Yunel Escobar Rumors

Rosenthal’s Latest: Desmond, Toussaint, D-Backs, Samardzija, Cotts

In his latest notes column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal begins with an interesting note on the Nationals. Despite a substantial payroll and a heavy offseason investment in Max Scherzer, Nats ownership is reluctant to add payroll during the season. Rosenthal notes that, in hindsight, we saw an indication of this last July when Cleveland paid all of the $3.3MM remaining on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s salary after the Nats acquired him. (Of course, the Nats were also willing to take on all of Matt Thornton‘s salary via waiver claim.)

Because of this, Rosenthal wonders if the Nats will consider trading Ian Desmond this summer to clear room for a different acquisition. Given Desmond’s struggles, the team could be better off with Danny Espinosa, Yunel Escobar and Anthony Rendon seeing regular time in the infield. Earlier in the week, I speculated on a possible Desmond trade after it was reported that the Nats were interesred in the D-Backs’ middle infielders, but Rosenthal notes that it could also allow them more flexibility to pursue Aroldis Chapman, Ben Zobrist or even a reunion with Tyler Clippard. Of course, Desmond’s offensive and defensive woes diminish his trade value, as well.

A few more highlights from Rosenthal’s column…

  • Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart tells Rosenthal that he usually doesn’t pay attention to media criticism, but he’s aware of the near-universal criticism of the D-Backs for their trade of Touki Toussaint (in which the team essentially sold its 2014 first-round pick to Atlanta). Rosenthal quotes Stewart: “The truth is we did not know what Touki’s value would be if we shopped him. There is a lot of speculation on that. People are assuming it would have been better, but we don’t know. There was an opportunity to make a deal that gave us more flexibility today as well as next year. We took that opportunity. It’s tough to say we could have gotten more. He was drafted at No. 16, given ($2.7) million. In my opinion, that’s his value.” Stewart continues to say that Toussaint has not thrown 96 mph with the D-Backs, despite some scouting reports and that there’s “some inflation of what people think Touki is.” Stewart adds that the D-Backs think Toussaint will be a Major League pitcher but not for another five to six years.
  • A brief interjection from me to offer my take on those comments: It’s odd to hear a GM openly devalue a player in this fashion, even after trading him away. Beyond that, however, it’s puzzling to hear Stewart equate Toussaint’s value with the clearly arbitrary number assigned to last year’s draft slot value. Having shown a willingness to spend $16MM+ on a pitching prospect (Yoan Lopez) this offseason, Stewart is undoubtedly cognizant of the fact that Toussaint would have fetched far, far more than $2.7MM in a theoretical free agent setting. Additionally, if they truly do feel that Toussaint will pitch in the Major Leagues, that makes the trade all the more puzzling to me, as my best explanation to this point had been that they simply didn’t believe in his future all that strongly.
  • Back to Rosenthal’s piece, which has several more quotes from Stewart, including the GM’s own admission of surprise to his team’s current standing in the NL West. The D-Backs were built with an eye on the longer-term picture than 2015, says Stewart, and they’ll need to assess how to respond at the deadline. To this point, the D-Backs have received inquiries on their starting pitching, but not on their middle infield. Stewart flatly says “…we’re not moving [Nick] Ahmed,” and calls a trade of Chris Owings “very unlikely.” Interestingly, that does seem to indicate that the new GM values Ahmed over Owings.
  • The Astros remain interested in Jeff Samardzija, and as Rosenthal notes, a move away from what has been a brutal White Sox defense would likely help Samardzija quite a bit. Samardzija’s .338 BABIP has helped contribute to a significant discrepancy between his 4.53 ERA and 3.67 FIP. Of course, Chicago’s porous defense doesn’t necessarily explain Samardzija’s diminished strikeout rate and struggles to strand runners in 2015. The Astros, Rosenthal says, are eyeing Samardzija and other pitchers, but the White Sox are not yet ready to sell.
  • The Brewers aren’t receiving very strong interest in Francisco Rodriguez, likely in part due to his backloaded contract, Rosenthal hears. K-Rod is still owed $1.95MM in 2015, plus $9.5MM in 2016 between his salary and the buyout on a $6MM club option for the 2017 season. Lefty Neal Cotts, however, figures to be in demand and may even be of interest to his former club, the Rangers, Rosenthal writes. Cotts’s 4.30 ERA isn’t anything to write home about, but he’s held lefties to a .546 OPS.
  • The Cardinals might not be as urgent to add a starter as many had previously expected. The club feels that Michael Wacha can top 200 innings, and Carlos Martinez can deliver about 170. A bigger need might be a left-handed-hitting complement for Mark Reynolds at first base, and Rosenthal suggests Adam LaRoche as a speculative fit to improve the team on both sides of the ball.

Heyman’s Latest: Tulo, Soriano, Correa, Garza, Segura, Mets

The latest installment of Jon Heyman’s weekly Inside Baseball column is up over at CBS Sports, and Heyman begins by addressing the Troy Tulowitzki trade talk that has once again surfaced. Heyman, like many others, feels the time has arrived for the marriage between Tulo and the Rockies to come to an end, but neither Tulowitzki or owner Dick Monfort wants to appear to be the “bad guy” in the situation. Heyman hears that Tulowitzki would prefer to play for the YankeesGiants, Dodgers or Angels if he is traded, though one person who knows the shortstop well told Heyman that he may ok with the Mets, Cardinals and Red Sox as well. Tulowitzki’s preferred destination is largely a moot point though, as his contract doesn’t have a no-trade clause. Heyman notes that in a year’s time, Tulowitzki will receive 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any deal. That reality only furthers Colorado’s need to move Tulowitzki, Heyman opines. Heyman also lists 11 clubs that he could see making some degree of sense for the face of the Rockies’ franchise.

Some more highlights from a lengthy but always-informative column…

  • The Cubs “may consider” Rafael Soriano at some point as a means of lengthening their bullpen, according to Heyman. I’d note that while the team has looked a bit thin beyond Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop, the Cubs just got Justin Grimm back from the disabled list and likely won’t be without Neil Ramirez for too much longer.
  • Astros top prospect — and arguably the top prospect in all of MLB — Carlos Correa could be up to the Majors within three weeks, one Houston source estimated to Heyman. Also of note on the Astros front, he writes that a pursuit of Cole Hamels would appear to be a long shot, but Scott Kazmir (Houston native) and Clay Buchholz are names to keep an eye on for Houston, should either become available.
  • Kyle Lohse seems like a natural candidate to be traded this offseason, but the Brewers are particularly interested in shedding Matt Garza‘s contract. The right-hander is guaranteed $12.5MM in 2015 and will earn the same rate in each of the following two seasons. Neither pitcher, however, has been particularly impressive for Milwaukee.
  • Jean Segura is one of the players that the Brewers have the least interest in trading, but Heyman hears that the Padres would be interested, should Brewers GM Doug Melvin entertain offers. San Diego likes Alexi Amarista but prefers to use him in a utility role rather than as a starter.
  • Rival teams seriously doubt that the Mets would ever consider parting ways with Noah Syndergaard, but there’s “a little hope” that the team could be persuaded to part with highly touted left-hander Steven Matz in a trade. Heyman adds that the Mets are going to remain patient with Wilmer Flores as their shortstop for the time being.
  • It’s been reported that Yunel Escobar wanted no part of playing with Oakland, and Heyman hears that the reasoning was as simple as the fact that Escobar is very particular when it comes to geographical preferences and wanted to remain on the East coast. A trade to the Nationals accomplished that goal.
  • The clause in Alex Guerrero‘s contract that allows him to opt out of his deal and elect free agency at season’s end, if he is traded, hinders his trade value. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but given the presence of Guerrero and the versatile Justin Turner, Juan Uribe could end up as a summer trade candidate for the Dodgers.
  • In some agency news, Heyman reports that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will now be represented by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management — the agent for Gregorius’ predecessor, Derek Jeter. Gregorius had previously been repped by the Wasserman Media Group.

AL West Notes: Athletics, Rangers, Yunel, Odor, Halos

One of the biggest surprises of the season is that the Athletics have the third-worst record in baseball, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. The reason for Oakland’s woes, he continues, has been a bullpen that has performed dreadfully in high-leverage situations. Oakland relievers have allowed an opponent batting line roughly similar to Alexi Amarista‘s career rate in low-leverage situations, Cameron notes, but in high-leverage situations, opposing batters are hitting the A’s relief corps at a clip similar to Mike Trout‘s slash line. Cameron notes that according to BaseRuns, which estimates a team’s win-loss record based on context-neutral data, the A’s should be an 18-15 club. It’s not too late, then, for the team to expect a turnaround — especially with Ben Zobrist and Sean Doolittle nearing returns in what looks to be a weak division. However, the team has dug itself into a significant hole, so even another few weeks of poor baseball might make that hole too deep to escape.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports discusses a number of AL West topics and also notes the weak nature of the division. Rosenthal writes that the Rangers, who got off to an 8-16 start, have done well to stay afloat with a 5-2 road trip that has them within striking distance of .500. With Derek Holland and Martin Perez both potentially joining the club this summer, the team could hang around in contention, though he opines that they’ll need to add two relievers to make that realistic. Rosenthal also notes that the Rangers’ front office asked a number of Pirates players about former Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister before hiring him as their new skipper. Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin and A.J. Burnett were among the names to give Banister glowing reviews, and Rangers officials are quite pleased with the early returns on their hiring.
  • Also in Rosenthal’s piece, he notes that sources have told him that Yunel Escobar wanted nothing to do with playing in Oakland when he was originally acquired alongside Ben Zobrist in the trade that sent a package headlined by Daniel Robertson to the Rays. Escobar’s distaste for playing with the A’s helped prompt the one-for-one swap of Escobar for Tyler Clippard. Clippard has delivered perhaps the best face-value results in the Oakland bullpen, but his peripherals have taken an alarming step backwards, as he’s averaging nearly four fewer strikeouts per nine innings and walking more than an extra batter per nine as well.
  • The struggles of Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor will likely get him sent to the minors soon — possibly as soon as today, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Odor’s batting line stands at an abysmal .144/.252/.233 in 103 plate appearances this season, and Grant breaks down the reasons for his struggles, most notably an inability to make any form of contact with pitches outside the strike zone. Grant breaks down the weak spots in Odor’s swing and addresses the issues he must work on to return to the Majors following his likely demotion.
  • Pedro Moura and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register discussed the landscape of the AL West as well as several Angels-related topics in their latest podcast, including whether or not the team should be interested in Allen Craig and whether or not reinforcements are needed for the back of the bullpen. (Much of the roster-related banter comes in the final 10 minutes of the podcast.) They also welcomed Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle on this episode to discuss the division-leading Astros.


NL Notes: Escobar, O’Brien, Draft, Luebke

Yunel Escobar of the Nationals, like many other Cuban ballplayers, followed a difficult path to the big leagues, as James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. It has not always been smooth sailing for the 32-year-old since he finally made it as a professional, of course, though he is settling in nicely in D.C., where he has played an important role on a team that is still missing Anthony Rendon. Escobar owns a .303/.358/.394 slash in 109 plate appearances thus far in 2015.

  • Diamondbacks prospect Peter O’Brien — acquired in last summer’s Martin Prado deal — says he believes his shift out of a catching role has helped him to a strong start offensively, Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic reports. It remains to be seen whether Arizona will look to move him back behind the dish at some point — he did finally don the gear for the first time this year recently — but it sounds as if O’Brien may be ready to embrace a more permanent change. “Catching is a lot of fun, but I really enjoy the outfield and I definitely think that my bat is my biggest strength,” O’Brien said. “I think that plays a little bit better in the outfield.”
  • This year’s amateur draft figures to feature a lot of moving parts, and it’s still months away. But that didn’t stop Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Baseball America’s John Manuel from taking a shot at early mock drafts. The analysts disagree somewhat on the direction the Diamondbacks will take with the first overall pick, with McDaniel tabbing Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson (a shift from another recent post, reflecting the uncertainty) and Manuel pointing to UCSB righty Dillon Tate. Neither of those highly-regarded players would represent a big surprise in that slot, of course, as both have consistently been listed as amongst the consensus three best players available along with high school shortstop Brendan Rogers.
  • MLB.com’s Barry Bloom checks in with Padres hurler Cory Luebke, who is diligently working back from his second Tommy John surgery and is hoping to throw live BP within the next few weeks. “I’m making progress,” Luebke said. “It’s been a long haul, but it’s the best place I’ve been in for the last few years. It’s exciting, but if I’ve learned anything it’s not to ride the roller coaster. Take a week at a time. But I definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel a little bit.” Luebke is in the final guaranteed year of his four-year, $12MM extension, though San Diego holds successive club options ($7.5MM and $10MM, respectively, over his next two seasons).

NL Notes: Nationals, Escobar, Holliday, Lopez

The Nationals haven’t managed to avoid the possibility of losing key members of their team due to free agency, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports. The Nats could be without Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond and Doug Fister after the season because they haven’t managed to sign those players to long-term deals that delay free agency. That might not be entirely their fault, Svrluga suggests — they tried to sign all three players. In the meantime, though, they have another wave of core players (Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon) to whom they could turn their attention. Strasburg, Harper and Rendon are all represented by Scott Boras, who does not generally like long-term deals for pre-free-agency players. Some of his clients, such as Jered Weaver and Carlos Gonzalez, have signed them, however. Here are more notes from the National League.

  • Yunel Escobar wasn’t happy to have been traded away from the Rays to the Athletics and then from the Athletics to the Nationals, and he also wasn’t happy he’d have to move from shortstop to second base, the Post’s James Wagner writes. Escobar has changed his mind since then, however. “They’ve reached the playoffs two of the last three years,” says Escobar. “I want to help them win a World Series. If the missing piece is me playing second base, then I’m here for anything.” Escobar says certain aspects of playing second base, like turning double plays, are “confusing,” but says that he’ll improve that them with practice.
  • Baseball is full of incredibly disappointing free-agent contracts, but Matt Holliday‘s current seven-year, $120MM deal with the Cardinals isn’t one of them, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I really wanted it to work out great for both sides,” says Holliday. “A lot of times with a long-term contract, you hear ‘They hope to get a couple of good years out of it.’ My goal from the day I signed was to get to the end of the contract and have everybody feel really good about it.” Holliday’s defense has slipped since signing, but he’s maintained a high standard offensively, and with just two years (plus an option) left on the deal, it looks like the Cardinals are going to get more than their money’s worth.
  • When Cuban righty Yoan Lopez signed with the Diamondbacks, he joined the organization he rooted for as a child, Carlos Torres Bujanda writes for Baseball America. “Since I was a kid, I followed the D-backs when Randy Johnson was on the team,” says Lopez. “To see the games or check the stats I had friends who worked in hotels with Internet access. They download the games so I can watch later, or see the numbers.” Lopez adds that he’s happy the Diamondbacks also signed another Cuban player this offseason, Yasmany Tomas.

NL East Notes: Murphy, K-Rod, Yunel, Braves

News broke earlier today that the Mets weren’t planning to discuss extending Daniel Murphy‘s contract, and Newsday’s Marc Carig has some more details on the team’s decision.  Murphy rates as a below-average second baseman and the Mets are worried he’ll inevitably have to be moved to a corner infield position.  While Murphy hits well for a second baseman, the Mets don’t believe he has the bat necessary for third base or first base, not to mention the fact that David Wright and Lucas Duda have those positions covered for at least the next few seasons in New York.  The Mets also aren’t likely to make Murphy a qualifying offer, unless he enjoys a huge year.

Here’s some more from around the NL East…

  • Also from Carig’s piece, he hears from two rival executives that Murphy will draw a lot of interest on the free agent market.  “There will be a nice line of suitors for him.  Some will want the bat and accept the below-average glove if necessary.  He’s young enough, the bat is strong enough to warrant a multi-year [deal],” one official said.
  • The Marlins made a multi-year offer to Francisco Rodriguez before he agreed to terms with the Brewers, MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports (on Twitter). However, McCalvy spoke to one of K-Rod’s teammates and was told that Rodriguez “likes it a lot” in Milwaukee and was hoping to return to the club. The amount that was offered to Rodriguez isn’t known, though previous reports had indicated Miami was comfortable with something in the two-year, $10MM range.
  • Yunel Escobar wasn’t happy to be traded away from the Rays, nor was he pleased about moving from shortstop to second base, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes.  The veteran infielder changed his mind after discussions with Nationals management, however, and is looking forward to playing for a contender.  “I want to help them win a World Series. If the missing piece is me playing second base, then I’m here for anything,” Escobar said.
  • Non-roster invitees in camp on minor league deals could play a significant role in the Braves‘ plans this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. Asked about the team’s collection of NRIs, manager Fredi Gonzalez listed Eric Stults, Jose Veras, Matt Capps, Brady Feigl, Kelly Johnson, Eric Young and John Buck as players with a legitimate chance, noting that he was probably leaving a few out. Gonzalez seemed particularly excited about Young. “I think the world of Eric Young,” Gonzalez said. “He can really bring a different dynamic that we haven’t had here since Michael Bourn, leading off against right-handed pitching or whatever you want to do. So that’s an exciting non-roster invitee, really.”
  • In NL East news from earlier today on MLBTR, we shared some Phillies notes.

West Notes: Padres, Athletics, Angels

Much of the Padres‘ pitching staff has remained intact this offseason while new GM A.J. Preller built a new offense alongside it, and the team’s returning pitchers are excited, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. “It’s been pretty cool seeing all the moves we made,” says Andrew Cashner. “This is my first year to have a chance to win.” Another Padres starter, Ian Kennedy, still has interest in exploring free agency after the season, but adds that “it’s hard not to notice” that the team has gotten better, in his view, both for 2015 into the future. Here’s more from the West divisions.

  • The Athletics acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar in the Ben Zobrist trade, then quickly shipped him to Washington for Tyler Clippard. Assistant GM David Forst says, however, that the A’s didn’t acquire Escobar with the intention of trading him, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. The Clippard deal took shape only after the completion of the Zobrist deal.
  • The Angels have improved their farm system in the past several months, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. That’s not to say their farm system is great — they moved up from last in Baseball America’s organizational rankings in 2013 and 2014 to 27th this year. They did, however, pitchers Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano this winter, and drafted three more pitchers, Sean Newcomb, Joe Gatto and Chris Ellis, in June. Since Baseball America’s rankings went to press, the Angels have also added infielders Roberto Baldoquin and Kyle Kubitza. “It’s a better system than it was before,” says BA’s John Manuel. “There are some positive signs.”

Nationals Notes: Rizzo, Desmond, Mets

The Nationals’ “approach with Ian Desmond has not changed one bit since the end of last season,” GM Mike Rizzo told reporters (including MLB.com’s Bill Ladson) today during a conference call.  “Ian Desmond is our shortstop. He is the leader of our team. He is one of the best shortstops in all of baseball, and he is going to be the shortstop of the Washington Nationals. With that said, if a deal comes up that we can’t refuse, we will always look to improve ourselves for 2015 and beyond. But it’s hard to replace one of the best shortstops in all of baseball. The deal would have to be pretty elaborate not to have Ian Desmond on this team.”  Of course, such a “pretty elaborate” trade was reportedly discussed between the Nats, Mets and Rays earlier this winter that would’ve sent Desmond to the Mets.  Here’s some more from the nation’s capital…

  • While that three-team deal was scuttled when the Rays dealt Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar to Oakland, it’s still “not out of the question” that Desmond could be dealt to the Mets, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News tweets.  “Nothing is imminent” between the two sides, however.
  • Executives around the league who have spoken to the Nationals say the team is still trying to move Desmond, ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports (Twitter link).  The Nats’ claim that Escobar was acquired to play second base is “spin.”  During the conference call, Rizzo was confident that Escobar would fit into the Nationals’ clubhouse and have no problems adjusting to second base.
  • The Nationals’ acquisition of Escobar for Tyler Clippard is criticized by Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.  Boswell opines that the trade was a “Plan C” option from a Nats team that couldn’t pull the trigger on preferred offseason moves, and that the trade threatens to weaken both the Nationals’ bullpen and their clubhouse chemistry.
  • Escobar’s presence also seems to imply that Desmond’s time in Washington could be up, as Boswell notes that a big extension for the star shortstop doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.  The ongoing dispute between the Nationals and Orioles about MASN broadcasting rights could be a reason why Desmond hasn’t been extended, as Boswell hears from two sources that the Lerner family is “almost phobic about knowing their future revenues before spending.”

Nationals, A’s Swap Tyler Clippard, Yunel Escobar

Yunel Escobar‘s tenure with the Athletics lasted all of five days, as he has now been traded to the Nationals in exchange for right-hander Tyler Clippard, the Nats announced on Wednesday.

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Escobar, of course, had only just been acquired by the Athletics this past weekend alongside Ben Zobrist in a trade that sent a prospect package headlined by Daniel Robertson to the Rays. A trade of Escobar likely means that infielder Marcus Semien, acquired by Oakland in their trade of Jeff Samardzija to the White Sox, will again be ticketed for an everyday role in the middle infield. Indeed, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that Semien will be the club’s shortstop, teaming with Zobrist to comprise the club’s double-play tandem.

As for the Nationals, the acquisition opens a number of avenues. First and foremost is that Escobar simply supplants Danny Espinosa as the team’s second baseman, pairing with All-Star shortstop Ian Desmond. In that scenario, Escobar, who is controlled through the 2016 season at a reasonable total of $13MM (plus an option for the 2017 season), could slide over to shortstop next year if Desmond signs elsewhere as a free agent. However, the possibility of an eventual Desmond trade cannot be outright ignored, as the Nats reportedly discussed a three-team swap with the Rays and Mets last weekend that would have netted them Escobar and Zobrist, with Desmond heading to New York.

The 32-year-old Escobar, typically a sound defender, had somewhat of a down season on both sides of the ball in 2014. Though he picked things up with the bat late in the season to salvage a .258/.324/.340 batting line (92 OPS+, 95 wRC+), he posted a UZR/150 of -26, and Defensive Runs Saved dinged him equally, rating him at -24 runs. However, Escobar also battled shoulder and knee problems last season and has otherwise always been regarded as an excellent defender, so while some will assume this to be age-related decline, there’s reason to believe that he could rebound in 2015.

Clippard, 30 next month, is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $9.3MM in 2015 — his final year of team control before hitting free agency. Clippard has been a staple in the Nats’ bullpen dating back to 2009, pitching to a 2.64 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in that time, though his control has improved significantly since 2011. Despite being an extreme fly-ball pitcher, Clippard has never had a huge problem with home runs and will likely be able to avoid such problems at the spacious O.Co Coliseum. One large reason for his ability to keep the ball in the yard is that a number of his fly-balls are of the infield pop-up variety — 15.5 percent over the past six seasons and a whopping 19.3 percent in 2015. That trend figures to continue, given all of the space in Oakland’s park, as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron notes (on Twitter).

This marks the second straight offseason in which the A’s have traded for a high-priced reliever, although the two deals are markedly different. Last winter, Oakland acquired Jim Johnson from the Orioles in what essentially amounted to a salary dump, while parting with Escobar (two to three years of him, no less) represents a significant value heading to Washington. In this instance, however, Clippard seems likely to remain in a setup role, as Oakland has lights-out closer Sean Doolittle currently manning the ninth inning on an affordable long-term deal, eliminating the financial risk that would have come with letting him accumulate saves while still arbitration-eligible.

On a grander scale, the move further adds to the intrigue of the Oakland offseason. After reaching the playoffs via Wild Card status, Oakland began its offseason by signing Billy Butler to a three-year pact — a win-now move aimed to upgrade in the short-term. The A’s then traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija and Derek Norris for packages of younger players (although they did receive a pair of MLB-ready pieces in Marcus Semien and Jesse Hahn). Following those moves, most assumed the A’s to be gearing up for a rebuild, but at that point, GM Billy Beane added Zobrist (with one year left on his deal) and Escobar in another move aimed at the short-term future. Overall, it seems that Beane and his staff are merely re-tooling — giving themselves a chance at contention in 2015 while simultaneously acquiring younger, more affordable players to create a lengthier window of contention (or to use as chips in further trades).

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported that Escobar was headed to the Nats (Twitter link) and speculated that Clippard would be a fit. MLB.com’s Bill Ladson confirmed (on Twitter) that Clippard was indeed headed to Oakland.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Nats, Mets, Rays Discussed Desmond/Zobrist Trade

The Nationals, Mets and Rays discussed a three-team deal involving Ian Desmond, Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar before the Rays sent Zobrist and Escobar to Oakland, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The Mets would have received Desmond, with Zobrist and Escobar heading to Washington and the Mets sending prospects to Tampa. The deal ultimately fell through when the Mets declined to part with two prospects from a list of three, one of whom was pitcher Noah Syndergaard. The Mets also discussed acquiring Zobrist from the Rays in a more conventional two-team trade, although the two teams encountered the same hangup regarding prospects.

The structure of the potential three-team deal makes sense, at least on some level, for all sides. The Mets continue to be weak at shortstop, and Desmond would have been an enormous upgrade over Wilmer Flores and Ruben Tejada. The Nationals had been connected to Zobrist, and Escobar, who is under control through 2016 with an option for 2017, would have provided an everyday shortstop for at least the next two years, helping alleviate a headache that could arrive next offseason as a number of key players become eligible for free agency. (Zobrist, who would have upgraded the Nats at second base while also providing them with options in the outfield, would have joined the list of Nationals eligible for free agency next winter, however.) And it’s hardly surprising that the Rays would have asked for high-upside young talent for Zobrist, since that’s what they ultimately got (in Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell, who they received along with John Jaso and cash) when they sent him to the Athletics.

Desmond is eligible for free agency after the season, however, and Rosenthal notes that the Mets were concerned about paying a high price for a one-year player, particularly given the possibility that they could sign him next winter anyway. The Rays’ asking price evidently was high, even without knowing who they might have received besides Syndergaard — MLB.com and Baseball America both rank Syndergaard as the Mets’ No. 1 prospect, with MLB.com ranking him the No. 10 prospect in all of baseball. The 22-year-old posted a 4.60 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 133 innings for the Mets’ hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate in 2014.

The Nationals would not have been concerned about having Desmond play for another team in the NL East, Rosenthal writes. The Cubs, Giants and other teams besides the Athletics and Nationals also had interest in Zobrist.