August 16, 2022

Washington Nationals extend qualifying offers to Desmond, Zimmermann

Shortstop Ian Desmond returned to the lineup - New York Mets v. Washington Nationals, August 17, 2012.  (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

(Photo by Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Washington Nationals began their player-focused portion of the offseason Friday, extending $15.8 million qualifying offers to shortstop Ian Desmond and starter Jordan Zimmermann, declining to make offers to center fielder Denard Span and starter Doug Fister.

Across the league, a record 20 potential free agents were tendered qualifying offers, including New York Mets playoff hero Daniel Murphy, former Nats starter Marco Estrada (Toronto) and the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke.

Players have until Nov. 13 to accept the offer. In the three previous offseasons of the current collective bargaining agreement, none of the 34 qualifying offers was taken as free agents sought contracts with longer terms. [Read more…]

Statistically Speaking: You Can’t Do That – Home Run Tracker Edition

The dearly departed (for the Pittsburgh Pirates, not the afterlife) Stuart Wallace has left a hole here at DSP. And I’m here to attempt to fill it. During the regular season I will address a situation or issue from a statistical point of view. The focus will still be the Nationals, but I plan to head out beyond the Nats from time to time. I may also veer into the fantasy sports world a bit more than Stuart did, but that’s where my knowledge is stronger. And some weeks I may just bring other important research to bear and comment on its potential effects.

Just a reminder that Stuart and I are not the same person. I’m not a neuroscientist. I’ve been to Nevada for about a total of one hour though I’ve probably spent more time in Las Vegas with Charlie Sheen than Stuart has anywhere in the world. I haven’t ever moonlighted though I have seen several episodes of Moonlighting. The one thing we do have in common is we are both former pitchers though my highlight is hitting the same left hander batter four times in the same game.


[Read more…]

Washington Nationals exersize option on Span; decline LaRoche and Soriano

According to multiple sources, the Washington Nationals exercised their $9 million team option on Denard Span on Thursday, ensuring the team’s leadoff hitter and Gold Glove caliber center fielder will remain on the roster for at least the next year.

Span, who will be 31 on opening day, hit .302/.355/.416 last season, leading the Nats in hits and setting team marks for hits and multi-hit games. He was 31-for-38 in stolen base attempts and hit five home runs to boot.

Bringing Span back reduced the Nats decisions on potential free agents down to five (ages on opening day).

Adam LaRoche (35, .259/.362/.455, 26/92): LaRoche had a mutual option for ’15 of $15 million with a $2 million buyout, but declined the option. With Ryan Zimmerman’s limitations in the field, it would be very surprising if the Nats re-upped with LaRoche.

Rafael Soriano (35, 4-1, 32 svs, 3.19/1.129): The veteran reliever looked like the Nats’ All-Star rep at the break, but was atrocious in the second half before going lights-out in the playoffs in a very limited role. Team option for $14 million was declined and considering the way things ended, very unlikely he re-signs in DC.

Asdrubal Cabrera (29, .229/.312/.389, 5/21 in 49 games for Nats): Cabrera became free agent at conclusion of World Series. Was excellent defensively and had a couple of offensive highlights, but his age and already diminished results suggest Nats will let him walk.

Scott Hairston (34, .208/.253/.299, 1/8): Hairston has outlived his usefulness as a Major League Player. That might sound harsh, but it happens to everyone. Was once known as a “lefty-killer” (even if it wasn’t entirely true, but his .293 OBP against lefties this season seal his fate.

Nate Schierholtz (31, .195/.243/.309, 1/4): The “other” Nate, Schierholtz was a waiver wire pickup midseason when Nate McLouth went down for the season to injury. Schierholtz was even worse than McLouth at the plate overall, though did chip in in the playoffs. With another $5 regrettably due McLouth, Schierholtz rides off into the sunset.

Washington Nationals sign outfielder Nate Schierholtz

The Washington Nationals signed free agent outfielder Nate Schierholtz to a minor league contract and assigned him to AAA-Syracuse on Monday. Schierholtz is a left-handed hitter with a career .254/.303/.406  line and will provide insurance against injury down the stretch.

From the team’s press release:

The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms with outfielder Nate Schierholtz on a minor-league contract. Schierholtz will be assigned to Syracuse of the Triple-A International League. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

Schierholtz is a .254 career hitter (520-for-2050) with 117 doubles, 51 home runs and 224 RBI in 776 career games with the Cubs (2013 – ‘14), Phillies (2012) and Giants (2007 – ‘12). Earlier this season, he tallied 19 extra-base hits (10 doubles, three triples, six home runs) in 99 games for the Cubs.

A left-handed hitter, Schierholtz is a career .289 pinch hitter (48-for-166) with four home runs and 23 RBI. Schierholtz’s .763 OPS in the pinch ranks fourth among active players with at least 150 career plate appearances in a pinch-hitting role.

The 30-year-old Schierholtz is one season removed from his finest offensive campaign. In 2013, his first year with the Cubs, he hit .251 and established career highs in home runs (21), doubles (32), extra-base hits (56), RBI (68) and runs scored (56).

Schierholtz is a veteran of 11 postseason contests and earned a pair of World Series rings, both with the Giants (2010, ’12). A U.S. Olympian (bronze medal) in 2008, Schierholtz was originally San Francisco’s second-round selection in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft.

In related news, we’ve now added “Schierholtz” to our word processor dictionary.

Washington Capitals add Orpik, Peters in free agent frenzy

On the first day of the NHL free agent signing period, the Washington Capitals address two major needs, adding veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik and backup goalie Justin Peters. Orpik, 33 and two-time U.S. Olympian, signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract, while Peters inked a two-year, $1.9 million deal. Caps GM Brian MacLellan announced both deals.

From the press releases:

“We are very excited to welcome Brooks to Washington,” said MacLellan. “We feel Brooks’ leadership and experience will greatly enhance our defense for years to come. Brooks plays tough minutes against the opposition’s best players.”


Orpik played in 72 games for the Penguins in 2013-14, earning 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) and 46 penalty minutes and ranked first on the team in blocked shots (143) and first among Pittsburgh defensemen in hits (221). Orpik was drafted by the Penguins in the first round, 18th overall, in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.


We are pleased to sign Justin to a two-year contract,” said MacLellan. “We feel he is just entering his prime and has a tremendous upside. We look forward to him working with our goaltending coach Mitch Korn to reach his potential.”

Peters, 27, appeared in a career-high 21 games during the 2013-14 season, recording a 7-9-4 record with a 2.50 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. The Blyth, Ont., native also represented Canada at the 2014 IIHF World Championship. Peters has posted a 22-31-8 record with three shutouts, a 3.05 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage in 68 career NHL games with the Carolina Hurricanes.

In addition, the Caps re-signed forward Michael Latta, 23, to a two-year, $1.15 million contract.

How much does Hershey’s success impact Capitals player development?

I realize the can of worms I’m opening here. The Hershey Bears are one of the most successful minor league hockey franchises in North America with a fan base whose passion has no rival. Year-in and year-out they reside at the top of the American Hockey League and have won 11 Calder Cups in the franchise’s 76 years of existence. In the nine years that they have been associated with the Washington Capitals, they’ve won three Cups alone.

This isn’t to knock or “blame” Hershey for the current woes of the Caps.

But are the long-term goals of both franchises aligned? Does Hershey’s ultimate pursuit of winning Calder Cups have a negative impact on player development in the Caps system?

I don’t know the answer, which is why I’m asking the question and exploring the idea.

As the Capitals continue to languish in some sort of NHL purgatory — perennial playoff qualifiers but tragically flawed enough to not challenge past the first or second round — and now in real jeopardy of wasting another Hart Trophy caliber season in the prime of Alex Ovechkin’s eventual Hall of Fame career (along with another fine campaign of his running mate, Nick Backstrom), we have to examine any possible contributing factor to the Caps lack of depth on the big league roster.

Certainly, long-term contracts doled out to players that aren’t earning them — notably Brooks Laich, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Mike Green — is the major and overriding factor. But the fact that the Capitals are having trouble calling up players from the affiliates able contribute meaningfully at the NHL level is worth noting and exploring.

The harsh reality is that the Capitals haven’t had a player — other than Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green — drafted and developed by the organization since Ovechkin (2004), record a 20-goal season or be named an All-Star. That covers 15 first round and 12 second round picks in 11 years.

[Maybe it should be noted: of the 15 first round picks, only five were Canadian, and just five of the 12 second rounders were Canadian. Does that matter? I don’t know?]

That’s not to say the Caps aren’t drafting and developing NHL players. Since 2004, 21 of their 80 draft picks have played in the NHL, with the bulk of those becoming regular players in the league. But players like Marcus Johansson, Dmitry Orlov and even to an extent, John Carlson, haven’t become the players the Caps thought they were drafting.

Is that amateur scouting? Is it player development?

Every team has draft busts (see: Pokulok, Sasha; Finley, Joe; Gustafson, Anton), but the Caps seem particularly stricken with an inability to manage high-profile draft picks to an elite level in the NHL.

Meanwhile, the Caps continue to sign veteran AHLers as free agents during the off-seasons instead of fixing the NHL roster, which is filled with bloated contracts and perennial injury cases.

Look at last year’s free agent crop. Sure, Mikhail Grabovski has been a revelation, but the Caps and Grabovski were almost forced together by the hockey gods after Grabo was largely ignored on the open market. The other signings were two-way contracts, meant to stock Hershey’s roster with older, more experienced players.

Defensemen Tyson Strachan (28) and David Kolomatis (24), forward Matt Watkins (26) and goalie David Leggio (28) were all signed as free agents over the summer. I’m sure that none were considered moves to help out the big club, and except for Strachan, that’s been the case. We’ve seen a wave of minor leaguers make guest appearances for the Caps this season, and defenseman Julien Brouillette (27) is just the latest.

The previous summer, the Caps’ “big” free agent signings were Wojtek Wolski and Joey Crabb, with the rest slated for Hershey, including ECHL journeyman Steve Oleksy.

All of this ties together. A draft record spotted with big home runs (Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green) and lots of strikeouts. A minor league affiliate with a rich tradition of competing for the Calder Cup. Bloated big league roster reducing free agent activity to reinforcing the affiliate with long-time minor league experienced players.

All of it contributes to what we see today: a Caps team unable to call up players to contribute at the NHL level when injuries thin a veteran, injury-prone roster.

How much of the Caps’ free agent and player development “strategy” is aimed at helping the Caps roster, how much is dictated by necessity and finances, and how much is dedicated to stocking Hershey with veteran AHLers for another Calder Cup run?

Washington Nationals add middle infielders to competition

According to reports, the Washington Nationals have signed infielders Jamey Carroll and Mike Fontenot to minor league contracts, with both players receiving an invitation to spring training.

Carroll, 40, hit .211/.267/.251 last season split between Minnesota and Kansas City, playing primarily second and third base. Fontenot, 33, last played in the majors in 2012, spending last season in AAA Durham, where he hit .264/.335/.379.

These moves serve as backup to the primary option at reserve middle infield, Danny Espinosa. Espinosa comes off a dismal 2013, where he was injured and when in the lineup, performed horribly. In the majors, he hit .158/.193/.272, and wasn’t much better in the minors after being demoted, where the hit .216/.280/.286 in 313 plate appearances.

Espinosa suffered a torn rotator cuff in late 2012 and broke his wrist early in 2013 and played through both injuries before the Nats finally shut him down for a disabled list stint in May.

Washington Capitals announce three free agent signings

The Washington Capitals announced Monday signing free agent defenseman Tyson Strachan, right wing Matt Watkins and goalie David Leggio.

Strachan, 28, has the most NHL experience of the trio. He played 38 games with the Florida Panthers last season, compiling four assists and 40 penalty minutes. He brings size (6’3″, 225) to the blueline.

Watkins, 26, scored 11 goals and 19 assists for AHL Bridgeport last season and served as that team’s captain. He has appeared in one NHL game with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Leggio, 28, went 38-24-1 with a 2.56 GAA and .924 SV% for AHL Rochester last season.  He led the league in wins and games played in 2012-13, ranked tied for fourth in the AHL in save percentage and19th in goals-against average last season. Leggio set career-best marks last season in games played, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

All three players were signed to one-year, two-way contracts and will most likely spend the season rostered in Hershey.

NHL Free Agency: Washington Capitals leaving dance card open as veterans depart

Friday is the first day NHL GMs can start signing free agents, and the Washington Capitals have already seen three of their prominent free agents take employment elsewhere.

Mike Ribeiro, the long-awaited No. 2 center, signed a four-year deal with the Arizona (nee Phoenix) Coyotes and fan favorite winger Matt Hendricks got his own four-year deal with the Nashville Predators. D Jeff Schultz, who was waived earlier in the week, signed a one-year deal for $700,000.

Good for all, bad for the Caps.

Hendricks’ deal with Nashville will pay him $7.4M over the length of the contract ($1.85M per annum), while Ribeiro will make $22M on his contract, a $5.5M cap hit each season.

The Caps simply could not afford either player for their market value.

It leaves George McPhee in an interesting place, especially with his team poised to join a more competitive division next season. The team is still negotiating with RFA Karl Alzner, but sources indicate that negotiation could end up in arbitration.

One the Caps spots that could use bolstering is another top defensive contributor on their blue line to push John Erskine into more of a third pairing/situational seventh defenseman spot. They do have several youngsters that will compete for playing time on the back end, but most are the puck-moving variety.

Up front, Ribeiro’s exit once again creates a gaping hole at 2C.

The Caps expect Brooks Laich to enter camp completely healthy, but he’s much more suited to wing on the second line or center on the third line. His versatility is one thing the Caps really like about Laich, but he’s just not offensively gifted enough to be counted on as a playmaker on a scoring line, such as Ribeiro was. The Caps once hoped Marcus Johansson would be that player, but his ineffectiveness in the face-off circle and lack of presence on the defensive end makes him more suited to play wing, which we saw him do primarily last season.

To make matters worse, unlike with the defenseman, there are no prospects waiting in the wings to push veterans for playing time at center within the organization.

Many expected (hoped) the Caps would re-sign Ribeiro, eliminating the need to look outside the organization for that 2C as they have so often in the past. Now that Ribeiro has moved on to greener pastures officially, the Caps hand is finally forced. But among the free agent candidates, there are no logical solutions. The only player on the market that really suited their needs at the position is the one that just left.

The Caps will probably have Martin Erat skate with Nick Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the top line next season. If the Caps don’t make a push and sign a free agent –or make a trade — to bolster that second line, it will be formed from a mish-mash of Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Jason Chimera, Marcus Johansson and Mattieu Perreault, with the leftovers joining the third line with Joel Ward. Two-thirds of the the fourth line looks pretty set with Jay Beagle and Aaron Volpatti.

A third line of Brooks Laich centering Chimera and Ward is a line with a purpose — defensively responsible with speed on a wing, with two of the three also poised for lots of penalty kill time.

But unless the Caps are willing to get creative and make some deals, they won’t have that luxury. With the road to the playoffs that much more congested, it’s a bad time for the roster to be in such a state of flux.

Washington Redskins Re-sign Tight End Fred Davis Agree To One-Year Deal

It took a little longer than expected, but Redskins tight end Fred Davis has decided to stay in Washington. According to multiple reports, Davis agreed to a one-year contract Friday morning to remain with the team through 2013.

The 27-year old tight end made his decision to return to the Redskins after being briefly courted by teams such as the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. But in the end, he decided that Washington was still the best fit for him.

Davis, who is entering his sixth season in the NFL, is coming off a serious achilles tendon injury that ended his season in a Week 7 game against the New York Giants. It appears other teams in the league were reluctant to sign him to a long term deal because of his health issues and his history of violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Add in the fact that the Redskins had the best quarterback situation among the teams interested in him, and it’s easy to see why Davis chose to return for another year.

The one year deal is a win-win for both sides. For the team, it’s a low-risk signing to bring back one of their most explosive players on offense. For Davis, it’s a chance to get healthy, perform at a high level, and get paid in 2014.

Despite the team’s salary cap troubles due to the league’s $18 million dollar penalty, the Redskins’ have been able to continue their offseason trend of keeping their own. With Davis back in the fold, they have now handed out 11 new contracts to players who were on the team in 2012. The only major contributor to sign elsewhere was Pro Bowl special teamer Lorenzo Alexander, who left for the Arizona Cardinals.

%d bloggers like this: