Washington Nationals Rumors
With Bryan Price set to take the helm in Cincinnati, Jim Leyland leaving Detroit, and Don Mattingly making something of a power play in L.A., today was a busy day on the field staff front. Here are some other notes on managerial situations around the league:
- We can expect a trend moving away from high-profile managerial hirings, says Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. With both of the current World Series contenders relying on under-the-radar options who had experience in their organizations, other teams may follow suit. (Indeed, the Reds seem to have done just that.)
- He may be a Tigers hero, but Kirk Gibson will remain the Diamondbacks skipper, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Both club and manager apparently assured each other that they want to continue the relationship into next year, according to team CEO Derrick Hall, although Hall also acknowledged that the team had declined to exercise options it held to control Gibson through the 2016 season.
- While that takes one possible option away from the Tigers as they look to find a Leyland replacement, the team will take its time assessing a wide field of potential candidates, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. The team does have internal options with managerial experience in Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon -- the latter of whom is a more likely target -- and Dombrowski says he has no intentions of "chang[ing] the culture" after a nice run of success.
- The Nationals have interviewed the club's third base coach, Trent Jewett, for its opening, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. He joins bench coach Randy Knorr and outside candidates Matt Williams and Brad Ausmus as options that have had the chance to chat with GM Mike Rizzo. Both Jewett and Knorr are said to have interviewed strongly, Kilgore tweets, but for his money Williams is the odds-on favorite at the moment.
- Meanwhile, Kilgore further reports, Cal RIpken is not looking like a realistic possibility to take over in D.C. Kilgore also explores whether the opening in Detroit might impact the Nats' plans, concluding that it likely will not.
The Nationals failed to repeat their 98-win 2012 campaign, but were the best National League team not to qualify for the 2013 post-season. With the team's core still fully intact, the Nats surely hope to climb back atop the NL East in 2014.
- Ryan Zimmerman, 3B: $100MM through 2019 (club holds 2020 option)
- Jayson Werth, OF: $83MM through 2017
- Gio Gonzalez, SP: $32MM through 2016 (club holds 2017 option)
- Rafael Soriano, RP: $14MM through 2014 ($7MM deferred)
- Adam LaRoche, 1B: $14MM through 2014
- Denard Span, OF: $7MM through 2014 (club holds 2015 option)
- Bryce Harper, OF: $4.4MM through 2015 (signed major league contract out of draft)
- Scott Hairston, OF: $2.5MM through 2014 ($500k to be paid by Cubs)
- Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B: $1.8MM through 2014 (signed major league contract out of draft)
- Craig Stammen, RP: $1.375MM through 2014
- Matt Purke, SP: $1.04MM through 2014 (signed major league contract out of draft)
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses)
- Jordan Zimmermann, SP (4.154): $10.5MM projected salary
- Ian Desmond, SS (4.027): $6.9MM
- Tyler Clippard, RP (4.148): $6.2MM
- Stephen Strasburg, SP (3.118): $3.9MM
- Drew Storen, RP (3.131): $3.6MM
- Ross Detwiler, SP (4.002): $2.8MM
- Wilson Ramos, C (3.047): $2.1MM
- Ross Ohlendorf, SP/RP (4.170): $1.3MM
The Nationals are loaded with young, cost-controlled talent that is still in or approaching its prime. Much the same unit combined to bag nearly 100 wins just one year ago. Owner Ted Lerner is one of the richest in the game; the club already ratcheted up payroll going into 2013; and Washington recently extended and promoted Mike Rizzo, the front office man who built the current club and will guide it for the foreseeable future. Sounds pretty promising.
Then again, these pieces led manager Davey Johnson to declare 2013 a "World Series or bust" year, and the team failed even to earn a chance to compete for a ring. And now, the team's guru-skipper is himself riding off into the sunset. Priority number one for Rizzo will be finding the right man to take the helm. Internal options Trent Jewett or Randy Knorr could be asked to take the torch, or the team could look outside the organization to candidates like Brad Ausmus or Matt Williams.
As for the on-field components, Rizzo has shown a penchant for acting opportunistically, rather than just filling needs, over the last two off-seasons. With Edwin Jackson in 2012 and Haren in 2013, Rizzo targeted veteran pitchers he liked for a bounceback. Last year's signing of Soriano to a heavily deferred deal was an unexpected stroke. And he swung two trades that remade the club's outfield, ultimately adding Span and pitching prospects A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen, and Ian Krol while parting with Michael Morse and top minor league arm Alex Meyer. Though the signings have not worked out quite as anticipated, the trades look to have been beneficial in the aggregate. And Rizzo surely remains undeterred in his confident, decisive approach.
But what bold strokes might the Nats' head man have in mind for 2014? The club has few positions obviously ripe for upgrade. In particular, the club's starting outfield is unlikely to change, with Harper and Werth entrenched at the corners and Span holding down center field. Though there have been rumblings that the Nats could move on from Span just one season after installing him, he rebounded from a slow start to deliver just what the team expected when it dealt for him: a league-average bat, twenty swipes, and outstanding defense in center, good for 3.5 fWAR and 2.4 rWAR. He remains a very nice bridge to the team's top overall prospect, Brian Goodwin, who could arrive by 2015.
In the infield, three spots are virtual locks. The shortstop Desmond has established himself among the league's best, and the only question is whether -- and at what price -- he'll be extended. Zimmerman's throwing woes at third abated enough that he won't yet be moved across the diamond. And the backstop Ramos, who returned from ACL surgery to his promising trajectory, could himself be an interesting target for a long-term deal.
The other two infield positions are probably also set, barring some complicated maneuvering. At first base, the team returns LaRoche, who is still owed $14MM (including his 2015 buyout). There has been some suggestion that the Nats could look to upgrade here after the veteran's sluggish 2013, which may have been caused in part by weight loss issues that the team hopes to be able to address going forward. But for the team to sell low and eat salary to move one of its valued clubhouse members, it would need a very good reason. Washington was reportedly interested in Jose Dariel Abreu, for instance, but not at anything close to the price he ultimately commanded. Unless a golden opportunity arises, an acquisition at first seems improbable.
Indeed, a more plausible (but still unlikely) means by which the smooth-swinging lefty might be displaced would be if ownership empties its wallet for this year's top overall free agent target, second baseman Robinson Cano. But Rendon is already on hand. He is a cheap, high-upside 23-year-old who had a solid rookie campaign, showing the ability to play second and maintaining a league-average batting line after minimal seasoning (326 minor league at-bats). Washington could dump LaRoche and employ some combination of Cano, Zimmerman, and Rendon to play the 3-through-5 positions, or even trade the valuable youngster. But the likely breathtaking commitment that Cano will command could hamstring the club's efforts to retain its homegrown stars down the line. Rizzo may kick the tires on Cano, but Rendon remains highly likely to man the keystone next year.
Of course, the team also still has Danny Espinosa in the fold in the middle infield. The low-contact switch hitter saw his stock plummet (and missed qualifying for arbitration) after a disastrous (28 OPS+) start to 2013. Though he could be dealt, the club would hate to sell so low on a player with Espinosa's upside. And while the 26-year-old could make the roster as a reserve, it seems more likely he'll provide injury insurance while working to rebuild his offensive game -- and trade value -- in Triple-A.
Whether or not it includes Espinosa, the Nats' bench must improve on its sub-replacement-level 2013. Other backup middle infield possibilities include the limited-but-sturdy Steve Lombardozzi and minor leaguers Jeff Kobernus (who showed nice speed and on-base ability at Triple-A last year with 42 swipes and a .366 OBP) and Zach Walters (who flashed rare power for a shortstop with 29 International League bombs). Tyler Moore hit well after a mid-season run at Triple-A, but doesn't play third and may be redundant with Hairston as an outfield option. Corey Brown, 27, may have an outside shot at Roger Bernadina's old role or could be traded away. Behind the dish, minor leaguers Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano seem ready to fill a backup role. Of course, Rizzo could well pursue a veteran or two rather than relying on those options. What is most clear, however, is that the club will be in search of a left-handed bench bat. The team is likely to let Chad Tracy walk after a sub-par 2013. A relatively direct free agent replacement might be found (e.g., Luke Scott). Or the club could seek more utility from a player like short-time Nat David DeJesus.
Situational lefties, it would appear, are something of a theme in Washington. After leaving the LOOGY role essentially unfilled to start 2013, the Nats are widely expected to peruse the market for help on that side of the bullpen. And the club could look to add other arms as well. But the relief corps may receive less of an overhaul than many commentators have suggested. On the whole, it was about as effective this season (3.0 fWAR, 3.56 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 3.79 xFIP) as it was the year prior (3.4 fWAR, 3.23 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 4.01 xFIP). And the team has internal options. Though an established lefty will certainly appear on Rizzo's shopping list, all of the team's primary left-handed pen arms last year -- Fernando Abad, Xavier Cedeno, and Krol -- are under team control and short of arbitration eligibility. The closer job remains Soriano's to lose, even if his leash has shortened. Clippard and Storen will be the top setup men, unless one is traded (which is probably the most interesting situation to watch). And Stammen's role will continue to grow after another sturdy campaign. Otherwise, the club has some reasonably promising internal options that it could use to fill things out. Ryan Mattheus, Erik Davis, and even Christian Garcia and Aaron Barrett all spring to mind. Finally, one or more of the odd men out of the rotation will likely wind up in relief as a long man.
And that leads us to what is, perhaps, the most intriguing area of the off-season for the Nationals. The top of the rotation is set, with Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Zimmermann making up one of the best and most cost-efficient front three in the game. If healthy, Detwiler should get another shot after missing much of 2013. Beyond those four, the team could choose to allow Ohlendorf to compete with the emergent Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan for the fifth slot that will be vacated by Haren, leaving the losers to supplement the pen or provide depth in Syracuse. A rising Nathan Karns could also push for a role with a big spring after getting his first taste of the bigs last year, and other solid arms are moving through the system with him, headlined by Cole.
But while the club certainly has sufficient options on hand, Rizzo could make a big impact with one move in the rotation. Though it would be surprising to see the Nats hand out a lengthy contract to any of this year's free agents, the acquisition of a high-quality veteran who won't compromise the budget long-term could be the most direct, least risky way to boost the club for 2014. Rizzo could conceivably target a veteran arm like Tim Hudson, offer yet another pillow contract, or even pursue a trade, though it is somewhat difficult to imagine the Nats giving up the kind of top-end young talent that will be needed to land a David Price.
If Rizzo dabbles in the trade market at all -- whether for a starter or otherwise -- one asset group he could use as currency is the mid-tier, MLB-ready talent that is backed up at Triple-A. Though Washington will likely value its few premier prospects quite highly, it could be open to dealing from the aforementioned middle infielders (Kobernus and Walters) and pitchers (Jordan, Karns, et al.). Likewise, speedy center fielder Eury Perez, 23, was strong in Triple-A last year but has Span in front of him and Goodwin and Michael Taylor behind.
Assuming they tender contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players, the Nats figure to enter the off-season already nearing (if not exceeding) the franchise-high 2012 opening day tab of just under $120MM. Lerner has hinted that the club went over its own, flexible internal budget last year, which obviously did not turn out as expected. But the Nationals' window is unquestionably open, attendance is on the rise, and a healthy splash would help to stir up continued interest in a growing fan base.
Some money and attention probably will be earmarked for extensions, with Desmond and Zimmermann being the most pressing candidates. (As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained earlier today in assessing the team's arbitration eligibles, it could cost the Nats upwards of $100MM for the former and around $85MM for the latter.) And moves will be made to improve the team around the fringes. But ultimately, for an organization that learned firsthand that big projections and talent aren't enough in the fickle game of baseball, tinkering with the bench and pen may not be enough. A significant move -- a signing, trading, or both -- seems reasonably likely to be in the offing.
Matt Swartz has developed a very accurate model that MLBTR uses to project arbitration salaries, as explained in this series of posts. We've heard from many MLB teams and agencies that reference the projections in their work. The Nationals are next in our series. Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.
- Jordan Zimmermann (4.154): $10.5MM
- Ian Desmond (4.027): $6.9MM
- Tyler Clippard (4.148): $6.2MM
- Drew Storen (3.086): $3.6MM
- Stephen Strasburg (3.118): $3.9MM
- Ross Detwiler (4.002): $2.8MM
- Wilson Ramos (3.047): $2.1MM
- Ross Ohlendorf (4.170): $1.3MM
Zimmermann posted the best season of his career in 2013, with 213 1/3 innings of 3.25 ball. He also tied for the NL lead with 19 wins, a number that looks great in arbitration especially with a previous career high of 12. He had Tommy John surgery in August of 2009, and beginning in 2011 posted full season ERAs of 3.18, 2.94, and 3.25. Zimmermann picked up his first All-Star nod this year as well. It's difficult to find a hole in his arbitration case, and a hefty raise is in order for his third time through. Four years ago, Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez signed five-year deals in the $80MM range. Having been a Super Two player, Zimmermann would probably require at least $85MM over five years. The price has gone up since last year, with negotiations expected with the Nationals this winter. The righty told MLB.com's Bill Ladson in August, "I like it here. Obviously, it's the only place that I know. It would be nice to stay long term, but it has to be something fair. I'm just not going to do a team-friendly deal just to stay here long term. If it's a fair deal, then obviously, we'll definitely think about it. But I'm not going to give a huge team discount. Just something fair is all I ask."
Desmond is another extension candidate, after proving 2012 was no fluke by putting up another 20 home run season and duplicating that year's 5.0 wins above replacement. Like Zimmermann, Desmond hasn't jumped at a team-friendly offer yet, and his price tag continues to rise. Elvis Andrus doesn't have much on Desmond aside from age, and he inked an eight-year, $120MM extension with the same amount of service time as Desmond. That contract covered all free agent years, since the Rangers had already locked up Andrus' arbitration seasons, and also includes opt-outs after the fourth and fifth years. Andrus doesn't have Desmond's power, so it's hard to consider them a match. On the other hand, Desmond isn't in Troy Tulowitzki territory. I think one way or another, the Nationals will have to go past $100MM to lock up their shortstop long-term, especially if Desmond insists on receiving eight guaranteed years like Andrus did.
Having compiled 110 holds and 33 saves in his career, Clippard continues to climb up the arbitration ladder. His projected $6.2MM salary is in the range a quality free agent setup man might receive. While he's under control for 2015 as well, his salary at that point will be no bargain. Clippard has given the Nationals five solid seasons, and I wonder if this calls for the old mantra of trading a player a year early rather than a year late. Clippard might still bring solid value on the trade market, especially if an older reliever like Grant Balfour gets something like $18MM over two years.
Another reason Clippard could be on the move is the comments he made in July regarding the Nationals' handling of his friend and fellow reliever Storen. "I just think it’s been handled very poorly," Clippard told reporters of Storen's demotion to Triple-A. Storen himself could be dealt instead after posting a 4.52 ERA in 2013. He did, however, manage a 1.40 ERA in 19 1/3 innings after his recall in mid-August.
Continuing the Nationals' list of big-name arbitration cases, Strasburg is up for the first time following 183 innings of 3.00 ball, in a season that included forearm tightness and a DL stint for a lat strain. A mere eight wins on the season serves to limit his salary, and the budding ace will remain affordable in the near-term. Technically, we would have projected him at $3.4MM had he not earned $3.9MM in 2012, so we expect little to no raise. The Nats control Strasburg through 2016, at which point the Boras client might pursue a big free agent payday at age 28.
A strained oblique and a back strain limited Detwiler to 13 starts, with his last one coming on July 3rd. His arbitration salary is justified, though the Nats could slot Tanner Roark and a free agent into the fourth and fifth slots in the 2014 rotation and move Detwiler.
Ramos is in good standing as the team's starting catcher, though a recurring hamstring injury limited him to 78 games on the season. He still hit a career-best 16 home runs. If the Nats can handle the injury risk, they could try to steal Ramos' arbitration years at $10MM or less, as happened with Nick Hundley, Carlos Ruiz, and Chris Iannetta.
Ohlendorf joined the organization on a minor league deal in January, having his contract purchased in June and staying on as a swingman thereafter but spending time on the DL in August for a shoulder injury. He was pretty good overall in 60 1/3 innings, probably enough so to be tendered a contract.
Assuming Zimmermann, Desmond, Clippard, Storen, Strasburg, Detwiler, Ramos, and Ohlendorf are tendered contracts, the Nationals are looking at an estimated $37.3MM for eight arbitration eligible players.
The Mets were said to be intrigued by Jose Dariel Abreu's power but ultimately, they weren't one of the finalists for him and they weren't the team to sign him. Why didn't GM Sandy Alderson take the plunge? The Mets figure that they have first base covered between Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, and Josh Satin with possible support from Daniel Murphy and Wilmer Flores, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The Mets weren't the only team in their division intrigued by the Serie Nacional star, however. Here's more out of the NL East..
- The Marlins were among the finalists for the Cuban slugger, but they bowed out of the bidding when it went north of $60MM, tweets Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. The Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Giants were also said to be among the clubs in the mix this week.
- The Nationals had interest in Abreu, but the dollar amount got "crazy" in their view, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (Twitter link).
- Dusty Baker isn't expected to be a candidate for the Nationals' managerial job, Kilgore tweets. Baker contacted GM Mike Rizzo last week about his interest in the position but there doesn't seem to be any interest on Washington's end.
- A talent evaluator with knowledge of the Nationals' manager search tells ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link) that he would be shocked if Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams isn't hired.
- Braves GM Frank Wren recognizes that he needs to add experience to his rotation, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Atlanta considered making a play for Jake Peavy at the trade deadline but those thoughts quickly fizzled when it became apparent that they didn't have the pieces necessary to close that deal.
As is the case at the end of every season, there have been quite a few shakeups to coaching staffs around the game. Here's the latest on several situations around the league...
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reports that Rick Adair will not return as the Orioles pitching coach in 2014. Bullpen coach Bill Castro, who was named the team's interim pitching coach when Adair left the team to be with his dying father, is unlikely to be a candidate. The same goes for rehab coordinator Scott McGregor. The rest of the coaching staff will return, according to Kubatko.
- The Yankees and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have agreed to terms on a new deal, though nothing has been finalized or announced yet, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
- Kilgore tweets that the Nationals interviewed Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams for their managerial opening recently.
- Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the Angels have hired Don Baylor as their hitting coach. The 64-year-old Baylor has served as the D-Backs' hitting coach since 2011 and has 21 years of coaching experience to go along with a 19-year playing career that saw him take home AL MVP honors when he played for the Angels in 1979. Arizona had asked him to return for 2014, but the Halos have announced that Baylor opted to take the position in Anaheim.
- Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times points out some history between Angels GM Jerry Dipoto and Baylor, noting that Baylor was Dipoto's manager when Dipoto served as the Rockies' closer in 1997-98 (Twitter link).
- The Blue Jays nearing a deal with former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer to fill the same role in Toronto, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). Seitzer, a career .295/.375/.404 hitter in a 12-year big league career, has experience working with Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Gibbons served as the Royals' bench coach for part of Seitzer's tenure with the club.
- Brad Ausmus is on the list of Nationals' managerial candidates, tweets Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes that it's unclear whether or not Ausmus has interviewed, though Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post indicated that the interview has yet to take place (also via Twitter).
- Kilgore writes in a full article for the Post that as of late last week, the Nats have yet to conduct any interviews. Bench coach Randy Knorr and third base coach Trent Jewett are still the strongest internal candidates, says Kilgore.
- Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles provides readers with several quotes from Angels skipper Mike Scioscia's appearance on ESPNLA 710 radio. Scioscia says that he and Dipoto went through a series of "aggressive" meetings with ownership before they were informed they would return for the 2014 season. Scioscia said there's "no doubt" that he's on the same page as ownership and the front office after those talks.
Red Sox free agents will be key to this year's market, but Boston's decisions about which players they'll extend qualifying offers will strongly affect the market as well, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. Jacoby Ellsbury will, obviously, almost certainly receive a qualifying offer. Sherman also expects that Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will, and qualifying offers would significantly dampen the market for those three players. Teams will not want to forfeit draft picks to sign Napoli, Drew or Saltalamacchia, who, as free agents, would likely receive less per year than the $14.1MM qualifying offer, even if draft pick forfeiture didn't exist. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Rays face a number of tough decisions this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. At the center of their offseason, of course, is pitcher David Price, who is set to receive a raise on his $10.1MM 2013 contract in arbitration. Assuming the Rays pick up their options on Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar, they'll have an additional $23.6MM tied up in those two plus Evan Longoria, Joel Peralta and Matt Moore. Add in ten more arbitration-eligible players, nine free agents and what's likely to still be a very low 2014 budget, and Andrew Friedman and the Rays' front office are likely to have their hands full this winter.
- Hiring Cal Ripken to replace the retiring Davey Johnson as manager would be a bad idea for the Nationals, Mike Harris of the Washington Times writes. Harris argues that the Nats don't need to make a flashy choice for their managerial job. They don't need a manager who will receive tons of media attention (even if he doesn't ask for it). Instead, what they need is a manager with experience, and while Ripken might be a good manager once he has experience, he doesn't have it yet. Nats bench coach Randy Knorr and Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams would be better choices, Harris says.
The NLCS is taking a day off as the scene shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 tomorrow night with the Cardinals leading the Dodgers 2-0. Here is the latest news and notes out of the National League today:
- The Rockies need to improve their talent acquisition via the draft and Latin America in order to overcome the crushing injuries suffered in recent seasons, according to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. Tim Hudson, whose free agency was profiled this past week by MLBTR's Steve Adams, would make a perfect middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Rockies, Renck opines.
- The Pirates' payroll will increase significantly in 2014 aiding their efforts to retain free agents Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett while also trying to sign Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez to long-term extensions, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel.
- The Mets will face a dilemma with their 40-man roster when it comes time to protect minor league players from the Rule 5 draft, reports ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. The Mets' 40-man roster is currently full and will be so again once the eight players on the 60-day disabled list replace the eight pending free agents on the 40-man. Jordany Valdespin headlines Rubin's list of eight Mets who could lose their roster spot.
- The Reds' managerial search is centered on pitching coach Bryan Price and Triple-A manager Jim Riggleman, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Fay expects Price to get the job; but, if neither candidate impresses ownership in upcoming interviews, the search may be expanded.
- Nationals third-base coach Trent Jewett has an excellent shot to become the team's next manager, reports ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required).
While David Price has resigned himself to being traded, the Rays appear to be trying to figure out ways to make their ace the focal point of their pitching staff for many years to come, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo notes, however, the Rays' front office realizes it could be a losing battle, so a trade is likely with nearly half of baseball rumored to be interested in the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. "It's a big name, a big-time pitcher," one National League GM told Cafardo. "Even if you feel you don't need that level of pitcher, you look into it because he's so special and such a game changer. You do more than kick the tires. You try to make something happen, and I think you'll see teams that don't even need him step up." Here's more from Cafardo's column:
- The Red Sox will likely trade one of their veteran starters to make room for their young arms. Cafardo suggests Jon Lester and Jake Peavy could be available while Ryan Dempster, John Lackey, and Felix Doubront are also vulnerable.
- Jacoby Ellsbury is a perfect fit for the Mariners and Carlos Beltran likewise for the Orioles.
- Curtis Granderson will likely receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees and there's a strong possibility he would take it because he could post his biggest numbers at Yankee Stadium.
- The Dodgers will make Andre Ethier and/or Matt Kemp available this winter. Kemp will come with injury concerns, but that shouldn't prevent a team from taking a chance on his talent.
- James Loney has rebuilt his value with a strong season in Tampa (.299/.348/.430 with a 2.1 oWAR in 158 games and 598 plate appearances). Loney could find a market with the Rangers, if the Rays don't re-sign the free agent first baseman.
- Reds pitching coach Bryan Price appears to be the front-runner to replace Dusty Baker as manager in Cincinnati while Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr is in a strong position to take over from Davey Johnson, unless ownership wants a bigger name as its new manager.
MLB.com's Bill Ladson recently broke down the Nationals roster, taking a look at players who would stay, those with something to prove, those who will depart and those who could be traded. Dan Haren and Chad Tracy are "all but gone," in Ladson's estimation, who feels that the team's primary trade chips are Danny Espinosa, Drew Storen and Eury Perez. Interestingly, Ladson lists Anthony Rendon as a possible trade centerpiece should the Nationals make a run at acquiring David Price, who expects to be traded this winter. Here's more out of the NL East...
- Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News looks at the bullpens of the remaining playoff teams in contrast to that of the Phillies, noting that the quartet of relief corps that are still pitching serve as a primary example as to why paying Jonathan Papelbon $13MM annually was unnecessary. The Phillies would be well-served to reassess their scouting department in order to bring in evaluators capable of finding arms like Paco Rodriguez in the draft, opines Lawrence, who notes how mightily the team has struggled to develop relievers.
- In a separate piece, Lawrence writes that it's time for the Phillies to part ways with John Mayberry Jr. now that the team has better bench options. With GM Ruben Amaro Jr. stating that Darin Ruf isn't likely to be an everyday player, Lawrence feels that Ruf should assume Mayberry's role of a powerful righty bench bat. Mayberry will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason, and MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $1.7MM salary for the soon-to-be 30-year-old.
- After naming Frank Menechino the new hitting coach, the Marlins will look to create an organization-wide philosophy and approach at the plate, writes MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. The Fish may yet look to add a second hitting coach/instructor as well. Newly crowned GM Dan Jennings tells Frisaro that by Spring Training, he hopes to have input from all over the organization to create a new "Marlins Way" or "Marlins Mindset" in their hitters.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo wants his club's new manager to chime in on personnel choices over the off-season, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson, but the team has yet to conduct any interviews and will not rush the process. Here are a few more notes from Nats Town and the rest of the NL East ...
- After accounting for arbitration-eligible players, the Nationals will probably enter the off-season with about $114MM already committed to payroll, reasons James Wagner of the Washington Post. That already-tall figure could actually understate things. The aggregate $33.7MM that Wagner allocates for arbitration falls about $6MM shy of the projections of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. In particular, Swartz expects starter Jordan Zimmermann to leap all the way up to $10.5MM in his second year of eligibility, and sees big paydays for both set-up man Tyler Clippard ($6.2MM) and shortstop Ian Desmond ($6.9MM).
- Desmond, along with Zimmermann, has long been considered an extension candidate. Now entering his second-to-last year of arb-eligibility after grossing 10 fWAR over the last two seasons (a full two wins better than the next-rated shortstop), Desmond's price is likely to continue going up. That makes it a good time to lock him up to a long-term deal, reasons Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com.
- While it may be tempting to attribute a major share of the Phillies' lost season to Roy Halladay's struggles, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News notes that every National League playoff club suffered an approximately similar loss of top-flight pitching. The ways to surmount such difficulties, he says, are to develop pitching depth in the upper minors, find value in free agency, and be unafraid to roll the dice on some players. The net for Philadelphia, according to Murphy, is that the club must cross its fingers on its top young pitchers, go after a turnaround candidate in the Francisco Liriano mold, and add multiple starting options in free agency.
- One major wild card is already seemingly entrenched in the Philly rotation: international free agent signee Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. As Philadelphia Inquirer colunist Bob Brookover reports, the 27-year-old is working in the Phils' Florida complex to establish a big league routine and build up strength for his first Spring Training.
- The major question marks facing the Braves are whether to bring back pitcher Tim Hudson and what to do with struggling, high-priced second baseman Dan Uggla, writes Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Bowman wonders if Atlanta might try to move Uggla, swallowing a big chunk of the $26MM that the 33-year-old is still owed. He also suggests that the team could push for a trade for a top-flight starter like David Price. As things stand, says Bowman, it appears that the Braves have the capacity to add something in the neighborhood of $15-20MM via free agency or trade.
- The Marlins have announced their 2014 coaching staff, including two new faces in hitting coach Frank Menechino and third base coach Brett Butler, the team announced on Twitter. As the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer notes, both additions carved out nice careers in the bigs. In particular, Butler accumulated somewhere between forty and fifty wins above replacement, depending upon whom you believe, over his 17-year career. The outfielder posted only a .376 lifetime slugging percentage, but his on-base percentage exceeded that mark by one hundredth of a point. He had served as the manager of the Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliate for the last five years.