Washington Nationals Rumors
The latest out of the National League East...
- Dusty Baker reached out to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo to inform him that he's interested in taking over as the Nats manager with Davey Johnson stepping down, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Baker said that no interview has been scheduled, and Rizzo declined to comment on the Nats' managerial search. Kilgore adds that the Nationals may prefer a younger manager to replace Johnson, who was the oldest skipper in the Majors this season at age 70.
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that the Nationals are giving serious consideration to Cal Ripken Jr. as a managerial candidate.
- Matt Meyers of ESPNNewYork.com provides a case against the Mets' expected pursuit of Shin-Soo Choo, opining that Choo is a prime candidate to become the next Jason Bay in New York. Choo is much more likely to decline than maintain his production, writes Meyers, adding that Choo would be leaving an environment that favors his skill set for one that would diminish it.
- Juan Pierre wants to keep playing but realizes that 2013 might have been his last season, writes MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. Pierre is grateful to the Marlins for both of his stints with the team and says he would be interested in returning if they would like to re-sign him.
- Johan Santana isn't ruling out a return to the Mets, but the two sides haven't talked, agent Chris Leible told Jorge Castillo of the Star-Ledger. Santana resumed throwing last week and expects to be ready for Spring Training. GM Sandy Alderson said two weeks ago that he wouldn't rule out a return for Santana.
The Blue Jays' decision to fire hitting coach Chad Mottola yesterday made him a curious scapegoat for the team's 2013 failures, opines Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Davidi points out that Colby Rasmus, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie (who hit .283/.346/.417 in the second half) all made positive strides under Mottola, who was in his first season as a Major League coach. Here's more on the Blue Jays...
- Sergio Santos' contract no longer looks as team-friendly as it once did, but the Blue Jays aren't missing Nestor Molina, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Molina has struggled with the White Sox since being sent to Chicago in exchange for Santos, and Santos' final two months were healthy and dominant. Santos tells Nicholson-Smith that his goal for 2014 is to stay healthy, which will be a key if he's to have any chance at seeing his $6MM option exercised.
- Starting pitching is still the team's top priority this offseason, but an upgrade at catcher has leapfrogged left field for the team's No. 2 priority, writes MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm in his latest Blue Jays Inbox. Chisolm notes that the free agent market will be expensive and competitive and adds that the Jays are interested in Wilson Ramos of the Nationals, though he would be an expensive trade target himself (in terms of prospects). Still, Chisolm writes that GM Alex Anthopoulos "seems determined" to make an upgrade behind the dish.
- Anthony Gose could slot into the fourth outfielder role that will open up with Rajai Davis' departure, but Chisolm notes that he's also one of the team's top trade chips. Gose could also move into a starting role should a starting outfielder be traded.
- The Blue Jays felt that Emilio Bonifacio couldn't handle playing the infield on the turf at the Rogers' Centre due to his poor footwork and limited range, writes Chisholm, which is why they essentially gave him to the Royals. He'd have been non-tendered this winter, Chisholm adds.
- Chisolm also addresses the free agent market, noting that the Jays aren't likely to break their policy of limiting free agent deals to five years this offseason and aren't likely to pursue a Roy Halladay reunion as they need more certainty in a starting pitching acquisition.
The Braves acquired Freddy Garcia from the Orioles in late August in a trade that generated few headlines, yet the veteran right-hander posted a 1.65 ERA in 27 1/3 September innings (three relief appearances, three starts). Now, Garcia will take the mound to save Atlanta's season in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw, who is starting on short rest for the first time in his career.
Here are some notes from around the NL East...
- The bullpen was a disappointment for the Nationals in 2013 and improving the relief corps "is one of the Nationals' biggest offseason priorities," James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. The Nats will particularly be looking for left-handed relief help. Wagner suggests that the team could possibly trade setup man Tyler Clippard due to his rising price tag in the arbitration process. Clippard earned $4MM last season and has two more years of arb-eligibility remaining.
- Larry Bowa is close to a deal to become the Phillies' new bench coach, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury reports. Bowa managed the Phillies from 2001-04, was a coach with the team from 1989-96 and played in Philadelphia from 1970-81, winning five Gold Gloves and winning a World Series in 1980. Bowa and new Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg were actually traded together from the Phils to the Cubs in 1982.
- Marlins third base prospect Zack Cox is profiled by MLB.com's Bernie Pleskoff, who writes that Cox needs to show some consistency in 2014. Cox was taken by the Cardinals with the 25th overall pick of the 2010 draft, then traded to the Marlins for Edward Mujica at the 2012 deadline. Cox was ranked as amongst the top 100 prospects in the sport by Baseball America before the 2011 and 2012 seasons, though he has struggled over the last two years and has been surpassed by Colin Moran as Miami's third baseman of the future.
- This season, the Mets became the first Major League team to work with KinaTrax, a company that tracks pitchers' bio-mechanics via motion-capture technology, Metsblog.com's Matthew Cerrone writes. The purpose is to gather information on how their pitchers' mechanics develop over time, so the Mets can better evaluate their long-term health. The Orioles and Brewers are the only other MLB clubs investing in bio-mechanical evaluations of their players.
- Aaron Harang is a good fit for the Mets on a one-year deal, Metsblog.com's Michael Baron opines. Harang is the type of veteran pitcher that the Mets seem likely to pursue on a short-term contract, as MLBTR's Jeff Todd wrote in his Offseason Outlook entry on the Mets earlier today.
The Yankees have begun discussions with manager Joe Girardi as his three-year contract is set to expire, but Mark Gonzales of the Chicago-Tribune reports that the Cubs may be willing to top any offer the Yankees make (subscription required). According to Gonzales, Girardi's annual salary may soar over the $5MM mark, and he could exceed his previous three-year guarantee as well. Here's more out of the AL East...
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke with nine executives who believe that the Rays will trade David Price this offseason. Sherman points out that Price's $10MM salary could approach $15MM (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects $13.1MM), and the Rays have previously dealt Matt Garza and James Shields with two years of team control remaining. Now that they are among the league's best teams each year, the Rays must add top talent via trade instead of at the top of the draft, Sherman adds. The Rangers, Cubs and D-Backs were popular guesses for landing spots among Sherman's panel of nine executives.
- Stephen Drew would love to return to the Red Sox and went so far as to say that he'd like to finish his career in Boston, writes WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. Bradford outlines a scenario in which Drew could remain with the Sox, though it would require shifting Xander Bogaerts from shortstop to third base and moving Will Middlebrooks across the diamond from third base to first base.
- The Orioles aren't expected to pursue Mike Morse in free agency this offseason, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Kubatko opines that Morse could be a bargain, however, noting his limited leverage coming off a .215/.270/.381 season and pointing to Morse's monster production in 2011 (.303/.360/.550). Kubatko adds that the Nationals tried to trade Morse to the Orioles at last year's Winter Meetings, but the Nats weren't interested in parting with right-hander Jake Arrieta at the time. Arrieta eventually went to the Cubs in this summer's Scott Feldman deal.
Earlier today, the Reds fired manager Dusty Baker, who had one year and roughly $3.5MM remaining on his contract. Reports indicated that Baker was fired after telling GM Walt Jocketty to fire him instead of hitting coach Brook Jacoby, whom Baker didn't feel was to blame for the team's struggles. Reds owner Bob Castellini denied that report when asked by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Here's more on the Baker, the Reds and other managerial rumblings from around the league...
- USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that Tony La Russa has no interest in returning to a managerial role, and adds that the Reds will likely stay in-house to replace Baker. He lists Jim Riggleman as one internal candidate.
- Indeed, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch backs Nightengale's assessment of La Russa. Hummel spoke with La Russa following Baker's dismissal and was told, "I'm not managing again." La Russa then joked, "Walt [Jocketty] has had more than enough of me."
- Fay tweets that pitching coach Bryan Price is the leading in-house candidate to replace Baker, though Riggleman is also a candidate. He implies that it isn't a given that Cincinnati will stay in-house, though.
- Baker was fired because his players stopped playing hard for him, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It became clear to management that Baker wasn't the man to take them to the next level, says Rosenthal.
- Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated looks at Baker's 0-for-7 run in the postseason, calling him the Gene Mauch of our generation and wondering if Baker will get another chance. Verducci speculates that Baker could be a fit with the Mariners and adds that Baker loves that area of the country.
- The Nationals have asked the Yankees for permission to interview Joe Girardi, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). Kaplan speculates that the Reds may also want to interview Girardi.
The Marlins were featured as part of MLBTR's Arbitration Eligibles series two days ago, and according to Matt Swartz's projection model, Steve Cishek is set to earn $3.2MM in his first year of eligibility. MLB.com's Joe Frisaro wonders if such a number could make Cishek a trade candidate, as "the organization is probably asking itself if it needs a $3.2MM closer at this point." Cishek will get more expensive in the future, as he will receive an extra arb year as a Super Two player. Still, Miami has shown that it wants to keep Cishek, as the club turned down all trade offers for the stopper last summer before the deadline.
Here are some more items from around the NL East...
- Marlon Byrd would love to return to the Mets this winter, the Pirates outfielder tells Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. After Byrd was traded to the Buccos in August, Byrd talked to Mets GM Sandy Alderson and told him "thank you for the opportunity at the beginning of the year and thank you for the opportunity to play for a winner. I told him, ‘If you want me back, I would love to come back.’ ” Byrd credits the Mets for giving him an opportunity to revive his career after serving a 50-game PED suspension last year.
- Brad Ausmus has been mentioned as a candidate for the Nationals' manager job, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. The Nats haven't yet asked the Padres for permission to interview Ausmus, who is an assistant to baseball operations in San Diego. Kilgore notes that the Nationals still seem to be in the early stages of their search, as bench coach Randy Knorr and Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams have yet to be contacted about interviews.
- The Phillies under Ruben Amaro have been known for making big offseason splashes but thanks to the team's existing large payroll commitments, "this will be the offseason of the value play," writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News. Murphy lists five key elements to the Phils' winter plans, including noting that the club "can't have any untouchables."
- In other Phillies news from earlier today, they outrighted four players off their 40-man roster and MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at Philadelphia's arbitration-eligible players,
The Reds could have claimed outfielder Marlon Byrd, who the Pirates acquired in August, but they passed on the chance, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes (on Twitter). Byrd was owed near the league-minimum salary and was in the midst of a solid year, and it was well-known that the Reds' division rivals in Pittsburgh needed an outfielder. The Reds had waiver priority, and thus could have blocked the Mets from trading Byrd to Pittsburgh. But they didn't, and he homered against them in their 6-2, season-ending loss to the Bucs Tuesday night. The primary purpose of claiming Byrd would have been to block the Pirates from getting him, but it's worth noting, too, that the righty Byrd could have been quite helpful for the Reds tonight against Bucs lefty starter Francisco Liriano, who baffled the Reds' lefty-heavy lineup with sliders. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Angels still haven't dismissed GM Jerry Dipoto or manager Mike Scioscia, and that might be an indication that both will still be with the team in 2014, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. The Angels' massively disappointing season and reports of conflict between Dipoto and Scioscia have led to reports that one of them might depart at the end of the season, but so far that hasn't happened. Scioscia is owed around $27MM over the next five years, and Dipoto is under contract through next year.
- Mariners Chairman/CEO Howard Lincoln is expressing confidence in GM Jack Zduriencik, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. After a recent series of poor seasons and the abrupt departure of manager Eric Wedge, the Mariners appear to be in disarray. But Lincoln says that firing Zduriencik would lead the organization in the wrong direction. "I know how frustrated the fans are. No one is more frustrated than I am," he says. "But we have to be patient and stick with the program we have invested so much in. We can't switch horses, change gears, whatever you want to call it now. That's not a good idea." Lincoln also says the Mariners have received inquiries from plenty of potential managerial applicants, even though Zduriencik's questionable status might appear to make the Mariners' managerial job an undesirable one.
- Former Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. isn't tipping his hand about whether he might be interested in managing the Nationals, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. He does, however, seem interested in managing a big-league team someday. "At some point I might like to do that," Ripken says. The Nationals will be looking for a manager to replace the retiring Davey Johnson. In August, in response to a question about managing, Ripken said, "I think I would be more curious at this stage in my life than I have been."
- Rockies manager Walt Weiss isn't under contract for 2014, but the team wants him to return, writes Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post. The Rockies hired Weiss after the 2012 season, signing him to a one-year deal. His next contract might be a two-year deal, or perhaps a one-year deal with an option.
- Renck also notes that, while the Rockies' main front-office personnel will likely remain the same, roles could change, perhaps with Bill Geivett moving into "more of a traditional GM role." Geivett currently reports to GM Dan O'Dowd, but Geivett currently runs Major League operations while O'Dowd works on the minor leagues.
The Nationals do not plan on making huge changes this offseason, reports Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. They will, of course, hire a new manager to replace the retiring Davey Johnson, and they'll also look for left-handed relief help, perhaps, as Comak suggests, from someone like J.P. Howell or Oliver Perez. Other than that, they're mostly happy with the roster they have. "But I think the team, as far as the core group, is set up pretty good. The core rotation and the core bullpen is set up pretty good," GM Mike Rizzo says. The Nationals could take a shot at someone like David Price of the Rays to improve their rotation, but that doesn't appear likely, given the cost it would take to get him. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- If the Mets want to contend in the NL East next year, they should think about dealing Zack Wheeler, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. For example, Martino suggests dealing Wheeler to the Rays in deal for Price might make sense if Price is willing to agree to a contract extension. Chris Sale of the White Sox might also be a possibility. Alternatively, Martino suggests the Mets could trade Wheeler for a hitter and then acquire Ervin Santana or Matt Garza as a free agent instead.
- Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is now represented by Mark Pieper and SFX, Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal writes (on Twitter). Scott Boras was Matsuzaka's previous agent. Matsuzaka posted a 4.42 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 38 2/3 innings for the Mets in 2013.
While it's not a mistake on the level of the Barry Zito contract, the Giants could come to regret the Hunter Pence deal, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. The $90MM contract won't stop them from winning if they can surround him with quality players on undervalue contracts, but that's obviously easier said than done. Here's more from around baseball..
- Jake Westbrook can read the writing on the wall and knows that his time with the Cardinals is likely over, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Between his struggles and the Cards' wealth of young pitching, Westbrook isn't expected to be placed on the postseason roster. Westbrook isn't certain if he will pitch in 2014 and plans to discuss with his family in the offseason.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America spoke with international sources to identify five teams that could sign Jose Dariel Abreu. The White Sox, Nationals, Pirates, Red Sox, and Rangers look like the frontrunners for the Cuban standout with Texas possibly having the inside track on everyone.
- Prior to a charity event earlier today, Astros owner Jim Crane said that he plans to spend money in 2014 to help turn the club around, writes Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle. “Now we have a nucleus to draw from. And so we got that established. I think in the off-season you’ll see Jeff [Luhnow], and he’s already said it, we’re going to fill some of those holes. As the kids come up through the system we can get competitive very quick. We lost a lot of one-run games. It’s pretty obvious where our needs are, and we’ll work on those in the offseason and start loosening the purse book,” Crane said.
- Cubs president Theo Epstein says he will look first and foremost at candidates with managerial experience, tweets Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) notes that the Dodgers hold an option on manager Don Mattingly for 2014. The option is worth $1.4MM, sources tell Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi.
As the Mets look to take the next step forward in their rebuilding process, they should take a page out of the Indians' playbook, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Many suggest the Red Sox as a good example for GM Sandy Alderson & Co., but their offseason additons actually cost them about $61.5MM in 2013 alone. Sherman believes that the Mets' payroll bump will be closer to $30MM based on conversations with multiple executives, which is just $6MM shy of what the Indians spent last winter to retool their lineup. Here's more out of the NL East..
- After Mike Rizzo finds the club's next skipper, the focus will be on bolstering the Nationals' pitching staff for 2014, writes MLB.com's Bill Ladson. It looked like the Nationals would be in the market for a new third baseman because of Ryan Zimmerman's throwing troubles early in the season, but they no longer have a need there as he appears to be back on track.
- It's no longer a given that the Nationals will go out-of-house for their next manager and people who speak regularly with team management now believe bench coach Randy Knorr also has a strong chance to get the job, writes Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. Knorr is said to have strong support within the organization and looks to be a frontrunner along with D'Backs coach Matt Williams.
- The Marlins have reassigned hitting coach John Pierson to the minors, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets.
- The Marlins also relieved Mike Wickham of his duties as director of baseball operations while promoting Dan Noffsinger to the position, tweets Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
- Earlier today, Steve Adams rounded up today's news on the Mets.