Washington Nationals Rumors

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

Quick Hits: MASN, Cubs, Mariners, Cruz, Minniti, Santana

The arbitration order regarding Mid-Atlantic Sports Network television rights fees that is now the subject of litigation between the Nationals and Orioles would deliver about $300MM in payments to the Nationals over the five years, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. Documents filed in court show the structure of the award, which spanned the 2012-16 seasons and therefore would have both retroactive and going-forward impact. Beginning with an approximately $53MM payout for 2012, the award escalated to $66MM in 2016.

While that matter goes through the court process, let’s round up the news of the day:

  • In other television money news, the Cubs are sending signals that the team could be lining up for an earlier-than-expected cash boost, as Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports. The club has an unusual split of its TV rights, the more important part of which is not up for negotiation for some time, but seemingly could be lining up a means of unlocking some revenue ahead of schedule. (Of course, the now-underway Wrigley Field renovations have long been pitched as the key to the team’s anticipated return to big spending.) “We haven’t reached that next level yet where the payroll’s going to significantly increase,” said president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. “The TV deal is really the magic bullet, the paradigm-shifter that’s going to put us in a whole new level.”
  • The Mariners had a deal in place with Nelson Cruz last winter before ownership nixed the idea, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports. Cruz was set to sign for a relatively meager $7.5MM or so, while giving the team an attractive option in the $9MM range. Though the magnitude of Cruz’s production this year is surprising, that deal — and, especially, the upside conveyed via the option — sure look good in retrospect, especially for a Seattle club that fell one win out of a postseason slot. It is strange that Seattle did not follow through with the contract for several reasons. With a protected first round pick, the Mariners gave up their second pick to sign Robinson Cano, meaning that Cruz wouldn’t have hurt much in that area. And the team ultimately committed $7MM to Corey Hart.
  • Nationals assistant GM Bryan Minniti has left the team, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported on Twitter. Minniti said he felt it was time for a change, as James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. Indeed, he could be preparing to enter another field of work entirely. GM Mike Rizzo made clear in a statement that Minniti was an integral part of the organization’s rise over the last five years.
  • The Twins could use Danny Santana at short or in center next year, GM Terry Ryan tells Darren Woolfson of 1500 ESPN (Twitter link). That flexibility will presumably open up some additional possibilities for Minnesota. The 23-year-old had a stunning debut, putting up a .824 OPS that dwarfed anything he had done across seven minor league seasons.

Rule 5 Draft Roundup

With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:

Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)

  • Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
  • Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
  • Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
  • Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
  • Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
  • Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
  • Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
  • Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
  • Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.

NL Notes: Zimmermann, Stanton, Roenicke, Phillies, Rockies

For the second consecutive year, MLB has a no-hitter to close out the regular season. The Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann threw the first no-hitter for the franchise since their move to Washington, D.C., but needed a diving, over-the-shoulder grab by leftfielder Steven Souza, who entered the game as a defensive replacement for Ryan Zimmerman in the top of the ninth, to preserve the 1-0 gem. “No-doubt double and [Souza] comes out of nowhere. Whatever he wants, I’ll buy him anything,” Zimmermann said (as tweeted by the Washington Post’s James Wagner). As for his defensive wizardry, Souza (as quoted by Paul White of USA Today) “knew it was over my head. I was just hoping I had a prayer of laying out. Anything can happen when you hit the ground. I came down like a football catch and that thing wasn’t getting out.Henderson Alvarez, who tossed last year’s season-ending no-hitter, was the victim today.

Elsewhere in the National League:

  • The Marlins will discuss a contract extension with Giancarlo Stanton this offseason, reports Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “That is our plan, to talk with him about extending him beyond his arbitration years,” said Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill. “We have to hear from them and what their goals are, and what they hope to accomplish. We have some ideas we’ll streamline and tighten up as have those meetings. And hopefully we’re on the same page and can get something done.” Stanton is represented by the Wasserman Media Group, per MLBTR’s Agency Database.
  • Earlier today, Marlins manager Mike Redmond received a contract extension. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, meanwhile, is still awaiting his fate. “Yeah, I don’t know where we stand,” Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. “Yeah, it’s always uncomfortable when you’re not sure what’s going to happen. You do the best you can do, and you know when you’re a manager, that sometimes if it doesn’t go well, that you’re the guy that’s going to get blamed for it.” The Brewers lost to the Cubs to finish the year at 82-80 and 9-22 since August 26.
  • Ryan Howard is just as unclear about his 2015 status with the Phillies, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “Whether it’s going to be here or not, I don’t know. But I’ll be playing baseball. So my future is certain in that aspect,” said Howard, who went so far as to ask reporters if they think he has played his last game as a Phillie. 
  • Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett, who will undergo hernia surgery next week, remains undecided about exercising his $12.75MM player option, writes MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. “It’s ultimately going to come down to me,” Burnett said. “I had the same thoughts last year. Then I woke up and I wanted to compete. So I can’t just shut that down if it’s still there. But then again, my youngins, they have a say in it.
  • Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post opines losing has taken such a toll throughout the Rockies organization that players, coaches, and other staff members are wondering if there is a vision to right the franchise.
  • Wally Backman will not be added to the Mets‘ coaching staff in 2015, sources tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.


Poll: The Best In-Season Waiver Claim

With the regular season coming to a close, we can see with MLBTR’s Transaction Tracker that there were dozens of waiver claims made this season. While many of the players involved in these transactions didn’t crack a big league roster or didn’t stick following their claim, a handful provided legitimate value to their new clubs. Let’s take a look at some of the better pulls…

  • Sam Fuld (Claimed by Twins from A’s on April 20): Fuld was acquired by the Twins simply because they needed depth in center field, but he provided quite a bit more than depth. Fuld batted a very solid .274/.370/.354 in 195 PA with the Twins and provided value both on the bases and in the outfield. He was traded back to Oakland on July 31, netting the Twins Tommy Milone. The 27-year-old Milone has struggled so far in Minnesota, but the team gained four years of control of a potential back-end starter in the deal.
  • Hector Noesi (Claimed by White Sox from Rangers on April 25): Few expected Noesi to hold down a rotation spot in Chicago for the whole season, but he’s done just that. The 27-year-old, who was a castoff from the Mariners after struggling to a 6.13 ERA in parts of three seasons, made just three appearances with the Rangers before being DFAed there also. In Chicago, he’s turned in a 4.39 ERA with 6.3 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 37.7 percent ground-ball rate in 160 innings. He may not be an elite arm or even a long-term piece, but he’s provided some stability and soaked up innings, and there’s value to that for any club. Noesi is controlled through 2017 if the Sox are so inclined.
  • Moises Sierra (Claimed by White Sox from Blue Jays on May 3): Chicago’s outfield depth took a hit with the injury to Avisail Garcia, and Sierra has helped fill some of the void in a part-time role. He hasn’t been an elite bat, but he’s provided above-average offense with a .280/.316/.423 and also played solid defense in right field. He’s yet to reach arbitration eligibility, and he remains under control through 2019, so he could serve as a bench piece in future seasons.
  • Esmil Rogers (Claimed by Yankees from Blue Jays on July 31): Rogers’ struggles in Toronto were long bemoaned by Blue Jays fans, particularly because he was acquired in a deal that sent Yan Gomes to the Indians. The Yankees claimed him with little fanfare, but he’s given them five solid innings in a spot start and 19 2/3 innings of solid relief. The end result is a 3.28 ERA and a strong 22-to-8 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 frames for the Yankees. While he might not be a long-term piece (he’s a non-tender candidate after earning $1.85MM this year), he did provide a positive contribution to a Yankee pitching staff that was still hoping to make a run at the time of his acquisition.
  • Jordan Schafer (Claimed by Twins from Braves on Aug. 3): Once a top Braves prospect, Schafer’s second tenure with the club that drafted him didn’t go all that well, but the Twins again claimed him in need of outfield depth. Schafer has faredwell in Minnesota, slashing .285/.345/.362 with 15 steals in 20 attempts. He can be controlled through 2016 if the Twins wish to retain him as a fourth outfielder, which seems likely, as he earned a modest $1.09MM in 2014.
  • Matt Thornton (Claimed by Nationals from Yankees on Aug. 5): Thornton pitched well in the Bronx after signing a two-year, $7MM deal with the Yankees, but his salary made him expendable to the Bombers, who let him go to the Nats on this waiver claim. The veteran lefty has rattled off 11 1/3 scoreless innings over 18 appearances with the Nats and is controlled through next season at $3.5MM.
  • Jerome Williams (Claimed by the Phillies from the Rangers on Aug. 10): Williams struggled mightily with both Texas clubs after finding success as a swingman with the Angels from 2011-13, but he rediscovered himself in Philadelphia. He’s given the Phillies eight starts and 51 1/3 innings of 2.45 ERA ball with 6.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a 45.7 percent ground-ball rate. With the Phillies toiling at the bottom of the NL East and Williams set to hit free agency at season’s end, the overall benefit may seem trivial, but he’s provided stable innings for the Phils and rebuilt some of the stock that his struggles in Houston and Arlington tarnished.
  • John Axford (Claimed by Pirates from Indians on Aug. 14): Axford’s bid to reestablish himself with the Indians fell short, as he quickly lost the closer’s gig and walked 30 batters in 43 2/3 innings with Cleveland. The Bucs claimed him in hopes of lowering that walk rate, and they’ve succeeded. Axford has given the playoff-bound Bucs 10 2/3 innings of a 1.69 ERA in relief, and perhaps more importantly, he’s turned in a tidy 12-to-4 K/BB ratio in that time. He appears to have manager Clint Hurdle’s trust, as he’s worked the seventh inning three times, the eighth inning six times and the ninth inning three times in his 12 appearances as a Pirate. They’ll have the option to retain him via arbitration this offseason, though a raise on his $4.5MM salary may be too steep.

While these waiver claims vary in nature — some provide a long-term bench piece while others have provided short-term boosts — each has been of some benefit to their current club. That brings me to the question…


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).