Mike Rizzo Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Nats, Managers/GMs, Kennedy, Martinez, Beltre, Desmond

While Matt Williams is all but certain to be let go following the season, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in his latest Inside Baseball column, a source close to the situation tells him that Nationals GM/president of baseball ops Mike Rizzo “isn’t going anywhere.” The ill-fated acquisition of Jonathan Papelbon and Rizzo’s backing of Williams has led to some speculation about his job, but Heyman indicates that Washington’s top decision-maker is safe. Heyman focuses on the Nats in a lengthy intro to his column, also notably reporting that the “ship has sailed” on the Cubs‘ interest in Papelbon, making them an unlikely destination in a trade this winter. The Nats will try to unload Papelbon, though finding a trade partner in the wake of recent drama surrounding him will prove exceptionally difficult. Heyman also notes that Tyler Clippard and Gerardo Parra were Rizzo’s top two deadline priorities, but he didn’t have authorization to increase payroll, and thus turned to Papelbon, as the Phillies were willing to include money in the deal.

Some highlights from the rest of the lengthy but informative column…

  • In running down current GM vacancies as well as potential managerial openings, Heyman notes a number of likelihoods. Billy Eppler is expected to be offered the Angels‘ GM position, he hears, but the Halos may go with the increasingly popular two-executive format, meaning Josh Byrnes could be hired as president to work above Eppler. Torey Lovullo’s name could surface as a candidate for the Padres, especially given CEO Mike Dee’s ties to Boston. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto could have a tough time with Lloyd McClendon, whom one Mariners person described as even more old-school than Mike Scioscia, and Heyman hears that former Rangers bench coach/Angels front office assistant Tim Bogar could get a look.
  • The Indians will be looking for third basemen this winter and could seek upgrades in center field and right field as well.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich is said to be a believer in young right-hander Eddie Butler, a former Top 100 prospect that has struggled mightily in the Majors. Others in the organization aren’t as sold on him.
  • The Tigers will be looking for a closer and at least one setup man this winter, and they could show interest in the RedsAroldis Chapman on the trade market (though he strikes me as a questionable fit with just one year until free agency). Detroit will also be seeking rotation upgrades on the free agent market, and a few players of early interest are Scott Kazmir, Ian Kennedy and Jeff Samardzija. Trades for rotation help are also possible, though Detroit wants to hold onto Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer.
  • Cuban outfield prospect Eddy Julio Martinez recently worked out for the Royals and had an impressive showing. The Dodgers and Giants remain interested as well, he adds. It’s worth also pointing out that each of those three clubs has already spent heavily enough on international free agents to incur maximum penalties, so the only further repercussion they’d face is further luxury taxation.
  • The Brewers will target rotation help this offseason, and Heyman calls Kennedy a “possibility.” To me, that’d seem like more of the same from recent winters, when Milwaukee added Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse — a pair of mid-range upgrades. Unlike those winters, however, they’re not close enough to contention this time around for me to see the logic in offering Kennedy a four-year deal, especially since he’ll probably end up with a qualifying offer attached to his name. On another Brewers’ note, Heyman writes that the team should listen on Jean Segura, given Orlando Arcia‘s emergence in the minors, though I’m not sure Segura is teeming with trade value following another poor season.
  • Samardzija could be a target for the Yankees, who employ former Cubs GM Jim Hendry in their front office. Hendry was Chicago’s general manager when the team initially signed Samardzija and remains a believer in the right-hander.
  • The D-Backs, Nationals, Tigers, Cubs, Rangers, Yankees and maybe the Braves will all show interest if the Padres decide to move Craig Kimbrel this winter.
  • Adrian Beltre will need to undergo surgery to repair a severe thumb sprain through which he’s been playing for quite some time following the Rangers‘ season.
  • There’s “no chance” that Ian Desmond would accept a one-year qualifying offer, writes Heyman, who presumes that the Nationals will make the offer. Though Desmond’s struggled this year, it shouldn’t be expected that any prime-aged player who isn’t coming off a major injury would accept the offer, in my view. Detractors will state that said player can’t find a similar average annual value on a multi-year deal, and while that may be true, locking in a more sizable payday once free agency is an option tends to be a greater priority. Heyman lists the Mariners, White Sox and Mets as speculative possibilities to enter the shortstop market. Desmond won’t top $100MM, like many once expected, but even with a QO in tow, he’ll be able to handily top $16MM, even at a lower AAV. And, if the offers don’t materialize, he can always sign a one-year deal at or near that rate later in the offseason.

Nationals Notes: Boras, Rizzo, Papelbon/Harper

The Nationals might not be headed to the playoffs, but they’ve certainly owned the headlines today, thanks to the Jonathan Papelbon / Bryce Harper confrontation yesterday (and Papelbon’s subsequent suspension) and Max Scherzer taking a no-hitter into the eighth against the Reds this afternoon. Here’s the latest from Washington.

  • Scott Boras represents a number of key Nationals players, but he rejects criticisms that he has something to do with the team having underachieved lately, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Boras represents Scherzer, Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, Danny Espinosa, and now Gio Gonzalez and Denard Span. Boras, though, points out that he also has several clients each on the Rangers, Cubs and Royals, all of whom are likely or definite playoff teams. “The issue is whenever I have had a number of players on the team, the vast majority of times it goes very well,” says Boras.
  • Nats GM Mike Rizzo’s deal goes through 2016 and contains a club option for 2017, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets. The Nats will reportedly keep Rizzo for next season, although the details of his contract do seem relevant, given the Nats’ high-profile collapse this season.
  • Public opinion understandably (and, from my vantage point, very justifiably) came down against Papelbon for his actions in his dustup with Harper, but responses from players were more mixed, pitcher-turned-commentator C.J. Nitkowski of FOX Sports writes. Some said Papelbon’s behavior was acceptable or that they “would have done the same thing,” seemingly proving Nitkowski’s point that “the clubhouse is like no other place.”
  • Another former pitcher, Dirk Hayhurst of VICE Sports, writes that the fight was the consequence of baseball’s strange culture in which “the preferred tool for teaching is assault, and no one has any idea what that lesson is actually being taught because all the important stuff is not written down anywhere.”
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, meanwhile, argues that criticism of Harper for the altercation is unfair. Harper did run out the ball on the play that led to the fracas, and he’s played hard this season. He’s also been accommodating of media and autograph requests. And he has, of course, played brilliantly, while some of his teammates have foundered.

Latest On The Jonathan Papelbon/Bryce Harper Altercation

Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon had to be separated by teammates after a dugout altercation during the eighth inning of today’s game between the Nationals and Phillies.  As the MLB.com video shows, the two exchanged words before Papelbon grabbed Harper by the throat and shoved him towards the dugout wall.  The issue apparently stemmed from Papelbon’s displeasure that Harper didn’t run out a fly ball that inning.  Somewhat incredibly, Papelbon remained in the game to pitch the ninth inning and was rocked for five runs (two earned) in what ended up as a 12-5 Nationals loss.  Here’s some reaction from around the game to this bizarre incident…

  • I’m in the wrong there,” Papelbon said afterwards to reporters, including MLB.com’s Jacob Emert.  “I’ve talked to Bryce and told him how we feel and we’re on the same page now, which is good….Sometimes in this game there’s a lot of testosterone and there’s a lot of intensity that spills over, and I think that happened today. For me, I can’t allow that to happen in the middle of a game. You handle that after the games or allow the manager to handle that. In that light of it, I’m wrong.”
  • The Nationals have no choice but to part ways with Papelbon in the wake of this embarrassing situation, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman opines.  The team may have to end up releasing him outright and eating the $11MM owed to Papelbon for 2016 given that his trade value is at rock-bottom.  As Heyman notes, “several – and I mean several – major-league GMs declared at deadline time they wouldn’t ever consider touching Papelbon” due to his reputation as a bad clubhouse personality.
  • Matt Williams initially told reporters that the situation was just “a family issue,” though he later clarified that he didn’t see the incident when it actually happened (via tweets from James Wagner of the Washington Post) and only saw footage after his initial talk with the media.  Williams stated that he’s “livid about it” and wouldn’t have allowed Papelbon to keep pitching had he initially seen what happened.  As you might expect, Williams was heavily criticized for both letting Papelbon stay in the game and then criticized again for not being aware of the altercation.
  • Williams is widely expected to be fired in the wake of the Nationals’ rough season, though Heyman reports that the Lerner family considered firing Williams weeks ago but decided to stay the course since the team was still in the pennant race.  GM Mike Rizzo will return in 2016 for “one more chance,” though Heyman wonders if the Lerners could or should make a next managerial hire themselves since Rizzo hired Williams.
  • The Papelbon/Harper skirmish “will be a symbol of an entire season when everything went wrong and every hidden structural weakness in the franchise was exposed,” Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes.  Rather than write off 2015 to injuries and Williams’ managerial tactics, Boswell argues that the Nationals should take the opportunity to examine factors like “organizational culture” to payroll flexibility to even Ted Lerner’s tendency to negotiate free agent contracts directly with agent Scott Boras.

Heyman’s Latest: D-Backs, Freeman, O’s, Samardzija

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has published his latest Inside Baseball column and begins by taking a look at his 25 “heroes” of the 2015 season. Here are some highlights from the rest of the piece…

  • Adding a top-tier starting pitcher and a top closer are the main priorities of the Diamondbacks this offseason, Heyman hears. While the D-Backs probably won’t make a run at “the” top starter (presumably David Price), the team does have some money to spend on a starting pitcher. Previous reports have also stated that the Diamondbacks will renew trade talks for Aroldis Chapman this winter, though the asking price on him has, in the past, been said to be exorbitant.
  • The Braves have shown a willingness to listen to trade offers on almost anyone, but sources tell Heyman that Freddie Freeman probably isn’t going anywhere. Atlanta is also said to be open to a return for Craig Kimbrel — the initial trade was made for the purpose of shedding Melvin Upton’s contract — though the ‘pen will receive a boost when Shae Simmons, Jason Grilli and Chris Withrow are healthy.
  • The Orioles will make qualifying offers to Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen but are not yet certain whether to extend one to Matt Wieters, who has had somewhat of a rough season in his return from Tommy John.
  • Clay Buchholz has been out since July with an elbow injury and will not return this season, according to Heyman, but the Red Sox will exercise his $13MM option for 2016 if he looks good in a bullpen session Sunday. Whatever happens, the Red Sox will look for additional pitching this winter. (Last night, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reported that Buchholz still hopes he can pitch an inning in the Red Sox’ last game of the season.)
  • The White Sox considered offering Jeff Samardzija an extension of around $80MM when they acquired him last season, but Samardzija wanted to test free agency. Heyman reports that Samardzija was disappointed the White Sox didn’t deal him in July, since a deal would have allowed him to pitch for a contender and would have prevented him from being extended a qualifying offer.
  • Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler still looks like the favorite for the Angels GM job, and Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine is another possibility. Heyman also mentions that the name of Padres and Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers has also come up.
  • Though Eppler may the favorite in Anaheim, he’s also one of two finalists for the Mariners‘ GM post, with the other being Jerry Dipoto. Each candidate is in line for a second interview, which could be more than Dana Brown of the Blue Jays and interim GM Jeff Kingston get. Each has interviewed once, as have others, per Heyman.
  • Incoming Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro will retain GM Alex Anthopoulos. Of course, as Heyman notes, that’s hardly surprising given how well the Jays have played recently.
  • Nationals ownership, is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very disappointed with the 2015 team. While nothing is certain, however, GM Mike Rizzo seems likely to return for 2016.

Front Office Notes: Jennings, Brooks, Eppler, Nationals

Dan Jennings has a standing offer from the Marlins to return to the GM seat, but has not yet informed the team whether he will accept, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami seemingly expects that Jennings will slot back in at that role, unless he is able to land a job elsewhere with more conclusive decisionmaking authority. As the Fish continue their front office maneuvering, the club has hired Marc DelPiano as VP of player development, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports on Twitter.

Here’s more on some front office and managerial situations around the league …

  • The Brewers are set to interview Pirates director of player personnel Tyrone Brooks for the open GM position in Milwaukee, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. We have heard some chatter about possible names to watch for the Brewers, but it appears that Brooks is the first reported candidate to receive an interview. Brooks has held his current role in Pittsburgh for about four years, overseeing an impressive delivery of young talent onto the big league roster. He gave an interesting interview with MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch back when he received that promotion, acknowledging at the time that he ultimately hoped to keep climbing the front office ladder.
  • Both the Mariners and Angels have been given permission to interview Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Eppler has long been considered a top general manager candidate, and interviewed with several teams in the past, so it’s no surprise to hear his name linked to multiple openings.
  • The Nationals have dropped two straight to the Mets in hard-to-believe fashion, squandering an opportunity to re-start the division race in the season’s final weeks. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post encapsulates the situation well in his piece on the frustrating turn of events. Despite the obvious cause for disappointment, GM Mike Rizzo says there is no consideration to making a late-season change at manager. “Matt Williams is our manager,” said Rizzo, “and he’s going to lead us through this stretch. I’ve always supported him. We’re not going to talk about 2016 while 2015 is ongoing.” Rizzo himself is not believed to have any job security issues, says Svrluga, though he adds that the team’s ownership can be “opaque” in its decisionmaking.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Nats, Fredi, Eovaldi, Samardzija

Let’s take a look at some of the latest news and notes from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports:

  • Contrary to reports at the time, the Nationals never contacted Dave Dombrowski during his brief open market run earlier this year, says Rosenthal. That only serves to reinforce the notion that GM (and president of baseball operations) Mike Rizzo is not in jeopardy — barring some as-yet unknown conflict between him and ownership. Manager Matt Williams is another matter, of course, and Rosenthal notes that it will be interesting to see how the organization proceeds in assessing its options given Rizzo’s very public support for the man he hired to lead the club on the field.
  • There are some rumblings that Braves players are “frustrated” with skipper Fredi Gonzalez, per the report. Gonzalez has seen his share of replacement rumors, but is under contract through next year. Rosenthal suggests the club may be looking ahead at a new manager for 2017, but queries whether an earlier move should be considered.
  • The Yankees are holding their breath on Nathan Eovaldi‘s elbow, as noted earlier today. Rosenthal notes that the team was aware there was some risk given the relatively young age at which the now-25-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery. Interestingly, he adds that one motivating factor in acquiring Eovaldi was that New York noticed significant splits between the righty’s work with poorly-rated framer Jarrod Saltalamacchia (4.85 ERA last year) and the well-regarded Jeff Mathis (3.58 ERA).
  • Rosenthal also takes an initial look at valuing free agent-to-be Jeff Samardzija of the White Sox. The 30-year-old might be left looking to match James Shields (four years, $75MM) after his uninspiring campaign. Shields obviously had a much more consistent record of quality results, of course, but was significantly older and had accumulated nearly 1,000 more innings when he hit the market. (Note: if you’re interested in reading more on Samardzija’s market situation, check out the lengthy analysis from MLBTR’s Steve Adams in a recent edition of the MLBTR Mailbag.)

NL East Notes: Gordon, Hech, Stanton, Nats, Phils, Braves

The Marlins‘ top two extension priorities over the offseason are middle infielders Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports. It remains to be seen whether Miami will be able to gain traction in talks with the pair, which it already controls through the 2018 campaign. But, per Frisaro, the club is more concerned with striking new deals with Gordon and/or Hechavarria than it is with acquiring any particular player on the open market. A deal with Jose Fernandez still seems unlikely, he writes, and the same holds true of Marcell Ozuna.

More from Miami and the rest of the NL East:

  • While it remains unclear whether Fernandez will make it back to the Marlins this year, slugger Giancarlo Stanton appears to be on track to return to action at some point, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). Stanton began hitting yesterday, though his precise timetable remains unclear. The club will surely be cautious given its place in the standings and massive commitment to the 25-year-old.
  • Nationals ownership is “unhappy” with the team’s performance this year, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It would be hard to imagine any other general reaction to a club that suddenly finds itself below the .500 mark despite a big payroll and high expectations, of course, and it’s not at all clear whether that sentiment will manifest itself in any modification in the decisionmaking structure. Rosenthal goes on to discuss the team’s front office situation, but it all seems to boil down to one key point: change is unlikely unless the Lerner family no longer wishes to place its trust in GM and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo. (For what it’s worth, from my perspective, it seems difficult to blame him for the sudden fall-off of numerous key contributors, and the organization appears well-prepared for a coming offseason that will feature roster turnover at multiple key positions.)
  • The insurance policy on Matt Harrison‘s contract — which was acquired by the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal — could still pay out to Philadelphia, Rosenthal suggests, though there is plenty of uncertainty. As he notes, too, the Phils would need to use at least some of any savings to fill in innings that might otherwise be occupied by the veteran lefty.
  • The future for the Phillies, of course, will depend less on freeing some extra cash than it will on the development of the team’s best young players. Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News profiles one if the organization’s most important assets: 20-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford.
  • Braves reliever Chris Withrow, who was acquired along with Juan Uribe earlier this year, is progressing but likely won’t pitch this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Withrow is still working back from Tommy John and back surgeries. Meanwhile, another Atlanta upside grab — Rule 5 pick Daniel Winkler — is on track to take the bump in fall or winter league action, O’Brien adds on Twitter. Once activated from the DL, Winkler will need to stick on the active roster next year for the club to retain his rights.

NL East Notes: Span, Utley, Hamels, Johnson, Familia

The Nationals activated Denard Span from the disabled list and inserted him into the starting lineup for this afternoon’s game against the Phillies, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. To make room for Span on the roster, Michael Taylor was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse despite slashing .271/.314/.500 in 51 plate appearances this season. “He is one of our future players and needs to play every day,” Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said in explaining the reasoning behind Taylor’s demotion. “We got to see Michael Taylor become a player for us right in front of our eyes. I thought he handled himself brilliantly with some youthful mistakes. The ability level is there. The usefulness of putting it to a Major League setting was there and he took to it very well.

Elsewhere in the NL East:

  • The Phillies have told teams over the past year Chase Utley will not waive his no-trade clause, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in an Insider piece (subscription required) the second baseman, facing a long rebuild in Philadelphia, may have a change of heart like former teammate Jimmy Rollins. Olney also notes rival evaluators believe Cole Hamels wants out of Philadelphia, as well.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez isn’t too concerned with Jim Johnson being roughed up in his last two appearances (four runs, six hits, and two home runs allowed) and will keep the right-hander in the role of the 8th inning setup reliever, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ll see how it plays out,” said Gonzalez. “But from what I saw in Spring Training, and other than these two outings here, I think he’s been fine. We always have a tendency to say what’s the matter with a guy as soon as he gives up something.
  • Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters, including MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, closer Jeurys Familia will remain in that role when Bobby Parnell and Vic Black join the club after completing their rehab assignments. “Certainly, right now Jeurys Familia has pitched well enough,” Collins said. “He is that guy until those other guys show us they’re ready.” Collins adds, in a perfect world, Parnell would be the closer with Black and Familia slotted for the 8th and 7th innings, respectively. Black’s return may be delayed as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets the right-hander will undergo a MRI of his shoulder/neck area.

NL Notes: Harper, Zimmermann, Marlins, Pirates, Rasmus

The latest salvo in Bryce Harper‘s grievance against the Nationals over his arbitration eligibility was fired yesterday when Harper failed to appear at NatsFest, the team’s annual fan convention. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including James Wagner of the Washington Post, “We’re disappointed he’s not here, but he chose not to be here because of the grievance.” Harper responded with a statement provided by his representatives and quoted by Wagner, “I have attended NatsFest each year and always enjoy my experience with the fans, but was unable to attend this year’s event due to matters out of my control. I look forward to next year’s NatsFest.” The grievance hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in New York. If Harper wins his grievance, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $2.5MM arbitration award for the outfielder (as opposed to the $1.5MM base his contract stipulates for 2015), which will create a larger platform for future arbitration earnings.

In other news and notes involving the National League:

  • Jordan Zimmermann reiterated his desire to sign an extension with the Nationals, but only at the right price, reports CSNWashington.com’s Chase Hughes. “If it’s a fair value, like I have said all along, I would gladly sign,” said Zimmermann. “But at the end of the day, it’s gotta be something that’s fair and if it’s not, then I’ll be moving on.
  • The Marlins are not willing to trade either Henderson Alvarez or Jarred Cosart for a first baseman, tweets Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Jackson also reports the Marlins have had more talks with Michael Morse in recent days and he represents the best realistic option to upgrade the position.
  • The Marlins are listening to offers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi; but, while the Pirates view him as a “terrific young pitcher” and “someone we’ll keep looking at,” club president Frank Coonelly says they are not close to bringing him to Pittsburgh, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer.
  • In a separate Singer tweet, Coonelly also downplays the return of Edinson Volquez. “Two years for $20MM not far off for Volquez,” Coonelly said. “He could get that. It probably won’t be here.
  • The Cubs have met recently with Colby Rasmus and are one of several teams to show interest in him, reports Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes identified the Cubs as a potential landing spot for Rasmus back in September while the Orioles and Royals have also been linked to the free agent center fielder.
  • With the elevation of Jeff Bridich to general manager, Rockies manager Walt Weiss has more independence in running the team with the front office no longer maintaining an offfice in the clubhouse and is more involved in player personnel decisions, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post.

Blue Jays Interested In Rizzo To Replace Beeston

6:35pm: Rizzo says the Jays have not contacted him and that he remains focused on his job with the Nationals, Wagner tweets.

2:51pm: The Blue Jays are interested in Nationals GM and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo to replace president and CEO Paul Beeston, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports. The Jays have also been connected to Terry Ryan of the Twins, Kenny Williams of the White Sox and Dan Duquette of the Orioles to fill the position, although all have either been denied permission to interview for the job or have said they’re not interested. What will happen with Beeston isn’t yet entirely clear, with one report indicating that Beeston would remain on the job through 2015.

Rizzo’s level of interest, if any, in the Blue Jays job is unclear, and the Washington Post’s James Wagner tweets that the Nationals haven’t been contacted regarding Rizzo’s potential candidacy. Rizzo signed a new long-term deal with the Nationals in August 2013, which is when he was promoted to president of baseball operations.

Rizzo took over the Nationals’ GM job after Jim Bowden’s departure in 2009. Since then, the Nationals have made the playoffs twice, losing in the NLDS in both 2012 and 2014. He was named the BBWAA’s Executive of the Year following the 2012 season.