Washington Nationals Rumors

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

NL Notes: Phillies, Dodgers, Nationals

Here are some notes out of the National League:

  • The Phillies have yet to receive an offer that the club deems acceptable for any of its players, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Philadelphia is determined not to give players away for salary relief, and is willing to wait to deal until the offseason, Rosenthal adds. Rival executives counter that the Phils’ asking price is too high given the age and cost of the players it controls, Rosenthal adds in another tweet. (It is worth noting, of course, that several Phillies are very plausible August trade candidates.)
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti discussed his team’s situation heading to the deadline, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports (all links to Twitter). He made clear that he was not interested in moving any of the club’s three best prospects: “We’re not in the market to trade any of the three, period,” said Colletti. “There’s been no player discussed that warrants two of the three.” The GM also indicated that he does not expect to deal Matt Kemp, noting that “no one’s ever heard me say we’re shopping Matt Kemp … that’s all in another world.” Though the market was proving difficult to crack, Colletti said he has concentrated on adding arms.
  • Looking for infield help in the wake of Ryan Zimmerman‘s hamstring injury, the Nationals have considered Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians and Daniel Murphy of the Mets, at least internally, tweets Rosenthal. That does not mean that a deal is close on either player (or, presumably, that discussions have even taken place).

Ryan Zimmerman Has Grade 3 Hamstring Strain

Nationals third baseman/left fielder Ryan Zimmerman has been diagnosed with a Grade 3 hamstring strain, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (via Twitter). That is the most severe form of hamstring strain, involving a tear of half or more of the muscle, and could shelve Zimmerman for a significant stretch. The injury took place on July 22.

The Nationals have already been said to be probing the market for a possible third or second baseman, with the presumed intention of utilizing Anthony Rendon at whichever spot is not filled via trade. The seriousness of Zimmerman’s injury could increase the likelihood of an addition. Of course, the team could stick with its current alignment, with Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters sharing time at the keystone and Rendon playing his natural hot corner.

If Washington looks to make an addition, it would look to a market with relatively few everyday regulars seemingly available. Among potentially available third basemen, Adrian Beltre of the Rangers is the clear prize — if he’s put up for sale. The Nats were reportedly “rebuffed” in an earlier inquiry, but Texas is said to have had eyes on Triple-A Syracuse last weekend. The second base market does not contain many names that appear to be likely fits, though Aaron Hill of the Diamondbacks could be a possibility. His Arizona teammate, Martin Prado, has spent time at both positions and has been mentioned as a possible fit.


Orioles-Nationals Television Dispute Reaches Litigation

The Orioles and Nationals have a long-running dispute over the distribution of broadcast fees from the jointly-owned Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. (Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs detailed the background of the dispute here; James Wagner of the Washington Post did the same here.) The sides have been unable to agree to terms on the broadcast fees to be paid to the Nationals, who own a minority share in MASN. According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, that the disagreement has escalated to the point that it is now in open court.

While the fact that the parties have now filed competing complaints in New York is noteworthy, the real news probably consists in the precursor to those actions. An arbitration hearing occurred in April, with Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, Pirates president Frank Coonelly, and Rays owner Stuart Sternberg composing the panel. The decision was made on June 30, according to THR, with the result landing in the Nationals’ favor. (Details are not known, but the Nationals were said to be seeking somewhere in the realm of $100MM to $120MM annually.)

In a letter, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig issued warnings to the teams’ owners (Peter Angelos of the Orioles and Ted Lerner of the Nationals) to avoid litigation, saying he would impose “the strongest sanctions available” if that occurred. He had strong words for both men, saying that neither “has approached this negotiation with the best interest of the game at heart” and charging the pair with an “unfathomable inability to agree on a fair division of [the rights fee's] value.”

The legal battle began (or, really, continued) thereafter. Orioles representatives claimed that the arbitral proceeding lacked in procedural fairness. The club has also claimed that MLB was not disinterested because it stood to recoup a cash stipend paid to the club. As Jonah Keri of Grantland reported, a payment was made to help account for the Washington franchise’s lagging revenue as the dispute carried on. According to the Orioles letter cited in the THR piece, at least one $25MM payment was made by MLB to the Nationals.

Attorneys for the Nationals, meanwhile, countered that MASN (which, remember, is majority-owned by the Orioles) was required to begin paying the newly-escalated rights fee, per the arbitration award. The Nationals presented the network with formal notice of defaults, and later petitioned the MLB Commissioner’s Office to confirm and enforce the panel’s decision. (It appears from the report that no action was taken on that request.)

At this point, MASN initiated a legal proceeding in New York state court seeking to modify or vacate the arbitration award, which is the common cause of action in such circumstances. On July 24, the Nationals responded and apparently filed their own petition (presumably, including a counterclaim to enforce the arbitration award).

MLB issued the following comment: “Although certain legal maneuvering has taken place, Commissioner Selig remains hopeful that the parties can reach an agreement in an amicable manner.” As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets, the Nationals declined comment, the Orioles said that “contracts are meant to be honored,” and MASN declared that there would be “no impact on the telecast of games.”

The actual legal dispute will of course be governed by standard arbitration law (albeit with all the wrinkles of baseball’s unique circumstances). Arbitration awards are routinely upheld by courts except in limited circumstances such as procedural unfairness, and parties seeking to overturn awards face an uphill battle to plead and prove a claim. Barring settlement, it is likely that the parties to this dispute (as any other) will exchange legal briefs regarding whether a court should hear the complaint at all, with the Nationals arguing that the award should be upheld even if everything alleged by the opposition were to be proved. If the dispute is allowed to proceed (if, in other words, it survives a motion to dismiss), then MLB would be faced with the prospect of an open court battle. That would risk the public disclosure of court filings and, potentially, sensitive documents and depositions.



Stark’s Latest: Lester, Burnett, Lee, Kennedy, Lackey, Suzuki

Jon Lester remains the most-discussed name at the moment, and ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark contributes his take after discussing the lefty with several club executives who will not be involved in any deals. He discusses the possibility of eight teams going after Lester: the Dodgers, Cardinals, Mariners, Orioles, Blue Jays, Braves, Brewers, and Pirates. Though Los Angeles still seems unwilling to part with any of its premium prospects, Stark tabs them the likeliest landing spot.

Of course, Stark also provides a number of important updates from elsewhere in the market in his latest post. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Talks between the Phillies and Pirates regarding A.J. Burnett are “all but dead,” writes Stark. The issue is that Burnett has been unwilling to give an assurance that he would not pick up his player option for next season, creating too much financial uncertainty for Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Phillies have not yet abandoned hope of dealing fellow starter Cliff Lee before the deadline, though an official says that they want significant prospects in return.
  • Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if David Price of the Rays or Ian Kennedy of the Padres are moved, with Stark writing that the former will be a last-minute decision and the latter remains a 50-50 proposition. With the GM seat still unfilled in San Diego, and given that Kennedy remains under control for next year, the club is unwilling to move him unless the return includes a starter capable of stepping into the rotation along with another prospect.
  • The Red Sox are asking for a strong return on John Lackey in discussions. The club wants an established major league starter, presumably with additional control. If that is part of the return on Lester, however, the club might be open to more flexibility in a return for Lackey.
  • The Twins are telling inquiring clubs that they have not yet given up on extending Kurt Suzuki, and could keep him past the deadline. If that occurs, the team could still consider August deals, though the waiver process (and Suzuki’s cheap contract) could prove a hindrance.
  • Scouting trips can obviously be undertaken for many purposes, but Stark provides a few interesting ones to note: The Rangers have scouted the Nationals‘ top affiliate this weekend; though rumors quickly died down, Washington was said to have inquired about Adrian Beltre. The White Sox are looking at the affiliates of the YankeesBlue Jays, and Red Sox as they consider offers for John Danks. And the Red Sox have scouted the Triple-A affiliate of the Braves, who are said to be very interested in lefty Andrew Miller.

Nationals Notes: Astros, Hill, Prado, Iglesias

It’s difficult to tell whether the Nationals could be very busy or stand pat before the trade deadine, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post writes.  It seems like the Nats are at least exploring a number of options, as Kilgore reports…

  • The Nationals have asked the Astros about available relievers, and Houston had scouts watching the Nats’ Triple-A and Class A affiliates over the weekend.  Left-hander Tony Sipp best fits the Nationals’ needs, Kilgore surmises, since Washington is thin on southpaw relief options.
  • The Nationals haven’t talked to the Diamondbacks about Aaron Hill or Martin Prado.  Either player could fill the hole at second base created by Ryan Zimmerman‘s injury (Anthony Rendon moved to third), or Prado could simply play third and Rendon could return to second.  Kilgore isn’t sure the Nats want to pay Hill the $26MM he’s owed through 2016, however, though Hill loved playing for manager Matt Williams when Williams was a D’Backs coach.  Arizona is reportedly shopping Hill but “barely listening” to inquiries about Prado.
  • With Jose Iglesias possibly on the trade block in Detroit, Kilgore thinks the Nats could be interested given the team’s desire to add a young shortstop as depth if Ian Desmond can’t be extended.  The Tigers had a scout watching the Nationals’ Class A team recently, Kilgore notes, though that isn’t necessarily related to Iglesias.
  • Speaking of scouting assignments, the Rangers had an evaluator watching a recent game between the Nationals’ and Braves’ Triple-A teams.  The two NL East rivals are both known to be looking for relief pitching.
  • Washington had scouts watching two recent Red Sox series, and Kilgore figures that they were checking out relievers Koji Uehara and Andrew Miller.  Earlier today, Peter Gammons reported that the Nats were interested in Miller.

Minor Moves: Torres, Flores, Thomas, Abreu

Here are today’s minor league transactions from around baseball, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Dodgers have signed Barry Enright to a minor league deal, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish (on Twitter).  Across four big league seasons, Enright has made 26 starts and five relief appearances, posting a 5.57 ERA with 4.6 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 for the D’Backs and Angels.
  • Veteran outfielder Andres Torres left the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox and is looking for an opportunity with a National League team, SB Nation’s Joon Lee reports (Twitter link).  Torres enacted an out clause in his minor league deal with Boston, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports (via Twitter).  Torres ended up making 95 PA in the Sox system, hitting .275/.298/.473.
  • The Royals released catcher Jesus Flores, according to the Pacific Coast League website’s transactions page.  Flores inked a minor league deal with K.C. in March and posted a .698 OPS over 150 PA with Triple-A Omaha this season.  The 29-year-old appeared in 311 games with the Nationals from 2007-12 and spent last season in the Dodgers’ and Rays’ farm systems.
  • The Angels released southpaw Justin Thomas, who has signed a $160K contract with KIA Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization (hat tip to Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net).  This is Thomas’ second taste of international baseball, as he made three starts last year for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan.  Thomas posted a 5.99 ERA over 20 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake City after signing a minor league deal with the Angels in January.
  • The Dodgers released right-hander Juan Abreu, the team announced.  Abreu posted a 7.11 ERA over 6 1/3 relief innings at Triple-A this season after signing a minor league pact with L.A. during the offseason.  The righty has 6 2/3 Major League innings to his name (with a 2.70 ERA and 12 strikeouts), all with the Astros in 2011.
  • The Nationals released right-hander Ryan Perry, the club announced.  Picked 21st overall by the Tigers in the 2008 draft, Perry posted a 4.36 ERA and 132 strikeouts (against 84 walks) over 169 1/3 relief innings with Detroit and Washington from 2009-12.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Red Sox Notes: Lester, Dodgers, Miller

“There’s a growing expectation from rival execs that Jon Lester is going to be traded before [the July] deadline,” ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link), and the Dodgers are seen as the likeliest candidate to add the Red Sox left-hander.  Los Angeles has shown interest in Lester, though there were conflicting reports yesterday about whether the two sides had actually seriously discussed a trade.

Here’s some more news surrounding the defending World Series champs…

  • The Royals, Dodgers and Nationals are the latest known suitors for reliever Andrew Miller, according to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes and Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. (Edes reported the Royals’ interest while Gammons reported on the two NL teams.)  Boston is known to be shopping Miller, with the Braves and Pirates also amongst the clubs checking in on the lefty.  Miller has posted an outstanding 2.45 ERA, 14.5 K/9 and 5.0 K/BB ratio over 40 1/3 relief innings for the Sox this season.
  • Also from Gammons, several other teams were interested in Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree, the two ex-Giants prospects obtained by the Red Sox in the Jake Peavy trade.  Two different rival executives told Gammons they tried to get Hembree as a future set-up man, while Escobar’s stock was higher before he began his tough season at Triple-A.
  • In a piece full of notes and observations about the Red Sox, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe is baffled that Lester and the Sox seemed so mutually interested in a contract extension yet now Lester could be a trade candidate.  “Why the Sox seem almost eager to chase away one of their cornerstone players is a mystery,” Abraham writes, predicting that if Lester hits the open market, he’ll sign elsewhere since another teams will spend big for the southpaw.
  • Also from Abraham, he opines that the Red Sox should extend Miller rather than trade him, stay away from Matt Kemp in any trade talks with the Dodgers and release struggling reliever Edward Mujica.

Minor Moves: Chris Leroux, Zach Jackson

Here are Sunday’s minor moves from around MLB:

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.


NL East Notes: Mets Plan, Nats Targets, Byrd

Jayson Stark discussed some of the best run organizations in an audio interview with Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog. Stark makes special note of the A’s, Rays, Tigers, and Cubs as tightly run organizations with a coherent, “nimble” plan. Stark and Cerrone then touched on the Mets plan, noting the excellent pitching depth in the organization. Rival scouts like the Mets future outlook according to Stark, but they may need to trade some of their pitching depth for position players.

  • In an interview with Bill Ladson of MLB.com, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was circumspect when describing the club’s needs heading into the trade deadline. Based on Rizzo’s comments, the club is happy with its current depth, even with Ryan Zimmerman suffering from a hamstring injury. The bullpen was also discussed, which Rizzo described as “pretty good…solid.”
  • In a separate piece, Ladson reveals that the Nationals inquired after Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre but were rebuffed. Combining the two reports, it seems as though the Nationals would like to acquire an elite talent but aren’t overly anxious to add patches.
  • There’s definitely a market for Marlon Byrd, but his contract could get in the way, notes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. While the Phillies are obvious sellers, their assets all have some sort of contractual complication. Byrd would like his 2016 option picked up for a trade to the Mariners or Royals – two teams on his no trade list. Heyman also mentions Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, and Jimmy Rollins as other Phillies with contractual barriers, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

NL Notes: Tulowitzki, Murphy, De La Rosa, Burnett, Nationals, Marlins, Dodgers

The Rockies are not prepared to deal star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at present (not least of which because he is on the DL), but the Mets have reached out to indicate that they would be interested if he is marketed, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. A National League executive tells Sherman that he thinks the Mets could match up well given their young pitching depth and Colorado’s need for the same. On the other hand, sources tell Sherman that the Cardinals think very highly of the star shortstop and would give up a substantial haul to add him. And of course, Sherman also notes, Tulowitzki would have a wider market given his top-tier abilities.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has drawn recent trade interest, sources tell Marc Carig of Newsday. It still seems likely that Murphy will remain in New York, however, according to Carig.
  • The Rockies could be willing to listen on current closer LaTroy Hawkins and starter Jorge De La Rosa, reports Thomas Harding of MLB.com. One team that has been connected to De La Rosa is the Orioles, though Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today that talks have not progressed given Colorado’s high asking price of top prospect Kevin Gausman. Harding says that the Rockies do have interest in other Baltimore minor leaguers, including lefty Tim Berry, rising prospect Hunter Harvey, and righties Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson.
  • The Pirates‘ interest in Phillies righty A.J. Burnett is “mild at best,” according to Heyman. And that is even before addressing the issue of Burnett’s 2015 player option, which seems likely to rise through escalators to $12.75MM. Neither the Orioles nor the Yankees appear to be interested in Burnett, Heyman adds.
  • There are varying reports coming out of Washington, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Some clubs have indicated that the Nationals are looking for a second baseman and left-handed reliever. But the Nats themselves have said that they are merely fielding inquiries from teams offering second baggers and would only look to pick up a southpaw pen piece if they can upgrade the team’s current options. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, likewise, tweets that an executive of one selling team sees the Nationals as pursuing multiple possibilities, with a particular focus on adding relief pitching.
  • The Marlins are looking to add players that will contribute this year and in the future, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. The Fish are not currently shopping their veterans, Bowden adds. In an opinion piece, Rosenthal writes that the club should trade star Giancarlo Stanton sooner rather than later to maximize its return, opining that the team is unlikely to sign him to a long-term deal.
  • The Dodgers have continued to look for additional set-up arms for the bullpen, tweets Bowden, but finding a match is complicated by the fact that three of the most obvious sellers also reside in the NL West. Meanwhile, the club has long been said to be interested in adding a starter. Given the recent struggles of Dan Haren, his spot in the rotation (rather than that of Josh Beckett) could be the one that is turned over, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports.