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Washington Nationals Rumors
The teams of the National League East were much less flashy than their American League brethren — as usual, perhaps — but nevertheless made several notable moves … or, in some cases, notable non-moves. Here’s what took place:
- Acquired lefty James Russell and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio from Cubs in exchange for Victor Caratini and cash
- Acquired righty Jarred Cosart, infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez, and outfielder Austin Wates from Astros in exchange for third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jake Marisnick, righty Francis Martes, and a 2015 compensation draft pick
- Acquired lefty Donnie Joseph from Royals in exchange for cash
- Acquired righty Bryan Morris from Pirates in exchange for 2014 draft compensation pick
- No trades
- No trades
Last year at this time, the Marlins were selling off what few veteran pieces they had for whatever they could get. Ricky Nolasco was the team’s big deadline piece, but unfortunately he didn’t really start pitching well until after he was playing for the Dodgers. But that was not the case this year. Still hanging around in the postseason pitcure even after losing stud righty Jose Fernandez, Miami went hard after Jon Lester before ultimately turning its sights to Houston.
The Fish got their arm in Cosart, and brought back additional value in Hernandez and Wates, but paid a big price. Marisnick was somewhat expendable given the team’s other young outfielders, but Moran was brought to Miami at a tall opportunity cost (6th overall draft pick; $3,516,500 bonus) and the team gave up a young power arm and future draft pick. The deal certainly helps the Marlins in the present — though just how much remains to be seen — and avoids a major sacrifice of future control. But if Marisnick and Moran reach their potential, and Cosart is not able to stick in the rotation, it could still hurt down the line.
On the other hand, as much as things change — the saying goes — the more they stay the same. Check out last year’s NL East recap if you don’t believe me. Braves and Nationals adding the final pieces for the stretch; Mets and Phillies standing pat at the deadline.
Sure, there were some differences. This time around, the Nats needed a more substantial addition after losing Ryan Zimmerman for some time. With Cleveland paying the rest of Cabrera’s salary, Washington agreed to ship out an MLB-ready middle infielder back to Cleveland. Though Walters is an interesting player — in large part due to his legitimate power bat up the middle — he has his warts and did not have a path to a job in DC. Cabrera will hold down the fort until Zimmerman returns (or until the end of the season, when the Nats will face some tough decisions).
Atlanta, meanwhile, once again added a lefty pen piece in the capable Russell, who could also forestall the necessity of such a move next year (he can be controlled through arbitration for 2015). This time around, the club also added a versatile utilityman in Emilio Bonifacio, who might conceivably see a fair bit of time at the positions (second, center, third) from which the club has at times received sub-optimal production. He will also be a nice pinch-running/hitting/fielding option, making for a sturdy bench piece for a contending club.
It may be easy to forget come deadline time, but there are still two more teams in the division. For the Mets, standing pat made plenty of sense. If nobody was going to take Bartolo Colon‘s salary, then the organization may as well pay him to pitch in New York next year. Daniel Murphy is also under control and could be extended. And Chris Young just wasn’t bringing anything back at this point. In addition to holding onto veterans, the Mets did not appear to make a concerted effort to acquire younger, MLB-ready talent. As GM Sandy Alderson explains, he wasn’t interested in giving up young pitching at this time but could potentially look to cash in some prospect chips in the offseason. (Though it is tempting to wonder what New York might have been able to extract in a deal like that between the Marlins and Astros.)
Over in Philadelphia, justification for inaction was somewhat harder to come by. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he was surprised that opposing teams did not come to him with more aggressive offers for the club’s available players, particularly as the team was willing to eat salary to facilitate a better return. But the fact is that none of the Phillies’ ready-to-move pieces were worth aggressive action. The list of names and contract complications (no-trade clauses, vesting options, massive buyouts, and the like) is already well-known; suffice to say that none of the assets that the Phillies shopped would have delivered the level of long-term value or short-term impact needed to motivate bidders.
Right now, there is simply no way for the team to get out from under its numerous long-term obligations to veterans while recouping any sort of prospect return. True, the Phillies could convince Chase Utley to waive the no-trade clause in his low-risk contract. They could decide to part with Cole Hamels for whatever the market will bear. But they’ve already shown they have no intention of doing those things.
Philadelphia seemingly wants to move the less desirable pieces and still get something back, but that is not going to happen. And that is why no deals were consummated. Other teams made more realistic assessments, as evidenced by the Yankees’ acquisition of several veterans (with at or above-market salaries) for a relative pittance of young talent. At several points in the last few seasons, players like Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Cliff Lee could have been cashed in. Instead, they were supplemented by even older players brought in at open-market rates. It is now too late (for various reasons) to recoup any significant value for any of them, which the team’s inaction reflects.
2:32pm: The Indians are paying the entirety of the $3.33MM remaining on Cabrera’s deal, tweets MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, who says that Cleveland is very high on Walters.
2:21pm: The Nationals have officially announced the acquisition of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians in exchange for infielder Zach Walters and cash considerations.
The 28-year-old Cabrera is hitting .246/.305/.386 with nine homers and seven steals on the season. While defensive metrics have never liked his glovework at shortstop, his bat is above average for the position, and he could fill in for the Nationals at second base, with Anthony Rendon sliding back over to third base on a full-time basis in the wake of Ryan Zimmerman‘s injury.
Cabrera grades out better in his career at second base than his career at shortstop, albeit in a much smaller sample size (1341 innings at second base). Cabrera has about $3.33MM of this season’s $10MM salary remaining, and he is a free agent at season’s end.
The 24-year-old Walters entered the season as Washington’s No. 14 prospect, per Baseball America. He received a brief promotion to the Majors but didn’t capitalize on his time there, hitting just .205/.279/.462 in 43 plate appearances. While he did belt three homers, he also whiffed 16 times in that small sample. BA praised his raw power but questioned his plate discipline and noted a high number of seemingly careless throwing errors. While he has a chance to stick at shortstop with some offensive upside, BA feels he likely profiles as a utility infielder that can fill in at various positions.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer first reported that Cabrera had been traded (Twitter link). MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian added that the Nats were his destination (Twitter link). Hoynes then tweeted Walters was going to Cleveland, and ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted details on the cash considerations.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
With the trade deadline less than three hours away, here are some notes out of the Big Apple…
- The Yankees are still considering names like Josh Willingham, Chris Denorfia and Byrd, but their talks are currently at an impasse, tweets Rosenthal. The Yankees appear to be taking their decision down to the wire.
- The Yankees aren’t focusing on any major trades, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. They’re looking for an upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki in right field — Marlon Byrd is still possible, he notes — as well as some help for the bullpen.
- The Nationals have called the Mets to express interest in Daniel Murphy, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but a trade between the division rivals is unlikely. Rosenthal noted earlier today that Washington also has interest in Asdrubal Cabrera.
- The Orioles have checked in on Bartolo Colon, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, the Mets aren’t sure whether or not they’ll trade him at this time yet. The Mets have signaled a definite willingness to move Colon, though GM Sandy Alderson isn’t one to simply dump salary in trades, so based on Heyman’s writing, it seems that the O’s probably haven’t made any form of significant offer.
- There’s no traction between the Royals and the Mets for Colon, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino adds that barring a change, the Mets don’t seem likely to be active today, but he’d be surprised if Colon were with the Mets in 2015.
- Sherman also hears that the Mets are likely to stand pat today (Twitter link). The Mets feel that a better market will develop for Colon in the offseason, when he’ll have just one year and $11MM remaining on his contract.
12:18pm: The Mariners are a sleeper team in the Cabrera market, Olney tweets.
11:23am: There’s a growing confidence that Cabrera will be traded today, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
8:18am: Rosenthal tweets that the Jays, however, aren’t expected to add a hitter. Their talks with Cabrera were earlier this week.
7:43am: The Nationals, Blue Jays and two other clubs have been in contact with the Indians about switch-hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Despite the apparent interest, Cabrera isn’t a lock to be traded, they add.
Cabrera was linked to the Nats last night, and Morosi noted yesterday that the Jays and Giants had checked in as well. The Indians were said to be ready to move Cabrera and Justin Masterson as of yesterday afternoon, and they’ve since dealt Masterson to the Cardinals.
The 28-year-old Cabrera is hitting .246/.305/.386 with nine homers and seven steals on the season. While defensive metrics have never liked his glovework at shortstop, his bat is above average for the position, and some clubs could look at him as an option for second base, where he played a good amount earlier in his career.
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).
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.
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.
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 Yankees, Blue 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.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: A.J. Burnett | Atlanta Braves | Boston Red Sox | Chicago White Sox | Cliff Lee | Ian Kennedy | John Lackey | Kurt Suzuki | Minnesota Twins | New York Yankees | Philadelphia Phillies | Pittsburgh Pirates | San Diego Padres | Texas Rangers | Toronto Blue Jays | Washington Nationals
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.
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.