NL East Notes: Nationals, Zimmerman, Halladay, Abreu

While first baseman Freddie Freeman has had an outstanding campaign for the Braves, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that shortstop Andrelton Simmons has been the team's most valuable contributor. While Fangraphs values the two at the same level in terms of WAR, notes Bradley, Baseball Reference pegs Simmons as worth over a win more than Freeman. Regardless, the team will control both players at reasonable rates for the foreseeable future, with Freeman set to reach arbitration for the first time next year and Simmons not arb-eligible until 2016. Here are a few notes from around the rest of the National League East:

  • The Esmailyn Gonzalez saga is not yet over for the Nationals, reports the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. In a lawsuit against the team's insurance company, the Nats have leveled the charge that former big-leaguer Jose Rijo received a $300k kick-back from the ill-fated $1.4MM signing bonus given to the supposedly 16-year-old Gonzalez (who, it was later learned, was actually four years older and named Carlos David Alvarez Lugo).
  • More importantly for the team going forward is the long-term defensive position of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. Once a plus fielder, Zimmerman's throwing has deteriorated to the point that UZR rates him at a troubling 15 runs below average thus far in 2013. With even manager Davey Johnson implying that Zimmerman's "mental" issues could force a move across the diamond, MLB.com's Bill Ladson says he thinks the club could make the shift during the coming off-season. 
  • In addition to dampening the value of Zimmerman's long-term extension, of course, such a move would have wide-ranging considerations and repercussions for the Nats. In addition to raising the question of what would happen with first baseman Adam LaRoche, who is under contract for next season, the team would have to move rookie Anthony Rendon back to his natural position at third. The resulting void at second would presumably be filled by a free agent or one of the team's less-than-certain internal options (including Danny Espinosa, Steve Lombardozzi, and Jeff Kobernus).
  • Roy Halladay could be starting for the Phillies sooner than expected, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says that, if all goes well, Halladay could only take two rehab starts in the minors before rejoining the big club. With Halladay set to become a free agent, it will be fascinating to see how he bounces back from shoulder surgery (and generally poor results over 2012-13) before hitting the open market.
  • If and when apparent Cuban defector Jose Dariel Abreu is made a free agent, he is expected to command a substantial contract from a MLB club. Based on scouting reports and other contracts given to international free agents, ESPN's Jim Bowden suggests that the big slugger could land a deal in the six-year, $54MM range. (For a detailed discussion of Abreu's prospect value, check out this recent podcast from Baseball America's Ben Badler and John Manuel.)
  • As an "early guess," Bowden places the Marlins atop the list of Abreu pursuers. Reasoning that the club would be willing to overpay for a Cuban star after missing out on Yoenis Cespedes, Bowden writes that Miami is "expected to go all out on Abreu." 
  • In addition to a host of other possible landing spots, Bowden says that the Nationals could also be in on Abreu. He opines that the club would not find it difficult to deal first baseman Adam LaRoche to clear a spot.

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