Washington Nationals Rumors
The Nationals will open the season a widely regarded postseason favorite for the first time in franchise history today. Offseason acquisition Denard Span is leading off, and Stephen Strasburg is on the mound. Here's more on the club as we approach Opening Day for a large portion of Major League teams...
- The team is "not even close" to an extension with Ian Desmond, tweets MLB.com's Bill Ladson. Extension talks between the two sides have never been serious, according to Ladson.
- The Nationals remain in contact with Chris Young, who has yet to sign with a new team, according to Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington (on Twitter). "The decision is his," said GM Mike Rizzo. Young opted out of his minor league deal with the Nationals last week in search of a Major League opportunity, but had nothing but the highest of praise for the Nationals organization.
It's "possible," though not likely, that the Nationals could sign shortstop Ian Desmond to a contract extension before the season begins Monday, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. Desmond is eligible for free agency after 2015, and the Nationals would likely look to acquire the rights to some of Desmond's free agency years if he were to sign with them, Kilgore suggests. Desmond hit .292/.335/.511 in a breakout year for the Nationals in 2012. He avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $3.8MM contract for 2013. Here's more from the East Coast.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter likes the depth that new acquisition Freddy Garcia provides, Eduardo A. Encina and Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun report. "He is inventory. He can help us if we have a need," says Showalter. "He can pitch as a starter and out of the bullpen. I like it." Encina and Connolly write that Garcia will start five or six games for Triple-A Norfolk before the Orioles reevaluate how they plan to use him.
- Outfielder and rule 5 pick Ender Inciarte has won a job with the Phillies, meaning Philadelphia won't be offering him back to the Diamondbacks, Tim McManus of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Inciarte will be required to stick on the Phillies' 25-man roster throughout the season. Inciarte spent 2012 at Class A South Bend and Class A+ Visalia. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says Inciarte "may be a little overmatched offensively," but can provide help on defense.
The Yankees will finish in last place, predicts Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Predicting the AL East is no easy task, that's for sure. The latest from baseball's eastern division teams:
- The Yankees need another Aaron Small-type hidden gem this year, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The team is facing some derision for recent veteran pickups like Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, but Sherman feels the front office has earned the benefit of the doubt given its success with these types of additions.
- The Blue Jays and starter J.A. Happ first discussed an extension in the offseason when they were doing his arbitration case, GM Alex Anthopoulos told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. The agreement was reached before Happ found out he'd made the Opening Day rotation, said the pitcher. The Jays guaranteed Happ's final arbitration year in 2014 and also snagged a club option for '15.
- Happ beat out Ricky Romero for the Jays' fifth starter job, even though Romero is owed $7.5MM this year. Romero, who was optioned to High-A, told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, "I don’t belong here to be honest with you. This is not for me."
- The Mets are not yet convinced Ruben Tejada is their shortstop of the future, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Gavin Cecchini is Baseball America's top-rated shortstop in the Mets' farm system, but he was drafted out of high school last summer.
- The Nationals are a scouting-first organization, but GM Mike Rizzo is open-minded to suggestions from their two top analytics people, Adam Cromie and Samuel Mondry-Cohen, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. The team has its own formula to evaluate defense and its own version of wins above replacement.
33-year-old righty Chris Young is officially a free agent, having been granted his release by the Nationals today. He should sign within a day or two, hears Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but MLB.com's Bill Ladson says Young is not close to signing with any team. The latest:
- The Mets are in talks with Young, tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio and ESPN, though Jon Heyman of CBS Sports says the Mets "don't appear to be thinking about" a reunion. Earlier today, we heard that the Mets have "legitimate concerns" about pitcher Shaun Marcum's availability for the season due to a neck issue, based on comments pitching coach Dan Warthen made to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rubin said the Mets were internally discussing bringing Young back, "but a team insider portrayed it as not the most likely of scenarios," partially because the pitcher's future would be uncertain once all the Mets' starters are healthy.
- The Rangers are not interested in a reunion with Young, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Young has not ruled out a return to the Nationals, tweets Ladson.
- The Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins, Indians, Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Mets, and Brewers had scouts in attendance for Young's start yesterday, tweeted Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, though those scouts were not necessarily there for him.
TUESDAY, 10:22am: Young has been granted his release, according to a tweet from the Nationals.
Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington adds (also via Twitter) that the Nationals will still have 24 hours to add Young to the roster before the paperwork is officially filed. It is Young's preference to stay with the Nationals, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post (Twitter link). That seems unlikely, as the Nats recently told Young that he wouldn't make the 25-man roster, but he would be their primary choice should a member of their rotation be injured.
Scouts from several teams were on hand today to watch Young's final Spring Training start for the Nationals, during which he allowed just an unearned run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts through four innings.
Young signed a a minor league deal with the Nationals in late February after a season in which he posted a 4.15 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 115 innings for the Mets.
MONDAY: The Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins, Indians, Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Brewers and Mets all have scouts on hand for Young's start against the Astros today, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). However, as he's quick to note, that doesn't necessarily mean that each team is there to scout Young specifically.
For what it's worth, Young was terrific in his outing, scattering two hits, a walk and an unearned run over four innings to go along with a pair of strikeouts.
SUNDAY, 2:10pm: The Pirates are intrigued by Young, tweets the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Rob Biertempfel. However, Biertempfel wonders whether the Pirates can assure Young he'd be on roster the whole year and, if not, whether or not Young would be interested.
11:25am: The minor league deal that Chris Young signed with the Nationals last month contains an opt-out clause that he can exercise today. However, Young is scheduled to pitch in a Grapefruit League game tomorrow. Dan Kolko of MASNsports tweets that Young is planning on making that start tomorrow and then making a decision. Young says he has received interest from other teams, and it was reported on Friday that Young likely won't make the roster.
The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore adds that the Nationals hope to retain Young and view him as the clear favorite for a rotation spot if one of their starting five were to suffer an injury. Young is interested in staying in the organization in the event that he can't find a Major League job elsewhere.
The 33-year-old Young posted a 4.15 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 115 innings for the Mets last season. However, teams in smaller ballparks will likely be wary of Young's alarming 58.2 percent fly-ball rate. Among pitchers with 100 innings or more, Young's fly-ball rate was far and away the highest in baseball, while his 22.3 percent ground-ball rate was far and away the lowest.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
The Nationals signed the best available reliever, re-signed their slugging first baseman, and made strong choices for center field and their rotation.
Major League Signings
- Rafael Soriano, RP: two years, $28MM. $14MM vesting option for 2015.
- Adam LaRoche, 1B; two years, $24MM. Mutual option for 2015 with a $2MM buyout.
- Dan Haren, SP; one year, $13MM.
- Zach Duke, SP; one year, $500K.
- Total Spend: $65.5MM
- Neivy Pilier ($225K)
Notable Minor League Signings
- Chris Young, Will Ohman, Micah Owings, Delwyn Young, Mike Costanzo, Brian Bocock, Bill Bray, Fernando Abad, Carlos Maldonado, Jeremy Accardo.
Traded and Claims
- Acquired SP A.J. Cole, RP Blake Treinen and PTBNL (Ian Krol) from Athletics for OF Mike Morse.
- Acquired OF Denard Span from Twins for SP Alex Meyer.
- Mike Morse, Edwin Jackson, Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, John Lannan, Alex Meyer, Mark DeRosa
In November, the Nationals agreed to a new contract with manager Davey Johnson. It seemed an easy choice for both parties, after Johnson guided the Nats to the playoffs in 2012.
The Nationals wisely made a qualifying offer to first baseman Adam LaRoche, ensuring they'd receive a draft pick if he signed elsewhere. Perhaps the team also anticipated that the attached draft pick would cause difficulty for LaRoche on the open market. It took until January, but ultimately GM Mike Rizzo was able to retain the 33-year-old on his terms: a two-year, $24MM deal. With Mike Morse under contract, Rizzo was able to remain patient with LaRoche.
Rizzo did not extend a qualifying offer to Edwin Jackson, preferring not to get locked in (presumably, Rizzo thought there was some chance Jackson would accept the one-year, $13.3MM proposal). This decision surprised me, because it seemed unlikely Jackson would pass up a chance to find his deserved multiyear deal for the second consecutive offseason. As it turned out, Rizzo was saving his money for Haren, who signed in December. In November, the Cubs had nearly acquired Haren from the Angels, with the intent of exercising his $15.5MM club option and unloading ineffective reliever Carlos Marmol. The Cubs reportedly killed the deal over concerns with Haren's health. Rizzo did not share those concerns, and Haren (pictured) seems hellbent on returning to his innings-eating days. The Nationals were thinking big for their rotation vacancy, and were willing to spend much more on Haren than teams spent on other one-year deal starters like Scott Baker, Scott Feldman, Joe Saunders, and Brett Myers.
It was thought the Nationals would make a push for a free agent center fielder such as Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton, but instead they swung a deal with the Twins for Span. Rizzo found an established center fielder who can get on base and play the position well, and can be under contract affordably for three seasons. He surrendered a quality pitching prospect in Alex Meyer, but creating assets to trade for Major Leaguers is one purpose for the farm system of a contending club. The Nats had not yet re-signed LaRoche at the time of the trade, which further reduced the first baseman's leverage against them.
Once Span and LaRoche were both in tow, Rizzo was free to trade Morse. He chose to restock his farm system, acquiring Cole, Treinen, and Krol. Having drafted Cole in 2010 and sent him to the A's in the Gio Gonzalez deal, Rizzo was happy to get the pitching prospect back into his organization. It seems a solid return for a year of Morse, who has his warts.
The Nationals non-tendered Gorzelanny and lost Burnett and Gonzalez to free agency. The trio of lefties had accounted for a third of the team's bullpen innings at a 2.74 ERA, so the Nats saw a match with closer Rafael Soriano still available in mid-January (more on that later).
Considered one of the most complete teams in baseball, the Nationals are light on question marks. They've got a righty-heavy bullpen, but that's not necessarily a concern.
The Nationals signed arbitration eligible players Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann to one-year deals. It's always nice to lock up young talent and grab a few free agent years in the process, but it's not clear what the players were seeking.
Deal of Note
Soriano seemed to have few suitors entering the new year, but Scott Boras is tight with Nationals' ownership and brokered a two-year, $28MM deal with heavy deferrals and a vesting option. It's top dollar for a reliever, but the term is short, and Soriano is very good when he's healthy. The Nationals also had to surrender their first-round pick, which would have become the 28th overall. At this stage in the team's competitive cycle, it makes sense to swing the pendulum toward Major League talent over prospects or draft picks.
It's plain to see why the Nationals are often named the best team in baseball. The entire roster just seems to be overflowing with talent and depth, phenoms and veterans. It'll be fun to see if the World Series predictions come true, but for now, the Nationals have assembled a potential juggernaut.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Nationals announced they have outrighted infielder Carlos Rivero to Triple-A, but he will remain in the Major League Spring Training camp. The Nationals now have two openings on their 40-man roster.
Rivero is out of options and was required to pass through waivers before being sent down, which surprised one NL scout, according to the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore. Rivero has spent his entire professional career in the minors posting a line of .265/.322/.386 over the course of seven seasons in the Indians, Phillies, and Nationals organizations including last year's .303/.347/.435 with Washington's Triple-A affiliate.
2:35pm: The Nationals announced, via Twitter, they have accepted Rosenbaum back from Rockies and he will report to minor league camp.
12:58 pm: The Rockies are returning Rule 5 Draft pick Danny Rosenbaum to the Nationals, according to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times (Twitter link). MLB.com's Thomas Harding adds, also via Twitter, that the move will become official once Colorado's signing of Jon Garland is finalized.
The Rockies selected Rosenbaum with the third pick in December's Rule 5 Draft. In eight Spring Training innings for Colorado, Rosenbaum allowed four runs on nine hits and three walks without registering a strikeout.
Last season, Rosenbaum fired 155 1/3 innings over the course of 26 starts for the Nats' Double-A affiliate, compiling a 3.94 ERA, 5.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. The Xavier University product was a 22nd-round selection by Washington in the 2009 draft.
The left-hander ranked as Colorado's No. 22 prospect, according to Baseball America, who said that he "had a decent chance to be a touch-and-feel lefty at the back of a big league rotation" thanks to his ability to command an 84-90 mph fastball and a solid change-up.
Here are a few of today's minor moves from around baseball:
- The Nationals have released 10 minor-leaguers, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports, including Delwyn Young, a utilityman who played parts of five seasons for the Pirates and Dodgers. The Nats also released pitchers Ryan Demmin, Inocencio Heredia, Bobby Lucas, Blake Monar, Casey Upperman, and Andrew Wall; outfielders Wade Moore and J.P. Ramirez; and infielder Stephen King.
- The Royals have released 11 minor-leaguers, reports Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter): pitchers Rudy Brown, Allen Caldwell, Blaine Hardy, Joe Karlik, Patrick Keating, Jason Mitchell, Lincoln Rassi, and Jamie Richmond; outfielder Nick Van Stratten; and infielders Michael Liberto and Adrian Martinez.
- The Rays have released DH Jack Cust, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports (on Twitter). Cust signed a minor-league deal with the Rays on February 17. He played for Triple-A Scranton (Yankees) and Las Vegas (Blue Jays) in 2012. He last appeared in the majors with the Mariners in 2011, hitting .214/.344/.329 in 225 at bats.
- The Padres have released six minor-leaguers, MLB.com's Corey Brock Reports (on Twitter): pitchers Mark Pope, Chris Haney, and Michael Broadway; outfielders Anthony Renteria and Kyung-Min Na; and first baseman Goose Kallunki.
- Infielder/outfielder Cody Puckett has been traded from the Reds, with whom he has spent his entire career, to the White Sox, Puckett himself tweeted. In return, the Reds will receive a player to be named later, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Splitting last season between Double-A and Triple-A, Puckett saw time in the infield (mostly at second) and corner outfield, and hit .233/.306/.390 with 16 home runs over 488 plate appearances.
- The Marlins released left-handed pitcher Kevin Gelinas, tweets Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Gelinas, just 23, was Baseball America's Independent Leagues Player of the Year last season, Eddy notes.
- The Rangers released catcher Konrad Schmidt, a 28-year-old who has 17 total plate appearances in the big leagues, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Texas claimed Schmidt off waivers from the Diamondbacks last fall and then outrighted him to Triple-A in December.
Charlie Wilmoth contributed to this post.