's what I would do.

What I think will happen is that Holland will go somewhere then Blanton, Blevins and Logan will all settle in short (and likely that) order. I think they will all get multi-year deals for a few million a year. (I think Holland might get something as long as 4 if you count options) Then the bargain hunt will be on. Like I said Hochevar's injury status will make him a bargain pick-up and he's a Boras client so I think he's the one that ends up here. Another name I didn't mention that might be able to be picked up by the Nats here is JP Howell. He's an extreme groundball guy who pitched very similarly to his 2015 stats but ended up with a worse ERA. He's adding control and sacrificing hits, but since he's a GB guy that's mainly singles. He wasn't effective vs lefties last year but if that was a fluke you've got yourself a Boone Logan type for half the price. If it wasn't a fluke you still likely have a useful arm.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Wait, what's going on?

So yesterday a series of what may be unfortunate events happened

Jim Bowden tweeted that the Nationals remaining post-season moves could be affected by the cost of their Spring Training complex.

Bryce Harper tweeted saying signing Weiters and Holland was more important than building a team store (in pithy millennial tweet talk). Note that both these guys are Boras clients so take that as you will.

Adam Eaton tweeted he agreed.

Chelsea Janes got on it and wrote something up where the team basically said "No." and the logic of the "No." answer seems to make the most sense.

But who knows! You wouldn't think one would affect the other but then again the Lerners are famously penurious when it comes to spending. (Those CHEEEEEEEEEP shouts didn't come from nothing. They came from a fear that the Lerners business spending would manifest in the payroll). So I can't rule it out. Especially with my standard no reporting on the subject because I'm not a reporter. I'll lean though to believing the Nats because I already thought they wouldn't spend more than a few million more. It's not about the Spring Training complex. It's about the plan they likely already had in place.

OK so a few million to spend. Where to put it? Today let's say that money is going to a reliever. Who would I like to see?  Do the Nats even need it?

Let's answer the second question first. Generally a bullpen NEEDS three guys. I mean yes it needs more because of usage patterns, injuries, etc. but your average ML team can get by with three solid arms and make up the rest as you go along. Do they have that?  Let's look at all the Nationals pitchers that threw... I'll say without looking 35 IP or more last year. Hey that worked out well! Huzzah for me!

Anyway gone are Papelbon (35 IP), Rivero/Melancon (49.2+29.2=79.1), Petit (62), and Belisle (46)*.  That's 222 relief inning that have to be made up by someone.  Jesus that's a lot more innings than I thought.

Who's back? Perez, who will be a LOOGY type I imagine, although neither his career numbers or his recent numbers suggest he's all that great in that role. If he's not a LOOGY he's likely a blah arm with bad potential. He gets hit hard, and has terrible control. If he's lucky the walks aren't terrible and he K's his way out of jams. But he's not someone to rely on.

So that leaves us with Kelley, Treinen, and Solis and ONLY these three. If these three aren't all solid then the Nats don't even have the "sneak by with" level of pen.

The good news is Kelley is good. Fancy stat review K rate great. Walk rate great. A little fluky LOB% but not crazy probably balance by a little higher than expected HR/FB. Nothing worrying in type or hardness of hits against. No, this guy passes the solid reliever test, no doubt. Of course the last time we saw him he was walking off the mound in pain grabbing his arm so how much you want to rely on him is a valid question but in the general "1 of 3" sense? I'm good.

We've been told for years that Treinen is good but haven't actually seen it in action until last year. Fancy stats have same fluky LOB% though Treinen's high HR/FB rate isn't historically off like Kelley's was. He may just be the type to give up homers. So there's less of a thought that that's balanced. His K rate isn't great. His walk rate is way too high. So how does Treinen survive? A silly high GB rate, almost 2/3rds of all balls hit off him were on the ground and ground balls are hard to hit for XBH. Looking at the type and hardness it seems like Treinen is an on/off type. When he's on - soft grounder. When he's off he'll walk guys and give up a hard hit. Last year he had more "on" outings than "off" but in 2015 the GB percentage was nearly as high (62.7%) and with a little less luck with BABIP and LOB% he was merely ok.  I think it's a stretch to expect Treinen will repeat 2016. But that's not the question. The question is "is he solid"? I'll go with yes. I think he'll fall between 2016 (almost no blow-ups) and 2015 (like a blow-up every 4th time out) and will be solid enough.

What about Solis? K-rate is good. Walk rate isn't. Nothing weird for LOB% or BABIP, but a crazy low HR/FB rate (3.1%) especially for a guy that's not a GB pitcher. Expect that to change. There isn't much to go on with Solis. You can't look at minor league stats - he barely pitched anywhere long enough since being converted to a reliever. I suppose with my arm twisted I'd kind of view him like Treinen, unlikely to put up 2016 again but likely to be solid enough.  One thing I do want to check first - is there a handedness thing going on here. Because your third guy can't be a LOOGY.... nope not really.  He's better against lefties but faced a lot of righties too and was good enough against them.

So I guess the Nats just get in under the bar. They do have three solid arms. However looking deeper that's almost all you can say about them. Treinen and Solis are nothing more than solid. Kelley is better than that but has to be considered an injury risk.  Running with these three and what's behind them is pressing your luck.  (Another thing - these guys are sneaky aged. Not old, aged. The youngest is Solis who will turn 29 in August. There isn't a young guy breaking out here).

There is one more thing though. I said that this is what an average ML team could get by with. The Nats have found the absolute lowest possible acceptable bar for a major league pen for any team. But the Nats don't aspire to be "any team" or an average team. They want to be more. What's ok for a 79-83 team is likely not ok for a playoff contender.  Given that I'd have to say - yes, the Nats need another reliable arm. I think it would be wise to get another very good arm to be your closer or #2 and knock Treinen and Solis back a peg. Not a shock I know but it's always worth going through the process. 

OK this is long so arms tomorrow.

Finishing touch - I knew Little Jimmy O'Hara (that's how he likes to be called I hear) wrote about this a few days ago so I wanted to go back and see if we landed in the same general area. Pretty much. Kelley is legit good. Treien and Solis are fine. He balks at them being the 2nd and 3rd guys in the pen and has them as more "others". I can see that. I kind of think they baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarely qualify where they are. 

*for those curious Lopez is at 44 but started a bunch, Cole at 38 and only started. Glover would be next pure reliever at 19.2. Rzep only pitched 11.2 innings for Nats.

Monday, January 16, 2017

What the arbitration awards mean

The Nats settled with everyone avoiding the possible "who can we dump this recalcitrant malcontent for" reaction from the team. That's good because the Nats needed all these players in one way or another. But beyond the fact they signed the actual awards are of interest because of what that means for the payroll.

The Nats expected payroll for 2017, that we were playing with, was set in part with the arbitration awards estimated by mlbtraderumors. They aren't perfect of course but they do a reasonable job. Where did things end up this year?

Lobaton : Est 1.6 M,  Got 1.57 M
Norris : Est 4.0 M,  Got 4.2 M
Roark : Est 6.1 M,  Got 4.32 M
Rendon : Est 6.4 M,  Got 5.8 M

Bryce : Est 9.3 M, Got 13.62 M

If you look at Lobaton, Norris and Rendon - those are pretty close. Rendon is the furthest off - around 10% but he might have been sold on taking a little less since the Nats arguably gave him a little more than they needed last year (2.8 when expectation was 2.5 again). This is all rough though so I consider it close enough.  In total for the three the estimate was 12 million and the Nats put up just over 11 and a half.

The hardest call for these types estimates is often the first call because you aren't working off a normal previous year salary as a base. That's where the Nats were with Roark. He was coming off a year making 500K+. So maybe he got underpaid, maybe he didn't. But any assumed saving they got for getting Roark under the estimate was blown out for Bryce. That's a big difference and the end result is that the money spent in arbitration looks like this :

Total Est 27.4 M,  Spent 29.51 M


That's 2 million more than expected. For an average team that shouldn't matter much but there's a palpable sense that the Nats have a 145-150 million payroll expectation for the 2017 season and right now they are right at that 150 million payroll. (assumes normal salary increases for pre-arbitration players) If the Nats were to bring back Drew and sign another arm... that's at least 5 million, probably closer to 8 if they are trying to keep these deals as one-year things. Are they Nats going to increase their payroll by 10 million over last season? I just don't believe so.

If I'm right the arbitration moves mean that the Nats are in one of two spots. They are going to either/or the last bench spot and bullpen arm - spending ~3million for one but not the other, or they are going to go cheap across the board - the Ackley / Hochevar future I imagined.

We'll see. I've was very mildly surprised last year when the Nats didn't follow-up acquiring Melancon with a dump trade of someone - meaning they added 2.5+M to their payroll.* So maybe they bite and do something similar here. That's all we're really talking about 2.5 or so more than they probably had envisioned as their ceiling.

*I'm sure though they desperately tried to get someone to take Papelbon in a way that took the payroll back down but no one wanted him for anything.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A whole lot of nothing

When the off-season started it was pretty well decided that the free agent class was a particularly weak one. So the excitement that would come, if it did, would probably be through the trade market. And the offseason delivered with a bunch of stuff between Thankgiving and The 13th of December.  Cespedes, Melancon, Sale trade, Eaton trade, Fowler, Chapman, Jansen. Even things only interesting to the Nats took place during this brief fortnightish period. Desmond signs, Ramos signs, Espinosa was traded.

Since then there's been a couple somethings but given the players involved and the general lack of activity it's been a big yawn. We're closing in to Spring and it's time to turn the page on the off-season. I suppose if Bautista and Napoli and Trumbo and Weiters and Hammel all went in a hurry that'd be interesting, but that's not very exciting to begin with and less so for Nats fans when you realize that Trumbo and Napoli are very unlikely to end up in the NL. 

I guess I'm saying I'm bored.

The Nats aren't likely to get a big-name closer at this point. So we're waiting to see what kind of secondary pitcher, if any, they manage to wrangle to DC.  They may or may not be waiting for a bench player - Drew, or perhaps a better 1B/OF alternative (Moss? Lind?). The longer it goes the more I expect a late off-season clearance sale pick up.  Hochevar for 2 million. Ackley on a minor league deal. And that be that.

Eaton was a good deal, probably very good, but all that given away really killed the offseason for a team with a set budget like the Nats.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Hey where's Stephen Drew?

Aren't we supposed to have Stephen Drew back by now?

You may have forgotten but Stephen Drew was not unimportant for the Nats last year. He hit .266 with good pop (8 homers and 11 doubles in 143 ABs) with reasonable defense.  He spelled Danny at short, Rendon at 3rd and Murphy at 2nd, ended up playing 2nd when Murphy's butt got hurt and was the teams most effective pinch hitter.*

So why isn't he back?

Well the last news we heard - 2 weeks ago - was that he could end up with a starting position somewhere.  This makes sense as he would be a better option at SS or 2B then some of the players currently manning those positions. Probably not even half, but some and really just a handful is enough. It would be more playing time and more money than the Nats would dish out.

But this protracted hunt by Drew is hurting the Nats in two ways. First, if he doesn't come back it leaves Difo as the top bench option for the infield. There's no good reason to think Wilmer will be that good next year. Could he? Sure. It's the bench. You have limited at bats. Weird things happen in limited at bats.  In 2012 the Nats got much better performances than one would expect from Lombo, Bernadina, Moore, and Chad Tracy.  But you have to start with the expectation and the expectation for Difo is not great. Last year in AA Difo hit .259, with limited patience and no power. He did hit .276 in the majors, but it's hard to believe 66 PAs as opposed to almost a full season in AA. Plus his AA season corresponds with what he has done for most of his minor league career.  He had a bit of a breakout in A-ball in 2014 followed by an impressive start in High-A in 2015, but by all appearances that impressive start was a fluke of sample size. He's not quite old yet - but he's almost there which means his chances of surprising are growing smaller everyday. Short of it - the bench is worse with Difo there in place of Drew.

The second way this hurts the Nats is something that I presume. I'm guessing we haven't had any movement on the relief front because Rizzo is unsure of his budget. If Drew comes back, it might mean they have only a couple million and he needs to dumpster dive or trade. It might mean they have nothing. If he doesn't come back than surely they have at least some money to spend. Whether that means bargain hunting or competing for the names left on the market I don't know but it means they don't have nothing. That alone would have me expect a signing or move or some bullpen activity.

My guess is we hear nothing from the Nats camp about relief pitchers until Drew is signed or until that last week in January. That's about as long as you can wait on it with pitchers and catchers coming up. You don't want to be the one left on the side of the dance floor or whatever.

So hurry up Drew and either come back or go.  The Nats need to move on and they can't until you decide.

*He had the same number of PH homers and one fewer hit than  Heisey in 18 fewer PH situations.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Nothing Happened - But I can still fill a post!

Hey! We're back so let's talk about what happened in the two weeks we've not been talking about the Nationals!

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... and we're done!

It's not only been a quiet period for the Nats. It's ben a quiet period for baseball. I'm pretty sure Daniel Hudson was signed before we shut it down for Christmas so after that...

Clay Buchholz was traded to the Phillies.  Does this make the Phillies better? Yes, but probably not as much as you think. I do love AL -> NL moves and Bucholz has had some really good years so there's potential there but the most likely scenario is he's fine and eats up necessary front of the rotation innings for the cost of a few dollars and a nothing prospect. Could the Phillies then surprise? Probably not. They were bad in all aspects of the game, so even if their young starting pitching comes together around Bucholz and Hellickson, they still have to solve the pen and get some real offense toghether. I like them for no more than 75 wins. That puts them out of surprise range. They are at least a year away, probably more.

Ivan Nova signed with the Pirates.  Good for him. If he pitches like he did in Pittsburgh last year, it's a steal and the Pirates are still in the thick of things.  I like the Pirates to be better than 2016 even trading Cutch. I feel they caught some bad breaks last year and there's potential for that offense.

Encarnacion signs with Cleveland. Hey did you know Mike Napoli had sleep apnea? Encarnacion is younger and better than Nap. This should help them keep pace with the Red Sox and starts putting gaps between them and the rest of the Central on paper. 

Inciarte extends with Braves.  He's a bit of a slappy Joe, but a good slappy Joe, with great fielding and very good speed. The defense is a big thing because the Braves are still going to play Kemp in a corner. Part of the Braves rebuild. So could the Braves then surprise? Maybe actually. If Dansby Swanson is an immediate impact bat then with Kemp they are immediately a much better offensive team (5th best offense in Aug, best in Sept). The olds will have to come through for them in the rotation, but they threw a lot of terrible junk out there last year. Dickey and Colon should allow them to only put out, if not good arms, then arms worthy of a look.  I think the Braves will be .500 ish and that means they have a shot to surprise. 

Tigers re-sign Avila.  I don't have anything to say about this but it's what passes for news during this dry time.

Angels sign Revere. One year deal - 4 million.  It was a good thought bringing in Revere (while at the same time unloading Storen). You'd be blind not to see the consistency that led you to believe that at worst he would be "not awful" at the plate and good everywhere else. But then he got injured and presumably never really got healthy and that was that. Revere is not really a player who was very good at a lot. He had no power or patience. His D was allright. His speed is very good, but if he's not hitting singles he's not getting on base and thus his speed is meaningless. Basically that left him as a contact hitter. A bunter, move the guy over type. That's a dime a dozen in the minors. Turned out as bad as it could have. So is it a bad signing? Not at all. As a gamble on a fourth OF I think it's real smart. Off the bench his speed can be used at your discretion. For the Angels he can play a corner OF position (presumably LF) late in the game where he'd probably be perfectly fine. And again - that contact bat is useful off the bench. This is all if he's not healthy.  If he is and can be the.290 contact hitter - even better. That's a very good plug and play guy when the inevitable injuries happen.

Brian Dozier's name floated out there. It would fit, despite what some might think. You have to bench Zimm but hey - you probably should bench Zimm. If he can hit his way back then that's a good problem to have. You want good problems, not bad ones, which is what the Nats very likely could have if Zimm can't hit. However if what I see is true - the Dodgers offered at least Jose DeLeon tstraight up for him - I don't think the Nats can match that.  It would have to be Robles plus and I don't see the Nats making Dozier the player to trade Robles for. Note that even if the Dodgers don't get Dozier (and they probably will) the other likely landing spots aren't good for the Nats either. The Cardinals, Giants, and Braves have all been mentioned.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Holiday Q&A 2 : The HoliDay After

Ok so the Nats related stuff is still going on over here. Any non-Nats or non-baseball stuff can be asked over here. I'll be checking this through Christmas and come back with something new the 26th or 27th barring some big move that I have to talk about so feel free to ask away.

Do you have any new terrible Christmas movie recommendations/reviews?

Oh god yes!  Since Thanksgiving I've added about 15-20 new XMas movies to the list of ones I've seen. Mostly new ones but some old ones, and of course I've watched some returning classics. I'll hold off on any reviews as that could take up pages and hours. Instead I might live-tweet a day and night of watching nothing but Holiday movies.

I'll recommend a few but note that these are recommendations based on knowing what you are getting into here. These movies aren't fighting for an Oscar here. In terms of new movies "Married by Christmas" on the UP channel, which my cable guide assures me is a real thing, is probably the best one I've seen this year. It is completely shoehorned into the Christmas movie genre as the plot doesn't need to revolve around it but that'll happen. What is enjoyable about it, and probably biases me toward it, is it goes for actual laughs rather than the "A reindeer ate my hat!" kind of laughs that usually pepper these types of movies. I'm not saying it's a laugh riot. It's a generic sitcom. But in a world of romance movies aimed toward 40 year old housewives that's a big difference.  The best generic one I watched this year, was actually a 2015 premiere I think "Sound of Christmas" on the Hallmark channel. If you want to just hit all the notes of this type of movie this is a fine example of the form. If you've seen that and want something new that fits the bill "My Christmas Dream" (not to be confused with the also new and also acceptable "A Dream of Christmas") with Danica McKellar would be my recommendation.  Sometimes people you recognize from other stuff are just cashing those checks, but the stalwarts of the genre, your Chaberts, your Witts, your Cameron-Bures aren't. McKellar falls in this latter category. 

To avoid? Assuming for you it's not "ALL OF THESE HARPER!" I've got a couple. Speaking of cashing checks, Eric McCormack and Kristin Davis do nothing for nobody in "Heavenly Christmas". The "Christmas with the Andersons" movie was unwatchable and coming from me, that's something. If you want to watch a BAD Christmas movie that's fun for being terrible, Haylie Duff's "Christmas Belle" is delightfully stilted, overacted, and filled with shirtless running.

Oh if you are into "movies normal people find watchable" here's a post I did a few years ago on what I watch of those.

Yankees were pretty good post trade deadline. Do they have a shot at second place in the division? 

The Yankees have two issues. They weren't all that good last year. There are three other teams in the division were. Let's talk about the latter.  The Red Sox have lost Ortiz but gained Sale and all those young guys have another year under their belt. It would be surprising if the Yankees can catch them given the gap in talent set up.  The Orioles are a mirage managed by a quality manager. Unless Dylan Bundy becomes an ace it's hard to see where they've improved on last year and Jones and Davis could easily be falling into oblivion.  They should be .500+, 81-84 range.  The Blue Jays will lose Encarnacion and Dickey but the latter wasn't that important last year and you get the feeling they can make up the former. It's hard to believe their pitching will be better though as they were best in the AL last year. They'll probably be in the 84-87 range.

That gives the Yankees one or two more games to win - if they are better. But are they? They got some 2nd half performances that won't be repeated (Sanchez and Billy Butler hitting like .350!) and lost Beltran but I'd still expect the offense to be a tick better as they introduce some young blood into the lineup, bring in Holliday to just hit, and hopefully have some better health. But they were 12th in RS in the AL last year so a tick means only maybe average at best. So the pitching will have to carry them. The bullpen should be great again - Chapman, Betances (not closing), MLBs greatest middle reliever every Tyler Clippard.  So the question comes down to the starting pitching. Tanaka is good enough to be your #1.  Sabathia has learned how to effectively eat innings now. If Pineda or Severino can make a star turn the Yankees have a shot. If not, I just don't see how they don't get stuck where the Os will probably be. That leaves 2nd place possible if the Jays falter or the Red Sox surprisingly fall but not likely and probably not enough wins for a WC in any case.

Didn't the wedding coincide with NatsFest? Do you think most or all Nats were invited to Bryce's wedding, or just his good friends?  

No he got married - seems like the 16th. Winterfest was the previous weekend. It interfered with a Duke UNLV game which is why Bryce wasn't there (and wedding planning - sure). I'd guess just good friends were invited out but not everyone. It's like giving out rings - where do you draw the line?

Recommend an introductory volume or two on baseball analytics for those, such as myself, who are stats curious, but not SAS programmer-types. Thanks? 

 OK I have an answer. People seem to like "Baseball Between the Numbers", "The Book:  Playing the Percentages" and I've seen a couple recommened "Understanding Sabermetrics" 


What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

Straight up "carol"... I do love the urgency of "Carol of the Bells" but the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version has kind of ruined it? I mean I kind of like that song while acknowledging it's too much. A well sung "O Holy Night" can be super powerful but it needs a great voice behind it. So I'll go with the jaunty "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"

For songs... I mean there are so many good ones. The solid swing of "Let it Snow" (Vaughn Monroe version please) The joyous bombast of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year". The longing soul of "Please Come Home for Christmas" The creepy fun of "Zat you Santa Claus". The Elvis-ness of "Blue Christmas" I could make a top 10 list - so I will. But I already know #1. The simple straight forward "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" - Burl Ives version - album Burl Ives not shortened Rudolph Burl Ives.  There's just a touch of mischeviousness in it that appeals to me so much.

Can I pretend that Star Wars 7 and Rogue One are Christmas movies?

THERE IS ONE STAR WARS CHRISTMAS THING AND EVERYONE SHOULD (TRY TO) WATCH IT.

Have the Nationals been trying to sell the naming rights to Nats Park?

Yes. They kind of made on and off gestures early on probing the market but didn't like what they found. They made it known last year that they now were definitely looking to sell them again. What's the hold up? I assume what holds up all Nats deals. They have a set value in mind and aren't looking to go much under that. It may seem small but if you think you can get 10 mill a year and someone is offering you 7 - these are usually 10+ year deals. That's 30 million you cost yourself. So in theory you can wait 4 years before you'd start to "lose" money by have not taking that deal. (Sort of - it's all a rich tapestry of when the deal ends and other deals changing market etc)

My guess right now is too is that the digital billboard thing will have to be settled before they sell.  Right now the council approved them - but not as many or on as long as the Nats wanted. They may try again? Sue? Who knows? They really have to sell this year though because a big ad thing - the All-Star game - is set for 2018. Once that is past the deal loses value. So don't expect to be going to Nationals Park on Opening Day 2018.

Would you rather have a crazy, win at all costs owner of the Nats (think Dan Snyder) or an owner that tries to run the franchise in a more respectful/classy way (aka Lerner's)?

I'm going to choose the latter, but it's not a slam dunk.  I think the key word in the whole question is "crazy". This to me signifies, much like it has with Snyder, that the guy doesn't have a good idea on how to translate his money and effort into wins. He puts too much stock in his own opinions, doesn't hire the right people, etc. A guy like this is just as likely to drive the team into the ground for half a decade as he is to make a couple years of runs into the playoffs.

Throwing money around (in baseball*) IS very effective. In my opinion most of us could create a "winner" with just an unlimited payroll and a fair sense of the game. But that just means being over .500.  Getting to playoffs regularly takes some skill. Getting to the playoffs as a favorite even more. So unless I can confirm that the win at all costs guy isn't an idiot - give me the latter group

*Baseball's salary structure lends itself to being able to bludgeon your way to over .500 with money. NFL does not.  Instead money in the NFL seems to create a floor around 5 wins. It's hard to be truly terrible by spending a lot.