Washington Nationals – MLB Trade Rumors https://www.mlbtraderumors.com Wed, 17 Oct 2018 01:46:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Janes: Nats May Have Less Financial Flexibility Than It Seems https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/beltway-notes-nationals-orioles-mesas.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/beltway-notes-nationals-orioles-mesas.html#comments Sun, 14 Oct 2018 17:12:09 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134786 The Nationals may not have as much financial flexibility as it seems this offseason, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post observes. The Nationals have $112MM committed to 23 players for next season, Janes estimates, adding that MLBTR’s projected salaries for their seven arbitration-eligible players push the number to $152MM. However, for competitive balance tax purposes, that figure would be closer to $140MM, per Janes, who writes that Washington does “not want to come close” to the CBT in 2019. In the end, Janes expects the Nationals to spend around $180MM, which could include their top free agent – superstar outfielder Bryce Harper – whom they want to re-sign. Regardless of whether Harper stays in D.C., the club will still need help in several other areas, Janes points out. However, thanks to the money that’s already on the Nats’ books, Janes cautions that it’s going to be difficult for them to spend freely this winter.

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Nationals Acquire Kyle Barraclough https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nationals-acquire-kyle-barraclough.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nationals-acquire-kyle-barraclough.html#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2018 16:46:53 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134512 The Nationals announced that they have acquired reliever Kyle Barraclough in a trade with the Marlins. $1MM of international bonus availability will head to Miami in the swap, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (via Twitter).

This transaction comes as a surprise, though the timing may well be explained by the Marlins’ well-known efforts to land top Cuban prospect Victor Victor Mesa. This’ll pad the team’s bonus coffers as it pursues Mesa — also a reputed target of the Orioles — and other talented amateur players who hail from outside of North America.

For the Nats, meanwhile, the move slots in a high-powered relief arm at a palatable price. The club was barred from spending more than $300K on the current international market regardless. And Barraclough projects to earn only $1.9MM in his first trip through arbitration.

Of course, there’s a reason that Barraclough was available for a return that doesn’t really sting his new club. The 28-year-old continued to show big velocity and swing-and-miss stuff in 2018 — he owns a career rate of 11.5 strikeouts per nine — but he continued to deal with major control problems and his results plummeted over the course of the season.

Indeed, after he held 170 opposing hitters to a putrid .126/.254/.217 slash to open the season, the next 75 to step in the box against Barraclough battered him to the tune of a .367/.486/.667 batting line. It’s hard to know just what went wrong, though some release-point issues seem to correlate with changes in the movement of his arsenal. This all occurred in the same general mid-season timeframe as Barraclough’s dip in effectiveness and trip to the DL for a shoulder impingement.

For the Nats, then, this move injects a rather volatile piece into the bullpen. There’s certainly some upside, though; indeed, Barraclough has delivered 218 2/3 innings of 3.21 ERA ball in his career despite the fact that he has consistently issued more than five free passes per nine innings. If he pans out, he’ll also be controllable for two additional seasons.

Surely, the Marlins hoped not long ago that they’d be able to get more for a controllable power arm with high-leverage experience. Unfortunately, though, they ultimately decided to cash him in at a moment when there was an opportunity to take a more future-oriented risk. In some regards, that’s not so different from the reasoning that brought Barraclough to Miami in the first place, when he was picked up in a mid-season deal that sent then-struggling closer Steve Cishek to the Cardinals.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Players Electing Free Agency https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/players-electing-free-agency.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/players-electing-free-agency.html#comments Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:20:27 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134405 Quite a few players will hit the open market this fall, and they’ll do so by way of varying mechanisms. The end of the regular season triggered a recent wave of free agents, consisting of a certain subset of players — namely, those who were outrighted from 40-man rosters during the season and accepted minor-league assignments at that time despite having the right to elect free agency. Players in that situation are entitled instead to hit the open market at season’s end, if they were not added back to the 40-man roster in the meantime.

As conveyed by Matt Eddy of Baseball America, who also covers quite a few other minor moves, these players have now elected free agency:

Athletics: RHP Raul Alcantara, LHP Danny Coulombe

Blue Jays: RHP Mike Hauschild, INF/OF Darnell Sweeney

Braves: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Miguel Socolovich

Cardinals: LHP Tyler Lyons

Indians: RHP Evan Marshall, RHP Alexi Ogando

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman, LHP Ross Detwiler, RHP Mike Morin, INF Zach Vincej

Marlins: OF JB Shuck

Mets: RHP Chris Beck, OF Bryce Brentz, RHP Scott Copeland, OF Matt den Dekker, INF Ty Kelly

Nationals: LHP Tommy Milone, OF Moises Sierra, RHP Carlos Torres

Orioles: RHP Jhan Marinez, INF Luis Sardinas

Padres: OF Matt Szczur

Phillies: INF Trevor Plouffe

Pirates: LHP Buddy Boshers, RHP Casey Sadler, RHP A.J. Schugel

Rangers: C Juan Centeno, LHP Anthony Gose, RHP Drew Hutchison, INF Tommy Joseph, RHP Chris Rowley

Rays: INF Brandon Snyder, RHP Ryan Weber

Reds: C Tim Federowicz, RHP Kevin Quackenbush

Tigers: INF Dixon Machado, RHP Jacob Turner

White Sox: RHP Tyler Danish

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Joaquin Benoit May Retire https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nl-notes-cardinals-nats-benoit-giants-panik.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nl-notes-cardinals-nats-benoit-giants-panik.html#comments Sun, 07 Oct 2018 15:09:27 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134299
  • While nothing’s official, it’s “pretty clear” pending free-agent reliever Joaquin Benoit will retire, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes. The 41-year-old Benoit joined the Nationals on a $1MM guarantee last winter, but a shoulder injury prevented him from throwing a pitch for the team during the regular season. Had Benoit been younger, he likely would have undergone surgery and then rehabbed his way back, general manager Mike Rizzo said last week. Understandably, though, Benoit doesn’t want to fight through a lengthy recovery period at his age. If the journeyman’s career is over, it’ll conclude with a 3.83 ERA, 212 holds and 53 saves over 1,068 2/3 innings.
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    Mets To Interview De Jon Watson For GM Position https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/quick-hits-mets-watson-ng-twins-rowson-cubs.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/quick-hits-mets-watson-ng-twins-rowson-cubs.html#comments Sat, 06 Oct 2018 04:59:59 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134193
  • The Mets will interview Nationals special assistant De Jon Watson as part of their GM search on Wednesday, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (via Twitter).  Still just 52 years old, Watson has a wealth of front office experience dating back to the early 90’s, working as a scout, scouting director, assistant GM (with the Dodgers) and senior VP of baseball operations (with the Diamondbacks) before spending the last two seasons in Washington’s front office.
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    Mike Rizzo Didn't Want Bob Miller To Be Dismissed https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/phillies-rumors-manny-machado-bryce-harper-free-agency-andy-macphail.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/phillies-rumors-manny-machado-bryce-harper-free-agency-andy-macphail.html#comments Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:26:58 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=134102
  • Following yesterday’s report that the Nationals decided not to renew the contract of assistant GM Bob Miller, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports that GM Mike Rizzo didn’t want Miller to leave the organization (likely indicating it was an ownership decision). Miller, as Janes explains, was instrumental in helping to orchestrate the trade that netted the Nationals both Trea Turner and Joe Ross, and he was also involved in contract negotiations, among other key front-office responsibilities.  The Nats also let go of advance scout Chris Rosenbaum, Janes reports.
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    Nationals Won't Renew Contract Of Assistant GM Bob Miller https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/quick-hits-mets-melvin-nationals-lucroy-dunning.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/quick-hits-mets-melvin-nationals-lucroy-dunning.html#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2018 19:58:45 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133991
  • The Nationals are parting ways with assistant GM Bob Miller, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) reports that the Nats didn’t renew Miller’s contract.  Miller has worked in Washington for the last four seasons, and has longstanding ties with Nats GM Mike Rizzo when the two worked together with in Diamondbacks organization.  Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter link) describes Miller as Rizzo’s “right-hand man” in the front office and the team’s “rules guru,” also crediting Miller with the trade that brought Trea Turner and Joe Ross to the Nationals.
    • The Nationals are parting ways with assistant GM Bob Miller, as The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link) reports that the Nats didn’t renew Miller’s contract.  Miller has worked in Washington for the last four seasons, and has longstanding ties with Nats GM Mike Rizzo when the two worked together with in Diamondbacks organization.  Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter link) describes Miller as Rizzo’s “right-hand man” in the front office and the team’s “rules guru,” also crediting Miller with the trade that brought Trea Turner and Joe Ross to the Nationals.
    • White Sox pitching prospect Dane Dunning’s season was cut short by an elbow sprain, but after rehabbing the injury, Dunning tells The Athletic’s James Fegan (subscription required) that he is hopeful of avoiding surgery altogether.  Dunning may even get a few instruction league innings under his belt just to test his arm before the offseason.  The 29th overall pick of the 2016 draft, Dunning came to Chicago as part of the trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals, and his prospect stock has since been on the rise.  He cracked the preseason top-100 prospect lists from Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and MLB.com prior to 2018, and then posted a 2.71 ERA, 3.85 K/BB rate, and 10.4 K/9 over 86 1/3 combined innings at A-ball and Double-A this season.
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    Zuckerman On Bryce Harper's Pending Free Agency https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nl-notes-dodgers-roberts-mets-marlins-dietrich-nats-harper.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nl-notes-dodgers-roberts-mets-marlins-dietrich-nats-harper.html#comments Wed, 03 Oct 2018 01:49:42 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133943
  • Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com provides a primer on Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper’s upcoming trip to free agency, listing several teams that could pursue the soon-to-be 26-year-old if he leaves the Nats. However, there’s real affection between the Nationals and Harper, notes Zuckerman, which could lead to a re-signing. Zuckerman wonders if Washington would be better off using the money it would allocate to Harper on multiple other areas of the roster, though, pointing out that the club would likely boast a quality outfield even without the six-time All-Star. Should Harper depart, the Nats wouldn’t receive much in the way of compensation, as Zuckerman writes. Assuming it stayed under the $197MM competitive-balance tax this year, Washington would get a compensatory pick before the third round of the 2019 draft. Otherwise, the team would land a selection after the fourth round.
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    Nationals Notes: Harper, Strasburg, Offseason https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nationals-notes-harper-strasburg-offseason.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/10/nationals-notes-harper-strasburg-offseason.html#comments Mon, 01 Oct 2018 20:05:41 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133825 Bryce Harper recently spoke about his love for the Washington, D.C. and for the Nationals organization, plainly stating that he hopes to remain there beyond the 2018 season but also adding that he “[has] no idea” if he’s a part of the front office’s plans moving forward. General manager Mike Rizzo responded in candid fashion yesterday in talking with reporters (link via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post). “Of course he’s in our plans,” said the GM. “He’s a part of our family. … Like I’ve always said, with these type of deals, you’re not betting on the baseball player; you’re betting on the person. He’s a person we’d like to have with us.” Rizzo, of course, didn’t make any definitive statements about the possibility of re-signing Harper. And as Janes points out, such a massive financial decision will ultimately be an ownership-level decision.

    More on the Nats…

    • In a second column, Janes speaks with Stephen Strasburg about the shoulder injury that sidelined him earlier this season and has resulted in a notable velocity drop since his return from the disabled list. Strasburg acknowledges that his stuff is diminished at present but adds that he’s optimistic about recovering his lost zip on his heater. “I think it’ll come back. 100 percent, just based on what the doctors said I’ve been dealing with,” said Strasburg. Still, the Nats need to determine how much they can count on from Strasburg next season, Janes writes, and the answer to that question will likely impact the team’s offseason maneuverings.
    • As ever, the Nationals will have a fair bit of financial resources at their disposal this offseason, but with numerous holes around the roster, they’ll likely have to turn to the trade market as well, writes Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. Rizzo addressed that need following yesterday’s game as well, voicing confidence that the Nats have the farm system to upgrade where necessary. “We have an extremely popular minor league system,” said Rizzo. “We certainly have players with trade value. But we’re going to attack this from every different angle: free agency, trades, internal options.” Rizzo added that he believes the 2018 season to be “an anomaly” and that the organization once again compete for a division title next season.
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    Mike Rizzo On Dave Martinez, Bryce Harper https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/nl-notes-kershaw-nats-harper-reds-girardi.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/nl-notes-kershaw-nats-harper-reds-girardi.html#comments Sun, 30 Sep 2018 20:12:50 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133720
  • This season will end up as a major disappointment for the Nationals, who entered as expected contenders but will miss the playoffs under first-year manager Dave Martinez. Nevertheless, Martinez and his staff are safe going into the offseason, general manager Mike Rizzo told Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com and other reporters on Sunday. It’s anyone’s guess whether Martinez will continue to manage superstar outfielder Bryce Harper, a pending free agent, in 2019. Unsurprisingly, though, Rizzo wants Harper to remain in the fold. “Of course he’s in our plans,” Rizzo said of Harper (Twitter link via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post).
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    Past, Present & Future: National League Closer Turnover https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/past-present-future-national-league-closer-turnover.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/past-present-future-national-league-closer-turnover.html#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2018 22:40:26 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133467 While a new breed of pitcher, one who can rack up holds, strikeouts and throw multiple innings, is beginning to emerge as an integral role on a baseball roster, becoming the “closer” is still the ultimate goal for a Major League relief pitcher. The closer gets the entrance music. The closer gets the congratulatory hug from the catcher after the third out, followed by handshakes from every teammate. Closers get paid! Most importantly, being the closer usually means that your manager trusts you above all other pitchers in that bullpen.

    Give up a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and your team still has a chance to pick you up. The later in the game a players fails, the better chance that mistake will stand out to anyone watching. It will be in the headlines. Fantasy Baseball owners will want to know who is “next in line.”  And for a team that has fought tooth and nail to get to the ninth inning with a lead, it can be debilitating if the last pitcher standing can’t close things out. Managers don’t have much patience for blown saves, either. There is a lot of pressure and a lot of turnover, which is why most teams won’t have the same closer in September as they did on Opening Day.

    Here’s a look back at each National League team’s closer situation on Opening Day versus where they are now and where they will be as they head into the offseason. (We ran through the American League earlier this week.)

    [Related: MLB closer depth chart at Roster Resource]

    Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Boxberger
    September 2018: Committee — Yoshihisa Hirano, Archie Bradley, Boxberger

    Future Outlook: The Diamondbacks opted to keep their best reliever, Bradley, in a setup role while plugging offseason acquisition Boxberger into the closer’s role. For the majority of the season, things went according to plan. That duo, along with Hirano and lefties Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland, were a strength on a team that led the NL West on September 1. But as the bullpen has fallen apart over the past few weeks, the team has quickly descended in the standings and fallen out of the playoff hunt.

    As a result, the D-backs will head into the offseason with their closer situation somewhat up in the air. Overall, Boxberger, Bradley and Hirano have each been mostly effective and can still be counted on as valuable late-inning relievers. The D-backs will need to decide if they want add a better ninth inning option, though with numerous holes to fill as key players like A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin depart via free agency, the team could decide it has bigger needs.

    Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Arodys Vizcaino
    September 2018: Arodys Vizcaino

    Future Outlook: Vizcaino was entrenched as the Braves’ closer to start the season, and he’s seemingly back in as the Braves prepare for their first playoff series since 2013. A.J. Minter proved to be a capable fill-in during both of Vizcaino’s disabled list stints. For a time, he even appeared to be more of a co-closer with a healthy Vizcaino on the roster, presenting a very formidable righty-lefty combination in the late innings.

    With a solid group of relievers, including Minter, Jesse Biddle, Shane Carle and Dan Winkler, all under contract for next season and the chance that one or two of their enticing young prospects could help out of the ’pen, the Braves appear to be in good shape in 2019. They could be tempted, however, to bring back free agent Craig Kimbrel, who had 186 saves, four All-Star appearances and won the NL Rookie of the Year award during a five-year stint with the team from 2010-2014.

    Chicago Cubs Cubs Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brandon Morrow
    September 2018: Committee — Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Steve Cishek, etc.

    Future Outlook: The offseason signing of Morrow came with significant risk due to his long history of injuries and a heavy postseason workload (14 appearances) with the Dodgers in 2017. And while the Cubs did their best not to overuse him—he made back-to-back appearances just six times and pitched on three consecutive days only once—his season ended in mid-July due to a bone bruise in his elbow and biceps inflammation.

    Pedro Strop was up to the task as the fill-in closer—he had a 1.77 ERA and 11 saves in 13 chances after Morrow went on the disabled list—but a strained hamstring ended his regular season on September 13. He could return for the playoffs. In the meantime, the Cubs have been mixing and matching in the late innings, at times relying on journeymen like Chavez and De La Rosa as they try to hold off the Brewers in the NL Central race.

    Morrow and Strop will be back in the picture in 2018—Strop’s $6.25MM club option will almost certainly be exercised—as will setup men Carl Edwards Jr. and Cishek. Finding a left-hander who can close, if necessary, might be on the team’s agenda. Zach Britton could be a target if that’s the case.

    Cincinnati Reds | Reds Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Raisel Iglesias
    September 2018: Raisel Iglesias

    Future Outlook: Iglesias has had three consecutive good seasons out of the bullpen with 63 saves in 71 opportunities. The Reds, however, have been in last place with less than 70 wins in each of those years, making Iglesias’ contributions less significant.

    If the Reds are confident that they can be a much better team in 2019, it makes perfect sense to hold on to the 28-year-old right-hander—he’s under team control through 2021—and make him available via trade only if they fall out of contention during the season. Since he’s been able to stay healthy as a relief pitcher—not to mention that there is no clear “next in line” closer in the organization—they’re be better off leaving things as they are rather than experimenting with a move back to the rotation. The ninth inning should belong to Iglesias again come Opening Day 2019.

    Colorado Rockies Rockies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Wade Davis
    September 2018: Wade Davis

    Future Outlook: Despite a few rough patches along the way, the 33-year-old Davis has 42 saves for the first-place Rockies and has been on a roll when it counts the most. In his last 17 appearances, he’s 10-for-10 in save chances with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings and only one earned run allowed.

    Davis is still guaranteed $36MM over the next two seasons—he’ll also get another $14MM in 2021 if he finishes 30 games in 2020—so his mid-season struggles and continued decrease in fastball velocity (95.9 MPH in ’15; 94.9 MPH in ’16, 94.3 MPH in ’17; 93.8 MPH in ’18) are a concern. He has done enough to hold on to the closing job for 2019, but it would be a good idea to have a backup plan in place. Adam Ottavino, the team’s most valuable reliever with a 2.47 ERA, six saves and 33 holds, will be a free agent after the season. Re-signing him or replacing him with a top free agent will be difficult considering that Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both disappointments thus far, signed $27MM contracts last offseason. They could rely heavily on Seunghwan Oh, who recently had his $2.5MM option vest for 2019 and has been very good since being acquired from Toronto in July.

    Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Kenley Jansen
    September 2018: Kenley Jansen

    Future Outlook: Jansen allowed six earned runs with two blown saves and a loss in his first seven appearances of 2018. He missed 13 days in August due to an irregular heart beat that will likely require offseason surgery. Upon his return, he allowed seven earned runs with two losses and a blown save over four appearances. And yet, the 30-year-old right-hander has 37 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA for a Dodgers team that is fighting for a playoff spot as we head into the last weekend of the regular season.

    Jansen’s occasional struggles on the mound and health concerns only magnified the team’s inability to replace Morrow, who was their primary setup man and bullpen workhorse last post-season. Setup relievers seem likely to be an area of focus this winter, and the Dodgers will be keeping their fingers crossed that Jansen comes back strong in what will be year three of a five-year, $80MM contract.

    Miami Marlins Marlins Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Ziegler
    September 2018: Co-Closers — Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley

    Future Outlook: It’s not clear why the rebuilding Marlins stuck with the veteran Ziegler through a rocky two-month stint as the closer to begin the season. Even though he had just one blown save in 10 chances when he was removed from the role, he had an ERA near 8.00 and Kyle Barraclough, next in line, had a 1.48 ERA. If they had any reluctance to turn it over to Barraclough, he showed why that might’ve been the case by losing the job two months later.

    After locking down all seven save chances while allowing just one hit over 12 scoreless innings in June, Barraclough fell apart in July. Over his next 13 appearances, he blew four saves and allowed 14 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings before the Marlins decided on a closer-by-committee approach in early August. Steckenrider and Conley lead the team with four and two saves, respectively, since Barraclough was removed from the closer’s role. Both pitchers have an ERA over 5.00 in the second half, however, so it’s very likely that the team will look to find a more reliable option during the offseason.

    Milwaukee Brewers Brewers Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Corey Knebel
    September 2018: Committee — Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader

    Future Outlook: Knebel suffered a hamstring injury during his third appearance of the season, forcing him to the disabled list for a month. By the time he returned, Hader and Jeffress had each established that they were more than capable of picking up the slack if Knebel could not return to his 2017 form. And this did prove to be the case. The 26-year-old Knebel, sharing the closer’s role with Hader and Jeffress, had a 5.08 ERA through August 31st. September has been a different story, however, as Knebel has allowed just four hits and three walks over 13 1/3 scoreless innings with 26 strikeouts. Regardless of how things go in the playoffs, the Brewers appear set with the same trio of late-inning relievers heading into 2019.

    New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Jeurys Familia
    September 2018: Committee — Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Anthony Swarzak

    Future Outlook: The return of Familia, who missed time in 2017 due to a 15-game suspension and a three-and-a-half month-stint on the disabled list, was supposed to help propel the Mets back into playoff contention. While things have not gone swimmingly for the Mets, Familia’s comeback has actually gone quite well. He posted a 2.88 ERA with 17 saves for the Mets, was traded to Oakland in July and should be headed for a decent payday in free agency this offseason.

    The Mets, coincidentally, will likely be in the market for a closer, although it’s not known whether they or Familia would be open to a reunion. Gsellman has held his own as the primary closer, saving eight of nine games since Familia’s departure, but probably isn’t the long-term answer. Lugo has been terrific out of the ’pen, although his best role could be as a multi-inning setup man for whoever the team’s next closer will be.

    Philadelphia Phillies Phillies Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hector Neris
    September 2018: Committee – Neris, Seranthony Dominguez, Tommy Hunter, etc.

    Future Outlook: Neris was 8-for-10 in save chances with three losses and an ERA over 5.00 in mid-May when manager Gabe Kapler declared that he would no longer have a set closer. It didn’t take long for rookie Seranthony Dominguez to emerge as the most significant part of the group, pitching 14 2/3 scoreless innings with only two hits allowed, no walks and 16 strikeouts to begin his MLB career. He would falter as the season progressed, though, leaving Kapler to rely more on veterans Hunter and Pat Neshek down the stretch.

    Considering that Dominguez was a starting pitching prospect with no experience in the upper minors prior to the 2018 season, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think he can take a big leap forward and solidify the closer’s job for a full season. But with expectations for the Phillies likely to be in the high-to-extremely-high range, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Phillies pursue a more established free agent to close out games.

    Pittsburgh Pirates Pirates Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Felipe Vazquez
    September 2018: Felipe Vazquez

    Future Outlook: Vazquez signed a $22MM contract extension in the offseason and changed his name in April. By the end of May, Vazquez had an ERA near 5.00 and four blown saves. There wasn’t the normal negative buzz that surrounds most closers after blowing a save or two, though. He had only allowed an earned run in four of 24 appearances and the Pirates were playing much better than expected. He was also dealing with forearm discomfort and, of course, was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball in 2017. He earned that long leash. Over his last 44 appearances, the 27-year-old lefty has a 1.77 ERA and 26 saves in 27 chances. Yep– still one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

    With three games to go, Vazquez is two appearances shy of reaching at least 70 games for the third consecutive season. He pitched both ends of a double-header twice in 2018 and pitched three consecutive days on three occasions, including two days after experiencing the forearm pain. The acquisition of Keone Kela and the emergence of Kyle Crick and Richard Rodriguez as reliable setup men should help ease Vazquez’s workload in 2019.

    San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart 

    Opening Day 2018: Brad Hand
    September 2018: Kirby Yates

    Future Outlook: While Hand’s offseason contract extension removed any sense of urgency that the Padres had to trade him, it also made him a much more valuable trade chip. After saving 24 games and posting a 3.05 ERA with 13.2 K/9 in 41 appearances, Hand was traded to the Indians for catcher Francisco Mejia, one of the top prospects in baseball. Yates stepped into the closer’s role, although there was a decent chance that it would be a short stint with 12 days to go until the non-waiver trade deadline and several contending teams potentially interested in acquiring him. The 31-year-old stayed put, though, giving him an extended opportunity to prove himself as an MLB closer. He’s passed the test with flying colors, saving 10 games in 11 chances—he has 12 saves overall—while continuing to strike out more than 12 batters per nine innings.

    The Padres, who currently have 95 losses, aren’t likely to build a legitimate playoff contender during the offseason. However, they’re far enough into their rebuild that they’ll want to go into 2019 with a team that can at least be .500. In that case, holding on to Yates would be smart, although general manager A.J. Preller will surely be willing to pull the trigger on a deal if a team meets his asking price.

    San Francisco Giants Giants Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Hunter Strickland
    September 2018: Will Smith

    Future Outlook: With Mark Melancon on the disabled list to begin the season, the Giants turned to Strickland as their closer. For the most part, he did a fine job, but his days as a closer swiftly came to an end, at least for the near future, on June 18th. Strickland entered the game with a two-run lead over the Marlins, an ERA just over 2.00 and 13 saves in 16 chances. After allowing three earned runs in the eventual 5-4 loss, he punched a door in frustration and fractured his hand. Upon returning in mid-August, Smith had 10 saves and a strong grasp on the closer’s gig.

    Smith will likely be the front-runner to keep the job in ’19 with Melancon also firmly in the mix given his experience and his sizable contract (four years, $62MM). He’s not quite back to his pre-injury form, but Melancon has a 3.08 ERA in 40 appearances.

    St. Louis Cardinals Cardinals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Committee — Dominic Leone, Tyler LyonsBud Norris
    September 2018: Carlos Martinez

    Future Outlook: The committee was supposed to be temporary while Greg Holland, who signed a one-year contract in late March, worked his way back into shape with a Minor League stint. Holland, though, was brought to the Majors before he was ready and never looked right with the Cardinals. He walked four in his St. Louis debut and never quite recovered. Norris, as he did in 2017 with the Angels, quickly separated himself from the other closer options and proved to be a steady force in the ninth inning with 28 saves and a sub-3.00 ERA through August. The 33-year-old ran out of gas, though, forcing the team to use a temporary committee in early September. Martinez, who returned from a disabled list stint to pitch out of the bullpen in late August, has emerged as the team’s primary closer as they fight for a Wild Card spot.

    It’s highly unlikely that Martinez, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starter, will remain in the bullpen beyond this season. Barring any injury concerns, he’s just too good as a starting pitcher. Rookie Jordan Hicks, who has dazzled with his 100+ MPH sinking fastball, is a good bet to be the team’s closer at some point. It’s just not certain that the Cardinals will trust him enough at the beginning of the 2019 campaign, which could put them in the market for a stop-gap closer this offseason.

    Washington Nationals Nationals Depth Chart

    Opening Day 2018: Sean Doolittle
    September 2018: Sean Doolittle

    Future Outlook: Doolittle was the Nationals’ closer on Opening Day, an NL All-Star selection in July, and he’s the Nationals’ closer as we enter the last weekend of the regular season. You’d figure things went pretty well for the Nats in 2018. But you’d be wrong.

    A stress reaction in Doolittle’s foot forced him out of the All-Star game and out of action for a majority of the second half. When he returned in September, the Nats were out of the playoff chase. Five different relievers, including Kelvin Herrera, picked up saves while Doolittle was out. Brandon KintzlerRyan Madson and Shawn Kelley were all traded, and Herrera suffered a season-ending foot injury in late August.

    Doolittle will be back in 2019—his $6MM club option will surely be exercised—and should jump right back into the ninth-inning role unless the Nats make a bold acquisition for another closer. In all likelihood, they’ll bring in another veteran setup man to help out a group that includes Koda Glover and Justin MillerGreg Holland is one possibility. He has been a pleasant surprise since signing with the team in early August (0.89 ERA in 23 appearances) .

    POTENTIAL FREE-AGENT CLOSER OPTIONS
    Nate Jones (if $4.65MM club option is declined)
    Joe Kelly
    Craig Kimbrel
    Ryan Madson
    Andrew Miller
    Fernando Rodney (if $4.25MM club option is declined)
    Sergio Romo
    Trevor Rosenthal
    Joakim Soria (if $10MM mutual option is declined)
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    East Notes: Rendon, deGrom, Wendle, Rays Stadium https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/east-notes-rendon-degrom-wendle-rays-stadium.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/east-notes-rendon-degrom-wendle-rays-stadium.html#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 18:25:05 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133571 As I noted in discussing him recently as an extension candidateNationals third baseman Anthony Rendon remains an underappreciated star despite turning in another fantastic effort in 2018. That’s largely a reflection of his own preferences, of course, so it’s fascinating to see Rendon open up a bit in a chat with Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. He describes himself as a lover of the game who is simply “not a fan of everyone treating you different because you play a sport” and only “want[s] to be normal.” (Indeed, he only took this interview to promote the Nats’ youth academy.) That’s not to say that Rendon isn’t interested in a lengthy career, but he clearly seems more concerned with the upbringing of a young family than maximizing earnings. He emphasized, too, that he’s not interested in turning over his professional direction to agent Scott Boras. What that all means for the future isn’t yet clear — from the team’s perspective, one official calls Rendon “an enigma” — but it’s undeniably relevant. Rendon is eligible for arbitration one final time this winter.

    The article is essential reading for fans of the Nationals — or of other teams who wonder whether they might one day hope to cheer for the 28-year-old. In other chatter from the game’s eastern divisions …

    • Speaking of hypothetical extension candidates, there aren’t many more prominent targets than Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who just wrapped up a season for the ages. Andy Martino of SNY.tv examines the situation, noting that the club will first need to resolve its front office before deciding how to proceed. Certainly, it still seems possible that a new contract or a trade could make sense, though it’s also conceivable that the Mets will simply work out an arbitration price. As for deGrom, Martino writes that he “wants to both win and be paid fair market value.” Of course, determining a market price is an interesting proposition, especially since we haven’t seen a pitcher of this quality in quite this contractual situation (two remaining control years) ink an extension in some time. Those interested in considering some recent major contracts can click here to find a list of starters who have signed extensions of $75MM or more in guaranteed money.
    • The Rays obviously saw something to like in infielder Joey Wendle when they acquired him over the winter, but as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, even they were surprised by his breakout showing in 2018. Senior VP Chaim Bloom explains that Wendle has been “even better than we expected” in most areas — in particular, at the plate — such that “the whole thing has been more than we could have asked for.” That seems fair to say, given that Wendle was acquired for a song and has been among the game’s best rookie performers (as we recently discussed here). It’s an interesting piece on a notable player that includes some quotes from some of Wendle’s former teammates in the A’s organization.
    • In other Rays news, also via Topkin, principal owner Stuart Sternberg gave a bit of an update on the team’s stadium-building plans. The initial announcement, of course, wasn’t quite like the definitive ones we’ve seen from some other clubs in recent years. Presenting a vision was presumably aimed at the key aspect of the project that needs to be determined: funding. Sternberg says the club anticipates paying “well north” of a $150MM figure he has previously suggested. But the park project is estimated at $892MM, so there’s a gulf still to be bridged. In addition to working with municipalities, Sternberg says “corporate support is going to be paramount to all of this and that is still a work in progress as well.” The hope seemingly remains to resolve a direction by the end of the calendar year.
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    MLBTR Poll: Likelihood Of Bryce Harper Returning To Nationals https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/mlbtr-poll-likelihood-bryce-harper-return-nationals.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/mlbtr-poll-likelihood-bryce-harper-return-nationals.html#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2018 16:51:10 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133569 Last night, Bryce Harper and the Nationals played their final home game in a lost season. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes, it was somewhat anticlimactic — and, for the same reason, perhaps appropriate for a club that has fallen well short of expectations.

    To this point, both Harper and the Nats have expressed ample mutual admiration. But there’s no particular reason to think that the sides will line up on a late-breaking extension to keep Harper from reaching free agency. While that can’t be ruled out entirely, it seems far likelier that the 25-year-old will be issued, and will then decline, a qualifying offer.

    Of course, the relationship could be re-started from the open market. Harper clearly seems open to considering a return, at least, and the team surely isn’t eager to part with a franchise-altering superstar. At the same time, practicalities — including the allure of other teams (and contract offers), on the one hand, and a ready-made replacement outfield unit in DC, on the other — could well make this an opportune moment for both sides to wish the other a fond farewell.

    There’s time yet to consider Harper’s place in the broader market, including contract valuation and the best potential suitors. We’ll be assessing that closely over the coming months. For now, it seems a more appropriate time to gauge the sense of MLBTR readers on a simpler question — Harper’s likelihood of returning to the Nats — in a thoroughly unscientific manner. How would you characterize the situation as the ’18 campaign draws to a close?

    (Link for app users.)

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    Bryce Harper Discusses Upcoming Free Agency https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/bryce-harper-discusses-upcoming-free-agency.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/bryce-harper-discusses-upcoming-free-agency.html#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2018 02:44:50 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133484 Though he has made it a policy this season not to discuss his forthcoming trip onto the open market, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper sat down recently for an interesting chat with Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post. With the clock ticking on the 2018 season, and perhaps also his time with the D.C. organization, Harper struck a distinctly nostalgic tone with the veteran WaPo reporter.

     

    Harper certainly does not sound eager to set out in search of a new organization — which isn’t to say he has ruled out that possibility. “I think about other cities,” the 25-year-old tells Svrluga, “but I love it here.” (Emphasis in original.)

    Over the course of a 30-minute interview, Harper talked of coming of age in the nation’s capital and left little doubt that he’d be comfortable staying in his adopted home. Credit Svluga for finding a new angle in the Harper free agency saga, highlighting Harper’s vulnerability in a way rarely seen from the usually-poker-faced slugger. Svrluga presents Harper as a “homebody,” content most evenings kicking back with his wife.

    If there’s uncertainty, Harper seemed to suggest over the course of the chat, it resides less in his heart than in the Nationals organization’s roster schematics. “I would love to play next to Robles or Soto or Eaton. I’d love to,” Harper said of his current outfield mates (and collective potential replacements). “But am I in those plans? I have no idea.”

    Of course, the Nationals front office hasn’t exactly been shy in its own courtship, so there’s perhaps a bit of gamesmanship afoot here as well. President of baseball operations Mike Rizzo elected not to trade Harper even as the organization moved other key veterans. Perhaps the organization recognized that, as Harper emphasized to Svrluga, D.C. is all that he knows as a ballplayer. More recently, Rizzo created some waves by (according to the interpretation of some) hinting at a possible new deal with Harper. That was and is a questionable read of his comments, but Rizzo didn’t leave much doubt as to the club’s preferences, saying: “We love Harp. I love him personally and professionally and of course we’d love to see him here long term.”

    This certainly must be a bizarre time for Harper as he plays out the string of the 2018 season alongside teenage phenom Juan Soto and consensus top prospect Victor Robles, Harper may be cementing his legacy as the centerpiece of the MLB’s most enticing future outfield trio – or he may be playing alongside his eventual replacements.

    This season has largely been seen as a disappointment for Harper. Even as he won the Home Run Derby in front of his home fans, talk focused on free agency and his (at the time) shockingly-low .214 batting average. The Nationals, meanwhile, were barely keeping their heads above water, hanging around the .500 mark en route to underperforming relative to their Pythagorean W-L by eight wins. The Nats never did find the next gear, missing the playoffs for just the third time in Harper’s Washington tenure.

    Offensively, Harper’s overall numbers have bounced back, but it’s been a curious season for the superstar. He received semi-regular playing time in centerfield for the first time since his rookie season, but his defensive ratings cratered (-25 DRS, -13 UZR). He’ll finish near his career low in BA (.243 in 2016), but he’s played in a career-high 154 games and has more than 30 doubles and 30 home runs for just the second time in his career. He leads the league in unintentional walks, and tonight he joined Jose Ramirez as the only players in the majors with 100 walks, 100 runs, and 100 RBIs (surprisingly, his first time driving in over 100 runs). Overall, Harper has hit .245/.390/.495 with a 134 wRC+ – hardly the markers of a “disappointment,” though also not the monster platform campaign that might have been hoped for.

    Though the truly astronomical salary levels some envisioned may no longer be possible, Harper will still earn a truckload of money. That, too, is an obvious factor — particularly given that the Nationals seem to be set up as well as could be hoped to deal with his possible departure. Of course, the Nats have worked out the money on big-name players in the past with Scott Boras, Harper’s high-profile agent. The remainder of the market remains unclear. Many of the highest-payroll teams don’t have an obvious need for him, while teams with limited payrolls will be hard-pressed to afford him. Of course, Harper is also a talented enough player that organizations will be willing to move other pieces to make way.

    All told, these recent comments hardly tell us how things will play out, though they do offer some interesting insight into Harper’s current thinking. And they function as a worthwhile reminder that Harper’s looming decision will not only significantly alter the landscape of the league, but will also chart his own future as a player and a person.

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    Michael A. Taylor May Be Trade Candidate https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/quick-hits-realmuto-nats-taylor-rangers-young-beltre.html https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2018/09/quick-hits-realmuto-nats-taylor-rangers-young-beltre.html#comments Sun, 23 Sep 2018 03:23:21 +0000 https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=133320
  • As part of an outfield that features Bryce Harper, Juan Soto and Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor has seen his playing time diminish, Elliott Smith of MLB.com points out. Taylor has only started four times since Aug. 24 and taken a mere seven PAs this month, per Smith. One reason Taylor has been on the bench lately is his lack of production, as the 27-year-old has followed up a strong 2017 by hitting a meager .224/.286/.355 with six home runs in 376 PAs. But Taylor’s “working with [hitting coach] Kevin [Long] to change his swing a little bit and hopefully he comes into Spring Training with a different swing — putting the ball in play a little bit more,” according to manager Dave Martinez. Putting the ball in play has been a struggle for Taylor, who has logged unappealing strikeout and contact rates of 29.8 percent and 71.1 percent, respectively. Taylor’s an asset on the bases and in the field, though, and he also comes with two more years of arbitration control. He could be an offseason trade chip for the Nationals, then, Smith writes. Taylor has considered the possibility, saying: “It’s hard this late in the season not to think about it, and with the way things have been going lately, it looks like other people are thinking about it.” Regardless, Taylor’s focused on “continuing to work and get better every day.” His situation will be an interesting one to monitor over the winter, given that the Nationals will have at least three other high-profile outfield options (Soto, Eaton and Victor Robles) even if they don’t re-sign Harper.
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