Washington Nationals Rumors

Minor Moves: Joseph, Zagurski, Snyder, Navarro

Here are today's minor moves from around the league...

  • The Yankees have outrighted infielder Corban Joseph, according to the International League transactions page. Joseph made his big-league debut in 2013, collecting seven plate appearances. He spent much of the season at Triple-A Scranton, where he hit .239/.329/.383 in 213 plate appearances.
  • The Indians have signed lefty reliever Mike Zagurski to a minor league deal, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets. Zagurski pitched in the Pirates, Yankees and Athletics organizations in 2013, posting a 3.04 ERA with a ridiculous 14.0 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 53 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level. He did, however, get shelled in 6 1/3 big-league innings.
  • The Orioles signed infielder Sharlon Schoop and outfielder Ronald Bermudez to minor league contracts, according to a team release. Schoop last played in the minors in 2012, when he was in the Royals organization. He is the brother of Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop. Bermudez hit .261/.299/.329 in stints at Double-A and Triple-A in the Red Sox organization in 2013.
  • Infielder Brandon Snyder has re-signed what appears to be a minor league deal with the Red Sox, the infielder tweeted himself the other night. Snyder collected 52 plate appearances with the Sox in 2013, hitting .180/.212/.360.
  • The Rays announced yesterday that they have agreed to a minor league deal with right-hander Sam Runion. The 25-year-old Runion, a client of Dishman Sports Group, was the Royals' second-round pick in 2007. He has a career 3.41 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 at Double-A and reached Triple-A for the first time in 2013. Runion converted to a relief role full-time in 2010 and has enjoyed success since, yielding just eight homers and posting a 3.80 ERA in 170 1/3 frames.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed Yamaico Navarro to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training (Twitter link). The Wasserman Media Group client appeared in eight games for the Orioles last season and slashed .267/.354/.418 at Triple-A.
  • The Nationals inked righty Daniel Stange to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, according to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter link). The 27-year-old posted a 4.52 ERA in 65 2/3 Triple-A innings with the Angels and also made it into three big league games for the Halos in 2013.
  • The Dodgers announced that they've signed former No. 4 overall pick Daniel Moskos to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Now 27 years old, Moskos spent last season with the White Sox' Triple-A affiliate, pitching to a 4.97 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 15 walks in 29 innings of relief.
  • The Dodgers also signed Clint Robinson to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reported earlier in the week. The 28-year-old first baseman split the 2013 campaign between the Blue Jays' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, slashing .254/.353/.421 with 13 homers.
  • The Mets announced that they have signed right-hander Miguel Socolovich to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training (Twitter link). The 27-year-old Venezuelan fired 11 1/3 one-run innings for NPB's Hiroshima Carp last season and owns a career 2.99 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 129 1/3 Triple-A innings. He has some brief Major League experience, having allowed 11 runs in 16 1/3 innings between the Cubs and Orioles in 2012.

Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.

Minor Moves: Twins, Pirates, Cabrera, Ely, Alfaro

Here are today's minor transactions from around the league...

  • The Yankees announced that they traded right-hander Ben Paullus to the Padres for utility man Dean Anna.  Anna, who recently celebrated his 26th birthday, posted an .892 OPS in Triple-A last season.  Paullus, 24, worked his way up to Advanced-A Tampa last season.
  • Right-hander B.J. Hermsen has been outrighted from the Twins' 40-man roster, the team announced. The 23-year-old posted a 4.81 ERA In 86 Double-A innings this season, but his strikeout rate fell to just 3.7 per nine innings. The low whiff rate was likely to blame for the whopping 117 hits he allowed in those 86 frames.
  • Minnesota also announced that it has signed outfielder Chris Rahl to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training. The 30-year-old spent 2013 with the Nats' Triple-A affiliate. Rahl is a .292/.325/.443 hitter in 700 Triple-A plate appearances and can play all three outfield spots.
  • The Pirates announced the signing of five players to minor league deals, three of whom have big league experience. Right-handers Seth McClung, Josh Kinney and Collin Balester are all veterans of multiple seasons. The others -- right-handers Jay Jackson and Jake Brigham -- each split last season between Double-A and Triple-A.
  • The Rangers announced that left-hander Edwar Cabrera has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A. Texas claimed the 26-year-old from the Rockies back in October. A shoulder injury cost him the entire 2013 season, but Cabrera has an impressive minor league resume: a 3.13 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 501 innings.
  • The Astros have released right-hander John Ely, according to the team's transactions page. Ely underwent Tommy John surgery after just four innings of work at the Triple-A level in April. The 27-year-old has a 5.70 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 115 1/3 career big league innings, though he was excellent for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in 2012. Ely pitched to a 3.20 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 168 2/3 innings that season.
  • The Nationals have signed right-hander Gabriel Alfaro to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, tweets Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com. The 30-year-old has spent the past two seasons pitching for the Guerreros de Oaxaca in the Mexican League, compiling an impressive 2.58 ERA with 11.4 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 52 saves in 129 innings as the team's closer.

Nationals Designate Abad, Robertson For Assignment

The Nationals announced that they have designated left-handed pitchers Fernando Abad and Tyler Robertson for assignment.  The moves will make room for left-hander Sammy Solis, outfielder Michael Taylor, and right-hander Aaron Barrett on the 40-man roster.

Abad, 28 in December, pitched to a 3.35 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 39 appearances last season.  Dan Kolko of MASNSports.com (on Twitter) is surprised to see him DFA'd as he was fairly solid in 2013.  Robertson, 26 in December, made two big league appearances but spent the bulk of the year with the Nats' and Twins' Triple-A where he posted a 3.04 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 47 outings.

The Nats' 40-man roster is now at capacity.

Nationals Sign Chris Young

WEDNESDAY: Adam Kilgore of the Washington post tweets that Young would earn $1.5MM if he made the roster, and his deal could be worth as much as $6MM via incentives. He can opt out of his contract at the end of Spring Training.

TUESDAY: The Nationals have re-signed pitcher Chris Young to a minor league deal, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com (via Twitter).  Young is represented by Williams & Connolly, as shown in the MLBTR Agency Database.

Young, 34, last appeared in the majors with the Mets, posting a 4.15 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 across 20 starts.  He spent last season in the Nats' minor league system but was sidelined for the majority of the year, making just nine starts in total.  Financial terms of the pact are not yet known.

Coaching Links: Nationals, Angels

The latest on the various coaching vacancies around Major League Baseball...

  • The Nationals announced that they have promoted minor league fielding coordinator Bob Henley to the position of third base coach. Henley, who has been with the Nationals/Expos organization for 11 years, played with the Expos in the 1998 season, appearing in 41 games and batting .304/.377/.470 in his only Major League action. The now-40-year-old Henley appeared in parts of eight minor league seasons as well.
  • The Angels announced that they have added Rick Eckstein as their Major League Player Information Coach in 2014.  Eckstein, 40, joins the Angels coaching staff after spending the past five seasons as the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals. In 2012, he helped the Nats offense rank among the top of the National League in several offensive categories and the club’s 194 home runs established a new franchise record en route to the club’s first National League Eastern division championship.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Coaching Links: Nats, Padres, Vizquel, Pirates

MLB.com's Bill Ladson runs down some potential replacements for departed Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett. Two of the names (Sam Perlozzo and Mike Quade) have both served as big league managers in the past. Here's more on the various coaching vacancies from around the league...

  • The Padres have promoted Dave Roberts to bench coach and Jose Valentin will take over as the club's new first base coach, MLB.com's Corey Brock reports.  Roberts had served as San Diego's first base coach for the past three seasons and has been with the organization since 2010.  Valentin managed the Padres' Class A affiliate in Fort Wayne for the past two seasons.
  • Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times confirms multiple reports out of Venezuela that the Tigers have hired Omar Vizquel as their first base coach (Twitter link). Vizquel, 46, spent 2013 as a roving infield instructor with the Angels and last played in the bigs with Toronto in 2012. The owner of 11 Gold Gloves, Vizquel is widely regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops of all time. It's tough to imagine the Tigers finding a better mentor for Rookie of the Year runner-up Jose Iglesias.
  • The Pirates announced that they have promoted Jeff Branson to hitting coach and added Jim Livesey the the Major League coaching staff. Branson, 46, has spent 12 seasons in the Pirates organization, serving five years as a minor league hitting coach and five as a minor league manager. In 2013, he worked with hitting coach Jay Bell on the Major League staff and assisted in the implementation of the team's hitting program. Livesey, 47, has 11 total years of experience in the Pirates' system. He took a five-year hiatus to coach in Japan in the middle of that stretch but has been the team's minor league hitting coordinator for the past three seasons.

Minor Moves: Purcey, Lowe, Moore, Miller, Startup

Pour a tall cup of coffee and open up a Baseball Reference tab. It's time for this Saturday morning's minor moves, via the Pacific Coast League and International League transaction pages (except where otherwise noted) ...

  • The White Sox have signed lefty David Purcey to a minor league deal. The 31-year-old had rejected an outright assignment from the Sox in late October to become a free agent. Purcey made 24 apperances for the Sox's major league club in 2013, posting a 2.13 ERA but walking 6 batters per nine innings.
  • The Dodgers signed first baseman/outfielder Jamie Romak to a minor league deal, according to MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).  Romak's deal includes a July 1st opt out.  The 28-year-old posted a .242/.322/.461 slash line with 22 homers in 134 games for the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate last season.
  • Right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, 30, has signed with the Rays, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Lowe was battered in just eleven appearances with the Angels last year, but posted a 3.60 ERA across 2009-12 and has continued to notch high strikeout totals while being stashed in the upper minors. 
  • The Cardinals signed third baseman Scott Moore, a thirty-year-old who has thrived at Triple-A but has yet to have a real shot in the bigs. Last year, over 485 plate appearances in the Oakland and San Diego organizations, he hit .271/.353/.448 with fourteen long balls. In his most extended MLB action, a 2012 stint with the Astros, Moore hit a more-than-respectable .259/.330/.448 with nine home runs in 228 plate appearances. 
  • Right-hander Jim Miller is back with the Yankees on a minor league pact after making just one MLB appearance last year, an ill-fated inning-and-a-third that resulted in three earned runs. The 31-year-old had been a solid member of the A's pen just one year prior, however, as he registered a 2.59 ERA in 48 2/3 innings for Oakland. Miller did flash a 13.1 K/9 rate during his 63 1/3 Triple-A innings last year, a somewhat intriguing mark given his manageable walk rates. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com had the news first on Twitter.
  • Lefty reliever Will Startup will stay with the Tigers after he notched a 3.41 ERA in 58 Double-A innings last year. Startup reached Triple-A as a 21-year-old back in 2006, but before joining Detroit had landed with the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012.
  • The Giants have inked two righties to minor league deals, bringing aboard Jason Berken and Daryl Maday. Berken, 29, has thrown in 110 MLB games, including 28 as a starter, and recorded a 5.36 ERA over 248 2/3 innings. He spent last year at the White Sox' Triple-A affiliate, where he managed a 3.80 ERA in 161 innings -- all as a starter -- and posted 6.5 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9. Meanwhile, at 28 years of age Maday has yet to see San Francisco, but will continue to keep the dream alive in the Giants system. He has bounced between Double-A and Triple-A since 2008, and now serves primarily as a reliever. Last year, Maday notched a cumulative 4.17 ERA in 49 2/3 innings, with 7.1 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9.
  • The Pirates signed first baseman Miles Durham and catcher Francisco Diaz to minor league deals. At age thirty, Durham has spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh organization, other than a brief Independent League stint, and apparently served as a player-coach last season. Dia, 23, has all the markings of a light-hitting backstop (two career home runs in 1,115 plate appearances), though he has reached base at a productive clip in the low minors.
  • Longtime Yankees farmhand Walter Ibarra has agreed to play short in the Cubs organization on a minor league pact. The 26-year-old reached Triple-A for the first time last year. Known for his defense, Ibarra failed to himpress with a cumulative .276/.308/.367 slash across 212 Double-A and Triple-A plate appearances in 2013.
  • And the Nationals have reached agreement with a player by the name of Josh Johnson -- not the starting pitcher, but the middle infielder and third baseman who has been in the Nats' system since 2010. Last year, playing at both of the two highest minor league levels, the 27-year-old Johnson put up an impressive .293/.390/.458 line in 300 trips to the plate. He was especially impressive in his short time at Syracuse, where he had a .924 OPS and was a perfect six-for-six in stolen bases in just 111 plate appearances. Washington also added catcher Sean McCauley to the fold on a minor league pact. The 24-year-old was brought back to professional baseball by the Nats last year in a coaching capacity after losing his career to injury.
  • The Rangers have signed righty Zach Russell away from the Cards' system. The 24-year-old reliever topped out with a brief Double-A stint last year, but struggled there.

Harper, Nationals Have Unresolved Contract Issue

The five-year major league deal signed by Bryce Harper with the Nationals did not resolve a potentially important issue, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. When time came to iron out the details of Harper's signing-deadline deal, a stalemate emerged over whether or not Harper would be able to opt out if he became eligible for arbitration during the life of the deal. Unable to resolve the issue, the club agreed with agent Scott Boras to a side letter agreement providing that, if it arose, the matter would be resolved by a grievance hearing.

With 1.159 years of service, Harper is not eligible for arbitration this year. However, he is a virtual lock to have sufficient service time to be a Super Two player next year. Because his draft deal runs through 2015, the issue that the parties failed to resolve at the time is very much in play now.

One year of salary may not seem to present a major issue at first glance: Harper stands to earn as much as $2MM in 2015 anyway due to roster bonuses, and his free agency timetable is unaffected. But even an average Harper campaign in 2014 should easily support an advance over Eric Hosmer's Super Two projection of $4.1MM, while a big season could blow that number out of the water. More importantly, perhaps, a Super Two payday could play an important role in setting the baseline for his earnings between 2016-18, during which time Harper will be arb-eligible, significantly raising the stakes. 

As Kilgore well explains, the sides remain in each others' good graces and there are several possible outcomes at this point. There are two extremes. First, the club could simply acquiesce in actually or effectively treating Harper as a Super Two. Second, it could refuse to pay a dime over the 2015 rate provided in the contract, likely leading to a grievance hearing (as contemplated in the deal). Neither seems the most likely outcome, in Kilgore's estimation, and there are plenty of routes that negotiations could take to avoid the issue on a temporary or permanent basis.

Indeed, as Kilgore mentions, the need to negotiate on Harper's contract could provide additional impetus to broader extension talks. Though it remains unclear whether Harper would have any interest in putting free agent years in play, Boras has (perhaps semi-seriously) floated the idea of a dozen-year extension.

Certainly, if any talks were to occur, Boras would seek something exceptional for a player with Harper's ceiling and early-career production at such a young age. Though he accumulated less WAR in his age-20 season than he had in his rookie campaign, that was driven largely by reduced playing time due to injury and his shift to a corner outfield spot. Harper actually substantially improved at the plate: his .274/.368/.486 slash boosted his 121 wRC+ in 2012 up to a 137 mark that placed in the top-25 in all of baseball (minimum 400 at-bats).

In terms of league-wide impact, this appears to be a one-off issue. First, big league deals are no longer permitted for players signed out of the amateur draft. And so far as has been reported, this is the only example in which the issue was left for future resolution. (Also worth mentioning, as Kilgore notes, is that arbitration opt-out clauses were standard in those major league contracts previously inked by drafted players, at least when the length of the deal made arbitration a realistic possibility.)

East Notes: Murphy, Cano, Perez, Rays

The Mets are looking for players to buy into their offensive philosophy, and that means finding guys with discipline at the plate, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.  That might help to explain why the free-swinging Daniel Murphy has found himself on the pages of MLBTR over the last week or so.  Marlon Byrd, who signed a lucrative two-year deal with the Philies, didn't show up on the Mets radar because he also doesn't fit the bill for what the Mets are looking for.  Possible target Curtis Granderson, however, boasts a solid walk rate.  Here's more out of the AL and NL East..

  • It was hard to find an executive at the GM Meetings who didn't expect to see Robinson Cano back with the Yankees, but almost everyone expects a leverage battle between the two sides, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  Sherman suggests that the Bombers could invoke a similar strategy to what they did with Andy Pettitte after the 2008 season.  The Yanks offered the hurler a pay cut from $16MM to $10MM and when he declined, they cautioned that the offer would go down if they signed someone else.  After they spent megabucks on Mark Teixeira, Pettitte (reluctantly) accepted a $5.5MM deal.
  • Mets GM Sandy Alderson told Mike Francesa of WFAN Radio that he wouldn’t trade Noah Syndergaard under virtually any circumstances, according to Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.
  • The Nationals have interest in free agent Oliver Perez, a person familiar with the situation tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.  Left-handed batters hit .238/.358/.288 against the 32-year-old reliever last season.
  • After numerous conversations with player agents and other teams, Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman headed home from the GM Meetings with a better sense of potential moves, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  The Rays are looking for a first baseman, catcher, and one or two late-inning relievers. Friedman isn't sure if their next move is a trade or signing, but he "would be surprised" if nothing happened between now and the winter meetings on December 8th.

Nationals Request Release Waivers On Mauro Gomez

The Nationals have requested release waivers on first baseman Mauro Gomez, the team announced.  Gomez intends to play in Japan next season and he already has an agreement in place with the Hanshin Tigers.

Gomez, 29, hit .275/.324/.422 in 111 PA with the Red Sox in 2012, his only taste of Major League experience in a decade-long pro career that has been him play in four different organizations' farm systems.  He has a career .278/.333/.488 slash line and 159 homers in 3842 minor league PA, including 29 homers and an .843 OPS posted last season with the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate.  Toronto designated Gomez for assignment in September and Washington claimed him two days later.

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