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Bryce Harper Rumors
Earlier this week, we learned that the Nationals' acquisition of Denard Span indirectly stemmed from maneuverings involving the Upton brothers. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explained that the Nats made a strong attempt to deal for Justin Upton early in the offseason and when they realized that they couldn't land him, they refocused on finding a left-handed hitting center fielder who could bat leadoff. However, they didn't get their man on the open market after B.J. Upton's lucrative five-year, $75MM deal scared them away from free agents. Here's the latest out of Washington..
- General Manager Mike Rizzo says it's too soon to discuss a contract extension for Bryce Harper, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Rizzo doesn't feel compelled to work on a new deal for Harper just yet since he is a "zero plus" player, meaning that he has less than one full year of service time under his belt.
- While Ryan Zimmerman's throwing struggles have led some pundits to ask if the Nationals need to consider other options at third, Rizzo shot that notion down earlier today, writes Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. “The Nationals do not need a new third baseman,” the GM said. “We’ve got one of the best, if not the best, third basemen in all of baseball. We love the guy. He’s ours. And I’m glad we have him.”
- Rizzo also disclosed that prospect Matt Skole tore the UCL in his left elbow, Comak tweets. Skole, who is ranked No. 4 in the Nats' system by Baseball America, will undergo Tommy John surgery and his recovery should take 3-4 months (link).
The Nationals are keeping their focus on their short-term chances of contending, owner Mark Lerner said during a chat with reporters (including The Washington Times' Amanda Comak) at the team's Spring Training camp. The club's payroll is now over $100MM and while they don't want to go overboard with spending, “this is a special year," Lerner said. "We have obviously incredible talent and there was a couple parts that [general manager Mike Rizzo] wanted and we said, ‘Do what you need to do,’ and that’s basically how it happened." Lerner said the Nats are concerning themselves with the next three seasons and aren't yet concerned about keeping Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in Washington over the long term. The two young stars are team-controlled through the 2016 and 2018 seasons, respectively.
Here are some more items from the Nats' camp…
- Also from Lerner, he said that he and Rizzo would "talk when the time is right" about a contract extension. "I think this is the place where he wants to make his home and we certainly want him to be here, so I’m sure we’ll come to some understanding at some point in time," Lerner said. Rizzo's contract is only guaranteed through this season but the Nationals hold options on the general manager for 2014 and 2015.
- Kurt Suzuki hasn't talked to management about a contract extension but says he'd love to remain with the Nats beyond this season, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports. Washington holds an $8.5MM team option on Suzuki for 2014 that right now seems unlikely to be exercised since Wilson Ramos is waiting in the wings at catcher. It's possible the Nationals could decline the option and still re-sign Suzuki at a lower price.
- Also from Ladson (Twitter link), the Nationals had interest in Chris Young during the 2010-11 offseason but didn't sign him after seeing the MRI results of Young's throwing shoulder. Young had another injury-plagued season with the Mets in 2011 but rebounded to make 20 starts in 2012. The Nats signed Young to a minor league deal today.
Trout becomes the youngest player in league history to become the AL Rookie of the Year and joins Tim Salmon as the only Rookie of the Year winner in Angels history. He batted an incredible .326/.399/.564 with 30 homers and a league-leading 49 stolen bases in his age-20 season. Yoenis Cespedes, Yu Darvish, Wei-Yin Chen and Jarrod Parker rounded out the ballot (in that order).
The 19-year-old Harper is the second-youngest National League player to ever win the award behind Doc Gooden. He recovered from an extended slump over the summer with a monstrous final month that pushed his season batting line to .270/.340/.477. He also added 22 homers and 18 stolen bases. Wade Miley, Todd Frazier, Wilin Rosario, Norichika Aoki, Yonder Alonso, Matt Carpenter and Jordan Pacheco rounded out the ballot (in that order). Harper finished with 16 of 32 first-place votes. His 112 points gave him a narrow victory over Miley, who finished with 105 points.
With nearly 81 games in the books, the Braves signed Ben Sheets to a minor league deal earlier today as the team hopes he can help bolster its rotation in the second half of the season. Here's the latest from Turner Field…
- Look for Atlanta to join the pursuit of Zack Greinke's services if the team can secure him long term for closer to $15MM per season than $20MM, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Greinke, 28, is enjoying a strong season in his second year with the Brewers after being acquired from the Royals in December 2010. The right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 through 16 starts.
- The Braves were among a series of teams scouting Francisco Liriano today during his start against the Royals, reports Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com (via Twitter). While Liriano failed to turn in a quality start on Sunday, the former All-Star has improved his performance each month of the season thus far. The 28-year-old signed a one-year, $5.5MM deal with the Twins in January and will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season.
- Count Bryce Harper among Chipper Jones' supporters for his bid to be added to the National League All-Star roster through the Final Vote competition, writes Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com. The 19-year-old rookie, who is competing with Jones for a spot on the team, said that a future Hall of Famer should be able to go to the All-Star Game during his last season. "If I was going to make a vote, I'd go vote for Chip."
Last year's Phillies team comfortably led the Major Leagues in run prevention by allowing just 3.27 runs per game. It's been a different story so far in 2012. Just seven teams surrender more runs than the last-place Phillies, who are averaging 4.46 runs allowed per game. Here's the latest from the NL East…
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney considers some possible fits for Jim Thome, who's being shopped to American League teams.
- There hasn't been any progress in the Phillies' contract talks with Cole Hamels, Olney writes. Hamels' contract expires after the 2012 season.
- GM Ruben Amaro Jr. must address the Phillies' bullpen issues relatively soon, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. It's "pretty damn difficult" to develop inexperienced pitchers and win simultaneously, manager Charlie Manuel noted.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria told Greg Cote of the Miami Herald that he believes the 35-40 Marlins have a spectacular club. “It’s a playoff-caliber team, absolutely,” Loria said. “We’re going to have our run."
- D.C. is starting to feel like home for Bryce Harper, and he'd like to continue playing for the Nationals for a long time, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes. “You look at Cal Ripken. You look at Derek Jeter. You look at all the greats that played for one team their whole career,” Harper has said. “I want to be like that. I’ve always wanted to be like that. I’ve always wanted to play with that same team.”
The Mets and Athletics could match up for a potential trade involving Grant Balfour, ESPN.com's Buster Olney suggests (on Twitter). Balfour, a midseason trade candidate, is pitching well and the Mets could use bullpen help. Here are today's links…
- Olney runs through some of the available and potentially available trade candidates for Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, explaining that the options out there are less than perfect. The Dodgers have started calling around the league about potential offensive upgrades, but players like Jeff Francoeur, Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano have their shortcomings.
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law suggests the Dodgers’ investment in Cuban outfielder Yasel Puig “is a bizarre overreaction to the upcoming international spending cap.” The Dodgers and the outfielder agreed to terms on a seven-year, $42MM contract earlier today.
- Chad Qualls, who was designated for assignment this morning, has asked Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to trade him, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports (on Twitter).
- The Nationals have been relying on Bryce Harper in center field, but they’re still telling teams they’re looking for a long-term answer at the position, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter).
It’s still a little early for struggling teams to acknowledge to fans that it’s time to start looking ahead to 2013 and beyond, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney writes. As a result the trade market remains relatively quiet. Here are some of Olney’s notes on team needs and possible deals:
- The Red Sox are now focused on adding starting pitching.
- The Athletics are ready to talk trades now, so Brian Fuentes, Grant Balfour and Bartolo Colon are available.
- General managers are impressed by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, just like everyone else. One GM told Olney Trout’s faster than Rickey Henderson. "He just rockets around the bases; you don't find players that skilled," the GM said. “They're all tooled-up, and they know how to play," another GM said in reference to the pair of young stars.
- Rival executives view Justin Morneau as a tremendously risky trade target because of his $14MM salary and history with concussions (Twitter link).
- Olney had more details on the trade market last night.
Some notes from the National League East before the Nationals, Marlins and Braves suit up for three of the day's four MLB games…
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo discussed baseball's new collective bargaining agreement and the relationship between scouting and player development with David Laurila of FanGraphs.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports makes the case that Nationals rookie Bryce Harper and Angels rookie Mike Trout should be All-Stars in 2012.
- The Phillies need more talent and can't afford to wait until Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay return, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News writes. Murphy also discusses Charlie Manuel's bullpen management following yesterday's loss, a game in which Jonathan Papelbon did not pitch.
- Former MLB player and Mets exec Tony Bernazard is now working in player relations for the Boras Corporation, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports. The Mets let Bernazard go in 2009.
- Roy Halladay intends to win a World Series in Philadelphia, but Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports doesn't consider the Phillies a championship caliber team given their age and declining performances. Halladay said he aims to retire as a Phillie — a more attainable goal in Morosi's view. Because of Halladay's DL stint, he's on track for free agency following the 2013 season unless he completes 225 innings next year and 415 innings total over 2012-13.
- Bryce Harper's historically hot start has caught his teammates' attention, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The 19-year-old outfielder is on track to finish the season with a historically high OPS for someone so young. Harper, who knows fellow top prospect Mike Trout personally, says he'd enjoy playing with Trout — as long as it's with the Nationals. “I don’t want to leave here, I can tell you that,” Harper said.
- The Nationals announced that they recalled Tyler Moore from Triple-A and placed Carlos Maldonado on the 15-day disabled list.
The Nationals rewrote Major League history on Sunday in yet another sign that the beleaguered franchise has turned the proverbial corner. Bryce Harper and Steve Lombardozzi became the first rookies to hit back-to-back home runs to lead off a game in the modern era. Here's the latest odds and ends from around the league as we look forward to Monday's amateur draft…
- Alfonso Soriano is open to being traded to a contender as he concedes his career is winding down at 36, reports Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Soriano has made himself an attractive trade candidate with a 2012 slash line of .267/.311/.460, but remains unlikely to be moved thanks to his hefty contract. The Cubs owe Soriano the remainder of his $18MM salary for this year and $36MM over the next two seasons.
- Cubs manager Dale Sveum hasn't seen team president Theo Epstein or scouting chief Jason McLeod in days and that's because they are in lockdown mode for Monday's amateur draft, says Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. "Theo and Jason and Jed (Hoyer), they've had a whole different system in the draft, and obviously it's worked pretty well," Sveum said. "The high picks they had in Boston panned out pretty good." Equipped with the sixth pick in the draft, the Cubs are expected to take high school center fielder Albert Almora or Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa based upon projections from Baseball America.
- Look for the Mets to consider making minor moves at the trade deadline rather than taking on salary to acquire an expensive veteran, writes Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog.com. Cerrone points to Buster Olney's comments on Sunday night in which he stated that the team is focused on the big picture when Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler arrive in Queens in as soon as 14 months.