Washington Nationals Rumors

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

Denard Span To Undergo Season-Ending Hip Surgery

AUG. 28: Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports (on Twitter) that Span is set to undergo season-ending hip surgery next Tuesday.

AUG. 27: Nationals center fielder Denard Span is headed back to the disabled list with inflammation in his left hip, and as Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington writes, this most recent injury may very well bring his season to a close.

This will be Span’s third and seemingly final trip to the disabled list in 2015 — an unfortunate series of events for any player, but particularly for Span, who is eligible for free agency for the first time at season’s end. If his season is indeed done, injuries will have limited the 31-year-old to just 61 games. Of course, his production in those 61 games has been excellent; Span has totaled a .301/.365/.431 batting line with five homers and 11 stolen bases.

Defensive metrics were down on Span in 2015, though injuries may have played a part in his deteriorated rankings, as Span does come with a reputation as a plus defender in center field. After beginning the season on the disabled list due to offseason core muscle surgery, Span again landed on the disabled list in early July due to back spasms. He returned from the DL just three days ago, but his stay on the active roster will be a brief one. As Zuckerman writes, the string of injuries were very likely related to one another.

Manager Matt Williams told Zuckerman and other reporters that while it’s not clear if Span will return in 2015, he would “imagine it’s going to be very tough for him to get back.” The loss of Span, of course, further dampens the playoff hopes of what has been a disappointing Nationals club in 2015. Though Washington emerged victorious tonight, so too did the division-leading Mets. Picked by most (myself included) to win the division, the Nationals instead trail the Mets by 6.5 games and are an even more distant nine games back in the NL Wild Card race.

Compounding matters for the Nationals is the fact that rookie outfielder Michael Taylor — Span’s likely replacement — left tonight’s game with a knee injury suffered when crashing into the outfield wall. It’s not known how long Taylor will be sidelined, but Zuckerman notes that center fielder Matt den Dekker, who would’ve been a September call-up anyhow, will presumably be called up as a corresponding move to replace Span.

NL East Notes: Phillies, Papelbon, Nats, Storen, Marlins

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick looks at the future of the Phillies‘ front office, noting that industry insiders mention Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo and former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington as possible successors to Ruben Amaro Jr. in the event that president-to-be Andy MacPhail makes a change. Interim president Pat Gillick, who’s stepping down after the season, tells Crasnick that he’s not sure if he’ll remain with the club in some capacity. Though the Phillies are one of the worst clubs in baseball this season and have long been on the downswing, there’s hope in the future due to Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford and others, to say nothing of a favorable payroll and television deal. “That organization is a gold mine,” one rival exec opined to Crasnick. “Look at the ballpark. Look at the spring training facility. Look at the television deal. This is a goose that’s going to lay a golden egg. No wonder Andy MacPhail came out of retirement.”

Elsewhere in the NL East…

  • Jonathan Papelbon has thrown just eight innings since being acquired by the Nationals a month ago, and James Wagner of the Washington Post spoke to the D.C. closer about how he handles long bouts of inactivity. “For me, it’s about mentally staying prepared,” said Papelbon. “Staying mentally focused on the task at hand and not losing sight of that even though you’re not pitching. It’s easy to get out of that mode.” Papelbon says he feels he’s adjusted well to his new team and that his lack of usage is part of the “ebb and flow” of a season, Wagner writes. However, plenty have been critical about manager Matt Williams’ bullpen usage and his reluctance to use his top relievers in anything other than traditional save/hold situations.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo tells the Post’s Thomas Boswell that August has been his “worst month ever.” Rizzo notes to Boswell that the Nats have a group of star players that combined for 28.5 wins above replacement in 2014 but are collectively negative in 2015. “That’s a swing of 29 wins,” said Rizzo, likely in reference to struggles from Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth (among others). Rizzo referenced that swing as a means of defending Williams, stating: “It’s injuries. It’s coming back without your timing and not hitting for a while. It is bad years [for good players]. It’s everything. Twenty-nine lost wins [in player production] — and that’s on the manager?”
  • Within his piece, Boswell also notes that the Nationals are unlikely to pursue any top starting pitchers this winter and that Drew Storen wants a trade “that he’ll almost certainly get this winter.” Storen, of course, was reportedly unhappy to be displaced from his ninth-inning role by Papelbon in the midst of a strong season.
  • Jose Fernandez‘s most recent bullpen session for the Marlins was described as a “wow” by manager Dan Jennings, writes Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Jennings called mid-September a realistic return date for Fernandez, whom the Marlins previously feared might not pitch again in 2015.
  • Mike Morse spoke to the Herald’s Barry Jackson about his disappointing tenure with the Marlins, expressing that he wishes he’d have gotten a longer leash to sort things out at the plate. “I came out really bad [but] I wish they would have given me more at-bats just to prove myself,” said Morse. “…When you sign as a free agent, you expect to play on that team those years and you expect to get at least some time to play. But I got this opportunity to come to an amazing ball club [Pittsburgh]. It’s a gift and a curse.” Morse said he was very appreciative that owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson took the time to personally call and inform him of his trade out of Miami, however. Morse is hitting a much-improved .310/.394/.379 with the Pirates, albeit in a minuscule sample of 33 plate appearances.

Nate McLouth Unlikely To Return In 2015

It’s been quite some time since we’ve heard any news on Nationals outfielder Nate McLouth, who has yet to return to action since suffering a labrum tear in his right shoulder last July. MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports that McLouth has undergone a cleanup procedure to address the injury.

Per the report, the 33-year-old McLouth is not expected to return this year, which is not terribly surprising at this point given his lack of recently-reported baseball activity and prior indications of setbacks. He did attempt to return to action this spring, but only made it through two games before shutting things down.

On the bright side, the veteran left-handed hitter is expected to be ready to go for 2016, Ladson adds. That won’t necessarily mean much for the Nationals, however, who signed McLouth to a two-year, $10.75MM free agent contract prior to 2014. That deal includes a $6.5MM club option for next season, but Washington seems all but certain to buy out the option for $750K.

McLouth inked with the Nats after a solid run with the Orioles over 2012-13 over which he put up 829 plate appearances of .261/.333/.409 hitting with 42 steals and 19 home runs. He looked like a nice finishing piece to his new club’s roster, but scuffled to a .173/.280/.237 batting line over 162 trips to the plate before suffering the injury.

Gio Gonzalez Switches To Boras Corporation

Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez has moved to the Boras Corporation, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Gonzalez joins a host of other high-profile Nationals players with the organization of agent Scott Boras, as Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post tweets.

While the 29-year-old lefty has now surpassed six years of service, he won’t be hitting free agency any time soon. Gonzalez has one guaranteed season left (for $12MM) on the extension he signed shortly after coming to D.C. The team holds $12MM options for 2017 and 2018. The former comes with a $500K buyout, while the latter would vest if Gonzalez throws 180 innings in the preceding campaign. That contract, negotiated by his former reps, set a new high water mark for first-time arb-eligible pitchers.

While Gonzalez owns an earned run average of more than four per nine for the first time since way back in 2009, he’s been much the same pitcher over his four campaigns with the Nats. Though his ERA has risen in each successive season, he’s worked between a 3.56 and a 3.79 SIERA in every season of that span, averaging 8.9 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9.

While Gonzalez’s strikeouts are very slightly down this year (8.2 per nine), his swinging strike rate remains steady and he has put up a career-best 54.1% groundball rate. He has also largely maintained his average fastball velocity. Gonzalez’s innings tallies are down somewhat — he missed some starts last year and currently sits at 135 2/3 frames, after consistently hitting at or near 200 innings per season between 2010 and 2013 — but all said he still looks like a high-quality rotation piece going forward.

Gonzalez could hit the open market before his age-31 season if the first option is declined, though that seems unlikely barring a particularly rough 2016.

This Date In Transactions History: 8/23/15

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone but there are still plenty of moves that go down in the month of August.  Historically, we’ve seen some significant transactions go down on the date of August 23rd.  Could we see some moves of note today on MLB Trade Rumors?  While we wait to find out, let’s take a look back at the last few years..

  • One year ago today, the Red Sox signed Cuban sensation Rusney Castillo.  The seven-year deal could be worth up to $72.5MM in total, assuming that the outfielder does not opt out before 2020.  The buzz around Castillo was building momentum all through the summer, but the size of the deal took many around baseball by surprise.  Owner John Henry has acknowledged that missing out on Jose Abreu may have played a role in Boston’s aggressive pursuit of Castillo, but Red Sox exec Allard Baird recently defended the signing and stressed that Boston did its homework on Castillo.  The 28-year-old hasn’t lived up to the expectations of the contract so far but he has looked strong since his latest recall from Triple-A.
  • On this date in 2013, the Nationals sent David DeJesus to the Rays for a player to be named later.  Of course, DeJesus’ stint in Washington amounted to little more than a layover.  The Nats acquired DeJesus in a waiver deal with the Cubs on August 19th and sent him packing just days later.  In total, DeJesus went 0-for-3 with a walk in his brief tenure with the Nationals.  DeJesus would enjoy a lengthier stint with the Rays before a late July deal this season sent him to the Angels.
  • On the same date as the DeJesus deal, the Nationals also shipped Kurt Suzuki to the A’s for minor leaguer Dakota Bacus.  Suzuki’s time in Washington was fairly short, though not as quick as DeJesus’ stint.  The catcher, who was sent to the Nationals in August of 2012, found himself back in Oakland just one year and 20 days later.  After helping the A’s reach the postseason, Suzuki had his $8.5MM option declined in the offseason.  The catcher would go on to sign a one-year deal with the Twins that winter and he later inked a multi-year extension in the midst of his first All-Star campaign.
  • On this date in 2009, the Red Sox signed Xander Bogaerts as an amateur free agent.  While he’s regarded as a possible up-and-coming star today, Bogaerts did not have a great deal of hype around him when he was signed as a 16-year-old.  The Red Sox inked the Aruban shortstop for a paltry $410K signing bonus.

Quick Hits: Dodgers, Stanton, Astros

Even though they’re likely to make the postseason, the Dodgers are one of the 10 most disappointing teams in baseball, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. From the mouth of one NL executive, “they have done the near impossible – they have a $300 million payroll and yet they haven’t gone all in for 2015.” Of course, they still have time to find a patch or two for their beleaguered bullpen. While they aren’t my vote for most disappointing, it’s fair to wonder why they’re only 1.5 games up on the Giants.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Of Sherman’s 10 disappointing teams, the Nationals, Tigers, and Red Sox are likely to receive the most attention. Boston struggled from day one. In retrospect, nobody was surprised by the shoddy pitching staff. However, the vaunted offense never arrived after March. The Nationals and Tigers are surprising candidates. Detroit is only four games out of the second Wild Card, but they packed up shop at the trade deadline by cashing in on Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, and Joakim Soria. The Nationals are viewed as the more likely of the two to reach the postseason, but they’re 4.5 games behind the Mets and 9.5 back from the Cubs. However, they do have better roster cohesion and only one team to leapfrog in the standings.
  • The Marlins also appeared on Sherman’s list, and slugger Giancarlo Stanton expects to see “big changes” over the offseason, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Meanwhile, club president David Sampson mentioned a non-personnel change that could be coming for 2016. The fences may be lowered and moved in prior to next season. Miami is a tough park for home runs, but run scoring is roughly neutral. Closer walls could help Stanton and others bash even more home runs.
  • The Astros and Dodgers are among the most forward thinking teams in the game, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. The Dodgers obviously have a much larger war chest, but money doesn’t solve every problem. Per Los Angeles president Andrew Friedman, “more resources help you, at least in theory, more in the free-agent market. You look back over time, and it’s very hard to invest wisely. So coming from the Rays, you were almost insulated from making those mistakes in the free-agent market.” Both clubs are emphasizing the value of young, cost controlled stars. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow also commented on the process of discovering marginal advantages over other teams and hoping to hide them for as long as possible. The article itself is well worth your time with excellent quotes from several executives.

Nationals Promote Trea Turner

The Nationals announced that they have selected the contract of top shortstop prospect Trea Turner to the Majors.In order to clear a spot on the active roster, the Nationals have placed Tyler Moore on the disabled list. Meanwhile, righty Aaron Barrett will hit the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot.

With the move, Washington has added its best position-player prospect for the stretch run. The team previously called up fellow middle infielder Wilmer Difo, but used him only sparingly and decided this time to give the nod to Turner.

This move seems more significant than the Difo call-up, because Turner did not need to be added to the 40-man after the season. Giving him a roster spot now means that the club has one less opening to protect other assets from the Rule 5 draft. It’s certainly possible that Washington decided it could get by without the extra space, but the move might also suggest that the club feels Turner can contribute down the stretch and/or make a viable challenge to take over for pending free agent Ian Desmond to open the 2016 season (in which case it might be valuable to give Turner a look at the bigs this year).

Turner came to the Nats along with right-hander Joe Ross in the three-team trade that sent Steven Souza to the Rays and Wil Myers to the Padres. He now joins Ross as part of the organization’s 25-man roster, a fact which reflects better on the trade than it does the team’s overall performance this year.

Since the deal, Turner has done nothing but enhance his value. He’s now a consensus top-20 prospect leaguewide, if not better, after dominating at Double-A and putting up a strong .314/.353/.431 slash with 14 steals in his first 205 plate appearances at the highest level of the minors.

While his first-round draft status and rising stock have elevated Turner’s profile, he is probably still best known for being dealt as the player to be named later in the aforementioned trade. The two sides used a loophole in a since-changed rule that stated a player could not be traded until one year after he is drafted. San Diego took Turner 13th overall in the 2014 draft, and they took advantage of the fact that teams can take up to six months to determine a PTBNL to trade him in December. Of course, that meant that Turner, who had been widely reported as the PTBNL, spent Spring Training and the first three months of the season with the Padres despite the fact that everyone knew he’d been traded to the Nationals. This was far from the first occurrence of PTBNL manipulation, but it was perhaps the most public example, and it spurred the league to take action and amend the rules so that players can be traded upon completion of the World Series in the year they are drafted.

Quick Hits: GM Turnover, Williams, Zduriencik, Prospects

Baseball has experienced intense turnover in its front offices of late, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes in a column today, and there could be more to come. Nightengale cites Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners, and Walt Jocketty of the Reds as candidates for dismissal. The frequency of change represents a “new state of the game,” argues Nightengale.

  • The Mariners could end up bringing in White Sox president Kenny Williams to head its front office, Nighengale reports. But Williams may also be in the running to become the new president of the Blue Jays. Reds special assistant Kevin Towers also increasingly seems to be an option for Seattle, Nightengale adds on Twitter.
  • Zduriencik says that he pays no heed to the rumor mill, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Though he’s aware that there is chatter that he could be vulnerable, the Mariners general manager explains that he can’t let that affect his work. “I’ve got eyes,” said the seven-year veteran GM. I can see what’s going on here. I know what has not worked and what should be working and isn’t. For me to focus on any outside distractions (is non-productive).” Zduriencik stressed that he still believes in the talent base he’s compiled, explaining: “I think when you start to piece it together, there are things we need to do going forward, but I do think that there are some really solid pieces there.”
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs provides an overhauled, mid-season look at the game’s best prospects. He breaks down a series of different prospect classes. One of those is his list of the game’s premium pre-MLB players, which is made up of the 26 names who separated themselves from the pack. The usual suspects sit atop that list, but there are some quick-rising players as well, including shortstops Orlando Arcia (Brewers, #8), Franklin Barreto (Athletics, #14), and Trea Turner (Nationals, #15), outfielders Bradley Zimmer (Indians, #21) and Gleyber Torres (Cubs, #23), and Rays lefty Blake Snell, who shot all the way up to the 16th slot. McDaniel also lists the year’s newly-emerging prospects, the newly-professional crop of players added over the summer, and the impressive list of young players who no longer qualify as prospects.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America takes a closer look at one such swiftly-rising prospect, Nationals outfielder Victor Robles. The 18-year-old drew the attention of the organization because of his quick-twitch athleticism and high energy, and the club’s $225K bonus has paid out amply so far. It’s a lengthy piece, but well worth a read for any prospect hounds or Nats fans.

Reactions To Red Sox’ Hiring Of Dave Dombrowski

The Red Sox dropped a stunner on the baseball world yesterday when they announced the hiring of veteran executive Dave Dombrowski as the team’s president of baseball operations. Ben Cherington is said to have declined the chance to stay on in the GM role, preferring instead to look for a new opportunity elsewhere.

Here are some of the many reactions to the move:

  • The deal with the Red Sox will give Dombrowski a raise over the $3MM annual salary he was earning in Detroit, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. The Nationals also had interest in Dombrowski, though they never made him an offer, Nightengale adds. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays had more serious conversations, and their involvement pushed the Red Sox to giving Dombrowski full decisionmaking authority, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. The Mariners were “next in line,” though, had Boston not pulled off a deal, Nightengale further tweets.
  • Parting with Cherington is just one of the surprising angles of this move. As Nightengale reports, Dombrowski explained that he offered Cherington the chance to stay but understood why he did not. “We offered Ben the opportunity to stay as GM,” said Dombrowski. “I had a lengthy conversation. He could have stayed. We like Ben. He’s a good person. I don’t know him very well, but I have the utmost respect for him and as a person. But I could understand it. It hit him very quickly. He was surprised. As president of baseball operations, you have control over making deals, and the final say in hiring. I understand it would be a transition with him.”
  • It may be a bit too soon to evaluate Cherington’s own legacy as the Red Sox GM, but as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes, it’s already clear that it is a somewhat complicated one. While he won a World Series and leaves the club with a well-stocked farm, Cherington was not able to develop a stream of pitching and whiffed on several significant decisions.
  • Bringing in Dombrowski represents a significant philosophical shift for the Red Sox, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes. While it’s hard to see the organization suddenly shelving its analytics work, Heyman notes that they’ll get a hands-on executive in Dombrowski with a penchant for swinging quality trades and keeping a winner on the field.
  • Indeed, the scope of the shift is somewhat hard to overstate. Red Sox “vaporized the way they’ve done business for the last 13 years” overnight, writes John Tomase of WEEI.com. And as Sean McAdam of CSSNE.com explains, it completes a month of change at many key levels of the organization.
  • Dombrowski has a history of dealing away top prospects to bolster his clubs at the major league level, Ben Badler of Baseball America notes on Twitter. Now, he’s in charge of a Boston organization flush with young talent, and Badler rightly notes that it’ll be a fascinating offseason to watch.

NL East Notes: Gordon, Hech, Stanton, Nats, Phils, Braves

The Marlins‘ top two extension priorities over the offseason are middle infielders Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports. It remains to be seen whether Miami will be able to gain traction in talks with the pair, which it already controls through the 2018 campaign. But, per Frisaro, the club is more concerned with striking new deals with Gordon and/or Hechavarria than it is with acquiring any particular player on the open market. A deal with Jose Fernandez still seems unlikely, he writes, and the same holds true of Marcell Ozuna.

More from Miami and the rest of the NL East:

  • While it remains unclear whether Fernandez will make it back to the Marlins this year, slugger Giancarlo Stanton appears to be on track to return to action at some point, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). Stanton began hitting yesterday, though his precise timetable remains unclear. The club will surely be cautious given its place in the standings and massive commitment to the 25-year-old.
  • Nationals ownership is “unhappy” with the team’s performance this year, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It would be hard to imagine any other general reaction to a club that suddenly finds itself below the .500 mark despite a big payroll and high expectations, of course, and it’s not at all clear whether that sentiment will manifest itself in any modification in the decisionmaking structure. Rosenthal goes on to discuss the team’s front office situation, but it all seems to boil down to one key point: change is unlikely unless the Lerner family no longer wishes to place its trust in GM and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo. (For what it’s worth, from my perspective, it seems difficult to blame him for the sudden fall-off of numerous key contributors, and the organization appears well-prepared for a coming offseason that will feature roster turnover at multiple key positions.)
  • The insurance policy on Matt Harrison‘s contract — which was acquired by the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal — could still pay out to Philadelphia, Rosenthal suggests, though there is plenty of uncertainty. As he notes, too, the Phils would need to use at least some of any savings to fill in innings that might otherwise be occupied by the veteran lefty.
  • The future for the Phillies, of course, will depend less on freeing some extra cash than it will on the development of the team’s best young players. Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News profiles one if the organization’s most important assets: 20-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford.
  • Braves reliever Chris Withrow, who was acquired along with Juan Uribe earlier this year, is progressing but likely won’t pitch this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Withrow is still working back from Tommy John and back surgeries. Meanwhile, another Atlanta upside grab — Rule 5 pick Daniel Winkler — is on track to take the bump in fall or winter league action, O’Brien adds on Twitter. Once activated from the DL, Winkler will need to stick on the active roster next year for the club to retain his rights.