Washington Nationals – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-10-23T06:04:14Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Free Agent Stock Watch: Nationals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177839 2019-10-23T04:01:14Z 2019-10-23T04:01:14Z The thrilling first game of the World Series just wrapped up with Washington pulling off a 5-4 victory in Houston. If you’re a neutral observer, you may be hoping for six more games just like that one. However long the series lasts, though, both teams stand to see some key contributors reach the open market thereafter. Let’s start with a review of the Nationals’ pending free agents…

Anthony Rendon, 3B:

  • I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know in regards to Rendon. The 29-year-old is coming off yet another world-class season, perhaps an MVP-level campaign, and is finally getting the national recognition his play has long warranted. As hands down the premier soon-to-be free-agent position player, Rendon has a strong case for a guarantee worth $225MM or more.

Brian Dozier, 2B:

  • Dozier was an elite second baseman with the Twins for a few years leading up to 2018, but he hasn’t been the same player dating back to then. After a down season divided between the Twins and Dodgers, the Nationals signed Dozier to a one-year, $9MM contract last winter. Dozier enjoyed somewhat of a bounce-back regular season, hitting .238/.340/.430 with 20 home runs and 1.7 fWAR in 482 plate appearances. That’s still not great production, though, and odds are the 32-year-old will have to settle for another single-season guarantee (very likely for less money) in his next trip to free agency.

Howie Kendrick, 1B/2B/3B:

  • As with Dozier, Kendrick’s likely heading for a one-year deal. However, in Kendrick’s case, that has far more to do with age than performance. After all, the long-solid Kendrick, 36, has been an offensive machine all season. Kendrick slashed a jaw-dropping .344/.395/.572 with 17 homers in 370 PA during the regular campaign, when Statcast more than backed up his bottom-line output. Just four qualified hitters (some names you may recognize in Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich and Nelson Cruz) outdid Kendrick’s .418 expected weighted on-base average. Kendrick has further cemented himself in Washington lore with a productive postseason, with his decisive grand slam in Game 5 of the team’s NLDS victory over the Dodgers sure to count among the franchise’s greatest moments for decades to come.

Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/3B:

  • The 33-year-old Cabrera has been an outstanding in-season pickup for Washington, which grabbed him off the scrapheap after Texas released him in early August. Cabrera was only a .235/.318/.393 hitter at that point, but he slashed an excellent .323/.404/.565 in 146 regular-season PA after donning a Nats uniform. Cabrera’s D.C. production should be enough to earn him another guaranteed deal in the offseason.

Gerardo Parra, OF:

  • It’s hard to believe, but Parra has turned into a folk hero in Washington since the club brought him on a low-cost deal toward the beginning of May. At that point, Parra was the owner of a paltry .546 OPS and someone the Giants understandably jettisoned despite obvious needs in their outfield. Not only has Parra hit a much-improved .250/.300/.447 in 204 trips to the plate since then, but his “Baby Shark” intro has helped make him a fan and clubhouse favorite. It doesn’t look as if Parra would be a bad investment on what’s sure to be another low-paying deal.

Daniel Hudson, RP:

  • The hard-throwing Hudson didn’t appear to be an exciting addition for the Nationals when they acquired him from the Blue Jays at the July trade deadline, but he has since established himself an indispensable part of their bullpen. Hudson pitched to a 1.44 ERA (with a 3.53 FIP) and totaled 23 strikeouts against two walks in 25 regular-season innings as a Nat. The brilliance has largely continued in the postseason for the 32-year-old, who has thrown seven frames of one-earned run ball and converted all four of his save chances. Hudson had to settle for a $1.5MM contract with the Jays right before the season started, but he should do far better next time. A two-year deal in the $10MM range could be in the offing this winter.

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP:

  • Hellickson was a quality member of the Nationals’ pitching staff in 2018, which led the club to bring back the former AL Rookie of the Year on a $1.3MM guarantee last winter. At that price, it was a gamble worth taking for the Nationals, but it didn’t work out. The 32-year-old Hellickson struggled into May before missing the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Assuming Hellickson signs somewhere in the offseason, he’ll be getting a minor league pact.

Fernando Rodney, RP:

  • This season has been a wild ride for the 42-year-old Rodney, who bombed with the Athletics in the early going, got his release in late May, signed a minors deal with the Nats a week later and is now part of a World Series roster. The nomadic arrow slinger tossed 33 1/3 regular-season innings of 4.05 ERA/3.72 FIP ball and posted 9.5 K/9 against 4.3 BB/9 after the Nationals brought him up in late June. Rodney has added 2 2/3 scoreless frames during the playoffs. Will that be enough for Rodney to pick up a major league deal over the winter? Perhaps, but he’s obviously not going to break the bank.

Jonny Venters, RP:

  • Venters, who has seemingly overcome one awful injury after another during his career, will have to do so yet again. No stranger to the operating table, Venters underwent yet another serious procedure (on a torn capsule in his left shoulder) in August. The 34-year-old’s career could conceivably be over, though he’ll try to get off the mat one more time.
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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Announce World Series Roster]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177786 2019-10-22T17:16:36Z 2019-10-22T17:16:36Z The Nationals face a tall order over the final series of the season, as they’ll run into the powerhouse Astros in this year’s World Series. To an extent, it feels like the Nats are playing with house money after the brutal start to the season. But this team has been knocking on the door for years and doesn’t want to waste its opportunity to cash in fully with its own star-laden roster.

Here are the 25 players who’ll appear in uniform for the D.C. organization:

Right-Handed Pitchers

Left-Handed Pitchers

Infielders

Outfielders

Catchers

The Nats have tweaked their pitching staff several times throughout the postseason, but haven’t yet added to the number of arms they’re carrying. It’ll again be eleven pitchers for the Washington club, with hopes that the team won’t need to rely much at all upon several of them.

Southpaw Roenis Elias moves off the roster after being added for the NLCS. Presumably, the team decided the extra lefty wasn’t needed for the lefty-leaning Astros, though having the additional match-up option might have been nice. Right-handed reliever Wander Suero takes his place. It’s notable that Suero has had success against both right and left-handed hitters, though his bottom-line results this year didn’t quite match up to his promising peripherals and the club hasn’t trusted him with a postseason appearance since a rough showing against the Dodgers.

Like Elias, Hunter Strickland was acquired at the deadline in hopes he’d contribute. But the righty is again off the roster after a rough NLDS showing. That leaves Hudson as the lone mid-season trade piece who’s contributing; his good work has been pivotal. The Nats are also still carrying Cabrera, who was signed just after the trade deadline and played a big role down the stretch. He has not been utilized much in the postseason, but could see added opportunites with Kendrick expected to DH for games in which that slot is available.

Meanwhile, the Nats have made a somewhat unexpected move with their long man role. Austin Voth is off the roster; he had been a potential long man but wasn’t needed in the NLCS. He’ll be replaced by Ross, who is a candidate for similar duty. Ross has also been tasked with pinch running at times in the past and might also be used in that capacity.

 

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Pitchers Recently Electing Free Agency]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177773 2019-10-22T15:43:42Z 2019-10-22T14:56:58Z Since the conclusion of the regular season, a number of players have elected free agency. That right accrues to certain players who are outrighted off of a 40-man roster during or after the season — namely, those that have at least three years of MLB service and/or have previously been outrighted. Such players that accepted outright assignments during the season have the right to elect free agency instead at season’s end, provided they aren’t added back to the 40-man in the meantime.

We already rounded up the position players. Now, here are the pitchers that have recently taken to the open market, along with their now-former teams (via the International League and PCL transactions pages):

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Outright Spencer Kieboom]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177765 2019-10-22T06:06:35Z 2019-10-22T05:57:47Z The Nationals are preparing for Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, but that’s not stopping their front office from handling other business. The club outrighted catcher Spencer Kieboom to Triple-A Fresno on Monday, per the Pacific Coast League transactions page. As someone who has been outrighted previously, Kieboom will have a chance to elect free agency.

Kieboom, the brother of standout Nationals shortstop prospect Carter Kieboom, has been a member of the organization since going in Round 5 of the 2012 draft. Spencer Kieboom was a decently regarded prospect in his own right a few years back, though he hasn’t been able to carve out a consistent big league role thus far.

Kieboom got his only real taste of the majors in 2018, when a patient, low-strikeout approach helped him post a playable on-base percentage. However, a lack of power limited Kieboom to a .232/.322/.320 line over his 143 plate appearances. The 28-year-old didn’t make it back to Washington or even play with Fresno this season, instead spending all of it with Double-A Harrisburg. Kieboom batted just .196/.271/.256 in 188 PA before an elbow injury cut his season short.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[World Series Roster Notes]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177735 2019-10-21T23:37:32Z 2019-10-21T23:37:32Z World Series media day gave us a bit of a look behind the curtain at the planning that is going into the early portion of this year’s series. We still don’t have full and final 25-man rosters for the Astros and Nationals, but their respective managers did discuss a few major tactical decisions that have already been made. Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com and Jake Kaplan of The Athletic were among those to cover the festivities; all links below are to their Twitter feeds.

  • There aren’t any surprises in terms of the initial pitching plans. The Nationals will roll out a rested Max Scherzer for the first game tomorrow night. As a prize for eliminating the Yankees in six games, rather than taking it to a seventh, the Astros will be able to counter with their top option in Gerrit Cole. The second match-up of the series will be just as compelling, with the Nats starting Stephen Strasburg and the ’Stros going with Justin Verlander.
  • After that? You might presume that each team will turn to its third starter — in each case, a hurler that would feature as an ace on quite a few other staffs around the game. Houston manager A.J. Hinch committed to utilizing mid-season trade acquisition Zack Greinke to open game three. But D.C. skipper Davey Martinez says he’s not going to name a starter yet for the first contest back in the nation’s capital. Does that mean that southpaw Patrick Corbin might be utilized in relief in Houston, as he has on several occasions already in the postseason? Martinez said we’ll just have to wait and see how things unfold.
  • It remains to be seen whether either team will end up utilizing a fourth starter to open any contests. The Nats can perhaps have some added confidence in Anibal Sanchez after watching him nearly no-hit the Cardinals in the NLCS, though tip-toeing through an exceptionally potent Astros lineup would be another thing entirely for the wily veteran. It’ll also be a wait-and-see situation for the Houston organization, with Hinch saying Brad Peacock, Jose Urquidy, or some other pitcher could be tapped to open a game that will likely feature quite a few pitching changes.
  • The availability of a designated hitter slot will open some opportunities for the Nats in games one and two. The club is planning to place veteran Howie Kendrick in the bat-only slot, Martinez suggested. Kendrick has stung the ball all year long and thrived in big situations in October, but he has also hurt the Nationals with the glove at times. Meanwhile, Hinch says the Astros will be sticking with young slugger Yordan Alvarez — at least for the first two contests. Whether or not he’ll be installed in left field once the series moves to D.C. could depend upon who’s starting game three — and whether Alvarez can break out of the 1-for-24, 12-strikeout skid he left in the championship series.
  • In terms of a formal roster announcement, that isn’t yet available. The Astros, in particular, are waiting until the last possible moment. The club believes that excellent reliever Ryan Pressly will be good to go after dealing with a knee injury in the ALCS. But it’ll hold off on making the final call until checking on his condition tomorrow. Both teams figure to rely heavily upon their core players throughout the series. Each could go in a variety of directions with a few of the final roster spots — those players that may not end up being used much at all, but could end up being thrust into major roles at key junctures.
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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Diamondbacks Notes: Ex-Dbacks, Rizzo, Offense, Marte]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177722 2019-10-21T18:50:38Z 2019-10-21T18:50:38Z The Diamondbacks surprisingly hung around the Wild Card race until mid-September this season, despite shedding the faces of their franchise over the course of the six months previous. The postseason has been a who’s who of important Dbacks of the last half decade, as Patrick Corbin has taken out the rest of the Dbacks former talent core, starting with A.J. Pollock and the Dodgers and Paul Goldschmidt and the Cardinals. He’ll take his best shot at Zack Greinke and the Astros in game 3 of the World Series, aka the former Dbacks ace bowl. Of course, Mike Rizzo, the Nationals GM, is also an ex-Diamondback. He served as Arizona’s Scouting Director from 2000 to 2006. Let’s take a look at some Diamondbacks news from Rizzo’s era up to the present day…

  • It’s unsurprising to realize Rizzo repurposed the team-building blueprint from the 2001 Diamondbacks champs in putting together his team in Washington, per MASN’s Mark Zuckerman. Mainly, that means two aces up front and a host of veteran hitters capable of putting together veteran at-bats. All in all, it’s a pretty uncannily accurate casting job on the part of Rizzo. Max Scherzer is Randy Johnson, Stephen Strasburg is Curt Schilling, Patrick Corbin is an evolved Brian Anderson, Anibal Sanchez is Miguel Batista. Many of the vets also fit the mold: Howie Kendrick can play Mark Grace, Gerardo Parra as David Dellucci or Danny Bautista, Ryan Zimmerman as Matt WilliamsAsdrubal Cabrera as Jay Bell, Adam Eaton as Reggie Sanders, Matt Adams as Greg Colbrunn and Kurt Suzuki is Damian Miller. In the bullpen, Fernando Rodney is definitely Mike Morgan, Sean Doolittle is Matt Mantei (I guess?), Daniel Hudson is (gulp) Byung-Hyun Kim. Okay, perhaps it’s not 1-1 all the way through, but those Diamondbacks did win the World Series after a 92-win season – after a 93-win season in Washington, Rizzo hopes to replicate his old team one last time.
  • Despite two recent aces facing off for different teams in the World Series, the Diamondbacks offseason focus is the offense, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Dbacks put together a middle-of-the-pack offense in 2019, but the bats went away in an 11-game stretch in mid-September. They went 3-8 and pretty much fell out of race while scoring less than 2 1/2 runs per game. Those are the games that stick out for GM Mike Hazen, who will be on the lookout for ways to diversify their offense. Parsing the profile of the type of hitter Hazen may target is more difficult, as Arizona’s offense didn’t really stand out in any which way. They finished below-average in home runs, but not by a lot, above-average in men left on base and GIDP, but again, not by much. They were exactly league-average in batting average and on-base percentage, while their team slugging (.434 SLG) was below average by .001 SLG – as close to average as any team in the MLB.
  • As far as Ketel Marte is concerned, the Dbacks aren’t making a decision about his 2020 defensive home until they build out the rest of the roster. Second base could be where they look to improve offensively, in which case Marte will head back out to center. Essentially, the plan remains the same, with Hazen and the Dbacks set to take full advantage of the versatility Marte affords.
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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Stephen Strasburg Opt-Out Could Leverage Nats Into Extension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177703 2019-10-21T13:28:28Z 2019-10-21T13:28:28Z
  • After Cole, Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals would be the most talented arm on the market. There’s a feeling within the industry, however, that he won’t get there, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. Strasburg, remember, was the rare Scott Boras client to sign an early extension, and it could be that Boras will leverage Strasburg’s opt-out into a longer deal with the Nationals. For his part, Strasburg has shown no inclination to test foreign waters, and tacking a couple years and a couple million dollars to the 4 years, $100MM already owed him after 2019 certainly could be enough to keep him in DC. After his current playoff run, it’s hard to imagine Stras pitching in another uniform. Still, if the window opens, there are sure to be suitors come to call. 
  • There’s no telling how much the free agency of the above-noted hurlers could change the shape of the league. Look no further than this week’s World Series for evidence. The Astros and Nationals will face off starting tomorrow with rosters built around “imported” pitching, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis. The Astros brought in Cole, Justin Verlander, and Zack Greinke via trade, whereas the Nationals signed Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez in free agency. Whichever team wins four of the next seven games will add to a recent history of champions built around homegrown offense and supplemented pitching. The Cubs in 2016, Astros in 2017, and Red Sox in 2018 all boasted homegrown cores of position players and hired guns on the hill.
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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[The Astros/Nationals Blockbuster Trade That Was Almost A Reality]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177666 2019-10-21T12:39:43Z 2019-10-21T12:15:34Z The Astros and Nationals share a Spring Training site, but there isn’t exactly a lot of shared history between the two franchises as they prepare to meet in the World Series.  The Astros hold a 244-207 all-time record over the Nationals/Expos, and the no-hitter that Larry Dierker threw against the Expos back on July 9, 1976 is probably the most historically significant game to ever take place between the two clubs….until Tuesday’s Game 1, that is.

    There isn’t even a lengthy or significant trade history to work with in finding links between the two clubs, as the last deal between Washington and Houston took place back in 2007.  However, the reigning pennant winners came close to a much more significant trade in July 2018, when Bryce Harper almost became an Astro.  As detailed by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) last November, the two teams had worked out the framework of a trade that would have sent Harper to Houston for a three-prospect package headlined by right-hander J.B. Bukauskas.  The other two prospects were a pitcher in the lower minors and catcher Garrett Stubbs “was in play” to be the third piece, Rosenthal noted.

    The swap was ready to go by July 30, the day before the trade deadline, though Nationals ownership stepped in to veto the proposal.  The Lerner family was still hopeful of re-signing Harper to a new contract either in free agency or even before he hit the open market, and didn’t yet want to part ways with the star outfielder.  For similar reasons, a potential August trade between the Dodgers and Nationals that would have seen Yasiel Puig head to D.C. and Harper go to L.A. was also a no-go.

    The idea Harper going to the Astros is such an eye-opening concept that the entire baseball world would have been shaken up had the trade been completed.  Here are four of the larger ripple effects that could have emerged if Harper had indeed donned Houston orange in July 2018…

    Do The Astros Win The 2018 World Series?
    Maybe the most obvious question of the bunch, as the Astros had a surprisingly middle-of-the-pack offense in the second half of the 2018 season.  With Harper’s bat in the lineup, perhaps Houston (who won 103 games in real life) could have scored enough extra victories to overtake the 108-win Red Sox for home-field advantage throughout the postseason.  If not, perhaps at least Harper helps the Astros generate enough offense to overcome the Red Sox in the ALCS.  Astros hitters combined for a mediocre .219/.337/.385 slash line in Houston’s five-game loss, and while pitching (a combined 5.52 ERA) was the Astros’ larger problem against Boston, it’s worth noting that Sox hitters had only a .710 collective OPS.

    In a short series, even a few hits could have swung the entire thing Houston’s way, and perhaps Harper could have also been a difference-maker in helping the Astros top the Dodgers in the 2018 Series.  Stretching the butterfly effect out a bit further, maybe the Harper-led Astros only make it a round further, and it’s the Dodgers who wind up as the 2018 champions.  Or, if the Red Sox fell short, perhaps president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is fired after the season (ownership was already considering a change late in the 2018 season), Boston has a new front office boss installed last winter, and the entire scope of the Red Sox 2018-19 offseason and 2019 season are also changed.

    No QO, No Status Quo For Harper’s Free Agency
    One can definitely fall down lots of different wormholes when exploring an alternate reality scenario, but one thing seems pretty uniformly certain — Harper would still have become a free agent after the 2018 season, and he wouldn’t have been an Astro in 2019.  The Astros didn’t show interest in signing Harper to a mega-deal last winter, and even in a world where Harper magically carries Houston to a championship, it’s very likely that the two sides thank each other for the ring and part ways.  As such, the Astros’ offseason decisions aren’t greatly impacted, so the team’s real-world moves (i.e. signing Michael Brantley and Wade Miley) probably still happen.

    One wrinkle to Harper’s free agency is that, since he was dealt at midseason, he was ineligible to have a qualifying offer placed on his services.  So the Nationals would’ve gotten the Bukauskas package but not the compensatory pick they received for Harper once he signed with Philadelphia.  This comp pick ended up falling after the fourth round (since the Nats exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2018) though Washington actually forfeited this pick regardless — the Nationals had to give up their second- and fifth-highest picks in the draft as compensation for signing Patrick Corbin, another QO free agent.  So without the Harper pick to work with, the Nationals wouldn’t have had a fifth-round draft pick, and thus wouldn’t have been able to select hard-throwing Florida right-hander Tyler Dyson.  Washington went well above slot ($346.8K) in signing Dyson to a $500K bonus, and MLB Pipeline ranks Dyson as the 20th-best prospect in the Nationals’ system.

    So with Dyson still on the board, that single inclusion quite possibly shakes up a lot of movement in the draft.  But, if Harper doesn’t have a rejected qualifying offer hanging over him, the Phillies wouldn’t have had to give up their second round pick in order to sign him.  So this gives the Phils another high draft pick to add to their farm system — or maybe the Phillies end up using that pick anyway on another QO free agent.  Harper was known to be on the Phillies’ offseason radar from day one, so it’s safe to assume they’d already earmarked losing that pick to ink him.

    But if that wasn’t a consideration, perhaps Philadelphia looks at the other five QO free agents who hit the market (Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted his offer and remained with the Dodgers) and pursues one of them during its aggressive offseason.  How does the 2019 Phillies season play out look if Corbin or Dallas Keuchel had been in the rotation, if Craig Kimbrel was closing games, if A.J. Pollock was in the outfield, or if Yasmani Grandal had been behind the plate?  The latter three are particularly intriguing, since signing any of those players would’ve meant the Phils would’ve had to forego some of their other acquisitions (such as David Robertson, Andrew McCutchen, or J.T. Realmuto) at those same positions.

    Tax Relief In Washington
    It isn’t known whether the Astros would’ve absorbed all of the approximately $7.21MM still owed to Harper over the last months of the season had the Nationals trade gone through.  But even if only a portion came off the books, trading Harper would’ve jump-started the Nats’ efforts to reload for 2019, and they might’ve dealt veterans like Gio Gonzalez, Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, and Ryan Madson on July 31 or earlier in the old August trade waivers period rather than wait until late August to unload the quartet.

    The bottom line is that either by moving Gonzalez and company earlier, or in dealing Harper’s salary in its entirety, the Nationals would’ve been able to duck under the $197MM Competitive Balance Tax threshold and reset their penalty clock.  In real life, D.C. had a $205MM luxury tax number, which resulted in a tax bill of $2,386,097 (which included a repeater penalty for exceeding the threshold in consecutive years).

    The Nationals again slightly exceeded the $206MM threshold this season, as per both Roster Resource (just under $207.94MM) and Cot’s Baseball Contracts (less than $76K).  These figures are estimations, of course, and given the small amounts involved, it’s possible the Nats managed to slightly sneak under the $206MM mark after all.  Even with the 50% tax rate for three-time CBT payors, this small step over the threshold still means the Nationals won’t be facing a big tax bill.  At Roster Resource’s number, the Nats will owe $969,309.50 in luxury tax payments, which is pocket change to a high-spending team.

    Much more importantly than saving under $3.36MM in tax money, escaping the “CBT payor” designation would’ve impacted the Nationals in the 2018-19 free agent market.  As per the qualifying offer rules, Washington’s compensatory pick for losing Harper would’ve come after Competitive Balance Round B rather than after the fourth round — a jump of roughly 60 slots.  Also, signing Corbin cost the Nationals $1MM in international bonus money as well as their second- and fifth-highest draft picks, whereas if they hadn’t exceeded the luxury tax threshold, the Corbin signing would’ve cost only the second-highest pick and $500K in international pool funds.

    Do The Astros Still Get Greinke?
    This is the ripple effect that perhaps has the most clear and direct impact on the 2019 Series.  If Houston trades Bukauskas in July 2018, it doesn’t have him in the organization in July 2019 to be dealt to the Diamondbacks as part of the four-player return for Zack Greinke.

    It’s possible the Astros and D’Backs could’ve settled on another name rather than Bukauskas, though given how the Greinke talks were finalized just minutes away from the trade deadline, who knows how things play out with Bukauskas’ involvement.  Bukauskas was the top healthy prospect in the deal, after all, given that Corbin Martin is sidelined due to Tommy John surgery.

    Or potentially, in a reality where the Astros swing the Harper trade but it doesn’t work out, perhaps GM Jeff Luhnow thinks twice the next year about another splashy trade for a big name and foregoes a Greinke trade entirely, perhaps focusing on a lower-tier player or players instead.

    It’s safe to assume that the Astros would have still acquired some kind of starting pitching help, and still go on to win the AL West even without an ace like Greinke in the mix.  And while Greinke hasn’t been great in the postseason, does Houston still win Game Four of the ALCS without his 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball?  Or, maybe without Greinke down the stretch, the Astros win fewer than 107 games and lose home-field advantage to the Yankees, which swings the ALCS in New York’s direction.  Or, if the Yankees are the top seed, the American League bracket is flipped entirely and, who knows, we could’ve ended up with a Twins/Rays ALCS.

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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Nationals' Aggressive Offseason Paying Dividends]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177647 2019-10-20T16:38:51Z 2019-10-20T16:08:20Z
  • The Nationals aren’t turning their attention to next spring just yet. As the team gears up for a World Series showdown with the Astros, the Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli looks back to the organization’s roster construction work last winter. General Manager Mike Rizzo was aggressive early in free agency, re-signing Kurt Suzuki and bringing aboard Patrick Corbin and Brian Dozier. A willingness to dangle a sixth year was perhaps the driving factor in getting Corbin (the Phillies and Yankees stopped at five), the prize of last offseason’s pitching market. That said, Rizzo’s forthrightness in negotiations certainly didn’t hurt, Corbin explains, and Dozier tells Ghiroli he declined more lucrative offers elsewhere out of a belief in what the Nats were building. It’s a worthwhile read for Nationals’ fans soaking up the enjoyment of the franchise’s first pennant.
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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[MLBTR Poll: Who Will Win The World Series?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177643 2019-10-20T14:27:03Z 2019-10-20T14:27:03Z What better way to kick off baseball’s two-day hiatus than by looking ahead to the upcoming Fall Classic? This year’s World Series feels like something of a throwback, featuring three powerhouse starting pitching matchups to get things going. It’s hard to imagine a better sextet of starters from two teams than Gerrit ColeJustin Verlander, and Zack Greinke on one end, with Max ScherzerStephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin on the other.

    The Astros figure enter the Series as the odds-on favorite. Houston won an MLB-best 107 games in the regular season compared to Washington’s 93. Houston’s +280 run differential was also the league’s best, again significantly better than the Nationals’ still-strong +149 mark. The Astros unquestionably boast a stronger bullpen than their D.C. counterparts, and their lineup, for all their struggles in the ALCS, was among the best of all-time in the regular season.

    All that said, there are reasons one might reasonably expect an upset, even beyond the vagaries somewhat inherent in short series. The Nationals are probably the better defensive team, last night’s glove show by Houston notwithstanding, with Víctor Robles perhaps baseball’s best defensive outfielder. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto can go toe-to-toe with any duo in the Astros’ order.

    Most importantly, though, any Nationals’ optimism is rooted in the nature of the short series. Scherzer, Strasburg and Corbin could (and probably would) start six of the seven games for Washington should this Series go the distance. No one’s surprised any time the Nats fly a curly W when any of those three take the mound. The Nats’ pitching depth (most notably in middle relief and setup work) was the club’s Achilles heel during the regular season. Yet the postseason’s heavy dose of off days has allowed manager Dave Martinez to leverage his top arms. To this point, Washington hasn’t felt any ill effects for essentially deploying a six-man pitching staff (the aforementioned trio of starters, fourth starter Aníbal Sánchez, and top relievers Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson). With six days off between NLCS Game 4 and Tuesday night’s Game 1, Washington’s arms should be more than ready to empty the tank one final time.

    So, MLBTR readers, we turn things over to you. Will the Astros cement themselves as a dynasty by winning their second World Series in a span of three 100-win seasons? Or will the Nationals’ three aces pitch their way to Washington’s first World Series parade since the Coolidge administration?

    (poll link for app users)

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    Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[World Series Notes: Altuve, Astros, Nationals, Pressly]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177632 2019-10-20T16:40:46Z 2019-10-20T05:51:10Z Somewhere in the concourse beyond Minute Maid Park, there lies a stretch of concrete that will one day be the site of a statue in honor of Astros infielder Jose Altuve. Saturday night’s 9th inning saw the diminutive second baseman launch a towering shot into the night air of a tied elimination game in the American League Championship Series, sealing with one swing his place in postseason lore.

    But Altuve’s ascension to Game 6 October glory is an unlikely development. While this seems like a pat statement at first glance–perhaps referring, as observers often do, to Altuve’s small, 5’6 frame–the truly unlikely thing about Altuve’s story concerns a nascent failure in his native Venezuela. As Alex Putterman’s 2017 story for The Atlantic explained, Altuve was cut by the Astros after appearing as a teenager in a club tryout camp because the organization considered him too short. At the behest of his father, Altuve returned to tryout for the club again, where he ultimately showed enough to earn a $15,000 signing bonus from Houston officials–hardly a considerable sum in an international signing landscape where seven-figure deals often grab headlines stateside. While a recap of Altuve’s many career exploits following that signing would be redundant at this point, tonight seems a fitting occasion to remember that tonight’s hero achieved his place in history due, in part, to familial encouragement and a little bit of old-fashioned determination. Apparently, even the tiniest of prospects can develop into statues, given the right conditions.

    Looking onward to the 115th World Series, beginning play on Tuesday evening…

    • With champagne still raining in the Houston locker room, it’s obviously a bit early to talk pitching matchups–but that didn’t stop Nationals beat writer Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post from giving it a shot (link). As Dougherty sees it, Max Scherzer and Gerrit Cole should square off in Game 1, Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander could conceivably follow in the second game, and Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke project as the matchup for Game 3. For their careers, those six pitchers have combined for 269.3 bWAR. Cole, as has been stated ad nauseam this postseason, is slated for free agency this winter, and Strasburg could follow should he decline the remaining four years and $100MM sitting on the other side of his contractual opt-out.
    • Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle shares that reliever Ryan Pressly had some “scar tissue in his knee [break] off” during his third-inning appearance of Game 6 of the ALCS (link). Said scar tissue is, presumably, the result of surgery Pressly underwent in August to address soreness in his right knee joint. Pressly intimated to Rome that he will be “ready to go” for the World Series. If the pitching lineup Astros manager AJ Hinch used in the ALCS is any indication, then Pressly’s services would be especially vital in Game 4, which could be a bullpen game for the ’Stros. Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington shares that Hinch said in his postgame presser that he is “expecting” Pressly to be ready for World Series action (link).
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    George Miller <![CDATA[Nationals Preparing For World Series]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177604 2019-10-19T20:26:58Z 2019-10-19T20:22:46Z
  • With the Nationals having punched their ticket to the World Series, they have some decisions to make regarding the roster and strategy for the Fall Classic. And they’ve been given plenty of time to ruminate on their options. Mark Zuckerman of MASN has a thorough roundup on the questions the Nats will have to answer in the coming days. Of course, their AL opponent will have some influence on the particular choices, but general manager Mike Rizzo and company are preparing plans for either scenario. A couple of bullpen spots could be up in the air, though the starting rotation’s dominance has thus far rendered those choices seemingly unimportant. But with the year’s most important games on the horizon, those decisions will not be taken lightly.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Toronto President & CEO Mark Shapiro Speaks On Takeaways From Postseason, Job Rumors, Game Evolution]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177508 2019-10-19T17:43:37Z 2019-10-19T16:02:50Z President and CEO of the Toronto Blue Jays Mark Shapiro covered a variety of topics while speaking with Arden Zwelling and Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (audio link). Shapiro provides insight into evolutions within the game, the process of identifying talent, and the breakdown of responsibility in front offices. He also speaks in-depth about the process of player development as the best opportunity for gaining a competitive advantage.

    He uses the Washington Nationals and their recent pennant victory to examine some of these team-building strategies in context. He starts by citing the all-important playoff axiom: “Just get in.” It’s interesting that Shapiro notes this as a point of contention for him throughout his career, as common baseball discourse stalls on this idea every trading season in divvying up baseball’s 30 organizations into buy/sell/hold buckets.

    Those in the “anything can happen once you’re in” camp haven taken a hit as recent postseasons have gone chalk. The last three World Series champions were hardly long shots: 103-win Cubs, 101-win Astros, and 108-win Red Sox. The Nats, in fact, are the first Wild Card team to make the World Series since the 2014 Wild Card showdown that featured two second-place clubs playing on the game’s biggest stage. That season, the 88-win San Francisco Giants defeated the 89-win Kansas City Royals in 7 games.

    The “imperfect” Nationals check a couple of boxes on Shapiro’s postseason team wish list: frontline starting pitching and players in a variety of career stages.  Shapiro has “always been a big believer in looking at the different segments of the player population and feeling like when you’re ready to win you need representation from all three.” Young cores rising through farm systems together has been the en vogue team-building philosophy after the success of Chicago, Houston, and Boston, but to Shapiro’s point, the Nationals are succeeding with a mix of young, mid-prime, and veteran players.

    The Nats field not only the oldest players in baseball – reliever Fernando Rodney – but they field the oldest roster in baseball with an average age of 31.1 years old. Veterans like Max Scherzer, Howie Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman have keyed their postseason success. True to Shapiro’s “need to have a balance,” however, the engine of this Nats roster is their young superstar duo of Juan Soto, 20, and Victor Robles, 22. The steadiest production will usually come from those players in their prime, Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, and Stephen Strasburg are some of the players that qualify for the Nats. Shapiro sees all three brackets as vital to team success: energy from the youth, reliability from those in their prime, and the strongest desire to win coming from those veteran players.

    The full podcast is worth a listen, as Shapiro speaks directly to rumors about different job opportunities. Notably, he listens to all inquiries, but he has not been interviewing for outside opportunities. Given his comments here and before, Shapiro continues to be a good candidate for an extension this winter.

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    Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Tim Bogar To Interview For Mets Managerial Opening]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177390 2019-10-18T18:40:30Z 2019-10-18T18:39:40Z FRIDAY: Bogar is indeed getting an interview, Heyman tweets.

    WEDNESDAY: According to a tweet from Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Tim Bogar, first base coach for the Nationals, is under consideration for the open Mets managerial seat (link). It is not clear if Bogar has interviewed for the position, but Barry Svrugla of the Washington Post confirms that Bogar is “involved to some degree” with New York (link).

    Being that third base coach Bob Henley was linked to the Padres opening today, it seems the World Series-bound Nats are in danger of having their coaching table rightly pillaged by the rest of the league. Bogar, for his part, offers a pretty sterling resumé, as far as coaches go. The 52-year-old, Chicago-bred baseball man has worked on the coaching staffs of managerial big-shots like Joe Maddon, Terry Francona, Bobby Valentine, and Ron Washington. He earned the opportunity to serve as Texas’ interim manager in 2014 after Washington stepped down, leading the Rangers to a 14-8 record in the season’s final month. Bogar also has spent a little time as a front office assistant to Jerry DiPoto while the latter was in Anaheim, and, of course, logged a 700-game playing career that began with–you guessed it–the Mets.

    If interviewed, Bogar would become the seventh man to sit down with New York brass since Mickey Callaway was dismissed on Oct 3. To this point, Diamondbacks player development director Mike Bell, Yankees assistant Carlos Beltran, former MLB manager Joe Girardi, ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez, Twins bench coach Derek Shelton, and Mets quality control coach Luis Rojas have been reported as Mets interviewees.

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    Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Assessing Strasburg's Opt-Out Opportunity]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=177427 2019-10-17T19:58:46Z 2019-10-17T19:55:26Z Thomas Harding of MLB.com confirms that the Rockies have dismissed several minor league coaches, including longtime Triple-A manager Glenallen Hill (link).  Double-A hitting coach Lee Stevens and Single-A hitting coach Norberto Martin will also be let go, according to assistant general manager of player development Zach Wilson.

    A member of the club’s coaching ranks since 2004, Hill was previously first base coach with Colorado’s big league squad from 2007 to 2012. The 54-year-old Santa Cruz native played for the Jays, Indians, Cubs, Giants, Yankees, and Angels over the course of a twelve-year MLB career. After Hill’s dismissal, top Colorado third base prospect Colton Welker figures to suit up for a fresh face at Triple-A Colorado Springs next season.

    More notes from around the National League…

    • In another Rockies item, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post gives an eye toward the defensive improvements made in 2019 by catcher Tony Wolters–while also opining that the club should acquire a veteran backstop to lighten the workload of the light-hitting Wolters (link). As Saunders notes, Wolters, a former second baseman, was charged with just one error last season while throwing out 34% of would-be base stealers, a rate which trailed only J.T. Realmuto of the Phillies. Manager Bud Black, for one, told the Post this year that Wolters had turned himself into “one of the best defensive catchers in baseball”. Unfortunately, the value-added performance hasn’t translated to the plate for the 27-year-old San Diego native, as his .239/.327/.324 line in parts of four seasons would indicate. Weighted runs created plus, which discounts the effect of his offensively friendly Coors Field home, pegs Wolters with a 59 wRC+ in that same timeframe, profiling him as one of the weakest-hitting regulars in the sport. For this reason, Saunders posits that finding a platoon partner for the lefty-swinging Wolters will be a high priority for Rockies GM Jeff Bridich this winter.
    •  Two notes on Nationals players, one bullet point–efficiency reigns here at MLBTR. First up is a piece from MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, who, in creating a list of eight potential opt-out candidates this offseason, posits that any possibility of Stephen Strasburg opting-in to the remaining four years and $100MM on his contract has been “totally erased” this postseason (link). This seems a good time to supply a standard public service announcement regarding small sample size caveats, as recent history would suggest that postseason performance does not affect free agency decisions as frequently as many would expect. Still, Castrovince might not exactly be going out on a limb RE: Strasberg. While the pitcher’s injury concerns–evidenced best by his team’s decision to hold him out of the 2012 playoffs–have loomed over him for most of his career, Strasberg’s 1.64 ERA across 22 postseason innings this year has arguably gone some way toward ameliorating that fragile rap.
      In a piece with fewer implications on the forthcoming hot stove, every baseball fan would be well-served to check out Rustin Dodd’s oral history regarding the college days of one Max Scherzer, published on The Athletic this morning (link). For Nats faithful feeling the afterglow of an NLCS sweep, hearing tales of some of Scherzer’s collegiate habits–including his ravenous affinity for Cici’s Pizza–should provide a giddy laugh.
    • A Houston source tells David Kaplan of NBC Chicago that Astros bench coach Joe Espada gave a “sensational” interview for the open Cubs manager job (link). Espada gave executive Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer “a lot to think about”, per Kaplan’s source, but the question still remains if Espada can surpass franchise favorite David Ross in consideration for the managerial opening. For the time being, Espada’s ’Stros will square off with the Yankees in New York this evening for the fourth game of the ALCS.
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