It seems as if some behind-the-scenes drama contributed to the Nationals’ decision to trade Brandon Kintzler to the Cubs, Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. GM Mike Rizzo reportedly believed Kintzler was an unnamed source in two recent stories (by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports and Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post) that detailed internal criticisms of the Nats’ clubhouse culture and Dave Martinez’s handling of pitchers. Kintzler has vigorously denied these claims, saying as much to Rizzo personally. Once word spread about the situation, Passan even contacted Cubs president of baseball ops Theo Epstein to state that he’d never been in contact with Kintzler and that the reliever wasn’t the one who provided the much-discussed quote about the Nationals’ clubhouse being “a mess.” Furthermore, as Heyman notes, it seems odd that Rizzo would single Kintzler out for any role in Janes’ piece when several other Nats relievers were quoted by name. Ken Rosenthal provided an alternate view on the Kintzler trade in a video for FOX Sports, saying that Washington’s primary reason for moving Kintzler may have been to escape his $5MM player option for the 2019 season.
Some more from the NL East…
- The Braves plan to have right-hander Touki Toussaint make his Major League debut on Monday, manager Brian Snitker told Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) and other reporters. Toussaint would be making a spot start in one half of the Braves’ double-header against the Marlins. Selected 16th overall by Arizona in the 2014 draft, Toussaint and Bronson Arroyo were dealt to the Braves in June 2015, with Atlanta taking Arroyo’s contract off the Diamondbacks’ hands in order to obtain the young righty. A few middling seasons dropped Toussaint’s prospect stock, though he has gotten back on track with a combined 2.68 ERA, 10.7 K/9, and 2.84 K/BB rate over 86 Double-A innings and 31.1 Triple-A innings in 2018. Fangraphs ranked Toussaint 51st in its midseason top-100 prospects list, while MLB.com ranks the 22-year-old 76th among all minor leaguers.
- “It’s hard to see where [J.P.] Crawford fits into the future plans” of the Phillies following what “looks more and more like a lost season” for the infielder, The Athletic’s Matt Gelb writes (subscription required). Due to both a forearm strain and a fractured hand, Crawford has been limited to just 34 games this season, and has thus been relegated to pinch-hit and utilityman duty behind third baseman Maikel Franco and newly-acquired shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Franco has revived his stock with the club with a bounce-back season, and while Cabrera is a free agent after the year, the Phils also have Scott Kingery signed to an extension and in need of a regular spot on the diamond given the Phillies’ crowded outfield and the presence of Cesar Hernandez at second base. Plus, there are the ever-present rumors that Philadelphia will soon push to acquire a major position player like Manny Machado. It’s worth noting that Crawford is still just 23 and has only 199 MLB plate appearances to his name, so it’s far too early to write off a player who has been a consensus top prospect for the last four years. Still, the Phillies could now consider Crawford as a trade chip rather than a future cornerstone, though it would be something of a sell-low scenario given Crawford’s rough 2018 season.
- On the other side of the young talent equation, Gelb also writes about Victor Arano’s journey from trade afterthought to a major part of the Phillies bullpen. Arano came to the organization as a player to be named later in the Roberto Hernandez trade with the Dodgers in August 2014, and he posted some good strikeout totals but overall only decent numbers as a minor leaguer. Philadelphia promoted Arano from Double-A to the big leagues last year, and the right-hander has blossomed, with a 1.95 ERA, 9.9 K/9, and a 3.59 K/BB rate over 55 1/3 career innings.