- The Nationals have added a pair of hurlers on minor-league deals, according to Cotillo (also via Twitter). Righty Roman Mendez and lefty Logan Darnell will both join the D.C. organization, though it’s unclear at this point whether either will receive an invitation to MLB camp. Both have seen some MLB action, though neither has an extensive track record and the pair hasn’t touched the bigs for a few seasons. Mendez spent some time with Japan’s Hanshin Tigers in 2017, but only threw 9 2/3 innings. In 2016, he worked to a 3.38 ERA in 64 Triple-A frames. As for Darnell, who’ll soon turn 29, he spent the ’17 campaign outside the Twins organization for the first time. The long-time minor-league starter appeared with the Rays’ Double-A affiliate, the indy ball Somerset Patriots, and in the Venezuean winter league, allowing between 3.81 and 3.98 earned runs per nine at each of those stops. In 359 1/3 lifetime innings at Triple-A, Darnell owns a 3.51 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
- One interesting wild card in the Nationals’ attempts to keep Bryce Harper beyond 2018 could be his older brother Bryan Harper, MASNSports.com’s Byron Kerr writes. The elder Harper, who just turned 28, is a left-handed reliever who posted strong numbers in 2015-16 for Washington’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, with good splits against left-handed batters. The southpaw is preparing to return to the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2016, and there’s at least a chance he could join his younger brother on the Nats roster this season.
- The Nationals rejected trade offers for Wilmer Difo last offseason, and now the young infielder is a key part of the team’s bench and potentially its second baseman of the future, the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo writes. Difo held his own filling in for Trea Turner at shortstop last season, and if Difo continues to progress at the plate, the Nats might consider him as a possible second base option if Daniel Murphy leaves in free agency next winter. If Murphy’s recovery from offseason knee surgery lingers past Opening Day, Difo could get an early audition at the keystone in April.
- The Nationals have put out feelers on the top available relievers, says Heyman, even though the club surely isn’t desperate to find a new option in the ninth inning. While Wade Davis is now off the board, it seems Greg Holland could yet be an option for the Nats. And of broader importance, the report suggests that further bullpen upgrades are still under consideration as the team considers how it can put the finishing touches on an already-strong roster.
7:24pm: The Nationals asked about Realmuto during the Winter Meetings but were told that the Marlins weren’t planning to deal him, MLB.com’s Jamal Collier reports. Matt Wieters’ struggles in 2017 make Washington a natural candidate to look for a catching upgrade, though Collier notes that it isn’t GM Mike Rizzo’s style to make a huge trade offer for Realmuto that the Marlins couldn’t refuse.
5:34pm: The Marlins are in “active trade discussions” about outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports (Twitter link). No trade is imminent, Morosi notes, and the exact nature of Miami’s willingness to deal either of its controllable young stars isn’t yet determined.
According to Clark Spencer and Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, three sources give slightly different descriptions of the talks. One source says the Marlins are “more seriously considering offers” than in the past, and are particularly listening on Yelich. Another source says that the Marlins are listening to offers but “not aggressively shopping” either player, while the third source says rival teams have been informed by Miami that Yelich and Realmuto “are available for the right price.”
It’s worth noting that none of these three takes on the situation really contradict each other, and ultimately, the Marlins could simply be doing their due diligence in exploring what they could get for two very valuable trade chips. There have been conflicting reports on whether the Marlins were really looking to move Yelich (or Realmuto), or if the team had completed much of its heavy lifting in terms of payroll clearance in previous trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and (to a lesser extent) Marcell Ozuna.
Both Yelich and Realmuto have been disappointed with this latest Miami rebuild, with Realmuto going so far as to reportedly ask for a trade. Since both players are under team control (Yelich via an extension, Realmuto via arbitration) for several more years, they don’t have any real leverage to make a deal happen, though obviously the Marlins could see value in moving players that no longer want to be there, especially when those two players could bring back multiple young assets in return.
As Jackson and Spencer note in their piece, the Marlins could try to capitalize on Yelich and Realmuto’s trade value by attaching one of their remaining big contracts (i.e. Martin Prado, Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa) to either of those players in a trade. Multiple teams have been linked to Yelich for months now, while Realmuto would certainly generate almost as much interest, even from teams that may have a solid catcher in place but could be swayed by the idea of landing a younger option.
- The Nationals project to be over the luxury tax limit for the second straight year, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post writes, which could have some impact on how — or if — the team continues to spend this offseason or at the trade deadline. The Nats are currently slated for a 30 percent tax on all overages beyond the $197MM threshold, though that tax bill will rise if the Nationals spend beyond the $217MM mark. There doesn’t seem much chance that Washington will pass the threshold again next year, however, as the club has several big contracts coming off the books, so the Nats will be well-positioned to spend big in the vaunted 2018-19 free agent class, which includes such notable D.C. players as Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy.
- The Nationals agreed to terms with right-hander Jeff Ames, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Ames, 26, was the 42nd overall pick in the 2011 draft but has yet to crack the majors. He reached Triple-A for the first time in 2017, working to a 3.98 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 in 63 1/3 innings.
Dec. 22: The Nationals have formally announced Adams’ signing. Their 40-man roster is now up to 39 players.
Dec. 20: The Nationals have reportedly agreed to terms with first baseman Matt Adams on a deal that would bring him to D.C. If finalized, the contract is expected to include a $4MM guarantee and $500K of available incentives for a single season.
Adams is exactly the sort of lefty platoon bat the Nationals have needed since bidding adieu to Adam Lind at the end of the season. The 29-year-old Adams was non-tendered by the Braves after projecting to earn a $4.6MM salary through arbitration.
While he’s not much of an option against lefties, Adams has an excellent track record when hitting with the platoon advantage. For his career, he carries a .286/.333/.495 batting line against opposing right-handers. Adams is also best limited to playing first in the field, though he has at times attempted the corner outfield.
Those caveats are just fine with the Nats, who seek a player to step into Lind’s role as a complement to veteran first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and source of left-handed bench power. Adams is essentially a younger version of Lind himself, so it’s easy to see the fit here.
It came as a bit of a surprise when the Nationals declined their end of a $5MM mutual option with Lind, who was quite productive for the team in his single season in Washington. But it seems the organization correctly anticipated a sluggish market for bats and determined it might have a shot at a more appealing asset. Though Lind is a more accomplished overall hitter than Adams, he’s also about five years his senior.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that a deal was in place, along with the contract terms. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported (via Twitter) that the sides were in serious discussions. ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted earlier that the sides had ongoing interest, as had been reported previously.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
DECEMBER 21: Washington has announced the signing.
DECEMBER 14: The Nationals are set to re-sign free agent reliever Brandon Kintzler to a two-year deal, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports in a tweet. The deal is pending a physical. Kintzler acknowledged that he’ll be returning to D.C. in an interview with MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link).
Contract details are still coming in, and they paint a somewhat complicated picture. The deal guarantees Kintzler $10MM over a two-year term, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports (Twitter link), and could reach $16MM in value. But the way it operates is through competing 2019 options, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter link), Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com, and Rosenthal (via Twitter) explain. Kintzler will receive a $5MM salary for the upcoming season. The Nationals can elect to exercise a $10MM club option for the 2019 campaign. If that is declined, then Kintzler will get to decide between a $5MM player option and a return to the open market. At this point it is not clear whether the extra $1MM of possible contract value comes from, but it could be an escalator or incentive bonus of some kind.
Kintzler, 33, pitched 26 innings for the Nationals last season after being acquired from the Twins in exchange for Tyler Watson and $500K in international bonus pool money. The righty posted a 3.46 ERA in Washington, chipping in a save for the club.
The Brewers picked Kintzler with the number 1,182 pick in the 2004 draft (40th round). After two seasons in the low minors and a year away from the sport in 2006, he eventually ended up playing independent ball until Milwaukee offered him a new minor league contract in 2009. Kintzler climbed quickly through the ranks this time and made his MLB debut the following year. He pitched well out of the Brewers’ bullpen from his sophomore season on; his ERA with the club never climbed above 3.78 from 2011-2014.
After an injury ended his 2015 season, Kintzler was forced to settle for a minor league deal with the Twins the following winter. He became the team’s closer almost immediately and has posted impressive results ever since.
Kintzler is a fascinating case study; the right-hander has vastly outperformed his ERA estimators over the past two seasons. Furthermore, across 2016-2017 he has the 14th-highest ground ball rate among qualified relievers, and the second-lowest strikeout rate. It’s clear Kintzler’s success is built upon an ability to limit hard contact while generating ground balls. He’ll slot in behind Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, reuniting the Nats’ late-inning crew from last year’s playoff run.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
We’ll cover the day’s minor moves in this post:
- The Cubs have re-signed catcher Taylor Davis, MLBTR has learned. The 28-year-old was non-tendered after a season in which he received his first MLB call-up, staying long enough to pick up his first few base knocks but not to put down a meaningful track record. Davis strode to the Triple-A plate 406 times in 2017, producing a .297/.357/.429 batting line with six home runs. Notably, he continued to exhibit strong plate discipline and contact ability, striking out just 45 times while drawing 37 walks.
- Indians have agreed to a deal with right-hander Lisalverto Bonilla, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). The 27-year-old struggled badly in his ten MLB appearances last year with the Reds, working to a 8.10 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 while serving up eight long balls in 36 2/3 innings. He did generate a useful 11.8% swinging-strike rate, though, and has typically drawn a fair number of grounders in the minors.
- The Nationals reached a minor-league pact with righty Chris Smith, MLBTR’s Steve Adams tweets. He gets an invitation to participate on the majors side of camp next spring. Smith, 29, got a brief taste of the majors last year with the Blue Jays, showing a 93.9 mph average four-seamer. He spent most of the year at Triple-A, where he worked to a 5.40 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9, but Smith has recorded much higher strikeout rates in the upper minors in the past.
- Lefty Hunter Cervenka was outrighted to Triple-A by the Marlins after clearing waivers. He had been removed from the 40-man roster recently as the organization continues to tweak its mix of MLB assets. Cervenka spent most of 2017 at the Triple-A level, where he pitched to a 4.58 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9. That hefty walk rate has long been a problem for Cervenka, who’ll soon turn 28.
- The Tigers announced a series of minors signings today. Lefty Will Lamb, infielder Ronny Rodriguez, and outfielders Jason Krizan and Kenny Wilson are all joining the Detroit organization, with Krizan and Rodriguez also taking spring invites. Lamb, 27, has struggled to a 6.06 ERA in 120 1/3 career Triple-A frames, but owns a 2.28 ERA in 90 2/3 innings at the penultimate level of the minors. The 25-year-old Rodriguez brings some infield versatility and pop to the table; he hit .291/.324/.454 with 17 home runs in 483 plate appearances last year at the Indians’ top affiliate. Krizan, 28, will return for his eighth year in the Detroit system; in 2017, he hit .281/.351/.417 in 480 upper-minors plate appearances. Wilson, who’ll soon turn 28 as well, is a speed-and-defense type who has not yet hit enough to earn his way into the big leagues.