Stephen Strasburg Rumors
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."
Innings limits and pitch counts are a relatively new phenomenon in baseball, as clubs go to great lengths to protect both their top young arms as well as their investments. No workload limitation in history has garnered as much national attention as Stephen Strasburg's, the 24-year-old former first overall draft pick, first-time All-Star in 2012, and Tommy John surgery survivor.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced this morning that last night's five-run, three-inning outing against the Marlins would be Strasburg's final start of the season, one fewer than originally announced. The skipper cited excessive media attention and other distractions that he felt were hurting the team overall, so he decided to pull the plug at 159 1/3 innings and 28 starts. Strasburg's performance during those 28 starts was Cy Young caliber, a 3.16 ERA with a league-best 11.1 K/9.
Of course, what makes the shutdown so intriguing is that the Nationals are in contention. They own baseball's best record at 86-53 following this afternoon's walk-off win, and are almost guaranteed to make the franchise's first postseason appearance since moving to the nation's capital from Montreal in 2005. A World Series contender voluntarily shutting down their best pitcher is certainly a controversial move worthy of debate.
That said, the Nationals are built for the long-haul. They'll still go into the postseason with a front three of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson, which is as good as any rotation in the game. Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, and other core players are all on the right side of 30 as well. The Nats are as good a bet as any team to remain competitive going forward. Shutting Strasburg down could cost them a shot at the World Series this year, but it may greatly increase their chances of winning multiple titles in the future.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
Early September is always a good time to be a minor league player on the 40-man roster of an MLB team. So far today 21 players have been recalled to the MLB level, where they’ll earn a pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum salary and collect service time. Here are today’s links...
- Congratulations to Wil Myers, who was named Baseball America's 2012 Minor League Player Of The Year. He hit 37 home runs and posted a .313/.387/.600 batting line in the upper minors this year while playing third base, center field and right field. Before long he’ll be hitting in the middle of the Royals’ lineup, J.J. Cooper writes at Baseball America.
- In light of Boston’s disappointing year, Alex Speier of WEEI.com recalls some recent teams that reached the postseason following losing seasons. Rarely have big ticket free agents played a role in these bounce-back campaigns, so it probably makes sense for Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to maintain a disciplined approach to spending, Speier writes.
- Here are some more notes about the Red Sox from earlier today.
- Manager John Farrell said he's "unequivocally" focused on the Blue Jays and acknowledged he has one year remaining on his contract with the team, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports (on Twitter).
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo deserves credit for protecting Stephen Strasburg and taking responsibility for his decision, Tom Verducci writes at SI.com. The decision to limit Strasburg’s innings is a truly modern one, “made with the kind of awareness, statistical study and medical information" that wasn't out there a decade ago, Verducci adds.
Baseball has always been a game for the young and old alike and today captured that sentiment perfectly. First, the young. The Rangers' Jurickson Profar made his Major League debut a memorable one by becoming the second youngest player and only the third teenager to homer in his first career at-bat. Profar, a last-minute substitute at second base for Ian Kinsler, also doubled becoming the youngest player since Andruw Jones (1996) to hit a four-bagger and a two-bagger in his debut and the first AL player to do so since Ken Griffey Jr. (1989). Now, the old. The Astros celebrated Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton's 85th birthday with a bobblehead day and induction into the Houston Baseball Media Wall of Honor. This year marks Hamilton's 59th and final season calling baseball games. Elsewhere around baseball:
- Stephen Strasburg will make two more starts for the Nationals with his final one coming September 12 against the Mets, tweets MASNSports.com's Dan Kolko. Manager Davey Johnson made the announcement following the Nationals' 4-3 win over the Cardinals. In separate tweets from Kolko, GM Mike Rizzo confirmed Strasburg's shutdown date saying, "That seems like the right number of innings to end his season. I don't think he's going to fight me on it. I know he'll be unhappy about it. He's an ultimate competitor."
- The Cardinals have decided to include top pitching prospect Shelby Miller in their batch of September call-ups this week, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Miller, the team's first round pick in 2009 who has created concerns over his conditioning and willingness to be coached, redeemed himself in his last ten starts at Triple-A Memphis amassing a 7-2 record, 2.88 ERA, 70 K's, and seven walks while limiting opposing hitters to a .217 average. Strauss says there is no plan for Miller to receive a start and will be used in mop-up situations. The Cardinals will have to add Miller to the 40-man roster before activating him.
- Brandon Inge will likely have season-ending surgery this week after re-injuring his right shoulder last night, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Inge says he wants to return to the A's next season in a utility role, if they will have him.
- Catcher Paul Phillips has decided to call it a career and become a coach at Lipscomb University, tweets the Colorado Sky Sox PR Department (Rockies' Triple-A club). Phillips spent 2012 playing for the Brewers' and Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliates. Phillips, who last appeared in the majors in 2010 with the Rockies, will finish with a slash line of .262/.298/.357 in 91 games over seven seasons with the Royals, White Sox, and Rockies.