- The Nats shouldn’t trade anyone from their loaded rotation, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports writes. Pitchers get hurt frequently, and the Nationals don’t need to deal a pitcher to fix a hole elsewhere — they’re strong all over the diamond and they have a good farm system.
- Scott Boras has said he often negotiates huge deals with owners, not GMs, and it’s unclear whether Nationals owner Ted Lerner was involved in negotiating the Scherzer deal or how GM Mike Rizzo might now plan if he did, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. The Nationals have discussed trades involving Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Stephen Strasburg throughout the offseason, Rosenthal notes. Now that they’ve added Scherzer, though, they could just keep accumulating talent, perhaps adding another Boras client in Francisco Rodriguez or Rafael Soriano for their bullpen.
- The Nationals might now be a “super-team,” Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs writes. The Nationals’ position players already projected for more WAR than any other NL team, and Scherzer’s signing will move them past the Dodgers for the most projected pitcher WAR as well.
- The Red Sox can still use an ace and would be able to pay the high price necessary to acquire Zimmermann, Strasburg or Doug Fister, Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal writes. It would perhaps be more likely that the Red Sox would acquire Zimmermann or Fister, given that Strasburg has two years of control left and would therefore cost more in a trade.
9:08pm: The deal is “close” but will not be completed tonight, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post tweets.
6:54pm: Scherzer is “very close” to signing with the Nationals, although the deal is not yet done, a source tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (via Twitter).
6:10pm: Max Scherzer is talking with the Nationals and one other team about a seven-year contract, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, on Twitter, categorizes the negotiations as “close.” Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweeted earlier the impression around baseball is the Nationals will sign Scherzer, but it was unclear whether a deal was imminent. Tigers President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski denies Detroit is the other team, telling Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press their pursuit of Scherzer is still inactive (Twitter). The New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets the Yankees are not the other team and Rosenthal reports the Red Sox, Astros, and Dodgers are also not in on Scherzer (Twitter links). The Angels aren’t the mystery team, either, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets, and neither are the Giants or Cardinals, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links).
Agent Scott Boras has said it would be an ownership-level decision on whether a team will sign Scherzer and that it could be a “two-step process” – ink Scherzer and then trade another member of their rotation. Barry Svlurga of the Washington Post sees Boras pitching Nationals owner Ted Lerner the notion of signing Scherzer to win the World Series in 2015 knowing the salaries of impending free agents Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Denard Span will be coming off the books for 2016 (Twitter links).
The Nationals have engaged multiple teams over the past few weeks in trade talks for Zimmermann, tweets FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi. If Scherzer signs, Zimmermann is the most likely trade candidate; but, if an acceptable offer for Zimmermann does not materialize, sources tell Morosi the Nationals will look to move Stephen Strasburg (Twitter links).
Washington, amidst reports the club has not had significant extension talks with Desmond, has discussed its All-Star shortstop with other teams, most notably the failed three-way trade involving the Mets and Rays. The Nationals also have not re-engaged Fister in extension talks since last spring and are said to be willing to listen to any trade proposals for the right-hander.
Lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes, who was a 2010 All-Star as a member of the Reds, has officially retired, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports takes a closer look at the 20-year career of Rhodes, whose last appearance was Game 7 of the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals winning him his only championship ring. Rhodes finishes with a mark of 87-70, 4.08 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 33 saves in nearly 1,200 innings covering 900 outings (61 starts) for the Orioles, Mariners, A’s, Indians, Phillies, Marlins, Reds, Rangers, and Cardinals while earning nearly $39MM.
Since Rhodes finished his career in the National League, let’s take a look at the latest from the Senior Circuit:
- One team inquiring about Ian Desmond was told by the Nationals the All-Star shortstop will not be traded, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. However, Rosenthal adds in a second tweet, Washington GM Mike Rizzo is known to operate in a very direct fashion. If he wants a deal, he pursues it aggressively. If not, he will not waste another team’s time.
- Phillies AGM Scott Proefrock told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (audio link) the slow developing market for free agents Max Scherzer and James Shields is not affecting Cole Hamels‘ trade market adding “there’s some teams that haven’t been mentioned that are kicking the tires a little bit.” Those teams which have been mentioned are the Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres.
- When asked about Hamels, Padres President/CEO Mike Dee spoke in general terms telling Duquette and Bowden (audio link) GM A.J. Preller “is looking to improve the team constantly…if we could add a starter of that All-Star caliber, clearly we would be in on that.” Dee also addressed “the new Padres’ approach” of aggressively being “in the discussion” regarding free agent, amateur, and international talent.
- Yesterday, we learned the Marlins‘ interest in Ichiro Suzuki is picking up steam. Today, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports the Marlins are open to offering Ichiro a two-year deal.
- Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post covers the 26 most pressing issues and questions (from A-to-Z) facing the Rockies in 2015. Most center around Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, pitching, and injuries.
- The Cardinals have announced they will renovate and upgrade a baseball field in the hometown of the late Oscar Taveras, in honor of the 22-year-old outfielder who perished in a car accident last October, writes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold.
The Phillies might value Cole Hamels too highly, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. An executive from another team tells Rosenthal that GM Ruben Amaro is looking to make the “perfect” trade and wonders if Amaro feels he has to make exactly the right deal in order to avoid being fired. The Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres top the list of teams interested in Hamels, although the Red Sox are not urgently trying to acquire Hamels, trade talks with St. Louis haven’t gone far, and Hamels’ contract could be an issue for Texas and San Diego. Here’s more from the NL East.
- Amaro says first baseman Ryan Howard is likely to be with the Phillies when Spring Training arrives, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Amaro has made no secret of the Phillies’ desire to be rid of Howard, whose salary ($60MM through 2016) and poor recent performance have made his contract an albatross.
- It remains possible that the Mets could acquire shortstop Ian Desmond from the Nationals, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. Talks between the two sides have not progressed recently, however. The Mets had reportedly discussed a three-team deal involving Desmond and Ben Zobrist with the Nationals and Rays, although Martino writes that the Mets pushed harder to acquire Zobrist rather than Desmond.
- Nationals fans have reason to be wary of the team’s trade of Tyler Clippard to the Athletics for Yunel Escobar, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes. Losing Clippard further depletes a Washington bullpen that’s already losing Rafael Soriano and Ross Detwiler, and Escobar is potentially a declining player whose arrival might signal that free-agent-to-be Desmond will soon be playing elsewhere.
You can add the Marlins to the long list of teams interested in Yoan Moncada, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the Fish are monitoring the Cuban phenom’s market. Frisaro raises the possibility that the Marlins could see the versatile Moncada as a long-term answer in center field if Marcell Ozuna gets expensive through his arbitration years. Given the bigger-spending teams also in the hunt for Moncada, however, Frisaro describes Miami as “probably a long shot” to sign him. Here’s some more from around the NL East…
- Frisaro also wonders if investing in Moncada makes more sense for the Marlins than signing James Shields. While the Fish are still interested in Shields, Frisaro flatly denies that the Marlins are in on Max Scherzer, saying “there is zero chance” of that happening.
- The Rangers have kept in contract with the Phillies about a trade for Cole Hamels, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports, but the biggest obstacle seems to be money. Texas wants the Phillies to cover some of the $96MM still owed on Hamels’ contract.
- The Phillies are “unrealistic in their expectations” in what they hope to receive in a Hamels trade, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford. As was reported earlier today, the Phillies have a firm price tag in mind for Hamels and are in no rush to deal the ace left-hander.
- The Braves are no longer candidates to sign Brandon Beachy, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Atlanta non-tendered Beachy last month but were hopeful of reaching a new deal with the right-hander, who missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery. Beachy was reportedly considering between six offers from interested teams.
- When the Astros had some late concerns about Evan Gattis‘ back and knee, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link) that during those last few hours, the Braves re-opened talks with the Rangers. The details with Houston were worked out, of course, and Gattis is now an Astro.
- The Mets‘ refusal to include Noah Syndergaard as part of a rumored three-team deal was a good call, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines, even though the trade would’ve brought Ian Desmond to Citi Field. Dealing six years of control over Syndergaard for one year of Desmond wouldn’t have made sense, and if the Mets were willing to overpay on the type of extension it would take for Desmond to forego free agency, Davidoff argues that the team should just offer him that big contract next winter when he’s available.
- Also from Davidoff, he hears from Rockies owner Charlie Monfort that a deal that would bring Troy Tulowitzki to the Mets is “not happening.”
- In other NL East news from earlier today, the Braves have no intention of trading Craig Kimbrel, we shared some Nationals notes, MLBTR’s Zach Links spoke to Gattis about his trade to the Astros as part of a media conference call.
The Nationals’ “approach with Ian Desmond has not changed one bit since the end of last season,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters (including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson) today during a conference call. “Ian Desmond is our shortstop. He is the leader of our team. He is one of the best shortstops in all of baseball, and he is going to be the shortstop of the Washington Nationals. With that said, if a deal comes up that we can’t refuse, we will always look to improve ourselves for 2015 and beyond. But it’s hard to replace one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. The deal would have to be pretty elaborate not to have Ian Desmond on this team.” Of course, such a “pretty elaborate” trade was reportedly discussed between the Nats, Mets and Rays earlier this winter that would’ve sent Desmond to the Mets. Here’s some more from the nation’s capital…
- While that three-team deal was scuttled when the Rays dealt Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Oakland, it’s still “not out of the question” that Desmond could be dealt to the Mets, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets. “Nothing is imminent” between the two sides, however.
- Executives around the league who have spoken to the Nationals say the team is still trying to move Desmond, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link). The Nats’ claim that Escobar was acquired to play second base is “spin.” During the conference call, Rizzo was confident that Escobar would fit into the Nationals’ clubhouse and have no problems adjusting to second base.
- The Nationals’ acquisition of Escobar for Tyler Clippard is criticized by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. Boswell opines that the trade was a “Plan C” option from a Nats team that couldn’t pull the trigger on preferred offseason moves, and that the trade threatens to weaken both the Nationals’ bullpen and their clubhouse chemistry.
- Escobar’s presence also seems to imply that Desmond’s time in Washington could be up, as Boswell notes that a big extension for the star shortstop doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. The ongoing dispute between the Nationals and Orioles about MASN broadcasting rights could be a reason why Desmond hasn’t been extended, as Boswell hears from two sources that the Lerner family is “almost phobic about knowing their future revenues before spending.”
The Yankees may not have stowed away their checkbook, as MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reports. Owner Hal Steinbrenner told reporters yesterday that time remained for moves. “It’s not over until it’s over,” he said. “We still have a full month before Spring Training. … [W]e’re still the New York Yankees, all you guys know that. We know what the fans expect. We know what the town expects. We’re not going to be afraid to spend money.”
- If the Yankees are still the Yankees, then so too are the Rays still the Rays. As Andrew Astleford of FOX Sports Florida writes, trading away Ben Zobrist is just the latest reminder of the team’s continued strategies. “These trades are difficult, but they’re a necessary part of how we operate,” said president of baseball operations Matthew Silverman.
- One other hallmark of the Rays method is early-career extensions, and one area of risk in such deals is injury, especially for pitchers. Lefty Matt Moore, who is controllable through 2019 under just such a contract, lost virtually all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. He is in a good physical and mental state, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, and hopes to return to the mound soon while building toward a return to the roster this coming June.
- Topkin also wonders (via Twitter) whether the Braves and Rays could be a match on outfielder David DeJesus. The veteran is owed $5MM this year and a $1MM buyout on a 2016 option, which makes him a reasonably priced target but also does not leave him with a ton of trade value.
- Though Orioles owner Peter Angelos threw cold water yesterday on the idea that momentum was building toward a deal that would result in executive VP Dan Duquette taking over the Blue Jays‘ front office, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that the possibility still remains. If nothing else, Duquette wants the job in Toronto, per the report, which chalks up the Angelos statement to negotiating tactics.
- The Mets should make a hard push to acquire shortstop Ian Desmond from the Nationals, Rosenthal argues in the same piece. The recently-acquired Yunel Escobar provides an alternative to Desmond in D.C., and Rosenthal suggests that including Daniel Murphy and adding prospect value could make the trade palatable for the Nats. While I would not write off the idea entirely, it would seem likely that the Nationals would demand a particularly significant return to move Desmond to a rising division rival.
- Staying in the division, Rosenthal says that the Braves should deal away closer Craig Kimbrel. The righty is an expensive luxury for a non-contending team, says Rosenthal, who does note that the club might get better value for him at the trade deadline. That may well be, but it would be interesting to see what teams would give up now for one of the game’s most dominant arms; I’m guessing quite a bit. For its part, Atlanta is “optimistic about the coming season” and has no interest in dealing away Kimbrel, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets.
- The ship has sailed at this point, of course, but Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution opines that the Braves may not have been in need of such a dramatic renovation. While the plan to re-build around young pitching obviously makes sense directionally, Bradley argues that the team now looks destined to be rather dreadful for the next season or two and wonders whether a less drastic plan could have been pursued.
The Nationals have not had “significant” extension negotiations with shortstop Ian Desmond this offseason, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Though GM Mike Rizzo reportedly met with agent Doug Rogalski at the Winter Meetings, a source tells Ladson that no true negotiations occurred at that time, and that none have taken place since.
Recent reports have suggested that the Nationals have engaged in several trade scenarios regarding Desmond. Most recently, the team was said to have kicked around a three-team scenario that would have sent Desmond to the division-rival Mets, though ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweeted today that New York’s discussions regarding Desmond were “only cursory.”
The 29-year-old has emerged as one of the game’s best shortstops over the past three seasons, a rare 20-home-run hitter at the position who plays solid defense. (Though his offensive production has ticked down successively in each year.) Desmond is also widely cited as a team leader and outstanding clubhouse presence, and is the franchise’s longest-tenured player.
All said, expectations have been that an extension would at least be explored, with the team having already reportedly offered him a deal in excess of $100MM last offseason and Desmond expressing interest in staying put. But the Nats have added a long-term replacement in Trea Turner via trade, which at least reduces some of the future need. And it could well be that Rizzo does not feel a market-value deal would be a wise investment at this point.
Of course, late-spring (or later) extensions are fairly frequent occurrences, and it is far too soon to say that a new deal is not a reasonable possibility.
The Nationals, Mets and Rays discussed a three-team deal involving Ian Desmond, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar before the Rays sent Zobrist and Escobar to Oakland, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The Mets would have received Desmond, with Zobrist and Escobar heading to Washington and the Mets sending prospects to Tampa. The deal ultimately fell through when the Mets declined to part with two prospects from a list of three, one of whom was pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The Mets also discussed acquiring Zobrist from the Rays in a more conventional two-team trade, although the two teams encountered the same hangup regarding prospects.
The structure of the potential three-team deal makes sense, at least on some level, for all sides. The Mets continue to be weak at shortstop, and Desmond would have been an enormous upgrade over Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. The Nationals had been connected to Zobrist, and Escobar, who is under control through 2016 with an option for 2017, would have provided an everyday shortstop for at least the next two years, helping alleviate a headache that could arrive next offseason as a number of key players become eligible for free agency. (Zobrist, who would have upgraded the Nats at second base while also providing them with options in the outfield, would have joined the list of Nationals eligible for free agency next winter, however.) And it’s hardly surprising that the Rays would have asked for high-upside young talent for Zobrist, since that’s what they ultimately got (in Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, who they received along with John Jaso and cash) when they sent him to the Athletics.
Desmond is eligible for free agency after the season, however, and Rosenthal notes that the Mets were concerned about paying a high price for a one-year player, particularly given the possibility that they could sign him next winter anyway. The Rays’ asking price evidently was high, even without knowing who they might have received besides Syndergaard — MLB.com and Baseball America both rank Syndergaard as the Mets’ No. 1 prospect, with MLB.com ranking him the No. 10 prospect in all of baseball. The 22-year-old posted a 4.60 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 133 innings for the Mets’ hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate in 2014.
The Nationals would not have been concerned about having Desmond play for another team in the NL East, Rosenthal writes. The Cubs, Giants and other teams besides the Athletics and Nationals also had interest in Zobrist.
- The Padres are interested in a wide array of hitters, but they’re “all over” Justin Upton, Rosenthal hears. However, now that they’re set to acquire Matt Kemp, the Padres don’t want to trade Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy or Tyson Ross, which might make a deal difficult to line up. They could possibly follow the Howie Kendrick-for-Andrew Heaney model and offer six years of a top prospect such as Austin Hedges or Matt Wisler.
- Seth Smith is drawing interest from the Mariners and Orioles, among other clubs. Trading Smith would be an easier route for the team to take than moving one of Carlos Quentin or Cameron Maybin, neither of whom has much (if any) trade value. The Padres, however, gave Smith assurance that he wouldn’t be dealt this offseason when he signed a two-year, $13MM extension in early July. Then again, that assurance came before GM A.J. Preller had been hired.
- The Nationals recently offered the Mariners both Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond in exchange for right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Brad Miller, according to Rosenthal. However, the Mariners balked at giving up six years of Walker and five of Miller for just one year of Zimmermann and Desmond at a combined total of $27.5MM. Washington also discussed Zimmermann with the Red Sox.
- The Marlins could look to trade Dan Haren if he doesn’t want to pitch for them in 2015, Rosenthal tweets. Haren made his preference to pitch on the West coast (specifically near his wife and two young children) clear when he signed with the Dodgers. At the end of the 2013 season, he discussed the difficulty of pitching across the country from his family with Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, and more recently he said he planned to retire if traded out of the area. Rosenthal notes that the Marlins spoke to Haren the night of the trade, and their preference is for Haren to pitch for their club in 2015. The Angels, who would represent one logical trade partner, given Haren’s geographic preference, have said they won’t be trading for him.