Danny Espinosa Rumors
Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com writes that last night's loss was "a kick in the gut" for the Nationals because it came after their most reliable reliever, Tyler Clippard, blew a rare lead. As Kolko notes, manager Davey Johnson has long said that he feels 90 wins will get the team to the postseason, but the Nats will need to finish 21-4 to reach that mark. Here's more out of the nation's capitol...
- Danny Espinosa should be among the team's September callups, argues Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The Nats opted not to bring Espinosa to the big leagues again this season, but Kilgore opines that he'd be a valuable defensive replacement and the expanded rosters would allow them to carry Espinosa's glove without exposing the weak bat he's shown this season. Kilgore adds that keeping Espinosa off the Major League roster likely prevents him from becoming arbitration-eligible as a Super Two player, but the $1MM or so in financial savings isn't a good reason to keep him off the roster. Recent reports have indicated that the Nationals are looking to trade the switch-hitting middle infielder.
- Unbeknownst to Johnson, Bryce Harper has been receiving treatment for a hip injury recently, the manager told reporters (including Amanda Comak of the Washington Times). Johnson said that he is "disturbed" by the fact that he was not informed of the issue by Harper or the medical staff, but he plans to continue playing Harper as long as the injury doesn't worsen.
- For those who missed it, MLBTR reported last night that right-hander Mark Lowe has opted out of his minor league contract with Washington and is now a free agent.
SATURDAY, 3:48pm: The Nationals have informed Espinosa that he will not receive a September call-up, reports the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. Assuming that holds true, Kilgore notes, Espinosa will likely not be arbitration-eligible next season. Instead, he will earn league minimum and cede an additional year of team control.
Espinosa had 2.033 years of service time coming into the season, and appears to have logged 79 days this year before he was optioned on June 19th. If he accrues no more service time, then, Espinosa will obviously fall short of three years of service. Neither will he have enough service for Super Two status, and would not qualify anyway because he did not stay on the active roster for the requisite 86 days this season.
While a late-season renaissance would have been even better, these service considerations certainly increase Espinosa's trade value. An acquiring team would have ample, low-cost flexibility to allow Espinosa -- who still has options -- to try and regain his form. And that team would receive additional upside if Espinosa regains his once-promising career arc. Those same factors, of course, increase his value to the Nats as well. Indeed, Kilgore notes that the organization still has not lowered its asking price on Espinosa and seems disinclined to sell him at a discount.
WEDNESDAY, 12:10pm: The Nationals are in the process of deciding whether or not they will include struggling infielder Danny Espinosa in this year's crop of September call-ups, and MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports that the team is looking to trade the 26-year-old.
Ladson's source said he doesn't anticipate that Espinosa will play a Major League game this season and the Nationals' efforts to trade him have been stifled by the switch-hitter's poor performance since being demoted to Triple-A Syracuse. Espinosa played through a fractured wrist for a month this season and batted just .158/.193/.272 in 167 plate appearances. Since his demotion, he's hitting just .208/.271/.283 in 292 plate appearances.
Espinosa's agent, Scott Boras, said that his client has dealt with a lingering thumb injury for several weeks at Syracuse. It's also worth noting that he played through a torn rotator cuff in 2012, which could obviously still have a lingering effect on his production at the plate. Boras told reporters that other teams do have interest in Espinosa:
"Every park that I go into will ask me about Danny. They want to know what he is doing. So the guy has real value."
Interested teams undoubtedly look at Espinosa's 20-homer power and 20-steal speed as well as his plus defense at second base and shortstop. However, those positives also come with the injury concerns and a long-standing problem with strikeouts; Espinosa has whiffed in 27.1 percent of his career plate appearances and has a whopping 96 strikeouts at Syracuse this season after leading the NL with 189 punchouts in 2012.
Espinosa hit .242/.319/.408 with 38 homers and 37 steals as a regular for the Nats from 2011-12, so trading him at this point would unquestionably be selling with his value at an all-time low. However, this is the second time there have been reports regarding a potential trade of Espinosa, as rival evaluators speculated back in June that playing him at shortstop at Triple-A was an attempt to showcase him as a trade chip. Espinosa has played 32 games at shortstop and 39 at second base since his demotion.
The Nationals have already made one minor acquisition this summer by landing Scott Hairston from the Cubs, but they're likely not done yet. Manager Davey Johnson said earlier this week he'd like another bench bat, and reports said the Nats could be in the market for rotation upgrades. Here's more on the second-place Nationals, who trail Atlanta by six games in the NL East...
- Scott Boras wants to talk with general manager Mike Rizzo regarding the future of his client, Danny Espinosa, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Espinosa, currently in Triple-A to refine his swing mechanics, is hitting .400/.451/.667 over his past dozen games. There's no immediate spot open for Espinosa, however, given the strong play of Anthony Rendon. Boras plans to discuss the service time being missed by Espinosa with Rizzo, but wouldn't take the bait when asked by Kilgore if he was implying that a trade was the best outcome for his client.
- Kilgore also writes that Ian Desmond received a ringing (and unprompted) endorsement from fellow shortstop Troy Tulowitzki over this week's All-Star break. Tulo called Desmond "one of the best shortstops in the game" before opining that the Nationals should give him an extension. Kilgore goes on to note that Desmond, who is controlled through the 2015 season, has the rare chance to become an elite shortstop who hits the market in the midst of his prime. As it stands, he's set to be a free agent shortly after he turns 30.
The Phillies aren't considered to have a particularly deep farm system but one upcoming gem could exist in the form of 20-year-old third baseman Maikel Franco. A scout tells CBS Sports' Danny Knobler (Twitter link) that Franco is the "best impact bat I've seen in minors this year." Franco posted a .259/.322/.395 line over his first three pro seasons but delivered a .925 OPS in 289 PA at High-A ball this year and already has two homers in four games since being promoted to Double-A. Baseball America ranked Franco as the Phillies' eighth-best prospect before the season, saying "he has a ceiling of a power-hitting corner infielder, but he'll have to continue to make offensive adjustments, especially in recognizing offspeed stuff."
Here's the latest from around the division...
- Danny Espinosa played two Triple-A games at shortstop this weekend, leading a few rival evaluators to tell Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that it seems as if the Nationals could be showcasing Espinosa's shortstop ability for a possible trade. Kilgore isn't sure, since the Nats need Espinosa for infield depth and "trading Espinosa now would be the epitome of selling low." Espinosa has just a .465 OPS though 167 PA and has battled both a torn rotator cuff and a fractured wrist this season.
- The Mets offered Collin Cowgill to the Angels in exchange for right-hander Matt Shoemaker but the Halos weren't interested, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports (Twitter link). Cowgill was designated for assignment last week and the Mets are known to be exploring trades for the outfielder. Shoemaker, 26, has a 4.49 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 4.89 K/BB ratio in 16 starts at Triple-A Salt Lake City this season.
- As part of a reader mailbag, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo opines that a long-term extension for Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy doesn't seem like "a realistic expectation at this point." This could open the door for prospect Wilmer Flores, who currently has an .853 OPS in his first Triple-A season. Murphy will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and is controlled through the 2015 season.
- In NL East news from earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported that the Phillies had outrighted Michael Martinez to Triple-A, we heard some Ricky Nolasco rumors, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that he is putting a high price tag on his star pitchers and The New York Daily News' Andy Martino shared a few items about the Marlins, Mets and Nationals.
We heard overnight that the Rays and Nationals were exploring the possibility of a trade that would send Danny Espinosa to Tampa. While multiple reporters have suggested those talks haven't gained much momentum, Espinosa remains a trade candidate. Here are the latest rumblings related to the Nats infielder:
- At least one team besides the Rays called the Nats about Espinosa, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, who adds that any talks are being initiated by other teams.
- The Nationals are more willing to trade Mike Morse than Espinosa, with GM Mike Rizzo and manager Davey Johnson still steadfast supporters of Espinosa, writes Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.
- Many members of the Nats organization are reluctant to trade Espinosa, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. "He will figure it out," one source told Rosenthal. "[Steve] Lombardozzi is a good player, but he’s not Espinosa."
- The Nationals haven't ruled out the possibility of moving Anthony Rendon to second base if they decide to trade Espinosa, tweets MLB.com's Bill Ladson.
7:33am: There is currently no traction in trade discussions between the two sides, tweets Olney.
7:24am: Olney's colleague, Jayson Stark, reports that a source familiar with the talks says a trade sending Espinosa and Morse to Tampa Bay is unlikely despite the logical fit (Twitter link).
6:41am: ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Rizzo is aiming high in his talks with the Rays about their pitchers.
12:44am: The Rays are nearing a one-year deal with James Loney, but the team is also discussing the possiblity of a trade with the Nationals that would involve starting pitching for Danny Espinosa and Michael Morse, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (Twitter link).
Morse would represent a major offensive upgrade from Carlos Pena at first base, or he could slot into left field with Desmond Jennings taking over B.J. Upton's old position of center field. Espinosa could help the Rays at either middle infield position, where they've had a bit of a carousel in recent years.
Both Jeremy Hellickson and James Shields have been mentioned frequently as potential trade chips for Rays GM Andrew Friedman. It's also been reported that David Price could be had for the right offer, though the asking price (no pun intended) there would undoubtedly be sky-high.
The Nationals have some infield flexibility given the presence of Steve Lombardozzi, and they could handle the loss of Morse's bat if general manager Mike Rizzo is able secure a new contract with Adam LaRoche.
2:44pm: The Red Sox are trying to get Gonzalez and Bailey in a "monster deal," tweets Rosenthal. The Rays are also in on Bailey and the Nationals are the team to beat on Gonzalez, Rosenthal reports.
2:14pm: It looks like the Nationals and Red Sox are the finalists for Gonzalez, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Peter Gammons of MLB Network tweets that the Red Sox or Nationals will likely acquire Gonzalez today. Both Heyman and Gammons suggest the Nationals are the favorites to obtain the left-hander.
1:10pm: The A's are moving closer to a Gio Gonzalez trade, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (all links go to Twitter). The bidding is down to two teams, one of which is the Nationals. The Marlins and Red Sox may also be involved, but the Rangers are not. The Yankees and A's never built momentum toward a deal involving Gonzalez, Olney reports. The Mariners had discussed Gonzalez and it's not clear if they're involved in the current trade talks.
The Nationals are believed to be willing to include multiple top prospects for Gonzalez, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Prospects such as Brad Peacock, Destin Hood, Eury Perez and A.J. Cole could be available to the Athletics. Derek Norris is in the discussion, Olney writes.
Gonzalez is under team control through 2015 and has reached the 200-inning plateau in each of the past two seasons without posting an ERA above 3.23. However, no MLB pitcher has walked more opponents in the past two seasons than Gonzalez and he's about to get expensive through arbitration (projected 2012 salary of $4.2MM).
It's not often that the Brewers and Royals are the two teams dominating discussion around baseball, but that's exactly what's happening today, after the clubs agreed to a blockbuster deal. Let's check out some reactions and a few more details on the trade that will send Zack Greinke to Milwaukee....
- According to Yahoo's Tim Brown (via Twitter), the Dodgers were discussing Greinke and even brought a third team into the mix in an attempt to meet Kansas City's needs. Ultimately, they ran out of time.
- SI.com's Jon Heyman reports that the Royals were close to a deal that would've sent Greinke to Washington, if not for the right-hander's no-trade clause. MLB.com's Bill Ladson confirms that Greinke turned down a potential trade to the Nationals (Twitter links). Heyman adds that Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa likely would've been involved in the hypothetical deal (Twitter link).
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post hears that the Royals coveted Jordan Zimmermann, who the Nats were reluctant to give up.
- Heyman tweets that Greinke approved the Brewers and not the Nats because he believes Milwaukee is closer to serious contention. He's also apparently fond of the city.
- According to Heyman (via Twitter), Greinke told the Royals that he wouldn't mind playing for the Yankees, but New York never got close to making a trade for the Kansas City ace.
- The Brewers had some interest in Carl Pavano, who they presumably won't pursue now. As such, the Twins' leverage with Pavano should improve, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
- Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that the $2MM going to Milwaukee will cover the buyout for Yuniesky Betancourt's 2012 option, if the Brewers choose to buy him out.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports praises Brewers GM Doug Melvin for choosing an established player over prospects. Rosenthal also examines the trade from the Royals' perspective.
- With Prince Fielder a year from free agency, Melvin saw the team's window for playoff contention closing and moved aggressively to improve the 2011 roster, writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
- Fangraphs' Marc Hulet breaks down the package acquired by Kansas City, noting that their haul is "certainly quantity over quality." In an Insider-only article, ESPN.com's Keith Law makes a similar point, calling the Royals' return "bulk, and fit, but not impact."
- Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and two front office people he spoke to "really like" the move for the Royals (Twitter link).
In today's blog post at ESPN (Insider req'd), Buster Olney says that the first day of Spring Training acts as an artificial deadline for the Royals to trade Zack Greinke. At that point he will show up to the clubhouse and dominate the team's storyline. Olney likens it to the Johan Santana situation from a few years ago, when the Twins felt pressure to move him before pitchers and catchers reported. He adds that Greinke's performance would then be under intense scrutiny, even during Spring Training, and if he pitches poorly his trade value will plummet.
Here are the rest of Olney's rumors...
- The Rangers made what was considered an aggressive offer for Greinke at the winter meetings only to learn that they fell way short of Kansas City's demands.
- The Nationals were informed that in order to land Greinke, they would have to part with Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, and Danny Espinosa. Rival executives expect the asking price to come down in the weeks ahead.
- Orlando Cabrera is open to returning to the Twins. Minnesota just finalized a contract with Tsuyoshi Nishioka, but right now Alexi Casilla is penciled in as their everyday shortstop.
- The Astros were very much in on Orlando Hudson before he chose San Diego and they signed Bill Hall.
The Nationals are "aggressively pursuing" a trade for Matt Garza or Zack Greinke, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. However, Kilgore’s source doesn’t expect Washington to trade for either pitcher. Earlier today, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported that Royals GM Dayton Moore is actively gauging the market for Greinke.
The Rays and Royals could have interest in Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, but the Nationals are not likely to move either player. However, Kilgore hears that the team would move Danny Espinosa “in a heartbeat.” Roger Bernadina would be available and it’s possible that the Nationals would consider trading Drew Storen or Sean Burnett, according to Kilgore.