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Bryce Harper Rumors
Here's the latest out of Washington…
- Despite Chien-Ming Wang's hamstring injury, the Nationals would still consider trading John Lannan, a source tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson. The team "is not going to give Lannan away," however. The Red Sox and Tigers have been linked to Lannan, though trade speculation about the southpaw has quieted in the wake of Wang's injury. If Lannan is dealt, however, Washington still has Ross Detwiler to act as the fifth starter or as rotation depth if Wang is healthy.
- Stephen Strasburg is on a 160-inning cap this season, and Fangraphs' Paul Swydan looks at how the Nats can try can manage Strasburg's starts throughout a possible pennant race.
- If the Nationals leave Bryce Harper in the minors through July 1 and prevent him from obtaining Super Two status, ESPN's Dave Cameron (Insider subscription required) calculates the team could save as much as $14MM in future salary for the former #1 overall draft pick.
- GM Mike Rizzo tells ESPN's Jayson Stark that service time was "a piece of the equation" related to sending Harper to Triple-A but the move was made to help Harper's development. Rizzo pointed out that the Nationals aren't afraid to call up a young star if they need him, such as when Drew Storen was put in line to be a Super Two when he was called up in 2010, though Rizzo admitted Harper's and Storen's situations are quite different.
- In a separate piece from Stark, he talks to a scout who feels Harper should've started the season at Double-A, not Triple-A. "To be honest with you, if they sent him to Double-A, I actually think he'd be challenged there," said the scout. "Triple-A is filled with guys who have been in the big leagues and know how to pitch….So at this stage, it's not a slam dunk he'll go to Triple-A and tear it up. It'll be interesting to see how he does."
The Mets' owners reached a $162MM settlement with the trustee for the victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme earlier today. Here are some more notes from the NL East…
- The Phillies announced that second baseman Chase Utley “has come to a bit of a plateau” in his rehab. He’ll travel out of town for a few days to see a specialist for his knees, the team added. Utley's chance of playing on Opening Day seem slim and prospect Freddy Galvis may get his chance at the MLB level.
- The Nationals optioned Bryce Harper to the minor leagues over the weekend, and outsiders aren’t the only ones praising the move. "He is going to be special, but he isn't ready,'' one Nationals veteran told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- The Mets' owners hope to recover approximately $125MM on loser funds, Heyman tweets. This would reduce their losses to $37MM or so.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports believes commissioner Bud Selig should step in if the Mets don't start operating like a high-revenue team by next winter (Twitter link).
Earlier today, we learned the Nationals signed outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady to a minor league contract, adding insurance for Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche, who are both battling injuries. Here's more on the Nats and a couple other items of note …
- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel implied that his team may look for infield help outside of camp now that Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco are all dealing with injuries, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. We heard earlier today that the Phils could be interested in someone like utility man Mike Aviles of the Red Sox, although Aviles is tentatively slated to be Boston's starting shortstop as of now.
- The Nationals optioned prized prospect Bryce Harper to minor league camp, the team announced. The Nats will go with an in-house option such as Roger Bernadina and/or Rick Ankiel in center field, a source tells Bill Ladson of MLB.com, with Jayson Werth playing right field. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, for one, doesn't think Harper's demotion was related to his arbitration or free-agent clocks (via Twitter).
- Mets manager Terry Collins said Fernando Martinez, now with the Astros, was waived this offseason because the outfielder was unable to stay healthy, writes Paul Hagen of MLB.com. "I know his talent. I know he's got great talent. Unfortunately, he's been one of those guys who's had a tough time getting the amount of games that I think you have to have to get ready." Martinez, for his part, said he was surprised that the Mets chose to waive him, thinking instead that he thought at times that a trade was possible.
Stephen Strasburg says he'll have to learn when to pitch to hitters and when to overpower them in order to develop further as an MLB pitcher, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. Here are some more notes on the Nationals…
- Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang had to be helped off of the field after straining his left hamstring in today's Spring Training game against the Yankees. If Wang misses time with an injury, the Nationals may need trade candidate John Lannan in their Opening Day rotation after all.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com both reported today that Lannan's trade value isn't very high right now.
- Bryce Harper explained that he’s definitely hoping to make the Nationals’ Opening Day roster, Kilgore reports. There was some confusion about Harper's expectations earlier in the week, but he still intends to break camp with the big league team.
- MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince explains why it might make sense for the Nationals to play Harper in center field. "As far as I'm concerned, anybody that can throw and run like he can should have experience at all the outfield positions," manager Davey Johnson said. Harper, who played center field in last night’s exhibition game, could provide the Nationals with stability at a position they’ve had trouble solidifying.
The latest from the NL East…
- The Phillies are looking for infield help, so David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News explores the trade market for infielders. Alberto Callaspo of the Angels and Robert Andino of the Orioles could be available.
- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones tells Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post that he can see similarities between himself and top Nationals prospect Bryce Harper. However, Jones doesn't expect Harper, a fellow first overall draft pick, to approach him. "Let’s just say he doesn’t seem to me to be the type of kid who wants to walk up to me and pick my brain,” Jones said.
- An AL executive doubts the Nationals would get much in return if they trade John Lannan, MLB.com's Bill Ladson tweets.
- The Mets maintain interest in signing C.J. Nitkowski, but only if he has no physical issues, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo tweets. The club is in no rush to complete a deal.
- Josh Thole, Gaby Sanchez, Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond, Jason Heyward, Roger Bernadina, Chris Coghlan, Giancarlo Stanton, Tommy Hanson, Jonathon Niese, Stephen Strasburg, Bobby Parnell, Cristhian Martinez, Antonio Bastardo, Jonny Venters, Ryan Webb, Ross Detwiler and Henry Rodriguez are among the NL East players who could be arbitration eligible a year from now.
It's only Spring Training, but Jerry Dipoto's new additions looked good in the Angels’ exhibition contest today, as Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times explains. Albert Pujols collected two hits, C.J. Wilson and Brad Mills each pitched two scoreless innings and Chris Iannetta homered. Here are today's links…
- Prince Fielder told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that joining the Tigers was 'a dream come true' that he didn't even dream about. GM Dave Dombrowski says owner Mike Ilitch's aggressiveness made the $214MM Fielder deal possible. "He is in a situation where he wants to win,'' Dombrowski said.
- Mets owner Fred Wilpon will have to pay as much as $83.3MM, a court ruled today, according to ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. Irving Picard seeks to recover that sum for losers in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. All but $1.7MM of that amount is associated with Wilpon's other businesses and charities, so in theory the Mets won't be affected substantially.
- Agent Scott Boras suggested the Mets would be better off if their current owners are replaced, Vincent M. Mallozzi of the New York Times writes. "There has to be an equation where there are requirements for ownership to perform at certain levels, and if they don’t, they would lose their right to own a club and be replaced," Boras said.
- Bryce Harper still has his doubters, but he's clear about his goals for the 2012 season, as Yahoo's Jeff Passan writes. The outfield prospect wants to push his way onto the Nationals’ roster by performing well this Spring Training. Once he gets there, he's "poised to take the mantel from [Alex Rodriguez] as the ballplayer simultaneously most respected and loathed," Passan writes.
It's time for some Nationals notes, courtesy of Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
- "I think I want to play third base until someone is better than me at it," Ryan Zimmerman explained to Kilgore. The topic comes up because last year's first-round draft pick Anthony Rendon is a third baseman by trade, and if Zimmerman were to be extended, someone would have to change positions if Rendon proceeds to the Majors and is not traded. On Rendon specifically, Zimmerman said, "If he comes up and plays third and plays second or whatever, then I’m going to be his best friend there. In the end, he’s going to help us win games. That’s the most important thing."
- Rendon is in big league camp because of his draft contract, but Kilgore thinks he may begin his pro career at Class A Potomac. The Nationals intend to play Rendon at third base, second base, and shortstop, at least during spring training, but manager Davey Johnson downplayed the extra infield positions, according to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com. Rendon was deferential to Zimmerman in his comments.
- The Nationals intend to use Stephen Strasburg until he hits his innings limit and then shut him down, GM Mike Rizzo told reporters. There's an expectation of a 160-inning cap, and Rizzo doesn't seem to be considering a six-man rotation or skipping Strasburg's starts. I imagine skipping Strasburg starts while he's in good health could upset some fans who buy tickets specifically to watch him pitch.
- Super prospect Bryce Harper says he intends to "keep my mouth shut and play," but certainly aims to make the team out of spring training. Kilgore mentions Super Two considerations for the team, and it's worth noting that the new collective barganing agreement will result in more players getting that designation than in years past.
- A potential Mike Cameron replacement will come internally, said Rizzo. Mark DeRosa could play right field if Jayson Werth is in center, while Jason Michaels and Brett Carroll are in camp in minor league deals. Roger Bernadina may have a leg up as an out of options player, in my opinion. Here's MLBTR's full list of players who are out of minor league options.
Some links as Friday turns into Saturday…
- There has been no progress in contract talks between the Brewers and reliever Jose Veras, reports MLB.com Adam McCalvy. As our Arbitration Tracker shows, the right-hander filed $2.375MM while the team countered with $2MM. Club negotiator Teddy Werner told McCalvy that he expects to return to Florida for a hearing.
- Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com hears that the Cubs will continue to shop Matt Garza in Spring Training. The two sides avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $9.5MM today, and Knobler says the salary doesn't figure to hurt their chances of moving him.
- "We'll be cautious yet open-minded," said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com when asked about the possibility of Bryce Harper making the team out of Spring Training. "If he gives us the best chance to win, we'll keep an open mind and see where it takes us."
- Talks continue between the union and management about expanded playoffs for 2012, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The deadline for resolution is March 1st.
- The Phillies will have a tough time re-signing Cole Hamels at anything less than full market value, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, as GM Ruben Amaro has rewarded big contracts to both under-control players like Ryan Howard, and free agents such as Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins.
- Within the same piece, Amaro addressed the signing of Papelbon this offseason, saying the club regarded Pap slightly higher than the incumbent Ryan Madson, who eventually signed with the Reds for far less. “We didn’t just want any closer. The way our team is set up, we wanted the best guy, or one of the top two or three guys. We could have gotten a ‘B’ or ‘B-plus’ closer. But we wanted an ‘A.’ With (Papelbon), as good and as durable as he has been, I felt he was the right fit for us.”
- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, 40 in April, said 2012 may not be his final season, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jones is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, but his deal includes a $7MM club option that will vest to $9MM if he plays in 123 games. “As long as I stay healthy and I’m having fun, I’m going to keep going. I sit here with three weeks to go before spring training and I’m not ready to say this is it.”
- Nationals manager Davey Johnson wants Bryce Harper to start the season as Washington's right fielder, hears Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That seems like an aggressive approach to me, but it would create quite a bit of buzz in Washington — and in baseball, in general.
It was on this day in 1953 that the Dodgers promoted their Triple-A manager to take over the Major League job on a one-year contract. Walter Alston remained in the Dodgers' dugout for the next 23 years, winning 2,040 games and leading the club to four World Series titles.
Some news from around the Majors as everyone lets the turkey settle…
- The new Super Two regulations in the new collective bargaining agreement shouldn't have much impact on Nationals uber-prospect Bryce Harper, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
- Drew Storen will only become more valuable to the Nationals as the price of closers continues to rise, opines Ben Goessling of MASNsports.com, though "there's a logical argument to be made for moving Storen at the height of his value."
- The Mets are "still in [the] exploratory stage" of their offseason moves and "aren't close on anything," reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News (via Twitter).
- Royals general manager Dayton Moore tells Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that he doesn't think his team will be negatively affected by the new CBA. Dutton notes that the Royals spent much more than usual on draft signings and international prospects in the last year since the club was anticipating both avenues to be limited under baseball's new labor rules.