Washington Nationals Rumors

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

Pitching Notes: Shields, Cards, Ogando, Albers, Baker, Coke, Comebacks

As things stand, the Nationals have the game’s best rotation while the Royals have the top pen, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney opines (Insider links). Of course, the offseason is not yet over. Here are the latest notes on the pitching market:

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart confirmed that the team has active interest in starter James Shields, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Stewart adds that he likes the idea of  Shields serving as a mentor while fronting the team’s rotation. Fellow free agent Max Scherzer, however, is too spendy for Arizona.
  • When the Cardinals pursued lefty Jon Lester, the team indicated it was willing to spend only to the $120MM range, Olney tweets. That could give an idea of what kind of payroll space the club feels willing to occupy, says Olney. St. Louis was recently linked to a trio of top starting pitchers, each of whom would represent quite a different investment.
  • Alexi Ogando apparently produced solid results in his recent workout, with Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com tweeting that scouts were impressed. The Red Sox and Dodgers are “aggressive” on Ogando, Gammons adds. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had tweeted that Boston was in attendance.
  • Righty Matt Albers is throwing in preparation for a showcase early next month, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). The shoulder issues that shut him down last year did not involve any structural damage, says Morosi.
  • Agent Bobby Witt says that client Scott Baker, another free agent righty, prefers to join a team that will allow him to enter camp as a starter, Morosi reports (Twitter links). Baker has five minor league offers in hand but is hoping to receive a major league contract.
  • Interest in lefty Phil Coke is “amping up,” Chris Iott of MLive.com tweets. Nevertheless, a signing does not appear to be imminent, per the report.
  • The Twins are planning to watch lefty Johan Santana throw today after already seeing him on the mound last week, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. Santana is not the only prominent hurler eyeing a comeback, it seems. Former closer Carlos Marmol threw in the Dominican earlier this winter and is now pitching in Venezuela, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. And one-time relief ace Daniel Bard, whose career derailed with a failed conversion back to the rotation, is also seeking a return, Cafardo reports. The 29-year-old says he is finally healthy and expects to sign a deal this week.

Nationals To Sign Mike Carp To Minor League Deal

The Nationals have agreed to a minor league deal with first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp, his agents at O’Connell Sports Management tweeted. The deal includes an invitation to MLB camp, and will pay Carp $1MM if he makes the big league roster, per a tweet from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Carp, 28, was an oft-discussed trade candidate last spring after slashing .296/.362/.523 in 243 plate appearances with the Red Sox in 2013. But he scuffled out of the gate for Boston last season, and ended up twice designated for assignment. Over 149 total trips to bat with the Red Sox and Rangers, Carp compiled a miserable .175/.289/.230 slash with no home runs.

Needless to say, Carp and the Nats will hope that he can return to the more promising trajectory he had shown at times earlier in his career. Carp will enter the season with 3.168 years on his service clock, meaning that his new team could control him for two additional seasons if things worked out.

Of course, the Nationals have made no commitments in signing this deal, and the left-handed-hitting Carp will have his work cut out to make the roster. Nevertheless, there is some opportunity: The Nats are somewhat right-handed heavy; presumptive fourth outfielder Nate McLouth struggled mightily last year; and newly-shifted first baseman Ryan Zimmerman hits from the right side.

Nats, Desmond Have Not Had “Significant” Extension Negotiations

The Nationals have not had “significant” extension negotiations with shortstop Ian Desmond this offseason, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reports. Though GM Mike Rizzo reportedly met with agent Doug Rogalski at the Winter Meetings, a source tells Ladson that no true negotiations occurred at that time, and that none have taken place since.

Recent reports have suggested that the Nationals have engaged in several trade scenarios regarding Desmond. Most recently, the team was said to have kicked around a three-team scenario that would have sent Desmond to the division-rival Mets, though ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweeted today that New York’s discussions regarding Desmond were “only cursory.”

The 29-year-old has emerged as one of the game’s best shortstops over the past three seasons, a rare 20-home-run hitter at the position who plays solid defense. (Though his offensive production has ticked down successively in each year.) Desmond is also widely cited as a team leader and outstanding clubhouse presence, and is the franchise’s longest-tenured player.

All said, expectations have been that an extension would at least be explored, with the team having already reportedly offered him a deal in excess of $100MM last offseason and Desmond expressing interest in staying put. But the Nats have added a long-term replacement in Trea Turner via trade, which at least reduces some of the future need. And it could well be that Rizzo does not feel a market-value deal would be a wise investment at this point.

Of course, late-spring (or later) extensions are fairly frequent occurrences, and it is far too soon to say that a new deal is not a reasonable possibility.

Nats, Mets, Rays Discussed Desmond/Zobrist Trade

The Nationals, Mets and Rays discussed a three-team deal involving Ian Desmond, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar before the Rays sent Zobrist and Escobar to Oakland, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The Mets would have received Desmond, with Zobrist and Escobar heading to Washington and the Mets sending prospects to Tampa. The deal ultimately fell through when the Mets declined to part with two prospects from a list of three, one of whom was pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The Mets also discussed acquiring Zobrist from the Rays in a more conventional two-team trade, although the two teams encountered the same hangup regarding prospects.

The structure of the potential three-team deal makes sense, at least on some level, for all sides. The Mets continue to be weak at shortstop, and Desmond would have been an enormous upgrade over Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. The Nationals had been connected to Zobrist, and Escobar, who is under control through 2016 with an option for 2017, would have provided an everyday shortstop for at least the next two years, helping alleviate a headache that could arrive next offseason as a number of key players become eligible for free agency. (Zobrist, who would have upgraded the Nats at second base while also providing them with options in the outfield, would have joined the list of Nationals eligible for free agency next winter, however.) And it’s hardly surprising that the Rays would have asked for high-upside young talent for Zobrist, since that’s what they ultimately got (in Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, who they received along with John Jaso and cash) when they sent him to the Athletics.

Desmond is eligible for free agency after the season, however, and Rosenthal notes that the Mets were concerned about paying a high price for a one-year player, particularly given the possibility that they could sign him next winter anyway. The Rays’ asking price evidently was high, even without knowing who they might have received besides Syndergaard — MLB.com and Baseball America both rank Syndergaard as the Mets’ No. 1 prospect, with MLB.com ranking him the No. 10 prospect in all of baseball. The 22-year-old posted a 4.60 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 133 innings for the Mets’ hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate in 2014.

The Nationals would not have been concerned about having Desmond play for another team in the NL East, Rosenthal writes. The Cubs, Giants and other teams besides the Athletics and Nationals also had interest in Zobrist.

Quick Hits: Nationals, Axford, Badenhop

Here’s the latest from around the league as the evening winds down.

  • With Ben Zobrist headed west to the Athletics, the Nationals are still trying to solve second base, writes Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Currently, there are five internal options. The most obvious are Danny Espinosa and Anthony Rendon. Espinosa has disappointed over the last two seasons while Rendon is expected to start at third base. Prospect Wilmer Difo has yet to play above A-ball, but he’s on the 40-man roster and possesses exciting tools. Other options include veterans Kevin Frandsen and Dan Uggla.
  • Free agent John Axford would like to compete for a closer gig, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. As it happens, the Blue Jays have yet to acquire a closer. Left-hander Brett Cecil is penciled into the role. At this point, no offers have been made to Axford, but several teams have shown interest including the Jays. After three consecutive rough seasons, Axford would likely have to earn any high leverage role.
  • The market for mid-tier, high leverage relievers has been slow to materialize, writes Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Bradford interviews righty reliever Burke Badenhop who is coming off a career season with a 2.29 ERA in over 70 innings. As Badenhop points out, teams don’t feel any pressure to make the first offer to free agents of his caliber. While five teams may be showing interest, they each know that any firm offer will get passed around to the others for bidding. Relievers like Badenhop, Francisco Rodriguez, and Rafael Soriano have to exercise patience as prospective buyers first gauge the trade market.

Beltway Notes: Rasmus, Johan, Zobrist, Schierholtz

Here’s the latest from the Orioles and the Nationals…

  • The Orioles‘ negotiations with Colby Rasmus “are gaining steam,” ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweets.  Manager Buck Showalter personally visited Rasmus over the weekend and the O’s have interest in Rasmus on a one-year contract.  Rasmus has also recently had some talks with another AL East team, the Rays.
  • Johan Santana‘s stint with the Orioles was cut short by a torn achilles tendon last June but team executive VP Dan Duquette told MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko earlier this offseason that the O’s were open to bringing Santana back on a new contract.  Santana is scheduled to pitch next week in the Venezuelan Winter League.
  • Also from Kubatko, Delmon Young‘s signing is expected to be officially announced today, meaning the Orioles would have to make a 40-man roster move to make room.  In the wake of the J.P. Arencibia signing, Kubatko speculates that Baltimore could drop a catcher since they have five other backstops on the 40-man — starter Matt Wieters (obviously not a candidate to be dropped), Steve Clevenger, Caleb Joseph, Ryan Lavarnway and Mike Ohlman.
  • Ben Zobrist and the Nationals are an “almost perfect” match for a trade given the team’s need at second base and the news of Jayson Werth‘s shoulder surgery, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes.  Rosenthal feels the Nats would make a push to acquire Zobrist, though there are a few complications to a deal.  Zobrist would join Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, Denard Span and Jordan Zimmermann as notable Nationals on the 2015-16 free agent market, and thus the Nats might be hesitant about adding yet another player who would require a qualifying offer.  I’m not necessarily sure this would be a big concern for Washington; I wouldn’t think Clippard or Span would get qualifying offers anyway, and the other four would surely reject the QO in search of lucrative multiyear deals.
  • Also looking ahead to next offseason, MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko notes that the Nationals don’t need to worry too much over potentially losing both Zimmermann and Fister to the open market given the number of other quality arms available in free agency next winter.
  • With Werth and Nate McLouth both question marks due to injury, James Wagner of the Washington Post wonders if the Nationals could bring back Nate Schierholtz as outfield depth.  Schierholtz signed a minor league deal with Washington last August and appeared in 23 games for the club.

NL East Notes: Werth, Zobrist, Fedde, Shields, Phillies

Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth will undergo arthroscopic surgery on right shoulder tomorrow and need two to three months to recover, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (All Twitter links). Werth will have his AC shoulder joint — the same joint that caused him to miss time in August — repaired at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. While the first reaction of some (myself included) is probably to wonder if this will increase Washington’s interest in Ben Zobrist, Rosenthal reports that that’s not the case. The Nats have considered the asking price on Zobrist to be too high in talks with the Rays, he says.

A three-month recovery could result in Werth missing time early in the season, which could lead to increased playing time for Nate McLouth or Michael Taylor. As the Nats deal with this unfortunate news, here are a few more notes pertaining to their division…

  • Erick Fedde, whom the Nationals selected in the first round of last year’s draft despite the fact that he had undergone Tommy John surgery, is progressing well in his rehab and has begun a throwing program, reports MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. Fedde has also begun weight training and says that Stephen Strasburg and Lucas Giolito, both of whom have undergone Tommy John in the past, have been vital to keeping him upbeat and optimistic about his recovery.
  • The Marlins have interest in James Shields but will likely only be able to make a serious play for him if his price tag drops below $100MM, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Miami had “considerable” interest in Shields back in November, but they’ve since added Mat Latos and Dan Haren into the rotation mix. Haren, of course, wants to be traded back to a West Coast club, and moving him is another likely prerequisite to a theoretical Shields signing.
  • Jake Kaplan of the Philadelphia Inquirer examines the Phillies‘ options for left field now that Marlon Byrd is with the Reds and Domonic Brown appears to be moving back to right field. Grady Sizemore is the favorite to at least platoon with someone at that spot, but Kaplan notes that Rule 5 pick Odubel Herrera is an intriguing name to keep an eye on. The second-baseman-turned-outfielder is just 23 years of age and enjoying a brilliant season in the Venezuelan Winter League, hitting a ridiculous .372/.432/.556 with six homers and eight steals in just over 200 at-bats. Kaplan also spoke with GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about Jeff Francoeur‘s chances of making the club after signing a minor league deal earlier this offseason.

Cafardo On Shields, Zobrist, Uggla, Papelbon, Aoki

The return of Alex Rodriguez headlines the top ten baseball storylines in 2015, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. With the 39-year-old Rodriguez and his two degenerating hips returning after serving a 162-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, Cafardo posits the best-case scenario for the Yankees would be if A-Rod cannot hold up physically or the team and/or MLB come up with more damaging material to keep him out of baseball for good. Also making Cafardo’s list, the start of Rob Manfred’s tenure as Commissioner and Pete Rose testing the waters of reinstatement in the wake of the retirement of Bud Selig, a staunch opponent of allowing the all-time hits leader back into the game.

In other tidbits from Cafardo’s Sunday Notes column:

  • It has been hard to gauge the market for James Shields because his negotiations have been private. However, a MLB source tells Cafardo the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Giants have had discussions or shown interest in the right-hander. Cafardo adds the Giants have cooled on Shields after re-signing Jake Peavy, but remain open-minded.
  • The Giants, Nationals, Angels, and Cubs are seriously pursuing Ben Zobrist with the Rays‘ asking price being at least one top prospect and a mid-level one.
  • Dan Uggla is confident in returning to his former self after being diagnosed with oculomotor dysfunction (poor motion vision when moving the head or body), which was caused by being hit in the head by a pitch on two separate occasions. After a two-week exercise regimen, doctors have declared the second baseman’s motion vision normal. The Nationals, who signed Uggla to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite the day after Christmas, have prior experience in dealing with oculomotor dysfunction, as Denard Span suffered through it in 2013. The Orioles and Rangers also expressed interest in Uggla.
  • Despite his less-than-stellar reputation, Cafardo finds it hard to fathom a team would not trade for closer Jonathan Papelbon. Cafardo notes Papelbon has found a way to keep getting batters out with diminished velocity as evident by his 106 saves over the past three seasons, including 39 (with just four blown saves) for a bad Phillies team last year.
  • Clubs are only offering outfielder Nori Aoki two-year deals. The Orioles have definite interest in Aoki, who also has some appeal to the Giants.


Beltway Notes: McLouth, Rizo, Olivera

While the Orioles looking for outfield help, swinging a trade with the Nationals to bring back Nate McLouth doesn’t seem like an option at this time, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.  The O’s believe they have a suitable replacement for McLouth in David Lough, despite Lough’s underwhelming 2014 season.  McLouth himself is also coming off a tough season that included shoulder surgery, and he’s owed $5MM in 2015 (plus a $6.5MM team option for 2016 with a $750K buyout), so it’s no surprise Baltimore prefers a younger, cheaper option in Lough.  Interestingly, the O’s and Nats have never combined on a trade since the Nationals came to Washington; the last trade between the two franchises took place in October 2001 when the Nationals were still the Montreal Expos.

Here’s some more about the Orioles and Nationals…

  • Also from Encina, a source tells him the Orioles don’t have a contract in place with Nicaraguan center fielder Arnol Rizo, contrary to a media report out of the country.  The O’s will likely take a look at the 23-year-old when scouts head to Nicaragua next week.
  • The Nationals make some sense as a suitor for Cuban second baseman Hector Olivera given their need at the keystone, though MASNsports.com’s Dan Kolko lists a few reasons (i.e. salary, Olivera’s injury history, a lack of recent scouting information) why Washington could pass.
  • James Wagner of the Washington Post catches up with infamous former Nationals prospect Carlos Alvarez, who is still trying to continue his pro baseball career.  Alvarez signed a $1.4MM contract with the Nats in 2006 while playing under a false identity (Esmailyn Gonzalez) and age (16) when he was actually 20 years old.  Once Alvarez was discovered, the fallout led to MLB enforcing stricter rules to prevent identity fraud for Dominican prospects and also resulted in the Nationals firing then-general manager Jim Bowden and subsequently hiring current GM Mike Rizzo.

NL Notes: Dodgers, Nationals, Padres

The Dodgers have the money available to sign Max Scherzer or James Shields, but after adding Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson this offseason, they don’t plan to add another top starter to complement Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. “I don’t think our intention ever was to sign one guy and punt on the fifth spot,” says GM Farhan Zaidi, who adds that any further starters the Dodgers add will be for depth. Zaidi also characterizes Anderson’s injuries last year as unlucky, and suggests they expect him to have a normal workload in 2015. “From a health standpoint, we feel very good about it,” Zaidi says. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Nationals Class A+ Potomac manager Tripp Keister is pleased that his team got Chris Bostick and Abel De Los Santos in the Ross Detwiler deal with Texas, Lacy Lusk of Baseball America writes. Both players faced Potomac last year while playing for the Rangers’ affiliate in Myrtle Beach. “He has a really good arm, and he showed some flashes of a really good breaking ball,” says Keister of De Los Santos, who posted a 1.97 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 45 2/3 innings of relief last year. “I don’t know if it’s quite as consistent as you’d like it, but he has a really big arm.”
  • The Padres have, of course, spent the past month dealing away prospects in a surprising series of trades for big-league players that have had the team and its new GM, A.J. Preller, spinning wildly in the rumor mill. Credit Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, then, for writing several thousand words about the Padres’ minor-league system, which looks dramatically different compared to the beginning of the offseason. Notably, the Padres have recently dealt with plenty of pitcher injuries (to Max Fried, Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland and Cory Luebke), and McDaniel notes that the Padres themselves have commissioned a study to figure out why, finding no systematic problems, only a string of unfortunate outcomes.