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Jordan Zimmermann Rumors
Dave Cameron of Fangraphs opines that we may be headed for the “most extreme sellers’ market in years” given the unprecedented parity in the American League and a lack of sellers in the National League. Only 8.5 games separate the best team in the AL and the second-worst, Cameron notes, and the worst club (the Athletics) can be reasonably expected to turn things around if one believes in the estimation of a context-neutral system like BaseRuns (of course, Oakland’s hole may be too deep to escape even if their luck turns). In the NL, only the Phillies and Brewers are clear sellers, and even potential sellers like the Diamondbacks and Marlins are loaded with young, controllable players as opposed to appealing veteran assets. The Reds and Rockies may eventually sell also, but they’re close enough to .500 at this time that they may wait until late in trade season to market their players. Cameron adds that if the Rox “really won’t trade Tulowitzki in this market, where there might not be another significant power hitter available, then they should just never trade him.” I’m inclined to agree that it’s difficult to imagine a better market for Colorado to move Tulowitzki, particularly if he continues a torrid hot streak that is silencing any previous concerns about his health.
A few more trade-related notes as we begin to get the time of year when teams will shift their focus to improving the 25-man roster…
- It’s no secret that the Dodgers could use a quality starter, and Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes that the club is looking at the very top of the market. The top Dodgers target is Nationals righty Jordan Zimmermann. Other preferred names include Johnny Cueto of the Reds and David Price of the Tigers. Of course, it’s far from clear what kind of deal would interest contenders like Washington and Detroit, and Saxon notes that Los Angeles has no reason to believe at this point that Zimmermann could be had via trade. While Cueto is obviously expected to be available, it’s hard to imagine the other two arms being dealt barring some significant change (e.g., loss of a major player to injury or a rather dramatic slide in the standings) or serious creativity in structuring a deal.
- Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon has seen his name in the news today, and ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark adds to the reports indicating that Philadelphia is increasingly interested in moving the veteran. Rivals think that the Phils may be looking to deal Papelbon sooner rather than later in order to get out ahead of other clubs that might sell off late-inning arms — namely, the Athletics (Tyler Clippard) and Reds (Aroldis Chapman).
- It remains to be seen what kind of return the Phillies can achieve on Papelbon, but the club’s apparent willingness to keep some of the salary obligations will obviously help on the prospect side of the equation. Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com attempts to gauge Papelbon’s value by looking at recent deals involving late-inning arms, indicating that the club might be interested in bolstering its organization depth with multiple prospects if it can’t pry loose a single player that it really likes.
- The Blue Jays undeniably have a need at the back of the pen, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, but the club does not seem any closer to reaching agreement on Papelbon. While the teams have indeed chatted recently, Davidi says that Philly is still not willing to take on enough of Papelbon’s salary to make an agreement palatable. And Toronto is not looking to part with its better minor league talent, perhaps buoyed by the fact that there is not a ton of demand for Papelbon. The Jays are definitely constrained by financial limitations, says Davidi, who sums it up thusly: “in all likelihood they have one, maybe two moves in them, so they can ill-afford a costly roll of the dice.”
- Twins GM Terry Ryan says that the failure of last year’s mid-season Kendrys Morales signing will not cause the team to pause in pursuing an upgrade this summer, as Derek Wetmore of 1500ESPN.com writes. “I would do it again if I had an opportunity,” Ryan said of the Morales move. “It just didn’t work.” He went on to say that the club is looking to see what it can do to take advantage of its nice start: “We’re doing pretty good and we certainly have to have our eyes open,” Ryan said. “We’re in contention, there’s no secret here. We have an opportunity to do some things and hopefully we’ll be able to.”
Earlier today, we learned the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright could miss the rest of the season after suffering an Achilles injury in last night’s game against the Brewers. GM John Mozeliak has said he will wait to determine Wainwright’s status until the right-hander has been examined by team doctors tomorrow. However, that hasn’t stopped the speculation from bubbling as to how the Cardinals will replace their ace.
Here’s the latest on those rumors and the rest of the news from the National League:
- With the Cardinals set to host the Phillies for four games beginning tomorrow, Cole Hamels tops the list of external options to fill Wainwright’s void. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets the Cardinals do not have the prospects to satisfy the Phillies, but the Dodgers and Red Sox are lurking.
- Besides Hamels, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Bernie Miklasz opines the Cardinals could puruse a high-caliber starter entering their walk year like David Price, Jordan Zimmermann or Jeff Samardzija. Miklasz, who does examine the Cardinals’ internal candidates, also suggests signing Paul Maholm or acquiring an under-the-radar pitcher like the Phillies‘ Aaron Harang.
- Hamels trade talks could accelerate in the wake of injuries to Wainwright, the Dodgers‘ Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu, and the struggles of the Red Sox‘s staff, writes Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Speaking of the Dodgers, the new front office’s philosophy of adding depth with low profile transactions was put into place to weather a rash of injuries and those acquisitions will now become more relevant, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Mark Saxon.
- One by-product of Wainwright’s injury could be a renewed push for the NL to adopt the DH, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. “I wouldn’t be opposed,” Max Scherzer told Heyman. “If you look at it from the macro side, who’d people rather see hit — Big Papi or me? Both leagues need to be on the same set of rules. We keep searching for offense. This would be the easiest way to add offense.” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, as quoted by MLive.com’s Aaron McMann, puts it more bluntly, “When a pitcher goes down with an injury when he’s hitting, you make people second guess the National League’s style of play.“
Tapped by many as the preseason favorites to win the World Series, the Nationals have enough depth on both the Major League and minor league level that their window of contention won’t snap shut if they don’t win it all this year. That said, there is certainly a sense that the window may never be quite as open as it is now, given that four of Washington’s top players are scheduled to hit free agency this winter.
Assuming that Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Jordan Zimmermann all post their usual types of seasons in 2015, all will draw a lot of attention on the open market; MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranks Desmond and Zimmerman fourth and sixth, respectively, in his 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings. Between interest from other teams and the Nats’ already-substantial salary commitments (over $84MM committed to just six players on their 2016 roster, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts), we can safely rule out the possibility of the Nationals bringing all four back. Indeed, some of Washington’s offseason moves seem directed at preparing for a future without some of these players, as I’ll explain momentarily.
The question is, however, will the Nationals bring back any of their free agent quartet? Let’s look at the options…
* Desmond. The shortstop reportedly rejected a seven-year, $107MM extension during the 2013-14 offseason, leading the Nats to explore acquiring a young shortstop at last summer’s trade deadline. Washington got that young shortstop in the form of Trea Turner as part of their three-team deal with the Rays and Padres over the winter, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Desmond and the Nats didn’t engage in significant extension talks, or that Desmond’s name surfaced in trade talks with the Mariners and Mets.
With all this in mind, Desmond’s days in Washington seem numbered, even if the Nationals would be letting perhaps the game’s best offensive shortstop leave.
* Zimmermann. The right-hander’s name was also linked to those talks with Seattle, and Boston also engaged the Nationals about Zimmermann’s services. Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM deal essentially could make Zimmermann expendable, as Washington doesn’t want to ink another starter to another deal in the $200MM range, especially when they’ll also have Stephen Strasburg‘s free agency to deal with after the 2016 season. (Then again, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post recently speculated that the Nats may let both Zimmermann and Strasburg go due to concerns that their arms won’t hold up given their Tommy John histories.)
* Fister. Much of what I wrote about Zimmermann also applies to Fister, though obviously Fister’s free agent price tag will be significantly lower than Zimmerman’s next contract. The Nationals reportedly haven’t discussed an extension with Fister in about a year, so one would think they’re prepared to move on from the 31-year-old righty. That said,
* Span. The team already got a look at life without Span when the veteran outfielder began the season on the DL recovering from core muscle surgery. Top prospect Michael Taylor filled in as Washington’s center fielder and hit .271/.314/.500 in 51 plate appearances, though his defense left something to be desired. Still, Taylor performed well enough that the Nats likely feel as if they have a solid replacement on hand if Span isn’t brought back.
* None of them. As you may notice, I’ve listed several more “won’t be back” reasons than I have reasons for why the Nationals may re-sign any of the quartet. It’s quite possible Washington simply lets all four players go in order to save future payroll space for Strasburg and/or Bryce Harper‘s future extensions. The Nats would also get a boost to their minor league system, as they’d receive at least three draft picks back as compensation if their players signed elsewhere — Desmond, Zimmermann and Fister are locks to receive qualifying offers, while Span could potentially get one too if he has a big season.
That said, it would also be somewhat surprising to see a team with such clear designs on winning a championship soon let four big pieces walk. While Washington has an enviable amount of starting pitching depth, any rotation would suffer in losing two proven arms like Zimmermann or Fister. Desmond, as noted, would leave a big hole at shortstop, and counting on Taylor to replace Span might be putting a lot of pressure on a youngster. Re-signing even two of the four could be a tall order, though I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Nationals bring back one of the four.
One more wrinkle: MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently speculated that the Nats could explore trading Zimmermann or Fister this summer in order to fill any other holes on the roster. Theoretically, this would open the door for Washington to add talent at midseason to bolster their postseason hopes, and then also allow them to possibly sign either traded pitcher in the offseason. As Jon Lester and the Red Sox might tell you, however, it’s very rare to see such a scenario play out with the traded ace immediately return to the club that dealt him away.
Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully is celebrating his 65th anniversary in the booth tonight. His first game was at Philadelphia’s Shibe Park featuring Robin Roberts against Don Newcombe. Incidentally, Roberts is also in the Hall of Fame while Newcombe is often discussed as a snub. Here’s more from around the league.
- The Blue Jays did little to address an obvious bullpen problem over the offseason, writes Mike Wilner of Sportsnet.ca. However, the club might have lucked into a valuable solution in the form of Liam Hendriks. The 26-year-old is averaging 93 mph with his fastball – up about two mph from his career norm. Through six innings, he’s allowed two hits and one walk while recording nine strikeouts. Before anybody anoints Hendriks the closer, it’s worth noting that he has a low 5.3% swinging strike rate. At some point, that rate will either increase, or his strikeout rate will decrease.
- The Nationals must learn to thrive under walk year pressure, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. When Jayson Werth entered his walk year with the Phillies, then-manager Charlie Manuel advised him to test free agency (in more colorful language). Now the Nationals have four key players on the road to free agency. Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Denard Span could all leave after the season, which gives 2015 a make-or-break feel for Washington. Werth and Max Scherzer have advice for their new teammates – acknowledge all the sources of pressure.
Yoan Moncada made his debut in a Red Sox uniform yesterday, though it was not as publicized as the one he’ll eventually make in the big leagues. As David Dorsey of News-Press.com reports from extended Spring Training, Moncada’s coaches and teammates have been impressed with his work ethic early on. While literally only one fan was on hand to see it — Mr. Tony Medina of Fort Myers will have a unique story if Moncada lives up to his contract — the young Cuban banged a stand-up triple in his first plate appearance (video available at the above link).
Here’s the latest from the eastern divisions, featuring some other offseason storylines:
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo confirmed that he held offseason talks with the Red Sox about starter Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reports. Nothing ever materialized despite what “looks like a reasonable matchup on paper,” said Rizzo, who explained that the teams had serious discussions over realistic scenarios. “I don’t think we laughed away any of [the offers],” Rizzo said. “We took them all serious. We were fortunate to be in a position where we didn’t have to move the player and if we would’ve got the right deal we would’ve. The right deal is in the eye of the beholder and we felt like we needed to get legitimate value for who Zimmermann was, and not the fact that he has one year left of control.”
- The Orioles never pursued lefty Andrew Miller this offseason beyond a single “touch-base” conversation, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. That was, of course, not due to any dissatisfaction with Miller’s services down the stretch, but merely reflected the reality that he was going to (and did) command a significant commitment in free agency. Miller — who discussed his free agent experience on a recent episode of the MLBTR Podcast — has continued to dominate since joining the division-rival Yankees, including a lock-down 1 2/3 inning appearance last night at Baltimore.
We just heard that the Angels and Huston Street could continue their efforts to find a new deal before he hits the open market, but the same may not be true of several other prominent free agents-to-be. Here’s the latest:
- Johnny Cueto and the Reds are not expected to reach agreement, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets, confirming the expectations from recent reports. As Cincinnati takes the field, it appears the start of Cueto’s last year with the club.
- The same holds true of Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals, who as Morosi tweets never made progress on a new deal that could have kept him in D.C.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says that he does not foresee restarting talks with first baseman Lucas Duda, as Matt Ehalt of the Record tweets. Of course, it seems likely that Alderson is merely referring to the notion that the team will not look to re-open talks during the coming season, not that it sees no future possibility of discussing a longer-term arrangement.
- Meanwhile, it appears that an extension is all but a formality for the Brewers and GM Doug Melvin, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports (Twitter links). Owner Mark Attanasio says that he is still talking about a new deal with Melvin, with the major question being how long the veteran executive wants to stay at the helm.
Second baseman Dan Uggla has done enough to make the Opening Day roster, but it’s unclear how he’ll be used, writes Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider. After a couple dismal seasons, Uggla is in camp as a NRI. He’s hit a solid .278/.422/.500 after undergoing a new vision treatment over the offseason.
His lack of defensive versatility makes him difficult to roster. The club intends to use Yunel Escobar at second base with Danny Espinosa as a utility infielder. Uggla has an opt out, so he’s unlikely to remain with the organization if he’s assigned to the minors. Per Uggla, he wouldn’t feel comfortable in a reserve role. Once Anthony Rendon returns from injury, it’s hard to imagine the Nationals finding a place to keep Uggla.
- Reliever Casey Janssen will undergo a MRI on his sore pitching shoulder, reports James Wagner of the Washington Post. Manager Matt Williams described the injury as “generally it’s in his lat…it’s not something that’s normal soreness for him.” That’s worrisome because he missed time with a lat injury late last season. He’s also dealt with other shoulder injuries in the past. Janssen signed a one-year, $3.5MM over the winter and is expected to serve as the eighth inning reliever for the Nationals.
- GM Mike Rizzo won’t be tinkering with the roster much in the coming days. When asked if he could add players before the opener, he told reporters, including Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider (on Twitter), “We’re satisfied. We like the team we have.” The injury bug has bitten multiple Nats player, including Denard Span and Rendon.
- The Nationals may allow star pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg to walk via free agency, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. The reason has nothing to do with their performance. Both pitchers received Tommy John surgery in the past. Per Boswell, the “life expectancy” for the reconstructed elbow is eight years. Jeff Zimmerman of FanGraphs estimates that risk of re-injury increases sharply after just 400 to 600 innings. In either event, the injury history may partially explain the club’s willingness to add Max Scherzer over the offseason.
Nationals righty Jordan Zimmermann, one of the team’s proudest homegrown talents, indicated today that a new deal appears rather unlikely, as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington reports. Zimmermann made clear again today that he will refuse to discuss a contract during the season, leaving scant time to revive momentum.
Zimmermann, a Relativity Baseball client, is set to become one of the most desirable free agents in next year’s class. “I’m just not going to talk during the season,” said Zimmermann. “If something gets done before then — which is probably pretty rare right now — then it gets done. But it’s not looking good.”
With Max Scherzer now under contract for the foreseeable future, the Nationals seemingly lost interest in trying to convince the 28-year-old Zimmermann to take a deal that was palatable to the club. The same, perhaps, is true of Doug Fister. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the team will ultimately make a run at inking Stephen Strasburg to a long-term deal, though he too may be too close to free agency for that to be a realistic possibility.
As for Zimmermann, even an average season by his standards should make him an easy $100MM+ free agent. If he can repeat or improve upon last year’s effort (2.66 ERA/2.68 FIP over 199 2/3 innings), then he’ll probably be looking to build on the Jon Lester deal.
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann is willing to discuss a contract extension during Spring Training, but not during the season, CSNWashington.com’s Mark Zuckerman tweets. Zimmermann’s stance would effectively set a deadline on extension talks, since the pitcher can become eligible for free agency after the season. The two sides have not made progress recently, Zimmermann says.
In December, the Nationals were reportedly planning to try to extend Zimmermann, but he was the subject of trade rumors later in the offseason. The Nats also signed Max Scherzer to a huge seven-year deal, possibly reducing both their ability to pay Zimmermann and their need to keep him long-term. If the Nationals don’t sign Zimmermann, he’ll join a loaded 2015-16 class of free-agent pitchers that also could include David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Rick Porcello along with Zimmermann’s fellow Nationals starter Doug Fister and possibly Zack Greinke. Zimmermann currently ranks sixth (behind Price and Cueto) in Tim Dierkes’ 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.
Commisoner Rob Manfred tops the 50 most fascinating figures in baseball, according to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman. Manfred has been pro-active during the first month of his tenure, Sherman opines, by already engaging the MLBPA over issues such as keeping the batter in the box between pitches and being ready to ignite play quicker after half-inning breaks while continuing the pitch clock experiment in the minors with an impetus to have them in MLB by next season. Rounding out Sherman’s top five are: Alex Rodriguez, Matt Harvey, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joe Maddon.
Here’s the latest news and notes from the American League:
- If the Red Sox are to trade for an ace starting pitcher, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald opines Jordan Zimmermann is a better fit than Cole Hamels. Silverman also believes the Red Sox will be better off by parting ways with Edward Mujica and Allen Craig since both are expensive and superfluous.
- The Tigers will receive a medical update on Miguel Cabrera‘s right foot on Tuesday, writes Mlive.com’s James Schmehl.
- Chris Capuano is the favorite to claim the final spot in the Yankees‘ starting rotation, notes Chad Jennings of LoHud.com. The Yankees will also stretch out relievers Adam Warren and Esmil Rogers during Spring Training.
- Reports out of Venezuela (and relayed by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune and MLB.com’s Greg Johns) have Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez suffering a double skull fracture after being struck by a boat while swimming in Carúpano, Venezuela. The 20-year-old right-hander, ranked as the Mariners’ 11th-best prospect by MLB.com, is reportedly in intensive care with his condition listed as serious but stable. Sanchez, who received a $2.5MM bonus when he was signed out of Venezuela in 2011, threw a no-hitter for Class A Clinton in 2013 and last year posted a line of 4.19 ERA, 7.0 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9 in 23 starts covering 124 2/3 innings for Double-A Jackson as the second-youngest player in the Southern League.