Washington Nationals Rumors

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

Nationals Avoid Arbitration With Kevin Frandsen

FRIDAY: Frandsen and the Nationals have agreed to terms on a one-year, $1MM contract that contains up to $300K worth of incentives, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports (on Twitter).

THURSDAY: The Nationals and utility player Kevin Frandsen are nearing an agreement to avoid arbitration for the 2015 season, reports James Wagner of the Washington Post. Frandsen is a client All Bases Covered Sports Management’s Damon Lapa.

The versatile 32-year-old batted .259/.299/.309 with one homer in 236 plate appearances for the Nationals this past season, seeing time at third base, second base, first base and left field in his first year with Washington. A lifetime .259/.313/.350 hitter, Frandsen has also spent time with the Giants, Angels and Phillies in parts of eight big league seasons. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Frandsen to earn $1.2MM in what will be his final season of arbitration eligibility before hitting the open market.


NL Notes: D’backs, Murphy, Rockies, Cards, Nats

Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa says he has hired Ed Lewis to take charge of the team’s analytical department, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal reports on Twitter. Lewis is an old friend of La Russa’s who does stock market analytical work, the head D’backs baseball man tells Costa. The question whether and how the Arizona ballclub would incorporate analytics into its operations has been a topic of interest since even before La Russa’s hiring, and it will be interesting to see what this latest front office addition means for the team’s intentions.

Here are a few more stray notes from the National League:

  • The Mets do not have any near-term intentions to approach second baseman Daniel Murphy about a contract extension, GM Sandy Alderson tells ESPNNewYork.com’s Adam Rubin. At the same time, the team is “reluctant” to deal him away at present, said Alderson. That could change, of course, if the club adds a new shortstop or otherwise adds offense, per the report.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says that deciding whether to deal stars Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez is “not just a casual type of process” for the club, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports. Calling them “marquee” players, Bridich said it could be that other teams will not be willing to give up a haul that meets that lofty standard given both players’ injury issues. “We may or may not find out in the coming weeks,” he said. “Nothing of substance has taken place, so here we are.”
  • The Cardinals have “payroll muscle” at their disposal, GM John Mozeliak tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Though the team has no intentions of spending its money just to put it to use, Mozeliak says it will do so in the right circumstances: “You’re definitely right in the assessment that we do have resources. If adding a year or adding a higher [average salary] means a deal, yes, we’re capable of doing that as long as it stays within the parameters of being rational.”
  • Deciding to deal a high-performing veteran is a difficult decision in many circumstances, none more so than for a team that intends to contend. That is the strategic choice facing the Nationals, who have several top players entering their final year of team control. As I noted about ten days ago in my offseason outlook for the Nats, the concept of a trade (most likely involving Zimmermann) has to at least be entertained, particularly if a young middle infielder was part of the return, and GM Mike Rizzo sounds willing to consider anything. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post argues, quite validly, that this is not the time to be viewing the pitcher as an asset to be optimally leveraged, but rather an opportunity to push for the present (comfortable with the knowledge that a qualifying offer would still be available). Drew Fairservice of Fangraphs, meanwhile, proposes that the Nats should move the righty as a means not only of setting up for the future but also possibly addressing present needs (namely, second base).

NL East Notes: Desmond, Fish, Phils, Hamels, Braves, Medlen

The Nationals made Ian Desmond a seven-year, $107MM extension offer last year, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, though that also included contract deferrals that would have reduced its true value. Negotiations are expected to pick back up in the months to come, per Kilgore, and that offer will presumably be the starting point. Desmond, who put up another strong year and is now one year away from the open market, is one key piece of the team’s increasingly pressing long-term strategic questions.

Here’s the latest out of the division:

  • The Marlins‘ interest in the starting pitching market is fairly diverse, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Possible trade targets range from buy-low (Ubaldo Jimenez) to buy-high (Johnny Cueto), and interest on the free agent markets includes Kyle Kendrick and Ervin Santana. The unifying force here is probably the expected ability of these varying arms to provide innings; as I noted yesterday, the Fish hope to add a solid, veteran presence to their staff.
  • Spencer also spoke with the Miami brass about Giancarlo Stanton, and discusses the team’s reasoning for trying to build a winner around him now, even if an extension cannot ultimately be worked out. “We’re trying to get away from that, that we have to trade everybody because they get expensive,” Hill said. “Enough of that. We want to win. We want to keep as many of our pieces as we can.”
  • There are “a lot of good fits” for Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is likely to be traded, sources tell Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Philadelphia is seeing interest in Ben Revere as well.
  • Of course, the flashier chip for the Phils is lefty Cole Hamels. As Salisbury reports, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “the free agent market will kind of dictate where this thing goes,” referring to the possibility of striking a deal. “[A]t some point the dominores will start to fall and then we’ll see where it takes us,” said Amaro, who notes that there is no need to deal Hamels since he “traverses the timeline” of contention that the club has in mind.
  • Hamels would prefer to be dealt, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale provides additional teams to which Hamels cannot decline a trade (on top of the previously-reported Cubs): the Yankees and Rangers are the two A.L. clubs, with the Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, and Padres among the National League teams.
  • The Braves increasingly sound inclined to aim for the near future, and we’ve already heard several prominent names listed as possible trade candidates. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman provides two more, via Twitter: reliever Jordan Walden (who projects to earn $3MM in arbitration) and young second baseman Tommy La Stella.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says the sides will “need to get creative” to work out a deal to keep Kris Medlen, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. While the team has every hope of keeping the righty, his second Tommy John procedure and $5.8MM projected arb price tag do not make for a straightforward situation given the team’s tight payroll. Sherman suggests that a significantly lower guarantee, combined with incentives and a 2016 option, could be palatable for both sides. It seems that Medlen would be able to do better, however, were he to force the Braves’ hand: he would either be tendered a contract, or hit the open market with plenty of suitors given his upside.


Rizzo: Nationals Have Payroll Flexibility

The Nationals are entering the offseason with “an eye on 2015 and also beyond,” club president and GM Mike Rizzo said today from the GM Meetings in Phoenix. As it looks to build off of an NL East-winning 2014, the club will benefit from a measure of financial flexibility.

Last year’s Opening Day payroll evidently does not set a ceiling for the team’s spending, according to Rizzo. Asked where the club stood financially with a slate of guarantees and likely arbitration commitments that already push beyond last year’s starting salary point, the Nats’ head baseball decisionmaker told MLBTR: “There’s nothing off the table, there’s no restrictions. We’re going to make good, prudent baseball moves … regardless of payroll.”

At the start of last year, club ownership indicated that the $136MM+ budget was above where the organization wanted to be. But Rizzo said that the Nationals “have the flexibility to put the best club on the field.”

Rizzo also preached a balance between present and future in assessing the possibility of trading from the current roster. Though he rejected last night’s rumors that the Nats and Cubs were in talks on Jordan Zimmermann, he did say that the team is always willing to listen in an effort to improve.

The team does “not necessarily have to have a major league return on one of [the] 5+ [service-time] guys,” Rizzo said, explaining that he would be looking for “the greatest impact that you can make with the players you trade, especially when you don’t have to trade them.” In terms of value maximization, Rizzo also emphasized the fact that several of the Nationals’ 5+ players would likely be qualifying offer candidates next year.

Of course, players like Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, and (to a much lesser extent, given the team’s rising younger players) Denard Span all figure as extension candidates. I asked Rizzo about the equally impressive group of players coming behind those who are nearing free agency. The team has “a long-term outlook and a long-term plan,” said Rizzo. “We’ve definitely thought about who and how and what players we should look into extending and we certainly have our plans in place to do what we need to do to protect the longevity and success of the franchise.”


NL East Notes: Mets, Braves, Zimmermann

The Mets and Mariners could be trade partners on a deal that would send a young shortstop to Citi Field, multiple sources tell ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin.  Seattle has a pair of young middle infield options in Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, and both could be expendable should the M’s acquire a more proven veteran to play shortstop — for instance, the Mariners reportedly have a strong interest in Hanley Ramirez.  Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links) would “be surprised” if the Braves don’t trade Evan Gattis or an outfielder in exchange for “a good/very good young starting pitcher in the next several weeks.”  The Braves are known to be looking to add pitching given Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy‘s injury situations and the fact that Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang are free agents.
  • Despite recent rumors, it is very unlikely that the Nationals would trade Jordan Zimmermann, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman writes.  Nats GM Mike Rizzo would need a massive offer to even consider moving Zimmermann, as while the righty is only under contract for one more season, losing him would be a blow to a Nats team that wants to win a World Series in 2015.
  • Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have consistently said they want to remain lifetime Phillies and aren’t willing to waive their 10-and-5 rights to accommodate a trade, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.  Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has spoken to both players about the club’s rebuilding plans, and Lawrence wonders if either Rollins or Utley would be more open being dealt now that the Phils are openly planning for the future.
  • Also from Lawrence, he lists the Reds, Cardinals and Tigers atop a list of 15 teams who he sees as possible trade fits for the PhilliesMarlon Byrd.  Last week, we heard that Byrd was drawing a lot of interest on the trade market.

NL Central Notes: Zimmermann, Cards, Miller

A rumored deal of Jordan Zimmermann to the Cubs is reportedly not happening, which makes sense to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal since such a trade wouldn’t really be a fit for either the Cubs or the Nationals.  The Cubs are likely to address their pitching need by either signing a top free agent arm or trading one of their infield prospects for a controllable younger arm.  Dealing for Zimmermann would the Cubs to both give up prospects and spend big, Rosenthal notes, since Chicago would obviously want to sign the righty to a long-term extension.

Here’s some more from around the NL Central…

  • The Cardinals are wary of making commitments that will result in future roadblocks to upcoming younger players, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  GM John Mozeliak notes that the team feels it could be “exposed” at first base or the corner outfield if it does not get the performances it hopes for, and is interested in left-handed relief help and a utility infielder.
  • In fact, the Cardinals met with representatives for Andrew Miller on Tuesday, Goold tweets. The meeting was characterized as exploratory in nature, though the fit is obvious.
  • Both the Cardinals and Reds had interest in Michael Cuddyer before he signed with the Mets, Goold reports in a separate piece.
  • Though the Reds are interested in Nori Aoki and Michael Morse, that is not an exclusive list, GM Walt Jocketty tells C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer (Twitter link). The club’s top priority is adding offense, and it is considering trade scenarios in addition to looking at the free agent market.

NL East Notes: Stanton, Heyward, Nats, Mets, Cuddyer, Phillies

For those who need further convincing that the Marlins are serious about extending Giancarlo Stanton, president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo (Twitter link), that teams aren’t even bothering to call and ask about Stanton’s availability anymore. Joel Sherman of the New York Post expands on that quote from Hill, noting that there are some indications that the team is willing to break its policy of not giving out no-trade clauses in order to lock up Stanton. Hill wouldn’t directly state that the team is willing to give Stanton a no-trade clause, but that could certainly be inferred from his comments: “It’s been an organizational policy, but you are talking about a star talent. You look at the marketplace and what other stars have gotten. It will be a topic of discussion.”

More from the NL East…

  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn’t envision an extension for Jason Heyward this offseason (Twitter links). That’s not due to a lack of interest on Atlanta’s behalf, but rather due to Heyward’s proximity to free agency. With Heyward set to hit the open market next winter, Hart said that his assumption is it’s “probably the wrong time,” though he said the team could still try to sign Heyward as a free agent.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged to James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s been in contact with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s agent as the team looks at all options on the second base market (Twitter link).
  •  Wagner also tweets that the Nationals and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann aren’t engaged in any form of extension talks at the moment. The ace righty is slated to hit the open market next winter after pocketing a $16.5MM salary in 2015.
  • Marc Carig of Newsday provides a breakdown of where the Mets are in their pursuit of a shortstop. The Mets aren’t big on the idea of multi-year deals for either Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera, and looking to the trade market has been difficult thus far. Arizona’s asking price on Didi Gregorius is high — GM Dave Stewart said the return would need to be “earth-shattering” in terms of controllable pitching — and the Cubs haven’t given indication they’ll part with Starlin Castro. The Mets are concerned about Alexei Ramirez‘s declining range, and while they briefly floated the idea of pursuing Jimmy Rollins, that notion went nowhere when they learned that Rollins wouldn’t waive his no-trade rights to go there. A trade for Troy Tulowitzki is considered an extreme long shot, he adds.
  • Matthew Cerrone of SNY.tv’s Metsblog has some highlights (and the audio) from the Mets‘ conference call announcing Michael Cuddyer‘s signing today. Within, he notes that GM Sandy Alderson admitted to being caught off guard by the Rockies’ qualifying offer, but they ultimately decided that they’d prefer to sacrifice a draft pick rather than sacrifice a current minor league prospect in a trade for an outfielder. That makes some sense, considering they figure to do so in order to acquire a shortstop at some point.
  • The Phillies are willing to trade anyone, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, but they may have to wait until the free agent market pans out a bit further before seeing some big deals come to fruition. If they’re able to find a taker for Ryan Howard, it may not come until big bats like Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera are off the market. The same could be said regarding Cole Hamels in relation to Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester; GM Ruben Amaro Jr. might find teams more willing to part with a significant prospect package when there are no longer ace-caliber alternatives in free agency.

Latest On Cubs’ Rotation Targets

9:21pm: The Nationals and Cubs have not exchanged names and a deal is unlikely, tweets Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.

8:04pm: The Cubs are engaged with discussions with the Nationals to acquire right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann, reports Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Talks are serious enough that the sides have exchanged names that would be involved, with at least one top young middle infielder likely to be part of the package.

Importantly, per Wittenmyer, Chicago would want to be able to ink Zimmermann to an extension in order to pull the trigger. The Relativity Baseball client is set to hit the open market after this season. He’ll earn $16.5MM in his final year of arb eligibility, after agreeing to a back-loaded two year deal to avoid arbitration last year.

Zimmermann reportedly rejected a five-year, $85MM contract proposal from the Nats last year, and his value has only risen. Zimmermann, 28, threw to a 2.66 ERA over 199 2/3 frames in 2014, striking out 8.2 and walking a league-low 1.3 batters per nine. And that campaign brought him one year closer to free agency, reducing his risk and increasing his leverage in talks.

Zimmermann is, of course, not the only pitching option being pursued by Chicago. Wittenmyer says that Jon Lester is still a possibility, and the club is also chasing the kind of high-upside, high-risk arms it has in the past. Justin Masterson is one of those, per Wittenmyer, who says the righty could be amenable to a low-cost, one-year deal to rebuild his value. Per Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (via Twitter), the team has had talks with Masterson, though nothing is close. Lefty Brett Anderson is another possibility, according to the Sun-Times report.

From the Nationals’ perspective, there is obvious appeal in the Cubs’ bevy of interesting, controllable middle infielders. Washington has an opening at second and has said it is interested in acquiring a shortstop option both for depth purposes and to provide an alternative to Ian Desmond, if he cannot be extended. Wittenmyer says the team feels comfortable with its staff even without Zimmermann, though I expect a free agent addition would be forthcoming if an arm is dealt.

While it is far too soon to speculate as to the pieces that might be included in a trade, the Cubs have several possible candidates that could be dangled. Starting shortstop Starlin Castro is signed to an attractive, yet pricey contract. And then there are heralded youngsters Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Addison Russell.


Showalter, Williams Win Manager Of The Year

Orioles skipper Buck Showalter and Nationals skipper Matt Williams have been voted as the American League and National League Managers of the Year.

Showalter, 58, takes home his third Manager of the Year Award, with the others previously coming in 1994 with the Yankees and 2004 with the Rangers. His Orioles won 96 games this season in a year when many believed the Red Sox, who were the defending World Champions, and the Yankees, who spent a half-billion dollars in free agency, would be fighting for the division. Baltimore made it all the way to the ALCS before being ousted by the Royals.

Williams, meanwhile, will win the award in his first year on the job. The Nationals also won 96 games this season, though their postseason journey ended in the National League Division Series at the hands of the eventual World Champion Giants.

Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy finished second and third, respectively, in the NL balloting. The Angels’ Mike Scioscia and the Royals’ Ned Yost were the respective second- and third-place finishers in the AL.


Minor Moves: Jurrjens, Wang, Delcarmen, Burriss

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league…

  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has published his latest round of Minor League Transactions, and within the piece he notes that the Rockies have re-signed Jair Jurrjens to a minor league deal. Additionally, the Royals have re-signed Cuban lefty Noel Arguelles, Jordan Norberto re-signed with the Rays and Russ Canzler is back with the Phillies. Each of these is a minor league deal.
  • The Braves have signed right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (on Twitter). The Braves are known to be seeking rotation depth, and Wang should provide just that. The former Yankee totaled 172 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level in 2014, posting a 4.12 ERA with 73 strikeouts and 57 walks.
  • The Nationals have re-signed right-hander Manny Delcarmen and infielder Emmanuel Burriss to minor league deals with invites to Spring Training, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson (Twitter links). Burriss, 30 in January, hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2012 but batted .300/.377/.412 in 510 Triple-A plate appearances for the Nats this past season. The 32-year-old Delcarmen hasn’t seen big league action since 2010, but he, too, had a strong season at Triple-A Syracuse for the Nats in 2014. Delcarmen posted a 3.13 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 60 1/3 innings of relief.