So in the last few posts I've mentioned the fact that the Nats have rarely extended a market value deal to a pitcher into his free agency years. Only 3 times in the past 3 years have they arguably done it and for very small time frames (2 years, 2 years with a hard to reach 3rd year option, and 4 years on a bargain deal). This isn't meant as a judgment on philosophy. This approach could be good or bad, I haven't looked at it too much. This is just meant to give of an idea of their mindset as they head into a period of time when several key Nats pitchers (ZNN, Fister, Clippard, hey look at that Blevins too) are heading into the end of their arbitration years.
But is this really that odd? It feels odd. But let's see what we can suss out at least with a cursory glance.
I looked at the multi-year off-season pitching signings over the past 5 years (as best I could - I don't 100% trust ESPN's Hot Stove Tracker but it was the best tool available for something like this). The Nats have made 2 such signings with Soriano and Marquis. (Maya was in-season, we'll get to that in a minute)
The average number of signings was 3 ranging from 8 (the Angels) to 0 (Blue Jays, Braves, Indians). The Nats would be tied for 20th place in number of signings.
What about average years given out in these signings? The average # of years skews low as one would expect as there will be a lot more 2 years signings than long term ones. For this set of information it was 2.6 years. If ranked, the Nats average (of 2 years - they don't count options) would put them in a tie for 20th place again, though this time out of 27 teams (pulling those teams that made no signings).
So the Nats are on the low side if you look at years or number of contracts signed. BUT WAIT you say! What about Maya. Surely some of these signings you are counting are international (yes, there are). Add Maya in and the Nats look pretty average! Well yes... and then no.
Yes if you add Maya in the Nats will look pretty average BUT once you start looking at the Mayas of the time frame you have to add in all the Mayas. All the international signings and free agent signings not done during the hot stove period must be counted. (For example Kyle Lohse falls out of the Hot Stove period). There aren't going to be many but there will be some. The Nats, as far as I remember, have that one. So they are likely to remain on the low end of all teams. You also have to account for all the extensions given to players already under contract for a team. Like the Blue Jays ate up a couple more of RA Dickey's FA years by extending him after a deal. That should count. The Nats don't have any of these, I don't think. They fall further down. Then you have to take into account all the trades made which include absorbing a guys FA years. Think of the Blue Jays trading for Mark Buerhle. (Hey no wonder why they didn't sign anyone during the FA period) Again - it's a multi-year commitment to a player's FA years. It should count. Again - I don't believe the Nats have one of those (Team option years don't count). Again further down.
To suss out exactly where the Nats would fall accounting for all of the above would take a lot more investigative work. Nothing necessarily hard, but time consuming. And I don't think it would change the point being made. The Nats already look fairly timid when it comes to mutli-year deals to pitchers. If we gather all the data I suspect they would appear even more so. I don't see how they couldn't.
But again this isn't a bad thing, and it isn't a good thing. It's a thing. There are basically two ways to end up in this group. You don't like to spend money (the Indians, Padres, Rays, and Mariners all were on the lower end) or you just have so much good young pitching you don't need to spend money (the Rays fit here too, the Braves). I think the Nats kind of fall into both of these groups and a little from column A and a little from column B puts them where they are. And that's been fine up until this point.
But things are changing now. They don't necessarily have a lot of good young controlled pitching anymore. If AJ Cole and Lucas Giolito aren't awesome this year in the minors the Nats won't necessarily have cheap talent to fall back on. Without a lot of good young pitching, will they show that they are able to spend money on a staff, even if it means making long term deals? Maybe the question never will need to be answered but it's sitting out there like a fat fastball, waiting until the end of this season rolls along and 2015-2016 looks a little clearer.