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Washington Nationals Rumors
The Nationals haven’t managed to avoid the possibility of losing key members of their team due to free agency, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports. The Nats could be without Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Doug Fister after the season because they haven’t managed to sign those players to long-term deals that delay free agency. That might not be entirely their fault, Svrluga suggests — they tried to sign all three players. In the meantime, though, they have another wave of core players (Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon) to whom they could turn their attention. Strasburg, Harper and Rendon are all represented by Scott Boras, who does not generally like long-term deals for pre-free-agency players. Some of his clients, such as Jered Weaver and Carlos Gonzalez, have signed them, however. Here are more notes from the National League.
- Yunel Escobar wasn’t happy to have been traded away from the Rays to the Athletics and then from the Athletics to the Nationals, and he also wasn’t happy he’d have to move from shortstop to second base, the Post’s James Wagner writes. Escobar has changed his mind since then, however. “They’ve reached the playoffs two of the last three years,” says Escobar. “I want to help them win a World Series. If the missing piece is me playing second base, then I’m here for anything.” Escobar says certain aspects of playing second base, like turning double plays, are “confusing,” but says that he’ll improve that them with practice.
- Baseball is full of incredibly disappointing free-agent contracts, but Matt Holliday‘s current seven-year, $120MM deal with the Cardinals isn’t one of them, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I really wanted it to work out great for both sides,” says Holliday. “A lot of times with a long-term contract, you hear ‘They hope to get a couple of good years out of it.’ My goal from the day I signed was to get to the end of the contract and have everybody feel really good about it.” Holliday’s defense has slipped since signing, but he’s maintained a high standard offensively, and with just two years (plus an option) left on the deal, it looks like the Cardinals are going to get more than their money’s worth.
- When Cuban righty Yoan Lopez signed with the Diamondbacks, he joined the organization he rooted for as a child, Carlos Torres Bujanda writes for Baseball America. “Since I was a kid, I followed the D-backs when Randy Johnson was on the team,” says Lopez. “To see the games or check the stats I had friends who worked in hotels with Internet access. They download the games so I can watch later, or see the numbers.” Lopez adds that he’s happy the Diamondbacks also signed another Cuban player this offseason, Yasmany Tomas.
News broke earlier today that the Mets weren’t planning to discuss extending Daniel Murphy‘s contract, and Newsday’s Marc Carig has some more details on the team’s decision. Murphy rates as a below-average second baseman and the Mets are worried he’ll inevitably have to be moved to a corner infield position. While Murphy hits well for a second baseman, the Mets don’t believe he has the bat necessary for third base or first base, not to mention the fact that David Wright and Lucas Duda have those positions covered for at least the next few seasons in New York. The Mets also aren’t likely to make Murphy a qualifying offer, unless he enjoys a huge year.
Here’s some more from around the NL East…
- Also from Carig’s piece, he hears from two rival executives that Murphy will draw a lot of interest on the free agent market. “There will be a nice line of suitors for him. Some will want the bat and accept the below-average glove if necessary. He’s young enough, the bat is strong enough to warrant a multi-year [deal],” one official said.
- The Marlins made a multi-year offer to Francisco Rodriguez before he agreed to terms with the Brewers, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (on Twitter). However, McCalvy spoke to one of K-Rod’s teammates and was told that Rodriguez “likes it a lot” in Milwaukee and was hoping to return to the club. The amount that was offered to Rodriguez isn’t known, though previous reports had indicated Miami was comfortable with something in the two-year, $10MM range.
- Yunel Escobar wasn’t happy to be traded away from the Rays, nor was he pleased about moving from shortstop to second base, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. The veteran infielder changed his mind after discussions with Nationals management, however, and is looking forward to playing for a contender. “I want to help them win a World Series. If the missing piece is me playing second base, then I’m here for anything,” Escobar said.
- Non-roster invitees in camp on minor league deals could play a significant role in the Braves‘ plans this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Asked about the team’s collection of NRIs, manager Fredi Gonzalez listed Eric Stults, Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Brady Feigl, Kelly Johnson, Eric Young and John Buck as players with a legitimate chance, noting that he was probably leaving a few out. Gonzalez seemed particularly excited about Young. “I think the world of Eric Young,” Gonzalez said. “He can really bring a different dynamic that we haven’t had here since Michael Bourn, leading off against right-handed pitching or whatever you want to do. So that’s an exciting non-roster invitee, really.”
- In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Phillies notes.
Shortstop Trea Turner is technically still a member of the Padres, but it’s one of baseball’s worst-kept “secrets” that he’ll be headed to the Nationals in June as a player to be named later in the three-team Wil Myers trade once he’s a year removed from being drafted. Turner tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that while he does find the situation to be a bit weird, he’s happy to have had a normal camp thus far. “A little bit. It’s been awesome, though, because a lot of my teammates don’t really care too much about it. They know the business side, and things like this can happen all the time, so I haven’t been treated differently than I thought I would.” Turner’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, called the situation “unconscionable” at the time of the trade but released the following statement yesterday, per Lin: “Trea has put this matter behind him and is focusing on his development and being a productive member of the Padres organization.”
Some more notes pertaining to the NL East…
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that his team was in contact with Yoan Moncada‘s agent, David Hastings, right up until the end when Moncada agreed to sign with the Red Sox this week. However, Amaro declined to get into specifics or even give a “yes” or “no” answer when asked by Zolecki if the Phillies submitted a formal offer for the highly touted 19-year-old.
- Ichiro Suzuki is appreciative of how accommodating the Marlins were during negotiations, and the positive feelings he got from the organization are a large reason that he signed there, writes Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida. (For example, the Marlins have added facilities for Ichiro’s Pilates machine in their Spring Training and regular season homes, said Ichiro through a translator.) He’s also very accepting of his role as a fourth outfielder, which manager Mike Redmond said was a key component in the deal.
- New Braves right fielder Nick Markakis has been cleared for running and extensive workouts, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Markakis won’t be in the lineup for the early games in Spring Training and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to compete come Opening Day, but he tells O’Brien that’s absolutely his goal. Manager Fredi Gonzalez tells O’Brien that he is optimistic that Markakis, who signed a four-year, $44MM contract this winter, will be ready for the opener come April 6.
10:17pm: Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post (on Twitter) hears the Nats are not in on Rodriguez.
9:21pm: The there may also be a third team lurking when it comes to K-Rod and it might be the Nationals, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes.
Rodriguez is arguably the top remaining arm on the relief market and is coming off a 3.04 ERA with 9.7 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 a 43.9 percent ground-ball rate and 44 saves with the Brewers in 2014. However, he also struggled with home runs, allowing 14 in just 68 innings. While that’s due primarily to a spike in his homer-to-flyball ratio that is unlikely to repeat itself, one can also understand why some clubs would be hesitant to commit significant money to someone who was that homer-prone in 2014.
The 33-year-old Rodriguez reportedly been seeking as much as $10MM for a one-year deal, and prior reports indicated that he was seeking a two-year pact (presumably at a lower annual value). The Marlins have shown interest on a two-year deal worth around $10MM total, and while they were said to be an unlikely landing spot for K-Rod by Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, Frisaro did note that there was a chance of a match if Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras lowered their asking price. It’s not known exactly where the Brewers’ level of financial comfort lies, but Boras has been talking with owner Mark Attanasio.
Spring Training is already underway, and Rodriguez is one of a few notable bullpen arms yet to latch on with a new team. Also on the market are Rafael Soriano, Phil Coke and Joe Beimel; Joba Chamberlain inked a new one-year deal with the Tigers earlier this morning.
Despite all of their success, it’s not easy for the Giants to land free agents thanks to the tax rate in California, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes. The top income tax rate in California is 13.3%, which is more than double the top tax rate in all but a handful of states with major league teams. “It’s exponential when you get into the size of some of these numbers,” Sabean said. “It makes a difference.” The Giants have had to build differently and a little more creatively than others, sometimes with some key moves in the summer, but it has worked out pretty well for them. Here’s more from the West divisions..
- The Rangers‘ interest in lefty reliever Phil Coke has waned and the club doesn’t expect to sign the free agent reliever, a source tells Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram (via Twitter). The Rangers claimed a left-handed reliever earlier today when they plucked Edgar Olmos from the Mariners. The Tigers apparently haven’t expressed much interest in a reunion and another spot in their ‘pen was filled when they signed Joba Chamberlain.
- If shortstop prospect Ketel Marte plays well enough to reach the big leagues this year, the Mariners’ willingness to move Brad Miller or Chris Taylor will increase in the coming months, if not sooner, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. One Mariners official compared Marte, a switch hitter, to a younger version of Jose Reyes. He also has some second base experience, but he’s blocked there by Robinson Cano.
- All of the Angels‘ core relievers throw fastballs at an average speed of less than 92 mph, which means they’re basically ignoring baseball’s dogma about power arms in the bullpen, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Recently, the Angels have placed more of a premium on strike-throwing ability than velocity.
- Trea Turner, who will be joining the Nationals as the player to be named later in the Wil Myers trade, is in camp with the Padres, Dennis Lin of U-T San Diego writes. Lin checks in on Turner’s unusual camp experience as he is still more than three months away from joining the Nats.
Let’s take a look at the latest from the National League East:
- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says that the club never considered dealing closer Craig Kimbrel or other “core” pieces, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The purpose of the offseason was not to kick off a full-on rebuilding effort, said Hart. “Do a lot of things have to come together? Are we in a tough division? Yes, yes,” he said. “But I don’t think that anybody came in with the idea or even discussed that we were going to blow this thing up. We held onto our core guys all winter. We never discussed them. We’re not looking to run up the white flag and not compete.”
- Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond does not plan to discuss his contract situation this year, he tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. “I owe it to everybody here to give my 100 percent concentration and that’s what I’m going to do,” Desmond said. “All the other stuff is really not going to be talked about. It’s time to go.” The organization’s longest-tenured player says that the only thing he heard about a trade over the winter was a message from manager Matt Williams informing him that he was not going to be dealt.
- Righty Taylor Jordan is now largely a forgotten piece of the Nationals‘ rotation picture, but it wasn’t long ago he was looked upon as a valuable young arm. After a tough and injury-plagued 2014, Jordan tells Tom Schad of the Washington Times that he feels healthy and ready to get back on track. Though he is no longer a plausible candidate for a starting role, the 26-year-old could put himself in line on the depth chart and might even turn into an interesting trade chip if he can thrive again in the upper minors.
If a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, does a baseball player by any other name peform better? B.J. Upton will answer that question this season as he will go by his given name of Melvin Upton Jr. and, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, will have “Jr.” on the back of his uniform for the first time in his professional career. Upton has struggled since his arrival in Atlanta after signing a five-year, $75.25MM free agent contract in November 2012 slashing .198/.279/.314 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs in those two years. John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, first tipped Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to the name change (Twitter links). For those wondering, B.J. is short for Bossman Jr., his father’s nickname.
In other news from the NL East:
- Nationals centerfielder Denard Span is one of the team’s seven impending free agents and is looking forward to that opportunity, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. “I’ve worked my whole career to get to this point, to be a free agent,” Span said. “But at the same time, I’m concentrating on trying to do the best that I can to help this ball club win. I feel like if I do my job and we do our jobs collectively I’ll get compensated and everything will fall into place.” Wagner adds the Nationals have not approached Span about a contract extension.
- With the increasing likelihood of Ryan Howard opening the season in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is making amends for the comments he made about the Phillies being better off without the first baseman, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Frankly, I apologized for those comments that I made that were public,” said Amaro. “And I think he appreciated that. Other than that, I want to keep the conversation private. It was a good talk.” Despite a willingness to eat a substantial portion of the $60MM remaining on Howard’s contract, no market has developed for the 35-year-old.
- Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, recent Marlins addition Martin Prado told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”
- The Marlins believe the signing of Ichiro Suzuki already is paying off and he hasn’t even arrived from his native Japan yet, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. Over the weekend, President David Samson said at least 90 Marlins games will be televised in Japan. The 41-year-old won’t be play every day, but the $2MM deal is already paying dividends for Miami.
The Nationals and shortstop Ian Desmond have not discussed a contract extension, tweets William Ladson of MLB.com. Desmond is a free agent after this season. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Desmond the fourth best impending free agent. Dierkes believes he could exceed a $200MM guarantee with another strong season. Desmond declined a seven-year, $107MM extension offer prior to the 2014 season.
- GM Mike Rizzo expects Jayson Werth to be ready in time for the season opener, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Werth’s availability could influence if the club pursues another outfielder. The club has a few internal options who can work as stop gaps including Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen, and prospect Michael Taylor.
- Tanner Roark appears to be the odd man out in the rotation, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. He’ll continue to prepare as a starter until later in the spring. If the club opts to use him in the bullpen, they believe his stuff could play up. Some pitchers experience a burst of velocity while working in short relief.
- Switch-hitter Danny Espinosa may have taken his last hacks from the left-hand batters box, reports Ladson. The utility infielder plans to become a purely right-handed hitter. He’ll spend much of spring training working to hit right-handed breaking balls. Espinosa has substantial career splits, including a weak .213/.284/.362 line batting left-handed. Against southpaws, he’s managed a stout .271/.343/.460 line. While he’s unlikely to match the better rates against same-handed pitchers, there is some hope he can improve.
- Utility infielder Emmanuel Burriss is competing for a bench role, writes Ladson. The 30-year-old is coming off a possible breakout season at Triple-A where he hit .300/.377/.412 with more walks than strikeouts. The switch-hitter spent parts of five seasons with the Giants, hitting .243/.304/.269 in 801 plate appearances. He’s spent the last two seasons in the minors.
Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann is willing to discuss a contract extension during Spring Training, but not during the season, CSNWashington.com’s Mark Zuckerman tweets. Zimmermann’s stance would effectively set a deadline on extension talks, since the pitcher can become eligible for free agency after the season. The two sides have not made progress recently, Zimmermann says.
In December, the Nationals were reportedly planning to try to extend Zimmermann, but he was the subject of trade rumors later in the offseason. The Nats also signed Max Scherzer to a huge seven-year deal, possibly reducing both their ability to pay Zimmermann and their need to keep him long-term. If the Nationals don’t sign Zimmermann, he’ll join a loaded 2015-16 class of free-agent pitchers that also could include David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Rick Porcello along with Zimmermann’s fellow Nationals starter Doug Fister and possibly Zack Greinke. Zimmermann currently ranks sixth (behind Price and Cueto) in Tim Dierkes’ 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings.
The Nationals have announced that they’ve exercised their 2016 option on manager Matt Williams. The team holds another option on Williams for 2017.
“We are happy to pick up Matt’s option for the 2016 season,” says Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo. “It shows the great confidence we have in Matt to continue to lead this team on the field.”
Williams replaced Davey Johnson for the 2014 season, and in his first year as manager, he led the team to a 96-66 record as the Nats easily won the NL East. In the process, Williams won the BBWAA NL Manager of the Year award and the Sporting News NL Manager of the Year award.