- The Nationals announced that infielder Matt Reynolds has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment. He was sent outright to Triple-A Fresno. Reynolds made just 14 plate appearances with Washington last season and has spent the bulk of his career with the Mets, for whom he batted .228/.300/.351 in 226 PAs from 2016-17. The 28-year-old Reynolds can handle shortstop, second base and third base, and he’s a career .283/.350/.420 hitter in nearly 1600 Triple-A plate appearances (although most of those came in an extremely hitter-friendly setting with the Mets’ former Las Vegas affiliate in the Pacific Coast League).
The Nationals have agreed to a minor-league deal with southpaw Vidal Nuno, according to Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter). He’ll receive an invitation to participate in MLB Spring Training as well as opt-out opportunities if he doesn’t earn a roster spot. Nuno would earn at a $1.3MM rate in the big leagues.
Nuno, 31, turned in a sparkling 1.64 ERA in 33 frames last year for the Rays. His underlying peripherals, however, were not quite so promising as the bottom-line results would otherwise suggest. Nuno was helped along by a .216 batting average on balls in play and 100% strand rate.
Teams clearly do not anticipate that Nuno will be capable of replicating his 2018 output; otherwise, he’d have been claimed when he was outrighted after the end of the season or would have commanded a MLB deal in free agency. Still, he seems to be a worthwhile depth piece, having compiled a 4.06 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 over nearly four hundred career frames at the game’s highest level.
For the Nats, Nuno could represent both rotation and left-handed relief depth. He took ten starts at Triple-A last year but has mostly worked out of the pen in recent major league campaigns. Historically, Nuno has found much greater success against same-handed hitters, so he could compete for a LOOGY job in camp.
- Veteran second baseman Brian Dozier weighed some multi-year offers before he landed with the Nationals, as Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes. He and his wife ultimately preferred the fit in D.C., says Dozier, who says he spoke with Kurt Suzuki and Josh Willingham about their experiences in the nation’s capital before making his decision. Dozier ended up securing a $9MM guarantee for one season of work; in all likelihood, he’d have taken a lower annual salary if he went with a lengthier pact. The opportunity will also give him a shot, then, at returning to the market in search of a bigger contract. For both Dozier and the Nats, the bottom-line question is whether the 2018 season is merely a blip or the start of a decline for a player who had been a star-level performer for several prior seasons. Dozier says he’s fully recovered from a knee issue that may have led to “some bad habits,” calling his rough campaign “a good learning year.”
It’s well known that the Nationals hope to work out a long-term deal with third baseman Anthony Rendon before he reaches free agency next winter, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic wrote over the weekend (subscription required) that Rendon and agent Scott Boras have been eyeing something in the vicinity of Jose Altuve’s extension from a year ago. Altuve was already under contract for two years and $12.5MM at the time he signed for an additional five years and $151MM, which brought his current contract to a total of $163.5MM over seven years. The Nats are already just a few million dollars shy of the luxury tax threshold, and bumping Rendon’s annual value from the reported $18.8MM figure to which he agreed on Friday would likely take them over the limit. The Nats have been willing to exceed that threshold for Bryce Harper, however, and perhaps the allure of keeping Rendon from reaching the open market would be incentive enough to do the same. As Rosenthal explores, the two situations are also somewhat related, as fitting both players onto the payroll would come with luxury repercussions — even when factoring in the likely stream of subsequent moves that would follow a new contract for Harper (e.g. trading a current outfielder).
- While the Nationals have been connected to free-agent left-hander Wade Miley as a potential No. 5 starter, it’s doubtful they’ll add anyone else to their rotation on a guaranteed contract, Jamal Collier of MLB.com hears. That should rule out Miley and other free agents who are in line to receive major league deals, though Collier doesn’t close the door on the Nationals bringing in rotation candidates on minors pacts. Regardless, Washington’s starting staff is already in enviable shape, as the team has signed Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez to accompany Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and perhaps either Joe Ross or Erick Fedde.
SUNDAY: The Phillies are “clear-cut” favorites to sign Harper, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale hears from multiple sources. The Nationals, on the other hand, are fading in the sweepstakes, and team executives are calling it a “long shot” that he’ll re-sign with them. Nightengale reports. Washington isn’t prepared to pay Harper more than $25MM per year, Nightengale suggests. The Phillies, meanwhile, haven’t submitted a formal offer to Harper yet, but that should change during the upcoming week, according to Nightengale.
SATURDAY: After conducting a face-to-face meeting in Las Vegas with free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper on Saturday, the Phillies “remain optimistic” they’ll emerge from the offseason having signed him or free-agent infielder Manny Machado, Matt Breen of Philly.com reports. At the very least, the Phillies will be finalists for both Harper and Machado, Breen adds.
The Phillies entered the winter with owner John Middleton declaring that money wouldn’t stand in the way of upgrading a team which has missed the playoffs seven years in a row. And signing either Harper or Machado has always stood out as the clearest path to improving the Phillies’ roster, as the two 26-year-old superstars are easily the premier players on the open market. Given both the Phillies’ financial might and their need for at least one of those players, it’s “likely” they’ll put forth the richest offers for both Harper and Machado, according to Breen.
If the Phillies are only able to pick one, it’d be Machado, whom they “seem to prefer,” Breen writes. However, the Phillies have “signaled” to him that they are also interested in Harper – a move that Breen posits could pressure Machado to accept an offer from them. Notably, since the Phillies met with Machado in December, they’ve added one of his confidants to their staff, having hired former Orioles infield coach Bobby Dickerson in the same role. Dickerson was with the Orioles during Machado’s entire run with the team from 2012-18. Meanwhile, the White Sox – who look like the only other team seriously pursuing Machado – may have helped their chances this winter by acquiring the shortstop/third baseman’s brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and his friend Jon Jay. But if money, not personal ties, ends up being the deciding factor in where Machado goes, signs are pointing to Philadelphia. After all, the White Sox’s only known offer to date was reportedly worth closer to $200MM than $300MM, and it may take a proposal nearer to the latter amount to lure Machado.
As with Machado, Harper has fewer franchises going after him than expected this offseason. Still, at least four teams – the Phillies, White Sox, Nationals and Dodgers – look to be in the running. It seems the Nationals, with whom Harper has spent his whole career since going first overall in the 2010 draft, are particularly strong in the derby. As of earlier this week, the Nats were reportedly upping their efforts to re-sign Harper, to whom they’ve already extended at least one offer worth well north of $300MM. Reports have indicated the Dodgers aren’t keen on making a long-term commitment, on the other hand, meaning Harper may have to choose among the Phillies, White Sox and Nationals if he has any hope of landing a record-setting contract.
Reynolds joined the Nationals last February in a minor trade with the division-rival Mets, though he only went on to accrue 14 major league plate appearances in 2018. The 28-year-old spent most of the season at the Triple-A level, where he hit a solid .265/.355/.424 in 355 plate appearances. Overall, Reynolds owns a .283/.350/.420 line in 1,589 PAs at the highest level of the minors. But the 2012 second-round pick of the Mets has batted just .223/.295/.340 in 240 attempts in the majors.
JAN. 13: Dozier has passed his physical, making his one-year, $9MM deal official, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post tweets.
JAN. 10: An aggressive offseason for the Nationals continued Thursday, as the team reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with free-agent second baseman Brian Dozier. The All Bases Covered Sports Management client will reportedly receive a $9MM guarantee.
Dozier, 31, was one of the game’s premier second basemen from 2014-17, hitting a combined .254/.338/.476 with 127 home runs, 137 doubles, 14 triples, 67 stolen bases and a Gold Glove Award all under his belt in that time. He suffered a bone bruise in his knee early in the 2018 campaign but played through the injury, which may have impacted him at the plate; in 632 PAs split between the Twins and Dodgers last season, Dozier hit just .215/.305/.391 — including an especially anemic .182/.300/.350 slash with the Dodgers following a July 31 trade.
Washington represents something of a perfect fit for Dozier — a contending club that can offer everyday at-bats given the wide-open nature of their current second base situation. Prior to the agreement with Dozier, light-hitting Wilmer Difo and veteran Howie Kendrick looked to be in line for the lion’s share of work at the position.
Now, with Dozier in the fold, they’ll presumably revert to reserve roles for a Nationals club that has been aggressive in addressing weaknesses this offseason. Additionally, the Nationals needn’t feel any pressure to rush top prospect and presumptive long-term second baseman Carter Kieboom to the Majors. At the same time, the one-year term of today’s agreement allows them to address the second-base need without placing a longer-term roadblock in Kieboom’s path to the big leagues. And Dozier, meanwhile, will have the opportunity to rebuild his stock after a down season in 2018 before returning to the open market next winter. From that vantage point, it’s very much a win-win scenario for both the organization and Dozier himself.
If he’s able to bounce back to his previous levels of production, or even something close to it, he’ll provide the Nationals with a substantial upgrade over their incumbent options and deepen a lineup that has also added both Kurt Suzuki (a former teammate of Dozier’s) and Yan Gomes as options behind the plate. Washington has also signed the market’s best starter, Patrick Corbin, in addition to picking up righty Anibal Sanchez and adding relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Kyle Barraclough in what has been an exceptionally active offseason. The Nats reportedly haven’t entirely ruled out a reunion with Bryce Harper, either, so there could yet be some significant moves in the offing.
The addition of Dozier at a $9MM rate brings the Nationals ever closer to the $206MM luxury tax threshold, though as Jason Martinez projects at Roster Resource, the Nats are still about $3.5MM shy of that mark. Obviously, bringing Harper back into the fray would mean completely shattering that mark, though ownership likely views Harper as an exception and will ultimately make a determination on whether it’s worth incurring that penalty in order to retain the franchise icon.
Dozier entered free agency as a classic candidate to take a one-year “pillow” contract in an effort to restore his damaged stock, and the fit with the Nationals has long seemed a good one (as MLBTR noted when predicting that Dozier would land with the Nats on a one-year, $10MM deal at the outset of free agency). Now, with the Nationals just narrowly shy of the luxury threshold, he looks to be perhaps the final significant piece of the puzzle in D.C., barring a late push from ownership to re-sign Harper. The Nats have enough wiggle room that they could potentially add a particularly affordable reliever or bench piece if there’s a desirable veteran lingering on the market into Spring Training, but the team certainly can’t be keen on breaching the luxury tax barrier in order to add a complimentary piece.
The Padres persist in their dogged pursuit of Indians ace Corey Kluber, per MLB.com’s JP Morosi, who notes that the club would prefer to hold on to each of its top five prospects. The Tribe reportedly “have interest” in lefty Adrian Morejon, who, despite his status as a consensus top 50-75 prospect, wouldn’t fall into the aforementioned category in a loaded Padre farm. Still, it’s tough to see a deal consummated without one of those players; Cleveland, after all, has been widely reported to be seeking a Chris Sale-esque return for Kluber, and wouldn’t likely settle for even high-grade chaff. If the club is still interested in dealing the 32-year-old ace, the Padres would be seem a perfect fit: the club is loaded not only with blue-chip prospects, but also sport a glut of young, if underperforming, outfielders at every position. Morosi lists Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe as options, though the Tribe may also have its eyes on Franmil Reyes and Franchy Cordero, in addition to the richly-paid Wil Myers.
More from the Senior Circuit …
- In the same article, Morosi reports that the Dodgers still “remain involved” in discussions for Kluber. The club certainly boasts its share of high-level farm talent – though it can’t match the San Diego riches – but thus far, under the tenure of Baseball Ops President Andrew Friedman, has been altogether opposed to dealing from the top of its farm. Multiple high-level departures would be an unequivocal sea change for the boys in blue, who may be feeling the pressure from a desperate fanbase after so many near-misses in the recent past. Adding Kluber to the top of the team’s rotation without a 25-man prune has to be tempting for even the most measured of front offices, but the slotted five (Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, and Rich Hill) already rival any in the game.
- Though many executives questioned the veracity of the Nationals’ reported 10-year, $300MM offer to Bryce Harper on the last day of the season, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the offer was “indeed real,” and that the two sides continue to negotiate. Harper, it seems, would very much like to surpass the $325MM guaranteed to Giancarlo Stanton, though doesn’t appear to have the wind-ranging market he once envisioned. Some interested teams continue to disguise their intentions, but not the Cubs, who Rosenthal notes “would love” a shot at Harper, if only the front office could get the “unlikely” go-ahead from ownership.
- Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia details the Fightins’ unique relationship with agent Scott Boras over the years, which reached a tipping point over 1997’s bitter dispute with number two overall pick J.D. Drew. The Phillies, of course, are set to meet with Harper today in Las Vegas, and have long been considered the near-favorite for his services. Per Salisbury, the club plans to address recent reports that the 26-year-old star is not fond of Philadelphia, which would seem to strike a death knell to the team’s chances. Among all potential suitors with near-term competitive ambitions, the Phils have the greatest need – and, perhaps, the most available cash – for Harper, and perhaps the team’s recent amenability with Boras could tip the scales in its direction.
The deadline for players and teams to exchange arbitration figures passed yesterday at 1pm ET, and there has been a landslide of settlements on one-year deals to avoid an arbitration hearing. We’ll track those settlements from the National League in this post. Once all of the day’s settlements have filtered in, I’ll organize them by division to make them a bit easier to parse.
It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of teams have adopted a “file and trial” approach to arbitration, meaning that once arbitration figures are exchanged with a player, negotiations on a one-year deal will cease. The two parties may still discuss a multi-year deal after that point, but the majority of players who exchange figures with their team today will head to an arbitration hearing.
- Rounding out contract numbers for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dominic Leone will take home $1.26MM, Chasen Shreve will make $900K, and outfielder Marcell Ozuna will earn $12.25MM in his last season before free agency, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Ozuna has the most high-impact potential as he looks to rebound from a still-productive season in 2018 that saw his power output hindered at times by a balky shoulder. He still managed 23 home runs and a .280/.325/.433 slash line while playing just about every day outside of a 10-day DL stint late in August.
- The Diamondbacks came to terms with a slew of players, per Feinsand (via Twitter), including Matt Andriese for $920K, Steven Souza Jr. for $4.125MM, shortstop Nick Ahmed for $3.6625MM, and potential closer Archie Bradley for $1.83MM.
- The Rockies and starting pitcher Jon Gray have come to an agreement on a $2.935MM deal, per Feinsand (via Twitter). Gray had an up-and-down 2018 that is generally considered to be more promising than the optics of his 5.12 ERA make it seem.
- The Pirates have come to terms on one-year deals with both of their arbitration eligible players, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Left fielder Corey Dickerson signs for $8.5MM, and reliever Keone Kela takes home $3.175MM. It’s a small arb class for the Pirates, whose list will grow next season as players like Josh Bell, Jameson Taillon, and Joe Musgrove, among others, reach their first season of eligibility.
- The Dodgers signed a couple of their remaining arbitration-eligible players yesterday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter links). Utility man Chris Taylor has a $3.5MM deal, while outfield Joc Pederson settled at $5MM.