In today’s edition of his weekly Inside Baseball column, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports begins by highlighting the fact that the NL East division title race will determine the fate of Nationals manager Matt Williams and Mets manager Terry Collins. Heyman writes that while Nats GM Mike Rizzo has repeatedly backed Williams, Rizzo is something of a “chorus of one” — publicly, at least. Ownership is extremely frustrated with the team’s recent play, and Heyman points out that it may also be telling that amid multiple reports of players disliking his rigid demeanor, not one player from the Nats has stepped forward to defend Williams. Ownership has already discussed dismissing Williams, Heyman adds. Collins, on the other hand, is in line for a new contract if and when the Mets reach the postseason. Falling behind the Nats and missing the playoffs, though, would harken back to 2007’s epic collapse and almost certainly cost Collins his job. Then again, the Mets have remaining series against the Reds, Braves, Phillies and Marlins, as Heyman points out, so a collapse seems particularly unlikely.
Some other highlights from the column…
- Jeff Samardzija and another unknown White Sox player were both claimed on the same day that the Yankees claimed David Robertson, Heyman reports. However, the Samardzija claim was, like the Robertson claim, primarily a blocking tactic. Heyman notes that while Samardzija has had a very poor contract season, scouts still love his build, athleticism and competitiveness.
- Dallas Keuchel and the Astros have tabled extension talks until after the season, per Heyman. Houston hopes to lock its ace up on at least a four-year deal — that’d cover his arbitration years and one free agent season — though as I noted when word of discussions between the two sides broke, Keuchel’s currently slated to hit the open market heading into his age-31 season. Delaying his free agency by even one year would probably put a five-year max on the free-agent deal Keuchel could secure, as teams rarely guarantee pitchers’ age-37 seasons in long-term deals.
- Regarding the Angels’ GM vacancy, Heyman characterizes recent interviews of internal candidates Matt Klentak and Scott Servais (both assistant GMs) as “perfunctory,” believing an outside hire to be the probably outcome. Klentak could stay on in a role similar to his own, whereas Servais is said by Heyman to be more at odds with manager Mike Scioscia. Kevin Towers, Ned Colletti and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler are all listed as speculative candidates by Heyman.
- The Dodgers took on about $150K of the remaining $450K on Justin Ruggiano’s salary when they acquired him from the Mariners.
- The Marlins are coming around on the idea of Derek Dietrich as a Ben Zobrist/Josh Harrison type of player that can play everyday in part due to his versatility. While Dietrich’s defense isn’t on the same level as that highly valuable duo, the Marlins see him as an athletic bat with 25-homer upside. The 26-year-old Dietrich is hitting .263/.359/.514 in spite of a cavernous home park (138 OPS+) and has smashed 10 homers in 64 games while seeing time at first base, third base and in the corner outfield. None of those are even his natural position, but he’s blocked at second base by Dee Gordon, of course.