Washington Nationals Rumors

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

Yankees Claim Eury Perez

The Yankees announced that they have claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Nationals. Perez was designated for assignment last week when the Nats claimed Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Twins.

The 24-year-old Perez has a very limited big league track record, as he’s totaled just 13 plate appearances in 22 games with the Nats over the past two seasons. He’s spent most of his time in the Majors as a defensive replacement and/or a pinch-runner. Given Perez’s speed — he swiped 64 bases as a minor leaguer in 2010, 45 in 2011 and 51 in 2012 — it’s not surprising that he’d find himself in such a role.

However, it’s not surprising to see a team express interest in perhaps giving Perez a larger role; he’s slashed .310/.354/.411 in 844 Triple-A plate appearances and is considered to be a plus defender. Baseball America has ranked Perez among Washington’s top 30 prospects in each of the past five offseasons, and their most recent scouting report notes that some scouts give his speed a rare 80 grade on the 20-80 scouting scale.


NL East Notes: LaRoche, Papelbon, Tomas

If you had to ask me now, I would assume that I would have to move on, unfortunately,” Adam LaRoche told CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman about his future with the Nationals.  Though LaRoche is having a strong season and is well-respected within the Nats’ clubhouse, the team may need to create a spot at first base for Ryan Zimmerman next season since Zimmerman is no longer able to play third.  If the Nationals do decline their side of LaRoche’s $15MM mutual option for 2015, expect the veteran to draw interest from several teams on the free agent market.  LaRoche will turn 35 in November but he’s still playing well enough to help any team in need of left-handed pop.

Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • The Phillies haven’t had much success in trying to trade Jonathan Papelbon over the last year and releasing him would be a waste of an asset, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes in an analysis of the team’s options with the controversial closer.  Papelbon’s no-trade clause and 2016 vesting option make it complicated to either deal him or demote him from the closer’s job, so Salisbury notes that the team could just bring him back next season and hope to swing a trade next summer.
  • Also from Salisbury’s piece, he notes that the Phillies were willing to eat $13MM (of half) of Papelbon’s remaining salary in negotiations last offseason.  The Phillies shopped Papelbon to the Tigers but Detroit wasn’t interested due to concerns that Papelbon wouldn’t be a fit in the team’s clubhouse.
  • The Phillies will conduct a private workout with Yasmany Tomas today in the Dominican Republic, Baseball America’s Ben Badler reports, and GM Ruben Amaro will be in attendance.  The Cuban outfielder’s open showcase on the weekend attracted scouts from several teams, and Tomas is expected to have private sessions with multiple teams in the near future.
  • Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had had his leadership questioned by some members of the organization during the team’s September collapse, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports.  Along those same lines, Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC subscription required) thinks the Braves’ woeful performance over the last week has the appearance of a team that has quit on its manager.  The Braves seem on the verge of making a GM change, and while Gonzalez’s job may not be in as much jeopardy, obviously he’d be on the hot seat unless the club improves in 2015.
  • David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution believes (Twitter link) that the contract extensions signed by Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren last February ran through the end of the 2016 season.  Gonzalez and Wren’s previous contracts were both set to expire at the end of the current season.

Nationals Claim Pedro Florimon From Twins

The Nationals have claimed infielder Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Twins, the club announced. This is the move that necessitated the designation of Eury Perez for assignment, which the team also announced.

Florimon, a switch-hitter, slashed .221/.281/.330 over 446 plate appearances in full season action last year for Minnesota. He swiped 15 bases (caught six times) and hit nine home runs. He was worse at the plate in minimal action this year, though did manage a .257/.328/.389 slash in 314 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. Florimon’s calling card, of course, is not his bat but his glove. Depending on one’s preferred defensive metric, Florimon has been anywhere from above average (career 3.8 UZR/150) to outstanding (21 defensive runs saved) in the field.

It is not immediately clear why Washington made a claim on Florimon. He will not, of course, be eligible for the postseason, and the club already has the pennant in hand. On the other hand, the 27-year-old shortstop could conceivably be a utility infield option for the team next year, as he can be controlled for the league minimum. The team has been said in the past to be looking for alternative options at short in the event that an extension cannot be reached with Ian Desmond, but it would seem a stretch to believe that Florimon would figure in those plans.

If Danny Espinosa is traded or non-tendered, a bench spot could conceivably go to a player such as Florimon (who, it is worth noting, has a much better track record hitting against righties). It appears that Florimon also comes with an option remaining, as he was added to the 40-man before the 2012 season but did not spend any time in the minors last year.



Nationals Designate Eury Perez For Assignment

The Nationals have designated outfielder Eury Perez for assignment, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). The speedy 24-year-old missed significant time this year with a fractured toe, but was activated off of the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A in July. Perez was designated to make room for shortstop Pedro Florimon, who was claimed off waivers.

Perez entered the season rated 20th among Nationals prospects, according to Baseball America, after posting a .300/.336/.422 season with 23 stolen bases in his first full year at Triple-A in 2013. That line represented a step up in his slash and a step back in his baserunning output from years prior. In 273 plate appearances this year, Perez swiped 26 bags (against just four unsuccessful attempts) while slashing .310/.371/.409.

Though he remains a reasonably interesting player, Perez seems largely without a place in D.C. and has burned his last option this year. With Denard Span having an excellent season at the major league level and higher-upside prospects like Michael Taylor and Brian Goodwin filtering up, Perez is not a long-term piece for the Nats. On the other hand, it would be somewhat disappointing to lose him without achieving any return.


Minor Moves: P.J. Walters, Cutter Dykstra

Here are some recent minor moves from around MLB:

  • The Blue Jays have released right-hander P.J. Walters, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America. The 29-year-old, acquired by the Blue Jays in May from the Royals, pitched to a 4.82 ERA, 7.9 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9 in 142 innings this year covering 27 appearances, 25 of which were starts. Walters last saw MLB action in 2013 with the Twins.
  • Infielder Cutter Dykstra has avoided minor league free agency by re-signing with the Nationals, Eddy reports. Dykstra, perhaps better known for being the son of ex-MLB outfielder Lenny Dykstra or the fiance of The Sopranos actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, slashed .279/.356/.399 in 433 plate appearances for Washington’s Double-A and Class A-Short Season affiliates.
  • The DodgersRed Patterson is the only player currently in DFA limbo, per MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.

NL East Notes: Soriano, Utley, Kendrick, Eveland

Today is the bicentennial of The Star-Spangled BannerMLB.com’s Doug Miller chronicles the link between our country’s national anthem and its national pastime from the first time it was sung before a baseball game (May 15, 1862) to the great and not-so-great renditions. From the national anthem to the National League East, here are today’s notes from the division:

  • Rafael Soriano is making progress after working on his mechanics, but there is no timetable to reinstall him as the Nationals‘ closer, according to James Wagner of the Washington PostMLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted recently Soriano’s $14MM club option for 2015 will not vest and the Nationals are all but certain to decline the option making him an interesting free agent to watch.
  • Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg won’t speak ill of Ryan Howard or suggest a trade would make sense, but he admits a move to first base could be beneficial for Chase Utley, writes the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Matt Gelb. “I think playing first base would eliminate a little wear and tear at that position,” Sandberg said. “Whether that’s a consideration or not has yet to be seen.” Gelb suggests a plan for 2015 where Utley is slated to play about 130 games with 100 of them at first base.
  • Kyle Kendrick isn’t sure if he made his final home start in a Phillies‘ uniform last night, but it sounds like he’d like to stay put in Philadelphia, if possible. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s out of my control. But if I’m somewhere else, I’ll miss it,” Kendrick told reporters, including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.
  • The Mets have shut down left-hander Dana Eveland for the remainder of the season because of elbow inflammation, reports MLB.com’s Tim Healey. The 30-year-old, who will become a free agent at the end of the season, has had a career year with the Mets posting a 2.63 ERA, 8.9 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9 in 30 relief outings (27 1/3 innings).

2015 Vesting Options Update

The state of next year’s free agent class will be impacted by whether or not players with vesting options in their contracts achieve the necessary playing time to trigger those conditional options. As we near the end of the season, here’s a rundown of these players and their progress toward triggering their options …

  • Nick Punto, Athletics: Punto has a $2.75MM club option that will automatically vest if he spends fewer than 30 days on the disabled list, assistant GM David Forst told reporters at the time of the signing. Though Forst did add that there are other ways for Punto’s option to vest, the health route is no longer available. Punto was only activated yesterday — ten days into the September active roster expansion — after going on the DL on August 3rd. If the option doesn’t vest, the A’s have the choice of picking him up at $2.75MM or buying him out for $250K.
  • Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Weeks has an $11.5MM option that won’t be vesting, as he would have needed to total 600 PA in 2014 or 1,200 PA in 2013-14 and finish the season healthy. He has just 255 PAs on the season, so he’ll fall well shy of that mark. Weeks will also fall shy of reaching 400 PAs, which would have entitled him to a $1MM buyout of his option.
  • Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: Rollins’ option vested earlier this year when he reached 1,100 plate appearances over 2013-14. (He has also made 600 trips to bat in 2014, an independent basis for triggering the provision.) That clause, however, also required that he not finish the year on the disabled list, and Rollins left yesterday’s game with a hamstring injury. Word is that Rollins should be able to return, but with just three weeks left even a minor setback could well end his season. Nevertheless, Philadelphia would need to go out of its way to place him on the DL at this point, with active rosters expanded. And, in any event, the option would still vest if a mutually agreed-upon doctor deemed Rollins ready to start the 2015 season.
  • Dan Haren, Dodgers: Haren needs 180 innings to trigger a $10MM player option for the 2015 season. Heading into his scheduled outing this evening, he has already notched 162 frames. Haren should be in line for at least three more starts (including tonight’s) before the end of the month, and maybe another depending upon how the club approaches the last few games of the year. Having averaged 5.79 innings per start on the year, it will be incumbent on Haren to pitch his way to the option — especially in the midst of a playoff race and backed by a well-stocked bullpen.
  • Mike Adams, Phillies: Adams’ $6MM club option for 2015 would have vested with 60 innings pitched in 2014, but he’s obviously not going to get there with just 17 2/3 innings in the tank. Adams has thrown just 42 2/3 innings in his season-and-a-half with the Phils, and it seems highly unlikely that the team will pick him up at $6MM given his injury troubles. He should, however, be an attractive buy-low candidate given his general success when on the field.
  • Rafael Soriano, Nationals: Soriano’s $14MM club option vests with 120 games finished over 2013-14. While that always seemed a longshot, any realistic hope was snuffed out when Soriano lost his closing gig to Drew Storen, the man he replaced when he signed on with Washington. Whether or not Soriano makes it back into the 9th inning role over the next few weeks, he now sits at 104 games finished over the last two seasons, making it all but impossible for him to trigger the vesting provision. With the Nationals all but certain to decline their club option on Soriano, he should make for an interesting free agent to watch.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa, Cubs: The Cubs hoped that Fujikawa, one of the best relievers in Japanese history, would help to fortify their bullpen when they signed him to a two-year, $9.5MM contract in the 2012-13 offseason. Instead, both player and team received a hefty dose of bad luck when Fujikawa needed Tommy John surgery after just 12 innings last season. He has a vesting option based on games finished, but the 33-year-old has made it back for only 10 1/3 innings in 2014 and surely won’t be crossing that (unreported) threshold.
  • Sean Burnett, Angels: Burnett’s $4.5MM club option vests if he appears in a total of 110 games between 2013-14, but like Fujikawa, he’s been plagued by injury and has no chance of that happening. Burnett has appeared in just 16 games total over the past two seasons and underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year. The Halos will certainly be paying the $500K buyout on his club option.
  • Scott Downs, White Sox: Downs had a $4MM vesting option that would have vested with 55 appearances, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported in June (via Twitter). Though he appeared to be headed in that direction earlier in the year, the White Sox cut bait with Downs and his then-6.08 ERA. He owns a 3.55 mark over 12 2/3 innings with the Royals — who signed him to a separate, minor-league deal — and has now thrown in 53 games, but the vesting clause is now a moot point.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Asdrubal Cabrera

Indians-turned-Nationals middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera will finish his eighth year of MLB action at just 28 years of age, presenting a rare youthful free agent option. He can hit and play up the middle. Yet he left Cleveland as something of a disappointment, and has not generated nearly as much hype as was once expected heading into his first crack at free agency. Once expectations are moderated for reality, however, it is apparent that Cabrera remains a rather intriguing player to watch on the coming market.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies

Cabrera’s free agent case remains difficult to figure. Over the 2007-12 period, he slashed .279/.342/.416 while manning an up-the-middle defensive spot (mostly, shortstop). Though advanced metrics never viewed him as even an average fielder, Cabrera delivered some value on the basepaths and was at least a solid, above-average regular in the aggregate.

That account of Cabrera took something of a turn, however, more recently. Over 978 plate appearances with Cleveland since the start of 2013, Cabrera’s OPS fell beneath the .700 level, making for a below-average bat that significantly reduced his overall appeal.

Nevertheless, in need of a veteran infielder down the stretch, the Nationals made a move to acquire Cabrera at the trade deadline. Notably, the Indians agreed to pay all of Cabrera’s salary in the deal, while acquiring an interesting but little-hyped prospect in Zach Walters. On a busy deadline day, the swap looked like a relatively low-impact, gap-filling move for Washington.

Since heading to the NL East-leading Nats, however, Cabrera has looked energized. He owns a .252/.341/.443 slash in the first 133 National League plate appearances of his career, including five home runs and two stolen bases. His resulting 115 OPS+ looks much more like the marks he was putting up in his heyday. Nearly as importantly, perhaps, Cabrera has looked comfortable at second, racking up 284 errorless innings at the position.

Without question, Cabrera’s late-season run of success at the plate will have a positive impact on his free agency. He has at least suggested the possibility that he is still capable of being the hitter of old; whether he’s convinced scouts, of course, remains to be seen.

The defensive returns, on the other hand, are somewhat more ambiguous. To be sure, proving that he is capable of solidly handling the keystone is a nice feather in Cabrera’s hat. At the same time, misplays have not been the major knock on his glove. Range is the primary concern, and he’s continued (obviously, in a short sample) to receive well-below-average marks in that respect.

So, where does Cabrera fit into the middle-infield market? Things are somewhat more crowded over at shortstop, where J.J. Hardy probably sets the standard and Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew also present possible starting-caliber options. And that assumes that Hanley Ramirez is pursued primarily as a third baseman; if enough serious bidders look at him as a shortstop, the market would look even more crowded.

But Cabrera is perhaps best positioned to benefit from a lack of options at second, given his arguably superior bat (to all but Ramirez, at least) and recent experience at the keystone. Clubs looking to add a new second bagger will find limited possibilities on the market; as things stand, Emilio Bonifacio is probably the most appealing candidate.

Cabrera also has added appeal given that he will not turn 29 until the offseason, making him the youngest shortstop-capable player available to the highest bidder. That holds significant value, particularly when viewed alongside the fact that he does not have any significant recent injury history. Cabrera will also come free and clear of draft compensation, as his mid-season trade ensures that Washington will not be able to make him a qualifying offer. Particularly given the down years at the plate from Hardy (at least in terms of power production), Lowrie (who has been better in the second half), and Drew (who has been awful since his mid-season signing), Cabrera stacks up reasonably well.

In the aggregate, though Cabrera may never take the final step forward to become a truly premium ballplayer, he has shown the ability to produce at his earlier levels and should draw fairly significant and potentially broad interest.  Depending on his performance down the stretch and in the post-season, he still has some capacity to climb up free agent boards and become a sought-after asset heading out of the 2014 season.


NL Notes: Brewers, Thornton, Cuddyer, Anderson

The Brewers‘ recent struggles could lead to firings in Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel writes. The Brewers fired Ned Yost after an ugly two-week stretch in the midst of a contending season in 2008. Now, after spending the majority of the season in first place, the Brewers run the risk of missing the playoffs — they would just miss the second Wild Card if the season ended today. It’s not clear if the Brewers’ skid might cause owner Mark Attanasio to want to make moves involving GM Doug Melvin or manager Ron Roenicke. Here’s more from the National League.

  • Matt Thornton has come up big in the Nationals‘ bullpen since the Nats claimed him from the Yankees, Tom Schad of the Washington Times writes. Thornton has pitched 9 1/3 innings for the Nats so far, striking out eight batters, walking one and allowing no runs in his first stint as a National Leaguer. “Haven’t faced a lot of these guys, so it’s kind of all new,” Thornton says. “But at the same time, they haven’t faced me. So I’m using that to my advantage.” MLBTR readers recently ranked Thornton the fifth most impactful August addition of any team, behind Adam Dunn, Jacob Turner, Jonathan Broxton and Josh Willingham.
  • Rockies manager Walt Weiss would like to see the team re-sign Michael Cuddyer, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “I would like to see him back here,” says Weiss. “I just think he means so much to our club, in ways that go beyond the stat sheet.” Cuddyer has suffered through an injury-plagued season and will be 36 by the time next season starts, but he’s hit very well with the Rockies, posting a .331/.380/.546 line in 142 plate appearances in 2014 that’s similar to his output over a full season last year.
  • It’s unclear whether the Rockies will pick up Brett Anderson‘s $12MM option, Saunders writes. The option contains a $1.5MM buyout. Anderson has been effective this season, but injuries have limited him to just 43 1/3 innings so far, and he hasn’t topped 100 innings in a season in 2010. The Rockies need to try to figure out if Anderson’s injury troubles are likely to continue, and whether they might be able to lure a better pitcher to Coors — never easy to do — with that $12MM.

AL West Notes: Dunn, A’s, McDonald, Ackley

In an excellent piece at Fangraphs, August Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics‘ acquisition of Adam Dunn as the final piece of GM Billy Beane’s playoff roster. Fagerstrom notes that if the A’s play in a Wild Card game — which is very likely — they’ll likely face either Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Shields, Yordano Ventura, Max Scherzer or David Price. Five of the six are right-handed, making Dunn a formidable weapon in such a matchup. Beyond that, Fagerstrom looks at the Athletics’ bench versus a right-handed pitcher and versus a left-handed pitcher, noting that each group is composed of entirely different players (with the exception of Sam Fuld). However, each group will also feature two catchers that can hit reasonably well, an infielder that can play all four infield positions, and a pair of elite defensive outfielders. The balance of the roster is truly impressive, and Fagerstrom’s piece highlights the roster construction particularly well.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • In a lengthy piece for ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown spoke with Beane at length about his team’s bold moves this season and the competition they’re facing in their quest for the World Series. Beane referred to division rival Mike Trout as “the best player who has ever walked on the planet” and said he doesn’t care for the narrative that the A’s are “all in” this season: “Just assume that every move we make in the front office means we’re all-in. We can’t afford a five-year plan, so every move means we’re trying to win every game we possibly can. All-in — I never liked that term. For one thing, I don’t have that many chips to throw into the middle of the table.” Keown also spoke with Jon Lester about his trade from the Red Sox to Oakland, and his piece also contains quotes from assistant GM Farhan Zaidi and Jeff Samardzija. The entire article is well worth the read not only for A’s fans, but for baseball fans in general.
  • Angels infielder John McDonald tells Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he may end up retiring following the 2014 season. McDonald says he’s more than aware of his dwindling playing time — he’s received just 81 PA despite appearing in 81 games this season — and knows the market for 40-year-old infielders isn’t great. “I got more out of my career than I ever thought was possible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t think I’d get a day in the big leagues, let alone parts of 16 years.” For the time being, he’s trying not to even think about the offseason, however, as it’s “just too much fun” to go to the stadium every day in the midst of a pennant race.
  • In a second Fangraphs piece pertaining to the AL West, Tony Blengino (former special assistant to the GM with the Mariners) looks at Dustin Ackley‘s batted ball data in an attempt to determine whether or not his second-half resurgence is legitimate. As Blengino notes, Ackley’s production has soared on pulled fly-balls, and his line-drive production has trended upward as well. The trade off has been some loss of authority on ground-balls, but as he notes, hitters will gladly make that swap. Blengino concludes that Ackley may never become a star, as his previously excellent walk rate now looks more pedestrian, but he’s capable of hitting .275-.280 with a .310-.310 OBP and a slugging percentage around .425 with solid-or-better defense in left field — an asset that seemed unlikely just a few months ago.
  • Also of interest, Blengino discusses how those with the benefit of hindsight may wonder why Trout didn’t go at the top of the draft class when Ackley was selected, but most clubs felt he was too raw to select near the top of the draft despite being an obvious talent. The Mariners had Stephen Strasburg atop their board and Ackley second, and current Reds righty Mike Leake was “likely” their backup plan should anything go wrong with Ackley, whom he says was “considered a pretty obvious second selection back in 2009.”