Washington Nationals Rumors

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

Pitcher Notes: Scherzer, Gallardo, Santana

The Nationals now might be the favorites to sign Max Scherzer, and that’s a bit surprising, given the quality of their existing rotation and the fact that they don’t seem likely to push their payroll to Dodgers/Yankees levels, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post writes. By backloading the deal, though, the Nationals could keep their 2015 payroll reasonable, then be able to pay Scherzer higher salaries in later years, when several highly paid current players (Ian Desmond, Doug Fister and Denard Span among them) could be gone. The Nationals could also trade Jordan Zimmermann after acquiring Scherzer, netting them prospect talent and essentially replacing one top starter with another. Here are more notes on pitchers.

  • The Rangers are rumored to be close to acquiring Yovani Gallardo from the Brewers, and such a deal would make sense from Texas’ perspective, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes. Gallardo would give the Rangers a needed veteran innings-eater without requiring a long-term commitment.
  • Johan Santana already has at least one offer after pitching two innings in the Venezuelan Winter League Tuesday, but it isn’t from the Twins, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN tweets. The 35-year-old Santana is attempting a comeback after having missed the 2013 and 2014 seasons due to shoulder and Achilles injuries.

NL Notes: Desmond, Hamels, Padres, Ichiro, Rockies

Lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes, who was a 2010 All-Star as a member of the Reds, has officially retired, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports takes a closer look at the 20-year career of Rhodes, whose last appearance was Game 7 of the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals winning him his only championship ring. Rhodes finishes with a mark of 87-70, 4.08 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 33 saves in nearly 1,200 innings covering 900 outings (61 starts) for the Orioles, Mariners, A’s, Indians, Phillies, Marlins, Reds, Rangers, and Cardinals while earning nearly $39MM.

Since Rhodes finished his career in the National League, let’s take a look at the latest from the Senior Circuit:

  • One team inquiring about Ian Desmond was told by the Nationals the All-Star shortstop will not be traded, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. However, Rosenthal adds in a second tweet, Washington GM Mike Rizzo is known to operate in a very direct fashion. If he wants a deal, he pursues it aggressively. If not, he will not waste another team’s time.
  • Phillies AGM Scott Proefrock told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (audio link) the slow developing market for free agents Max Scherzer and James Shields is not affecting Cole Hamels‘ trade market adding “there’s some teams that haven’t been mentioned that are kicking the tires a little bit.” Those teams which have been mentioned are the Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres.
  • When asked about Hamels, Padres President/CEO Mike Dee spoke in general terms telling Duquette and Bowden (audio link) GM A.J. Preller “is looking to improve the team constantly…if we could add a starter of that All-Star caliber, clearly we would be in on that.” Dee also addressed “the new Padres’ approach” of aggressively being “in the discussion” regarding free agent, amateur, and international talent.
  • Yesterday, we learned the Marlins‘ interest in Ichiro Suzuki is picking up steam. Today, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports the Marlins are open to offering Ichiro a two-year deal.
  • Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post covers the 26 most pressing issues and questions (from A-to-Z) facing the Rockies in 2015. Most center around Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, pitching, and injuries.
  • The Cardinals have announced they will renovate and upgrade a baseball field in the hometown of the late Oscar Taveras, in honor of the 22-year-old outfielder who perished in a car accident last October, writes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold.

NL East Notes: Hamels, Howard, Desmond, Nationals

The Phillies might value Cole Hamels too highly, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. An executive from another team tells Rosenthal that GM Ruben Amaro is looking to make the “perfect” trade and wonders if Amaro feels he has to make exactly the right deal in order to avoid being fired. The Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres top the list of teams interested in Hamels, although the Red Sox are not urgently trying to acquire Hamels, trade talks with St. Louis haven’t gone far, and Hamels’ contract could be an issue for Texas and San Diego. Here’s more from the NL East.

  • Amaro says first baseman Ryan Howard is likely to be with the Phillies when Spring Training arrives, Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. Amaro has made no secret of the Phillies’ desire to be rid of Howard, whose salary ($60MM through 2016) and poor recent performance have made his contract an albatross.
  • It remains possible that the Mets could acquire shortstop Ian Desmond from the Nationals, Andy Martino of New York Daily News writes. Talks between the two sides have not progressed recently, however. The Mets had reportedly discussed a three-team deal involving Desmond and Ben Zobrist with the Nationals and Rays, although Martino writes that the Mets pushed harder to acquire Zobrist rather than Desmond.
  • Nationals fans have reason to be wary of the team’s trade of Tyler Clippard to the Athletics for Yunel Escobar, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes. Losing Clippard further depletes a Washington bullpen that’s already losing Rafael Soriano and Ross Detwiler, and Escobar is potentially a declining player whose arrival might signal that free-agent-to-be Desmond will soon be playing elsewhere.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Nationals Avoid Arbitration With Doug Fister

The Nationals and Doug Fister have agreed to an $11.4MM salary for his final year of club control, thereby avoiding arbitration, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Fister’s salary is an exact match with the projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.


Nationals, Drew Storen Avoid Arbitration

The Nationals and Drew Storen have avoided arb by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $5.7MM, according to Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post (Twitter link). That salary is just a hair off from the $5.8MM that MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected for the CAA Sports client.

Storen, 27, was dominant in 2014, working to a 1.12 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 56 1/3 innings for the Nats. The former No. 10 overall pick began the season as a setup man for Rafael Soriano but inherited the ninth inning when Soriano struggled at season’s end. Storen figures to be the primary closer in 2015, particularly with Tyler Clippard having been traded to the Athletics and Soriano departing via free agency. As a Super Two player, this marks Storen’s third trip through the arbitration process, and he’ll be eligible one more time next offseason before hitting the open market following the 2016 season.


Nationals, Stephen Strasburg Avoid Arbitration

8:53am: Strasburg will earn $7.4MM in 2015, tweets Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post.

8:45am: The Nationals announced that they’ve avoided arbitration with right-hander Stephen Strasburg by agreeing to a one-year deal for the 2015 season. Terms haven’t been disclosed, although MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected an $8.1MM payday for the Scott Boras client.

Strasburg, 26, pitched a career-best 215 innings and made a career-high 34 starts in 2014, working to a 3.14 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9 and a 45.9 percent ground-ball rate. The former first overall pick earned $3.975MM last year in his first trip through the arb system.


NL East Notes: Moncada, Scherzer, Hamels

You can add the Marlins to the long list of teams interested in Yoan Moncada, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the Fish are monitoring the Cuban phenom’s market.  Frisaro raises the possibility that the Marlins could see the versatile Moncada as a long-term answer in center field if Marcell Ozuna gets expensive through his arbitration years.  Given the bigger-spending teams also in the hunt for Moncada, however, Frisaro describes Miami as “probably a long shot” to sign him.  Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • Frisaro also wonders if investing in Moncada makes more sense for the Marlins than signing James Shields.  While the Fish are still interested in Shields, Frisaro flatly denies that the Marlins are in on Max Scherzer, saying “there is zero chance” of that happening.
  • The Rangers have kept in contract with the Phillies about a trade for Cole Hamels, Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports, but the biggest obstacle seems to be money.  Texas wants the Phillies to cover some of the $96MM still owed on Hamels’ contract.
  • The Phillies are “unrealistic in their expectations” in what they hope to receive in a Hamels trade, a source tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.  As was reported earlier today, the Phillies have a firm price tag in mind for Hamels and are in no rush to deal the ace left-hander.
  • The Braves are no longer candidates to sign Brandon Beachy, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link).  Atlanta non-tendered Beachy last month but were hopeful of reaching a new deal with the right-hander, who missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Beachy was reportedly considering between six offers from interested teams.
  • When the Astros had some late concerns about Evan Gattis‘ back and knee, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter link) that during those last few hours, the Braves re-opened talks with the Rangers.  The details with Houston were worked out, of course, and Gattis is now an Astro.
  • The Mets‘ refusal to include Noah Syndergaard as part of a rumored three-team deal was a good call, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post opines, even though the trade would’ve brought Ian Desmond to Citi Field.  Dealing six years of control over Syndergaard for one year of Desmond wouldn’t have made sense, and if the Mets were willing to overpay on the type of extension it would take for Desmond to forego free agency, Davidoff argues that the team should just offer him that big contract next winter when he’s available.
  • Also from Davidoff, he hears from Rockies owner Charlie Monfort that a deal that would bring Troy Tulowitzki to the Mets is “not happening.”
  • In other NL East news from earlier today, the Braves have no intention of trading Craig Kimbrel, we shared some Nationals notes, MLBTR’s Zach Links spoke to Gattis about his trade to the Astros as part of a media conference call.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Thursday

As we approach tomorrow’s deadline for exchanging filing numbers, the volume of arb deals will increase. All arb agreements can be monitored using MLBTR’s 2015 Arbitration Tracker, but here are today’s smaller agreements, with all projections referring to those of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:

  • The Indians have avoided arbitration with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  It’s a slight bump over Chisenhall’s projected $2.2MM salary.  Chisenhall hit .280/.343/.427 with 13 homers in 533 PA with the Tribe last season.
  • The Indians and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski have agreed to a one-year, $2.4MM contract to avoid arbitration, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link).  Rzepczynski surpassed his projected salary with the contract, as he was pegged to earn $1.9MM next season.  The southpaw posted a 2.74 ERA, 2.42 K/BB rate and an even 46 strikeouts over 46 innings out of Cleveland’s bullpen last season.
  • The Nationals and catcher Jose Lobaton will avoid arbitration after agreeing to a deal, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman reports.  Lobaton will earn $1.2MM, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets, which exactly matches his projected 2015 salary.  Lobaton hit .234/.287/.304 over 230 PA in backup duty for the Nats last season.
  • The Athletics and outfielder Craig Gentry agreed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal to avoid arbitration, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Gentry was projected to earn $1.5MM.  After posting a .759 OPS over 556 PA in 2012-13, Gentry took a step back at the plate last season, slashing just .254/.319/.289 over 258 plate appearances but still providing tremendous defense (a +16 UZR/150).
  • The Nationals have avoided arbitration with second baseman Danny Espinosa, agreeing to a one-year, $1.8MM contract, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports.  This deal falls below Espinosa’s projected $2.3MM contract, though Espinosa hit .219/.283/.351 in 364 plate appearances for the Nats last season and managed only a .465 OPS in 167 PA in 2013.
  • The Indians agreed to a one-year, $2.337MM deal with right-hander Carlos Carrasco, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter).  This figure is a significant increase over the $1.4MM contract that was projected for Carrasco in his first arb-eligible year.  The righty enjoyed a breakout 2014 season, posting a 2.55 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 4.83 K/BB rate over 134 innings with the Tribe.  Carrasco pitched mostly out of the bullpen but also delivered several quality starts down the stretch.
  • The Dodgers and outfielder Chris Heisey agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.16MM to avoid arbitration, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  This is slightly less than the $2.2MM Heisey was projected to earn.  Heisey is coming off a .222/.265/.378 slash line over 299 PA with the Reds last season and was dealt to L.A. last month.
  • The Angels inked catcher Drew Butera to a one-year, $987.5K deal to avoid arbitration, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.  Butera was projected to earn $900K next season.  The catcher posted a .555 OPS in 192 PA with the Dodgers last season and was dealt to the Halos last month.
  • The Nationals agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM contract with Craig Stammen, avoiding arbitration with the right-hander, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter).  This figure slightly tops Stammen’s projected $2.1MM contract.  Stammen posted a 3.84 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB rate over 72 2/3 innings out of Washington’s bullpen last season.
  • The Cardinals agreed to a one-year, $1.65MM deal with outfielder Peter Bourjos to avoid arbitration, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Bourjos was projected to earn $1.6MM.  Bourjos displayed his usual top-shelf defense with the Cards last season but only hit .231/.294/.348 over 294 PA.

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Nationals Notes: Rizzo, Desmond, Mets

The Nationals’ “approach with Ian Desmond has not changed one bit since the end of last season,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters (including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson) today during a conference call.  “Ian Desmond is our shortstop. He is the leader of our team. He is one of the best shortstops in all of baseball, and he is going to be the shortstop of the Washington Nationals. With that said, if a deal comes up that we can’t refuse, we will always look to improve ourselves for 2015 and beyond. But it’s hard to replace one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. The deal would have to be pretty elaborate not to have Ian Desmond on this team.”  Of course, such a “pretty elaborate” trade was reportedly discussed between the Nats, Mets and Rays earlier this winter that would’ve sent Desmond to the Mets.  Here’s some more from the nation’s capital…

  • While that three-team deal was scuttled when the Rays dealt Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Oakland, it’s still “not out of the question” that Desmond could be dealt to the Mets, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets.  “Nothing is imminent” between the two sides, however.
  • Executives around the league who have spoken to the Nationals say the team is still trying to move Desmond, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link).  The Nats’ claim that Escobar was acquired to play second base is “spin.”  During the conference call, Rizzo was confident that Escobar would fit into the Nationals’ clubhouse and have no problems adjusting to second base.
  • The Nationals’ acquisition of Escobar for Tyler Clippard is criticized by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.  Boswell opines that the trade was a “Plan C” option from a Nats team that couldn’t pull the trigger on preferred offseason moves, and that the trade threatens to weaken both the Nationals’ bullpen and their clubhouse chemistry.
  • Escobar’s presence also seems to imply that Desmond’s time in Washington could be up, as Boswell notes that a big extension for the star shortstop doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.  The ongoing dispute between the Nationals and Orioles about MASN broadcasting rights could be a reason why Desmond hasn’t been extended, as Boswell hears from two sources that the Lerner family is “almost phobic about knowing their future revenues before spending.”