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Stephen Strasburg Rumors
The Nationals are clearly in the process of running much of their roster through waivers, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that shortstop Ian Desmond and left-hander Gio Gonzalez have both cleared revocable trade waivers. Ace Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper were both claimed on waivers and subsequently pulled back, Nightengale adds (Twitter links).
That both Desmond and Gonzalez would clear waivers is a bit surprising, although even in the event that they had been claimed, it’s highly unlikely that the contending Nationals would’ve dealt away either key contributor. Desmond, 28, is in the midst of a down season at the plate but has still been valuable. He’s hitting .244/.296/.422 with 19 homers and 13 stolen bases. Defensive metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved are down on his typically strong glovework in 2014, however. Still, as a shortstop with pop that is owed just $1.74MM through season’s end in addition to $11MM in 2015, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for a club to place a claim.
Gonzalez, also 28, has struggled in 2014 as well (by his standards). The lefty has pitched to a 4.00 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 44.7 percent ground-ball rate. Though his ERA is higher than normal, ERA estimators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel that he’s having one of his better years. Gonzalez is controlled through 2016 ($11MM in 2015, $12MM in 2016) with a $12MM club option for 2017 and a $12MM vesting option for 2018. As noted before, it’s nearly impossible to imagine Desmond or Gonzalez being moved this month.
It’s hardly a surprise to see Harper and Strasburg claimed, but it’s even less surprising that the Nats promptly pulled them back. Harper is controlled through the 2018 season, and while he’s having a down season, he possesses a sky-high ceiling and was excellent in 2012-13 despite playing at the ages of 19 and 20. Strasburg is under control through 2016, and while his ERA is higher than normal, he’s sporting a 10.7 K/9 rate and an even 3.00 FIP. Both are Scott Boras clients, so while an extension is unlikely for either, they’re integral part of the Nationals’ plan in the coming seasons.
Both Desmond and Gonzalez will now be added to MLBTR’s growing list of players that have reportedly cleared revocable waivers.
In an interesting piece for FOX Sports, Dan Rozenson of Baseball Prospectus looks at the increasing proliferation of knuckle-curveballs around the game, and suggests that the pitch could be a better weapon than a traditional hook — especially for hard throwers — due to its more fastball-like release point and typically greater speed. While A.J. Burnett of the Phillies is one of the game’s better-known practitioners of the pitch, many others are less well-publicized and have only recently been identified in the PITCHf/x system.
Here are a few more brief notes from the game’s eastern divisions to start off the morning …
- When Brian Roberts joined the Yankees as their starting second baseman, he not only left the only organization he had known (the Orioles) but stood to replace one of the game’s best players in Robinson Cano. Adapting to his new environs and dealing with that pressure may have explained some of Roberts’s early-season struggles, writes Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. “I think it was more self-inflected than anything,” Roberts said of his slow start. “You try hard, I think. I’ve always said it’s got to be hard for guys to switch teams all the time. I was always so comfortable. It was like riding a bike every year.”
- The Nationals are increasingly setting loose ace Stephen Strasburg, writes Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “I mean, he’s our horse,” said manager Matt Williams. “He’s a guy that can go 120 [pitches].” While Strasburg’s fastball velocity is down and his results have lagged somewhat in the early going — thanks in large part to giving up lots of early runs — he is striking out batters at a ridiculous 12.2 K/9 rate and advanced metrics love his work. Strasburg has thrown 47 1/3 frames through his first eight starts, which lags Adam Wainwright‘s league-leading 58 innings in as many outings. But if the 25-year-old can continue working late into games, he could well make his first push past 200 innings. That could deliver a big bump in arbitration earnings for Strasburg, who netted a relatively modest $3.975MM in his first trip through the process.
The Nationals have announced that they've agreed to terms with pitcher Stephen Strasburg, avoiding arbitration. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets that Strasburg will make $3.975MM next year. He can also earn up to $125K in performance bonuses, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets. Strasburg is represented by Scott Boras.
MLBTR projected Strasburg would make $3.9MM in his first trip through the arbitration process. He also made $3.9MM in 2013 in what was effectively the final year of the Major-League contract he signed when the Nats drafted him in 2009. The Nationals control Strasburg's rights through 2016. The righty posted a 3.00 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 183 innings in 2013.
Let's take a quick look at some notes from the National League …
- Recent Cubs trade acquisition Jake Arrieta is struggling with consistency even while flashing the potential to be a dominant starter, writes Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune. Of course, as MLBTR's Zach Links noted back when he was shipped to Chicago, Arrieta was a nice buy-low, change-of-scenery candidate precisely because of his historical inability to harness his stuff.
- Looking forward to the club's right field opening in 2014, the Mets probably lack the top-end young bat that would be necessary to draw Giancarlo Stanton away from the Marlins, writes ESPNNewYork.com's Mark Simon. (Simon notes that catcher Travis d'Arnaud could fit the bill, but his struggles at the MLB level lower his value and he fills an obvious need for his current club.) Looking elsewhere, Simon tabs Shin-Soo Choo, Hunter Pence, Nelson Cruz, and recent Met Marlon Byrd as potential targets.
- Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg had his start skipped today after experiencing soreness in his right forearm, reports Tom Schad of MLB.com. Though manager Davey Johnson said that a medical examination revealed nothing of concern, the team is understandably proceeding with caution, even as it tries to hang on to the fringes of the Wild Card race. At this point, Strasburg has set himself up for a nice arbitration payday regardless of what happens over his remaining starts. He will enter the process for the first time with a career 2.95 ERA over 421 1/3 innings pitched, with 10.6 K/9 against just 2.5 BB/9, although his relatively low inning totals (he is at a career-high 170) and lack of wins this year (he has just seven) could limit his earning potential somewhat.
The Nationals are keeping their focus on their short-term chances of contending, owner Mark Lerner said during a chat with reporters (including The Washington Times' Amanda Comak) at the team's Spring Training camp. The club's payroll is now over $100MM and while they don't want to go overboard with spending, “this is a special year," Lerner said. "We have obviously incredible talent and there was a couple parts that [general manager Mike Rizzo] wanted and we said, ‘Do what you need to do,’ and that’s basically how it happened." Lerner said the Nats are concerning themselves with the next three seasons and aren't yet concerned about keeping Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in Washington over the long term. The two young stars are team-controlled through the 2016 and 2018 seasons, respectively.
Here are some more items from the Nats' camp…
- Also from Lerner, he said that he and Rizzo would "talk when the time is right" about a contract extension. "I think this is the place where he wants to make his home and we certainly want him to be here, so I’m sure we’ll come to some understanding at some point in time," Lerner said. Rizzo's contract is only guaranteed through this season but the Nationals hold options on the general manager for 2014 and 2015.
- Kurt Suzuki hasn't talked to management about a contract extension but says he'd love to remain with the Nats beyond this season, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports. Washington holds an $8.5MM team option on Suzuki for 2014 that right now seems unlikely to be exercised since Wilson Ramos is waiting in the wings at catcher. It's possible the Nationals could decline the option and still re-sign Suzuki at a lower price.
- Also from Ladson (Twitter link), the Nationals had interest in Chris Young during the 2010-11 offseason but didn't sign him after seeing the MRI results of Young's throwing shoulder. Young had another injury-plagued season with the Mets in 2011 but rebounded to make 20 starts in 2012. The Nats signed Young to a minor league deal today.
The latest on the Nationals…
- Stephen Strasburg hasn't yet qualified for arbitration, but that won't prevent him from earning a salary comparable to that of an accomplished first time eligible starter. Strasburg will earn $3.9MM in 2013, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The right-hander signed a record contract after the Nationals selected him first overall in 2009.
- Adam LaRoche hasn’t been in contact with the Nationals about a possible contract extension in about a week, the free agent first baseman told Bill Ladson of MLB.com (Twitter link). Kilgore reported last week that the sides has established some parameters for a new deal.
The Nationals are sending Ross Detwiler to the mound in a must-win home game against the Cardinals this afternoon. In the meantime here are some Nationals-related links…
- The decision to shut Stephen Strasburg down appears to have irked people around MLB. Baseball executives are rooting for the Nationals to get eliminated from the playoffs, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. One GM said the Nationals “don’t deserve to win it” and another said "I hope they go down in flames. I hope it takes another 79 years before they get back to the playoffs. That's how strongly I feel about it."
- Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post points out that Washington GM Mike Rizzo has financial incentives to win big now, since a contract extension could be at stake (Twitter link). Though the decision to shut Strasburg down was debatable, it doesn’t seem to have been motivated by self-interest. Rizzo's contract covers 2013 and includes club options for 2014 and 2015, according to Kilgore.
- Edwin Jackson's disappointing Division Series start will likely be the last one he makes with the Nationals, Deron Snyder of the Washington Times writes. “It could be, it could not be,” Jackson said. “That’s definitely not the way I wanted to end it.” The right-hander hits free agency this offseason.
The Nationals will host Washington's first playoff game in 79 years today when they welcome Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals to Nationals Park. Here are some links from the NL East…
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests the Mets should sign Russell Martin if the Yankees let him leave as a free agent this offseason. The Mets could use catching help and they know Martin can handle New York while offering a combination of defense, power and youth.
- Multiple teams have tried to buy low on Ian Desmond, but GM Mike Rizzo says he “never one time considered trading him at all," according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (quote via Twitter). Kilgore explains that Desmond’s tremendous year can no longer be overlooked now that he’s producing for the Nationals in the postseason.
- If the Nationals get eliminated from the playoffs, questions about Stephen Strasburg’s shutdown will be coming from within the team’s clubhouse and from outside critics, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports.
- In case you missed it, here’s my offseason outlook for the Mets. A top priority for the club is locking up David Wright, and they’d like to reach a deal for $100MM or so — an unrealistic price in my view.
Sunday afternoon linkage..
- There have been indications that commissioner Bud Selig might rule on the A's move to San Jose by the end of the year, but he may be considering a ruling that could challenge both the A's and Giants to fulfill certain criteria, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "I think there will be an effort to be Solomonesque," said someone who has spoken with Selig. "This is not a 'yes or no' sort of thing."
- Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington says that manager Clint Hurdle's job is not in jeopardy despite the club's recent slide, according to Rob Biertempfel and Karen Price of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review.
- Paul Swydan of Fangraphs believes that if Rafael Soriano opts out of his deal with the Yankees in search of a multi-year deal with an average value of $14MM per year, either he'll be disappointed or the team that signs him will be. Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opined that Soriano would be making a mistake if he cut the cord on his three-year, $35MM contract in search of a better deal.
- The Nationals don't plan on celebrating when they officially clinch a playoff spot as the team has goals within reach more worthy of a champagne bottle, writes Amanda Comak of The Washington Times.
- Stephen Strasburg's season isn't completely over as he's staying involved with the team by playing catch and participating in a rehab program crafted by the Nationals, says Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post. Pitching coach Steve McCatty says the young ace has handled the transition better than outsiders may perceive. “I don’t think he’s ready for a straitjacket, if that’s what you’re getting at,” McCatty said. “… Stephen is doing fine. He’s handling it.”
Daniel Seco contributed to this post.
The first Sunday of the new NFL season has not gone unnoticed by MLB players. The Cubs are celebrating by wearing a NFL jersey of their choice on their flight from Pittsburgh to Houston tonight, reports Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com. But, like their season, the idea wasn't without its pitfalls. While Floridian Anthony Rizzo (Dolphins), Baltimore native Steve Clevenger (Ravens), and Virginian Shawn Camp (Redskins) came prepared, others were left to the mercy of jersey shopping in Pittsburgh. So, newly acquired Jason Berken, a Packers season-ticker holder, had to settle for a Steelers jersey. Enough of the gridiron and back to the diamond:
- The Stephen Strasburg shutdown will test all of Nationals' intangibles: its confidence, cohesion, and just plain stubbornness, writes Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.
- Jake Westbrook will miss his next start for the Cardinals with a right oblique injury. MLB.com's Jennifer Langosch reports Chris Carpenter is a possibility to replace Westbrook on Thursday. Carpenter, who has yet to pitch this year after undergoing surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in his right shoulder, is set to throw a simulatated game tomorrow, but Langosch says the team could switch the schedule should they want Carpenter to step in immediately.
- The Pirates are still developing their offseason plans for Gerrit Cole, the first overall selection in the 2011 draft, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (via Sulia). "We've got to spend some time with him and see where we can place him," Biertempfel quoted GM Neal Huntington as saying. Cole was roughed up in his final Triple-A start (eight runs in just two innings), but Huntingon was philosophical, "The biggest lesson is, Triple-A (batters) can hit 100 mph (pitches). If you keep coming with 100 mph, they're going to keep hitting it. You've got to use all your pitches. Things snowballed on him, things got a little quick for him. He's going to be better for it."