Washington Nationals Rumors
Here's tonight's look at the NL East..
- Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said today that he is not actively seeking roster upgrades from the outside, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Jayson Werth could return in the next week for the Nats, who currently sit 4.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East with a 27-25 record.
- Even though there has been speculation that the Phillies could trade Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon this season, Buster Olney of ESPN told WEEI's Mut & Merloni that he doesn't see that happening. Olney noted that owner David Montgomery is very conservative and he's also not ready to count out the Phillies. While they have struggled, the Phillies have the luxury of getting to play plenty of games against the Mets and Marlins, whom Olney calls "two of the three worst teams in baseball".
- Phillies prospect Cesar Hernandez was recalled from Triple-A to help the club get by in the absence of Chase Utley. The Phillies consider the 23-year-old to be a future major league player and due diligence is required as he is out of options in 2014, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Earlier tonight, we ran down the latest on the Mets.
The Nationals will promote pitcher Nate Karns, who will start against Kevin Gausman and the Orioles tomorrow, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes (on Twitter). Karns will start in place of Ross Detwiler, who has a right oblique strain.
Karns ranked 99th on Keith Law's top 100 prospects list (Insider-only). He did not rank in Baseball America or MLB.com's lists. Law notes that Karns "was 93-97 as a starter with a yellow hammer of a curveball at 80-85 that he threw for more and more strikes as the season went on, meaning he could have two pitches that grade out at 70 on the 20-80 scale." Baseball America's Prospect Handbook lists Karns as the Nationals' fifth-best prospect and pegs him as a future mid-rotation starter or high-leverage reliever.
Karns, 25, had pitched this season at Double-A Harrisburg, posting a 4.60 ERA with 11.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He has not yet pitched at the Triple-A level, so his promotion qualifies as a bit of a surprise. It appears likely that the Nationals will send Karns down at some point, but if they don't, he will accumulate 125 days of service time this year. That means he might be eligible for arbitration as a Super Two player after the 2015 season, although the exact date that will establish the threshold of Super Two eligibility that season is unclear. He would be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season.
Today's minor moves...
- The Nationals announced Yunesky Maya cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A. The 31-year-old had been designated for assignment on Friday to open a roster spot for Jeff Kobernus. Maya had signed out of Cuba for $8MM in 2010, and has totaled 59 big league innings with a 5.80 ERA.
- The Brewers signed reliever Clay Hensley to take Donovan Hand's place at Triple-A, tweets MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. Hand joined the big league club yesterday. Hensley had been released from the Reds' Triple-A affiliate a week ago, after posting a 4.00 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, and 1.00 HR/9 in 18 innings. Hensley is best known for allowing home run #755 to Barry Bonds in 2007, which tied Hank Aaron's record. Bonds would go on to hit seven additional home runs, the final one coming off Ubaldo Jimenez. Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice related to the government's BALCO investigation that offseason, and his legal issues and reported steroid use led to what his agent called a "conspiracy" among teams not to sign him.
- Six players currently reside in DFA limbo: Francisco Martinez of the Mariners, Michael Bowden of the Cubs, Robert Andino of the Mariners, Billy Buckner of the Angels, and Francisco Rondon and Ben Francisco of the Yankees.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo might make an intriguing free agent after the 2015 season, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal says in a recent video. Rizzo's friends tell Rosenthal that Rizzo is not afraid of leaving after 2015 if the team does not pay him well. The Nats exercised their 2014 option on Rizzo last month, and have another option for 2015. Earlier this week, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reported that the decision to exercise the 2014 option may have annoyed Rizzo, since the contract from which the option came was not especially lucrative. Under the 2014 option, Rizzo will be in the bottom third in GM pay, Kilgore noted. Here's more from Rosenthal.
- Rosenthal notes that Jose Altuve's recent decision to leave Scott Boras for his old agency, Octagon, is not necessarily an indication that Altuve will sign long-term with the Astros. There are currently no extension talks between the two sides, Rosenthal reports.
- If the Dodgers were to fire manager Don Mattingly, one problem would be that there are few obvious replacements, Rosenthal reports in another video. Neither Tony LaRussa nor Bobby Cox look like likely options, and members of Mattingly's staff like Davey Lopes, Trey Hillman and Tim Wallach aren't ideal. Still, Rosenthal says, the Dodgers will likely fire Mattingly anyway if the team doesn't improve, and the Dodgers have a rough schedule coming up.
Here are a few National League notes as we head into the weekend:
- Padres utilityman Alexi Amarista has switched his representation to Martin Arburua, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Per MLBTR's Agency Database, Amarista was formerly represented by Proformance. The 24-year-old, who has slashed .280/.309/.452 in 98 plate appearances thus far in 2013, is set to be arbitration eligible beginning in 2015.
- The Nationals are approaching opt-out deadlines for two left-handed relievers that are currently stashed in the minors, explains James Wagner of the Washington Post. Both J.C. Romero and Bill Bray are eligible to elect free agency in June if they are not added to the big league roster. While Washington still has uncertainty in its lefty bullpen options, with Zach Duke scuffling and Fernando Abad only recently added to the squad, its decisions on Romero and Bray will be complicated by injuries to the two southpaws. Romero last saw action on May 8; Bray's last appearance was May 14. Of course, the Nats could always seek to extend those opt-out dates, which could be beneficial to both the team and the players.
- The major decision facing the Nationals this past offseason was whether to bring back free agent Adam LaRoche and, if so, what to do with slugging outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse. With over a quarter of the season in the bag, the Washington Post's Adam Kilogre looks back at the team's ultimate decision to re-sign LaRoche and send Morse to the Mariners. Given the way the season has developed, Kilgore posits, Morse would likely have already been able to achieve over 100 at-bats even with LaRoche in the fold. It is easy to second-guess the decision with Morse's solid start (.244/.310/.462 but with ten long balls) and the struggles of young power-hitter Tyler Moore (.121/.157/.227 and just one home run in 70 plate appearances). Nevertheless, Kilgore explains, the club was not only concerned with carrying Morse's salary and relegating a still-in-his-prime veteran to a secondary role, but needed to recoup some future value after dealing high-end prospect Alex Meyer for center fielder Denard Span.
- As Kilgore notes, the Nats not only landed high-upside pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen in the Morse trade, but also were entitled to a player-to-be-named later. The PTBNL turned into another arm, left-handed reliever Ian Krol, who has flashed promise in his time with the organization. Kilgore points out that Krol has given up only two runs over 22 2/3 innings while working out of the pen for the Nats' Double-A affiliate. The 22-year-old Krol adds another internal option to supplement the team's less-than-inspiring southpaw relief corps.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson announced after tonight's ballgame that the team designated pitcher Yunesky Maya for assignment, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times and others reported (via Twitter). In a corresponding move, the team will call up 24-year-old infielder Jeff Kobernus for his first big league tour.
Maya, a 31-year-old righty who hails from Cuba, has disappointed since the Nats gave him $8MM to sign as an international free agent. In just 59 career big league innings, Maya has struggled to a 5.80 ERA and posted a substandard 4.1 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. In his only appearance this season, he surrendered a walk-off home run to Pablo Sandoval.
Kobernus, a 2009 second-round pick, was a Rule 5 draftee of the Tigers this past offseason. After challenging for a roster spot with Detroit in the spring, he was returned to the Nationals. Primarily a second baseman for much of his career, Kobernus has seen significant time in the outfield of late, both with the Tigers over the spring and with the Nationals' Triple-A affiliate. He earned the promotion by posting a .333/.378/.420 line over his 193 plate appearances this season.
The Phillies received some more bad injury luck today when the team announced that Chase Utley was going to the 15-day DL with a Grade 1 oblique strain. While the injury isn't considered particularly serious, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told media (including CSNPhilly.com) that the team was going to be cautious in order to keep Utley's oblique from bothering him throughout the season. Utley has battled a number of injuries over the last few seasons and going on the DL yet again is likely to hurt his free agent stock this winter -- at the very least, it will drop him a few spots in the next edition of Tim Dierkes' 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
Here are some items from around the NL East...
- On Wednesday, before Utley's DL stint, Amaro said he saw his team as buyers leading up to the trade deadline since he felt his team was still in the race, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports. Amaro did warn that the decision to buy or sell at the deadline was coming soon. "The real question is: How long can you wait? Right now, we're willing to wait, because no one is crazy and running away with it. We're willing to wait, and how long we'll wait is a decision I'll have to make," Amaro said.
- Amaro also commented on manager Charlie Manuel, reiterating that the team wouldn't look at Manuel's status until after the season. This is the 69-year-old Manuel's last year under contract as the Phillies skipper.
- Philadelphia's numerous injury problems give the Phillies the look of a seller at the deadline, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal opines in his latest Hot Corner video. Rosenthal notes that the team would at least listen on offers for "virtually any Phillie" on the roster in order to clear money off the payroll and obtain young talent.
- The Nationals aren't living up to their status as World Series favorites, but GM Mike Rizzo said the team isn't planning any major roster shake-ups to get on track during the season, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports. "I think we put together a roster that we feel is going to contend....We feel we have the roster in place to win a lot of games," Rizzo said. "We felt that in Spring Training, we felt that in the winter, and I still have all the confidence in the world that this is the team that’s going to play deep into the season.”
- Eric O'Flaherty is the seventh Braves pitcher to undergo Tommy John surgery in the last five years, leading David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to wonder if the team needs to re-examine their methods of using and developing their pitchers.
- In other NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, the Marlins designated Jon Rauch for assignment, the Nationals could be interested in hiring Don Mattingly as Davey Johnson's successor, and we shared a collection of notes about the Mets.
Here's the latest on a few managers on the hot seat after their clubs have gotten off to disappointing starts in 2013...
- Don Mattingly isn't in "imminent danger" of being fired as Dodgers manager, ESPN's Buster Olney and Jayson Stark report. GM Ned Colletti met with Mattingly and the coaching staff after Tuesday's game and a source believes “the air was cleared and a new direction was given.” Colletti wasn't behind Mattingly's criticisms of the team, though sources say the GM did encourage Mattingly's choice to be more assertive.
- Dodgers president Stan Kasten was also not offended by Mattingly's comments, telling FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal that the skipper was trying to motivate the club. “I know what Don is trying to do, what his intention is. It’s to light a fire, kick-start the team. He’s trying everything he can think of. We’re all behind him," Kasten said.
- If this is Mattingly's last season in Los Angeles, some predict he could find a new job managing the Nationals next year, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reports. The Nats previously considered Mattingly for a managerial opening (though he wasn't interviewed) and the team is believed to "strongly favor hiring a high-profile manager" to replace the retiring Davey Johnson rather than promote an internal option.
- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is "not the issue" with the team's problems, owner Mark Attanasio tells CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. An anonymous scout recently criticized the Brewers for lacking in effort but Attanasio disagrees: "The guys may be a little down. But I saw them before (Wednesday's game), and there was a lot of energy and enthusiasm. That was a very spirited dugout. One thing I like about Ron Roenicke, the players play hard for him." Attanasio chalked his team's woes up to "streakiness," a lack of situational hitting and struggling starting pitching.
Jose Canseco will be joining the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United League, the team announced. Canseco will serve as a player-coach during the team's opening home stand against the Edinburg Roadrunners, managed by Jose's twin brother Ozzie. This isn't Canseco's first go-around in an independent league, as the 48-year-old has appeared for clubs in several circuits since completing a 17-year big league career. Here is tonight's look around the rest of the baseball world..
- Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune and other reporters discussed the state of the White Sox with GM Rick Hahn. "We're not going to change that path and will focus on this season until it's readily apparent that we have to change our focus," said Hahn, regarding the decision to buy or sell as the season progresses. The White Sox are currently 20-23, good for fourth in the AL Central.
- While the Reds have looked to add some balance to their lefty-heavy lineup, the market is not to their liking, reports Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "There is really nobody out there that would make much of a difference. We’re just biding our time to see what happens," said General Manager Walt Jocketty.
- In his latest mailbag, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe was asked about potential trade targets for the Red Sox, including a possible closer upgrade. While the ninth inning is a concern, the club will fully want to test out Andrew Bailey before making a major trade for established reliever. Cafardo has heard baseball people speculate that the club could be interested in reacquiring Jonathan Papelbon, but they'll focus on what they already have first.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is still optimistic about the club's offense, but acknowledges some concerns in an interview with Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. When asked about possible moves to remedy under-performance and injury, Amaro said the team has looked to improve but cited a lack of activity around the league, "I don’t think a lot of teams feel like they know what they have yet, so you’re not seeing anything more than waiver-wire claims."
Here's a look at the latest out of the National League East..
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Cliff Lee's professional, unemotional view on trades has served him well. The 34-year-old left-hander could be a popular trade target if the Philles end up as sellers at the deadline, but that apparently doesn't bother Lee. "Normally, if you're traded you go from a team that's not in a good situation to a team that's winning,'' the veteran said.
- The Nationals will have some interesting roster decisions to make regarding their infield, suggests Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal argues that because of last winter's two-year deal for Adam LaRoche, the club will have difficulty in finding a spot for top prospect Anthony Rendon, with his natural position taken by Ryan Zimmerman. Rendon, who has played at second base of late, has a bat that "should make him an impact big leaguer" according to Baseball America.
- The Mets have discussed demoting Ike Davis, Ruben Tejada, and Jordany Valdespin, according to Andy Martino of NYDailyNews.com. Though there is nothing to suggest that the club would demote the struggling trio all in one fell swoop, Martino argues that the Mets need to make just such a move in order to best move forward.
Max Fogle contributed to this post.