Washington Nationals – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-11-13T18:14:48Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Six Players Decline Qualifying Offers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137191 2018-11-12T23:22:20Z 2018-11-12T21:32:07Z The seven free agents who were issued qualifying offers by their former teams must decide by 4pm CT today whether or not to accept.  You can get the full rundown of how the qualifying offer system works here, but in brief — if a player takes the offer, they will return to their team on a one-year, $17.9MM contract for the 2019 season and can never again be issued a QO in any future trips to the free agent market.  If a player rejects the offer, their former team will receive a compensatory draft pick should another club sign the player.  (The signing team will also have to give up at least one draft pick and potentially some funds from their international signing bonus pool.)

Most free agents reject the QO in search of a richer, more long-term contract, and this is expected to be the case for most (though not all) of this year’s qualifying offer class.  The MLB Player’s Association has now announced all of these decisions, so they’re all official:

  • A.J. Pollock will enter free agency after turning down the Diamondbacks’ qualifying offer, tweets Jon Heyman of Fancred.  He’ll be the top center fielder available and should draw interest from a fair number of teams, though his market demand is not yet clear.
  • Bryce Harper declined the Nationals’ qualifying offer, per Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). That’s utterly unsurprising, as the superstar is lining up nine-figure offers as we speak.
  • Craig Kimbrel is heading to the market rather than taking the one-year pact to stay with the Red Sox, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com was among those to tweet. The veteran closer is expected to command a much larger and lengthier contract in free agency.
  • Patrick Corbin won’t be accepting the Diamondbacks’ qualifying offer, as per Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link).  No surprises with this decision, as Corbin is set to receive the biggest contract of any free agent pitcher this winter.
  • Yasmani Grandal won’t accept the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez (via Twitter).  Even in the wake of another mediocre postseason performance, there was little doubt Grandal would turn down the QO, as he projects to earn a strong contract as the best catcher in the free agent market.
  • Dallas Keuchel has rejected the Astros’ qualifying offer, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports (Twitter link).  The ground-ball specialist and 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner will hit the open market, and it remains to be seen if a return to Houston could be in the cards.  The Astros could also lose Charlie Morton in free agency, and Lance McCullers Jr. will miss all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu has accepted the Dodgers’ qualifying offer, as we explored in detail earlier today.  Ryu becomes the sixth player to ever accept a QO, out of the 80 free agents who have been offered the deal over the last seven offseasons.
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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Rizzo Focusing On Roster]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137150 2018-11-12T15:33:54Z 2018-11-12T15:33:54Z
  • Also in Washington, the Nats could see a boost to their finances if their dispute with the Orioles over rights fees from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) is settled, as expected, by MLB’s internal arbitration panel. An appeals process could still be at hand, but baseball officials hope both teams will live with whatever verdict comes down from the Revenue Sharing Definition Committee, which consists of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, Mariners CEO Kevin Mather and Toronto CEO Mark Shapiro. In dispute is over $200MM in rights fees from 2012 to 2016. If the hearing goes as expected, the Nats will see an influx of cash that should grant them future payroll flexibility. Before you ask – no, the matter will not likely be settled in time to aid in the wooing of Harper.
    • Rosenthal quotes an anonymous agent with an interesting take on the Bryce Harper saga in Washington. The agent theorizes that GM Mike Rizzo is largely extricating himself from the process moving forward, instead moving aggressively to fill the Nationals’ other needs and leaving ownership to make the final verdict on Harper. Of course, creating a better baseball situation in Washington surely won’t hurt in the pursuit of Harper either.
    • For the Orioles part in the above dispute, Rosenthal suggests it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Orioles’ next front office hires to include someone in good standing with the MLB office. Along with the more explicit organizational issues, Baltimore has also apparently had a poor relationship with the league office as well. A portion of the discord stems from the above dispute with the Nationals over rights fees for the Orioles’ owned MASN, but there’s also suspicions that Camden Yards has somewhat unfairly been passed over for the All-Star game in recent years. Camden Yards was a forerunner for the way modern sports facility are built, but they have not hosted an All-Star game since its second year of existence in 1993. Other organizations have longer droughts in this regard, but the missed opportunity to honor the 25th anniversary of Camden Yards in 2017 still stings.
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    Ty Bradley <![CDATA[Trade Deadline Retrospective: Harper, Astros, Garcia, Nats, Puig]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137059 2018-11-10T23:52:01Z 2018-11-10T22:55:40Z Baseball fans everywhere were stripped of high-level trade deadline intrigue last season, as Ken Rosenthal details in a stunning report for The Athletic, when a trade that would have sent Bryce Harper to the Astros in exchange for a trio of prospects was nixed by Washington’s ownership group.  The trade, said to have been agreed upon a day before the July 31 deadline, would have sent 2017 first-rounder J.B. Bukauskas to the Nats, as well as two other prospects, one of which was reportedly catcher Garrett Stubbs.  Though Bukauskas faces questions about a third pitch, which could relegate him to eventual relief duty, and Stubbs has cooled after a blistering 2016 performance for Double-A Corpus Christi, the package was surely superior in value to the compensatory pick the Nationals will receive should Harper depart in free agency, which, as Rosenthal notes, will come after the fourth round in next year’s draft, by virtue of the club exceeding the luxury tax total in 2018.  Houston, which received middling corner-outfield production from Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez last season, would certainly have benefitted from Harper’s presence in a lineup diminished by injuries to Carlos Correa and a substandard season from George Springer, though the departing asset cost would’ve assuredly been hefty for only two months of the 25-year-old superstar.

    • Though no official reason was offered for the disapproval, Rosenthal speculates the Nationals owners may have been worried about damaging their relationship with Harper in the offseason to come. The club, after all, did offer Harper a reported $300MM over ten years on the last day of the 2018 season, and figures to further its aggression in efforts to sign the generational talent. During the August waiver period, the club also shot down a Dodger effort to acquire Harper, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. It appears this offer, which reportedly included outfielder Yasiel Puig at its center, was nixed at the front office level, though it’s certainly plausible that previous ownership mandates were a significant factor in the team’s eventual refusal to depart with the star. Puig, certainly, would have been an intriguing return for just over a month’s use of Harper – the 27-year-old has had his share of on-field dustups, to be sure, but has remained a force at the plate: in an odd reverse split, the polarizing Cuban has put up a 142 wRC+ against right-handed pitching the last two seasons, good for 12th among qualifiers in baseball during that span, and is under team control through the 2019 season.
    • After being stonewalled in their Harper pursuit, sources told Rosenthal that the Astros pivoted their attention (to, obviously, no avail) in the final hours to White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia, dangling right-handed pitching prospect Francis Martes, whose damaged right elbow was apparently of no concern to the Southsiders.  Garcia, who’s been around replacement-level in five of his six major league seasons thus far, seemed an odd target for an Astro club not much in need of a right-handed boost – the 27-year-old, after all, posted a minuscule 1.4% BB rate in the season’s first half, and again sunk to a level of below-league-average production by the time his season ended in knee surgery in mid-September.
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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Nationals Not Prioritizing Second Base Upgrade]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=137049 2018-11-10T20:43:31Z 2018-11-10T18:51:57Z
  • The Nationals do not see upgrading at second base as a priority this offseason, per Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post. Earlier this week Dougherty tweeted that the Nats were comfortable going into next season with Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo manning the keystone. Still, it’s a bit surprising given Kendrick is coming off a ruptured achilles, and Difo hardly looked the part of a starter last season when he hit only .230/.298/.350 in 456 plate appearances. Interestingly, Rizzo cites the organization’s depth, specifically prospects Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia as reasons for their optimism about the position moving forward. Rizzo’s comments are interesting because it means the Nationals are presumably comfortable keeping Trea Turner at shortstop for the foreseeable future. Further, Washington may view Kieboom and/or Garcia to be closer to the majors than it might otherwise appear. Garcia spent the 2018 season between Single-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac, though he won’t even turn 19 until May. The 21-year-old Kieboom is the more likely of the two to make a surprise jump to the bigs (a la Juan Soto), as he played the final 62 games of 2018 at Double-A Harrisburg, hitting .262/.326/.395. The Nationals have, however, reportedly expressed some interest in Josh Harrison, though the former Pirates utilityman could back up multiple positions around the diamond.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Linked To Josh Harrison]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136969 2018-11-09T16:05:26Z 2018-11-09T16:05:26Z
  • Former Astros utility man Marwin Gonzalez is the most versatile defender in free agency this season, and Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that he’s garnered at least some level of interest from nearly every club in the game. As a switch-hitter with at least a league average bat and the capability to play as many as six positions (all four infield slots and both outfield corners), “Swiss G” is indeed easy to imagine fitting onto virtually any team’s roster. Meanwhile, former Pirate Josh Harrison, a quality defender at second base with experience at third base and in the outfield corners, has generated some interest from the likes of the Yankees, Reds and Nationals, among others, per Heyman. Both players’ versatility should serve them well this winter.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Notes: Rendon, Catcher, Second Base, Payroll]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136912 2018-11-09T00:02:52Z 2018-11-08T16:34:13Z Though there’s plenty of focus on the Nationals’ reported $300MM extension offer to Bryce Harper late in the season — which the outfielder passed up in order to test free agency — the Nats have also looked at the possibility of an extension for fellow star Anthony Rendon, per Jesse Dougherty and Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said yesterday that the club has “made efforts” to extend Rendon before he reaches free agency next offseason. Rendon, like Harper, is represented by Scott Boras and figures to have a jarring asking price of his own, though that specific number isn’t known. Of note, Rizzo adds that he doesn’t believe the two contract situations are contingent upon each other, and Dougherty notes that the GM believes the payroll could support a new contract for both players.

    More Nats chatter…

    • Janes quotes Rizzo in suggesting that the Nationals are looking to add a “frontline catcher” to the roster for the 2019 campaign — that is, one who can catch 120-plus games (Twitter link). It’s only natural that J.T. Realmuto’s name will continue to be tied to the Nationals, given the extensive interest they’ve reportedly shown in him over the past 12 months. They’ll presumably have to explore alternatives, though, as Rizzo himself noted that they’ve been talking about Realmuto for a year without a trade to show for it. (Past reports have indicated that the Marlins asked for Juan Soto and/or Victor Robles in negotiations.)
    • Yasmani Grandal and Wilson Ramos are the top catchers on the free-agent market (MLBTR Free Agent Tracker link), though if the club is specifically looking for a catcher who can handle roughly 75 percent of the team’s games in 2019 and beyond, then Ramos may not be a great fit. He’s a fan favorite in Washington, but he’s also suffered a pair of ACL tears in his career and was limited to 96 games behind the plate this past season between the Rays and Phillies. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd took a further look at the offseason market for catchers as part of MLBTR’s Market Snapshot series.
    • Meanwhile, Dougherty tweets that Rizzo said he’s comfortable with Howie Kendrick and Wilmer Difo at second base for the time being and doesn’t view an upgrade at the position to be a top offseason priority. A ruptured Achilles tendon cost Kendrick the final four and a half months of the 2018 campaign, but the 35-year-old has been undeniably productive in parts of two seasons with the organization. In 338 plate appearances as a National, Kendrick has slashed .297/.337/.484. It’s anyone’s guess how he effective he’ll be in his return from a major injury suffered in his mid-30s, however, and Difo didn’t give much reason for optimism this past season. The switch-hitter managed just a .230/.298/.350 line in 456 plate appearances. He’ll turn 27 in April. If the Nats do look to add, they’ll have no shortage of options, though (Free Agent Tracker link; Market Snapshot at second base)
    • Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com takes a look at the Nationals’ payroll commitments in an effort to determine how much the club can realistically add to the books in terms of 2019 salary. With roughly $168MM already lined up for next season via seven guaranteed contracts, seven arbitration projections and another 11 pre-arb players, the Nats are about $13MM shy of their 2018 payroll at present. Zuckerman points out that the team’s payroll has increased for 11 consecutive seasons but also notes that ownership could want to steer clear of a third consecutive foray into luxury tax territory. He projects a rough estimate of $20-30MM that could be added while staying under that barrier, though certainly trades and non-tenders present avenues to add further flexibility. Importantly, too, that $168MM-ish figure includes larger-than-average salary outlays for Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. From a cash perspective, most of what’s owed those two pitchers is deferred; as regards the luxury tax, the AAV on those deals is lower — thus leaving something in the realm of $10MM of added cushion. Just how the Nats’ top decisionmakers view the payroll situation isn’t entirely clear.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Early Rumors On The Bryce Harper Market]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136880 2018-11-08T04:44:14Z 2018-11-08T04:38:39Z Bryce Harper’s free agency — or, as agent Scott Boras termed at the GM Meetings today, “Harper’s Bazaar” — will be one of the most fascinating storylines the 2018-19 offseason has to offer. Boras has already made clear that he’ll be marketing Harper as a future Hall of Famer, given that the few players who’ve reached Harper’s level of production prior to the age of 26 are virtually all enshrined in Cooperstown. Boras doubled down on that thinking today when holding court with upwards of 100 reporters (link, with video, via SNY’s Scott Thompson).

    Boras tabbed Harper as a “generational” and “iconic” player — citing the Nationals’ stark increase in attendance, television ratings and overall franchise value since Harper joined the team. While Harper’s presence on the Nats is realistically one of the myriad factors that have effected those changes, those types of milestones could very well carry more weight with some franchise owners than with baseball operations leaders.

    As we settle in for the beginning of Harper’s Bazaar — which, in case you were wondering, is “fashionable,” “elite,” “historical” and “has inspirations that deal with great shoes and great hair,” according to Boras — here’s the latest chatter on his market…

    • Fancred’s Jon Heyman spoke with Boras this morning, and while the agent wouldn’t tip his hand much in terms of total asking price, he did suggest that players with Harper’s level of accolades at this age often play until they’re 40. That, Heyman notes, could indicate that Boras is seeking a deal as long as 14 years in length for the 26-year-old Harper. The agent also pointed out that the current record average annual value — Zack Greinke’s $34.4MM — went to “a 32-year-old pitcher.” None of that, of course, offers a clear indication as to what Boras is thinking as a viable goal for Harper, though that’s perhaps largely by design. MLBTR estimated a 14-year contract for Harper in our annual Top 50 Free Agents rankings — albeit at a considerably lower annual value than that of Greinke.
    • The Nationals’ reported offer to Harper near the end of the season, said to be valued at around a $300MM guarantee, “wasn’t close” to getting the job done, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Boras spoke today about the immense surplus value the Nats reaped from Harper’s pre-arbitration and arbitration seasons and suggested that comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton’s 13-year, $325MM deal have “nothing to do with Bryce Harper.” While many fans grow weary of Boras’ colorful quotes, it’s also a valid point that an extension signed two years prior to a fellow star-caliber player’s free agency should carry much influence over Harper’s eventual contract. Extensions for Stanton and fellow superstar Jose Altuve ($30MM annual value) were signed without the benefit of open-market bidding, Boras noted, and thus shouldn’t be viewed as comparables when looking at Harper’s earning power.
    • Heyman further tweets that the Nats’ ~$300MM is currently “off the table,” though the team has still not ruled out signing Harper and would welcome the opportunity for further negotiations — which Boras will surely oblige.
    • Both ESPN’s Buster Olney and SNY’s Andy Martino throw cold water on the notion of Harper landing with the Yankees. Olney tweets that a source has “emphatically” told him that Harper to the Yankees is simply “not happening,” while Martino suggests that the Yankees “are not excited enough about Harper” to force the ensuing outfield logjam that would come with signing him (Twitter link, with video).
    • USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that many executives and agents throughout the industry feel that Harper will ultimately land with the Phillies, though that opinion appears largely predicated on a belief that the Yankees (and not the Phillies) will ultimately sign Manny Machado — a scenario that is entirely plausible but is by no means a given at this stage of the offseason. It’s always interesting to hear where the popular industry opinion lies at a given time, though it’s often best taken with a grain of salt; there were similar columns written regarding the Yankees and Eric Hosmer this time a year ago, for instance.
    • The Giants have been an oft-suggested landing spot for Harper over the past several seasons, but Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area cites multiple sources in calling the interest “overblown.” One Giants exec tells Pavlovic that the team is “shocked” to be so frequently connected to Harper, adding that the Giants would only be in play for the outfielder if he “really, really” wanted to be a Giant and spurned larger offers elsewhere.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Made “Aggressive” Extension Offer To Harper Near End Of Season]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136745 2018-11-07T17:57:52Z 2018-11-07T14:28:41Z TODAY: The offer would have included an approximately $300MM guarantee over a ten-year span, Janes adds on Twitter. That offer is “no longer on the table,” per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, though that is not to say that the sides will not engage in further discussions.

    YESTERDAY: The Nationals made an “aggressive” offer to Bryce Harper prior to the end of the season that he clearly did not accept, Chelsea Janes and Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post report. The deal didn’t contain any opt-outs and was for under $400MM in total value, per Janes, although USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the arrangement would’ve promised Harper “about” $30MM annually on a long-term pact. Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that the formal offer came on Sept. 26 — the day of the Nationals’ final home game of the season.

    Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo had little to say on the matter, as one might expect, but Janes notes that Rizzo did acknowledge the Nationals’ effort to take advantage of the now-expired exclusive negotiating window teams have with their own free agents in the five days that follow the World Series. MLB.com’s Jamal Collier further tweets that Rizzo implied that the team is not yet giving up on retaining Harper. “He’s our guy,” said Rizzo. “So we’re looking forward to seeing what can transpire.” Janes and Svrluga add that the offer made to Harper was not a token offer and that the front office has “genuine interest” in keeping the slugger.

    Details on the length of the offer aren’t clear, but given the annual salary referenced by Nightengale, it’s all but assured that the deal would’ve promised Harper well north of $200MM and quite possibly $300MM or more. At present, Giancarlo Stanton’s record-setting 13-year, $325MM contract is not only the largest and longest contract in history — it’s also the only $300MM+ contract ever signed. It’s reasonable to assume that Harper and agent Scott Boras have their sight set on Harper eclipsing that record and establishing a new precedent.

    Boras didn’t blatantly say as much today, but he did express on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link, with audio) that he plans to pitch Harper as a future Hall of Famer, noting that Harper is only the fourth player to reach free agency at age 25 since 1980 (though technically he turned 26 between season’s end and formally filing for free agency). Boras cited various career-to-date milestones, such as his 180 home runs, that align with the numbers that several Hall of Famers reached at the same point in their own careers. He also told MLB Network Radio’s Casey Stern (Twitter link) that Harper “has the feet, hands and skill to certainly adapt to first base” should a team ever deem it necessary.

    Harper’s .249/.393/.496 slash line translated to a 135 wRC+ — that is to say, his overall offensive output was 35 percent better than a league-average bat when weighted for home park and league. That tied Harper for 15th in baseball, and he ranks eighth among MLB hitters (143) since the start of the 2017 season by that same measure. Defensive metrics, meanwhile, were alarmingly bearish on Harper in 2018 despite the fact that he typically rated as a plus defender in prior seasons.

    Though Boras has a reputation for finding colorful ways to embellish the value of his clients, there’s also some degree of truth to the fact that Harper (and fellow free agent Manny Machado) is a in rarefied air as a free agent at this stage in the career. The former No. 1 overall pick and NL MVP is reaching free agency at the same age at which Aaron Judge embarked on his sophomore season, for instance. Realistically, there hasn’t been a 26-year-old free agent with the ceiling of Harper or Machado since Alex Rodriguez reached the open market and signed a then-jaw-dropping 10-year, $252MM contract with the Rangers. A-Rod was, incredibly, a year younger than Harper when he hit the open market and was also more accomplished, but the very fact that it’s been nearly two decades since a hitter of this caliber reached free agency at this age is telling when looking at the type of contract Boras and Harper will likely pursue over the next few months.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Trevor Rosenthal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135919 2018-11-05T19:23:03Z 2018-11-05T19:20:07Z Nov. 5: Rosenthal will also receive a $1MM assignment bonus each time that is traded over the life of the contract, Heyman tweets.

    Nov. 3, 9:40am: The deal is now official, per the team (via Twitter). Rosenthal signs a one-year deal with a conditional option for a second season, tweets the Washington Post’s Jesse Dougherty, among others.

    12:58pm: Unsurprisingly, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets, it’ll be a MLB deal that’s structured similarly to the contract that Greg Holland signed with the Rockies for the 2016 campaign. Holland, another Boras client and former closer who was returning from Tommy John surgery on a similar timeline, received a $7MM guarantee in his deal, which also included a hefty incentives package and vesting player option.

    In this case, Rosenthal will also be promised $7MM, which includes a buyout on the 2020 option. He can earn up to $14MM in salary for the 2019 campaign, through operation of incentives, and the deal includes a vesting player option that will seemingly be valued at $15MM. Sherman (via Twitter), Jon Heyman of Fancred (Twitter links), and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) covered the details.

    Of course, it’s relatively rare in these cases that the second season makes sense for both sides. If Rosenthal throws well enough to trigger the player option, he could well end up deciding to test the open market, though that might also mean he’d draw a qualifying offer from the Nats. In any event, those possibilities will certainly depend upon his performance in the season to come.

    12:00pm: The Nationals are “finalizing” a contract with free agent right-hander Trevor Rosenthal, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). Terms of the prospective agreement are not yet known.

    Rosenthal, a client of the Boras Corporation, recently put on a showcase to exhibit his form after rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Evidently, he impressed the Washington brass, who’ll take a shot on the hard-throwing former Cardinals late-inning standby.

    While it’s not yet clear just what role will be given to Rosenthal, who’s still just 28 years of age, the report suggests he’ll “anchor the bullpen.” Though southpaw Sean Doolittle figures to have the inside track on the ninth inning, given his outstanding (albeit injury-shortened) 2018 showing, the Nats could certainly use Rosenthal as their top set-up option or perhaps get more creative in their pen usage based upon situations.

    The chance at high-leverage innings seems to have been a motivating factor for Rosenthal, who said as much in an interesting recent chat with Rob Rains of STLSportsPage.com. Rosenthal also held true to his stated desire to put pen to paper before the start of November.

    Rosenthal’s TJ procedure took place in late August of 2017, so he is now already about 14 months out from the operating table. There’s every reason to think that he’ll be a full go for Spring Training, particularly since he has already shown that he’s capable of working in his customary upper-nineties velocity.

    Of course, the real question with Rosenthal has never been one of arm strength. He has at times dealt with control issues, dishing out 5.4 walks per nine in the 2014 season and a hefty 6.5 free passes per nine in 2016. That latter campaign was a rough one for the flamethrower: he also surrendered a whopping .425 BABIP, lost his closing job, and ended the season with a 4.46 ERA.

    In camp in 2017, Rosenthal dabbled with a return to a starting role — he functioned in that capacity in the minors, but never in the bigs — but ultimately returned to the St. Louis relief corps. Before going down to a torn UCL, Rosenthal threw 47 2/3 innings of 3.40 ERA ball with a career-high 14.3 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. Rosenthal carried a personal-high 15.9% swinging-strike rate for the season, finding an extra gear as he completely abandoned his curve in favor of his slider.

    For the Nats, the move represents the second interesting relief addition of the still-early offseason. Previously, the club added Kyle Barracough via trade. These two righties both come with their share of uncertainty, but will unquestionably add a ton of velocity to the Washington pen.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Poll: Bryce Harper Vs. Manny Machado]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136586 2018-11-05T01:31:12Z 2018-11-05T01:30:59Z With free agency now open across Major League Baseball, it’s only a matter of time before we see a pair of players receive the richest contracts in the history of the sport. Outfielder Bryce Harper and shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado, two in-their-prime, Hall of Fame-level talents, figure to dominate headlines as long as they’re unsigned. It seems inevitable that both players will reel in contracts in excess of $300MM, and that may be a conservative estimate. Indeed, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, Steve Adams and Jeff Todd project Harper to land a 14-year, $420MM pact and Machado to sign a 13-year, $390MM deal. There would be substantial risk in either of those contracts, needless to say, but it’s not every winter that a couple 26-year-old superstars reach free agency.

    For a little while longer, the richest free-agent contract in major league history will belong to now-retired third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whom the Yankees re-signed to a 10-year, $275MM accord after the 2007 season. However, a current Yankee, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, owns the largest deal ever. He signed that contract – a 13-year, $325MM extension – in 2014 as a member of the typically small-spending Marlins, whose new ownership group felt it had no choice but to get Stanton’s money off the books last winter on the heels of an NL MVP-winning season.

    It’s now conceivable that the Yankees will sign at least one of Harper or Machado to join Stanton in their lineup, but their interest in/need for either is unclear. Even if the Yankees do chase one or both of those players, they’ll face quite a bit of competition from other teams capable of handing out mega-deals.

    Like Stanton, Harper already has an NL MVP on his resume, having won the award in 2015. That still easily ranks as Harper’s best season, but the longtime National has starred in nearly every campaign since he made his much-anticipated debut as a 19-year-old in 2012. Dating back to then, the lefty-swinging Harper ranks 10th in the majors in wRC+ (140, meaning he has been 40 percent better than the average offensive player) and 12th in position player fWAR (30.7, good for 4.6 per 600 plate appearance).

    If there are any legitimate knocks on Harper, they may be his defense and injury history. Regarding the former, Harper ranked second to last among all major leaguers this past season in both Defensive Runs Saved (minus-26) and Ultimate Zone Rating (minus-14.4). The defensive struggles he displayed in 2018 may be a reason to worry or simply a fluke, as the metrics viewed Harper as a competent outfielder during his previous seasons. Although Harper didn’t hold his own with the glove in ’18, he did appear in a career-high 159 games. The durability he showed off last season couldn’t have come at a better time for Harper, who missed 51 games in 2017 and whom injuries have limited to fewer than 120 contests two other times.

    With the exception of 2014, in which he only played 82 games, availability hasn’t been a problem for Machado. Since 2013, his first full season, Machado has racked up at least 156 appearances on five occasions. He played 162 games this past year, which he divided between the lowly Orioles and the NL-winning Dodgers, and turned in his third campaign with at least 6.0 fWAR.

    Going back to ’13, Machado sits seventh among position players in fWAR (29.0, which equals 4.5 per 600 PA), though he hasn’t achieved his value in quite the same way as Harper. From 2013-18, 47 players combined for a higher wRC+ than the righty-hitting Machado’s 121, though that’s still an outstanding number. Furthermore, he happens to be coming off a personal-best offensive campaign (141 wRC+) in which he belted 30-plus home runs (37) for the fourth straight year.

    There’s little doubt Machado will continue to be a formidable offensive player in the coming years, but whether he’ll serve as a defensive force could hinge on his position. Machado has been an all-world third baseman throughout his career, yet he prefers shortstop – his primary position in 2018, when he logged minus-13 DRS and minus-6.5 UZR.

    The biggest concern with Machado, though, may come down to character. He didn’t leave teams or fans with the best impression during this fall’s postseason, in which he was accused of being a dirty player. He also came under fire in the playoffs for a lack of hustle, including during the Dodgers’ World Series loss to the Red Sox, and admitted to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic in mid-October: “Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ’Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am.”

    That’s not the mindset a team wants from any of its players, let alone a face-of-the-franchise type. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely to deter some club from awarding the incredibly gifted Machado one of the two biggest pacts in baseball history. For better or worse, he and Harper are primed to occupy a massive chunk of their next teams’ payrolls for several years to come. The question is: Which of the two do you believe has a better chance to live up to his next contract?

    Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Red Sox, Nationals Only Two Teams To Exceed 2018 Luxury Tax Threshold]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136549 2018-11-04T21:50:38Z 2018-11-04T19:50:32Z As was widely expected, the Red Sox and Nationals were the only two clubs who exceeded the $197MM luxury tax threshold this season, as MLB.com’s Jon Morosi confirmed (Twitter link) earlier this week.  The exact figures aren’t known, though as per the luxury tax calculations on Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Boston surpassed the threshold by slightly beyond $40.85MM, while Washington was just under $6.3MM beyond the tax line.  As a reminder, a team’s normal payroll is just pure dollars spent on player salaries in a season, whereas the payroll as calculated for Competitive Balance Tax purposes consists of the average annual value of player contracts, bonuses, and other expenses.

    This is the second straight year that the Nats passed the luxury tax threshold, so their tax bill will consist of 30 percent of every dollar spent in overage (so around $1.89MM).  After exceeding the threshold in 2015 and 2016, the Red Sox ducked under the CBT line in the 2017-18 offseason to “reset their clock,” so they’ll be taxed at the first-timer rate of 20 percent of every dollar spent in overage.  By Cot’s numbers, however, the Red Sox surpassed the threshold by more than $40MM, so they’ll face a 62.5 percent surcharge on the overage.

    This would work out to roughly $25.53MM in luxury tax payments and, perhaps more importantly, Boston’s top pick in next year’s amateur draft (currently the 33rd overall selection) would drop by 10 spots.  Since the Sox are so close to that $40MM figure, it’s possible there could be some other calculation or unknown payroll factor that got the club under the $237MM mark — we won’t know for certain about the draft pick or the final Competitive Balance Tax bill until the league makes an official announcement.  Had Boston stayed within the $20MM-$40MM range for payroll overage, they would have faced only a 12 percent extra in tax on top of their 20 percent first-timer percentage, putting them on the hook for approximately $12.672MM in luxury tax payments.

    The Giants were right up against the $197MM line seemingly all season long, though by Cot’s calculations, they squeaked under the threshold by less than $1.6MM, thus avoiding their fourth straight year of tax payments.  San Francisco was very careful in trying to stay under the $197MM payroll line after a busy offseason, as the team made a pure salary dump of a trade with the Rangers in July to unload Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin’s contracts, and also traded Andrew McCutchen to the Yankees on August 31 once they were fully out of contention.

    The Competitive Balance Tax was a major subplot of the 2017-18 offseason, as one of the reasons behind the unprecedented lack of free agent activity was the fact that big spenders like the Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers all kept their spending in check (at least by their standards) in an effort to stay under the threshold.  For New York, this marks the first time since the luxury tax system was instituted in 2003 that the team will avoid making payments — the Yankees paid a whopping $319.6MM in total luxury tax payments from 2003-17.  The Dodgers have exceeded the threshold every season since 2013, as the Guggenheim Baseball Management ownership group made an initial big spending splash to bring the club back into relevance, though the Dodgers always stressed that they would eventually take a more measured approach to payroll.

    The expectation was that, once these teams reset their spending clocks, it would open the floodgates for increased spending in a 2018-19 free agent market that has two players (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado) in line for record-setting contracts.  Those two superstars plus many other available big names like Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, Craig Kimbrel, Josh Donaldson, Nathan Eovaldi, and many others makes this winter a particularly important time to have as much salary flexibility as possible.

    Any team who exceeds the luxury tax threshold in three or more consecutive years must pay a 50 percent tax on the overage, so getting under the line carries some noteworthy savings.  Plus, as per the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that came into play for the 2017 season, a team that surpasses the $40MM overage figure (as it appears Boston has done) faces as much as a 90 percent tax on the overage, plus that 10-slot drop for their top pick in the amateur draft.

    Those stiffer penalties surely also contributed to the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants’ decisions, though it should be noted that the actual dollars paid in tax penalties aren’t overly pricey for such wealthy franchises.  While big spending is certainly no guarantee of success on the field, it usually does provide some level of competitive advantage — for instance, nobody in Boston’s organization is sweating that tax payment in the wake of a World Series championship, no matter if the final bill ends up at $12.672MM or $25.53MM.  (Even dropping from the 33rd to the 43rd overall pick is a pretty light penalty.)  As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has written in the past, some “large market teams are treating the CBT thresholds as lines they absolutely cannot cross,” perhaps as an overall excuse to curb spending.  Only eight teams total have ever made tax payments, with two of those clubs — the 2004 Angels and 2016 Cubs — doing so only once.  Teams will have even more room to spend in 2019, as the luxury tax threshold is jumping up to $206MM.

    In paying the tax in 2018, the Red Sox and Nationals will each face added penalties for pursuing free agents who were issued qualifying offers, and will receive limited compensation if their own QO free agent (Kimbrel for the Sox, Harper for the Nats) leaves.  If Boston or Washington signs a player who rejected the QO from his former team, the Sox/Nats would have to give up $1MM in international signing bonus pool money as well as their second-highest and fifth-highest picks in next year’s draft.  Should Kimbrel and Harper reject their qualifying offers and sign elsewhere, the Sox and Nationals would only receive a compensatory pick after the fourth round of the draft.

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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Outright Jhonatan Solano]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=136133 2018-11-01T17:58:35Z 2018-11-01T17:58:35Z The Nationals announced today that they have outrighted catcher Jhonatan Solano after he cleared waivers. He rejected a minor-league assignment and elected free agency.

    Solano, 33, has seen minimal major-league action over the years. That he was even on the Nats’ 40-man roster was something of an oddity: he was called up briefly early in the season but never played, then ended up on the 60-day DL owing to bone spurs in his elbow.

    When the dust settled, Solano ended up sitting out the entire 2018 campaign. In his eight seasons at the Triple-A level, Solano carries a .239/.286/.331 batting line.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Exercise Sean Doolittle’s 2019 Option]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135720 2018-10-29T21:08:30Z 2018-10-29T21:08:47Z 4:08pm: The Nationals have formally announced the move.

    3:15pm: The Nationals have exercised their $6MM club option on left-hander Sean Doolittle, tweets Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. No official announcement has been made just yet, though as Janes notes, it was an obvious call for the Nationals that was never in any doubt.

    The 32-year-old Doolittle enjoyed one what was very arguably the finest season of his career in 2018, tossing 45 innings with a minuscule 1.60 ERA as the Nationals’ primary closer. He saved 25 games and notched an absurd 60-to-6 K/BB ratio in that time, with the only real blemish on his season being a left foot injury that sidelined him for nearly two months. Beyond that, Doolittle was one of the best relievers in all of Major League Baseball this past season, making it an absolute no-brainer for the Nats to pick up his option.

    As a bonus for the Nationals, they also hold a 2020 club option over the lefty — one that comes with a similarly affordable $6.5MM base salary. Doolittle has had some durability issues in the past, but he’s consistently dominant when healthy and should continue to serve as a key piece in the Nats’ bullpen for the next two years.

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Scott Boras' Comments On Bryce Harper Weren't Serious]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135667 2018-10-29T03:14:43Z 2018-10-29T03:13:16Z Agent Scott Boras told Michael Kay and Don La Greca of 98.7 FM ESPN New York earlier this week that Nationals outfielder and pending free agent Bryce Harper has already picked his team for 2019, which drew plenty of attention on social media Sunday. “We know who the team is. It’s already completed and done, but Bryce has told me that he wanted to tell you personally,” Boras said (video via the YES Network). However, if you’re of the belief Boras was being facetious, you’re correct. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports (Twitter links) that Boras was indeed joking. Anything else would’ve been a major surprise, as the 26-year-old Harper won’t even be allowed to discuss money with anyone but the Nationals until five days after the end of the World Series. Whether Harper ultimately re-signs with the Nats or heads elsewhere during the coming months, there’s no doubt he’ll land one of the richest contracts in baseball history.

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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Official Super Two Cutoff]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=135447 2018-10-25T15:17:13Z 2018-10-25T15:17:13Z This year’s cutoff for players to achieve Super Two status, and thus be eligible for arbitration a year early, has been set at two years and 134 days of Major League service time (written as 2.134), tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.

    In order to reach Super Two status, a player must be in the top 22 percent of players with between two and three seasons of MLB service (in terms of total service time) and must have spent 86 days of the preceding season on a Major League roster or disabled list. That designation allows those players to reach arbitration eligibility a year early and go through arbitration four times as opposed to the standard three.

    Not only does this increase players’ earning power in the ensuing season, but it also has a substantial impact on their earnings years down the line, as arbitration salaries are built upon the prior year’s earnings. By getting to arbitration early, players jump-start their earning potential a full year sooner than most of their peers. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that the current single-season salary record holder for an arbitration-eligible player, Josh Donaldson, reached Super Two status early in his career ($23MM). Nor is it surprising that Nolan Arenado, who is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to break that record this offseason, was also a Super Two player. Swartz projects Arenado to take home a whopping $26.1MM salary in his final winter of arbitration eligibility.

    Here’s how this year’s 2.134 cutoff compares to recent years:

    • 2017: 2.123
    • 2016: 2.131
    • 2015: 2.130
    • 2014: 2.133
    • 2013: 2.122
    • 2012: 2.140
    • 2011: 2.146
    • 2010: 2.122
    • 2009: 2.139

    This year’s cutoff is the highest in a half decade, leaving a handful of players ever so slightly on the outside of the bubble. Among them are the Mariners’ Edwin Diaz (2.121), the Athletics’ Andrew Triggs (2.123), the Dodgers’ Austin Barnes (2.124), the Rays’ Mallex Smith (2.125), the Nationals’ Justin Miller (2.128), the Rangers’ Matt Bush (2.132) and the Reds’ Scott Schebler (2.132).

    Conversely, there are a few players who ever so narrowly squeaked into Super Two status under the wire. Chief among them is Nationals shortstop Trea Turner, who exemplifies the benefit of reaching Super Two status. Had Turner accrued even two fewer days of big league service than the 2.135 years he presently has, he’d have been in line for a six-figure salary not far north of the Major League minimum. Instead, he’s projected by Swartz to earn nearly 10 times that amount — a salary of $5.3MM. He’ll get a raise based on that starting point in 2020 and continue earning raises through the 2022 season, after which he’ll be a free agent.

    Beyond Turner, Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd just barely surpassed the cutoff at 2.136 and is projected at an even $3MM. Cubs righty Carl Edwards Jr. and Braves lefty Jacob Lindgren each landed at 2.134 on the dot, making both arbitration-eligible this winter as well. Edwards is projected to earn $1.4MM, while Lindgren projects at $600K due to the fact that he missed the 2018 season recovering from surgery and did not throw a pitch.

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