Washington Nationals Rumors
As we close in on the month of May, let's check in on the players who have vesting options for the 2014 season...
- Kurt Suzuki, Nationals: $9.25MM option vests with 113 starts in 2013. Prior to Opening Day, the Nats announced that Suzuki would be in a timeshare with Wilson Ramos behind the plate. However, Ramos' hamstring has led to Suzuki starting 16 of the club's 23 games so far in 2013. Ramos is scheduled to rejoin the club on Monday, but if he suffers another setback, Suzuki could have a realistic shot at triggering his '14 option.
- Jamey Carroll, Twins: $2MM option vests with 401 plate appearances. Carroll has surpassed that mark in each of the last three seasons with 500+ plate appearances in each of the last two years, but he has just 18 PAs as April comes to a close.
- Wilson Betemit, Orioles: $3.2MM option vests with 324 plate appearances (combined 700 between 2012 and 2013). Betemit suffered a PCL tear during the last week of Spring Training, keeping him out of action until at least mid-May. When he returns, he figures to see less action than he did last year thanks to Manny Machado.
- Lance Berkman, Rangers: $13MM option vests with 550 plate appearances. So far, Berkman has 19 games under his belt with 80 plate appearances. He'll be within reach as long as he stays healthy. In 2011, his last full season, Berkman racked up 587 PAs for the Cardinals.
- Roy Halladay, Phillies: $20MM option vests with 259 innings pitched (combined 415 innings pitched between '12 and '13). So far, Halladay has logged 28 and 1/3 innings through five April starts but the 259 mark remains a longshot. However, it's worth nothing that Halladay has come close to that figure twice in the last six years (2008, 246 IP; 2010, 250.2 IP) and surpassed it once in his career (2003, 266 IP).
- Brett Myers, Indians: $8MM option vests with 200 innings pitched in 2013 and a passed physical after the season. Myers is expected to miss most of May due to tendinitis and a mild ligament sprain in his right elbow. So far, the right-hander has 21 and 1/3 innings to his credit in 2013.
- Barry Zito, Giants: $18MM option vests with 200 innings pitched. Zito has 23 and 2/3 innings so far through the month of April and will make his fifth start of the year tonight against the Padres.
- Johan Santana, Mets: His $25MM option could have vested with 215 innings pitched or winning the 2013 Cy Young Award, but he won't have a chance at that thanks to a season-ending tear in his pitching shoulder.
It's also worth noting that Francisco Liriano has a $8MM club option for 2014 with the Pirates, but it can vest at any of three levels, $5MM, $6MM, or $8MM, based on the number of days he is not on the DL this year with a recurrence of his right arm injury. It's not known how many days the hurler must steer clear of right arm trouble in order to trigger each level of his option, however. Liriano has yet to take the hill in 2013, but he is expected to make his big league debut on May 10th vs. the Mets.
One year ago Sunday, Mike Trout made his 2012 debut on the same day that Bryce Harper made his Major League debut. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports polled executives around the game and asked which player each executive would prefer to build a franchise around, if they had to choose one. While the consensus was that there was no wrong answer -- one scout told Morosi, "That's like choosing between two $1 million bills" -- 36 of the 48 participants chose Trout. Morosi goes against the majority, agreeing with one scout who notes that you can't teach Harper's intensity, historic leverage and bat speed, among other factors. Morosi also adds that Harper is more conditioned to handle pressure, having been in the national spotlight since age 16.
Regardless of your preference, Harper and Trout have given fans a lifetime's worth of debates over the past year. Here's more from around the league for your Friday reading pleasure...
- Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the last-minute Marlins pitching change in Tuesday's double-header this week came directly from owner Jeffrey Loria. The owner insisted that Jose Fernandez start the day game while Ricky Nolasco start the night game, despite the fact that the opposite was supposed to happen. The move went over poorly with both pitchers and infuriated the Marlins' players. Loria overstepped his boundaries as "no other owner in baseball would dare," Passan writes, and in doing so embarrassed and undermined rookie manager Mike Redmond.
- Loria spoke to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and flatly denied the report, stating that he was engaged in discussions regarding his business as an art dealer at the time.
- Rays minor leaguer Jose Disla was suspended 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The 17-year-old was signed in March and has yet to play a pro game (Twitter links).
- A rival GM told Rosenthal that the 2013 version of the Pirates are the best Pirates team he's seen in 20 years (Twitter link).
- The Mariners can't panic yet and replace half their roster with prospects from Triple-A, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The Mariners' front office spent an entire winter devising a plan for the season, and pulling the plug in April would be akin to surrendering. The team hasn't played close to its potential, he writes, but there is time to turn the season around yet.
The Nationals have exercised their 2014 contract option for GM Mike Rizzo, tweets MLB.com's Bill Ladson, as they continue to work on an extension beyond next season. Rizzo's current contract also has a club option for 2015.
Rizzo was named the Nationals' interim GM in March 2009, and was hired full-time in August of that year. In 2012, Rizzo's fourth season at the helm, the team won an MLB-best 98 games.
For the Nats, Rizzo has drafted Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Drew Storen, and Anthony Rendon among others. Rizzo's major trades include Mike Morse, Sean Burnett, Wilson Ramos, Gio Gonzalez, and Denard Span. He's signed free agents such as Jayson Werth, Rafael Soriano, Adam LaRoche, Jason Marquis, Dan Haren, and Edwin Jackson and done significant extensions with Ryan Zimmerman and Gonzalez.
The Nationals claimed lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno off waivers from the Astros, according to a tweet from the team. They've optioned him to Triple-A Syracuse. Cedeno had been designated for assignment by the Astros on Thursday. He nearly made it through unclaimed, as the Nationals were the last team in the waiver order.
Cedeno, 26, was scored upon in four of his five appearances this year. In 2012, he posted a 3.77 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, and 50.0% groundball rate in 31 relief innings, tossing another 27 2/3 innings at Triple-A. A native of Puerto Rico, Cedeno was drafted by the Rockies in the 31st round in 2004. They released him in March 2010, and he signed with the Astros as a free agent in December of that year. Cedeno made seven appearances in the World Baseball Classic this year for Puerto Rico.
The Nationals only have one other left-handed reliever on their 40-man roster: Zach Duke.
A pair of top prospects made their big league debuts yesterday, as Allen Webster started the second game of a double-header for the Red Sox and Anthony Rendon made his debut at third base for the Nationals with Ryan Zimmerman on the DL. Here's more on each, as well as some other news from baseball's Eastern divisions...
- Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer chronicles Jason Grilli's ascension from the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate to Pirates closer. In 2011, the Phils called up six relievers instead of Grilli, despite his dominant numbers. Grilli had a clause in his contract stating that if another MLB team wanted him on their 25-man roster, the Phillies had to either call him up or release him. Pittsburgh scouts took notice of Grilli, called the Phillies, and Philadelphia elected to release him so he could sign with the Buccos.
- Sonia Cruz, the spokeswoman for Robinson Cano's foundation, appeared in the latest round of Biogenesis documents, according to TJ Quinn and Mike Fish of ESPN. Cruz's name was only connected to a pair of $300 payments, which she said were for her own weight loss interests. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports that MLB sources told him there was no link between Cano and Biogenesis. When he heard about the latest report, a surprised Cano told reporters, including Feinsand, "It's got nothing to do with me."
- Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal examines the number of starting pitchers needed by the Red Sox in each season over the past decade and notes that the evidence suggests Webster will be back this season. MacPherson also adds that preliminary research indicates this is the earliest the Red Sox have ever turned to seven different starting pitchers in any season.
- The timing of Rendon's call-up suggests that the Nationals may be more willing to let him remain with the club all season than they've let on, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Kilgore points out that Rendon has spent 20 days in the minor leagues, meaning his free agency has been delayed by a full year now.
- Jake Arrieta is at a crossroads with the Orioles, in the mind of the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly. At 27 years of age, Arrieta has passed the "prospect" stage but has yet to find the consistency to convert his above-average repertoire of pitches into consistent success. Connolly notes that it's not wise to trade someone with Arrieta's talent while his value is so low, but moving him to the bullpen hardly maximizes his value.
- Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Jay-Z's cerficiation process won't be complete anytime soon (Twitter link). As expected, CAA's Brodie Van Wagenen will handle Robinson Cano's extension talks.
The day after he was rocked for six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, the Phillies placed lefty John Lannan on the DL with a strained quadriceps in his left knee. There's no word yet on who will replace him in the rotation, but he could be out six-to-eight weeks. Tonight, the fourth-place Phillies and Cole Hamels host Adam Wainwright and the first-place Cardinals. Elsewhere in the NL East:
- "Let's just say if this continues, certainly we've gotta start visiting that here pretty soon," Mets manager Terry Collins told Mike Francesa of WFAN in regard to a question about quality reinforcements including top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. The Mets' rotation has struggled beyond Matt Harvey and Jon Niese. GM Sandy Alderson was noncommittal, telling Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, "It was always a case that it would be Zack’s sufficiency and the major-league team’s need. If those two things merge, the need and the performance converge, then it is a possibility. That could happen sooner or it could happen later." Ackert hears that people within the organization privately do not feel Wheeler is ready, plus the Mets would like to avoid the pitcher achieving Super Two status after the 2015 season (necessitating a promotion in mid-June or later).
- Meanwhile, another top Mets prospect won't be seeing Citi Field anytime soon. Catcher Travis D'Arnaud, acquired from Toronto in the R.A. Dickey trade, fractured a bone in his left foot yesterday in a Triple-A game.
- The Nationals' depth is on display, explains James Wagner of the Washington Post, with Kurt Suzuki seamlessly taking over as the starting catcher after Wilson Ramos suffered a hamstring injury.
- Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is now represented by SFX, MLBTR has learned. He'd previously been with The Sparta Group, up until the August switch. A few new additions to our agency database include Jonathan Gray (advised by Jay Franklin of BBI Sports Group), Oswaldo Arcia (Martin Arburua), and Tony Cingrani (Curtis Dishman).
- "He's decent for a club that needs a starter. There are worse No. 5 starters in the big leagues right now, but he's not the pitcher he used to be," a scout told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in reference to the Marlins' Ricky Nolasco. Nolasco, Miami's highest-paid player by a long-shot at $11.5MM, is a strong candidate to be traded this summer.
Earlier this week, we learned that the Nationals' acquisition of Denard Span indirectly stemmed from maneuverings involving the Upton brothers. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explained that the Nats made a strong attempt to deal for Justin Upton early in the offseason and when they realized that they couldn't land him, they refocused on finding a left-handed hitting center fielder who could bat leadoff. However, they didn't get their man on the open market after B.J. Upton's lucrative five-year, $75MM deal scared them away from free agents. Here's the latest out of Washington..
- General Manager Mike Rizzo says it's too soon to discuss a contract extension for Bryce Harper, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Rizzo doesn't feel compelled to work on a new deal for Harper just yet since he is a "zero plus" player, meaning that he has less than one full year of service time under his belt.
- While Ryan Zimmerman's throwing struggles have led some pundits to ask if the Nationals need to consider other options at third, Rizzo shot that notion down earlier today, writes Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. “The Nationals do not need a new third baseman,” the GM said. “We’ve got one of the best, if not the best, third basemen in all of baseball. We love the guy. He’s ours. And I’m glad we have him.”
- Rizzo also disclosed that prospect Matt Skole tore the UCL in his left elbow, Comak tweets. Skole, who is ranked No. 4 in the Nats' system by Baseball America, will undergo Tommy John surgery and his recovery should take 3-4 months (link).
Here are a few notes from around baseball:
- The Orioles have had ongoing discussions with the Rangers about trading for outfielder Julio Borbon, writes MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. Borbon will need to be placed on outright waivers by 2pm ET tomorrow if he is not traded beforehand, but the Rangers appear confident that they will strike a deal. While Texas is interested in a major league capable pitcher with options, the Orioles are reluctant to give up arms and are waiting for the asking price to drop. For the O's, Borbon would bring depth, speed, and another lefty bat in the outfield mix.
- The Mets and Astros have also expressed interest in Borbon, Ghiroli further reports. Both clubs entered the season with among the least-entrenched outfield mixes in baseball.
- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke about what the club's Wrigley Field renovation deal could mean for the quality of the squad that takes the field at the friendly confines, as reported by Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com. According to Epstein, the club "need[s] revenues to increase in order for us to execute our baseball plan. We expect them to [increase]." Epstein added: "We are not where we want to be right now from a revenue standpoint and therefore we are not where we want to be from a payroll standpoint." While Epstein said that revenue was not the sole "determining factor in our success," he needs it to allow the front office to supplement homegrown talent with "some aggression in free agency."
- For his part, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says that, "if [the deal] is approved, we will win the World Series." As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times explains, however, there is some cause for skepticism. The Cubs' ownership has continued to push out its promised timeline for a championship. And with the Cubs topping Forbes' list of most profitable franchises in 2012, Wittenmyer questions Ricketts' continued unwillingness to be more specific about when and to what extent the budget will expand.
- Most big league second baggers do not start out at the position. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that several teams are considering moving big-name young players to second base, with major potential hot stove implications. ESPN's Keith Law (on ESPN Insider) broke down the possible in-season transition of the Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie, as well as two prospects who are keystone candidates: Anthony Rendon of the Nationals and Jurickson Profar of the Rangers. A Lawrie move would be motivated by gaps elsewhere in the Jays' lineup, with the primary impact being on Toronto's affirmative trade plans. The two highly-rated prospects, on the other hand, find themselves blocked at their natural positions. For Rendon and Profar, then, a move to second could be the only viable alternative to an eventual trade.
- With Rendon presumably blocked by Ryan Zimmerman at his natural third base, and with a Zimmerman move to first blocked for at least two seasons by Adam LaRoche, a switch to second seems attractive at first blush. Rendon is known as a very good fielder, and may soon be knocking on the door after starting the year destroying Double-A pitching. But even putting aside the presence of young incumbent Danny Espinosa, Law says that Rendon's lack of agility and suspect ankles should preclude such a move. Unless some drastic change intervenes -- Zimmerman's throwing woes worsen; the NL adopts the DH; unforeseen injury -- the Nationals could be forced to consider dealing Rendon after this season.
- On the other hand, Law explains that the shortstop Profar, blocked by Elvis Andrus, can certainly handle second. But he would be less valuable there, and the Rangers would need to convince Ian Kinsler to become a first baseman or outfielder. Law goes so far as to suggest that Profar has the capacity to be shifted to centerfield, despite having never seen time in the outfield as a professional. Of course, Profar has already established his value at a premium defensive position. Such a move would not only be risky, but would keep Profar out of the big league lineup for longer while he adapted to a totally new position. Law says that bringing Profar up to man second would add value to the Rangers right now. Certainly, if the club is unwilling to make such a move this season, it is reasonable to wonder (as many have) whether Texas might instead dangle Profar as the centerpiece of a blockbuster deal to acquire a top-flight starter or outfielder.
For the fourth straight year, Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down with Jesse Lund of SB Nation's Twinkie Town to discuss the state of affairs with his team. Antony and Lund discussed the Twins' offseason at length, ranging from the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere to the Twins' pursuit of starting pitching. Here's a look at some of the highlights, but bear in mind that entire piece is well worth your time...
- The Twins never intended to trade both Revere and Span, but the Phillies' offer of Trevor May and Vance Worley was too strong not to pull the trigger. Antony identifies May as someone who could get a September call-up in 2013 if he enjoys a strong season.
- The Twins had conversations with both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, but were unable to agree to terms with either one. In particular, the Twins sought a club option for Baker, who wanted strictly a one-year deal. Antony said they didn't want 2013 to "be a donation" to Baker in the event that he wasn't healthy and effective for most of the season. That decision looks wise, with Baker on the 60-day disabled list for the Cubs.
- Mike Pelfrey identified the Twins as a team he wanted to pitch for and was aggressive in working out a deal, according to Antony. The Twins did quite a bit of homework on Pelfrey's recovery from Tommy John surgery in order to ascertain that the right-hander would indeed be ready for Opening Day, as he promised.
- The Twins made several "competitive offers" to free agent starting pitchers, in some cases making better offers than the ones those pitchers ultimately took. The Twins had conversations with nearly every free agent starting pitcher and spoke with around 15 agents for pitchers at the Winter Meetings in December.
- Following the Span trade, most teams didn't believe that the team would also trade Revere. Antony says four teams were in the mix for Revere, but the Phillies were the most aggressive and ultimately landed him with the aforementioned offer.
- The Twins were willing to do a one-for-one swap of Span and Alex Meyer because they believe Meyer is a legitimate front-of-the-rotation candidate who can be a "dominant" strikeout pitcher.
- The decision to bring Aaron Hicks north as the team's Opening Day center fielder was a result of Hicks' strong play in Spring Training and his poise off the field. The Twins' front office was never overly concerned with delaying Hicks' free agency by a season: "If he's that good of a player we're going to do what we can to sign him long term and none of that's going to matter."
- Antony, GM Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office prefer to gradually expose their top prospects to the Major Leagues so as not to field a team of all rookies. Additionally, that line of thinking prevents mass arbitration and free agency issues: "If you can bring a couple guys, a couple rookies in each year, it helps infuse that and it helps to spread it out so that not everybody becomes arbitration eligible at the same time or free agents at the same time, all that stuff."
- The Twins "admire" the Royals' bullpen of power arms and would like to build a similar bullpen. The team prioritized power arms in the 2012 Draft, selecting a number of hard-throwing college relievers.
- Antony offered a definitive "No," when asked if the team had interest in Aaron Harang prior to his trade to the Mariners. The Twins feel they have a number of similar arms in the organization already.
- There's been no contact between the Twins and Jim Thome for "a couple of months," and the two were never on the same page. Minnesota had interest in Thome, but they were far apart in discussions.
- "It would be great if he could be a Twin for life," Antony said of Justin Morneau. "He's a guy who's meant a lot for this organization and we'd love it if he were to play his entire career here, but you just don't know how things are going to work out in the end."
- Antony feels that too much has been made of the decision not to extend Ron Gardenhire prior to this season. Many have speculated that Gardenhire is on the hot seat following a pair of 90-loss seasons, but Antony said it was intended to be an organization-wide message that they're looking to get better from top to bottom. He adds that he hopes Gardenhire is the Twins' manager for years to come, and that in three years people are surprised there was even a debate.
Earlier today, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com looked at ten big league managers whose jobs could be in jeopardy this season. Charlie Manuel of the Phillies makes the list as he is in the final year of his contract and potential replacement Ryne Sandberg is on the coaching staff. Ron Gardenhire is another manager could be on the hot seat because of pressure from upper management, but if it's up to GM Terry Ryan, he won't be going anywhere. Here's more from around baseball..
- Baseball could be entering a golden age for trades thanks to changes in the CBA and the wave of extensions reducing the talent level in the free agent pool, writes Joel Sherman of New York Post. Teams are also no longer under the impression that a handful of superpowers will dominate the market, giving other clubs with championship aspirations confidence to make bold moves.
- The Nationals' trade for Denard Span indirectly stemmed from maneuverings involving the Upton brothers, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Nats, according to a major league source, made a strong attempt to trade for Justin Upton early in the offseason. But when that didn't happen, GM Mike Rizzo refocused on finding a left-handed hitting center fielder who could bat leadoff and rarely struck out. Span fit the description perfectly and the Braves' signing of B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75MM deal scared them off the free agent market.
- After the Cardinals learned that they would be without Chris Carpenter this season, Kyle Lohse says that he got calls from his former teammates, but not the front office, to gauge his interest in returning, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. When asked if he thought they were curious or gathering intelligence for the club, Lohse said: "Both."