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Washington Nationals Rumors
Reliever Heath Bell, who just retired after being released by the Nationals, recently spoke to MLB Network Radio (audio link) about the difficulty in having a family while playing in the big leagues. The constant need to travel is a problem, Bell suggests — a ballplayer can have his family travel with him, but that prevents his kids from having long-lasting friendships as they get older. Bell describes watching his kids grow up through videos and photos. Now that his career is over, he’ll finally get to watch them grow up in person. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Rays face several upcoming roster moves, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Due in part to injuries, they have a number of non-roster players (Everett Teaford, Jake Elmore, Bobby Wilson, and others) seemingly under consideration to break camp with the team. A player like Tim Beckham, who is on the 40-man roster and who has plenty of experience in the upper minors, is a good bet to make the team if only because they won’t have to use an additional spot to clear space for him. The Rays can open one spot on their full 40-man by moving Matt Moore to the 60-day DL, and they could also trade David DeJesus, which would clear another. Nonetheless, they’ll face some tough decisions as they prepare for the start of the season.
- The Braves are happy to have more veteran leadership in their clubhouse this year, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes. After losing Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Tim Hudson in recent seasons, the 2014 Braves were low on veterans who could step up, but they believe this year will be different now that they’ve added Jonny Gomes, Nick Markakis, Jason Grilli and A.J. Pierzynski. Jason Heyward and Justin Upton both were serious competitors, but hadn’t been around long enough to be leaders in a big-league clubhouse, Bowman says. “When you see Gomes, you make sure you do the right thing,” says Andrelton Simmons. “He’s scary, but he’s a nice guy.” It is, perhaps, debatable whether someone like Pierzynski, whose clubhouse presence came into question as recently as last season, will provide the sort of veteran leadership the Braves are looking for. But it’s interesting to see Braves players’ responses to what was apparently a deliberate strategy by their front office to acquire more veterans.
The Mets have announced that starter Zack Wheeler underwent successful Tommy John surgery today, as Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com tweets. New York will hope that it is all uphill from here for the well-regarded young righty. While the team certainly appears to have ample rotation depth now and in the future, he still figures as a key cog as the organization looks to ramp up into contention.
Here’s the latest from the NL East:
- Ryan Howard‘s previously-reported list of teams to which he cannot block a deal did not seem to provide him with much leverage; rather, as I noted at the time, it seemed to be motivated by other considerations. That is, in fact, the case, as Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports: Howard replaced his formerly NL-heavy slate with American League clubs in an effort to help the Phillies find him a new home. Of course, that has yet to occur, though Howard has shown some promise this spring and could be a worthwhile mid-season addition for the right team.
- While much attention has focused on the potential free agent departure of Nationals starters Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister (among other players), Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes that the club believes it has more than adequate pitching talent percolating through its system. Of course, it also seems worth noting that the Nationals could conceivably use those arms not only to fill in the big league rotation and provide depth, but also to acquire replacement pieces elsewhere via trade. GM Mike Rizzo has done just that in the recent past, dealing young pitching to acquire players like Denard Span, Doug Fister, and Jose Lobaton.
The Orioles still have multiple roster competitions ongoing, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. Out-of-options infielder Jimmy Paredes may be hitting his way onto the roster, while option-less outfielder David Lough faces a logjam. Neither player will be easy to keep, but the organization will be loath to part with the pair. Baltimore also has tough decisions in the rotation, the bullpen, and behind the dish (assuming that Matt Wieters is not ready to open the year on the active roster).
Here’s more from Baltimore and the rest of the AL East:
- One Orioles player who is said to possibly be available is lefty Brian Matusz, with the Mets being a rumored destination. But Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that the clubs have not talked about the players and money that would be involved in a possible deal. Instead, New York has only proceeded to the “scouting stage” on Matusz.
- The Red Sox‘ glut of outfielders has been a story to follow all spring, and as Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes, the situation remains about as complicated as might have been expected. Optioning Mookie Betts seems not to be a realistic or desirable possibility at this point, and Rusney Castillo is back in action and looking solid, creating problems — good ones, for the time being. As Cafardo explains, the difficulty at present revolves around questions such as whether Allen Craig can be dealt and whether Shane Victorino can or should open the season on the DL.
- Rays righty Nate Karns has been impressive in camp, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain writes. Picked up from the Nationals in last year’s Jose Lobaton deal, Karns is expected to open the year in the rotation, due in part to the team’s rash of injuries. The 27-year-old still has only 24 innings of big league experience to his credit, but has already burned two option years and will look to take full advantage of the opportunity to prove he can stick as a major league starter.
The Rays will honor the late Don Zimmer by announcing that his #66 jersey will be retired in a ceremony on Opening Day. Zimmer only wore #66 for one season during his 11 years as a senior advisor for the Rays, as he increased his uniform number by one every season to reflect how many years he had spent in baseball. The beloved long-time coach, manager and player passed away last June.
- Using Max Scherzer‘s signing with the Nationals as an example, Scott Boras discusses how he markets (though the agent dislikes that term) and presents his major free agent clients in an interview with Bloomberg’s Joshua Green. Boras and his staff identify which teams are ideal fits for his clients and then specifically tailors each pitch to relate to each team owner during negotiations. With Scherzer, Boras had four lengthy meetings with Nats owner Ted Lerner highlighting how Scherzer would create more value to the franchise both baseball-wise and from a business perspective.
- MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo debate which club has had the best farm system of the last five years. Callis chose the Nationals since they’ve found more superstar talent, while Mayo picked the Cardinals due to their system’s overall depth.
- The possibility of an international draft has been a topic of discussion throughout baseball lately, with proponents like commissioner Rob Manfred advocating a “single modality of entry” to allow consistency in the way MLB teams sign amateurs from various parts of the world. Flipping the idea around, however, Rob Neyer of FOX Sports suggests that MLB could instead ensure consistency by abolishing the amateur draft. Instead of a draft, MLB could allow teams to spend a predetermined amount on amateur players (be they domestic or international) each year. Neyer favors doing so in such a way that would stop baseball from penalizing winning by having the top teams take lower draft picks. The idea could also be easily modified so that teams with the worst records would be able to spend more money. In either case, Neyer believes his system would encourage all teams to hunt for talent both at home and abroad.
- It’s becoming rare to see pre-arbitration players sign extensions that don’t cover at least one free agent year, yet Brian Dozier‘s new contract with the Twins is such a deal, Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards writes in his analysis of the extension. Edwards thinks more players could possibly pursue “a safe deal” like Dozier’s if they “place an emphasis on getting to free agency.”
- Orlando Hudson is in the Diamondbacks‘ camp to work with the infield, though he plans to be back on a diamond in more than an instructor role, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports (via Twitter). Hudson hopes to play winter ball and attempt a Major League comeback for the 2016 season. The 37-year-old former Gold Glove second baseman last played in the bigs in 2012 and had seemingly hung up his spikes following brief stints in the Mexican and Dominican winter leagues in 2013.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein says the team is likely to start the season with three catchers, ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers writes. Having Miguel Montero, David Ross and Welington Castillo all start the season with the team does limit Joe Maddon’s tactical possibilities somewhat, but Epstein says that Maddon supports having three catchers. Having three would also allow the Cubs to be somewhat more flexible in using their catchers to pinch-hit, and would give the team depth in case of an injury. Rogers notes, though, that common sense suggests the Cubs would still consider trading Castillo if the right offer came along, and that the Cubs might be trying to improve their negotiating position by giving the impression they’re not desperate to deal Castillo. Here are more notes from the National League.
- With Denard Span out with after having core muscle surgery, top Nationals prospect Michael Taylor is making a strong case to be on the team’s Opening Day roster. But there are reasons to wonder about his readiness, Nats Insider’s Mark Zuckerman writes. Taylor is hitting .324/.324/.765 in 34 plate appearances this spring, but he’s struck out 11 times without walking. Taylor exhibited similar issues in his 43 plate appearances in the big leagues last year, and he has limited experience at Triple-A, so sending him there might be best for his development.
- Reliever Arquimedes Caminero, who the Pirates acquired in a minor deal with the Marlins in February, is very likely to make the Bucs out of camp, Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. Caminero is out of options and has been very impressive this spring, striking out 12 batters in eight innings with a fastball that reaches into the high 90s. Caminero says the Bucs have helped him improve his delivery. “(They are) just simplifying things that were there that I didn’t notice much and now I’m noticing,” says Caminero. “I’m just going easier in my mechanics. I was trying to throw too hard. … I feel more confident. I’m hitting my target more often.”
The Nationals have released reliever Heath Bell, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. The Nats signed Bell to a minor-league deal in December. He struck out six batters and walked five while allowing five runs, four earned, in 5 1/3 innings in Spring Training.
The 37-year-old Bell established a strong track record as the Padres’ closer from 2009-2011, but began struggling after signing a three-year deal with the Marlins prior to the 2012 season. Bell headed to the Diamondbacks and then the Rays, for whom he allowed 16 runs in 17 1/3 innings last season while struggling with his velocity. After the Rays released him, he briefly signed on with the Orioles and then the Yankees, but struggled in Triple-A and did not appear in the big leagues with either team.
Despite carrying low expectations from the outside, the Braves have had good energy in camp, writes David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who attributes it to a combination of the team’s acquisition of several intense and/or vocal veterans along with the presence of competition all over the roster.
Here’s more from Atlanta and the rest of the NL East:
- The Braves are “still in [the] race” to land Hector Olivera, tweets O’Brien, who adds that the team is unlikely to offer more than five guaranteed years. Of course, a recent report indicated that Olivera might not yet have received a six-year offer, so if Atlanta is willing to move its bid up to the five-year range it could presumably have a shot.
- Meanwhile, the Braves have settled on Wandy Rodriguez for one of their final rotation spots, O’Brien tweets. Atlanta will hope for an Aaron Harang-like rebound from Rodriguez, who inked a minor league deal with the Braves after his agreement fell apart with Harang’s new club, the Phillies, over a failed physical. Rodriguez has looked good this spring, and currently owns a twelve-inning scoreless streak.
- The Nationals are open to dealing out of options outfielder/first baseman Tyler Moore, but see him as a quality big leaguer who has a place in the team’s immediate plans, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The 28-year-old may be needed to start the year given the club’s injuries in the outfield, and would probably be the next man up at first base were Ryan Zimmerman to suffer an injury.
- Nationals second baseman Dan Uggla has had a fairly productive spring thus far as he looks to keep his career alive. As MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports, manager Matt Williams sees a legitimate possibility of Uggla impacting the club this year. “We haven’t defined any roles,” said Williams. “What we do know at this point is that he is seeing the ball well and he is playing well. I like his at-bats. … We haven’t defined those roles yet because we just don’t know.” As Williams went on to note, infielders Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon have been limited by injuries in camp.
With Hunter Pence out to start the season, the defending World Champion Giants are experiencing some uncertainty in their outfield mix. The major question at present revolves around the health of center fielder Angel Pagan, who had back surgery last season and has been limited this spring.
Here’s the latest:
- Pagan had two injections in his ailing back today, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Twitter. The club is hopeful he can resume baseball activity over the weekend and appear in a game early next week. If Pagan is ready for the regular season, he would presumably join Norichika Aoki and Gregor Blanco as the starters, with players like Travis Ishikawa, Juan Perez, Justin Maxwell, Gary Brown, and Jarrett Parker potentially in the mix for bench roles.
- One other possibility for some time in the outfield is first baseman Brandon Belt, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports. Asked today whether Belt was a first baseman, period, manager Bruce Bochy replied that it was “more of a comma” and said the possibility of using Belt in the outfield was under consideration. The club may also see how infielders Adam Duvall and Matt Duffy look on the grass, with Bochy indicating that the team is currently focused on evaluating its internal options and monitoring Pagan.
- Depending upon how the above situations play out, the team could obviously find itself in need of another bat capable of manning a spot in the outfield. Indeed, San Francisco is monitoring Nationals outfielder/first baseman Tyler Moore, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweets. Moore is out of options and may not have a spot on the Washington roster, though the club’s own rash of outfield injuries could create at least a temporary opening. The Giants are said to be interested in adding pop if they make a move, and the power-hitting Moore would certainly match that desire.
The Nationals announced that they released utilityman Jeff Kobernus today. The 26-year-old was once rated a top-twenty organizational prospect in D.C.
Kobernus, a second-round pick back in 2009, has seen limited big league action in each of the last two seasons. With just 44 MLB plate appearances to his name, most of his time over 2013-14 was spent at the Triple-A level, where he owns a .296/.356/.378 slash with 57 steals in 647 total turns at bat.
Primarily a second baseman, Kobernus has diversified his defensive repertoire by spending time in the outfield of late. As with outfielder Eury Perez and infielder Zach Walters, both of whom were parted with last year, Kobernus was an upper-level depth piece who no longer had a place in the organization.