Washington Nationals – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-03-24T12:10:47Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Joaquin Benoit Diagnosed With Forearm Strain]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117600 2018-03-21T16:27:34Z 2018-03-21T16:27:34Z Veteran Nationals reliever Joaquin Benoit will not be ready for the start of the season owing to a forearm strain, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports (Twitter links). His timeline is not yet known, but he is not throwing for the time being.

The Nats had added Benoit on a one-year, $1MM deal at the start of camp, hoping that he’d deepen a relief unit that has a fair bit of uncertainty behind its late-inning trio of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, and Brandon Kintzler. The results weren’t there for Benoit in 2017, but he still brought a mid-nineties heater and generated plenty of swings and misses.

If Benoit is to engineer a bounceback in his age-40 campaign, it’ll have to come after he works back to health. He had been knocked around a bit in his first three spring outings, allowing three earned runs on five hits before going on the shelf with the arm ailment.

On the one hand, the news adds to the questions facing the Nats as they seek to avoid a repeat of their bullpen problems from the first half of the 2017 campaign. Shawn Kelley is, like Benoit, an established hurler who is trying to recover from an off year. The out-of-options A.J. Cole will be on the roster and could factor in the bullpen, at least once Jeremy Hellickson is ready to take over the fifth starter’s job.

On the other hand, the extra Opening Day roster spot could help the organization deal with a pile-up of possibilities. Beyond the prospective five-man unit of players noted above — i.e., Doolittle, Madson, Kintzler, Kelley, and Cole — there are loads of options and an ongoing lack of clarity.

In terms of righties, the Nats likely can’t count on anything from Koda Glover, who is still not at full health. Trevor Gott has produced nine blank frames this spring, so he could step into Benoit’s shoes. Otherwise, Austin Adams and Wander Suero also represent 40-man relief options (with the latter already having been optioned). Edwin Jackson and Cesar Vargas were both brought in on minors pacts, though the former is perhaps likelier to serve as rotation depth and the latter has already been sent out of camp.

There are yet more possibilities on the southpaw side of the equation. The hard-throwing Enny Romero has been markedly ineffective in Grapefruit League action. While Matt Grace has allowed only three earned runs, he has also coughed up 16 hits in his 10 2/3 spring frames. Both are out of options. Sammy Solis can be optioned, but he has also racked up 11 strikeouts against just one walk in his eight innings of action in camp. Veteran non-roster players Tommy Milone and Tim Collins could conceivably also be considered after showing well in their opportunities thus far.

It’s certainly still possible to imagine the Nats looking at outside  options, though Greg Holland is perhaps the only free agent who’d represent a clear upgrade and the team hasn’t shown much evident inclination to pursue him. (Holland would obviously also represent a fairly expensive target.) The trick in looking at players from other organizations is in managing the 40-man roster. That’s the same general quandary the Nationals will already face in balancing the numerous non-roster and out-of-options players under consideration for just a few open jobs.

Regardless of the precise decisions made, it seems as if the club will end up making quite a few reliever transactions late in camp — if not also throughout the season. While the bulk of the rest of the roster is settled, and the Nats can always weigh mid-season trade acquisitions as needed, the bullpen again appears to be an area of potential intrigue for the defending NL East champs.

Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Nationals Option Victor Robles To Triple-A]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117515 2018-03-20T22:33:09Z 2018-03-20T22:33:09Z
  • The Nationals optioned outfielder Victor Robles to Triple-A today, a move that came as little surprise given that the club didn’t want to keep Robles on the big league bench rather than gaining valuable everyday experience in the minors.  Robles, a consensus top-six prospect in baseball, bypassed Triple-A entirely last season when he was called up by the Nats for 13 September games (plus a spot on the NLDS roster).  Washington is already set in the outfield with Bryce Harper, Michael Taylor, and Adam Eaton, leaving Robles without a clear path to playing time.  He’ll begin 2018 getting his first taste of Triple-A ball and one would expect he’ll again return to the Nats roster this season, though the exact timing could be in question depending on if the Nationals want to manage Robles’ service time.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[A.J. Cole Will Make Nationals' Roster]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117394 2018-03-19T20:11:59Z 2018-03-19T20:11:35Z
  • It’s up in the air whether right-hander A.J. Cole will earn the final spot in the Nationals’ rotation. Regardless, the out-of-options 26-year-old is “going to make the team,” general manager Mike Rizzo told Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post and other reporters Monday. Rizzo added that veteran Jeremy Hellickson, also a contender for the No. 5 job, is “way behind” right now – which seems to bode well for Cole’s chances of starting. Given that Hellickson only just signed with the Nationals, they could elect to keep him in Florida for extended spring training so he’s better equipped to succeed if he does get a regular-season opportunity, per Rizzo (via Jamal Collier of MLB.com). Rizzo noted that a couple of the Nats’ signings last year, catcher Matt Wieters and reliever Joe Blanton, struggled mightily because neither had a full spring training. He doesn’t want to go down that same road with Hellickson.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Notes: Murphy, Collins]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117380 2018-03-19T13:05:03Z 2018-03-19T13:01:28Z There is “virtually no chance” Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy will be ready for Opening Day, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes. Murphy, who’s working his way back from the microfracture knee surgery he underwent last October, still hasn’t seen any game action this spring, notes Zuckerman, who expects Howie Kendrick to begin the season at the keystone for Washington. Wilmer Difo will back up Kendrick, and Zuckerman adds that Murphy’s unavailability could open the door for one of Matt Reynolds, Adrian Sanchez, Reid Brignac, Chris Dominguez, Andrew Stevenson, Moises Sierra or Ryan Raburn to be part of the Nats’ early season bench.

    • Back to the Nationals, with whom reliever Tim Collins is attempting to revive his career. Formerly an effective cog in Kansas City, Collins underwent back-to-back Tommy John surgeries in recent years, thus derailing his career. Now, he’s making a case to earn an Opening Day bullpen spot for the Nats, according to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. Both Collins and general manager Mike Rizzo have been pleased with the left-hander’s work, though he still hasn’t pitched back-to-back days since returning last season. Collins had a rough go in 2017 at the Double-A level, albeit over a mere 8 2/3 innings, as he allowed 14 earned runs on 12 hits and 10 walks, with eight strikeouts. He regarded the year as “a failure” at one point because he didn’t make it back to the majors, but a talk with team officials over the winter helped, which Castillo details in his piece.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Boswell On The Lack Of A Mike Rizzo Extension]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117370 2018-03-19T04:58:43Z 2018-03-19T04:58:43Z
  • Mike Rizzo has built the Nationals into a contender and wants to remain as the team’s general manager, so the Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell isn’t sure why ownership doesn’t seem to be in a rush to extend Rizzo’s contract.  Rizzo is entering the last year of his deal, and though he said last month that he was “confident” a new agreement would be settled, there hasn’t been any news on that front in the interim.  Boswell wonders if the Lerner family has held off on an extension since they could be considering letting Rizzo leave if the team again falls short in the postseason — if this isn’t the case, however, it makes little sense to put Rizzo and the franchise itself through an awkward lame-duck period.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Jeremy Hellickson To Minor-League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117145 2018-03-18T17:13:40Z 2018-03-18T17:13:36Z SUNDAY: The contract comes with a $2MM salary in the majors and up to $4MM in incentives, Jon Heyman of FanRag tweets. It also features several opt-out chances. Beginning May 1, Hellickson will have an opportunity to exit the deal every 15 days.

    SATURDAY: The club has made the signing official.

    FRIDAY: The Nationals have agreed to a minor-league deal with righty Jeremy Hellickson, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). He’ll receive an invitation to join the MLB side of camp.

    Presumably, Hellickson will have a strong shot at earning the fifth starter’s job with the Nats. The organization has been cited all winter as a possible pursuer of a rotation upgrade, though to this point it had not made a significant move. Washington had indicated it would like to see A.J. Cole, who is out of options, command a starting role. But he has not evidently not run away with things in camp, leaving the team open to adding another arm. The other top candidates for the job are prospect Erick Fedde and non-roster invitees Edwin Jackson and Tommy Milone.

    Hellickson, who’ll soon turn 31, has had a quiet winter after taking a $17.2MM qualifying offer from the Phillies for the 2017 season. He struggled all year long, ending with a 5.43 ERA over 164 innings. Despite holding opponents to a .246 batting average on balls in play, Hellickson coughed up home runs at a rate of 1.9 per nine innings and saw his swinging-strike rate drop to 8.3% after sitting above ten percent in each of the prior three campaigns.

    Of course, the former Rookie of the Year has had better days in prior seasons. He has never returned to the top-level output of his earliest seasons with the Rays, but Hellickson did turn in a quality 2016 effort with Philadelphia. He tallied 189 innings of 3.71 ERA ball in his 32 starts while recording 7.3 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Were First Team To Call Jeremy Hellickson]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117280 2018-03-18T17:28:24Z 2018-03-18T16:07:25Z
  • Righty Jeremy Hellickson languished on the open market from November until Friday, when he signed a minor league contract with the Nationals. Interest was otherwise hard to come by for Hellickson, even though he has enjoyed a decent career to this point and is fairly young (soon to be 31). “They were actually the first team that called,” Hellickson said of Washington (via Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com). “When Scott (Boras) told me the Nationals, I thought: ‘That’s a perfect situation.’“ Hellickson, who had been working out with other Boras clients before signing, noted that his first trip to free agency “wasn’t fun.”  Now, he’s “excited” about his new team and hoping to win the fifth spot in its rotation.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On Greg Holland]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117060 2018-03-15T18:08:26Z 2018-03-15T18:08:26Z The market for Greg Holland has seemingly been tepid, at best, in recent months. Two teams that have at least considered him as of late, per FanRag’s Jon Heyman, are the Braves and the D-backs. Atlanta has “checked in” on Holland, while Arizona has considered a run at him as well. One oft-connected team that doesn’t seem likely is the Nationals, as Heyman adds that the they’re “not planning” to pursue him at this juncture of the offseason. (That aligns with comments GM Mike Rizzo made to the media early this afternoon.)

    The Diamondbacks already have a plethora of arms vying for bullpen spots, though as the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro recently pointed out, there are potentially as many as three spots up for grabs. Archie Bradley is considered to be among the ninth-inning favorites in D-backs camp, with Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano also vying for saves, but Holland would give them a more established arm and deepen the overall bullpen mix in a year Arizona plans to contend. Payroll, of course, could be an issue for the D-backs, though it wasn’t long ago that they were trying to find creative ways to fit J.D. Martinez onto the books.

    As for the Braves, their late-inning mix is also murky. Arodys Vizcaino figures to open the year in the ninth inning, with Jose Ramirez, A.J. Minter and Sam Freeman among the setup options helping form the bridge from the rotation to Vizcaino. There’s obviously strong incentive for the Braves to forgo signing Holland. As a rebuilding club that may not yet be ready to contend, the Braves surely don’t relish the idea of surrendering draft picks to sign a player who rejected a qualifying offer.

    I’d add that at the same time, the Braves needn’t fret much over the international forfeitures they’d face, as they’ll he handcuffed in that regard anyhow following the November scandal that prompted John Coppolella to resign as GM. Beyond that, high-end bullpen arms are always in demand at the deadline, and it’s not outlandish to think the Braves could receive a better prospect than the one they’d acquire with the third round pick they’d be forced to punt. (Losing the slot value of that pick in their draft pool, however, would limit their ability to get creative, though.)

    Finding teams that make sense as an on-paper fit for Holland is hardly a problem. Virtually any club in the league could stand to improve by pushing its seventh-best reliever to the minors and adding Holland to the bullpen mix. However, we’ve already seen a significant portion of the league largely sit out the free agent market, and at this stage of the offseason, more teams are up against payroll limits and reluctant to forfeit a draft/international considerations. There’s still enough time in spring that Holland could potentially make a handful of appearances before Opening Day, but the longer he waits, the more his early-season availability will be called into question.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Notes: Glover, Bullpen, Robles]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=117053 2018-03-15T17:03:05Z 2018-03-15T16:54:39Z
  • Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo acknowledged to reporters today that right-hander Koda Glover’s shoulder is taking longer to heal than the team anticipated (Twitter link via Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post). Glover’s uncertain status notwithstanding, Rizzo doesn’t feel the team needs to go outside the organization for additional bullpen help, Janes notes. The GM said he likes what he’s seen from right-handers Trevor Gott and Austin Adams this spring, and the Nats of course have deepened their bullpen over the past nine months with the acquisitions of Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler and, earlier this spring, Joaquin Benoit.
  • Janes also tweets that Rizzo was adamant that the Nationals “would never” keep top outfield prospect Victor Robles in a bench role. While many Nats fans may be hoping that the ballyhooed 20-year-old can make the roster in a reserve capacity, Rizzo’s comments further reinforce the idea that the Nats will keep Robles in a regular role with Triple-A Syracuse until an everyday opening presents itself at the big league level.
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    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL East Notes: Phillies, Conforto, AGon, Robles]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116920 2018-03-13T16:16:24Z 2018-03-13T16:16:24Z As the Phillies introduce Jake Arrieta today, the organization is now much more clearly in a competitive posture than it was at the outset of the winter. But the pedal won’t be fully pressed down, it seems, despite the presence of a few other notable free agents who’d improve the near-term outlook in Philadelphia. GM Matt Klentak says that he does not anticipate any further additions before the start of the season, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki tweets.

    More from the NL East:

    • The Mets continue to have cause for optimism on outfielder Michael Conforto, whose scary shoulder injury made for quite an offseason concern. He’s now nearing game readiness, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets, and anticipates getting into a spring game next week. That doesn’t mean that Conforto will be on the Opening Day roster, but certainly suggests he’s on track to return relatively early in the season. In other injury news, via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo (Twitter links), the Mets say that outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has a sore wrist. Though there’s no indication at present that it’s a worrying injury, he has undergone an x-ray and is waiting for the results. Meanwhile, veteran third baseman David Wright is no closer to a return; rather, he’ll hold off on baseball activities for at least eight weeks after being examined recently.
    • New Mets first baseman Adrian Gonzalez discussed his fresh start and unusual offseason with Mike Puma of the New York Post. Notably, Gonzalez says he was initially resistant to the Dodgers’ request that he waive his no-trade protection to go to the Braves in a contract-swapping move that ultimately left him landing in New York. But Los Angeles “sweetened the deal every single time” he met with the team, says the veteran, who acknowledged there was compensation involved.
    • Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com examines the Nationals’ decision-making process with top prospect Victor Robles, who is impressing in camp despite a middling stat line in Grapefruit League action. The 20-year-old is ready for the majors, by all accounts, though the organization certainly has plenty of good reasons not to carry him out of camp. First and foremost, the organization has a solid center field combo already lined up in Michael Taylor and the out-of-options Brian Goodwin; in that sense, then, promoting Robles would mean parting with depth. Service-time considerations are also a factor; since Robles picked up 25 days of service last year, he’s just 147 days away from a full year of service. If the Nats wish to delay Robles’s eventual entry onto the open market, they’ll need to keep him down until early May; keeping him from potential Super Two status would likely mean waiting to bring him back up until the middle of the summer.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Reaction To The Phillies/Jake Arrieta Agreement]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116800 2018-03-12T04:26:39Z 2018-03-12T04:23:39Z One of the offseason’s major free agents finally came off the board today, as Jake Arrieta agreed to a three-year, $75MM contract with the Phillies that will become official once the right-hander passes a physical.  Here is some of the early reaction to the deal…

    • “For the Phillies, this was as close to a no-brainer as $25 million per season gets,” David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News writes.  Murphy argues that the Phillies were simply in such dire need for starting pitching that a quality arm like Arrieta was too good to pass up, even at a significant price for a still-rebuilding team.  Though Arrieta’s performance dipped in 2017, Murphy notes that even Arrieta’s down year still more or less equaled Aaron Nola’s numbers, so “in essence, the Phillies will have added another Nola even if Arrieta’s 2017 is his new normal.”  Even if Arrieta declines further, the three-year length of the deal means that he won’t be much of a long-term burden on the Phils’ spending abilities.
    • The threat of such a decline, however, makes this signing “a strange one” for the Phillies, in the opinion of ESPN.com’s Keith Law (subscription required).  Arrieta’s peripherals and velocity were both down in 2017, and Law wonders if “this is a Tim Lincecum situation where there’s no actual injury but he’s just wearing down after a great peak.”  Even if Arrieta stabilizes his performance or regains some of his old form, Law questions the wisdom of a contract that will likely deliver most of its value before the Phillies are truly ready to contend.
    • “The Padres had more than passing interest in Jake Arrieta”, Dennis Lin of the Athletic tweets, but the $25MM average annual value of Arrieta’s contract was too high for San Diego’s liking.  The club was known to have been at least considering the idea of going after the right-hander, who could’ve joined Eric Hosmer as the second major Scott Boras client to (surprisingly) sign with the Padres this winter.  Lin feels the Padres are likely to stick with their current rotation mix rather than add another starting pitcher, though “there are fans of Alex Cobb in the organization.”
    • The Nationals had been mentioned as a speculative landing spot for Arrieta for much of the offseason, due to both the Nats’ possible need for another starter and Boras’ well-documented relationship with the Lerner family.  As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com notes, however, “Nats folks insisted from the beginning Boras was trying to make them more interested in Arrieta than they were.”  Even if Washington was more likely to engage in Arrieta’s market if the price dropped, it seemingly never got low enough for the Nationals to make a strong bid.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Adam Eaton's Recovery]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116748 2018-03-11T20:26:01Z 2018-03-11T20:25:35Z
  • Nationals left fielder Adam Eaton is “very close” to participating in major league spring training games, manager Dave Martinez told Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post and other reporters Sunday (Twitter link). Eaton, who’s coming back from the torn left ACL he suffered last April, has been playing in minor league games recently. The Nationals expect him to be ready for Opening Day, Jamal Collier of MLB.com relays.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Latest On Daniel Murphy]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116697 2018-03-11T05:21:06Z 2018-03-11T05:20:54Z
  • Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy is progressing in his recovery from October knee surgery, though it’s not yet clear whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day, per Jamal Collier of MLB.com. Murphy took batting practice for the first time this year on Saturday, after which he said he didn’t experience any discomfort. The 32-year-old also fielded 15 to 20 ground balls Saturday, but “he has not graduated to lateral movements,” Collier writes, and has only run on a treadmill to this point. Overall, though, Murphy believes he’s “responding really well.”
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    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[East Notes: Pomeranz, Glover, Freicer]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116637 2018-03-10T20:29:13Z 2018-03-10T20:29:13Z Red Sox lefty Drew Pomeranz could attempt to throw two innings of live batting practice next week, writes Scott Lauber of ESPN. That would be a notable progression in his rehab back from a flexor strain, though it’s not yet clear whether he’ll be ready to take the mound for his first start of the season (Lauber notes that this would be either April 1st or April 2nd). Pomeranz is set to become a free agent following this season, and he’ll certainly want to avoid any injury-related question marks as he hits free agency amidst a  free agent pitching class that could potentially include Clayton Kershaw and fellow Red Sox left-hander David Price.

    Elsewhere along the Atlantic shoreline…

    • There’s no timetable for Koda Glover to begin throwing again, Jamal Collier writes in his latest inbox column for MLB.com. Collier adds that all signs point to Glover being out of the bullpen mix to start the 2018 season. The 24-year-old right-hander was expected by many to emerge as a closer option for the Nationals last season, but injuries cut his season short, and his 5.12 ERA across 19 1/3 innings doesn’t look pretty. However, his 4.25 K/BB ratio stands out as excellent; the Nats are surely hoping he can return soon to deliver on his potential.
    • Frecier Perez, the Yankees’ No. 9 prospect, is now represented by The Legacy Agency, Robert Murray of FanRag Sports tweets. The towering 6’8″ right-hander has risen rapidly across the Bombers’ prospect list thanks to his projectable frame and ability to consistently throw 100 MPH. Perez is 21 years old and was signed in 2014 out of the Dominican Republic for just $10K. Current Yankees scout Dan Giese spoke highly of Perez earlier this winter, citing his ability to throw strikes and feel for his change-up as reasons for optimism. He spent most of last season at Low-A Charleston.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Athletics Expect To Land Veteran Catcher]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116594 2018-03-09T21:28:30Z 2018-03-09T21:14:57Z 3:28pm: The Athletics are nearing agreement with Lucroy, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter).

    3:14pm: The Athletics are pursuing a veteran catcher and expect to acquire one, per MLB.com’s Jane Lee (via Twitter). Specifically, the club anticipates either signing Jonathan Lucroy or acquiring Matt Wieters from the Nationals.

    Lucroy remains one of the top remaining un-signed free agents. He entered the winter as the top-rated catcher available.

    Needless to say, the latter possibility hints at the potential for lots of creative trade scenarios — especially given the long trade history between these organizations’ current front office leadership. The Nats owe Wieters a hefty $10.5MM salary after his poor 2017 season. At the same time, the team would surely only move him (and as much of the salary as it can) if it has an upgrade lined up.

    Of course, it could be that the Nats would see Lucroy himself as a preferable option to Wieters, adding yet another potential dimension to the situation. Lucroy entered the winter emphasizing his desire to play for a competitor, after all. Washington has also long been tied to quality young Marlins receive J.T. Realmuto, though it’s not clear whether there has been any recent movement on that front.

    At this point, though, the trade possibilities are all speculation.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[East Notes: Rays, Wright, Goodwin, Orioles]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116440 2018-03-08T01:31:27Z 2018-03-07T19:22:15Z The Rays are preparing to utilize a four-man rotation for the entirety of the coming season, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes, with the expectation being that the club will load up the bullpen with multi-inning-capable arms. Topkin covers a wide range of possibilities for the relief corps and details the club’s thinking behind the unusual move. The plan is to utilize a string of relievers to work the fifth rotation spot, rather than designating a single pitcher to take that job. That approach seems designed both to take advantage of the organization’s options and to incorporate some analytical lessons on platoons and pitchers facing an order multiple times.

    More from the east:

    • Joel Sherman of the New York Post checks in on Mets third baseman David Wright, who is still plugging away in a comeback effort that seems unlikely to succeed. He says he wants to give it everything he can so that his “head can hit the pillow and I know I made every effort to play.” But that doesn’t mean it’s easy for the 33-year-old to be a part of a team that’s likely never to put him back on the field. “The mental part of coming in and knowing you bring nothing to the table as far as helping the team get ready for the season and helping the team win, for me, is the hardest part,” says Wright, “as hard as physical part of the rehab process.” Wright’s devastating combination of injuries is well-documented, of course. Remarkably, he was still capable of productive hitting when he briefly appeared on the field in 2015 and 2016, but Wright was only able to suit up for three High-A contests last year.
    • The Nationals don’t have a particularly clear role for outfielder Brian Goodwin, but as Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com writes, new skipper Davey Martinez intends to find ways to utilize Goodwin. The 27-year-old doesn’t exactly sound like he’s excited by the organization’s plans after he turned in a solid 2017 campaign. “I don’t think my role is defined, or ever has been since I’ve been in camp,” Goodwin said. “I come into camp and I feel like I’m trying to earn a spot, trying to find somewhere – a home, where I can play every day, start 162 games and play every day for somebody whether it’s here or anywhere.”
    • Speaking of lefty hitting outfielders, the Orioles came into the offseason badly needing one. The club erred in its approach to filling that need, Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com argues. Baltimore ended up drawing Colby Rasmus back out of retirement with a deal that could actually exceed the one that Jon Jay just signed with the Royals. The issue, says Connolly, is that Jay suits the O’s needs much more than does Rasmus — and also was the desired target of team leaders Adam Jones and Manny Machado. It’s an interesting look at the team’s decisionmaking process.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Adams Prioritized Contending Over Playing Time In Free Agency]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116295 2018-03-05T23:12:08Z 2018-03-05T18:55:51Z Matt Adams signed with the Nationals fairly early in the offseason knowing full well that regular at-bats were going to be difficult to come by, writes Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. Adams prioritized playing for a contending club with a good clubhouse culture — he consulted his friend Chris Heisey about the organization before signing — over holding out for an opportunity for an everyday or near-everyday role. Castillo speaks to Adams himself, manager Dave Martinez and hitting coach Kevin Long about the slugger’s role with the club and the value he can bring off the bench. The Nationals, it should be noted, are giving Adams some looks in the outfield once again this spring and could play him in left field from time to time in 2017 — as the Cardinals and Braves both did in 2017.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Nationals Looking For Another Catcher]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116214 2018-03-04T22:14:40Z 2018-03-04T21:09:47Z
  • The Nationals would still like to add another Major League catcher to their roster, MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi reports.  Catcher is the only true weak spot on Washington’s depth chart, due to Matt Wieters’ rough 2017 season and Pedro Severino’s lack of hitting at the MLB level (or even in the minors).  Miguel Montero is also in camp on a non-roster invite but is also coming off a poor 2017.  The Nats are known to have explored trade talks with the Marlins about J.T. Realmuto, and if Realmuto or another catcher can’t be obtained in a trade, D.C. could consider signing a catcher who becomes available in late-Spring Training roster shuffling, or perhaps a bigger-name free agent like the still-available Jonathan Lucroy.
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    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Latest On The Top Remaining Free Agent Starters]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116118 2018-03-02T18:44:10Z 2018-03-02T18:44:10Z The Nationals reportedly remain open to adding to their roster before the season begins, and while they’ve been oft-linked to top remaining free agent Jake Arrieta, Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nats “haven’t engaged with Arrieta’s camp recently.” The Nationals, it seems (much like the rest of baseball), would be likelier to jump into the fray if Arrieta’s price drops.

    Castillo does note that at least three other clubs have made recent inquiries with Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras. One of those is likely the Phillies, who are reported to have an ongoing dialogue with Boras regarding Arrieta. However, most reports out of Philadelphia suggest that the Phils are loath to go beyond three years for the former NL Cy Yong winner, who will pitch this season at age 32 and has displayed some signs of decline in recent years — most notably a loss of velocity and worsened K/BB rates.

    Alternatives for the Nats, Phillies and other clubs searching for rotation upgrades are still on the market in the form of Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, who both remain unsigned. Todd Zolecki of MLB.com writes, however, that the Phils are even less likely to sign Cobb or Lynn to a long-term deal than they are Arrieta (and again reports that the Phils don’t want to go past three years for Arrieta). Even a contract in the vicinity of Tyler Chatwood’s three-year, $38MM pact with the Cubs could be too rich for the Phillies’ tastes when it comes to Lynn and Cobb, Zolecki writes.

    It seems that virtually every club in need of rotation help is awaiting the asking price on the top three starters to drop. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden tweets that both Cobb and Lynn are still seeking guarantees worth more than $50MM. (It’s worth pointing out that the manner in which that report frames draft compensation is inaccurate; the draft/international penalty for signing any of Arrieta, Cobb or Lynn is not tied to that $50MM figure, but a deal of $50MM or more would improve the compensation for the teams losing those players.)

    The Orioles, Brewers, Phillies and Twins all hold varying levels of interest in Cobb and/or Lynn, Bowden notes, but not at the current asking price. The Twins’ level of interest in Lynn doesn’t appear to be especially high at this point, though. While Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN walks back a recent report a bit by tweeting that Minnesota’s offer to Lynn was for more than the $12MM he initially reported, he adds that it was nonetheless well shy of anything his camp considered and that there are no current talks between the two sides.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Agree To Minor League Deal With Alejandro De Aza]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116094 2018-03-02T15:46:41Z 2018-03-02T15:46:41Z The Nationals have re-signed veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to a minor league pact, Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post tweets. De Aza did not receive an invite to Major League camp, though he’ll be with the club for today’s game at least, Castillo adds. De Aza is a client of Magnus Sports.

    The 33-year-old De Aza spent the entire 2017 season in the Nationals organization and finished out the year with the big league club. He made just 70 plate appearances and batted .194/.224/.323 in his brief big league stint with the Nats, but he posted a much stronger .280/.368/.403 slash in 212 Triple-A plate appearances.

    Last year’s 28 Major League games were the fewest De Aza had logged in a season since appearing in just 19 contests with the White Sox back in 2010. De Aza averaged 134 games and 484 PAs per season from 2012-16 between the ChiSox, Orioles, Red Sox, Giants and Mets, hitting a combined .258/.326/.395 along the way. He has experience at all three outfield positions and seems likely to head to Triple-A as a depth option to open the season.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Market Notes: Upton, Archer, Realmuto, Holland, Lynn]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116083 2018-03-02T17:21:47Z 2018-03-02T06:09:17Z Over at The Athletic, Pedro Moura held a fascinating conversation with Angels slugger Justin Upton. (Subscription link.) There’s plenty of interest in the chat, though Upton’s comments on free agency are of particular interest and relevance. The thrust of his sentiment is that teams seem to be looking to score free-agent value rather than identifying and “courting” players they actively wish to employ. “Teams don’t value players as people anymore,” says Upton. “They value them as a number on a sheet of paper.”

    Of course, Upton forewent a chance at returning to the open market by agreeing to a deal with an organization he was comfortable with. Here’s the latest on the unusually high number of quality free agents still not in camp and other market notes:

    • The likelihood remains that the Rays will enter the season with Chris Archer on the staff, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports among other notes. That’s due in no small part to the team’s lofty asking price; one rival executive suggests that the Tampa Bay front office “wanted our whole farm system” to move Archer. The club has given that impression publicly, too. Senior VP of baseball ops Chaim Bloom reiterated that the expectation is to hang onto Archer and others in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). He added that the internal expectation is that it will begin to reap the rewards of an effort over recent years to bolster the farm depth while still trying to compete at the MLB level.
    • It has remained interesting to consider whether the Nationals might pry catcher J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. But there isn’t much recent indication of serious talks, and Heyman indicates that’s due to what seems to be a big gulf in the sides’ valuations. Washington won’t give top prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto, per the report; while the club might part with young infielder Carter Kieboom or outfielder Michael Taylor, it seems Miami was asking for too much additional talent to be included in a package.
    • The outfield market has certainly delivered some surprises thus far. Heyman says Jarrod Dyson spurned an early two-year, $14MM offer, though a source tells MLBTR that is not accurate. Dyson ultimately signed for $7.5MM with the Diamondbacks. It remains to be seen what’ll happen with players such as Carlos Gonzalez and Jon Jay, each of whom were rated among the fifty best free agents this winter by MLBTR. Heyman says the Indians are still looking at right-handed outfield bats, though it would surely be a surprise for the team to plunk down any meaningful money to make an addition. Perhaps the trade route could still hold some surprises, though that’s pure speculation on my part.
    • Veteran reliever Greg Holland might have overplayed his hand in spurning the Rockies earlier in the winter. Colorado was willing to give him something approaching the three-year, $51MM deal the team ultimately inked with Wade Davis, Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggests in an appearance on the podcast of Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. It’s premature, perhaps, to declare that Holland won’t be able to top that number, though it’s frankly difficult to see where that level of interest might come from — as MLBTR’s Steve Adams has recently explained.
    • Holland’s list of suitors is in question at the moment. One thing that seems clear, per Heyman, is that the Cubs aren’t planning on making a surprise run at the closer. Rather, Chicago seems largely committed to utilizing Brandon Morrow in the ninth inning and is likely to hold back its remaining payroll reserves for potential mid-season additions.
    • So, how low could the remaining pitchers go? Presumably there’s a point at which some bidding would occur. But it’s notable that, per ESPN 1500’s Darren Wolfson (podcast link), the Twins expressed interest in Lance Lynn in the range of just $10MM to $12MM over two seasons. Just how that level of interest came about and was expressed isn’t clear. The team has also made some fairly notable recent commitments and may just not have much more payroll flexibility. And it certainly shouldn’t be taken as evidence of Lynn’s current market value. Still, it’s interesting to learn that’s the current extent of Minnesota’s interest.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Still Weighing Additions; Angels, Twins Likely Done]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=116017 2018-02-28T22:49:11Z 2018-02-28T19:13:25Z With Spring Training in full swing and several recent signings taking a few more players off of the free-agent board, much of the offseason picture is finally now in focus. Of course, as MLBTR’s 2017-18 MLB Free Agent Tracker shows, there are still some big names available. Several organizations clearly also have unfinished business, while others may already feel they’ve addressed their needs or maxed out their resources.

    Here are some notes on teams’ plans on the day before the calendar flips to March:

    • The Nationals are still eyeing improvements, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). In particular, the Washington front office “remain[s] engaged” with the top remaining free agent, starter Jake Arrieta. But it seems that he’s not the sole player of interest, as the organization is said to be “monitor[ing]” the market for possibilities. It is worth noting that several other remaining free agents could fit the Nats rather comfortably on paper, potentially including other starters such as Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, top reliever Greg Holland, and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Of course, there’s no real indication whether any of those players are presently seen as options within the Nationals organization.
    • Quite the opposite impression is being given by the Angels, as Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group tweets. GM Billy Eppler says that the organization is “not looking to pursue anything” else after a busy winter, though he does note that he’s “open-minded to things that come around.” That certainly sounds more like a willingness to entertain bargain-rate signings than any kind of interest in pushing for another significant addition. The Halos could clearly stand to improve their pitching, though it also may be that the front office prefers to allow existing options to rise or fall before addressing any needs at the trade deadline. At present, the Angels seem to have around $25MM in payroll space before bumping against the luxury line, though the organization is surely also loath to add too much to the future balance sheets.
    • It seems the Twins also feel their roster-building work is done, with chief baseball officer Derek Falvey telling reporters including Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (Twitter link) that there’s a “high likelihood” the team has already compiled its Opening Day unit. Minnesota did make quite a few acquisitions over the winter, including recent moves for Jake Odorizzi and Logan Morrison that added fairly significant salary commitments for the 2018 season. Some have wondered whether another rotation piece would make sense, but that doesn’t seem to be in the plans at present. Minnesota is slated to open with a club-record $116MM+ payroll, though the organization had already been in nine figures to open each of the past three years.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Fedde's Velocity Returns After Last Summer's Forearm Injury]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115948 2018-02-28T02:35:46Z 2018-02-28T02:35:46Z
  • Erick Fedde made his first appearance of the spring this week, taking the mound for the first time since suffering a flexor strain that ended his season last summer. MLB.com’s Jamal Collier spoke with the promising Nationals right-hander, stating that he felt no lingering effects in his previously problematic forearm. Collier notes, too, that Fedde’s velocity looks to be back to normal after dipping last summer before the right-hander was shelved for the remainder of the year. While the 25-year-old Fedde, a former first-round pick and longtime top prospect in the organization, comes with plenty of upside and hopes to break camp with the club, Collier notes that his remaining minor league options could make that difficult. Right-hander A.J. Cole is the current favorite for the fifth spot in the Nats’ rotation, perhaps in part due to the fact that he’s out of options.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Injury Notes: Gurriel, Frazier, Gausman, Stroman, Thornburg, Eaton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115908 2018-02-28T04:47:58Z 2018-02-27T19:13:14Z The Astros have shipped first baseman Yuli Gurriel to Houston so his injured hand can be evaluated, Jake Kaplan of The Athletic reports (Twitter link). At this point, the situation is more or less a mystery, with no real indication how the issue arose or just what the club is concerned about. Clearly, though, the team’s training staff has found cause to get a closer look from a specialist.

    Here’s more on some injury situations from around the game:

    • Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier has been diagnosed with a concussion, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. Frazier made a leaping catch in yesterday’s Grapefruit League game against the Pirates and stumbled a bit before falling backwards and hitting his head against the base of the left-field wall (video link). Manager Aaron Boone said Frazier will be down for “a few days” and acknowledged the seemingly optimistic nature of that timeline. Frazier is far from a lock to make the Opening Day roster in New York with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Jacoby Ellsbury all on the roster, but he remains a key potential long-term piece for the Yanks.
    • It seems that Orioles righty Kevin Gausman has largely shaken off a home-plate collision yesterday, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. The young starter, who is a key factor in the team’s hopes for the coming season, says he “feel[s] pretty good” on the whole despite slamming into Tigers youngster Jeimer Candelario. For the time being, at least, Gausman is expected to take the ball for his next scheduled spring outing.
    • The outlook is at least a bit more worrisome for Blue Jays righty Marcus Stroman. Per MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm, shoulder inflammation is holding Stroman back. Though he has already been cleared by an MRI of structural concerns, Stroman will rest up in hopes of moving past a problem that has evidently been going on for a few weeks. The key Jays hurler says he’s hoping to be fully ramped up for “the very beginning of the start of the season,” even if it’s not Opening Day, though surely the organization will proceed with caution.
    • The Red Sox will welcome reliever Tyler Thornburg back to the hill for the first time since he underwent surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome, Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. A bullpen session is just one of many steps back, of course, and Thornburg still has some hurdles to clear. He has yet to pitch competitively for the Boston organization (excepting brief spring action last year) since coming over in a trade in advance of the 2017 season.
    • Indications are that Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton is largely progressing well after a long layoff for a torn ACL. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes, though, Eaton has yet to appear in game action. That appears to be less a reflection of Eaton’s surgically repaired joint than it is a planned effort to build him up deliberately. “We’re going to take it and be methodical and do it right for the first time and make sure I’m overcooked, so to speak, before I go out there.” While it’s surely tempting to max out Eaton’s reps after a lost season, skipper Davey Martinez emphasized the primary goal is to have Eaton at full speed come Opening Day.
    • The rival Mets are reporting shoulder and back soreness for Yoenis Cespedes and Jacob deGrom, respectively, but those don’t seem to be real concerns at this point, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports. However, the New York organization is likely to hold back first baseman Dominic Smith for a while after he was diagnosed with a strained quad. He already seemed to face a difficult task of cracking the Opening Day roster, so this setback is not likely to help the cause. (New reliever Anthony Swarzak just left his relief appearance with an apparent calf injury, as Mike Puma of the New York Post was among those to tweet, though details are sparse at this time.)
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Morosi: Rangers Monitoring Top Available Starters]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115708 2018-02-25T22:59:27Z 2018-02-25T22:59:27Z Yankees manager Aaron Boone suggested Sunday that they won’t sign either Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb, yet the team has “maintained contact with Lynn throughout the offseason,” Jon Morosi of MLB.com writes. The Yankees are monitoring the top available starters in general, according to Morosi, who hears that the Brewers, Phillies, Rangers, Orioles and Nationals are doing the same. The Angels, meanwhile, are open to signing the best free agent reliever, Greg Holland, if the price is right, per Morosi. The Halos’ bullpen has seemingly taken a step back since last year ended, having lost Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris to free agency and added only Jim Johnson. While Holland would help make up for those exits, he’s presumably not going to sign for cheap, and inking the qualifying offer recipient would cost the Angels their second-highest draft pick this year and $500K in international spending room.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Joaquin Benoit]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115245 2018-02-22T22:27:53Z 2018-02-21T15:39:25Z WEDNESDAY: Washington has announced the signing. Benoit also can earn up to $1MM via incentives, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link).

    MONDAY: The Nationals have agreed to a contract with free-agent reliever Joaquin Benoit, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). It’s a one-year, Major League contract worth $1MM for the ACES client, per Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post (Twitter link).

    Joaquin Benoit | May 10, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit (53) pitches in the seventh inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Citizens Bank Park. The Mariners won the game 11-6. Mandatory Credit: John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

    Benoit, 40, split the 2017 season between the Phillies and Pirates, delivering solid results in 42 innings with Philadelphia before being torched in 8 1/3 frames with the Bucs late in the season, Overall, Benoit logged a 4.65 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 1.25 HR/9 and a 33.3 percent grounder rate in 50 1/3 innings of work.

    That represented a down season for Benoit, of course, but it was only the second time in the past eight seasons that he’s posted an ERA north of 3.00. Benoit’s average velocity (94.8 mph) and swinging-strike rate (13.3 percent) both remained solid as he pitched for both Pennsylvania clubs last year, and he’ll look to keep those positive trends going as he seeks to rebound in terms of overall run-prevention.

    Dating back to the 2010 season, Benoit has turned in a 2.64 ERA (3.37 FIP, 2.95 SIERA) with 9.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9 and a 38.3 percent ground-ball rate. He’s no stranger to high-leverage roles, having notched 45 saves and 168 holds across that terrific late-career renaissance, and he’ll give the Nats an experienced arm to complement a late-inning relief corps that also features veterans Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler.

    It’s not clear on what level the two are related, but it’s nonetheless worth noting that young Koda Glover reported to camp with shoulder soreness and was diagnosed with inflammation following an MRI (via a report from Castillo). He’s not throwing at present, making the added depth from Benoit all the more important.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Notes: Harper, Glover]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115314 2018-02-20T07:03:27Z 2018-02-20T06:00:45Z
  • There was some ominous news to open camp for young Nationals righty Koda Glover. Per Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, shoulder soreness is preventing him from throwing at this point. New skipper Dave Martinez understandably said the club will look to bring Glover along slowly, particularly in view of the fact that the 24-year-old hit the shelf with rotator cuff issues after 19 1/3 otherwise promising innings in 2017. Hopes had been that the hard-throwing youngster might push his way back into the Nats’ late-inning mix after picking up eight saves last year, though he’ll first need to reestablish his health.
  • Nationals star Bryce Harper preempted any questions about his future, telling reporters including Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com today that he’s focused exclusively on “winning and playing hard” in the current season. Harper also says he’s in top physical form entering what could be his final year in D.C. Zuckerman’s write-up and Harper’s comments provide some worthwhile perspective on what has been quite a notable MLB tenure for Harper, who is now the fourth-longest-tenured Nationals player at just 25 years of age.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Nationals Notes: Gonzalez, Ross]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=115122 2018-02-18T16:47:55Z 2018-02-18T16:47:55Z
  • Given that he’s in the last year of his contract, left-hander Gio Gonzalez realizes he may not be in a Nationals uniform in 2019, Jamal Collier of MLB.com writes. Gonzalez would like to remain in Washington, though. “I’ve been here for seven years. To me, this is home,” he said. “That being said, I have to do my part.” If he’s unable to work out a new deal with the Nats in the next year, Gonzalez would hit the open market at the age of 33 – a prospect that’s not too appealing these days, Collier notes. “To see these guys get a team, it would make you feel a little more comfortable, a little more safe,” Gonzalez said of all the unsigned veterans remaining with spring training underway.
    • Given that he’s in the last year of his contract, left-hander Gio Gonzalez realizes he may not be in a Nationals uniform in 2019, Jamal Collier of MLB.com writes. Gonzalez would like to remain in Washington, though. “I’ve been here for seven years. To me, this is home,” he said. “That being said, I have to do my part.” If he’s unable to work out a new deal with the Nats in the next year, Gonzalez would hit the open market at the age of 33 – a prospect that’s not too appealing these days, Collier notes. “To see these guys get a team, it would make you feel a little more comfortable, a little more safe,” Gonzalez said of all the unsigned veterans remaining with spring training underway.
    • Right-hander Joe Ross, one of Gonzalez’s teammates, is making encouraging progress in his recovery from the Tommy John procedure he underwent last July, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reports. Ross is currently throwing off flat ground from 75 feet and aiming to return to the Nationals sometime after the All-Star break. “That’s in my head, for sure,” the 24-year-old said of potentially making an impact in 2018. “My arm will dictate that. But that’s how I feel, and I’m looking forward to helping the team in the second half.”
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Mike Rizzo Says He Is “Confident” He Will Reach New Deal With Nationals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114946 2018-02-16T22:06:26Z 2018-02-16T22:06:26Z Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo addressed his contract situation today. As Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports, the veteran executive gave the clearest indication yet that he anticipates remaining in his position beyond the present season.

    “I’ve had a couple conversations with ownership about my contract,” said Rizzo, who noted that an agreement has yet to be struck. “I’ve been here for 12 years. With the trust that we’ve developed over the years, I feel confident that we should get something done.”

    Rizzo is entering the final year of the deal he signed with the team in the middle of the 2013 season. He has been with the organization since 2006 and has sat atop the baseball ops hierarchy since 2009.

    It is difficult to argue with Rizzo’s track record. The rosters he has constructed have taken four of the past six NL East titles. Of course, the Nats also have lost all four ensuing divisional series in heartbreaking fashion. Those postseason disappointments have helped to create quite some churn in the field manager role, but Rizzo has remained a constant — and with good reason, given his track record of engineering a sustained winner.

    While it has long seemed from the outside that Rizzo enjoys the trust of the organization’s ownership, led by the Lerner family, his future had seemed less certain than ever during the current offseason. When asked about his contract status in November, Rizzo said he had yet to discuss it and would not be the one to broach the subject.

    Rizzo’s most recent comments, though, clearly paint a different picture as camp gets underway. The notoriously tight-lipped executive, who has always negotiated his own contracts, not only made clear that he had been engaged in discussions but strongly suggested that a new deal ought to be anticipated.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 2/13/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114665 2018-02-14T02:43:03Z 2018-02-14T02:43:03Z Here are Tuesday’s minor moves from around the game…

    • The Nationals announced a slate of 17 players they’ve signed to minor league deals with invites to Spring Training, including a deal with former Padres righty Cesar Vargas. (Some of the remaining names — Edwin Jackson, Tommy Milone, Ryan Raburn, Miguel Montero — were veterans with notable big league experience, though each of those deals had been previously reported.) Vargas, 26, tossed 34 innings for the 2016 Friars, logging a 5.03 ERA with a 28-to-15 K/BB ratio in seven starts as a Major Leaguer. After working as a starter in ’16, though, Vargas pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen between the Padres’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this past season. He struggled to a 5.50 ERA and averaged five walks per nine innings, though he also averaged 10.2 K/9 in that time. He could serve as depth either in the ’pen or the rotation with his new organization.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Acquire Matt Reynolds]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114582 2018-02-13T02:13:39Z 2018-02-13T02:06:42Z The Nationals have acquired utilityman Matt Reynolds from the division-rival Mets, per a club announcement. Cash considerations will go to New York in the agreement for Reynolds, who had been designated for assignment recently.

    Reynolds, 27, has struggled in his limited MLB opportunities and was squeezed off of the Mets roster as the team has continued to add infielders. The Nats had an unexpected opening arise recently when young catcher Raudy Read was hit with a PED suspension.

    Though he has accomplished little in limited MLB time, Reynolds has shown an ability to line up all around the infield and in the corner outfield. And he has posted a solid (albeit PCL-aided) .289/.348/.419 slash in over a thousand career trips to the plate at Triple-A.

    To crack the Nationals’ active roster, Reynolds would likely need to beat out Wilmer Difo for an infield reserve spot. Of course, he could instead be optioned to Triple-A to serve as affordable and versatile depth, or the Nats could attempt to sneak him through waivers at some point.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Could The Nats Make Another Late Pitching Signing?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114492 2018-02-12T02:45:37Z 2018-02-12T01:44:50Z The Nationals have made late-winter signings in the past, and there’s certainly opportunity for the club to do so again given the large number of available free agents, MASNsports.com’s Mark Zuckerman writes.  While the idea of the Nats signing Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, or Lance Lynn at a discounted price in March is tempting for a team that has toyed with upgrading the rotation, Zuckerman feels that Washington is more likely to add a reliever if a late signing is indeed in the cards.  On the whole, the Nats aren’t under any real pressure to make any sort of move, given their deep roster.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[A.J. Cole Favored For Fifth Starter's Slot At Present]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114281 2018-02-08T23:06:57Z 2018-02-08T23:06:57Z
  • At a recent Nationals Hot Stove event, GM Mike Rizzo plainly stated that, as things presently stand, right-hander A.J. Cole is his team’s fifth starter (link via TalkNats.com). “Our number five starter, you know, is A.J. Cole which I’m really looking forward to seeing where he’s at this year,” said Rizzo. “If you look at his numbers last year, his last seven starts were outstanding. He pitched in eleven games last year in the big leagues with eight starts and had a 3.81 ERA… Look at the other teams in our division. See where that ERA ranks on those other staffs.” Of course, fielding-independent metrics like FIP, xFIP and SIERA all pegged Cole north of 5.00, due largely to a 4.7 BB/9 rate and a pedestrian 7.6 K/9 mark. One would think, too, that a strong Spring Training effort from someone such as Austin Voth or Erick Fedde could impact that plan, as could the addition of an arm via free agency or trade. At present, though, it’s certainly noteworthy that the job is Cole’s to lose. Cole figures to make the roster in some capacity, as he’s out of minor league options.
  • ]]>
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals’ Raudy Read Suspended 80 Games Following Positive PED Test]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=114224 2018-02-07T21:59:35Z 2018-02-07T21:59:35Z Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that Nationals catching prospect Raudy Read has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Boldenone — a substance that is banned under the league’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Read is on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, so the suspension creates an unexpected vacancy for the Nats.

    “This is a very serious matter — one that I do not take lightly,” said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo in a statement on the matter. “We educate players across our system on the program and set the expectation that they fully abide by it. I am deeply disappointed in Raudy. I have spoken with him directly and he understands that he is ultimately responsible for what he puts into his body. In the end, I hope he learns from this experience.”

    Read issued a statement via the MLBPA and, like many before him, expressed confusion as to how a banned substance could have gotten into his system. The 24-year-old notes that he’s been tested dozens of times and passed seven different drug tests over the course of the 2017 season (Twitter link via the Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes). As MLB.com’s Jamal Collier points out (also on Twitter), Read is the first 40-man player for the Nationals to ever receive a PED suspension.

    The suspension is a blow to an already thin area of organizational depth for the Nationals. Read enjoyed a solid season in Double-A last year, hitting .265/.312/.455 with 17 homers through 442 plate appearances, and he ultimately made his MLB debut late in the season. While he’s behind both Matt Wieters and Pedro Severino on the current depth chart (to say nothing of recent minor league signee Miguel Montero), Read certainly had a chance to reach the Majors and make an impact in 2018. ESPN’s Keith Law recently ranked him 14th among Nats farmhands, praising his power and plus arm behind the plate.

    [Related: Washington Nationals depth chart]

    The Nationals, of course, have already been tied to catching upgrades — most notably a pursuit of Marlins star J.T. Realmuto. While Read’s suspension isn’t likely to push them to radically accelerate their efforts to acquire a significant upgrade, his absence could theoretically push the Nats to add some depth at the position. Read’s absence from camp will enhance Montero’s chances of making the club, though it seems that Severino could have an edge in that race given the fact that he’s out of minor league options.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Quick Hits: Spring Training, Arb Hearings, Werth, Rodgers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113865 2018-02-03T00:04:07Z 2018-02-02T15:55:16Z Unrest on the players’ side of the fence in a dismally slow offseason reached the point where player reps in the union asked if whether it was viable for even those who have signed contracts to collectively refuse to report to Spring Training until Feb. 24, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required). That represents the mandatory reporting date, though pitchers and catchers (and some others) will report to camp prior to that date in a given year. The MLBPA informed those representatives that doing so would violate the CBA and constitute an “unlawful strike,” prompting the notion to be dropped. The very thought further illustrates the overall discontent of players, Rosenthal notes, and that general level of frustration doesn’t help matters as the league and union continue to negotiate the implementation of pace-of-play measures.

    Some other notes from around the game…

    • In addition to Ken Giles, whose arbitration hearing took place yesterday, we should soon learn the results on a pair of arb hearings from the Marlins. FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweeted recently that J.T. Realmuto’s arb hearing was on Jan. 31, while Justin Bour’s was slated for Feb. 1. Giles and the Astros filed at $4.6MM and $4.2MM, respectively. Meanwhile, the Marlins filed at $2.9MM and $3MM for Realmuto and Bour, while that duo countered with respective figures of $3.5MM and $3.4MM (all of which can be seen in MLBTR’s 2018 Arbitration Tracker). Heyman also noted that Dan Straily’s hearing is set for Feb. 14, and Luke Jones of WSNT.net tweeted recently that Orioles righty Kevin Gausman told him his hearing is also set for the 14th of the month.
    • The Nationals have little interest in bringing Jayson Werth back to D.C., writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. Werth, though, hopes to play next season and tells Janes that he’s enhanced his workout routine this offseason. “I’m still training,” says Werth. “I’m still doing the same stuff I would do every other year. I’m actually training harder because I know I’m getting older, and the only way to keep up is to work harder, which sucks.” Werth, 38, was sporting a productive .262/.367/.446 batting line in 2017 when he hit the DL in early June due to a foot injury. When he returned in late August, though, he struggled to a .155/.226/.286 slash through the end of the season, and his struggles continued in the postseason.
    • Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that his ultimate goal for the 2018 season is to make his MLB debut. While the team’s director of player development, Zach Wilson, loves the ambition behind that goal, he wouldn’t comment directly on the plausibility of that scenario. “We’ll see what happens, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have those aspirations and those goals this year,” Wilson told Saunders. “But I will also say this: we’ll make sure he is ready for the next step before he takes it.” Wilson adds that Rodgers will see action at both middle infield positions during Cactus League play this spring but will also get in plenty of side work at third base as the team increases his versatility. Rodgers is viewed as a potential cornerstone piece in the infield for the Rox, though with Nolan Arenado at third base, Trevor Story at short and DJ LeMahieu at second base, there’s no immediate opening for him. LeMahieu, though, is a free agent following the 2018 season.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Miguel Montero To Minor League Deal]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113804 2018-02-01T21:45:39Z 2018-02-01T21:45:21Z 3:45pm: Montero’s contract will pay him $1.3MM if he makes the 25-man roster, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter links).  Another $1.7MM is also available to Montero in incentives.

    1:35pm: The Nationals have signed veteran catcher Miguel Montero to a minor league deal and invited him to Major League Spring Training, tweets Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. The Rep 1 Baseball client will compete with young Pedro Severino for a backup role in camp.

    The 34-year-old Montero split the 2017 season between the Cubs and Blue Jays, hitting a combined .216/.310/.346 in 213 plate appearances. Of course, the nature of his departure from the Cubs organization was a larger story than his production at or behind the plate in 2017; following a late-June game when the Cubs’ opponent (coincidentally — the Nationals) ran amok on the basepaths, Montero publicly blasted starter Jake Arrieta for being slow to the plate and not giving him enough of a chance to throw out the opposing base thieves.

    Unsurprisingly, the comments weren’t well received within the clubhouse or the front office, and Montero was designated for assignment the very next day despite the fact that he carried a strong .286/.366/.439 slash line at the time. Montero hooked on with the Blue Jays but floundered through 101 plate appearances, hitting just .138/.248/.241 through season’s end.

    While he’s struggled at the plate in each of the past two seasons, Montero isn’t far removed from being a productive bat. In 2015 he served as Chicago’s primary backstop and hit .248/.345/.409 with 15 homers in 403 plate appearances, and his overall body of work from 2009-15 is solid: .265/.347/.421.

    The Nats, of course, will hope his 2018 form more closely mirrors that solid seven-year run between the D-backs (where current Nats GM Mike Rizzo played a part in signing Montero) and the Cubs. Washington received a putrid year from 2016-17 offseason signee Matt Wieters, who batted just .225/.288/.344 with poor defensive ratings while earning $10.5MM in the first season of a two-year deal. Wieters had the opportunity to opt out of that deal and re-enter the free agent market, though he wisely forewent that option to remain in D.C. and earn another $10.5MM.

    Montero and Severino will vie for at bats, as things currently stand, though the Nats could yet make a larger splash. Catcher has been a reported target for the team, and the Nats are said to have their eye on Marlins star J.T. Realmuto as a trade option. It’s possible that the Nats are kicking the tires on other trade targets as well, of course, and Jonathan Lucroy stands out as a prominent name that remains available on the open market.

    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 1/29/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113541 2018-01-30T02:29:21Z 2018-01-30T02:20:59Z We’ll collect the minor league transactions from today in this post…

    • The Cardinals have added right-handed starter Nestor Molina (no relation) on a minor-league contract, says Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. Formerly a top prospect in the Blue Jays’ system, Molina is perhaps best known for being traded to the White Sox in exchange for Sergio Santos during the 2011-2012 offseason. The 29-year-old has never pitched at the MLB level, and has spent the bulk of the past two years pitching in the Mexican league. During the 2017 campaign, he pitched 152 2/3 innings across 23 starts to the tune of a 1.89 ERA. He’ll serve as an interesting depth piece for a Cardinals organization that has some question marks in its rotation, though it should be noted that Molina has only ever pitched four innings above the Double-A level.
    • The Brewers have re-signed 27-year-old second baseman Gabriel Noriega to a minors pact, the team’s player development account announced today on Twitter. Noriega’s spent ten years in the minors, shuffling between the Royals, Mariners, Brewers and Diamondbacks organizations. He’s hovered around a 50 wRC+ over the past two seasons in the upper minors. Noriega was originally signed out of Venezuela by the Mariners, and remained in the club’s farm system through the 2014 season.
    • The Nationals inked Reid Brignac to a minors pact that includes a spring training invite, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports on Twitter. Brignac, 32, has seen time at the major league level with the Braves, Marlins, Phillies, Rockies, Yankees and Rays while playing mostly at shortstop. Though he’s played below replacement level in each of the past seven seasons, Brignac has generally been an above-average defender. Perhaps that could be reason enough for Washington to look past his career .219/.264/.309 slash line and give him a shot at a utility infielder role.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[East Notes: Realmuto, Albers, Britton]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113538 2018-01-29T21:53:10Z 2018-01-29T21:53:10Z Unwilling to part with either Victor Robles or Juan Soto in J.T. Realmuto talks with the Marlins, the Nationals are instead open to centering a package for the star catcher around prospects Carter Kieboom and Erick Fedde, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The pair rank third and fourth among Nationals farmhands per both Baseball America and MLB.com, though neither Kieboom nor Fedde are considered among baseball’s 100 best prospects per those same publications. Emphasis on acquiring such players can at times be overstated, but many would be surprised if the Marlins didn’t pull at least one premium talent back for Realmuto. Meanwhile, Frisaro lists the Diamondbacks as another “potential suitor,” though he doesn’t specify the extent (if any) of the talks between the two sides, and the D-backs have a rather thin farm system overall.

    More chatter from the East Coast…

    • While some in the Nationals front office saw signs of sustainability within Matt Albers’ performance for the club last season, others weren’t convinced of his likelihood to repeat that performance for the entirety of a two-year contract (Twitter link from Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post). Since Albers sought (and ultimately found) a two-year agreement, Washington decided to hedge its bets elsewhere. The 35-year-old right-hander enjoyed an excellent 2017 season, pitching to a 1.62 ERA with 9.30 K/9 against 2.51 BB/9, but the risk in signing him to a multi-year deal probably lies in a .203 BABIP that seems likely to regress somewhat. On the other hand, he was one of the best relievers in baseball at inducing soft contact and preventing hard contact, so that’s at least a point in favor of low BABIP sustainability.
    • Orioles reliever Zach Britton said that he’s “feeling really good” during a conference call at the O’s Fanfest (via Paul Folkemer of baltimorebaseball.com). The lefty recently had his second of three follow-ups with his doctor after rupturing his Achilles tendon during a December workout. “He was really happy with where I’m at,” Britton said. “Maybe a little ahead of schedule. Not skipping any steps, but just picking up the pace on things that I’m doing now. More walking, getting comfortable in a tennis shoe again, and things like that.” The soon-to-be free agent will reportedly be at spring training with the Orioles in Sarasota, Florida, though he won’t be at “full go.” An early return for their closer would be a huge boost to Baltimore whether they’re contenders or not. He’d dramatically improve the club’s chances to make the playoffs if he can replicate anything close to his 2015-2016 form down the stretch, but if the O’s are out of it before the trade deadline he could very well net a solid prospect return.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Rosenthal’s Latest: Mets, Domingo, Nationals, Kipnis]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113479 2018-01-29T01:49:27Z 2018-01-29T01:49:27Z Here are some of the latest hot stove whisperings overheard by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, detailed in his latest column (insider subscription required and highly recommended)…

    • The Mets are “weighing” four players as potential solutions to their need at second and/or third base. They’re interested in free agents Eduardo Nunez, Todd Frazier and former Met Neil Walker, while also exploring the possibility of adding Josh Harrison via trade. The latter would require the Amazins to fork over young outfielder Brandon Nimmo, according to Rosenthal’s sources. Of course, the team has all of Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto under control for at least the next three seasons, and Rosenthal posits that they shouldn’t cling too tightly to a fourth outfielder if trading him could help improve their chances in 2018. Furthermore, pivoting to Walker could “spark justifiable criticism” that the Mets are reassembling a losing team; they’ve already re-signed Jose Reyes and Bruce.
    • Trade speculation surrounding Brewers outfielder Domingo Santana has spiked ever since the team acquired Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain just minutes later. But although he slugged 30 homers last season and is just 25 years of age, his trade value may not be as high as one might think. Rosenthal quotes rival executives saying that Santana is “a bad defender” and “not a winning player.” Those comments come off a bit extreme, but it’s worth noting that he struck out in nearly 30% of his plate appearances last season while being worth -5 Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield.
    • While it’s been oft-reported that Nationals GM Mike Rizzo isn’t willing to part with top prospect Victor Robles in a trade, Rosenthal suggests that the club could be willing to give up Michael Taylor if his involvement in a deal would help the club net Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. On the other hand, some officials in the organization aren’t keen on giving up a player who’s a fairly safe option in the outfield while Adam Eaton is coming off a significant surgery and Bryce Harper is set to become a free agent next winter.
    • The Yankees reportedly showed some interest in Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis at some point this offseason. However, that interest has apparently cooled of late. While his contribution towards the luxury tax threshold isn’t significant ($8.75MM per season), his actual remaining salary ($30.5MM guaranteed over two years) might be considered somewhat of a risk for a bounce-back candidate; one rival executive says he’s worth a shot, but not at that price. The 30-year-old Kipnis spent significant time on the DL last season with shoulder and hamstring injuries, and hit just .232/.291/.414 last season when healthy.
    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Latest On Nats, Luxury Tax]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113391 2018-01-27T23:30:43Z 2018-01-27T23:30:43Z
  • Nationals ownership has concerns about the luxury tax, so it seems unlikely that they will make another pricey, late-winter signing as in past years.  Washington currently projects to exceed the $197MM tax threshold but only by a few million dollars, and should still be able to spend a bit on in-season upgrades without triggering a higher level of tax penalties.
  • Francisco Rodriguez has received some offers after throwing for scouts.  The former closer is trying to revive his career after a disastrous season that saw him released by both the Tigers and Nationals.

  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Finding A Catcher For The Nationals]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112963 2018-01-28T18:28:11Z 2018-01-27T05:16:57Z As things stand right now, the Nationals are clear favorites to win the NL East pennant once again in 2018. Fangraphs projects that their current roster would win about 91 games in the coming season, and sees all four of its division rivals as sub-.500 teams. That’s great for the Nats, but likely doesn’t mean much to its fan base at this point, who have seen their home team clinch the division in four of the past six seasons (and the NL’s best record in two of them) only to lose in the NLDS. For a team that’s set to lose Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez to free agency next winter, there seems to be some pressure to push for a World Series Title while they still have the pieces to do so.

    While the overall look of Washington’s roster is fantastic, they have a gaping hole at the catcher position, as MLBTR’s own Jeff Todd examined back in October. The situation remains the same; Matt Wieters performed below replacement level in 2017, and at this point he can’t be counted on to provide much value. Pedro Severino hasn’t yet done anything to convince the club that he’s ready to produce against big-league pitching. By finding a catching upgrade, the team could improve its lineup considerably and thereby improve its chances to make a deep postseason run. That being said, the market has shifted a bit since Todd’s initial assessment.

    First off, it’s somewhat surprising that the Nationals haven’t addressed their need already. It’s been clear since the beginning of the offseason. In addition to our own post on the matter, the baseball community has seen Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs examine the situation in detail back at the beginning of December.

    Of course, it’s not exactly a quick-fix situation. The best catching option on the market at the outset of the winter was Jonathan Lucroy, who isn’t without his own set of question marks. Welington Castillo was scooped up by the White Sox by beginning of December, taking away another potential fit. And it’s not as though MLB teams will freely trade talented catchers; a premium position comes at a premium rate. Acquiring a catcher on the trade market without diminishing some other area of the major league roster would be a difficult task to accomplish.

    The Nationals have been connected to a few players throughout the offseason already, but they’ve got fairly limited resources to make such an acquisition. They’re already above the luxury tax threshold, so an addition on the free market will technically cost 130% of whatever he signs for; that dramatically reduces the cost-effectiveness of that avenue. And the team seems likely to hang onto top prospects Victor Robles and Juan Soto due to their immense values. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the options available…

    Free Agents:

    Jonathan Lucroy: As recently as the first half of last season, Lucroy was one of the top catchers in the game. He posted a .292/.355/.500 slash line with 24 home runs during a 2016 campaign split between the Brewers and Rangers. But his power fell off significantly last season, which led him to put up one of the worst fWAR totals of his career (1.2). Lucroy managed to hit only six homers despite a notoriously homer-happy trend throughout the league and a significant number of plate appearances in Coors Field.

    Due to his steep offensive drop-off and an equally stark decline in pitch-framing skills, Lucroy will probably only require a one- or two-year contract. But he’s no guarantee to provide value even on the two-year, $24MM deal that MLBTR predicted for him at the outset of the winter, and it’s not even a certainty that he’ll provide enough of an upgrade over Wieters to justify an eight-figure commitment with a 30% surcharge stemming luxury tax considerations.

    Alex Avila: The soon-to-be 31-year-old Avila started off hot with the Tigers last year, but cooled down after being traded to the Cubs midseason. Still, he maintained a .369 on-base across 112 plate appearances even after the trade. The Nats have already been connected to Avila this offseason. He could be had at very low price, and would therefore be a low-risk signing for the club.

    The biggest issue with entertaining Avila as a serious option is the fact that he probably can’t be counted upon to take a significant workload behind the plate. The veteran hasn’t caught more than 650 innings in any of the past three seasons, meaning he might not provide the type of upgrade the Nationals need.

    Trade Options

    J.T. Realmuto: As Todd pointed out three months ago, this is a fairly obvious match. The fit only became stronger in theory when the Marlins sold off Giancarlo Stanton, then Dee Gordon, later Marcell Ozuna and most recently Christian Yelich. As things stand at the present moment, the Nationals are said to be the organization that is “most heavily engaged” in talks with Miami concerning their catcher. While their reported unwillingness to include Robles or Soto would seem a significant roadblock on the surface, it’s looking as though the Fish might just be willing to settle for a package comprised of other assets.

    Yasmani Grandal: If the 2017 playoffs are to be seen as any indication, Austin Barnes has usurped the starting job from Grandal, leaving the veteran switch-hitter destined to serve in a backup role for 2018. He’s set to earn $7.9MM after avoiding arbitration with the Dodgers, and will become a free agent following the season. The 2010 first-rounder has averaged over 2.5 fWAR across the past three seasons, meaning he could prove an excellent upgrade for the Nats at a far cheaper cost than someone like Realmuto.

    Yan Gomes/Roberto Perez: The two Tribe backstops have been steady if unimpressive in recent years, and each can be controlled for at least three more seasons. Both are stellar defensive players with penchants for throwing out a remarkable percentage of opposing base-stealers, and each would be a clear upgrade over Wieters. Trading either player to the Nationals would pave the way for top prospect Francisco Mejia to crack the big league roster, though the Indians may perhaps prefer to hold him at Triple-A for a while due to service time considerations and/or need for further seasoning.

    Francisco Mejia: Mejia gets his own paragraph due to the considerably different circumstances surrounding his hypothetical trade candidacy. Being that he’s blocked by Gomes and Perez at the MLB level, the Tribe could perhaps be willing to part with him. The logic of this match declines from there, however, as it’s difficult to imagine what the Nationals could (or would) possibly offer to improve Cleveland’s shot at a World Series title in 2018.

    James McCann: The rebuilding Tigers don’t seem likely to be competitive in any of the next three seasons, meaning McCann will probably be on the move sooner or later. Though he’s impressive defensively, McCann’s bat has proved below-average across 1,201 big league plate appearances. That could (in theory) make him more affordable than other trade options while still offering an upgrade over Washington’s in-house options.


    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Pursuing J.T. Realmuto]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113255 2018-01-26T22:52:38Z 2018-01-26T22:52:10Z Jan. 26: Pete Kerzel of MASNsports.com tweets that the while the Nats aren’t willing to include Robles or Soto, he’s gotten the sense that the Marlins may be willing to accept a package of prospects that doesn’t include either young outfielder as the headliner.

    Jan. 25: As the Marlins’ offseason fire sale continues with the trade of Christian Yelich, it seems attention will now turn to catcher J.T. Realmuto. With three years of control remaining, he’s even closer to free agency than was Yelich, so perhaps only a sufficient offer stands in the way of a deal.

    At this point, the Nationals are the organization that is “most heavily engaged” in pursuit of Realmuto, according to Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio (via Twitter). But the Fish are maintaining a high asking price, with Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeting that they are trying to pry top Nationals prospect Victor Robles loose.

    Interest in Realmuto has been brisk ever since he reportedly requested a trade earlier in the winter. MLBTR took a look at Realmuto’s possible trade market recently, noting that the Nationals appear to be a strong match. As I explained in breaking down the Nats’ offseason outlook, the organization could be an ideal fit for Realmuto as they look into possible upgrades over veteran Matt Wieters and youngster Pedro Severino behind the dish.

    Realmuto, who’ll turn 27 in March, is entering his first of three arbitration seasons after two-straight quality offensive campaigns. His arb case remains unresolved, but he’ll be cheap regardless. Realmuto, who is perhaps the only established young catcher who’s really available by trade at all, popped 17 home runs and slashed a solid .278/.332/.451 over 579 plate appearances in 2017. He’s an athletic backstop who grades well in throwing and blocking. Though his framing numbers have lagged considerably by measure of StatCorner, the Baseball Prospectus grading system felt he turned a corner and added value with his receiving effort in 2017.

    So, can the sides hammer out an agreement? It seems something will have to give first. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post writes that the club isn’t willing to consider top prospects Robles and Juan Soto — each of whom ranks among the fifty or so best pre-MLB assets in baseball.

    The Nats are obviously weighing some other considerations in their pursuit of Realmuto. With Bryce Harper entering a contract year, the elite outfield prospects are of added importance. Washington is also interested in free agent Alex Avila, Castillo notes, keeping a free-agent option available as well.

    Plus, there are competing priorities. As Castillo explains, there’s also the possibility of adding a reliever, with the competitive balance tax operating as a limiting factor. The report suggests the Nationals are “not very high” on closer Greg Holland, who’s the best remaining relief pitcher MLBTR’s ranking of the top 50 free agents.

    For Miami, it stands to reason that there’s a minimum price tag beyond which the team just won’t be willing to deal Realmuto. Even if he’s disappointed with staying on board, he’d surely be seen as a valuable asset to help along a young roster and could still be dealt at the trade deadline or next winter.

    Then again, the Marlins could take a closer look at the Nationals’ possible trade chips. Righty Erick Fedde and lefty Seth Romero could each represent near-to-the-majors rotation pieces in Miami. And shortstop Carter Kieboom could profile as a future regular at the position for the rebuilding Marlins. Plus, Severino or Raudy Read could turn into young replacement assets behind the dish. Of course, whether and in what combination those players might be available isn’t known.

    At the end of the day, one of the two organizations will need to blink, or both will need to find a creative way to compromise, in order to get something done. But it’s not just a staring contest. Other teams, too, are surely still looking into Realmuto and could attempt to slide in with better offers if the Nats continue to be protective of their best young assets.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Minor MLB Transactions: 1/23/18]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=113127 2018-01-23T20:27:35Z 2018-01-23T18:59:02Z We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post:

    • Outfielder Jacob May was outrighted by the White Sox after clearing waivers, Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reports. Likewise, Angels lefty Nate Smith is headed for Triple-A via outright. Both were designated for assignment recently.
    • Infielder Ty Kelly is returning to the Mets, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). The 29-year-old first reached the bigs in New York and also spent time in the majors last year with the Phillies. He has hit well at times in the upper minors but has yet to translate that to the majors in limited opportunities.
    • The Tigers have purchased the contract of lefty Caleb Thielbar from the St. Paul Saints, per an announcement from the indy ball club. Soon to turn 31, Thielbar hasn’t seen the majors since 2015. In 98 2/3 total innings at the game’s highest level, though, he has pitched to a 2.74 ERA with 7.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9. He was released by the Marlins just before the start of the 2017 season after competing for a job in camp.
    • Righty Carlos Frias is re-joining the Indians on a minors pact, the club announced. The 28-year-old, who has not seen substantial MLB time since 2015, stumbled to an 8.05 ERA with an ugly 21:22 K/BB ratio at Triple-A last year with the Cleveland organization.
    • The Angels have re-signed lefty John Lamb, Cotillo tweets. Once a well-regarded prospect, the 27-year-old saw his career derailed by back issues. He did throw 139 innings at Triple-A last year with the Halos organization, though he managed only a 5.44 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.
    • Reliever Bryan Harper has re-joined the Nationals on a minor-league deal with a spring invite, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. Bryce’s older brother has never been seen as a major asset, but he’s an accomplished minor-league reliever. He missed all of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but has allowed less than three earned runs per nine in over a hundred frames in the upper minors.
    • Outfielder Matt Lipka is joining the Giants organization on a minor-league deal, Cotillo also tweets. A first-round pick in the 2010 draft, Lipka has not yet shown that he can hand the bat in the upper minors. He posted a .754 OPS in 370 plate appearances last year at the High-A level, but limped to a .160/.216/.223 slash over his 102 trips to the plate at Double-A.
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Pirates Notes: Fan Base, Rivero, Harrison, Trades, Kang]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112944 2018-01-20T15:20:46Z 2018-01-20T15:20:46Z There’s some unrest in the Pittsburgh fan base regarding the team’s recent trades of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Madasyn Czebiniak of TribLIVE.com highlights the story of lifelong Pirates fan Jason Kaufman, who started a change.org petition to force owner Bob Nutting to sell the team. The following excerpt gives a pretty good feel for the petition’s tone: “Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner. There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better.” As of 9:00am on Saturday, the petition had over 52,000 signatures; well over the seating capacity of PNC Park. Kaufman is gaining plenty of social media attention with his movement, and has even been interviewed by local radio station WTAE. “We’re tired of the ’same-old, same-old’ saying: ’We’re in this for a championship’ when you’re really not,” Kaufman said. “Don’t tell me your goal is to win a World Series when you’re not doing anything to improve the team.”

    While Kaufman acknowledges that there’s almost zero chance the petition could ever actually prompt Nutting to sell the team, the 43-year-old Kaufman believes the petition is to show the front office that there’s a collective anger towards the front office. He even goes so far as to compare the McCutchen trade to a “death in the family,” saying that the five-time All-Star’s value isn’t just about how he performs on the field, but what he does for the community.

    A few other recent items out of Pittsburgh…

    • Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers some insightful quotes from Pirates closer Felipe Rivero in regards to his recent extension. He signed the contract at least in part for his level of comfort in the clubhouse and his interest in being relaxed for the next few years. In the reliever’s own words, “It’s not about the money.” Apparently, his sister Prescilla was heavily involved in the negotiations, reportedly even more so than his agent. And it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the McCutchen and Cole trades did not have any effect on the negotiations between he and the Bucs. Rivero came to the Pirates in July of 2016 as part of the return for Mark Melancon. Last season, the left-hander turned in a 1.67 ERA and a 3.03 xFIP. He collected 21 saves following his takeover of Pittsburgh’s closer role in June.
    • In a late response to Josh Harrison’s comments revealing a desire to be traded, Pirates GM Neal Huntington expressed that he wants the team to win “sooner than later” (via Adam Berry of MLB.com). “We love Josh’s passion, love the fire and what he’s done for this team and this organization,” Huntington said. “We want what’s best for this organization.” Yet although he attempts to differentiate the team’s moves from a rebuild, it’s interesting that he describes the 2018 club as “a group of players that’s going to show up every day to defy the odds.” It’s hard to imagine that these comments will ease Harrison’s mind about the Pirates’ ability to compete in the coming season. The 30-year-old infielder can be controlled through the 2020 season.
    • Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports offers a defense of the Pirates’ blockbuster trades, offering some praise for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. In discussing Moran’s value, Heyman adds that he was slated to be a key piece in a trade for Zach Britton before the Orioles cancelled the deal. However, it seems as though the Bucs could have landed a better return for McCutchen had they traded him last offseason, as they reportedly had an offer from the Nationals that included Gio Gonzalez and Lucas Giolito.
    • Jung Ho Kang is making another push to return to MLB, Sung Min Kim of Sporting News tweets. The former Pirates infielder has allegedly arrived in the Dominican Republic in order to apply for a work visa. Kang last played in the majors in 2016, when he collected 21 homers in 370 plate appearances while posting a .255/.354/.513 slash line while playing third base for the Bucs.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Nationals Sign Howie Kendrick]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=112630 2018-01-18T22:01:37Z 2018-01-18T22:00:23Z JANUARY 18: Washington has announced the signing.

    JANUARY 15, 2:14pm: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the two sides have reached an agreement, pending a physical (Twitter links). The contract contains an additional $2.25MM worth of incentives that can be unlocked based on plate appearances.

    10:01am: The Nationals are nearing a deal with infielder/outfielder Howie Kendrick, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The prospective contract would promise the Reynolds Sports Management client $7MM over two years.


    If the contract is finalized, Kendrick will return to the place that he thrived in a late-season stint in 2017. His role is not immediately clear, but odds are he’ll see time around the infield as well as the corner outfield. Most importantly, perhaps, adding Kendrick will help the Nats ease the burden on All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy as he returns from microfracture surgery.

    In the aggregate, bringing back Kendrick at this price tag seems to make quite a lot of sense for the Nats. He represents a quality reserve and insurance policy at every position but short and center (along with the battery, of course). Star third baseman Anthony Rendon has had his share of nicks over the years. Outfielder Adam Eaton is returning from ACL surgery, so Kendrick can help reduce his wear-and-tear as well. Kendrick’s righty bat is a natural platoon match with Eaton and fellow corner outfielder Bryce Harper, each of whom hits from the left side, so he can readily spell either over the course of the season.

    [RELATED: Updated Nationals Depth Chart]

    MLBTR had predicted that Kendrick would get a two-year pact, but at a loftier overall guarantee ($12MM). That reflected not only his long history of solidly above-average production, much of it as a regular at second base, but also a quality output in the 2017 campaign. While he was banged up at times, Kendrick produced on both sides of the mid-season swap that sent him to Washington from the Phillies, ending the year with an overall .315/.368/.475 batting line through 334 plate appearance. And Kendrick has a lengthy record of durability before that.

    Between 2010 and 2014, Kendrick functioned as the Angeles’ everyday second bagger. He thrived without standing out in any one area, averaging a .288/.332/.420 batting line with 11 homers and twelve steals per year while generally grading as a plus in the field. After moving to the Dodgers in 2015, though, Kendrick’s defensive grades at his accustomed position slipped. That spurred a move to the corner outfield, where he has been viewed as a roughly average performer, in a 2016 season that was Kendrick’s worst at the plate since he established himself as a big leaguer.

    While the 2017 campaign represented something of a return to form, then, expectations will remain in check. Kendrick is already 34 years of age, after all. With the various cracks that have formed in his game, it’s not surprising to see him sign into a situation where he won’t be expected to play every day.

    Entering the winter, the Nats justifiably felt most of the pieces were in place for a strong 2018 roster. Even while exploring larger moves — none of which has yet come to fruition — the team has steadily added role players over the course of the winter. Kendrick joins reliever Brandon Kintzler as a 2017 deadline acquisition who was brought back, while the team slotted Matt Adams in as its reserve first baseman and lefty bench bat. Upgrading the catching situation stands out as a remaining possibility, while both the rotation and relief unit could surely still be improved as well.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.