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Yesterday, the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga penned a lengthy but must-read column on the dysfunction that has arisen within the Nationals’ clubhouse, including a heated incident between Jayson Werth and manager Matt Williams. As the Post’s James Wagner wrote last night, Williams briefly commented on the column prior to his team’s game, though he offered little beyond the fact that perhaps the whole story wasn’t told. “I think you have to have all the facts. I mean, all of them,” the manager said. “That being said, I’ll hold my comments for now because all of the facts aren’t out there. It doesn’t feel good to have all of these words said. But, it is what it is and we move on from today. I would say that we have a few games to play and we need to play. That’s what I’m concentrating on now, and we’ll deal with it at the appropriate time.”
A few more late-season notes on what looks like a soon-to-be-changing Nationals roster…
- Jordan Zimmermann has most likely made his final start with the Nationals, writes Wagner in a second column. Zimmermann himself acknowledged the strange reality that he may be with a new team next year, admitting that it weighed on his mind a bit in the days leading up to last night’s start. Zimmermann noted that any team will “have a shot” in free agency and it remains to be seen if the Nats will come calling. He sounded like a man not expecting to return, however, telling Wagner, “I made some great friends along the way. I’m going to miss these guys.” Teammates Wilson Ramos, Gio Gonzalez and Ian Desmond all offered the utmost praise for Zimmermann, with Ramos saying, “It’s pretty hard. I want that guy on this team,” and Gonzalez referring to his longtime rotation-made as a “…bulldog, a workhorse, a top-of-the-rotation son of a gun.”
- Doug Fister will also probably be with a new team in 2016, as the Post’s Chelsea Janes writes. Though he struggled in 2015 and was eventually demoted to the bullpen, Fister doesn’t feel that the move to the bullpen is permanent. “I still think I have a starting role somewhere, whether it’s here or somewhere else,” he explains to Janes. The two sides discussed a contract extension at one point in the past, per Janes, but even a qualifying offer now may seem too risky a proposition for the Nats. Fister says he feels no regret over not signing a multi-year deal previously and hasn’t given much thought to free agency just yet, with the exception of the fact that he’d like to sign somewhere that will give him an opportunity to return to the rotation.
- Matt den Dekker has reworked his mechanics at the plate, writes MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, leading to greater success in his latest recall from Triple-A and perhaps helping him factor into the team’s 2016 plans. According to den Dekker, he’s added a leg kick which helps his timing and pitch recognition. Williams praised den Dekker’s ability to play all three outfield positions and the power he’s shown in 2015. As the manager notes, the Nats’ lineup is very right-handed, so den Dekker’s left-handed bat could be of use going forward.
Thanks for all of your questions this week. Remember that you can ask about whatever is on your mind in our Tuesday afternoon chats (~2pm central) or through the Mailbag email address (email@example.com). On to this week’s questions…
The two sides haven’t had any serious talks about an extension yet, though there’s also some mutual interest in Heyward staying beyond 2015. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked the outfielder as having the second-most earning potential of any 2015-16 free agent, so it would take easily the largest contract in Cardinals franchise history to bring Heyward back into the fold. If Heyward did leave, the 2016 St. Louis starting outfield projects as Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, with Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos as backups, which could leave room for another veteran outfielder to be brought in at a lower price than Heyward will command. Does a year of excellent play from Heyward, a month of Jordan Walden and a compensatory first-round draft pick (due to the qualifying offer) equal four years of control over Miller and prospect Tyrell Jenkins? That’s a question that might take a few more years to answer, though the Cards would instantly chalk it up as a win if Heyward helps them win a championship. I’d guess that St. Louis will make a strong play to re-sign Heyward this offseason, though if the bidding gets really high (into the $180MM-$200MM range), that might be too expensive for the Cards’ liking.
Care to handicap the odds that Sandy Alderson extends a QO to Daniel Murphy? If offered is there any chance that Murph becomes the first player to ever accept? I’d imagine his agent will make lots of noise that he would “love to stay in NY on a 1 year deal to finish the job” in an attempt to bluff the Mets out of hurting his market value. — Cliff P
The upcoming class of free agent second and third basemen isn’t very deep, so I’d expect Murphy would indeed reject a qualifying offer in search of a healthy multi-year deal elsewhere. He should be able to find such a deal despite the draft pick compensation attached to his services, though Cliff is probably right in thinking that Murphy’s market will take a hit from the QO. If Murphy did break precedent and accept, it wouldn’t be the worst outcome for the Mets; a one-year/$16MM deal for an everyday second baseman who can also be something of a poor man’s Ben Zobrist in his ability to fill in at multiple other positions.
I’m leaning towards no. Anibal Sanchez is the only notable starting pitcher Dave Dombrowski has ever acquired in free agency, and even then Sanchez was re-signed after originally coming to the Tigers in a midseason deal. Dombrowski’s past history with starting pitcher contracts (hat tip to the MLBTR Transaction Tracker) indicates that he is more likely to obtain an ace via trade. Dombrowski could change tactics given his new surroundings and input from whomever is hired as the new Red Sox GM, though my guess is that if the Sox do land a top-tier arm this winter, it will be by dealing from their deep farm system.
What is Bronson Arroyo‘s current standing with the Dodgers? Will he ever be able to pitch in the majors again, this year or next? — Jack S
Arroyo underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2014. He said in June that he was hoping to return to action by mid-August, there has been no recent word on his status now that August has come and gone. As such, he’s almost certainly not going to pitch this season. The Dodgers have a $13MM club option on Arroyo for 2016 that is sure to be bought out for $4.5MM (paid by the Braves, as per a condition of the elaborate trade that brought Arroyo to Los Angeles). If Arroyo is healthy, I’d expect he will find a a minor league deal from some team this winter. Arroyo hasn’t hinted at retirement in the wake of his injury, though since he’ll turn 39 in February, you have to wonder if he’ll consider hanging up his spikes if his recovery process is taking longer than expected.
In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal looks at the failed attempt to acquire Chase Utley made by both the Angels and Cubs. Anaheim “blew it” by not adding Utley, opines Rosenthal, as the Halos had more playing time to offer than the Dodgers but didn’t pull the trigger on a deal despite only having acquired “complementary hitters” in July. (That seems harsh, as there’s no guarantee that the current iteration of Utley is anything more than a complementary piece himself.) As for the Cubs, they initially showed interest while Utley was still hurt, but Utley wasn’t comfortable being traded while on a rehab assignment, says Rosenthal, so the Phils waited to put him through waivers. By the time he returned, Howie Kendrick had been hurt in L.A., creating a match with the Dodgers.
Some more highlights from the column…
- As others have noted, the Angels‘ GM opening is a tough sell to prospective candidates because Arte Moreno is more involved than the average owner, and Mike Scioscia has more power than the average manager. One rival general manager described the Angels’ GM role to Rosenthal as such: “You take all of the beatings (from Moreno) and you’ve got no power (due to Scioscia).” Jerry Dipoto resigned from his post this summer due to reported clashes with Scioscia.
- The Blue Jays tried to trade for Ben Zobrist, but the Athletics‘ asking price was Matt Boyd plus other pieces, Rosenthal hears, which was too steep for GM Alex Anthopoulos. Boyd was ultimately one of three pieces used to acquire David Price from the Tigers.
- Rosenthal reports that the Giants are likely to pursue right-hander Jordan Zimmermann as they look to bulk up their rotation this offseason. However, he notes that the Wisconsin native may prefer to return to the Midwest. Zimmermann ranked eighth on the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, though he’s had a couple of rough starts since then.
- The Giants may also consider attempting to unload the final year of Angel Pagan‘s contract this winter. Pagan is slated to earn $10MM next season in the final season of a four-year, $40MM contract after playing in just 167 games from 2013-14 and struggling at the plate in 102 games to this point in 2015. San Francisco could use Gregor Blanco in center field in the event that they’re able to move Pagan.
- The recent trend of teams promoting an assistant GM to GM and a current GM to president (as the White Sox and Giants have done) could continue this offseason as teams try to prevent their top AGMs from departing for GM vacancies elsewhere, Rosenthal writes. The Rangers could promote Thad Levine to GM (and presumably elevate Jon Daniels), for instance, and the Cardinals could promote Mike Girsch (presumably promoting GM John Mozeliak as well). And, should Mark Shapiro end up with the Blue Jays, the Indians could bump Mike Chernoff to GM and make Chris Antonetti president (Cleveland previously did his by moving Shapiro from GM to president and Antonetti from AGM to GM). Levine, Girsch and Chernoff could all attract interest from other teams this winter.
Full Story | 13 Comments | Categories: Angel Pagan | Ben Zobrist | Chase Utley | Chicago Cubs | Chris Antonetti | Cleveland Indians | Gregor Blanco | John Mozeliak | Jon Daniels | Jordan Zimmermann | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Mark Shapiro | Mike Chernoff | Oakland Athletics | San Francisco Giants | St. Louis Cardinals | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays
In his latest Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports provides a laundry list of free agent and trade-related info. He kicks off the piece with a lengthy look at the curiously passive approaches of two teams that were seen as likely to be active sellers: the Reds and Padres. San Diego GM A.J. Preller told Heyman that his team discussed a number of deals and felt that, ultimately, the long-term nature of most of the Padres’ trade chips outweighed the value they were offered. The one notable exception is Justin Upton, who, as first reported by Buster Olney, could’ve fetched Michael Fulmer from the Mets. Regarding Upton talks, Preller told Heyman: “…the evaluation was what we’re being offered versus the value of the pick and having Justin for the rest of the year. There were offers right on the line, but none that made us move.” As for the Reds, Heyman notes that many are questioning the team’s decision to hang onto Aroldis Chapman, who is controlled through 2016, when the Reds may not be competitive until 2017. The Reds backed out of a Jay Bruce-for-Zack Wheeler swap, a source tells Heyman, with a second source telling him that Cincinnati simply “got cold feet” when it came to dealing Bruce. He also spoke to a number of executives who expressed disbelief that neither team was more active at the deadline.
Some more highlights from his column, though there’s far more in the full article than can be summarized here, so it’s worth reading in its entirety…
- The Diamondbacks are still seeking an elite closer after coming up empty in their pursuit of Aroldis Chapman, and they might pursue him again this winter. Heyman lists their priorities as: a closer, a starting pitcher (someone below the tier of Johnny Cueto/David Price) and a bat to slot behind Paul Goldschmidt in the order. The Snakes talked about deals for Jeremy Hellickson, Oliver Perez and Cliff Pennington. They came the closest to trading Hellickson, who drew interest from the Pirates and Blue Jays, he adds.
- Kevin Gausman‘s name was very popular in trade talks with the Orioles, as he was asked for by the Rockies (in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez), the Tigers (Yoenis Cespedes) and Padres (Justin Upton). The Orioles also talked to the Dodgers about Carl Crawford (for a lesser package) but found his injury history and contract too risky.
- Others are “convinced” that the Cubs will land one of the top starting pitchers on the market this winter, with Price as a leading candidate but Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann and Cueto all landing on Chicago’s radar as well. The Cubs are expected to shop both Starlin Castro and Javier Baez this winter. The Padres‘ interest in Baez has been reported many places, though they do have some reservations about Baez’s approach at the plate (as, I would imagine, most teams do).
- The Blue Jays, Astros and Giants all expressed interest in White Sox righty Jeff Samardzija, but the White Sox‘ winning streak plus so-so offers led the team to hold onto the right-hander. Heyman hears that the return would’ve been similar to the one the Reds ultimately got in exchange for Mike Leake, so the Sox simply held onto Samardzija. (Speaking of Leake, he adds that industry consensus pegs Leake as the most likely rental to stay with his new club — perhaps not surprising given Leake’s ties to California and the Giants’ history of retaining such pieces.)
- The Indians received interest not only in Carlos Carrasco, but also in Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber. The Dodgers, Cubs and Red Sox all tried for Carrasco.
- The Rockies were always more motivated to trade Troy Tulowitzki than Carlos Gonzalez, as the drama surrounding Tulo had become soap-opera-esque. The team didn’t shop Jose Reyes after the Tulo deal but did have his name come up in talks; Heyman writes that the Yankees are one club that “may have fit,” as they could’ve used him at second base.
- The Angels made a brief run at Yoenis Cespedes but didn’t come close to landing him. Cespedes won the hearts of Mets fans in part by expressing an interest in signing long-term to remain in Queens, but as Heyman notes, Cespedes did the same in Boston and Detroit without any results. A long-term pact between the Mets and Cespedes is more likely than a reunion with the Tigers though, Heyman writes, as Detroit isn’t likely to enter a bidding war for the outfielder, let alone win one.
- The Dodgers showed more interest in Cole Hamels than they did in either Price or Cueto. They were completely closed off to the idea of trading either Corey Seager or Julio Urias, though. He adds that right-hander Jose DeLeon wasn’t available in talks for rental pieces, which could imply that he was at least attainable in Hamels talks.
- Dan Jennings is expected to be welcomed back to the Marlins‘ front office this winter, when the team will search for a long-term manager to replace him. The Marlins are also planning on trying to extend Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria this offseason, he hears. Talks for Hechavarria went nowhere last winter, and the shortstop’s batting line is nearly identical to its 2014 mark. Defensive metrics are far more impressed with Hechavarria’s work this season, though, for what it’s worth.
- While Rays relief aces Jake McGee and Brad Boxberger were oft-mentioned in rumors leading up to the deadline, other teams came away with the impression that Tampa Bay wasn’t that interested in moving either.
- There’s an “unhappy scene” surrounding the Nationals and manager Matt Williams, Heyman hears. Williams isn’t beloved by many of the team’s players, who feel that he’s “not loose” and “never relaxed.” There are those who have also questioned his bullpen usage, from the decision not to use Drew Storen/Tyler Clippard in the final game of last year’s NLDS to leaving both Jonathan Papelbon and Storen in the bullpen in close road games versus the Mets shortly after acquiring Papelbon (only to have both pitch with a five-run deficit in the next series). Heyman spoke to one Nats player who said the team is loose and has fun regardless of Williams’ demeanor. “I don’t think it affects us,” said the player. “That’s just how he is.”
Full Story | 49 Comments | Categories: Adeiny Hechavarria | Arizona Diamondbacks | Aroldis Chapman | Baltimore Orioles | Boston Red Sox | Brad Boxberger | Carl Crawford | Carlos Carrasco | Carlos Gonzalez | Chicago Cubs | Chicago White Sox | Cincinnati Reds | Cleveland Indians | Cliff Pennington | Cole Hamels | Colorado Rockies | Corey Kluber | Corey Seager | Danny Salazar | David Price | Dee Gordon | Detroit Tigers | Houston Astros | Jake McGee | Javier Baez | Jay Bruce | Jeff Samardzija | Jeremy Hellickson | Johnny Cueto | Jordan Zimmermann | Jose Reyes | Julio Urias | Justin Upton | Kevin Gausman | Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | Los Angeles Dodgers | Miami Marlins | Mike Leake | New York Mets | Oliver Perez | Paul Goldschmidt | Pittsburgh Pirates | San Diego Padres | San Francisco Giants | Starlin Castro | Tampa Bay Rays | Toronto Blue Jays | Trevor Bauer | Troy Tulowitzki | Washington Nationals | Yoenis Cespedes | Zack Greinke | Zack Wheeler
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.