Washington Nationals Rumors

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

Nationals Nearing Deal To Acquire Jonathan Papelbon

4:54pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that if the trade is completed, part of the agreement is that Papelbon will close for the Nationals, and he will be signed for the 2016 season. In a followup tweet, Rosenthal clarifies that Papelbon will be taking millions less to leave the Phillies, so it seems the final season of his deal will be restructured.

4:17pm: The Phillies and Nationals are “at the finish line” and “jumping through [the] final hoop” on the trade, reports Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter links). The Nationals will send a Double-A pitcher to the Phillies in exchange for Papelbon. It’s unclear if any other pieces are involved or if the Phillies are including any cash in the deal.

3:42pm: Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that Papelbon does still have a locker in the Phillies’ clubhouse, though he has not arrived yet.

3:05pm: The Nationals are nearing a deal to acquire closer Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that there was a deal in the works, but both Jim Bowden and Jayson Stark of ESPN reported that there were hurdles to be cleared before a deal was struck. It would seem, based on Svrluga’s report, that those hurdles have been addressed or are nearly cleared.

Among the roadblocks that needed to be resolved were Papelbon’s no-trade clause, his $13MM vesting option for the 2016 season and his adamant desire to remain a closer upon a trade to a new team.

The Nationals, of course, have Drew Storen pitching exceptionally well in the ninth inning this season, but if and when a deal is finalized, he seems likely to slide back to the eighth inning, returning to a setup role which he has handled with aplomb in the past. This season, Storen has saved 29 games and worked to a 1.73 ERA, averaging 10.9 strikeouts and just 2.2 walks per nine innings pitched.

A need for a late-inning reliever, then, might not appear to be a strong one for the Nationals, but the rest of the bullpen has been suspect. When subtracting Storen’s 36 1/3 dominant innings, the Nationals’ other relievers have combined to post a considerably less dominant 3.68 ERA.

Papelbon will unquestionably deepen the team’s bullpen, though he may not necessarily be an improvement over Storen in the ninth inning. However, if he does inherit the ninth, he’ll allow Nationals manager Matt Williams more flexibility when using Storen. Williams has deployed Storen, his best reliever, in the eighth inning just once this season, and he’s never used him for more than three outs. Whether or not Storen will be available in multi-inning (or at least four- and five-out situations) remains to be seen, but the Nats will now have a pair of relievers with sub-2.00 ERAs to close out the final two innings of the game.

For all the talk about Papelbon’s diminished velocity, he remains an elite reliever. He’s pitched to a 1.87 ERA dating back to Opening Day 2014, averaging 8.7 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9 in 106 innings of relief. Though he’s now averaging just over 91 mph on his heater, Papelbon has improved his control and become a significantly more ground-ball-oriented pitcher. His 51.9 percent ground-ball rate is the highest of his career and comes in a full 13 percent above his career mark of 38.9 percent. The result of his new approach on the hill has been a 1.59 ERA that would represent the second-best mark of his career and his best since 2006, were the season to end today.

Papelbon is earning $13MM in 2015, and about $4.9MM of that sum remains through season’s end. He’s already finished 34 games in 2015, leaving him 21 games shy of reaching the 55 games finished that are required for his $13MM option for the 2016 season to automatically vest — a highly attainable goal. While the option has long been considered a detriment to his trade value and may very well still be, the value of that option is hardly unreasonable in light of his recent excellence. In fact, Papelbon would almost certainly be in position to receive a much more sizable commitment on the free agent market were he to hit the open market at season’s end.


Phillies Expect To Trade Papelbon; Nationals “Making Progress” On Deal

2:44pm: Talks between the Nationals and Phillies are “very complicated” and the sides still have plenty to work out, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com tweets. Papelbon is still likely to be sent to D.C., but there are “hurdles” to be dealt with, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets.

11:53am: A source tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Papelbon “will be traded” at the deadline.

10:31am: The Nationals are making progress on a deal that would bring closer Jonathan Papelbon to D.C. from the rival Phillies, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. It’s unclear how far off the teams are from reaching agreement, let alone what kind of return is under contemplation.

There had been indications that Papelbon’s market was cooling, but it seems that action has kicked back into gear in recent days. Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com tweets that he’s been left with the impression that the team is confident in getting some kind of deal done involving the controversial closer.

With Philadelphia reportedly amenable to covering some of Papelbon’s costs — which include a $13MM salary this year and a $13MM option for 2016 that will soon vest — he’s a good fit for a Nationals team that is said to be disinclined to absorb salary in the middle of the year. But Philly’s willingness to pay down some obligations also makes Papelbon palatable to other clubs. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki noted yesterday that the Blue Jays and Cubs have also expressed keen interest in the veteran righty.


Latest On Market For Craig Kimbrel

10:18pm: Heyman reports that Kimbrel’s name has “at least surfaced” in talks with the Yankees, but New York’s reluctance to part with any of Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Jorge Mateo would need to change before anything could ever come to fruition. As Heyman notes, the Yankees are checking on nearly all available pitchers, so it’s tough to gauge how much significance to place on the fact that his name has been kicked around.

9:41pm: The Nationals are the team that is “hottest” after Kimbrel, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.

9:43am: The Nationals, Blue Jays and Astros are among the teams to have shown interest in Padres closer Craig Kimbrel, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Astros, though, are concerned with the financial commitment that comes along with Kimbrel in the future, he adds.

While many would think the same should hold true of the Blue Jays, it should be pointed out that Toronto can potentially see Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Dioner Navarro, Marco Estrada and Maicer Izturis depart as free agents this offseason. Additionally, they’ll finally be freed from the burden of the ill-fated Ricky Romero contract this winter. That means more than $50MM will come off their books.

Of course, some of those departures will be offset by a significant increase to Russell Martin‘s salary on his backloaded contract ($7MM in 2015, $15MM in 2016) and arbitration raises to players such as Josh Donaldson, Drew Hutchison and Justin Smoak, among others. (Donaldson’s raise, in particular, will be substantial.) Kimbrel’s remaining $3.49MM salary in 2015 would fit into the Blue Jays’ reported $5-8MM in-season spending limitations, though such a move would also limit GM Alex Anthopoulos’ ability to address the rotation, which is reportedly his focus.

The inclusion of the Nationals is a bit peculiar at first glance, given Drew Storen‘s excellent 2015 season, but the team has had some bullpen issues beyond Storen. And, as the Royals made abundantly clear in 2014, a deep bullpen is a notable advantage in the postseason. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Jayson Stark speculated this weekend that the Nats could make a play for Kimbrel.

As for the Astros, GM Jeff Luhnow has stated that he’d like to add a flamethrower to his bullpen if an upgrade is made, and Kimbrel’s average fastball velocity is 97.4 mph, so he’d certainly fit that description. His four-year contract’s guaranteed salaries escalate in 2016-17, however. Kimbrel is earning $9MM this year, but that jumps to $11MM in 2016 and $13MM in 2017. He’s also guaranteed at least $1MM via the buyout of his $13MM club option for the 2018 season.

Kimbrel got off to a rough start to his Padres tenure, surrendering 10 earned runs (partially on the strength of three homers) through his first 15 2/3 innings. Since May 19, though, he hasn’t allowed a single homer, and he’s reeled off a 0.76 ERA with a 32-to-10 K/BB ratio in 23 2/3 innings. Recent reports have indicated that the Padres are “pushing” to move some of their big-name, expensive assets.



Mets Making Progress On Clippard Trade; Other Teams Still In Play

5:12pm: A deal sending Clippard to the Mets is getting “closer,” Heyman tweets.

2:05pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the Nationals are still considering a reunion with Clippard.

12:25pm: Ben Zobrist is not involved in these talks, tweets Yahoo’s Jeff Passan, who does hear that the sides are making progress on a deal. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets that the Mets have expressed a willingness to send Rafael Montero to Oakland in Zobrist talks, so the two sides have already exchanged names in previous talks. That’s not to say Montero is in play here, just that they’ve talked names in the past, which could be beneficial to these talks.

12:13pm: The Mets are making progress on a trade to acquire Tyler Clippard from the Athletics, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Other teams are still in play, according to the FOX Sports duo, and a deal could come soon. Last night, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a Clippard trade could come as soon as today.

The A’s picked up Clippard in an offseason trade with the Nationals, sending Yunel Escobar to Washington in a one-for-one swap. Clippard hasn’t been as effective with Oakland as he has in previous seasons, though. While his 2.79 ERA is solid on the surface, but his strikeout rate (8.8 K/9), walk rate (4.9 BB/9) and ground-ball rate (20.8 percent) have all gone in the wrong direction this season. He’s benefited from an elevated strand rate and a minuscule .214 BABIP, leading FIP (3.89) to project something far less optimistic in regards to his performance. He’s also posted a career-low homer-to-flyball ratio, causing xFIP to project a more pessimistic 5.31.

Regardless, Clippard does have strong bottom-line results and an excellent track record. He’s posted a 2.63 ERA with 10.4 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 in 393 1/3 innings from 2010-14 working as both a setup man and a closer with the Nationals. He’s owed roughly $3.2MM over the remainder of the season and would give the Mets another arm to slot into the bullpen in the event that they reach the postseason, where Jenrry Mejia is ineligible to pitch due to an 80-game PED suspension.


Athletics Could Trade Clippard As Early As Monday

Tyler Clippard, and not Ben Zobrist, seems likely to be the next Athletics player to be traded, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. That deal could take place soon, perhaps on Monday, with a Zobrist trade coming later. It’s unclear who the Athletics’ trade partner for Clippard will be, although Slusser lists the Nationals, Mets and Yankees as candidates. Clippard has been linked to all three teams in recent reports.

Clippard has posted a 2.79 ERA, 8.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 in his first season in Oakland. He also has 17 saves, although many potential trade partners would likely use him in a setup capacity anyway. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2003 and made his big-league debut with them four years later, and he spent the next seven years pitching in the Nationals bullpen.


NL East Notes: Dietrich, Upton, Hamels, Papelbon

Cole Hamels fired a no-hitter against the Cubs in what could have been his final start for the Phillies. Cubs manager Joe Maddon thinks the studly performance will help the Phillies to land a top prospect, tweets Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. Meanwhile, the Nationals welcomed back Anthony Rendon, and the Braves activated Freddie Freeman. Washington also expects Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman to return soon.

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • The Marlins have drawn trade interest in utility fielder Derek Dietrich, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Miami would move him for the right return. Rosenthal adds that some teams view him as a potential starter at second or third base. Dietrich is hitting .301/.378/.548 in 82 plate appearances at the top level this season. The Marlins have used him as a platoon bat against right-handed pitchers while Dee Gordon recovers.
  • The Mets were rumored to be in pursuit of Padres outfielder Justin Upton, but nothing is imminent, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Upton is currently sidelined with a mild oblique strain. Lin lists Upton and Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes as the top hitters on the market. The Mets have the worst offense of any contender, although tonight’s outburst should help the season numbers. They’re currently third to last in team wRC+. The Phillies and White Sox are the only teams trailing New York. The acquisition of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe will help, but only so much.
  • The market for Hamels includes the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, and Rangers, writes Jayson Stark of ESPN. He mentions the Red Sox as non-traditional buyers with a desperate need to succeed in 2016. Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald tweets that some Phillies talent evaluators are “very high” on prospect Manuel Margot.
  • Earlier today, we learned the Nationals were interested in Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Add the Cubs and Blue Jays to the list of engaged clubs, writes Zolecki. Both Chicago and Toronto are practical fits for Papelbon who has said he won’t accept a trade to serve as a setup man. The Nationals would either need to change his mind or demote Drew Storen despite excellent performance.

Closer Notes: Nationals, Papelbon, Chapman

The Phillies and Nationals recently discussed a trade involving Jonathan Papelbon, but a deal between the two teams does not seem likely, Jake Kaplan of the Inquirer writes. Papelbon would need to approve a trade to Washington, but his preference is to remain a closer, and the Nats already have an excellent one in Drew Storen. Here are more quick notes on relievers.

  • Rival executives think that if the Nationals do make a move this week, it will be a big one, ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweets. Stark speculates that could mean a pursuit of the PadresCraig Kimbrel or the RedsAroldis Chapman. Neither of those pitchers have no-trade restrictions. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi wrote last month that the Nationals and Reds had discussed Chapman.
  • Trading for Chapman might be tricky, however. Stark also tweets that the Reds have asked other teams for three “higher-level” prospects in return for their closer. The significance of that information depends on how good those higher-level prospects are, but it appears they’re in no rush to part with him lightly. The Reds could certainly wait to deal Chapman, who isn’t eligible for free agency until after next season.

Prospect Notes: Lee, Hultzen, Giolito

The Dodgers have announced that Zach Lee has been promoted and will make his big-league debut tonight in a start against the Mets. The Dodgers will announce a corresponding move later today. The 23-year-old Lee, a first-round pick in 2010, was a top prospect list staple before a rough season with Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014. He’s bounced back nicely with the Dodgers’ new Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City this season, though, posting a 2.36 ERA, 6.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 68 2/3 innings. He’ll become the 14th pitcher to start for the Dodgers in a season that’s featured tons of rotation injuries. Here are a couple more notes on pitching prospects, both of them former first-rounders.

  • Mariners pitcher Danny Hultzen, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft, has been shut down with shoulder fatigue and is unlikely to pitch the rest of the season, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports (Twitter links). The Mariners hope he’ll be able to pitch in the Arizona Fall League or in instructs. It’s been a very rough ride for the 25-year-old Hultzen, who has missed most of the last three seasons due to shoulder troubles, including a torn rotator cuff and labrum.
  • The Nationals have promoted top prospect Lucas Giolito to Double-A Harrisburg, James Wagner of the Washington Post tweets. Giolito, who turned 21 earlier this month, dominated at Class A+ Potomac, posting a 2.71 ERA, 11.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 69 2/3 innings there, displaying excellent velocity and a great curveball. MLB.com, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN’s Keith Law all ranked Giolito among baseball’s top ten prospects heading into the season, and he’s done nothing to diminish that status since then. Law (Insider-only) ranked Giolito the third-best prospect in baseball, behind only the Dodgers’ Corey Seager and the Phillies’ J.P. Crawford, in a recent update to his list.

Nationals Have Discussed Papelbon With Phillies

The Nationals have had at least some discussions with the Phillies regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon, Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports report on Twitter. While Washington is hesitant to take on mid-season payroll, says Rosenthal, the sides could line up if the Phillies covered a big piece of his remaining deal.

While the match is jarring at first glance, and the two teams have rarely matched up on deals of any significance, we’ve seen other clubs eschew fears of dealing within the division in recent days. And with Papelbon’s market reportedly shrinking, it’s not surprising to see the Nationals choose an opportune time to enter the discussion.

Washington’s interest in the late-inning relief market can probably be categorized more as “want” than “need” — Drew Storen has, after all, been excellent — and it seems there could be some limitations on the methods available. But with the Mets announcing their intentions to push after the division title, and the Nationals struggling with a wide variety of injuries, every edge is important. The club’s pen work has actually been rather good, but another shutdown arm would be most welcome with Tyler Clippard long since dealt to Oakland.

From the perspective of the Phillies, while it may sting a bit to entertain the idea of moving Papelbon to the division’s current powerhouse, the reportedly wavering interest means that all options must be considered. Papelbon himself has been increasingly blunt about his displeasure with remaining in Philly, and it’s hard to imagine a smooth August and September if a deal does not get done.


Heyman On Padres, Tigers, Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, Sox, Reds, Marlins, Yankees

The real question facing the Padres at present is not whether to buy or sell, but how far to go in moving pieces, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. At least one rival GM expects the club to “sell big,” and Heyman says that San Diego is “offering around” closer Craig Kimbrel and starter James Shields, both of whom are under long-term control. While the former would figure to have a wide market, potentially including the Blue Jays, Nationals, and Dodgers, another GM says that he believes the club would have to chip in cash to move Shields. That may indicate that he could become an August trade piece, Heyman suggests, because he could well clear waivers. San Diego is interested in adding a young shortstop, he goes on to note, and has looked at several of the Brewers options (Jean Segura, Luis Sardinas, and top prospect Orlando Arcia).

Here are more highlights from the column:

  • Heyman hears that the Tigers are still weighing their options, too, and have not decided to sell. The club could even add an arm, he says, and is likely to see how its next two series play out before reaching a final conclusion.
  • While the Cubs are indeed willing to consider including Starlin Castro or Javier Baez in a deal for Cole Hamels of the Phillies, a source tells Heyman that the team would not be interested in moving both to add the lefty. Philadelphia’s plans for Hamels remain something of a mystery, but per the report the club may be backing down from its previous high-end demands from clubs like the Dodgers (Corey Seager or Julio Urias) and Red Sox (Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart).
  • There is now virtually no chance that Phillies lefty Cliff Lee will try to make it back this year, and he appears likely to retire over the winter.
  • As they approach the deadline and look ahead to free agency, the Cubs have some limitations on their spending capacity but will nevertheless try to add David Price (at least once he hits the open market). Meanwhile, the team has at least some interest in Reds starter Mike Leake as a trade piece but are somewhat hesitant to pursue rental options. While the Giants have plenty of rotation options, they too have considered Leake.
  • While we’ve just heard a suggestion that the Orioles could reverse course, Heyman says that they are still weighing outfield additions. The team has considered rental pieces like Marlon Byrd, Gerardo Parra, and Justin Upton. And he suggests that Carl Crawford or Shane Victorino could make sense as well; presumably, Baltimore would only be interested in either if their current clubs paid down a good bit of salary.
  • The Orioles intend to make qualifying offers after the season not only to Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, but also to lefty Wei-Yin Chen. The 30-year-old never seemed like a qualifying offer-level player, but was strong last year and has put up even better results in 2015 (while significantly outperforming his peripherals, it should be noted).
  • The Red Sox have received no trade interest in struggling first baseman Mike Napoli, says Heyman, but has gotten hits on Victorino as well as bullpen arms Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa.
  • The White Sox are looking to add some volume if they deal righty Jeff Samardzija, says Heyman. Chicago would like to pick up four young pieces in any trade.
  • While the Marlins have fielded interest in righty Tom Koehler and super utilityman Martin Prado, the club is not interested in dealing either player at present. Meanwhile, Miami is open to dealing veteran Dan Haren, but has rebuffed at least one club that asked for money to be sent along with him.
  • The Yankees are looking at both second base and top rotation candidates, says Heyman, but don’t feel a pressing need to add in either area. New York has no interest in veteran Diamondbacks infielder Aaron Hill, he adds.
  • Be sure to check out the rest of the piece for more notes on many of the teams around the league.