Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post shares an excellent look at Doug Harris’ road back to the Nationals following a diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia. Harris, the Nationals’ assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel, was away from the team for much of the 2016 season and underwent a bone marrow transplant early last October when the Nats were embarking on their playoff run. Harris discusses all of the elements of his job that were sorely missed with Svrluga, who also spoke to multiple members of Harris’ staff about his influence not only on the team but on their personal careers. Harris would eventually return to the Nationals on March 26 during Spring Training by surprising his staff with an appearance at a morning meeting and drawing a standing ovation from the roughly 45 executives who were assembled. “It was a moment I’ll never forget for the rest of my life,” Harris tells Svrluga. The entire column is wonderfully written and provides a terrific look at Harris’ personality and his importance to the Nationals organization.
A few more notes on the Nationals…
- There’s been plenty of talk about the near-trade of David Robertson from the White Sox to the Nationals this offseason, but USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports the most definitive account of the talks in his latest column. According to Nightengale, the Nats were set to send young lefty Jesus Luzardo (last year’s third-round pick that has yet to pitch professionally due to the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery prior to the draft) and minor league third baseman Drew Ward to the Sox in exchange for Robertson. Chicago was to absorb about half of the remaining money on Robertson’s deal, but the two sides were never fully able to agree on the financial component of the trade. It’s now reportedly been months since the two sides discussed a Robertson deal, and one has to imagine that the right-hander’s dominant start to the season has only helped Chicago’s leverage in talks with any interested parties. Robertson, 32, owns a 2.81 ERA with 22 strikeouts against five unintentional walks in 16 innings.
- Within his column, Nightengale also notes that the Nats made a strong run at Greg Holland this offseason and offered a whopping $85MM over five years to Kenley Jansen (with just $5MM of that sum deferred). GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged to Nightengale that it’s “demoralizing” to lose games in the ninth inning and that it has become tired to continually hear about his bullpen needs when the rest of the team is performing so well. “We’re not afraid to make a trade, but the supply and demand of these elite relievers are far and between,” Rizzo tells Nightengale. “They’re so hard to get.”
- Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com observes that the Nationals’ shaky bullpen has significantly taxed the rotation. As Zuckerman points out, there have been 26 instances of a starting pitcher throwing 115 or more pitches in a game throughout all of Major League Baseball this season, and the Nationals are responsible for five of those outings. The Nats also have 11 instances of a starter clearing the 110-pitch threshold in 2017, while MLB as a whole is at 80 such performances. And, furthermore, as ESPN’s Eddie Matz notes (Twitter link), the National League’s top five starting pitchers in terms of pitches per outing are: Tanner Roark, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. While Washington’s top four starters have held up fairly well thus far, both of those obviously represent fairly ominous trends and only serve to underline the Nationals’ need not just for a closer but to deepen the relief corps overall.