Washington Nationals Rumors

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

NL East Notes: MASN, Collins, Phils, Hamels, Bastardo

As baseball’s owners gather in Baltimore to decide upon the next Commissioner, it appears the game’s next steward will find a legal dispute between the region’s two ballclubs — the Orioles and Nationals — waiting for resolution. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports on some details gleaned from court filings, including allegations from Baltimore that the Nationals hoped to use the rights fee renegotiation to render insolvent the jointly owned TV network (MASN) so as to to free the club’s broadcast rights. Today, Kilgore reports (Twitter links) that, based upon filings and already-public information, it appears that the arbitration panel that previously ruled on the dispute awarded the Nationals approximately $55MM in annual rights fees.

Here’s more from the NL East:

  • Mets manager Terry Collins is likely to return next year, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Collins has been at the helm since the 2011 season, and now seems likely to have the chance to try to guide the club through its hoped-for transition from rebuilding to competing.
  • The Phillies‘ rotation may take time to reconstitute, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. When asked if there were any internal options that looked prime to step up to the MLB staff next year, manager Ryne Sandberg could name only Jesse Biddle (who struggled at Double-A this year and is only now returning to that level after a temporary demotion) and, upon prompting from a reporter, recent draft pick Aaron Nola (who just made it to Double-A himself). Meanwhile, Gelb writes that the team is not likely to pursue the top-end arms available in free agency, though could play in the next tier down.
  • Indeed, there is quite a bit of uncertainty in the Phils’ starting five. Cliff Lee‘s availability for next season is still in doubt, Kyle Kendrick will be a free agent, and it remains to be seen whether A.J. Burnett will exercise his player option. And trade speculation has followed the one seemingly sure thing: Cole Hamels, the club’s best trade asset. As Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News writes, Hamels says he wants to pitch for a winner, though he hopes that he can do so in Philadelphia. (With a 20-team no-trade clause, Hamels’s preferences do have a role in any trade discussions.)
  • Turning to the bullpen, lefty Antonio Bastardo — a much-discussed piece of July trade bait who was not moved — could instead be dealt this winter, writes Gelb. Bastardo has had something of an up-and-down year as he approaches his last season of arbitration eligibility. Of course, with his salary rising and the immediate needs of the trade deadline no longer in play, it remains to be seen whether the Phils can extract maximum value for the set-up man.

Desmond, Gonzalez Clear Waivers; Strasburg, Harper Pulled Back After Claims

The Nationals are clearly in the process of running much of their roster through waivers, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that shortstop Ian Desmond and left-hander Gio Gonzalez have both cleared revocable trade waivers. Ace Stephen Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper were both claimed on waivers and subsequently pulled back, Nightengale adds (Twitter links).

That both Desmond and Gonzalez would clear waivers is a bit surprising, although even in the event that they had been claimed, it’s highly unlikely that the contending Nationals would’ve dealt away either key contributor. Desmond, 28, is in the midst of a down season at the plate but has still been valuable. He’s hitting .244/.296/.422 with 19 homers and 13 stolen bases. Defensive metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved are down on his typically strong glovework in 2014, however. Still, as a shortstop with pop that is owed just $1.74MM through season’s end in addition to $11MM in 2015, it wouldn’t have been a surprise for a club to place a claim.

Gonzalez, also 28, has struggled in 2014 as well (by his standards). The lefty has pitched to a 4.00 ERA with 9.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 44.7 percent ground-ball rate. Though his ERA is higher than normal, ERA estimators such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel that he’s having one of his better years. Gonzalez is controlled through 2016 ($11MM in 2015, $12MM in 2016) with a $12MM club option for 2017 and a $12MM vesting option for 2018. As noted before, it’s nearly impossible to imagine Desmond or Gonzalez being moved this month.

It’s hardly a surprise to see Harper and Strasburg claimed, but it’s even less surprising that the Nats promptly pulled them back. Harper is controlled through the 2018 season, and while he’s having a down season, he possesses a sky-high ceiling and was excellent in 2012-13 despite playing at the ages of 19 and 20. Strasburg is under control through 2016, and while his ERA is higher than normal, he’s sporting a 10.7 K/9 rate and an even 3.00 FIP. Both are Scott Boras clients, so while an extension is unlikely for either, they’re integral part of the Nationals’ plan in the coming seasons.

Both Desmond and Gonzalez will now be added to MLBTR’s growing list of players that have reportedly cleared revocable waivers.


NL Notes: Taylor, Cuddyer, Hanley, Alvarez

The Nationals will promote top prospect Michael Taylor today, a source tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. The 23-year-old, previously known more for his bat than his glove, has risen quickly through Double-A and Triple-A this season, hitting .315/.401/.547 with 22 homers and 35 stolen bases along the way. Outfielder Steven Souza was placed on the disabled list with a left shoulder contusion to make room for Taylor. MLB.com ranked Taylor 72nd on the midseason edition of its Top 200 prospects list. Washington will have control of him through at least the 2019 season if he is in the Majors to stay.

Here are some more Sunday morning links from around the senior circuit…

  • Michael Cuddyer is focused on getting healthy rather than proving himself to potential free agent suitors or to the Rockies in the season’s final weeks, writes Nick Groke of the Denver Post. The 35-year-old, who is finishing up a three-year, $31.5MM contract, has been out since April with a broken bone in his left shoulder. Cuddyer elected to rehab at the lower levels of the minor leagues to strengthen his legs and to once again experience the camaraderie of that environment, he explains. His decision has not been taken for granted by the young players he’s encountered thus far, as Rockies 2014 first-rounder Forrest Wall has already picked Cuddyer’s brain about preparation for games and his approach at the plate. The Rockies would like to retain Cuddyer, though they aren’t sure at what price they’d be comfortable, Groke notes.
  • The Dodgers seem resigned to the fact that Hanley Ramirez will be placed on the disabled list with an oblique injury, writes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Ramirez has been determined to stay off the DL in his contract year, says Gurnick, but he’s still missed 25 starts with various injuries to this point. Ramirez ranked third on the most recent edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, with his lack of durability being a primary reason for his fall from the top spot. A stint on the DL — which would be his fifth since the onset of the 2011 season — certainly won’t help his free agent stock.
  • Karen Price of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review spoke to Pedro Alvarez and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle about the possibility of Alvarez moving across the diamond to first base. Alvarez, whom Hurdle recently said had lost his starting job at third base, is open to the idea and called it a “no-brainer” rather than offer any negative comments about the move. It’d present the Bucs with an interesting logjam at first, however, as Alvarez ($4.25MM), Ike Davis ($3.5MM) and Gaby Sanchez ($2.3MM) are all due raises on their 2014 salaries via arbitration this winter. Price notes that Sanchez has begun working out over at third base.


NL East Notes: Gregg, Turner, Hamels, Harper

The Marlins announced today that Kevin Gregg‘s season is over, as the 36-year-old right-hander will undergo surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. The Fish inked Gregg to a minor league deal back in early June and guaranteed him a base salary that was roughly equivalent to the value of the Competitive Balance pick they traded to the Pirates for fellow righty Bryan Morris. While the Morris acquisition has paid off in spades — he’s allowed one earned run in 31 1/3 innings — the decision to essentially reallocate that money to Gregg didn’t work out anywhere near as nicely. Gregg allowed 10 runs in nine innings with Miami before hitting the DL last month.

Here’s more on the Marlins and the rest of the NL East…

  • The Marlins‘ decision to designate former top prospect Jacob Turner for assignment raised some eyebrows, and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tries to shed some light on the rationale behind the move. Having tried Turner in both the rotation and the bullpen, Frisaro writes, the Marlins lost patience with his struggles. Wanting to change up their roster with the faint hope of a playoff push still in their minds, the club designated the out-of-options righty to clear roster space for Brian Flynn. However, Frisaro writes that it will likely end up being Brad Penny that takes Turner’s roster spot. While Penny has excelled in five Triple-A starts with the Marlins, it’s tough to buy the idea that a veteran who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2012 and posted a 5.41 ERA from 2011-12 is a more viable alternative based on 27 2/3 Triple-A innings. Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus give the Marlins a 4.6 percent shot at making the playoffs (via division title or wild card), and the notion that Penny increases those odds enough to justify parting with four years of team control over Turner is a tough sell in my mind.
  • Disagreeing with an earlier piece from colleague Rob Neyer, Dave Cameron writes that the Phillies should have traded Cole Hamels prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. While much has been made of the fact that the Phillies don’t need to shed salary, Cameron notes that the salary saved on Hamels could have been reallocated to the free agent market (one that will be filled with high-end pitchers) to acquire immediate help. Those free agents could’ve paired with potential MLB-ready help to improve the club’s immediate future. Cameron also cautions against the notion that Hamels can help the next contending team in Philadelphia, as the club looks to be far away from contention, and there’s little guarantee when it comes to pitchers — even elite ones — sustaining their success into their 30s.
  • Nationals manager Matt Williams sounded off to reporters, including MLB.com’s Daniel Popper, expressing his anger over the fact that some had inferred from Williams’ comments on a radio station that Bryce Harper could be sent to the minor leagues. In a Wednesday morning radio appearance, Williams was asked if it was a stupid idea to suggest that Harper could be demoted for a week to fix his swing. Williams responded by saying it wasn’t stupid — as such tactics are often employed with struggling young talent — but quickly followed by saying that Harper’s situation was different because he is a “special young player.” In talking with reporters Wednesday evening, Williams vented a bit, stating: “It [ticks] me off to even think about the fact that somebody would take a comment that I make on the radio and infer that I am thinking one way or another. I’ve had it. … [Harper]‘s a very important part of our team, just like everybody else is. Do we understand each other? It’s not fair to the kid. It’s not fair to the rest of the clubhouse to even think about sending Bryce Harper to the Minor Leagues or to cause a stir. It’s unacceptable. It won’t happen.”

Players Who Have Cleared Revocable Waivers

MLBTR will continue to update this post as players reportedly clear revocable trade waivers, making it a running list of players that may be traded to any club in the season’s final two months. Remember though, players must be acquired by Aug. 31 to be eligible for their new team’s postseason roster. Click here for a further explanation of the August waiver and trade rules. Also bear in mind that a player’s no-trade rights remain effective even if he clears waivers. Player names are linked to the source articles, and this article can always be found under the MLBTR Features portion of the sidebar on the right side of the page.

Last Updated: 8-26-2014

  • Trevor Cahill, Diamondbacks — Still owed $12.8MM (including the buyout of two successive club options after next season) on a no-longer-attractive contract, Cahill remains a somewhat intriguing option at just 26 years of age. Though he owns just a 4.54 ERA over 83 1/3 innings on the year, including his first significant stretch of bullpen work, Cahill actually sports a career-best 3.72 FIP.
  • Scott Feldman, Astros — In the first year of a front-loaded $30MM contract, Feldman was owed roughly $20.36MM through the 2016 season at the time he reportedly cleared waivers. He’s missed a coupled weeks with biceps tendinitis in 2014 but been healthy otherwise and soaked up some innings with a reasonable 4.37 ERA (through Aug. 25) for Houston. He’s not an elite arm, but he could have appeal to a team in need of solid innings, particularly if Astros GM Jeff Luhnow were to sweeten the deal with some cash.
  • Bartolo Colon, Mets — The 41-year-old Colon was guaranteed $12.77MM through 2015 at the time he cleared waivers on Aug. 25. He’s pitched to a 3.82 ERA in 167 1/3 innings, more than justifying the commitment that the Mets made to him as a free agent. Colon’s age will scare off some contenders, but he looks the part of an effective starter, and with one year at $11MM remaining after the season, his salary isn’t exorbitant.
  • Yu Darvish, Rangers – It is somewhat hard to imagine that Darvish’s current DL stint for elbow inflammation would be enough to scare away other clubs from the outstanding righty. He has produced stellar results (3.06 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 over 144 1/3 innings on the year), only just turned 28, and is guaranteed a modest $31MM over the next three seasons (though the last year could turn into a player option). The likelier possibility, perhaps, is that other clubs felt it would not be possible to achieve a deal, especially while he is out of action to have his elbow looked at.
  • Adrian Beltre, Rangers – If anything, the lack of a claim on Beltre is more surprising (if only because of Darvish’s injury situation). The 35-year-old is in the midst of a typically outstanding year, with a .318/.373/.498 slash with 17 home runs and excellent defense. He is owed $34MM over the next two years, which is a large sum given his age. But that is a bargain for his production, and the $16MM salary for 2016 has injury protections built in.
  • Elvis Andrus, Rangers – That Andrus was left unclaimed could represent something of a statement on the league’s view of his contract. His eight-year, $120MM extension (which includes both opt-out and vesting option provisions) is set to go into effect next season. Just 25, Andrus has not produced offensively either this year or last (.271/.326/.337 cumulative line), and his high-level defense and baserunning are probably not enough on their own to justify his pay level.
  • Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers – Choo has thus far failed to live up to the seven-year, $130MM deal that brought him to Texas. He owns a .241/.341/.371 slash in that contract’s first year, with 12 home runs and just three stolen bases. While there is time for Choo to rebound, he is promised far too much future cash ($116MM) for another team to have placed a claim.
  • Jon Niese, Mets — It’s a bit surprising that teams would let a controllable, highly affordable arm like Niese clear waivers. He’s owed about $1.34MM through season’s end (as of his clearing on Aug. 11) and is guaranteed $7MM in 2015 and $9MM in 2016. Niese’s deal contains a $10MM club option for 2017 and $11MM club option for 2018, each with a $500K buyout. He’s not an ace, but he’s a reliable mid-rotation arm that is on the verge of finishing his third season with a sub-3.75 ERA. The asking price will be sky-high — justifiably so — making a trade unlikely.
  • Curtis Granderson, Mets — The Grandy Man has recovered from a slow start to post strong numbers since May 1 (.258/.360/.447 from May 1 through Aug. 11), but the odds of a team taking on the roughly $50MM he has remaining on his deal are slim. It also would set a poor precedent with future free agents if the Mets issued a four-year deal, only to trade him in the first year of the contract. Don’t expect a trade.
  • Ian Desmond, Nationals — That Desmond would clear is surprising, but it’s likely that the other 29 clubs knew that GM Mike Rizzo wouldn’t deal his shortstop in the midst of a playoff push anyway. Desmond is earning $6.5MM in 2014 and $11MM in 2015 before being eligible for free agency, so he’d have plenty of trade value. An in-season trade would be shocking, however, with the Nats fighting for a division title.
  • Gio Gonzalez, Nationals — Gonzalez is controlled relatively cheaply through the 2018 season ($23MM guaranteed through 2016 plus a pair of $12MM options), making it a virtual lock that he’s not going anywhere prior to season’s end. With four years of control, he could fetch a haul in the offseason, but teams are rarely willing to move an established starter with that type of control. He’s extremely likely to be a National again in 2015.
  • Kevin Correia, Twins — The Twins sent Correia through waivers at the beginning of the month, as he had reportedly already cleared by the time the Dodgers acquired him on Aug. 9. The Dodgers are on the hook for the remaining $1.5MM on his contract, and he’ll be a free agent at season’s end.
  • Alex Rios, Rangers — Rios is owed roughly $3.62MM through season’s end (as of Aug. 7) as well as a $1MM buyout on next year’s $13.5MM club option. While he’s enjoyed a decent season at the plate, a good deal of his slugging percentage comes from a high number of triples, rather than his usual contribution of double-digit home runs. ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that teams are wary of Rios’ declining home run power, so the Rangers have some obstacles in trying to work out a trade for their right fielder.
  • Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies — Papelbon cleared waivers on Aug. 6, to the surprise of very few, given the fact that he is owed $13MM in 2015 and has a vesting option for the 2016 season. Papelbon’s ERA and K/BB numbers remain appealing, but he’s survived with an abnormally low BABIP while seeing his average fastball velocity diminish to 91.4 mph. He has a limited no-trade clause but has said he’d waive those rights to join a contender. Philadelphia would have to eat some salary in order to facilitate a deal, however.
  • Matt Kemp, Dodgers – Though Kemp has shown flashes of returning to his prior form at the plate, he is owed too much money after this year ($107MM) and comes with too many questions (injuries, defense) to warrant a claim. In any event, the Dodgers seem disinclined to trade him.
  • Andre Ethier, Dodgers — If any Dodgers outfielder were to move, Ethier might be the likeliest option, but a .672 OPS won’t be appealing to interested parties. Even less appealing, however, will be the $56MM he is guaranteed following the 2014 season. That number could rise even further as well, as 550 PA in 2017 would trigger a $17.5MM vesting option ($2.5MM buyout). Clearly, L.A. would have to pay a significant portion of Ethier’s salary to move him, as his production in 2014 has been near or below replacement level (depending on your preferred version of WAR).
  • Carl Crawford, Dodgers — The 33-year-old Crawford may be even more untradeable for the Dodgers, as he’s owed $62.5MM beyond the 2014 season and is hitting just .236/.271/.341 in what has been an injury-riddled season. The Dodgers have motivation to move at least one of their overpriced outfielders, with top prospect Joc Pederson likely ready to make the move to the Majors, but they’ll be hard-pressed to do so.
  • Josh Beckett, Dodgers — Owed a much more reasonable $4.73MM (as of Aug. 5), Beckett is a more desirable commodity for interested parties. However, he’s currently occupying a slot in L.A.’s rotation, and he’s produced a surprisingly excellent 2.88 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 112 innings this season. The contending Dodgers don’t seem likely to deal from their rotation depth. The loss of Paul Maholm to a torn ACL has already weakened their rotation depth.
  • Brett Gardner, Yankees — Gardner is owed $50MM from 2015-18, and the Yankees weren’t likely to have given any serious consideration to dealing him anyhow. The speedster has shown more power than ever this season and has been New York’s most valuable position player. He’s staying put.
  • Martin Prado, Yankees — Owed $11MM in 2015 and in 2016, Prado’s salary and struggles with the bat have combined to offset a great deal of the value his versatility provides to his team. The Yankees acquired Prado just minutes before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, so it seems unlikely that they’d move him this quickly.
  • Stephen Drew, Yankees — Drew is owed about $4.24MM from Aug. 5 through season’s end, making it unsurprising that a team neglected to claim him on waivers. His bat showed some life in July and in early August, but the impending free agent’s overall numbers are pretty woeful. Another two or three weeks of solid offense could make him a trade candidate if the Yankees fall out of the playoff picture, however.

Note: This is not a complete list of all players to have cleared revocable waivers. Many players are placed on waivers and pass through unclaimed without ever going reported. This is merely a list of the names that have reportedly cleared waivers according to major media outlets around the game.


Nationals Acquire Matt Thornton From Yankees

1:54pm: The Nationals have in fact acquired Thornton after placing a claim, reports Heyman. It’s not yet clear whether or what the Nationals will send in return other than taking on salary, says Heyman. MLB: New York Yankees at Oakland Athletics

1:44pm: The Nationals have claimed Matt Thornton off revocable waivers from the Yankees, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Washington was awarded its claim on Thornton, which indicates that every club in the American League clubs and all National League clubs with a worse record than the Nats passed on the opportunity. (Be sure to read this primer on August trades if you have not done so already.)

This means that the Nationals have 48.5 hours from the point that the claim was awarded (which remains unclear) to work out a deal. If a trade cannot be arranged, the Yankees will have to decide whether to allow the Nationals to take on Thornton’s contract without compensation. (Having placed the claim, the Nats would be obliged to accept it.)

Thornton has been excellent this year, pitching to a 2.55 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 over 24 2/3 innings. He signed a two-year, $7MM deal over the offseason, under which he is promised a $3.5MM annual salary in each season. The Nationals have been said to be looking hard to add a southpaw pen piece, though it would be somewhat of a surprise if the Yankees moved a player who has been a fairly valuable contributor.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Nationals Interested In Rangers’ Neal Cotts

Though the trade deadline has passed, the Nationals are still looking to bolster their left-handed relief corps and are considering Neal Cotts of the Rangers, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. The sides have had prior talks, but Texas has held out thus far for a better offer.

Washington expressed interest in players like Andrew Miller (then of the Red Sox, now of the Orioles) at the deadline, Ladson says, but did not pull the trigger. The club was unwilling to part with outfielder Steven Souza, who is now with the big league club and could be an important piece going forward. The Nationals have not received quite the production they hoped for from Jerry Blevins, who has been stellar against lefties but entirely ineffective against righties. And fellow lefty Ross Detwiler has improved, but still has not turned into the force that the club hoped he might be in a relief role.

Cotts is set to become a free agent and is playing on a fairly modest $2.2MM salary this year, which could make it tough for him to squeeze through waivers. (The Nationals, of course, would be behind the entire American League and all NL clubs with worse records in waiver priority.) The 34-year-old has not matched his stellar 2013 season (1.11 ERA), but has been effective enough with a 3.38 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 9.8 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9. Cotts has actually posted reverse platoon splits, giving up a .261/.333/.412 line to same-handed hitters while holding righties to a .244/.317/.333 slash.


Minor Moves: Hernandez, De Paula, Roenicke, Feierabend, Hayes

Here are the latest minor league transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the post…

  • The Rockies have outrighted Pedro Hernandez to Triple-A, according to the MLB transactions page. The 25-year-old lefty made one start for Colorado before he was designated. As he has previously been outrighted, Hernandez will have the right to elect free agency.
  • Reliever Jose De Paula has re-signed with the Giants on a minor league deal, per the MLB transactions page. The club had designated and then released him just days ago.
  • The Nationals have released righty Josh Roenicke, according to the International League transactions page. Roenicke had spent at least some time in the big leagues for each of the prior six seasons, and logged 150 2/3 between 2012-13. But moving to the starting rotation for the first time as a professional has not resulted in high-level production at Triple-A this year; Roenicke has struggled to a 5.45 ERA through 79 1/3 frames (15 starts) with 4.2 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9.
  • Ryan Feierabend of the Rangers has accepted an outright assignment rather than electing free agency, tweets Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The left-hander made his way back to the bigs for the first time since 2008 with a Texas club that has cycled through more than its fair share of arms this year.
  • The Royals outrighted Brett Hayes to Triple-A after the catcher cleared waivers, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link).  As the backup behind workhorse starter Salvador Perez, Hayes hasn’t seen much action this year, appearing in 27 games and posting a .362 OPS over only 53 PA.
  • The Diamondbacks signed right-hander Graham Godfrey, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports.  Godfrey posted a 5.09 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 46 innings with the A’s in 2011-12 and he spent last season pitching for the Red Sox and Pirates’ Triple-A affiliates.
  • The Diamondbacks released first baseman Wagner Mateo earlier this week, according to the Pioneer League’s transactions page.  Mateo originally signed a contract as a 16-year-old with the Cardinals worth a $3.1MM bonus in 2009 but St. Louis voided that deal after Mateo’s physical revealed apparent vision problems.  Mateo signed a $512K contract with the D’Backs a year later and hit .230/.312/.349 over 802 pro plate appearances, never getting above the High-A ball level.  He also posted an 8.87 ERA over 22 1/3 relief innings over the last two seasons.
  • The Reds released right-hander Adam Russell last week, as announced via Twitter by their Triple-A Louisville affiliate.  Russell posted a 3.95 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 1.46 K/BB rate over 86 2/3 relief innings with the White Sox, Padres and Rays from 2008-11, and he’s since toiled in the minors with four other organizations.  He had a 4.33 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 1.79 K/BB in 35 1/3 IP this season with Louisville.
  • Zach McAllister and Evan Scribner were both respectively optioned to Triple-A by the Indians and Athletics over the weekend.  The two righties were both on optional assignment waivers after being designated off their team’s 25-man rosters (but not the 40-man rosters) on Friday, though they were procedural moves rather than traditional DFAs, and neither player was in any danger of being claimed by another club.
  • To monitor players who have been properly designated for assignment, check out MLBTR’s DFA Tracker, as a whopping 10 players currently reside in “DFA limbo.”

Quick Hits: Draft, Astros, Lester, Souza

Since next year’s amateur draft will be the 50th June draft, Baseball America’s John Manuel thinks MLB should use the milestone to make changes to the draft’s structure.  Manuel’s suggestions include moving the draft to All-Star week, shortening it to 20 rounds and implementing a standardized pre-draft physical for every player that would help avoid another Brady Aiken situation.  Testing would take place during “a medical combine” that would get official gauges on other measurable physical skills and baseball abilities.

Here are some notes from around the sport…

  • The Astros will have a hard time finding 40-man roster spots for all of their promising Rule 5 draft-eligible prospects, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper writes.  One interesting facet of the Jarred Cosart trade with the Marlins, Cooper notes, was that Houston freed up two extra 40-man roster spaces for use this winter.
  • The perception that Jon Lester and the Red Sox have some sort of tacit agreement that the southpaw will re-sign with the team this winter is “amusing,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only column.  Such an agreement would require a lot of trust between both sides, and after the way the Sox approached negotiations with their former ace, “the Lester-Red Sox relationship degraded into a business transaction.”  This doesn’t necessarily mean Lester won’t re-sign, Olney notes, just that Boston will need to greatly increase their contract offer in the offseason.
  • Also from Olney’s column, he lists nine starters who the Red Sox could pursue in trades this winter since the free agent pitching options (and/or prices) may not be to Boston’s liking.
  • When the Nationals were trying to acquire a reliever before the deadline, several teams asked for outfield Steven Souza in return, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports.  Souza, who received his second big league call-up today, has posted huge numbers in each of his last three minor league seasons, including a .354/.435/.601 slash line with 18 homers and 24 steals (of 31 chances) in 386 PA for Triple-A Syracuse this year.

July Trade Recap: NL East

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:

Braves

Marlins

Mets

  • No trades

Nationals

Phillies

  • No trades

Synopsis

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.