While it’s still pretty early in Spring Training, the Braves have already been hit with a notable number of players battling injury issues. Jeff Schultz of The Athletic (links to Twitter) has a rundown of today’s updates, including the worrisome news that A.J. Minter left today’s outing after just one batter due to shoulder tightness. Beyond Minter, Dansby Swanson was scratched from today’s lineup due to continued soreness in his left wrist. The Braves also continue to ease Josh Donaldson into action after Donaldson missed much of the 2018 season due to a calf injury. Donaldson’s spring debut may still be at least “a couple of more days” away, as Atlanta manager Brian Snitker told reporters, though Snitker admitted “I don’t even know when he’s gonna play.”
The Braves already have Mike Soroka, Kevin Gausman, and Luiz Gohara dealing with shoulder soreness, while Mike Foltynewicz missed a recent start due to a sore elbow. With the possible exception of Soroka, none of these maladies seem overly concerning yet, though the sheer volume leads to inevitable speculation about how the Braves could make additions to bolster their roster of arms. Minter’s injury could be of particular import, given how the back end of Atlanta’s bullpen already has closer Arodys Vizcaino trying to bounce back from an injury-marred 2018. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes that the Braves have yet to have “any serious discussions” with former closer Craig Kimbrel, who is still focused on landing a long-term contract while the team has only thus far been open to signing Kimbrel to a shorter-term pact.
The latest from around the NL East…
- Speaking of Kimbrel, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Twitter link) hears from rival evaluators who wonder if the Nationals could make a play for the star closer. Washington is no stranger to high-profile bullpen signings, and while Sean Doolittle has pitched very well as the team’s closer, Doolittle has had his share of injury problems over the years. Inking Kimbrel would put the Nationals over the luxury tax threshold for the third straight season, and if ownership had reluctance over paying a higher tax bill, the Nats might have to move some salary in order to fit Kimbrel into the mix. Signing a free agent who rejected the qualifying offer (as Kimbrel did) would also cost the Nats its third- and sixth-highest picks in the 2019 draft. As Olney notes, the Nationals might not mind surrendering even more picks in order to make a real splurge, as the team has already lost its second- and fifth-highest draft selections (plus $1MM of international draft pool money) by signing another QO free agent in Patrick Corbin.
- Deferred money has long been a staple of the Nationals’ contract negotiations, as several notable players (i.e. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Corbin, Anibal Sanchez, Brian Dozier) in recent years have signed deals with the team that include significant amounts of salary to be paid out over long stretches of time. Scherzer’s deal contains $105MM in deferred money, for example, while Strasburg’s $175MM extension with the Nats contained $70MM in deferrals that will be paid out to Strasburg from 2024-30. While Scherzer, Strasburg, and Bryce Harper are all represented by Scott Boras, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post wonders if the Nationals’ deferral-heavy strategy might have cost them a chance at Harper. Roughly a third of Washington’s reported ten-year, $300MM offer to Harper last fall was reportedly set to be paid out in deferred money for decades to come, possibly until Harper was close to 60 years old. This type of long-term payment isn’t something that appeals to every player, making Svrluga wonder if Anthony Rendon would be comfortable with deferred money as the star third baseman continues his own extension talks with the Nationals.
- The Mets have hired Rafael Perez the team’s director of international operations and Luis Marquez as their new director of international scouting, Jacob Resnick and Michael Mayer of @Metsmerized report (via Twitter). Perez is a familiar name in New York’s front office, as he is returning to the same position he previously filled from 2005-11. Marquez also previously worked for the Mets as an international scout from 2008-11.