Washington Nationals Rumors

Washington Nationals trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Jayson Werth Out At Least Two Months Due To Wrist Fractures

Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth will be sidelined through at least August after a CT scan performed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. today revealed a pair of small fractures in his left wrist, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. Werth “could return as early as August,” if his rehab goes according to plan, writes Ladson, though that suggests that August is somewhat of a best-case scenario. The injury appears to have been sustained when he was hit by a pitch on May 15.

How the Nationals deal with the injury remains to be seen. The team was without center fielder Denard Span for an extended period of time to open the season and elected to patch the hole with top prospect Michael A. Taylor, who performed well in Span’s absence. Certainly, with both Span and Taylor capable of playing a plus center field, it stands to reason that one of the two (likely Taylor) could slide over to left field and more than adequately handle the position from a defensive standpoint.

Taylor was only briefly optioned to Triple-A after Span’s return, and he remains with the club now, though he’s struggled as of late. It’s possible that infrequent playing time has given him trouble, but the 24-year-old has just two hits in his past 26 plate appearances and has struck out in 12 of those trips to the dish. Strikeouts have been an issue for Taylor in the past. Despite a strong .304/.390/.526 batting line in Triple-A last season, he punched out 144 times in 493 PAs (29.2 percent).

The Nationals have some other alternatives in house, including Tyler MooreClint Robinson and the rehabbing Nate McLouth. But, if Taylor struggles for a prolonged period, it’s feasible that the Werth injury could lead them to look outside the organization. Wrist injuries can often lead to offensive struggles even after they’ve healed, so it might make sense for the Nats to safeguard themselves against a temporarily power-sapped Werth as they assess their roster prior to a hopeful postseason run. I don’t expect a significant addition in the near future, though I do wonder if the club might take a look at recently designated Alejandro De Aza, provided the Orioles pay most of the roughly $3.55MM remaining on his 2015 salary.


NL East Notes: Revere, Jennings, Wright, Werth

The Phillies may have lost a trade partner — at least, in the immediate future — when the Mets shipped left-handed-hitting outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to the Angels, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. The Phils and Halos had been discussing a deal involving Philly outfielder Ben Revere deal for some time, per Zolecki, but couldn’t agree upon compensation. While it’s certainly plausible to imagine a swap being revisited between those clubs, Philadelphia appears motivated to deal Revere in the near term, in advance of a coming roster logjam in the outfield. Of course, it is also understandable that Philadelphia would not want to accept a less-than-fair return for the outfielder, who has two years of arbitration control remaining. But it’s not clear that the speedy but power-challenged Revere will command much in trade, particularly since he’s already playing on a $4.1MM arb salary this year.

  • While it’s far too early to judge him, newly-installed Marlins manager Dan Jennings has certainly not been able to effect a quick turnaround from a foundering ballclub. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes, that has pleased some around the game. Jennings himself says he is resolute in both respecting the job and doing everything in his power to produce a winning club. Before hiring Jennings, says Nightengale, Miami bounced around the idea of several more established candidates — among them, Ron Washington, Dusty Baker, and even Ozzie Guillen.
  • Though the Mets are giving every indication that they are not overly concerned with David Wright‘s long-term health, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that the third baseman’s condition — known as spinal stenosis — can be a serious one. A clinician tells Martino that it tends to be degenerative and quite problematic for athletes, though another expert put things in a somewhat more positive light, telling Laura Albanese of Newsday that the condition can be overcome. While New York reportedly has insurance coverage for at least a significant portion of Wright’s contract, in the event of injury, that does not change the fact that his presence is badly needed on the field. And there would seem to be cause for at least some concern that Wright could be limited by the injury moving forward, even when he does return to the active roster.
  • Jayson Werth and the Nationals will hope to learn more about his still-balky wrist when he makes a visit to the specialist who has helped him through prior wrist issues, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Though tests have not revealed any structural damage, swelling caused by a recent hit-by-pitch has yet to subside (though it’s improved recently). Already planned to coincide with an off day for the team, a visit to Dr. Richard Berger of the Mayo Clinic is in order. The Nats will, of course, hope for continued improvement — the team has played well of late, but has done so without receiving any production from the club’s two best hitters of 2014.

NL East Notes: Wright, Amaro, Phillies, Harper

While the Mets hope it won’t come to this, they’re protected against an extended absence from David Wright, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Mets have insurance on Wright’s contract that will cover 75 percent of the money he is owed for time he misses once he is on the shelf for 60 or more days. Given Wright’s $20MM salary this season, that could mean a significant amount of money being put back into the Mets’ pockets in the unfortunate event that their star third baseman is out for two or more months due to the spinal stenosis with which he was recently diagnosed. For a budget-conscious team, that could have a significant impact on the club’s ability to add help on the trade market this summer.

More from the NL East…

  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. apologized today for prior comments that some fans “don’t understand” the game and the process of bringing minor league talent along, writes CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury“I’d like to apologize to the fans,” said Amaro. “I’m a fan myself. I understand the passion and knowledge that our fans have for our game and the other major sports, all the other sports in Philly. The comments weren’t meant to disparage our fans by any stretch of the imagination. I probably used my words incorrectly or poorly. I want to apologize for that.” Amaro reiterated that prospects such as Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin likely aren’t too far from the Major Leagues, but he also stressed the dangers of rushing prospects too quickly. While he acknowledged that he understands why fans want to see the organization’s best minor leaguers, given the lackluster product on the Major League field right now, Amaro said that the team is trying to develop its top talent “at the right pace so that they can be the best players they can be when they get here.”
  • In a radio appearance (transcription via CSN Philly’s Jordan Hall), Amaro conceded that the Phillies likely waited too long to begin the rebuilding process. “Perhaps we waited a year or two too long to try and go into this transition,” said Amaro. “…we decided this offseason … to work from kind of the bottom up to make sure that we can get ourselves to the point where we’re building enough talent in our system to bring them at the appropriate time and to continue that process so that we can be perennial contenders.” The Phillies traded Antonio Bastardo, Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins this offseason in addition, of course, to entertaining offers for Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon. Any of those names could be in play over the course of the summer, and Ben Revere‘s name has been mentioned frequently in recent trade rumors as well.
  • ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick takes a look at Bryce Harper‘s historic start to his age-22 season and the polarizing personality behind the eye-popping numbers. Harper himself admitted to Crasnick that he can have trouble maintaining a level head when on the playing field, referring specifically back to a controversial ejection at the hands of home plate umpire Marvin Hudson. However, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and manager Matt Williams spoke glowingly about Harper’s demeanor off the field, while Jayson Werth offered strong praise for the strides Harper has made as a teammate (though he is quick to specify that Harper has never been a bad teammate by any means). Harper himself took a humble tone when asked by Crasnick about Mike Trout and the frequent comparisons between the two. “I still believe Trout is the best player in the game, hands down,” said Harper. “It’s not about taking a backseat to anybody. I love seeing Stanton hit homers or Kris Bryant do the things he does. I love watching Matt Harvey or Gerrit Cole or Noah Syndergaard come up and throw 100 mph. I cheer for guys. I’ve always been that way.” Fans and detractors of Harper alike will presumably find the piece to be an interesting read.


Minor Moves: Ka’aihue, Roe, Bianchi

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game.

  • The Nationals have released first baseman Kila Ka’aihue, according to the International League transactions page. The former Royal and Athletic was hitting .194/.314/.328 with Triple-A Syracuse after playing in Japan in 2014 and part of 2013. Ka’aihue has hit .221/.305/.382 in parts of four big-league seasons, the last of which came last year.
  • The Orioles have announced that they’ve selected the contract of righty Chaz Roe and optioned lefty T.J. McFarland to Triple-A Norfolk. To clear space for Roe on their 40-man roster, they moved lefty Wesley Wright to the 60-day DL. The Orioles played 13 innings against the Marlins yesterday, so Roe gave them a fresh arm. He pitched two scoreless innings today. The 28-year-old had a 2.19 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 24 2/3 innings for Norfolk.
  • The Red Sox have placed Shane Victorino on the 15-day DL with a calf strain and selected the contract of utilityman Jeff Bianchi. Bianchi played parts of three seasons with the Brewers from 2012 through 2014, playing second, third, shortstop and both outfield corners. He had been hitting .302/.373/.340 in 61 plate appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket.

NL East Notes: Revere, MASN, Espinosa

The Phillies have indeed been talking about a deal involving outfielder Ben Revere with the Angels, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. With Philadelphia moving Cody Asche to a corner role and presumably prepared to give Domonic Brown another shot at the big league level, Revere figures to find himself without a role. Revere is earning a relatively steep $4.1MM salary in 2014 and will be eligible to be tendered arbitration contracts each of the next two seasons.

A bit more from the NL East…

  • Commissioner Rob Manfred left little doubt where he stands on the still-pending legal dispute between the Nationals and Orioles regarding television fees, as Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reports (Twitter links). “Sooner or later MASN is going to be required to pay those rights fees,” said Manfred of the increased payouts awarded to the Nationals by the league’s Revenue Sharing Decisions Committee. Technically, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is the plaintiff in the lawsuit; it is jointly owned by both clubs but controlled by Baltimore, which holds a majority share. That validity of that panel’s decision is the immediate matter at issue in the suit.
  • Danny Espinosa has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals, but his turnaround is due more to a lack of trying too hard than to any intentional adjustments, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. While Espinosa spent the spring hitting exclusively from the right side of the plate, he returned to a switch-hitting approach during the season and has suddenly thrived from the left side. The 28-year-old middle infielder is playing on a $1.8MM contract this year, and can be controlled for two more years via arbitration. Washington gained an extra season of arb control when it demoted him early in 2013. Espinosa has long been talked about as a trade candidate, but with Anthony Rendon injured and Ian Desmond struggling in his final contract year, that increasingly seems unlikely — despite the fact that Espinosa’s value is higher now than it has been in some time.

International Notes: Martinez, Fox, KBO

A few notes on the international prospect front…

  • The Giants were among the clubs to scout 20-year-old Cuban center fielder Eddy Julio Martinez in the Dominican Republic recently, reports MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez (All Twitter links). At this time, the Giants, Yankees, Angels, Blue Jays, Nationals, Rockies, Tigers and Dodgers are all in the mix for Martinez. One scout placed the lofty comp of a young Andruw Jones on Martinez, Sanchez adds, though clearly not every scout will be quite that bullish. Martinez is expected to work out for more clubs this week and is eligible to sign at any time.
  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweeted recently that the Twins are also among the teams to have scouted Martinez (and other Cuban prospects) as of late. Wolfson hears that as many as 17 teams watched Martinez work out late last week.
  • Sanchez hears that interest in Martinez and in Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox is picking up (Twitter links). Scouts love Fox’s tools, and the fact that he is already 18 years of age is actually a bonus in this instance, as he comes with more experience than most July 2-eligible prospects. Fox, unlike Martinez, isn’t eligible to sign prior to July 2.
  • Jung Ho Kang‘s early success with the Pirates will help pave the way for hitters from the Korea Baseball Organization to make the jump to Major League Baseball, opines C.J. Nitkowski of FOX Sports (video link). Manager Clint Hurdle recently revealed to Nitkowski that in Spring Training, he had some concerns about whether or not Kang would be able to handle the increased fastball velocity he’d encounter in Major League Baseball. As Nitkowski points out, that hasn’t been an issue for the powerful infielder to this point; Kang has seen 101 fastballs registering at 93 mph or faster, and he’s whiffed on just five of them in addition to going 9-for-18 on those that he’s put into play. Recent reports have indicated that Kang’s former Nexen Heroes teammate, Byung-ho Park, is hoping to jump to MLB himself next season.

Quick Hits: Martinez, Rusney, Difo, Tabata, Judge

One international scouting director calls Cuban center field prospect Eddy Martinez an “impact talent,” Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs reports (Twitter links). McDaniel credits the 20-year-old with 70-grade speed and 50-grade raw power, joining other recent observers in expecting an eight-figure bonus for the youngster. Though we’ve heard suggestions that a signing could come quickly, McDaniel says it remains unclear whether he’ll wait until the next July 2 period kicks off. Martinez will, of course, be subject to international bonus pool restrictions regardless of when he signs.

Here are some more notes on prospects and promotions:

  • The Red Sox no longer have any good reasons to keep outfielder Rusney Castillo in Triple-A, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com opines. Stats and scouts suggest he is ready, says Edes, and the big league club could use an offensive boost. While the team still has more outfielders than it knows quite what to do with, even after outrighting Allen Craig, Edes says that should not get in the way of Castillo — particularly given the club’s huge investment in him.
  • The Nationals will make a surprising call-up of middle infield prospect Wilmer Difo, the team announced (and as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted earlier today). The 23-year-old broke out last year and earned Baseball America’s seventh slot on the club’s prospect list entering the season. As BA noted, Difo has ample tools, and finally put them to use in A ball in 2014. He had already earned a jump to Double-A this season, where he owns a .308/.339/.500 slash over 56 plate appearances. For now, it seems Difo will just get a taste of big league action while filling in for Jayson Werth, who needs to rest an injured wrist but has apparently avoided serious injury.
  • Outfielder Jose Tabata is headed back to the Pirates today, as Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on Twitter. The 26-year-old once looked like a cornerstone player, but has struggled to maintain consistency in recent years and was ultimately outrighted last season. He has been impressive at Triple-A this year, however, slashing .352/.422/.396 with eleven walks against just eight strikeouts over 102 turns at the plate. Tabata is owed $4MM this year and $4.5MM next season under the early-career extension that he signed. Pittsburgh can also control him for three additional seasons through a series of club options.
  • Towering Yankees prospect Aaron Judge is putting up strong results against Double-A pitching and could be due for a move to the final level of the minors, ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand writes. Judge could be with the club as soon as early 2016, Marchand writes, and he’s not the only prospect making waves. Slade Heathcott, a former top prospect who lost his 40-man roster spot, is enjoying renewed success and has forced himself back into the Yankees’ plans. Said GM Brian Cashman of Heathcott: “He is a legitimate option for us at the major league level.”

Quick Hits: Brown, Martinez, Hamilton

Ollie Brown, known to the San Diego faithful as the “Original Padre” has died of complications from mesothelioma, reports Corey Brock of MLB.com. The outfielder was the first player selected by the Padres in the 1968 Expansion Draft. Brown hit 52 home runs in parts of four seasons with the Padres including 23 blasts in 1970. Brown was 71 and is survived by two brothers, a wife, a daughter, and five grandchildren. We at MLBTR wish to extend our condolences to Brown’s family and friends.

  • Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez could sign for $10MM, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. The 20-year-old is subject to the international spending pool which could affect the bidding. Among the interested teams include the Braves, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, Nationals, and Diamondbacks. New York and Arizona may have an advantage since they’ve already exceeded their bonus pool. Chicago won’t be able to jump into the bidding until July 2nd. It was reported two days ago that Martinez could sign as early as next week.
  • While still with the Angels, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton repeatedly tried to reach out to owner Arte Moreno, writes Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Instead, Hamilton says his efforts were blocked by GM Jerry Dipoto and team President John Carpino. Hamilton attempted to contact Moreno regarding his poor performance last season and again after his offseason relapse. The embattled slugger is currently rehabbing in Double-A and could return to major league action soon. Los Angeles is responsible for most of the remaining $80MM on his contract.

Injury Notes: Fister, Marshall, Greene

Doug Fister received good news regarding his forearm flexor strain, tweets Dan Kolko of MASN Sports. An MRI revealed no issues with Fister’s elbow, according to Nationals manager Matt Williams. The right-hander may resume throwing in a few days. Fister is a free agent after the season so the MRI results are especially welcome. He’s off to a slow start with a 4.31 ERA, 4.08 K/9, and 2.27 BB/9.

Here’s more injury news from around the league:

  • Rehabbing Reds reliever Sean Marshall will need a second shoulder surgery, reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. Marshall is suffering from a torn anterior capsule and will be out for the remainder of the season. His previous shoulder surgery was to repair his rotator cuff. Marshall is in the final season of a three-year, $16.5MM contract. He’ll earn $6.5MM in 2015. His last full season was in 2012 when he picked up nine saves to go with a 2.51 ERA, 10.92 K/9, and 2.36 BB/9.
  • Tigers righty Shane Greene also received good news via MRI, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. The preliminary results of the MRI revealed that the tingling Greene felt in his throwing hand on Friday night was the result of ulnar neuritis. There was some concern that the discomfort could signal a problem with his elbow. Greene underwent Tommy John surgery in 2008. He has a 4.21 ERA, 5.36 K/9, and 2.49 BB/9 in 47 innings.

Injury Notes: Pence, Tanaka, Blue Jays, Fister, Ryu

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is returning to active duty tomorrow, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports on Twitter. Pence has yet to see MLB action this year since suffering a fractured forearm in the spring. The 32-year-old figures to provide a nice boost to the club, which has produced middling results thus far.

Here are some more injury notes from around the game:

  • Another important player who received promising injury news is Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets, Tanaka threw 35 pitches in a BP session today and seems to be nearing the start of a rehab stint. Tanaka’s continued progress is obviously welcome, particularly given that swingman Chase Whitley may be headed for season-ending surgery.
  • The Blue Jays also have some notable situations to watch, with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca providing several updates. Outfielder Michael Saunders will miss four to six weeks to rest his knee. And catcher Dioner Navarro still does not have a timetable for a rehab assignment as he rests his hamstring. More positively, shortstop Jose Reyes is nearing his own build-up through the minors. While Saunders and Reyes are important for the team, the Navarro news is most notable from a transactional perspective. Though he has not done much offensively this year, Navarro could be a useful trade piece for a Toronto club that has other needs — if he can reestablish his health and show more promise at the plate.
  • The Nationals made the surprising announcement today that righty Doug Fister is heading to the DL with right forearm tightness (via Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com, on Twitter). Young starter A.J. Cole, one of the team’s top prospects, will return to take his spot on the active roster. While hidden somewhat due to the attention given to Stephen Strasburg, there is cause for concern with Fister, whose velocity (86.1 mph average two-seam fastball), K:BB ratio (4.1 K/9 vs. 2.3 BB/9), and groundball rate (40.9%) have suffered in comparison to his usual numbers. Of course, the Nationals are somewhat uniquely suited to weather any extended absence, should that prove necessary. But for the 31-year-old free agent-to-be, the first two months of the season have left him with plenty to prove the rest of the way.
  • Hyun-jin Ryu of the Dodgers is still not even scheduled to resume throwing, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports on Twitter. The health of the 28-year-old lefty remains a key sub-plot in the development of the summer trade market: L.A. already profiles as a strong buyer for starting pitching, and its needs would be enhanced greatly if Ryu isn’t able to develop an upward trajectory.