Washington Nationals – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-10-20T01:21:22Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress TC Zencka <![CDATA[Nationals Hire Jim Hickey As Pitching Coach]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=258855 2020-10-19T18:01:31Z 2020-10-19T17:44:47Z The Washington Nationals have named Jim Hickey their next pitching coach, the club announced. Hickey, 59, spent the past two seasons as a special assistant for player development for the Dodgers.

The move does not come as a surprise, as manager Davey Martinez had been expected to bring in people from his past to join the coaching staff. Martinez, having recently been extended, has been granted the opportunity to hand-pick his coaching staff for the first time since taking over as Washington’s manager. He will also be selecting a new bench coach at some point this offseason.

Hickey and Martinez go all the way back to their days together on Joe Maddon’s staff in Tampa Bay. The pair worked together in Tampa for seven seasons from 2008 to 2014. Hickey, of course, comes with his own set of qualifications, having spent 15 years as a pitching coach – most recently with the Cubs in 2018.

Paul Menhart had been the Nationals pitching coach for the last year and a half, taking over midway through 2019. His ascension to the bench coincided with the Nats’ turnaround, and Menhart was credited with helping Stephen Strasburg make key adjustments during their World Series victory over the Astros. A long-time organizational coach, Menhart was informed recently that he would not be brought back.

Hickey has plenty of material to work with in Washington, who boast a three-headed monster at the top of their rotation in Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin. The back half of the rotation tells a different tale, however, as Joe Ross, Erick Fedde, and Austin Voth have been unable to fully claim rotation spots. Along with a bullpen that’s perpetually in question, Hickey will be tasked with steering their pitching corps back in the direction of the foundational unit it’s been for the franchise prior to 2020.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Michael A. Taylor Clears Waivers, Elects Free Agency]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=257526 2020-10-15T15:57:27Z 2020-10-15T15:36:29Z Nationals outfielder Michael A. Taylor has cleared waivers and elected free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple-A Fresno, per a team announcement. The 29-year-old was arbitration-eligible this winter but stood as a clear non-tender candidate on the heels of a rough 2020 season. The decision to pass him through waivers effectively amounts to an early non-tender.

Taylor made $3.25MM with the Nationals in 2020 — about $1.17MM prorated — but scuffled to a .196/.253/.424 batting line in 99 plate appearances. It was the third straight below-average season at the plate for Taylor, who peaked with a .271/.320/.486 slash and 19 dingers back in 2017 but hasn’t produced since. The Nats sent Taylor to the minors for much of the 2019 season, but with a projected raise into the mid-$3MM range and a three-year slash line of .225/.284/.370, the club will instead move on.

While Taylor has struggled at the plate in recent years, he still has some pop in his bat and the ability to play any of three outfield spots well. Strikeouts have long been an issue and likely will continue to be, but Taylor has a .175 ISO (slugging minus batting average) since 2017 and boasts career marks of +23 Defensive Runs Saved and +10.6 Ultimate Zone Rating (4.8 UZR/150) in nearly 3300 center field innings.

Taylor’s exit could be part of broader-reaching changes in the Washington outfield. The Nats hold a $10.5MM club option over right fielder Adam Eaton, but that seems likely to be bought out after a career-worst year at the plate and a generally injury-interrupted Nationals tenure. The Nats took a look at Juan Soto in right field in the season’s final week — perhaps foreshadowing a changing of the guard in that aspect.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Outright James Bourque, Raudy Read]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=256468 2020-10-13T21:27:29Z 2020-10-13T21:26:54Z The Nationals announced that they have outrighted hurler James Bourque and catcher Raudy Read to Triple-A Fresno. They now have 34 players on their 40-man roster.

The right-handed Bourque, a 14th-round pick of the Nationals in 2014, has been used sparingly in the majors so far. The 27-year-old debuted with the Nats in 2019 and has since thrown a mere 4 2/3 innings, including four this season. Bourque owns a 5.56 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 6.2 BB/9 in 43 2/3 frames at the Triple-A level.

Read, 27, has also seen little action in the bigs, where he picked up four hits in 22 plate appearances from 2017-19. He didn’t appear in the majors in 2020, but Read has batted a respectable .272/.311/.511 with 20 home runs in 380 Triple-A plate appearances.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Javy Guerra, Sam Freeman Elect Free Agency]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=255516 2020-10-12T20:21:46Z 2020-10-12T19:16:09Z The Nationals announced that relievers Javy Guerra and Sam Freeman have cleared outright waivers and elected free agency.

After signing minor league contracts with the Nationals over the winter, neither the 34-year-old Guerra nor Freeman, 33, saw a ton of action with the club. Guerra threw 15 2/3 innings of 4.02 ERA/4.53 FIP ball and posted 7.47 K/9 against 4.02 BB/9. The left-handed Freeman allowed just two hits and one run over five innings, but he also issued seven walks and then underwent Tommy John surgery in September.

Guerra will now return to free agency as the owner of a 3.73 ERA/3.99 FIP with 7.31 K/9 and 3.58 BB/9 in 296 2/3 innings. Freeman has amassed 233 2/3 major league frames and recorded a 3.58 ERA/4.01 FIP and 8.94 K/9 against 5.24 BB/9, but he’s unlikely to pitch next year in light of his procedure.

TC Zencka <![CDATA[Roenis Elías, Paolo Espino, Aaron Barrett Elect Free Agency]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=254547 2020-10-10T21:23:12Z 2020-10-10T21:18:36Z Roenis Elias, Paolo Espino, and Aaron Barrett have elected free agency. All three were outrighted by the Washington Nationals earlier this week, clearing waivers.

Barrett in particular holds a semi-significant role in organizational lore, as the 6’3″ right-hander came back Tommy John surgery only to suffer a horrendous arm injury while rehabbing in a simulated game. Barrett’s second injury has become an almost-boogeyman within the organization, as those present still talk about (as Dan Kolko does here) the sound of that second injury. Nevertheless, Barrett rehabbed a second time, returned to the big leagues in 2019, and won a ring.

The 32-year-old’s five big-league appearances over the last two seasons were largely symbolic, rewards for a high-character player whose tale of perseverance served as a point of pride for many within the organization. All of which is not to take away from his ability on the mound. Barrett was a successful cog in the bullpen from 2014 to 2015 before sustaining those arm injuries. Even after his return, he posted solid numbers in Double-A  in 2019, posting a 2.75 ERA across 50 games.

Elías’ tenure in DC was also marked by injuries, but with a less uplifting finish. In a last minute deal, the Nats picked up Elías and Hunter Strickland from the Mariners at the deadline in 2019. He appeared in just 4 games after straining his hamstring. During a rare plate appearance, Elías initially strained his hamstring on an ill-advised sprint down the first base line while pitching in a game in Arizona. He missed the rest of the season, while a left flexor strain would keep him out of action in 2020. Prior to his injuries, Elías used his high-spin approach to save 14 games for the Mariners in 2019. He’ll be an interesting low-cost option for some team to take a flyer on this offseason.

The 33-year-old Espino made just two appearances for the Nats (one start) totaling 6 innings in 2020. It was the right-hander’s first big-league action since 2017 when he appeared for both the Brewers and Rangers.

TC Zencka <![CDATA[More Changes To Nationals’ Coaching Staff]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=254510 2020-10-10T20:05:31Z 2020-10-10T20:01:20Z More changes are coming to the Washington Nationals coaching staff. Hitting coach Kevin Long will not be returning next season, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Long’s contract has expired after a three-year term. Chip Hale will also be moving on, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). Hale was the bench coach when the Nats won the World Series in 2019 before moving to third base this season an in effort by manager Davey Martinez to keep things fresh.

This now makes three key members of the Nationals’ coaching staff who will not be returning. Pitching coach Paul Menhart was also told that his contract would not be renewed. According to Menhart, manager Davey Martinez has the opportunity to hand-pick his coaching staff for the first time since taking over as Nationals manager. It’s unclear if that’s the reason that Martinez is moving on from Long and Hale, but it certainly seems that way.

Hale was initially brought in by GM Mike Rizzo to provide a veteran hand on the bench while Martinez got his feet wet in his first role as manager. After three seasons and a World Series ring, it appears Martinez and the Nationals believe he’s ready to ride without supervision, so to speak. Hale previously managed the Diamondbacks from 2015 to 2016 and served as bench coach to Bob Melvin of the Athletics for three seasons from 2012 to 2014.

Long got his first major-league gig as a hitting coach for the Yankees back in 2007. He stayed in that role for eight seasons before embarking on a three-year term with the Mets. The conclusion of that contract brought him to Washington.

The Nationals offense produced just 3.2 fWAR as a team in 2020, a mark that ranks 27th in the majors. That’s a fairly disappointing outcome, especially considering Juan Soto and Trea Turner combined to produce 5.1 fWAR. But they also had a whopping 10 players rack up negative measures of fWAR, including free agent acquisition Eric Thames (-0.7 fWAR), World Series hero Howie Kendrick (-0.3 fWAR), and a trio of young bats they hope soon to develop into cornerstones: Victor Robles (-0.5 fWAR), Luis Garcia (-0.3 fWAR), and Carter Kieboom (-0.3 fWAR).

Even so, the club still finished 10th in the majors with 293 runs scored. Since the two-time World-Series-winning hitting coach took over in Washington, Nationals teams have scored the 7th-most runs in the majors while slashing .260/.338/.436, good for a 102 wRC+.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Outright 4 Players]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=254085 2020-10-09T21:11:29Z 2020-10-09T21:07:57Z The Nationals announced that infielder Adrian Sanchez and three right-handers – Aaron Barrett, Austen Williams and Paolo Espino – have cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Fresno. Meanwhile, the club has reinstated catcher Tres Barrera from the restricted list. Washington now has 37 players on its 40-man roster.

The 30-year-old Sanchez saw time in each season from 2017-19, but he only managed a .263/.280/.331 line and failed to hit a home run during that 166-plate appearance span.

Barrett was a solid part of the Nationals’ bullpen from 2014-15, but injuries (including Tommy John surgery) have limited him to four innings since then. He threw just 1 2/3 frames for the Nats this year. Williams didn’t factor in for the disappointing Washington club in 2020, while Espino totaled six innings of three-run ball.

Barrera, meantime, is back on the 40-man roster after receiving an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in July. The 26-year-old, who spent most of 2019 in Double-A but did have a brief debut with the Nats, denied ever “knowingly” taking a banned substance.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Nationals Notes: Eaton, Third Base]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=253811 2020-10-09T01:14:42Z 2020-10-09T01:14:24Z
  • It seems possible that Adam Eaton has played his last game with the Nationals, MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman writes that “you’d think they might prefer another corner outfielder with more pop than Eaton can provide.”  Beyond just Eaton’s rough .226/.285/.384 slash line over 176 plate appearances in 2020, the Nats also figure to consider glovework and cost in deciding whether or not to bring Eaton back next year, and neither factor is necessarily in the veteran outfielder’s favor.  Eaton’s defensive metrics took a significant step back this season, and exercising his 2021 club option is a $9MM choice for the Nats — Eaton’s option can be picked up for $10.5MM or bought out for $1.5MM.  With a lot of money already committed to the 2021 team and several roster issues in need of being addressed, Washington might prefer to spread that $9MM around to multiple areas, though letting Eaton go would create another need in left field.
  • Third base is another problem spot for the Nationals, as Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington notes.  Carter Kieboom didn’t produce in his rookie year, leaving veterans Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Harrison having to pick up the slack to mixed results.  It’s obviously too early to give up on Kieboom, so Dybas suggests that the Nats could just sign another veteran on a short-term contract as a depth option if Kieboom again struggles.  Conversely, the Nationals could make a bigger internal move by shifting Luis Garcia to third base, or look outside the current roster for a free agent signing either big (Justin Turner) or more modest (Jake Lamb).
  • ]]>
    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Nationals Part Ways With Pitching Coach Paul Menhart]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=251931 2020-10-04T02:14:02Z 2020-10-04T02:14:02Z The Nationals are moving on from pitching coach Paul Menhart, reports Byron Kerr of MASNsports.com (Twitter link). The 51-year-old’s contract was set to expire this offseason, and the organization has made the decision not to bring him back, relays Britt Ghiroli of the Athletic (via Twitter).

    Formerly Washington’s minor-league pitching coordinator, Menhart took over the big league job when Derek Lilliquist was fired last May. The Nationals began to overcome their now-famous slow start shortly thereafter en route to a World Series title. Obviously, it’s impossible to pin down from the outside how much credit Menhart (or any coach) deserves for that improvement.

    Similarly, it’s not clear how much blame Menhart shoulders for the team’s lackluster performance in 2020. This year, Nationals’ pitchers finished 23rd in park-adjusted ERA and 25th in park-adjusted FIP. Reigning World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg barely pitched due to injury, though, and the bullpen has been a thorn in the organization’s side for far longer than Menhart had been on the MLB staff.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Sean Doolittle Hopes To Return To Nationals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=249262 2020-09-28T01:51:22Z 2020-09-28T01:51:22Z Sean Doolittle is entering a winter with more contractual uncertainty than he’s ever faced in his career. Unlike most ballplayers who’ve been in the majors as long as he has, he’s never been a free agent before, and because of an early extension he signed with the A’s, he never even went through arbitration. Still, the 33-year-old southpaw is primarily focused on returning to Washington, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. Doolittle and his wife are entrenched in the D.C. community, and she wants to stay in Washington. Of course, Doolittle knows nothing is guaranteed in free agency, especially coming off the season he just had. Inconsistency and injury kept Doolittle from ever really looking like the guy that has been the rock of the Nats’ bullpen for years. He finished the season with a 5.87 ERA over just 11 contests, but a strong final few outings provided some hope that this season might be a blip on Doolittle’s return to health – and dominance. As a two-pitch pitcher without elite velocity, there’s not a lot of room for error in Doolittle’s arsenal. But when he’s on, he’s a guy a team can lean on in a postseason run. The Nationals know that. Whether or not GM Mike Rizzo is able to re-sign Doolittle will probably come down to price point. Everything else points to Doolittle staying in the city that’s become his home over the last 3 1/2 seasons.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Extend Dave Martinez]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=248710 2020-09-26T13:49:46Z 2020-09-26T13:49:28Z SEPTEMBER 26: Washington officially announced a “multi-year” extension for Martinez.

    SEPTEMBER 25: The Nationals have agreed to a contract extension with manager Dave Martinez, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). It’s a three-year, $7.5MM contract that will take effect in 2021, Bob Nightengale of USA Today was among those to tweet. His previous three-year contract was set to expire at season’s end, and the Nats had yet to formally make a call on Martinez’s 2021 club option or on a lengthier deal. The new contract will make quite the birthday present for Martinez, who turns 56 years old tomorrow.

    Typically, clubs seek to avoid having a manager or general manager navigate a season with the dreaded “lame duck” status — i.e. no contract in place for the following year — but the Nationals have repeatedly bucked that trend by waiting until the eleventh hour to make decisions one way or another on both their managers and GMs. The Nats didn’t extend general manager Mike Rizzo, whose contract didn’t even have a 2021 option, until three weeks ago.

    No club in baseball has had more managerial turnover in recent years than the Nationals, but it appears that last year’s World Series win will bring about the type of continuity this current generation of Nats players has yet to see. Martinez became the sixth man to manage a Nationals game in an eight-year span (2011-18) when he was hired, and since moving to D.C., the Nats have never had a skipper last more than three seasons on the job. The Lerner family opted to replace former skipper Dusty Baker even after Rizzo reportedly fought to keep him in place, and Baker only landed with the Nats after the club alienated Bud Black with a lowball, one-year offer when he had emerged as the favorite following the interview process.

    Replacing Baker with Martinez, previously the Cubs’ bench coach, has worked out for the Nationals. Despite losing Bryce Harper to free agency before 2019, the Martinez-led club won 93 games and its first title. On the other hand, this year has been a struggle for the Nationals, who saw star third baseman Anthony Rendon leave in free agency and have gone almost entirely without injured World Series MVP-wining right-hander Stephen Strasburg. At 23-34, the Nationals won’t defend their title in this year’s playoffs, but that championship was understandably enough to convince the club that Martinez is the right person for the job. Along with their World Series win, Martinez has guided the Nats to a 198-183 regular-season record during his tenure in D.C.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Howie Kendrick Undecided On Future]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=248872 2020-09-26T13:38:36Z 2020-09-26T13:38:09Z SEPTEMBER 26: Kendrick elaborated a bit on his situation yesterday (via Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com). He’d initially planned to retire at the end of the 2020 season, but the year’s unusual nature has at least given him pause.

    Man, do you want to go out like this? Do you want 2020 to be any worse?” Kendrick rhetorically asked. “2020 has been strange, due to COVID and all the other climate going around the country. It is a strange year. And to think you would end on a year like this … it is a tough one.

    SEPTEMBER 25: The excellent performance of Nationals infielder Howie Kendrick was one of the reasons the team won its first-ever World Series title in 2019, but he and the club have offered disappointing showings this season. Nearly 12 months later, the Nationals are going to miss the playoffs, and they may not have Kendrick in the fold next season.

    While the Nationals and Kendrick share a $6.5MM mutual option for 2021, the 37-year-old said Friday he’s unsure whether he’s planning on continuing his career, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post tweets. Kendrick, who hasn’t played since Sept. 5 because of a hamstring strain, wants to check on his health before committing to another season. The Nationals, meanwhile, could buy Kendrick out for $2.25MM during the coming weeks, so it’s unknown whether he’ll stay with the team even if he does keep his career going.

    Kendrick, a former Angel, Dodger and Phillie whom the Nats acquired from Philadelphia in 2017, has mostly been very good in Washington. He was one of the majors’ top regular-season hitters last year with a .344/.395/.572 mark and 17 home runs in 370 plate appearances, and he smacked the go-ahead HR in the seventh inning of what proved to be a Game 7 World Series victory over the Astros. While Kendrick will live on in Washington lore for his Fall Classic heroics, his output fell to earth during a 110-PA 2020 campaign in which he batted .275/.320/.385 with two homers.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Carter Kieboom Done For Season]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=247980 2020-09-23T20:20:13Z 2020-09-23T20:20:13Z The Nationals have placed infielder Carter Kieboom on the 10-day injured list with a left wrist contusion and recalled right-hander Wil Crowe, the team announced. Kieboom’s IL placement is retroactive to Tuesday, but this will nonetheless end his season.

    Kieboom was a first-round pick of the Nationals in 2016 who continues to be regarded as a high-end young talent, but this will go down as a disappointing season for him. The reigning World Series champions Nationals had designs on Kieboom capably replacing departed star Anthony Rendon at third base as early as this season, though the campaign has instead gone poorly for the sub-.500 Nats and the 23-year-old.

    While Kieboom does lead Washington in playing time at the hot corner, where he has amassed 30 starts and 122 plate appearances, he could only put together a .202/.344/.212 line before his season ended. Kieboom failed to hit a home run this year, and with a mere one extra-base hit, he ranks last in isolated power (.010) among 243 major leaguers who have amassed 120-plus plate appearances in 2020.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Select Paolo Espino]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=247129 2020-09-21T20:47:25Z 2020-09-21T20:47:25Z The Nationals have selected right-hander Paolo Espino, placed righties Aaron Barrett (triceps strain) and James Bourque (elbow strain) on the 10-day injured list, and moved lefty Seth Romero to the 45-day IL, the team announced. The Nats also recalled outfielder Yadiel Hernandez.

    Espino, 33, could now log major league action for the first time since 2017 – his only season in the majors thus far. He posted a 6.00 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.75 BB/9 in 24 innings between the Brewers and Rangers then, but divided the previous two years among the Triple-A affiliates of those teams and the Nationals. Overall, he has recorded a 4.21 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 657 2/3 innings at the minors’ highest level.

    Injuries have been an unfortunate part of the package for Barrett, a ninth-round pick of the Nationals in 2010 who was an effective part of their bullpen from 2014-15. Barrett underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, though, and also suffered a fractured elbow. He made his return to the majors late last season, but the 32-year-old has only combined for four innings of six-run ball since then.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Sam Freeman Undergoes Tommy John Surgery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=246611 2020-09-19T20:39:48Z 2020-09-19T20:36:28Z Nationals’ reliever Sam Freeman underwent Tommy John Surgery earlier this summer, manager Dave Martinez told reporters (including Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post). The southpaw has been out since August 12 with a flexor strain.

    Freeman went under the knife on August 19, relays Jessica Camerato of MLB.com. Given that timeline, it’s likely he won’t be able to return to game action until 2022. Fortunately, the initial stages of the recovery have gone well, Martinez added.

    It’s a devastating blow for the 33-year-old Freeman, who underwent the same procedure as a prospect back in 2010. He has seen big league action every year since 2012 but combined for just seven innings over the past two seasons. Freeman only allowed one run in seven appearances for the Nats this season, although his seven walks against six strikeouts hinted at potential forthcoming regression.

    Freeman is eligible for arbitration this offseason, but he’s a slam dunk to be non-tendered. He could look to lock on with another club on a minor-league deal this winter or attempt to rehab on his own and explore a deal when he’s further along in his recovery.