- Nationals manager Dusty Baker confirmed that the team will give Jacob Turner a spot start tonight while Stephen Strasburg is out on paternity leave, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes. While Turner’s track record in the Majors isn’t impressive, Baker suggested that the team wasn’t comfortable bringing someone up to make their first Major League start at Coors Field. “We thought about other guys, but we didn’t really want their first start in the big leagues to be in Colorado,” Baker said of that potentially daunting task. “He has big league experience and Stras is having a second child. If not, it would’ve been Stras out there.”
The Nationals’ bullpen is off to a dismal start to the season, with a collective 4.86 ERA through the season’s first three weeks. Blake Treinen has already been removed from the closer’s role, albeit with a relatively quick hook (he’s thrown just seven innings this year). Koda Glover and Shawn Kelley are presently sharing ninth-inning work, and they’re two of just three Nats relievers that have ERAs south of 5.00 to begin the year. (Matt Albers has not allowed a run in four innings.)
In light of those struggles, Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM reports that the Nats have “touched base” with multiple teams on their closers. Specifically, he cites a pair of names that are no stranger to trade rumors: David Robertson of the White Sox and Alex Colome of the Rays. However, Bowden adds that the Nats “aren’t even in the same ballpark” when it comes to the asking price on those players.
Robertson, 32, has allowed just one run through his first 6 2/3 innings this season and logged an impressive 12-to-3 K/BB ratio along the way. He’s earning $12MM this season (of which about $10.6MM remains) and will earn $13MM next year in the final season of a four-year, $46MM contract. The 28-year-old Colome, meanwhile, has yet to allow a run this year, though he’s curiously punched out just four hitters through nine innings after posting a gaudy 11.3 K/9 rate in a breakout 2016 campaign. He’s not yet arbitration eligible and can be controlled through the 2020 season, so it’s hardly surprising to hear that Tampa Bay’s asking price may be quite lofty.
As alternative options, Bowden lists Brandon Kintzler of the Twins, Brandon Maurer of the Padres and any of the Athletics’ late-inning arms, which include Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Santiago Casilla. It should be noted, though, that there’s no specific mention of trade talks with any of those clubs, so the suggestions seem fairly speculative in nature.
Furthermore, each of those names comes with a caveat. Kintzler’s experience as a closer is highly limited, and a year ago at this time he was in Triple-A after signing a minor league deal with Minnesota. As a free agent at season’s end, though, he’s a natural trade candidate. Maurer is controllable through 2019, which could create a significant asking price, and he hasn’t exactly established a track record of dominance himself. And when it comes to the A’s, Doolittle is on a terrific contract, while Madson’s three-year, $22MM looks to be an overpay. Casilla, meanwhile, can’t even be traded without his consent until June 15 given the fact that he only signed with Oakland as a free agent this past offseason (a two-year, $11MM deal).
The Nationals, according to Bowden, believe that the 24-year-old Glover can be their closer of the future, but there’s some question in the organization about whether it’s too early in his career to hand him the job. Glover has just 27 1/3 MLB innings under his belt and has been solid but not overpowering in that time; the former eighth-rounder has a 4.28 ERA, a 22-to-8 K/BB ratio and a 42 percent ground-ball rate in his young career.
- The Nationals will place righty Stephen Strasburg on the paternity leave list Monday, meaning he’ll miss his scheduled start Tuesday in Colorado, reports Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. Washington is likely to recall Jacob Turner to fill Strasburg’s void for a start, while the latter will return in time to take the mound either Friday or Saturday.
The Nationals announced that they have sent infielder Grant Green outright to Triple-A Syracuse. Washington designated the out-of-options Green for assignment on Friday, and he subsequently cleared waivers.
Green’s stay with the Nats this month lasted just over a week, aligning with the DL placements of shortstops Trea Turner and Stephen Drew. Once Turner came back, there was no longer a need for Green, who only appeared in two games and collected three plate appearances. A first-round pick of the Athletics in 2009 (No. 13 overall), Green has has cracked the majors in five straight seasons, but the journeyman has hit just .248/.283/.336 in 353 trips to the plate.
The 29-year-old Green spent last season with the Giants organization and slashed a respectable .319/.336/.454 in 364 PAs with their Triple-A club. Overall, he has hit an impressive .309/.351/.466 in 3,223 Triple-A PAs.
Financial reasons played a key role in the Nationals’ offseason decision to trade for then-White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton instead of the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen, reports FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (video link). With his $4MM salary this year, Eaton is much cheaper than McCutchen ($14MM), and acquiring the latter would have forced the Nationals to jettison left-hander Gio Gonzalez and his $12MM price tag in a separate deal, says Rosenthal. In addition to having concerns over how their payroll would have looked with McCutchen, the Nationals had no interest in meeting Pittsburgh’s lofty demands for the five-time All-Star. Washington bought high on Eaton, whose excellent 2016 helped convinced the club to give up high-end pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning for him. McCutchen, on the other hand, had a career-worst season last year, yet the Pirates wanted an even more impressive package for him than the Nationals sent the White Sox, according to Rosenthal. Pittsburgh held out for both pitching prospects and major leaguers, leading the Nats to go in another direction.
The health issues have begun to pile up for the Mets, who just began their first series of the year against the division-rival Nationals. Manager Terry Collins spoke with reporters (including MLB.com’s Danny Knobler) before the game and provided updates on several players:
- First baseman Lucas Duda is heading to the DL after hyperextending his elbow in a collision at first base on Wednesday. It’s not known how long he’s expected to miss, but clearly the expectation is he needs at least a ten-day layoff. While the hot-hitting, left-handed slugger will be missed in the lineup, he’s actually a fairly easy player to replace for New York given the presence of three left-handed corner outfielders — including Jay Bruce, who’s playing at first again tonight.
- Also hitting the 10-day DL is infielder Wilmer Flores, who is currently in the hospital for treatment of an infection in his right knee. It’s not immediately clear what it’ll take to get him back in working order, but he’s expected to remain hospitalized through the weekend, per the report.
- Coming up to fill in for that pair are utilityman T.J. Rivera and lefty Sean Gilmartin. The latter is expected to function in a relief role, but could see a spot start. Jacob deGrom was unable to take the hill tonight after coming down with a stiff neck, but he’ll try again tomorrow. If the seemingly minor issue still proves problematic, then Gilmartin will step into the rotation briefly.
- While those two DL placements were the only ones required at this point, there are several other key players who are too banged up to play tonight. Yoenis Cespedes will need a few days off to rest his hamstring, though it’s surely a good sign that he’s being kept on the active roster. Likewise, a hammy issue is holding back shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, though he’s expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow. And backstop Travis d’Arnaud’s bruised wrist left him unable to throw well enough to suit up tonight, though it seems he too will be back in short order. While the club has a skeleton crew tonight, they’ll seek to get by without further roster shakeups for the time being.
Green was summoned recently when Stephen Drew joined Turner on the disabled list, leaving the Nats in need of another infielder. He saw only limited action, but this does mark the fifth consecutive season in which Green has cracked the majors. While opportunities have been fairly sparse, the 29-year-old hasn’t shown the ability to carry his successes at the plate in the upper minors into the majors.
As for Turner, it ended up being only a brief stop on the DL. Hamstring injuries are always concerning, especially for a player who derives so much value from his legs. But the club was evidently confident enough to bring him back rather quickly. That said, Turner isn’t in the lineup this evening and will likely be handled with care.
- Speaking of the Nationals, Joel Sherman of the New York Post spoke to one team official who tells him that the Nats pursued Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon and David Robertson “very aggressively” this offseason but weren’t able to close either free-agent deal or swing a trade with the White Sox. Sherman notes that it’s somewhat surprising to see an expected division contender neglect to address its most obvious need in the offseason and writes that the Nationals may have little choice but to go beyond their comfort zone in trade talks for Robertson or another available closing option this summer. Sherman lists Tampa Bay’s Alex Colome as a speculative option, while FanRag’s Jon Heyman suggests that the Rays’ Brad Boxberger or the Cardinals’ Trevor Rosenthal make sense as on-paper fits. (Though Rosenthal, of course, is throwing quite well this season and there’s no guarantee the Cardinals would even be willing to move him.) Beyond those two speculative fits, Heyman adds that as of the end of Spring Training, there’d been no recent talks with the ChiSox regarding Robertson.
Yoenis Cespedes exited tonight’s game with a hamstring injury that was heavily wrapped after the contest, as Newsday’s Marc Carig notes (all Twitter links). Mets manager Terry Collins expressed some concern over the injury, Carig notes. Cespedes told reporters that he felt a “shock” in his leg, though he added that the current injury doesn’t feel as bad as previous hamstring issues that have sidelined him for four and five days at a time in prior seasons. Cespedes will receive an MRI in the morning, and Carig notes that doctors currently expect an absence of two to three days. The Mets have no shortage of outfielders on hand to cover a brief absence for Cespedes, with Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce and Juan Lagares all on the roster. Of course, none of those players comes with Cespedes’ upside at the plate, and his absence removes the Mets’ most potent right-handed bat from the lineup. And the fact that the Mets are slated to begin a three-game series with the division-rival Nationals this weekend, the timing of the injury is obviously poor.
- Trea Turner could be back at shortstop for the Nationals sooner rather than later. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com tweets, Turner played in extended spring action and was even able to swipe a bag. That’s certainly promising news, particularly given that Turner is on the DL owing to a hamstring strain.
The Nationals will no longer utilize Blake Treinen as the closer for the time being, manager Dusty Baker told reporters including Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com (Twitter links). Washington will utilize Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover in some form of ninth-inning time share.
A move in the late-inning mix seemed inevitable after Treinen struggled to find the zone last night. He has struggled quite a bit in the early going, allowing five earned runs on ten hits while allowing six free passes to go with his seven strikeouts.
Though Treinen is still working in his typical velocity range and producing loads of grounders, the contending Nats evidently don’t feel he’s ready to turn it around in the ninth. Presumably, the club will look to utilize him in the setup role in which he thrived last year.
Kelley and Glover could each stake an individual claim to the job, but the preference seems to be for a mix-and-match approach. The former has continued to rack up an outstanding K/BB ratio — presently, 13.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9) — but the Nats have long said they don’t view Kelley as a regular closer option due to his history of multiple Tommy John surgeries. Baker says the team prefers not to use him on consecutive nights, as Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com tweets.
That could leave the door open for Glover to grab the job and run with it, if he’s able to succeed in the opportunities he receives. The skipper is still hoping to utilize a single closer at some point, MLB.com’s Jamal Collier notes on Twitter. But the 24-year-old Glover won’t get the nod outright at this stage. He not only lacks substantial MLB experience, but has dealt with some minor injury issues (per Baker’s suggestion today).