Washington Nationals – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-06-20T19:19:46Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals To Sign First-Rounder Jackson Rutledge]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=163076 2019-06-17T22:38:30Z 2019-06-17T21:46:23Z The Nationals announced an agreement with first-round pick Jackson Rutledge on Monday. Rutledge’s pick (No. 17) comes with a $3.61MM slot value, but he’ll receive $3.45MM, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets.

The 6-foot-8 Rutledge, a right-handed pitcher from San Jacinto College in Houston, entered the draft as a top 15 prospect in the eyes of MLB.com (No. 12), Baseball America (No. 14) and ESPN’s Keith Law (No. 15). In their free scouting report, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com write that Rutledge is one of the premier junior college draft prospects in recent memory and may have “the best all-around stuff” in this year’s class. The 20-year-old Rutledge’s fastball sits between 94 and 97 mph, and can hit 99 on occasion. He complements that offering with an impressive slider and a potentially “plus” curveball.

FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen are a bit less bullish on Rutledge than the rest, as they ranked him 21st going into the draft. They note there are concerns regarding Rutledge’s “build, athleticism, and injured hips,” though they still regard him as a “physical beast” with an imposing fastball and promising breaking pitches.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Rizzo On Trading Scherzer: Nats “Certainly Not Thinking About That Right Now”]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162981 2019-06-17T13:06:30Z 2019-06-17T02:54:14Z Even after a 15-5 rout of the Diamondbacks today, the Nationals’ record is just 33-38, leaving the club with a lot of ground to make up in the standings.  Washington is 8.5 games back of Atlanta in the NL East, and six games behind the Phillies for the last wild card slot, and barring a big turn-around in the coming weeks, speculation will only increase that the Nats could become sellers at the trade deadline.

Near-term free agents like Sean Doolittle, Howie Kendrick, and even star slugger Anthony Rendon have drawn a lot of the trade buzz, though the biggest move the Nationals could make is offering up ace Max Scherzer.  Such a trade doesn’t appear to be in the cards, however, as GM Mike Rizzo told The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) that “we’re certainly not thinking about that right now.”

We control the best pitcher in baseball for 2 1/2 more years – three playoff runs,” Rizzo said.  “[Scherzer is] extremely well-priced. If you look at his contract, he’s extremely, extremely well-priced. We would have to command something that would be franchise-altering to consider moving him.”

Scherzer is officially owed $142.5MM through the end of the 2021 season, though $105MM of that sum will be paid out in deferrals from 2022-28.  As Rosenthal mentions, Washington could also include money in a hypothetical trade in order to lessen the $30MM annual luxury tax hit attached to Scherzer’s deal.

The inclusion of the “right now” qualifier in Rizzo’s statement perhaps leaves the door slightly open for a trade, though it probably leans closer to due diligence rather than any hint towards moving Scherzer.  After all, while Rizzo said the Nationals are still hoping for a midseason run, “you also have to be flexible and open-minded enough to know when you have to make changes and go in a different direction.”

Dealing Scherzer, however, would be the type of move that doesn’t only change “direction,” but perhaps sets a new course overall.  The Nats have yet to abandon the idea of contending even in 2019, let alone in 2020, and trading a front-of-the-rotation arm like Scherzer doesn’t seem like the type of deal a club looking to contend next season would make, regardless of the huge return such a deal would inevitably bring.  Trading a perennial Cy Young candidate and obtaining the type of win-now pieces necessary to reload for another crack at the NL East in 2020 would be an awfully difficult needle to thread, especially when simply keeping Scherzer is such an obvious boon to the rotation.

Between this factor and the personal ties between Rizzo and Scherzer, a trade seems unlikely at best.  “I’ve never been closer to a player in my career.  I drafted him in Arizona,” said Rizzo, who was formerly the Diamondbacks’ scouting director.  “I watched him grow up. We went hard after him (in free agency). We made him a promise that if you’re signing for seven years and you’re deferring all this money to help us win championships, we’re going to do everything we can to win.”

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Place Kyle Barraclough On IL]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162906 2019-06-16T15:47:08Z 2019-06-16T15:46:07Z 10:46am: Barraclough began feeling pain in his forearm after Saturday’s game and will go for an examination Sunday, manager Dave Martinez told reporters (via Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post).

10:14am: The Nationals have placed right-handed reliever Kyle Barraclough on the 10-day injured list with “radial nerve irritation,” Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports. The club recalled infielder Adrian Sanchez from Double-A Harrisburg to take Barraclough’s roster spot.

Barraclough’s IL placement comes on the heels of his latest brutal 2019 outing, in which he surrendered three earned runs on three hits (including one homer) and a walk during a loss to the Diamondbacks on Saturday. Barraclough, who recorded just one out in the game, has now given up multiple earned runs in six appearances since May 12. Thanks in part to tumbling velocity, the ex-flamethrower has stumbled to an ugly 6.39 ERA/6.04 FIP in 25 1/3 innings this year.

Barraclough, to his credit, has fanned 10.66 batters per nine and slashed his walk rate from in the fives over previous seasons to 4.26 this year. However, the ex-Marlin has seen his groundball rate fall to 37.7 percent, down almost 7 points compared to his career mark, and has yielded a lofty 2.49 homers per nine. That’s not what the Nationals had in mind when they acquired the 29-year-old at the outset of last offseason.

Thus far, Barraclough has been one of many problems in a Washington bullpen that has been downright awful. The struggles of the Nationals’ relief unit have played a large role in their dismal 32-38 start.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Shut Down Koda Glover Following Setback In Rehab]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162655 2019-06-14T11:35:38Z 2019-06-14T11:35:38Z In what has become an all-too-familiar refrain for Nationals fans, right-hander Koda Glover has suffered a setback in his rehab from a forearm strain and will be shut down entirely for the next six weeks, manager Dave Martinez told reporters Thursday (link via Sam Fortier of the Washington Post). Glover received a platelet-rich plasma injection at the recommendation of Dr. James Andrews after experiencing elbow pain in a recent throwing session.

Once touted as the Nationals’ potential closer of the future, Glover has instead seen his career punctuated by a series of prolonged absences due to injury. Since his debut in 2016, the now-26-year-old Glover has missed time due to a torn labrum in his hip, multiple shoulder injuries and a lower back injury as well. High as the organization’s expectations for Glover have been, he’s managed to tally just 55 1/3 innings as a big leaguer dating back to 2016. In that time, the former eighth-round pick has a 4.55 ERA (4.00 FIP) with 6.8 K/9, 3.4 BB.9, 0.81 HR/9, a 41.4 percent ground-ball rate and an average fastball velocity of 96.2 mph.

Despite that minimal workload, Glover has spent enough time on the Major League disabled list/injured list to qualify for arbitration eligibility this offseason. While some might peg him as a potential non-tender candidate, there’d be little risk in retaining him. His lack of innings, particularly in his platform 2019 campaign, would make his raise rather minimal. Glover also has a pair of minor league options remaining, which enhances his appeal moving forward. And the Nationals, who carry MLB’s worst bullpen ERA, aren’t exactly in a position to be parting with any relievers they believe to be talented — even if Glover’s absence has contributed to the current state of the Washington bullpen.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Howie Kendrick Is Killing The Ball]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=162225 2019-06-11T23:11:33Z 2019-06-11T23:10:13Z Howie Kendrick has been a quality major leaguer throughout most of his career, which began in 2006. Kendrick’s a lifetime .292/.335/.427 hitter with a 108 wRC+ and 29.9 fWAR in a combined 6,129 plate appearances with the Angels, Dodgers, Phillies and Nationals. But now, a month from his 36th birthday, the infielder/outfielder may be better than ever.

Kendrick collected two hits and a pair of walks in the Nationals’ win over the White Sox on Monday, raising his line to .333/.376/.604 (149 wRC+) in 178 trips to the plate this season. That’s impressive for anyone, let alone an aging player who missed nearly all of 2018 thanks to the ruptured right Achilles he suffered last May. Kendrick’s output is all the more extraordinary when considering there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly fluky about it.

Never known for striking out much, Kendrick’s doing it almost less than ever this season, having gone down on strikes a meager 14.6 percent of the time. At the same time, Kendrick has never quite rivaled Mike Trout at drawing walks. That has remained the case in 2019, though his current rate (6.7 percent) stands as one of the highest figures of his career. And the righty-swinging Kendrick has always been tough on both same- and left-handed pitchers, which has certainly been true this season.

Kendrick’s increase in production stems largely from an uptick in power. His ISO (.270) is twice his career number (.135), in part because of a greater emphasis on hitting fly balls. Kendrick’s pulling the ball more than ever, going less to the opposite field than he ever has, and his newfound power reflects that. His FB rate (32.6 percent) is more than 8 percent his lifetime figure (24.1), and his launch angle – which was in the one-degree range from 2015-17 before climbing to 7.9 during his injury-limited 2018 – has skyrocketed to 9.2.

Kendrick’s effort to put the ball in the air more has paid serious dividends. He already has 11 home runs, seven fewer than his most in a season; although his 24.4 percent HR-to-FB rate isn’t going to hold, both Kendrick’s approach at the plate and the way he’s hitting the ball suggest a massive drop-off may not be in the offing. Kendrick’s swinging and missing a career-best rate and making more contact than he has at any point, particularly on pitches outside the strike zone. When Kendrick has connected, he has posted the majors’ 14th-best weighted on-base average (.408), per Statcast. And that’s hardly just a product of good fortune, as shown by his 11th-ranked expected wOBA (.424). Kendrick’s xwOBA ranks in the majors’ 96th percentile, while his expected slugging percentage (.610; 96th), expected batting average (.328; 99th), hard-hit rate (50 percent; 93rd percentile) and exit velocity (91.7 percent; 88th) also reside toward the top of the league.

If there’s one problem with Kendrick’s offensive game, it’s a lack of speed. While Kendrick has been a double-digit stolen base threat for the majority of his career, he has swiped a mere two on four attempts dating back to last season. According to Statcast’s sprint speed metric, Kendrick is now one of the majors’ slowest runners. Kendrick’s .331 batting average on balls in play may decline as a result, especially considering he’s hitting the ball on the ground most of the time, and the lack of speed won’t help his cause in the field either. To Kendrick’s credit, though, he’s still a versatile defender, having logged double-digit appearances at first, second and third base this season.

Kendrick’s superb late-career showing looks like an important development for him and the Nationals. Not only is Kendrick helping his future earning power a few months away from another trip to free agency, but he could aid in a playoff push for the Nats. Worst-case scenario for Washington: If the club falls out of the postseason race and decides to sell before the July 31 deadline, it’ll likely have a solid trade chip on its hands in Kendrick. The veteran’s on a non-prohibitive $4MM salary, making him all the more enticing to potential suitors.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[KBO’s Lotte Giants To Acquire Jacob Wilson, Release Carlos Asuaje]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161938 2019-06-09T22:56:23Z 2019-06-09T16:51:38Z The Lotte Giants of the KBO League are set to acquire infielder Jacob Wilson from the Nationals, as per a report from Naver Sports (hat tip to The Athletic’s Sung Min Kim).  Wilson will take the place of infielder Carlos Asuaje, who is being released.

As per the Pacific Coast League’s official transactions page, Wilson has been placed on the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies’ temporarily inactive list, likely while the details of the move to South Korea are finalized.  Wilson was originally a 10th-round pick for the Cardinals in the 2012 draft, and has compiled a .257/.336/.435 slash line and an even 100 home runs over 3029 career PA in the minors.  Wilson has yet to reach the big leagues at age 28, and the move to the KBO League offers him a new opportunity (and larger salary) than he was likely to obtain continuing in the Nats’ organization.

Wilson has mostly played second and third base in his career, though he has experience all over the diamond, with multiple starts at first base, shortstop, and both corner outfield positions.  He also heads to the Giants in the wake of his best-ever season at the plate, as Wilson has clearly enjoyed the thin air of the PCL to the tune of a 1.023 OPS in 230 plate appearances for Fresno.

Asuaje only just joined the KBO this past offseason, delivering a .252/.356/.368 slash over 194 PA this season.  A veteran of 175 MLB games with the Padres from 2016-18, Asuaje hit .240/.312/.329 over 586 PA for San Diego, with the large majority of his production coming against right-handed pitching.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Justin Miller Begins Rehab Assignment]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161897 2019-06-09T04:15:55Z 2019-06-09T04:11:29Z
  • Nationals reliever Justin Miller started a rehab assignment at the Double-A level on Saturday, when he threw a perfect inning and fired nine strikes on 10 pitches, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reports. Miller has been on the IL twice this season, including since May 18 with a right rotator cuff strain. The injuries have contributed to a tough year for Miller, who has notched a 4.02 ERA (with an unsightly 7.04 FIP), 6.32 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9, and a microscopic 19.1 percent groundball rate in 15 2/3 innings. He’s one of a multitude of Nationals relievers who have disappointed in 2019.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Activate Trevor Rosenthal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161891 2019-06-09T02:45:07Z 2019-06-09T02:43:55Z The Nationals announced the reinstatement of reliever Trevor Rosenthal from the 10-day injured list Saturday. They optioned fellow right-hander Kyle McGowin to Double-A Harrisburg in a corresponding move.

    In what looked like a beneficial move in the making, the Nationals signed Rosenthal to a $7MM guarantee last November. Rosenthal was coming off a season-plus lost to Tommy John surgery at the time, though he had established himself as a quality reliever with the Cardinals dating back to his 2012 debut. However, the 29-year-old Rosenthal has been anything but effective as a member of the Nationals. Not only did it take Rosenthal until his fifth appearance of the season to record an out, but he allowed 12 earned runs on seven hits and nine walks in three innings before going on the IL on April 26 with a viral infection.

    Adding to his issues in 2019, the hard-throwing Rosenthal didn’t register encouraging numbers during his prolonged stay in the minors. While pitching at the Double-A level, Rosenthal yielded six earned runs on nine hits (two homers) with 11 strikeouts against seven walks in 9 1/3 innings.

    At this point, it’s hard to believe Rosenthal will reestablish himself in Washington, but a turnaround would be a significant boon for the club. The Nationals’ bullpen has been one of the worst in the majors throughout the season, which has helped lead to an awful 28-35 record and a six-game deficit in the NL East. In the Nats’ most recent late-game blowup on Friday, closer Sean Doolittle surrendered the decisive two runs en route to a 5-4 loss to the Padres.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Ryan Zimmerman On The Mend]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161796 2019-06-08T15:13:34Z 2019-06-08T15:13:34Z Back on April 21st, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman launched a pair of solo home runs in a 5-0 win over the Miami Marlins, putting him one RBI away from a cool one thousand in his career. Nearly seven weeks later, Zimmerman still sits on the precipice of that milestone as plantar fasciitis has put his season on hold. “It’s been probably one of the more frustrating things I’ve gone through,” Zimmerman says of the heel injury, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. Though Zimmerman has resumed baseball activities – namely, batting practice and fielding drills – the next step is being able to run comfortably. Howie Kendrick’s preternatural .325/.359/.583 mark through 151 at-bats helps mitigate Zimmerman’s long-term absence, as does the presence of his planned platoon partner Matt Adams (.245/.277/.481). Still, the man dubbed “Mr. Walkoff” in DC has appeared in every season the Nationals have been in existence, and he has the potential to buoy an offense that has generally floated near the middle of the pack. Years of injuries and a rock-bottom 2016 dimmed Zimmerman’s star, but in stretches he still resembles the ballplayer of his youth. For those of you who don’t remember, Zimmerman was a force, a .279/.343/.475 career hitter with 1,756 hits, 267 home runs, and of course, 999 career RBIs. For reference, Zimmerman, now 34, is listed as Manny Machado’s fifth-most similar batting comp through age-25 per Baseball-Reference.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Dante Bichette Jr.]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161663 2019-06-07T17:52:07Z 2019-06-07T17:52:07Z The Nationals have agreed to a minor-league deal with corner infielder Dante Bichette Jr., per an announcement from the High Point Rockers. Bichette had been playing with the indy ball outfit, which sold his contract to the D.C. organization.

    The 26-year-old Bichette has a familiar name for baseball fans of a certain age. His namesake father was a well-known slugger with the Rockies. The family name is now more notable for another player: Bo Bichette, a top Blue Jays prospect who is Dante Jr.’s brother.

    Back to the Bichette at issue here, he’ll earn a return to the affiliated ranks for the first time since the 2017 campaign. A former first-round draft pick and Yankees prospect, Bichette was cut loose after three-straight tepid showings at the Double-A level. He has performed better thus far in the Atlantic League in 2019, slashing .397/.424/.529 with three home runs in 145 plate appearances.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Fernando Rodney]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=160768 2019-06-05T01:20:40Z 2019-06-05T01:20:13Z June 4: Rodney’s deal with the Nats is official, per an announcement from Paul Braverman of the Fresno Grizzlies’ communications department (Twitter link). He joined the Grizzlies in New Orleans and is active for tonight’s game.

    June 1: The Nationals have agreed to a minor league deal with reliever Fernando Rodney, according to Craig Mish of SiriusXM. Rodney will report to Triple-A Fresno.

    The well-traveled Rodney was last with the Athletics, who designated him for assignment a week ago before releasing him on Tuesday. Even though Oakland had to eat the remaining $3.53MM on Rodney’s club option in moving on from him, the club decided the 42-year-old was no longer worth a roster spot. It was an understandable call on the part of the A’s, for whom Rodney turned in 14 1/3 innings of 9.42 ERA/5.52 FIP ball with 8.79 K/9 and 7.53 BB/9 this season.

    While 2019 has been a nightmare for the arrow-slinging Rodney, he was a useful reliever between Oakland and Minnesota just a year ago. Since his career began with the Tigers back in 2002, the right-hander has notched a 3.79 ERA/3.77 FIP with 9.08 K/9, 4.48 BB/9, a 50.2 percent groundball rate, 325 saves and 96 holds in 899 2/3 innings.

    Rodney’s typical production would be welcome in Washington, whose bullpen has been one of the majors’ worst this year. The Nationals haven’t been able to find solutions leading up to closer Sean Doolittle, and the Rodney signing is their latest low-risk attempt to repair their unenviable late-game situation. Rodney follows Jonny Venters and George Kontos as the third veteran reliever the Nats have brought in on a minors pact since last Saturday.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Examining Stephen Strasburg’s Opt-Out Possibility]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=161169 2019-06-05T00:55:43Z 2019-06-05T00:55:43Z It has now been 10 years since the Nationals used the first pick in the 2009 draft on right-hander Stephen Strasburg, whose major league debut a season later came with great fanfare. Strasburg drew comparisons to Hall of Fame hurlers leading up to his initial start June 8, 2010, and he didn’t disappoint that night. The flamethrowing 21-year-old introduced himself by fanning 14 Pirates and walking none in a seven-inning, two-run performance, leading to hope such outings would become the norm and he’d emerge as a perennial Cy Young contender. Nine years later, Strasburg’s trophy case is devoid of a Cy Young, but that doesn’t mean he has been a letdown in D.C.

    There have been rocky moments in Strasburg’s career, including injury woes (he underwent Tommy John surgery late in his rookie season, to name one example) and the Nationals’ infamous decision to shut him down amid a pennant race in 2012. The Nationals didn’t take home a World Series without Strasburg that fall – nor have they even won a playoff series with him on their roster, if you can believe it. Still, the Nats can’t complain over what Strasburg has given them dating back to his electrifying introduction.

    If a pitcher’s record matters to you, Strasburg has won 99 of 154 decisions en route to a .643 winning percentage. More importantly, Strasburg has notched a 3.14 ERA/2.90 FIP with 10.6 K/9 against 2.35 BB/9 in 218 starts and 1,308 2/3 innings, and his lifetime 33.1 fWAR ranks 11th among starters since 2010.

    As good as Strasburg has been, he has taken a backseat in Washington to the even better Max Scherzer since the latter joined the franchise in 2015. Scherzer is perhaps what many thought Strasburg would become – a dominant workhorse with three Cy Youngs to his name. But while Scherzer may be the gold standard among current pitchers, Strasburg hasn’t been miles behind him in 2019. Durability hasn’t been a problem this season for the soon-to-be 31-year-old Strasburg, who entered Tuesday averaging almost seven frames per start across 12 tries and ranking sixth in innings (79). At the same time, Strasburg boasts the majors’ ninth-best strikeout rate (11.16 per nine), 13th-highest K/BB ratio (4.9) and 22nd-ranked groundball percentage (48.9) – all of which has helped lead to a 3.19 ERA/2.68 FIP.

    Strasburg doesn’t bring the same type of velocity he used to, evidenced by the sub-94 mph average on his fastball, but it hasn’t mattered. His four-seamer and sinker have been among the game’s premier fastballs this year, per FanGraphs, which assigns even higher marks to his curveball. Strasburg has been much more reliant on his sinker and curve than ever this season, while he has all but scrapped his slider. Hitters have posted a pitiful .251 weighted on-base average/.240 xwOBA against Strasburg’s four-pitch mix (he also throws a changeup better than 18 percent of the time), making him one of the majors’ most difficult starters to hit in 2019.

    If Strasburg keeps this up over the next few months, he could have an important call to make once the season ends. By then, Strasburg will have a remaining four years and $100MM (some of which is deferred) on the seven-year, $175MM extension he signed with the Nationals in May 2016. However, Strasburg’s deal comes with an opt-out decision after both the 2019 and ’20 campaigns, meaning he could walk away from a guaranteed nine figures and take his chances on the open market this offseason. In doing so, Strasburg would likely fall behind only Astros righty Gerrit Cole on the pecking order of free-agent starters,

    Strasburg would be taking an incredible risk in trying his hand at free agency, of course, though seeing a starter surpass the $100MM barrier at or over the age of 30 isn’t unheard of. Scherzer pulled it off as a 30-year-old when the Nationals gave him seven years and $215MM entering 2015. The Diamondbacks signed righty Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5MM guarantee on the cusp of his age-32 season, 2016. That same offseason, 30-year-old lefty David Price (Red Sox) and one of Strasburg’s former teammates, soon-to-be 30-year-old righty Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers), scored paydays worth a combined $327MM. Righty Yu Darvish was just months away from his 32nd birthday when the Cubs inked him to a six-year, $126MM deal going into 2018. And one of Strasburg’s current rotation mates, soon-to-be 30-year-old lefty Patrick Corbin, put pen to paper on a six-year, $140MM pact this past winter.

    Strasburg could look to Scherzer, Greinke, Price, Zimmermann, Darvish and Corbin for inspiration. However, he’d also have to consider other accomplished hurlers who haven’t gotten free agency to work for them in recent years. Righty Jake Arrieta had his sights set on a $100MM or even $200MM guarantee going into 2018, his age-32 season, but wound up getting three years and $75MM from the Phillies. Nowadays, as anyone who pays a sliver of attention to free-agent activity knows, 31-year-old southpaw Dallas Keuchel hasn’t been able to find a job seven months after hitting the market. Keuchel wanted nine figures when he ventured to free agency, but he may be lucky to even pull in a multiyear deal at this juncture.

    The fact that Arrieta and Keuchel came with qualifying offers and draft pick compensation attached helped tamp down interest when they reached the market. Strasburg would also have a QO hindering him, as the Nationals wouldn’t just let him walk for nothing, and that’s something else he’ll have to think about. Fortunately for Strasburg, he looks more formidable than Arrieta did during his contract year or Keuchel did during his platform season. That doesn’t mean Strasburg will opt out – especially given the positive relationship he and agent Scott Boras have with Nationals ownership – but he may have a real decision on his hands in a few months.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals' Recent Drafts Lacking In Results]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=160899 2019-06-03T11:43:31Z 2019-06-03T11:42:49Z As the Nationals try to claw their way back into contention in the NL East, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post writes that the team’s lackluster draft results in recent years have been a notable factor in their current struggles. From 2011-15, Anthony Rendon is the lone, established impact player the team managed to draft and develop into a star, and there have only been 18 Nationals draftees to reach the Majors (with any team) in that span — tied for second-fewest in MLB. Looking at those 2011-15 drafts, only four players selected by Washington have more than one career WAR, and those results include the since-traded Lucas Giolito and Nick Pivetta. The Nats have had better success on the international market (Victor Robles, Juan Soto), but Svrluga notes that an organization built on scouting needs to get back to finding more impactful talent in the draft if it hopes to continue its run as a near-regular NL East contender. It’s a well-researched piece that any Nationals fan will want to take in in its entirety.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[An Early Look At Nationals’ Deadline Options]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=160651 2019-06-01T06:43:43Z 2019-06-01T06:42:30Z The Nationals are 24-33, 9 1/2 games back of the NL East lead and six out of wild-card position. If that keeps up, they seem likely to sell leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. For now, though, that isn’t the Nationals’ intention. An American League executive told Jayson Stark of The Athletic that Washington’s “still talking about adding. They’ve been calling around, looking for upgrades in the bullpen. And teams with that attitude have a hard time flipping and saying it’s time to re-trench for next year.”

    If the Nationals aren’t going to wave the white flag, the bullpen’s a logical place to seek upgrades. Their relief corps has been a horror show all season, ranking last in the majors in ERA (7.23), 29th in blown saves (11), 28th in FIP (5.26) and 26th in walks per nine innings (4.38). As you’d expect from those statistics, bright spots have been difficult to find in the group.

    Of the seven Nationals who have logged double-digit relief appearances this season, only closer Sean Doolittle has put up respectable numbers, but even the oft-dominant left-hander had a couple blowups in the second half of May. Meanwhile, blowups have been all too common throughout the season for southpaw Matt Grace and hard-throwing righty Kyle Barraclough – one of the Nationals’ key offseason acquisitions. Fellow offseason pickup Trevor Rosenthal could scarcely record an out before the club banished him to the injured list April 26 because of a viral infection. Wander Suero, Tony Sipp and the injured Justin Miller have mostly been ineffective, while it’s too soon to pass judgment on a Tanner RaineyJavy GuerraKyle McGowin trio that has thrown a combined 13 1/3 innings.

    Unfortunately for the Nationals, with the deadline still two full months away, teams with valuable relief trade chips may want to keep them in hopes of sparking a late-July bidding war. Although, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was able to pry reliever Kelvin Herrera out of Kansas City almost a month and a half before last year’s deadline. The Herrera acquisition didn’t work out, though, continuing Rizzo’s spotty track record of bullpen trades. Even getting Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the Athletics in 2017 cost the Nats Blake Treinen and Jesus Luzardo, the former perhaps baseball’s best closer in 2018 and the latter now an elite pitching prospect, as well as a good third base prospect in Sheldon Neuse. The summer before that, reeling in Mark Melancon from the Pirates forced the Nationals to give up now-excellent Pittsburgh closer Felipe Vazquez.

    Though the Nationals want to make yet another in-season trade(s) to repair their wonky bullpen, the luxury tax line is worth keeping in mind in their case. Ownership reportedly doesn’t want to exceed the $206MM threshold, which helps explain why Washington hasn’t just signed free-agent closer Craig Kimbrel to better its late-game situation. The team’s a bit under $203MM in luxury tax payroll, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, and would have to shell out a 50 percent surtax for every dollar spent over the line.

    The tax is likely weighing on the Nationals’ minds as they consider buying. However, there’s plenty of time for the club to change course and pivot toward selling if the on-field product doesn’t improve. Should Washington take that route, it could consider moving the premier impending free agent in the game (at least among position players), third baseman Anthony Rendon. Rizzo was in a similar position last year with Bryce Harper, but given that the Nationals were hovering around the .500 mark, he decided to retain the outfielder. The Nationals then missed the playoffs and failed to re-sign Harper, leading him to bolt for the division-rival Phillies in free agency after rejecting a qualifying offer. All the Nats got for his exit was a fourth-round pick. The departure of a qualified Rendon would return something better – a draft choice after Competitive Balance Round B – but only if they stay below the tax line.

    Beyond Rendon, Stark points to Doolittle and right-handed ace Max Scherzer as potential trade chips. Stark hears from multiple executives that the Nationals are not interested in moving Scherzer, though. The 34-year-old Scherzer’s contract still has more than $100MM on it – including in deferrals – but he remains a dominant force who’d draw plenty of interest. Doolittle has just another year of control left (a $6.5MM club option), though trading him would likely damage the bullpen-needy Nationals’ chances of competing in 2020. More realistically, a Nats sale could revolve around Rendon with Michael A. Taylor, who’s under control for one more year, and potential free agents Matt Adams, Howie Kendrick, Brian Dozier and Gerardo Parra also looking like trade candidates.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Shut Down Jeremy Hellickson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=160237 2019-05-30T00:52:24Z 2019-05-30T00:52:24Z Nationals righty Jeremy Hellickson has been sidelined since mid May due to a shoulder strain, and it doesn’t appear as though he’ll be returning in the near future. Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com tweeted today that the Nats have shut Hellickson down from throwing due to ongoing soreness in his problematic right shoulder. He’d been on a long-toss program.

    Hellickson, 32, was a nice pickup for the Nats on a minor league deal in 2018 when he gave them 91 1/3 innings of 3.45 ERA ball with a 65-to-20 K/BB ratio through 19 starts. That prompted the Nats and Hellickson to reunite on a one-year pact back in February — a deal that promised the former AL Rookie of the Year a modest $1.3MM salary (plus additional incentive opportunities). He’s already picked up $600K worth of incentives, securing $200K bonuses for his third, fifth and seventh starts of the season.

    The 2019 season has been an entirely different story for Hellickson, who hit the injured list back on May 19 after seeing his ERA rise to 6.23. After allowing just 11 homers in 91 1/3 frames last year, he’s already served up nine long balls. Hellickson’s average fastball is down from 89.7 mph to 88.5 mph, and he’s seen his BB/9 mark spike from 1.97 a year ago to 4.62 in 2019.

    Hellickson was one of three starting pitchers signed to Major League deals this winter, and while it’s hard to overstate Patrick Corbin’s early excellence in the first season of his $140MM contract, the team’s investments in Hellickson and Anibal Sanchez haven’t paid dividends yet. A disastrous bullpen has been the main culprit in Washington’s shockingly poor start to the season, but the tough outings at the back of the rotation have been a significant factor in the Nats’ 23-32 record as well.

    With Hellickson out for a yet-to-be-determined period, the Nationals will likely look to Erick Fedde in the fifth spot of the rotation. Based on the pair’s 2019 output, it’s an upgrade for the Nationals. Fedde has a 2.25 ERA with a 27-to-5 K/BB ratio in 24 2/3 innings of Triple-A ball so far and has also given the Nats 20 2/3 frames with a 2.18 ERA in the big leagues. His 12-to-8 K/BB ratio and a pair of hit batsmen create some cause for concern with regard to Fedde’s MLB showing, but the former first-round pick and top prospect certainly at least merits a look.