Ian Desmond Rumors
Mike Puma of the New York Post wrote last night that Ike Davis concealed an oblique injury for much of the season prior to Aug. 31, when it worsened and sidelined him for the remainder of the year. Davis took exception to the story and addressed Puma and other reporters today, writes ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. He quotes the first baseman: "You made it look like an excuse. It’s an excuse. It shouldn’t have been a story anyway. ... I sucked last year because I sucked. It’s not because I had an injury. You always have injuries. And now it just looks bad."
More from the NL East...
- Mets COO Jeff Wilpon has indicated that the team is likely to pick up GM Sandy Alderson's option for the 2015 season, writes Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. Alderson's contract expires after the season, and while some have mentioned his name as a possible replacement for retiring commissioner Bud Selig, David Wright thinks Alderson wants to stay with the Mets and complete the rebuild he's begun since taking over as GM. Said Wright: "Everybody is kind of concerned with how they are remembered. ... he wants to be remembered for taking an organization that was struggling and slowly building it up with the system with some good trades and free-agent signings."
- David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution examines the psychology behind long-term deals for young players, noting that some believe extensions can relieve pressure, while others feel the extensions provide extra pressure, as players feel they must live up to that contract. O'Brien spoke with each of the five players the Braves have signed to multi-year deals in the past three weeks and got their takes on their new contracts.
- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond spoke with Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com and reflected on the decade he's spent with the organization. Desmond is appreciative of GM Mike Rizzo for declining trade offers when he was struggling and also appreciative of managers Davey Johnson and Jim Riggleman for playing him through those struggles.
- Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will make his debut for the Phillies on Thursday this week, giving the club a chance to evaluate the pitcher they signed for $12MM last August, writes CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. Salisbury writes that Gonzalez has merely looked "so-so" to this point and could end up in the minors to open the season if he doesn't win the fifth starter's job.
Ian Desmond reportedly turned down a seven-year contract offer from the Nationals that was worth at least $85.5MM and possibly topped the $90MM threshold, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post reported during a reader chat. Rumors about the Nats extending Desmond have swirled for over a year, and while the two sides agreed to a two-year, $17.5MM extension in January that covered both of his remaining arbitration years, Desmond is still eligible for free agency following the 2015 season. While Desmond didn't specifically comment on Boswell's report, the shortstop told MLB.com's Bill Ladson that "the Nationals and I had been in conversation prior to the two-year deal, but things didn't work out. I don't know how this got out. It's not something that came from my side. We don't operate like that."
Here's some more from Desmond and some other items from Washington...
- Though a long-term deal hasn't been reached, Desmond "feel[s] real strongly about my future with the Nationals. I would like to play here for the rest of my career."
- Desmond admitted he was "a little bit hesitant" to sign his two-year extension, "but in turn, I have a wife and kids. Guaranteed money is guaranteed money. I think it was a good, fair deal for both sides. I took a deal that benefited my family and it didn't affect future infielders in the arbitration process. To have the security was something I couldn't pass up."
- Also from Boswell's chat, he notes that the Nationals offered Grant Balfour a two-year, $12MM deal but the reliever took a similar deal from the Rays instead because Washington's offer contained mostly deferred money. Boswell admits this could be "one of those many after-the-fact retellings of history," but believes the rumor to be true. The Nats were known to be interested in Balfour and were trying to free up 2014 payroll space to sign him and make further moves, to the point that Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann's two-year extensions were both backloaded to 2015.
- Gio Gonzalez's contract has become a major bargain for the Nationals, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes. Gonzalez has three years and a guaranteed $31.5MM remaining on his original five-year pact, and the Nationals have $12MM club options on the southpaw for both 2017 and 2018.
3:50pm: Desmond would also earn an additional $500K for winning NL MVP honors in either season, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
11:56am: The Nationals have agreed to sign shortstop Ian Desmond to a two-year, $17.5MM extension that will buy out his final two years of arbitration, according to MLB.com's Bill Ladson (Twitter link). Desmond is a client of Sports One Athlete Management. Desmond will earn $6.5MM in 2014 and $11MM in 2015, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
Desmond's contract is the second two-year deal inked by the Nationals today, as they also locked up Jordan Zimmermann for two years and $24MM. Barring a long-term extension, Desmond's salaries are now locked in until he eligible for free agency following the 2015 campaign. He'd been projected to earn $6.9MM in 2014 by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
Desmond has broken out as one of the game's best all-around shortstops, slashing .286/.333/.480 with solid defense at shortstop and a pair of 20-homer, 20-steal campaigns in 2012-13. The Nationals are reportedly interested in locking him up to a long-term extension, as is also the case with Zimmermann.
Last month, reliever Darin Downs found out the Astros had claimed him off waivers from the Tigers as he was driving his wife to deliver the couple's second child, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports. "I had a couple missed calls, a couple text messages. So I call one of the front office staff from the Tigers, he says, 'Oh, you've just been claimed by the Astros.' I'm like, 'All right, cool. I'm going to the hospital,'" Downs says. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- A year removed from their nightmarish 2012 season, the Red Sox are again a desirable team for free agents, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. Some of that, Lauber notes, has to do with the team's willingness to spend money. The team also seems to have rehabilitated its reputation among players after reports of 2012 locker-room disarray. But another important consideration is simply that every season is different. "I always chuckle inside when you see the quote from a free agent, 'I want to go to a contender,'" says Jonny Gomes. "Oh, you mean the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008? Or the Oakland A’s in 2012? That contender? I know anything can happen. Every single year, good, bad and in between, is like an individual season. All you have to do is turn the page."
- Reliever Jim Hoey is trying to return to the big leagues, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes tweets. Hoey, who will be 31 next week, last appeared in the Majors in 2011, when he pitched in the Twins' bullpen. He is perhaps best known for being traded (with minor-leaguer Brett Jacobson) for J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris in 2010. He pitched briefly in the Brewers' system in 2013, and also pitched in independent ball.
- The Nationals have a variety of extension candidates and may not have an easy time deciding how to handle them, writes Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com. Pitcher Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond are both open to extensions, Kerzel notes, but GM Mike Rizzo also needs to think about whether to extend Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg long-term (if that's practical -- Scott Boras represents both of them, and one would think his demands would be through the roof). An extension for Zimmermann could exceed Matt Harrison's five-year, $55MM deal, possibly winding up somewhere near $85MM, Kerzel suggests. Both Zimmermann and Desmond can become eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
- The decline in Jonathan Papelbon's stuff last season could make other teams reluctant to trade for him, and Jason Collette of Fangraphs shows exactly what went wrong. Papelbon's velocity dropped as the season progressed, which allowed batters to make more frequent contact with his fastball. Hitters also made more contact with his splitter when he left it in the zone. While Papelbon's superficial statistics (a 2.92 ERA and 29 saves) were reasonable, his peripheral numbers mark him as something like an average closer at this point. Since he's making $13MM a year, that's a problem, and it could be tricky for the Phillies to deal him.
- The Yankees have had talks with Mark Reynolds about a deal to return next season, but the corner infielder appears set to sign somewhere else, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. Reynolds, 30, joined the Yankees in August after being released by the Indians, and hit .236/.300/.455 in 120 plate appearances, with characteristically high strikeout totals.
Trading Jonathan Papelbon wouldn't solve much for the Phillies at this point, opines Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com. Seidman runs down a possible scenario in which the Phillies ate $6MM to move Papelbon, noting that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. would then still try to sign a replacement. Names like Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit could cost upwards of $10MM per season anyhow, meaning the Phillies may not even save much money should that scenario play out. Papelbon will have more value to teams at the trade deadline when fewer quality options are available, writes Seidman. Here's more from the NL East...
- David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets that the Braves have approached some of their young stars about extensions over the past two years but felt they'd have to overpay to get something done.
- O'Brien also runs down the Braves needs on the heels of a quiet Winter Meetings, noting that they're optimistic about re-signing Eric O'Flaherty. Atlanta is still pursuing a veteran bench bat -- O'Brien mentions Eric Chavez -- and are still interested in Jeff Samardzija. The Braves may be considered the favorites to land Samardzija at this point, says O'Brien, noting that payroll constraints will likely preclude them from pursuing David Price.
- After adding to their rotation, bench and bullpen, the Nationals will now turn their focus to extending Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Should the Nats be unable to extend Zimmermann, they may be forced to consider trading him this time next season, one source told Kilgore.
- Nate McLouth spoke to former teammate Adam LaRoche (whom he called one of his favorite teammates ever) and asked what the Nationals clubhouse was like before deciding to sign there, writes Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. McLouth doesn't hold ill will toward the Orioles for not retaining him.
We just saw one bit of news from the Nats, as the club released Yunesky Maya. Though the move was hardly surprising and will not have any substantial impact going forward, it is a final conclusion to the saga of a player who President and GM Mike Rizzo had heralded as the Nats' "first major international signing." Fortunately, Rizzo has also acquired and developed other talent that more than makes up for the failed Maya experiment. Some of those players were covered in Rizzo's interesting discussion with MLB.com's Bill Ladson:
- Addressing lefty Ross Detwiler, Rizzo said that he "could bolster our bullpen and give us some depth as a starter." Rizzo proceeded to emphasize again that the club is enthusiastic about young starters Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, and Nate Karns, each of whom, he said, "should be able to help us next season."
- It is somewhat of a surprise for Rizzo to have referred to Detwiler as rotation depth, as he had generally been expected to slot in the rotation, where he has been effective. There are, however, valid reasons to prefer Detwiler in the pen, including his slight build, injury history, and primarily two-pitch repertoire. Certainly, it is hard to imagine the Nats handing both the fourth and fifth starter roles to unproven arms. If Rizzo does indeed intend to use Detwiler in relief, there are two important takeaways: first, the club would have a much less pressing need for a premium southpaw setup man; and second, it would have a roughly proportional increase in its need for a new starter.
- Rizzo also talked about possible extensions for two of the team's best players: shortstop Ian Desmond and pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, each of whom has long been discussed as an extension candidate. "We certainly have an interest in getting it done," Rizzo said in reference to extensions for both players. "But I don't know if we'll get it done before Spring Training. We've made overtures and we haven't had a deal done yet."
- As I noted in my offseason outlook for the Nats, starting pitching and new deals for Desmond and Zimmermann are probably the best ways for Rizzo to add value to the club over the coming off-season. But those things won't come cheap. Starters are coming off the board with substantial numbers. And MLBTR's TIm Dierkes reasons that Desmond could cost nine figures to extend, with Zimmermann warranting $85MM.
- On the revelation that the club has contract issues to work out with star youngster Bryce Harper, Rizzo told Ladson that the club "ha[s] Bryce under contract for the foreseeable future" and "want him around for a long time." The organization was, of course, aware that Harper's arbitration opt out eligibility could become an issue. Said Rizzo: "It was a contract of a drafted player that we negotiated and agreed upon. That's as far as I can go with it."
- Pressed by Ladson as to whether Anthony Rendon would man second for the Nats in 2014, Rizzo would not commit but did say that "he will be a National." "I don't know where he is going to play or what he is going to do," continued Rizzo, while also praising Rendon's "high ceiling" and noting that he "can play many positions." It is hardly surprising that Rizzo would hesitate to hand the starting gig to Rendon before the spring, and the GM's comments were, as usual, rather oblique. That makes it difficult to ascribe any particular relevance to these statements with respect to the club's free agent shopping plans or Rendon's possible availability in a major trade.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo wants his club's new manager to chime in on personnel choices over the off-season, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson, but the team has yet to conduct any interviews and will not rush the process. Here are a few more notes from Nats Town and the rest of the NL East ...
- After accounting for arbitration-eligible players, the Nationals will probably enter the off-season with about $114MM already committed to payroll, reasons James Wagner of the Washington Post. That already-tall figure could actually understate things. The aggregate $33.7MM that Wagner allocates for arbitration falls about $6MM shy of the projections of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. In particular, Swartz expects starter Jordan Zimmermann to leap all the way up to $10.5MM in his second year of eligibility, and sees big paydays for both set-up man Tyler Clippard ($6.2MM) and shortstop Ian Desmond ($6.9MM).
- Desmond, along with Zimmermann, has long been considered an extension candidate. Now entering his second-to-last year of arb-eligibility after grossing 10 fWAR over the last two seasons (a full two wins better than the next-rated shortstop), Desmond's price is likely to continue going up. That makes it a good time to lock him up to a long-term deal, reasons Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.
- While it may be tempting to attribute a major share of the Phillies' lost season to Roy Halladay's struggles, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News notes that every National League playoff club suffered an approximately similar loss of top-flight pitching. The ways to surmount such difficulties, he says, are to develop pitching depth in the upper minors, find value in free agency, and be unafraid to roll the dice on some players. The net for Philadelphia, according to Murphy, is that the club must cross its fingers on its top young pitchers, go after a turnaround candidate in the Francisco Liriano mold, and add multiple starting options in free agency.
- One major wild card is already seemingly entrenched in the Philly rotation: international free agent signee Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. As Philadelphia Inquirer colunist Bob Brookover reports, the 27-year-old is working in the Phils' Florida complex to establish a big league routine and build up strength for his first Spring Training.
- The major question marks facing the Braves are whether to bring back pitcher Tim Hudson and what to do with struggling, high-priced second baseman Dan Uggla, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Bowman wonders if Atlanta might try to move Uggla, swallowing a big chunk of the $26MM that the 33-year-old is still owed. He also suggests that the team could push for a trade for a top-flight starter like David Price. As things stand, says Bowman, it appears that the Braves have the capacity to add something in the neighborhood of $15-20MM via free agency or trade.
- The Marlins have announced their 2014 coaching staff, including two new faces in hitting coach Frank Menechino and third base coach Brett Butler, the team announced on Twitter. As the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer notes, both additions carved out nice careers in the bigs. In particular, Butler accumulated somewhere between forty and fifty wins above replacement, depending upon whom you believe, over his 17-year career. The outfielder posted only a .376 lifetime slugging percentage, but his on-base percentage exceeded that mark by one hundredth of a point. He had served as the manager of the Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate for the last five years.
Alex Rodriguez's public battle with the Yankees took another turn today when the slugger denied a report that the club intends to fine him a day's pay for conduct during his recent rehab assignment. According to ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand, a hand-delivered letter written by Yankees GM Brian Cashman informed A-Rod that the club plans to punish him for seeking a second opinion on his quadriceps injury and also for failing to appear at Yankee Stadium last month after meeting with MLB officials to discuss the Biogenesis investigation. In an article by Bryan Hoch and Josh Vitale of MLB.com, however, A-Rod denied receiving the letter. "Maybe they sent it to my lawyers," Rodriguez said. "But I'm not really going to talk about that." More Saturday night MLB links...
- Neither Ian Desmond nor Jordan Zimmermann appear close to contract extensions with the Nationals, Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports. Zimmermann, 27, said his camp and the Nationals broached the subject in the offseason but didn't come close to an agreement. "I'm not going to give a huge team discount," Zimmermann warned. "Just something fair is all I ask."Meanwhile, Desmond recognizes that he has two years of arbitration remaining and doesn't appear to be in a hurry to put together a deal, according to Ladson.
- Everth Cabrera's recent suspension has reinforced the fact that the Padres' farm system is thin on shortstop talent, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune says. “You’d like to have a shortstop at every level that you feel is a prospect – has a chance to be an everyday guy,” assistant GM Chad MacDonald said. However, as Sanders notes, the club's best prospects at the position remain in the lower minors. For now, former first-round pick Logan Forsythe figures to get an extended look at short for the Friars.
- Astros top prospect George Springer may finish the season at Triple-A, Brian McTaggart and Chris Abshire of MLB.com say. Springer, 23, is hitting .303/.410/.597 with 38 stolen bases across stops at Double-A and Triple-A this season. However, Astros manager Bo Porter didn't give any indication of when Springer might be called up to the major league club when discussing the outfielder today.
- Will Middlebrooks was called up to man third base for the Red Sox because he has more experience at the hot corner than Xander Bogaerts, Scott McLaughlin of WEEI.com reports. Many speculated that Bogaerts, who's hit .300/.392/.487 in 481 minor league plate appearances this season, would get the call, but manager John Farrell says the team prefers that he continue to take reps at third in the minors. The Sox want Bogaerts to be ready in case Middlebrooks struggles or hits the disabled list, according to McLaughlin.
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.
Jordan Zimmermann's name has popped up in extension rumors as of late, following a quote from Nationals GM Mike Rizzo stating that he had talked to Zimmernann's agents at SFX about a long-term deal. Zimmermann now tells ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (all Twitter links) that as far as he knows, there are no ongoing negotiations. Rizzo approached Zimmermann's camp, but the talks weren't very in-depth, according to the right-hander. Crasnick adds that Rizzo left the door open in regards to extensions for Zimmermann and Ian Desmond in an interview last week.
Rizzo's comment echoes a sentiment that we heard this offseason: the club would like to retain both Zimmermann and Desmond on long-term contracts. For the time-being, Zimmermann and Desmond are earning $5.35MM and $3.8MM, respectively, after avoiding arbitration and agreeing to one-year deals this offseason.
As MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows, Rizzo is no stranger to negotiating extensions with his stars, having previously hammered out two long-term deals for Ryan Zimmerman as well as a six-year contract for Gio Gonzalez. Rizzo has also worked out a handful of two-year deals for Craig Stammen, Michael Morse and Sean Burnett. I profiled Zimmermann as an extension candidate last week, noting that a five-year, $65MM contract would make sense for both sides, though there's a case for discussions to approach the $80MM range.