Washington Nationals Rumors
We'll round up today's minor moves here:
- The Red Sox have released reliever Shunsuke Watanabe, who was in camp on a minor league invite, tweets WEEI.com's Alex Speier. The 37-year-old has never pitched in the majors, spending his entire career in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
- First baseman Rich Poythress has been released by the Mariners, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports (via Twitter). A lifetime member of the Mariners organization, the 26-year-old has never received a big league callup.
- The Nationals signed lefty Aaron Laffey to a minor league deal, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish. Laffey was released by the Orioles earlier this week.
- The A's have acquired left-hander Eric Berger from the Astros in exchange for a player to be named, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). Berger, 27, has never made an appearance in the major leagues.
Two of the game's highest-profile players -- two-time reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and 22-year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the man who arguably should have taken those titles -- just signed on for significant new extensions. Cabrera inked an eight-year, $244.5MM deal that kicks in after the 2015 season, while Trout sold all three arb-eligible seasons and three of his free agent campaigns for a total of $144.5MM. Here are some reactions:
- We already took a look at a few opinions on the Cabrera contract, which drew some strong negative sentiment. But Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski defends the move, telling ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that he "didn't want to lose" Cabrera. The deal was necessary, said Dombrowski, for Detroit to retain a player that he considers an all-time great hitter who will be able to maintain production for another decade. "Would I love to be able to sign Miguel Cabrera for $22MM a year for the next five years? Of course," said Dombrowski. "But was five years going to get this done? The answer to that is no. And I know that for a fact." Cabrera's interest in staying with the club mattered, but seemingly only went so far. "He did want to be a Tiger," Dombrowski said, "but you've still got to pay him in today's world."
- Turning to Trout, it appears that the sides were negotiating (at least at this stage of talks) with a clear idea that the deal would cover only six years. As Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets, Trout countered the Halos' original offer of $140MM with a $153MM figure. The final number landed closer to the Angels' preferred figure, of course. By holding to a six year commitment, the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin writes, Trout figures to have a chance at an even bigger payday down the line.
- The Trout contract makes sense for both sides, reasons ESPN.com's Keith Law (Insider link). That sentiment is not exactly shared by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, who argues that Los Angeles got a huge discount on Trout's free agent seasons.
- Trout has always been linked to fellow phenom Bryce Harper. But that does not necessarily mean that Trout's contract will serve as a template for future negotiations between Harper and the Nationals, as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports. Agent Scott Boras used some interesting terms in discussing the Trout deal, but left no doubt as to his meaning: "I think [Trout is] a very special cup of tea, for which he is deserving of a completely different brew. While few, I definitely consider Bryce Harper as part of the next generation of elite brand of teas. Certainly as a studied connoisseur, I may hold a differing opinion as to the availabiity, demand and value of tea futures."
Here are today's minor transactions, with the newest moves at the top of the page...
- The Diamondbacks have released first baseman Shelley Duncan, shortstop Tommy Manzella and right-hander Adam Russell, Matt Eddy reports (via Twitter). All three players signed minor league deals with the Snakes during the offseason. Duncan had a .606 OPS in 64 PA with the Rays in 2013, while Russell and Manzella last appeared in the majors in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
- The Royals released veteran reliever Jon Rauch, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets. Rauch, 35, signed a minor league deal with K.C. in January. The right-hander posted a 7.56 ERA in 16 2/3 IP with the Marlins and a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3 IP for the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate last season.
- The Nationals released infielder Mike Fontenot. The veteran last played in the Majors in 2012, spending last season with the Rays' Triple-A affiliate and then signing a minor league deal with Washington in January. Formerly a staple of the Cubs infield, Fontenot has a .265/.332/.401 line over 1586 career PA with the Cubs, Giants and Phillies.
- The Cardinals outrighted Joey Butler to Triple-A Memphis. Butler, 28, made his Major League debut last season by appearing in eight games for the Rangers, following six years in the Texas farm system that saw him post a .291/.375/.442 slash line with 72 homers over 3036 PA. The outfielder was claimed off waivers by St. Louis in October.
- The Brewers released outfielder Greg Golson, who had been signed to a minor league contract in January. Golson appeared in 40 Major League games with the Phillies, Rangers and Yankees from 2008-11 and has playing in the minors ever since.
The Nationals have re-signed Mike Gonzalez, who was released on Tuesday, the team announced. Gonzalez was an Article XX(B) free agent, meaning he would have been owed a $100K retention bonus had he been kept under his old deal, which also included an opt-out clause that could have been triggered today.
Gonzalez joins Xavier Cedeno as left-handed bullpen depth at Triple-A Syracuse. Those two lost their best chance at a 25-man roster spot when it was decided that Ross Detwiler would start the year as a second lefty in the big league pen. The other southpaw in the Nats' MLB relief corps is Jerry Blevins, who was acquired by trade from the Athletics earlier in the offseason.
11:58am: The Nationals have announced the signing. Interestingly, the club refers to Frandsen as an infielder/outfielder, even though Frandsen has seen little MLB time outside of the infield dirt. Ross Ohlendorf was placed on the 60-day DL to create roster space, with his previous option being voided.
9:18am: Frandsen's deal is a fully-guaranteed MLB contract worth $900K, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). It also includes $300K in perofrmance bonuses and a $400K awards package, Crasnick adds. In essence, then, Frandsen will receive the same contract he had with the Phillies, but with some additional upside.
8:24am: The Nationals have agreed to sign infielder Kevin Frandsen, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Frandsen, 31, elected free agency yesterday after being outrighted by the Phillies, giving up his guaranteed $900K salary in the process.
Playing with Philadelphia over the last two years, Frandsen has a combined .280/.333/.389 triple-slash in 488 plate appearances, though each element of that line was significantly better in 2012 than in 2013. (Frandsen's .366 BABIP in 2012 dropped to .245 last year, which surely explains some of the variance.)
Frandsen has excelled in two areas -- hitting lefties and pinch-hitting -- that seem to match the Nats' needs, notes Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Indeed, Frandsen's career platoon splits (.778 OPS vs. lefties, .626 against righties) make the former clear. As for the latter, Frandsen has not necessarily put up astounding numbers as a pinch-hitter, but he saw extensive use in that role for the first time last year, hitting .250/.311/.393 in 61 plate appearances.
With Tyler Moore being optioned to Triple-A yesterday and Jamey Carroll being released, it appeared that the Nationals were set to go with Jeff Kobernus as a reserve infield/outfield option. With Frandsen added to the mix, the club's glut of seemingly MLB-ready bench options playing in Triple-A could be attractive to clubs looking for cost-controlled options; ineed, both Moore and Kobernus have had their names mentioned as possible trade chips in recent weeks.
The Mets have decided to place both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on their Opening Day roster, Kristie Ackert of New York Daily News writes. GM Sandy Alderson did not confirm which of the two would start at first base. Davis, in particular, has frequently been the subject of trade rumors, and the Pirates have been connected to Davis and have a notably unsettled first-base situation. But it appears Davis may remain a Met for now. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Nationals are one of several teams to touch base with infielder Kevin Frandsen, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets. Frandsen recently opted for free agency after the Phillies outrighted him. Frandsen hit .234/.296/.341 in 278 plate appearances while playing every infield position but shortstop for Philadelphia last year.
- The trade of Alex Gonzalez to the Tigers was a "gem" from the Orioles' perspective, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun writes. The move demonstrates one reason it makes sense for organizations to sign lots of players to minor-league deals, Connolly suggests -- the Orioles signed Gonzalez with little risk, then were able to flip him for a potentially useful, versatile, cost-controlled player in Lombardozzi.
Carroll, 40, collected 249 plate apppearances with the Twins and Royals last season, hitting a meager .211/.267/.251. He signed a minor-league deal with the Nationals in January. Young, 34, last appeared in the big leagues in 2012 with the Mets. He pitched sparingly in the Nats' system in an injury-plagued 2013 season.
MLBTR's own Charlie Wilmoth has just released a new book. Titled "Dry Land," the volume traces the Pirates and their fans through the club's historic losing streak and recent renaissance. Be sure to check out this post for more details and how you can order a copy. On to the links:
- In two expected moves out of the NL West, Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks underwent Tommy John surgery today, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert tweets, while the Dodgers optioned Alex Guerrero to Triple-A, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets.
- The Nationals have received trade interest from three or four clubs in starter Chris Young, who has an opt-out in his contract this coming Thursday, reports Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The 33-year-old has had an impressive spring, but seems unlikely to crack the Nats' rotation.
- The Pirates have no interest in signing Juan Francisco if he clears waivers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. We learned earlier today that the team had chosen to go with Travis Ishikawa over Andrew Lambo as its left-handed bat at first.
- For the Mets, giving Daisuke Matsuzaka a $100K bonus is in large part a strategic effort to protect the club in the event that Jon Niese is unable to make his first start, explains ESPN.com's Adam Rubin. This way, the team can rely on both Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia if the need arises, or can simply pick between them for the fifth starter slot.
- The Rockies are better off without center fielder Dexter Fowler because he "isn't tough enough," opines Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post. (Fowler, of course was dealt to the Astros. As presented in my offseason review for the club, I have a different take on the subject of Fowler's departure from Colorado.) Though Kiszla initially credited Fowler with having "the determination to grind through pain" in mid-August of last year, he apparently adjusted his analysis after the 28-year-old missed twenty games late in the season with ongoing hand and wrist injuries. Manager Walt Weiss effectively pushed Fowler out of town, says Kiszla, because the latter "was not the kind of player Weiss needs on a team that must grind out victories in the National League West." Apparently referring obliquely to Fowler, Weiss emphasized the need for players "to compete and grind and play with grit," while assistant GM Bill Geivett explained that the manager "has got to feel comfortable in the weapons he has to attack the other team."
The Nationals have released southpaw reliever Michael Gonzalez, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Gonzalez had a Thursday opt-out date, notes Mark Zuckerman of CSNwashington.com (on Twitter).
The 35-year-old seemed a long shot for a slot after the club decided to add Ross Detwiler to the pen. He joined the Nats just three weeks ago after spending 2013 with the Brewers. Gonzalez was an important part of the Nationals club down the stretch in 2012, after signing mid-season.
Between now and Opening Day, several minor league signees will win jobs with their clubs and earn 40-man roster spots. Here are today's additions:
- Nyjer Morgan will make the Opening Day roster for the Indians and will therefore need to be added to the club's 40-man, according to a report on Twitter from MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. With Michael Bourn set to open the year on the DL, Morgan figures to play center until Bourn returns, though that may only be for a few games and it is not clear whether he'll have a roster spot beyond that point.
- The Marlins are expected to add outfielder Reed Johnson to their 40-man and Opening Day rosters, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. As an Article XX(B) free agent, Johnson would have been subject to tomorrow's roster decision deadline, though Cotillo notes that Johnson's deal actually gives him a March 24th opt out that strengthens his collectively bargained protections.