Washington Nationals – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-08-22T14:49:00Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress George Miller <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Sam Freeman To Minors Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171927 2019-08-22T04:04:19Z 2019-08-22T00:04:42Z
  • The Nationals have agreed to a minor-league deal with left-handed pitcher Sam Freeman, according to Mark Zuckerman of MASN. He’ll report to Triple-A Fresno. Though he was a mainstay in Braves bullpens over the last two years, he has only appeared in one big league game in 2019. He could very well get a chance to boost that number with the Washington organization, which has sorely lacked a lefty out-getter this season. In 35 games with the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate, he has a 7.01 ERA over 52 2/3 innings.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Joe Ross Set To Start Saturday, Strickland To Get X-Ray, Elias On The Mend]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171785 2019-08-20T22:05:09Z 2019-08-20T21:58:03Z The Nationals pitching staff has taken another hit, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post (Twitter links). Reliever Hunter Strickland is having X-rays taken at PNC park after a bar struck him across the face. The injury stems from a weight room accident, but Strickland was up and about, playing catch ahead of tonight’s contest in Pittsburgh. It’s unclear whether he will be available out of the pen tonight. Strickland has been great since coming over to the Nats at the deadline, looking fully the part of the eighth-inning reliever they’ve longed for all season. He’s 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA/3.07 FIP and 5 holds in 8 contests. At best, Strickland’s mishap may lead to a second Washington pitcher taking the hill with more black-and-blue in the color scheme than usual. While we’re here, let’s check in on another couple of notes from Washington and beyond…

    • Dougherty also provided an update on Joe Ross, who left last night’s blowout win after taking a Josh Bell one-hopper off the shin. His leg is wrapped, but Dave Martinez says the plan is for Ross to be ready to go for his next scheduled start on Saturday. Ross has pitched with newfound fervor since taking Max Scherzer’s spot in the rotation. Less four-seamers and a heavy reliance on his power sinker have at least been part of the story for the rejuvenated Ross. In four starts since the trade deadline, he’s thrown 21 1/3 innings with a hard-to-believe 0.42 ERA. Coming into August, Ross had a 9.85 ERA over 24 2/3 innings that spanned 18 games out of the bullpen and 1 start. If he’s healthy enough to go Saturday, the 5th spot in the Nats rotation appears his. If not, Erick Fedde will be ready to go.
    Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Doolittle On Role Moving Forward]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171762 2019-08-20T15:17:59Z 2019-08-20T15:15:10Z Though manager Dave Martinez has maintained that he will regain his closer’s role when he returns from the injured list, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle isn’t taking anything for granted, as shown in a profile from the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty. “I mean that’s awesome to get that vote of confidence from your manager. But I have to pitch better if I want to stay in that role,” Doolittle told Dougherty on Monday. Of course, it’s probably the proper attitude for the veteran lefty to assume after a recent run of poor play–outlined by a 7.36 ERA in his last 15 appearances–culminated in his placement on the injured list on Sunday with right knee tendinitis. While watching video of his last outing, a three-homer drubbing at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers, Doolittle says he has identified several mechanical concerns that could be the cause of his struggles, including a low release point and shortened extension.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Nationals Likely To Activate Max Scherzer Thursday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171573 2019-08-18T17:14:22Z 2019-08-18T16:36:12Z The Nationals will likely activate ace Max Scherzer on Thursday, manager Dave Martinez tells Jamal Collier of MLB.com (via Twitter). Scherzer threw a simulated game yesterday and came out unscathed.

    Of course, a Scherzer return will be a boon to a Washington club holding onto a 2.5 game in the Wild Card standings. The Nats just lost their closer and have one of the game’s worst bullpens, so their starting rotation takes on outsized importance. Scherzer, meanwhile, remains arguably baseball’s best pitcher. His 2.41 ERA is tied for second leaguewide (minimum 100 innings), while his combination of strikeouts (35.3%) and walks (4.7%) is the best in MLB. Scherzer’s been among the best pitchers of this decade, having accrued 200+ innings with an ERA of 3.15 or below every year between 2013 and 2018. While the injuries will keep him from that 200 inning mark this season, he remains dominant as ever on a rate basis, making his return one of the most noteworthy around the league as we approach the season’s stretch run.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Nationals Place Sean Doolittle On Injured List]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171567 2019-08-18T16:18:08Z 2019-08-18T16:00:49Z The Nationals announced today they have placed reliever Sean Doolittle on the 10-day injured list with right knee tendinitis. Righty Kyle McGowin is up from Double-A Harrisburg to take Doolittle’s active roster spot.

    We just heard Washington was considering cutting Doolittle’s workload back in recognition of his recent downturn in performance. Doolittle and manager Dave Martinez attributed his recent struggles to a heavy workload, but evidently there’s more than mere fatigue at play.

    As we covered more fully this morning, Doolittle’s results and stuff have both gone backwards in recent weeks. This will mark the sixth consecutive season in which the 32 year-old hits the IL. It’s not immediately clear where the Nationals will turn in late-game situations, but Daniel Hudson and Hunter Strickland each have closing experience. As Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post points on (on Twitter), perhaps this opens the door for veteran Greg Holland, who signed a minor-league deal with the D.C. organization after being cut loose by the Diamondbacks. Holland had a strong end to the 2018 season with the Nats after an abysmal start in St. Louis. Any Holland promotion would require a 40-man roster move.

    Immediately, though, it’ll be McGowin coming up. A starter throughout his time in the minors, the 27 year-old has been used in relief in eight of his ten MLB appearances with Washington. A former fifth-rounder of the Angels, McGowin’s a sinker-slider arm, the type who typically ends up in relief, but he’s been quite good in 15 minor-league starts in 2019 split between Harrisburg and Triple-A Fresno.

    For Doolittle, this seems to all but ensure he’ll be back in Washington in 2020. Doolittle’s contract comes equipped with a $6.5 million club option which turns into a mutual option if he records the final out of 16 more games this season. Even considering his abysmal August, he surely would have topped that minuscule sum on the open market, so the ability to elect free agency would’ve greatly impacted his 2020 earning power and potential destination. While there’s no timetable for his return, it’s almost impossible to imagine he’ll close out 16 games from August 27, when he’d be eligible for activation if everything goes perfectly, through the end of the season.

    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[Nationals To Reevaluate Ninth Inning]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171539 2019-08-18T15:13:46Z 2019-08-18T15:13:46Z The Nationals are reconsidering their usage of closer Sean Doolittle, manager Dave Martinez tells Mark Zuckerman of MASN. Any significant change could affect both the team’s 2019 postseason push and Doolittle’s employment in 2020.

    Washington lost in fourteen innings to the Brewers last night, a game which bizarrely saw Milwaukee hit five home runs after the eighth inning, as the Athletic’s Jayson Stark points out (via Twitter). Beyond the sting of losing to a team now only two and a half games behind them in the standings, the marathon afair again magnified the organization’s biggest flaw: its relief corps. While questions about the bullpen’s depth have persisted for months (some might even argue years), now the unit’s one perceived measure of stability is taking the heat.

    Doolittle blew a three-run lead in the ninth last night, surrendering a trio of longballs while recording just one out. He’s allowed multiple runs in three of his last five appearances and has coughed up seven homers in nine innings since July 29. That shocking stretch of ineffectiveness has pushed the veteran southpaw’s ERA to 4.33, a far cry from his 2.24 mark between 2017-2018. What’s more, his 25.5% strikeout rate in 2019, while solid, pales in comparison to the elite 33.9% figure he put up over the previous two seasons. In the aggregate, Doolittle’s numbers have dropped from stellar to average.

    How can one explain Doolittle’s downturn? Both pitcher and manager believe his workload is taking its toll. Saturday was the reliever’s eighth outing of August, although his 54 appearances on the season only ranks 29th in baseball. Indeed, Wander Suero, not Doolittle, has actually been the Nats’ most-used relief arm. That said, a pitcher who spent time on the injured list every year between 2014 and 2018, as Doolittle had, may need to be handled with further care. Martinez acknowledged he and his reliever will meet today to discuss Doolittle’s workload, and the hurler himself reluctantly expressed a willingness to cut back on his innings, noting he hasn’t “been pulling (his) weight here these last couple weeks.”

    It’s possible little will come of this reevaluation. After all, Martinez has worked Doolittle especially hard precisely because of the club’s lackluster bullpen. Daniel Hudson could stand to pick up a few save opportunities, but he’s pitched in 55 games himself and is a two-time Tommy John survivor, so the club surely won’t want to overload him, either (and his peripherals indicate he’d probably be miscast in that role anyhow). Tanner Rainey boasts an electric arm but an 18.8% walk rate, while Roenis Elías is out with a hamstring strain. Speculatively, fellow trade deadline acquisition Hunter Strickland could pick up a few ninth inning opportunities, but it’s obviously a suboptimal situation.

    If the club does cut back Doolittle’s innings down the stretch, it’d be disappointing given the club’s slight lead in the NL Wild Card and still-manageable deficit in the NL East. Ironically, though, these struggles could be a boon to the club’s 2020 roster. As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted Friday, Doolittle’s contract comes equipped with a $6.5 million club option which turns into a mutual option if he records the final out of 16 more games this season. Even considering his abysmal August, he could surely top that minuscule sum on the open market, so the ability to elect free agency would greatly impact his 2020 earning power and potential destination. If Martinez gets more judicious with Doolittle’s role to keep him fresh, the club could stand to pick up an extra year of control as a side benefit.

    It seems from his comments Doolittle would be at peace with such a move, since he was forthright in admitting his recent performance has been unacceptable. Indeed, it’s not as if the club would limit his workload solely with the games finished clause in mind. There’s a real case to be made the player needs more rest. In addition to acknowledging some fatigue, Doolittle’s fastball velocity was down two miles per hour last night, and his fastball spin is trending marginally down with it. It behooves everyone involved to get Doolittle right sooner than later.

    Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Scherzer On Track To Return Thursday]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171518 2019-08-18T01:13:59Z 2019-08-18T01:00:26Z
  • Saturday saw sidelined Nationals ace Max Scherzer throwing his second simulated game of the week, and MASN’s Mark Zuckerman reports that the legendary righty is on track to return on Thursday“He felt good,” manager Dave Martinez told Zuckerman. “He’s a little bit ornery, but that’s a good thing. Now we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.” It hardly counts as high-level baseball journalism to say that the Nationals are going to need Scherzer in peak form in coming weeks. Sitting atop the tightly packed NL Wild Card race, Washington will play 11 games before season’s end against the Brewers, Mets, Cubs, and Phillies–four teams currently chomping at their heels for the right to play in the postseason play-in game. When healthy, the 35-year-old righty has posted typically ridiculous numbers, with a 2.41 ERA, 2.09 FIP, 12.66 K/9, and 1.67 BB/9 in 134.1 innings this year.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Max Scherzer Won't Return This Weekend]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171421 2019-08-17T02:09:04Z 2019-08-17T02:09:04Z
  • The Nationals had hope that ace Max Scherzer would come off the injured list this weekend, but that isn’t going to happen, Eddie Matz of ESPN.com reports. Scherzer, shelved since July 25 with a mild rhomboid strain, still has to build his arm up more before he slots back into Washington’s rotation. He threw a 60-pitch simulated game this past Tuesday and will aim for “75, 80 pitches” on Saturday, according to manager Dave Martinez. If that goes well, it seems quite possible Scherzer will come off the IL sometime next week. The three-time Cy Young winner’s injury issues have limited him to just two starts since the beginning of July.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Doolittle On 2020 Option Clause]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171336 2019-08-16T14:47:24Z 2019-08-16T14:47:24Z Sean Doolittle is on pace to finish just enough games to trigger the clause in his contract that turns the Nationals’ $6.5MM club option into a mutual option, and the reliever spoke to Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post about his future this week. “I mean, you play this game for a really long time, and any time you have even a little control over your fate, over the direction your career goes, that’s something that we all hope to have,” said the Washington closer.

    It’s a critical clause for the Nationals, as the club has had perennial issues with its bullpen over the past few seasons. Doolittle himself was a midseason upgrade on the trade market and has emerged as Washington’s most reliable reliever since being acquired in 2017. He’ll need to finish 17 of the club’s final 42 games to get there, but he’s already finished 48 of 120, making that a distinct possibility. If his option converts to a mutual option, it’s quite likely that the 32-year-old will enter free agency, as he should be able to top a year and $6.5MM easily on the open market. Doolittle has a 2.65 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and 73 saves in 125 2/3 innings as a National.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Ryan Zimmerman Hopes To Remain With Nats]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171252 2019-08-15T22:11:46Z 2019-08-15T22:11:46Z Ryan Zimmerman is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and the longtime Nationals staple tells MLB.com’s Bill Ladson that he has yet to speak to GM Mike Rizzo or team ownership about what he hopes will be a continued relationship in 2020 and beyond.  The Nats hold an $18MM club option ($2MM buyout) on Zimmerman for next season that is highly unlikely to be exercised, given the veteran’s injuries and declining production in recent years.  Zimmerman is very eager to finish his career with the only franchise he has ever known, and reiterated that he is open to playing the rest of his career by ear, even returning just in a platoon situation at first base.

    I’m willing to come back [to Washington] and do one year, year by year, for a lot less money,” Zimmerman said.  “I don’t think the money matters to me anymore.  I just want to continue to play baseball and keep playing baseball in D.C.  I’m lucky that my kids are here.  My family is here.”  If the Nats didn’t want to keep Zimmerman on the roster, he stopped short of saying he’d retire, though “it would be a tough decision to leave my family and not be around” while playing in another city.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Max Scherzer Could Return This Weekend]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=171024 2019-08-14T00:33:54Z 2019-08-14T00:33:01Z
  • Nationals ace Max Scherzer came out of a 32-pitch sim game Tuesday feeling “really good,” Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com relays. If all goes well over the next few days, Scherzer could throw a bullpen session Thursday and then either make a rehab start or return to the Nationals’ rotation Sunday. The three-time Cy Young winner has started just twice for the team over the past month and a half – his most recent outing came on July 25 – because of back problems. Should he return this weekend, he’d be on a limited pitch count, according to manager Dave Martinez.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Greg Holland]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=170968 2019-08-13T20:16:46Z 2019-08-13T20:15:37Z TUESDAY: Holland has signed. He will begin with Double-A Harrisburg, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington tweets.

    MONDAY: The Nationals have agreed to a minor-league contract with veteran reliever Greg Holland, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (via Twitter). MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reported earlier today on Twitter that the sides were moving towards a deal.

    Holland, a 33-year-old righty, was released recently by the Diamondbacks. He’ll continue to be paid the balance of his $3.25MM salary by the Arizona organization, though the D.C. org will pay the tab for the league minimum rate for whatever time Holland spends in a big-league uniform down the stretch.

    When Holland joined the Nats late in the 2018 campaign, he was looking to bounce back from a brutal opening to the season. This time around, he had turned in good results for a lengthy stretch before things soured. But he’s also dealing with a different sort of problem: a marked, mid-season decline in velocity and swinging-strike rate on his fastball.

    On the positive side, Holland has seemingly been good at limiting contact. Statcast credits him with a .292 xwOBA-against and excellent .192 xBA-against, though he is allowing more hard contact (36.8%) and a greater exit velocity (89.3 mph) than ever before. Keeping opponents from getting aboard by way of base knocks is particularly important for Holland since his walk rate is over 15% for the second consecutive year.

    It remains to be seen whether and when Holland will contribute to the Nats’ pen. But the club has good cause to bring him aboard and hope for the best. The D.C. relief corps is as shaky as any such unit on a contending roster. Having already cycled through quite a few bullpen arms, including no shortage of recognizable veterans, the Nationals have little choice but to keep giving looks to the hurlers of Holland’s ilk that happen to come available.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Juan Soto, Max Scherzer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=170967 2019-08-13T20:15:58Z 2019-08-13T17:52:46Z
  • Finally, the Nationals appear optimistic on the health outlooks of two superstars. The club believes it has dodged a bullet with outfielder Juan Soto, as Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic was among those to cover (Twitter links). Soto was able to participate in baseball activities yesterday after initially fearing he had suffered a significant ankle injury in his latest contest. Meanwhile, ace Max Scherzer continues to make steady progress in his quest to move past a back issue. He remains slated for a sim game and is said to be feeling well, but the team still isn’t confident of a particular timeline. ***Update: Soto is in today’s lineup, while Scherzer threw his sim game as scheduled.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Reportedly Moving Toward Deal With Greg Holland]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=170950 2019-08-12T21:02:52Z 2019-08-12T20:50:20Z The Nationals are making progress toward a minor league contract with free-agent reliever Greg Holland, Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports.

    If a deal does come together, it’ll be the second straight summer in which the Nationals and Holland have struck an agreement. The two sides reached an accord last August, which came a little after two weeks under the Cardinals released him. Holland went on to throw 21 1/3 innings of near-perfect ball as a member of the Nationals, with whom he allowed two earned runs on nine hits and 10 walks with 25 strikeouts. It was especially surprising considering Holland struggled so much with the Cardinals before they released him.

    Holland rebuilt his stock in Washington late last season, but he reverted to his uglier form this season after signing a $3.25MM guarantee with the Diamondbacks last winter. He notched a 4.54 ERA/4.76 FIP with 10.35 K/9 against 6.06 BB/9 in 35 2/3 innings before the D-backs released him this past weekend. Holland will now try to catch back on in Washington, whose bullpen has been atrocious throughout the season.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[2020 Vesting Options Update]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=170858 2019-08-12T03:54:14Z 2019-08-12T03:44:23Z With over two-thirds of the 2019 season in the books, let’s check in to see how seven players are progressing towards possible vesting options in their contracts.  For those unfamiliar with the term, a vesting option is an agreed-upon threshold within a player’s contract (usually based on health and/or playing time) that, if achieved, allows the player to alter the terms of the contract for the next season, and perhaps beyond in some cases.

    Some vesting options aren’t reported, so it could be that more players beyond this septet could also be playing towards gaining more guaranteed money or contractual freedom for the 2020 season.  For now, let’s examine just these seven names…

    Yonder Alonso, Rockies: Under the terms of the two-year, $16MM deal Alonso signed with the Indians in the 2017-18 offseason, his $9MM club option (with a $1MM buyout) for 2020 becomes guaranteed if the first baseman first passes a physical, and then hit plate-appearance benchmarks.  Unfortunately for Alonso, he has only 287 PA this season, so he’s on pace to fall well short of reaching either 550 PA in 2019 or 1100 total PA in 2018-19 — either of which would’ve caused his option to vest.

    Andrew Cashner, Red Sox: Having struggled through six starts since coming to Boston in a trade from the Orioles, the Sox have a legitimate performance-related reason for moving Cashner out of their rotation.  There would also be a financial motive involved, as Cashner’s $10MM club option for 2020 would become guaranteed if he amasses 340 total innings in 2018-19.  After today’s abbreviated outing against the Angels, Cashner now has 279 2/3 IP over the last two seasons, putting him within distant range of causing his option to vest if he keeps receiving starts.  (Incidentally, the option could also vest into a player option if Cashner hits the 360-inning threshold.)

    Sean Doolittle, Nationals: The closer finished his league-high 47th game of the season today, giving him 82 games finished since the start of the 2018 season.  Should Doolittle reach 100 games finished, the Nationals’ $6.5MM club option ($500K buyout) on Doolittle for 2020 would vest into a mutual option, giving him the opportunity to opt out of his contract and enter into free agency.  This is definitely one to watch down the stretch, since with the Nats in a postseason race and the rest of their bullpen struggling, D.C. won’t hesitate to use their closer for every save situation possible.  Manager Davey Martinez has used Doolittle in a traditional late-game role, so shifting him into high-leverage situations outside of the ninth inning to cut down on his games-finished numbers would be a risky (and controversial) tactic, to say the least.

    Chris Iannetta, Rockies: With 110 starts at catcher since the beginning of the 2018 season, Iannetta won’t reach the 220 catching starts he needed to convert the Rockies’ $4.25MM club option on his services for 2020 into a guarantee.

    Wade LeBlanc, Mariners: The unique extension signed by LeBlanc in July 2018 carried three $5MM club option years for 2020-22 that can all vest into guarantees.  That 2020 option turns into guaranteed money if LeBlanc throws 160 innings in 2019 and doesn’t have a left arm injury at season’s end.  A month-long IL stint due to an oblique strain earlier this season almost certainly ended LeBlanc’s chance at the 160-inning plateau, as he has only 98 IP thus far.  While he’s still eating a good share of innings as a “bulk pitcher” behind an opener in most outings, it seems likely that LeBlanc won’t reach his vesting threshold.

    Brandon Morrow, Cubs: Morrow’s two-year, $21MM deal carried a 2020 vesting option worth $12MM, or a $3MM buyout.  It wasn’t actually known what the terms were of this option, though since injuries have kept Morrow from pitching since July 15, 2018, it’s safe to assume the option won’t vest, and Morrow will be a free agent this winter.

    Oliver Perez, Indians: The veteran southpaw appeared in his 49th game of the season today, so barring injury, he’s a lock to hit the 55 appearances required to guarantee his $2.75MM club option for 2020.  He also seems like a pretty safe bet to lock in even more money, as that option will be guaranteed at $3MM if Perez pitches in 60 games.  The Tribe likely won’t at all mind having Perez back for another season, as the reliever continues to dominate left-handed batters.