Ian Desmond Rumors

NL East Notes: Papelbon, Braves, Samardzija, Nats

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.

Rizzo On Detwiler, Desmond, Zimmermann, Harper, Rendon

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.

NL East Notes: Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Marlins

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.

Quick Hits: A-Rod, Desmond, Padres, Zimmermann

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 NationalsBill 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 BogaertsScott 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.

Nationals Notes: Espinosa, Desmond

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.

No Current Talks Between Nationals, Zimmermann

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.

Poll: Who Will Sign An Extension This May?

Let's start the weekend up with a poll. As MLBTR's Steve Adams noted recently, two young stars (Adam Jones and Miguel Montero) signed significant extensions during May of 2012. While there have not been significant rumblings about any similar deals recently, the Jones and Montero deals both sprung up with relatively little advance buzz: Jones said he was not aware of any talks with the Orioles just a month before his six-year, $85.5MM deal was inked. And the build up to Montero's five-year, $60MM extension consisted largely of the Diamondbacks' acknowledgement that the team was open to in-season negotiations.

Jones had one year of arbitration eligibility remaining when he signed, while Montero would have become a free agent at the end of the year. Both were relatively young (26 and 28, respectively) and fairly well established as above-average players at premium defensive positions. And each had been with their teams for all or virtually all of their big league careers.

With those deals in mind, let's take a look at some generally comparable position players who could be positioned for similar deals. We will not include Robinson Cano, as he is at a different level of performance and contract extension, along with being somewhat older. Anyhow, we already asked MLBTR readers what they think about the likelihood of a Cano extension. Likewise, we'll leave out Chase Headley, given his recent comments. (Also, MLBTR readers just weighed in on a possible Headley extension, with the majority believing a trade was more likely than an extension.) 

The Nationals' Ian Desmond, 27, has continued to build off of his emergence last year. He sports a .296/.311/.530 line, although he has also registered seven early errors. The shortstop has spent his entire career in the former-Expos organization, and is poised to hit the open market in 2016. We know the Nats are open to negotiating an extension with Desmond, and the Elvis Andrus signing provides a relevant (albeit imperfect) point of reference

Orioles' catcher Matt Wieters is another obvious candidate. He will turn 27 later this month, and is looking at free agency in 2016. Ongoing negotiations between Wieters and the O's are seemingly at a simmer, but could pick up at any time. While Wieters is off to a bit of a slow start, slashing just .224/.297/.388 to date, he also probably had less to prove this season than Desmond.

Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox, 29, is similarly situated to Montero. He has played his entire career in Boston, but is set to become a free agent after the season. While the center fielder has not returned to his MVP-level 2011 season, when he exploded for 32 home runs, he has bounced back from his injury-shortened 2012. Thus far, his batting line (.286/.338/.405) and league-leading steal totals (11) are right in line with his strong 2008-2009 seasons. While both player and team appear interested in discussing an extension, Ellsbury's representation by Scott Boras — and the possibility that he could significantly raise his value with an injury-free 2013 — could make a deal unlikely.

Jason Heyward of the Braves is two years from free agency at just 23 years old, but as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes notes, the cost-conscious Braves could look to extend him. Heyward is currently on the DL after undergoing an appendectomy, and has had a poor start to the year. Nevertheless, he has established himself as few big leaguers have at his age. 

Austin Jackson, the Tigers' center fielder, is a young 26 and still two years from free agency. He is also a client of Scott Boras. But his strong early track record could make him a target for Detroit to try and lock up early. With so many big-money free agent deals on the books, it could make sense for the Tigers to try and save on Jackson by guaranteeing him money in advance. Jackson is off to another good start, putting up a .293/.356/.407 line to go with five steals.

Does Elvis Andrus Affect Ian Desmond?

Back in November, I wondered if Alexei Ramirez's four-year, $32.5MM deal could be a point of reference for the Nationals and shortstop Ian Desmond in contract extension negotiations.  Like Desmond now, Ramirez had three years of Major League service when he signed.  Ramirez had better career offensive numbers at that time, though he never reached the 25 home run level Desmond did in 2012.

Desmond, however, has "something of a template" in Elvis Andrus' eight-year, $120MM contract with the Rangers, writes Amanda Comak of the Washington Times.  One major difference is that Andrus' contract covers only free agent years, while Desmond will be arbitration eligible for 2014 and '15.  Plus, Desmond only has one really good season under his belt, while Andrus has been consistently valuable for four seasons.  Desmond does not match Andrus' defensive reputation, though he clearly has more pop.  If Desmond does wait until after the season, he'll have four years of service time, and hopefully more of a track record of being an elite shortstop.  At that point, I think Alex Gordon's four-year, $37.5MM contract (plus a $12.5MM player option) would be a floor, even though we're straying away from infielder comps.  As far as Desmond getting into the $100MM range, I can't picture it unless he posts an MVP-type season.  

Desmond didn't have much to say on the topic, explaining to Comak, "I'm trying to do everything I can to win a World Series.  Talking about that, or revisiting that, isn't really going to help. We'll see where it goes."  GM Mike Rizzo said, "We don’t discuss negotiations with players and that type of thing.  But we feel Ian is one of our leaders. He’s one of the guys that is our core players and he’s a guy we’d like to be with the Nationals for a long time."

Nationals Notes: Desmond, Young

The Nationals will open the season a widely regarded postseason favorite for the first time in franchise history today. Offseason acquisition Denard Span is leading off, and Stephen Strasburg is on the mound. Here's more on the club as we approach Opening Day for a large portion of Major League teams…

  • The team is "not even close" to an extension with Ian Desmond, tweets MLB.com's Bill Ladson. Extension talks between the two sides have never been serious, according to Ladson.
  • The Nationals remain in contact with Chris Young, who has yet to sign with a new team, according to Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington (on Twitter). "The decision is his," said GM Mike Rizzo. Young opted out of his minor league deal with the Nationals last week in search of a Major League opportunity, but had nothing but the highest of praise for the Nationals organization.

East Notes: Desmond, Garcia, Inciarte

It's "possible," though not likely, that the Nationals could sign shortstop Ian Desmond to a contract extension before the season begins Monday, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Desmond is eligible for free agency after 2015, and the Nationals would likely look to acquire the rights to some of Desmond's free agency years if he were to sign with them, Kilgore suggests. Desmond hit .292/.335/.511 in a breakout year for the Nationals in 2012. He avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $3.8MM contract for 2013. Here's more from the East Coast.

  • Orioles manager Buck Showalter likes the depth that new acquisition Freddy Garcia provides, Eduardo A. Encina and Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun report. "He is inventory. He can help us if we have a need," says Showalter. "He can pitch as a starter and out of the bullpen. I like it." Encina and Connolly write that Garcia will start five or six games for Triple-A Norfolk before the Orioles reevaluate how they plan to use him.
  • Outfielder and rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte has won a job with the Phillies, meaning Philadelphia won't be offering him back to the Diamondbacks, Tim McManus of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Inciarte will be required to stick on the Phillies' 25-man roster throughout the season. Inciarte spent 2012 at Class A South Bend and Class A+ Visalia. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says Inciarte "may be a little overmatched offensively," but can provide help on defense.