April 22, 2018

MLB Trade Deadline: Nationals reportedly add Jonathan Papelbon

DEAL CONTINGENT ON PAPELBON CLOSING, NATS PICKING UP ’16 OPTION; STOREN DEMOTED TO SET-UP

According to multiple sources, the Washington Nationals made a bold and controversial move on Tuesday, sending AA pitcher Nick Pivetta — the Nats No. 12 prospect — to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for closer Jonathan Papelbon. The deal is contingent on the Nats committing to Papelbon as the closer, and the team picking up his option for 2016 for $11 million, according to the reports. The teams had not announced the deal at the time of this posting.

Papelbon, 34, is 2-1 with 17 saves (in 17 tries) with a 1.59 ERA and 0.983 WHIP this season, with a 9.1 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, some of his best work in his illustrious career. He’s saved 342 games in 11 seasons at an 88.6 percent success rate, elite for a closer with his mileage.

The biggest drawback to taking on Papelbon is, frankly, his attitude. He’s always been seen as a “me-first” guy, and his insistence on being the nominal “closer” for accepting a trade of any sort is the type of behavior that has been commonplace in Papelbon’s career.

A search for “Papelbon jerk” on any search engine gives a litany of the sort of behavior that makes it difficult to root for the player.

GM Mike Rizzo has been very careful over the past several seasons to acquire quality people in addition to quality players, but this deal is about filling a very big hole in what should otherwise be a championship-contending roster, now that the walking wounded are returning to the lineup.

In Tuesday night’s lineup, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman joined Anthony Rendon in the batting order, Werth for the first time this season. Only Denard Span remains on the disabled list. If Ian Desmond has turned a corner hitting-wise, the additions of Werth and Zimmerman (if they can return to pre-injury production) give the Nats a very solid batting order.

The bullpen, however, has been a source of concern all season long. Really, since the day Rizzo traded Tyler Clippard for Yunel Escobar. Anticipated set-up man Blake Treinen was sent to the minors because he can’t get left-handed hitters out, Tanner Roark has been spotty in any role in the pen this season, and dumpster-diving acquisition David Carpenter ended up on the disabled list.

The only constant in the pen has been at the very back end, in Drew Storen. Storen has put up All-Star caliber numbers this season, with a 1.73 ERA, 1.018 WHIP, 10.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. He’s been, simply, excellent. It seems the Nats have continually been looking for ways to replace Storen at the back end, and he just continues to play good teammate. It seems a shame that Storen is the one to get demoted in this deal, though all he’s done is his job all season long.

It’s a dicey situation all around. Papelbon is a quality pitcher that makes the bullpen longer and stronger, but at the same time, he’s a divisive personality that has been difficult to root for at every stop in his career. Add in the fact that his acquisition means a reduction in service for a fan favorite, and it makes for a tough situation.

The team gets better by adding a divisive personality and demoting a fan favorite. It’s more than wins and losses — fans need a vested interest in players to root for, unless your personality is such that all you care about is the bottom line and you root for the laundry, no matter who’s in it.

The big question now is can the Nats rehabilitate Papelbon so that fans can get behind the deal? That will take a LOT of work in certain circles, and may not be possible for some — even if the move brings a World Series Championship.

MLB Trade Deadline: Nats close on Papelbon?

There are plenty of rumors flying around NatsTown these days, with the Washington Nationals seemingly in the market to add another closer to the bullpen, though they possess one of the statistical best this season. Nevertheless, the Nats have been linked to Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Tyler Clippard (until he was traded to the Mets) and now Jonathan Papebon.

On the surface, Papelbon is probably the least expensive — in terms of prospects — for the Nats to acquire. But he has some unusual demands in his contract that would have to be satisfied for him to accept any deal, especially to a team that has an established closer.

According to multiple reports, Papelbon has a full no-trade clause and will reject any deal where he won’t be assured of the closer role and his vesting option for 2016 isn’t picked up. He will make $13 million next season if the option is picked up by whatever team acquires him.

Papelbon is having another quality season closing for a crummy Phillies team (1.59 ERA, 17/17 saves, 9.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9). But his prickly demeanor and me-first demands have made him a hated enemy in NatsTown and his contractual demands make this a complicated deal to consider.

Nats GM Mike Rizzo could entice Papelbon to come to set up Drew Storen by guaranteeing the 2016 money, but then you’ve got a disgruntled guy in your bullpen not happy with his role. It’s a dicey situation all around.

 

MLB Trade Deadline: Nats all-in on Kimbrel?

The Washington Nationals have been linked to talks with the San Diego Padres on closer Craig Kimbrel. In fact, by the time you read this the deal may have been done. Kimbrel is owed $11M in 2016 and $13M in 2017, with a team option for $13M in 2018.

Now, the Nats already have a pretty good closer (whom they used a first round pick on), but they seem to want to replace him at any chance they can get.

It strikes me strange that GM Mike Rizzo would be willing to assume $24 million over the next two seasons on a redundant part, especially since he can’t have any idea what he’s going to get health or performance-wise from his aging and injury-prone left fielder and first baseman, if and when they take the field.

Thus far, Rizzo has been very judicial in how he’s managed the Lerner’s money. He’s willing to allow Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Denard Span to walk at the end of the season. He traded Tyler Clippard instead of paying him. The only big contracts he’s doled out were Jayson Werth’s original deal (when the Nats were still a very bad team), Ryan Zimmerman’s extension, and Max Scherzer this off-season.

Trading for a closer still on the hook for $24 million over two years, when they already have an affordable one on the roster, just seems, to me, counter to how Rizzo’s managed this roster thus far.

But it’s not just about the money, either. National baseball writers had the Padres asking for Trea Turner back in a deal for Kimbrel. Rizzo will balk at that, but that’s the level of prospect the Padres want, and they’ll want more than one. Can the Nats afford to deal one top-flight prospect and a couple of lesser ones with the holes this roster is going to have over the next season or two with free agents moving on?

Of course, if Rizzo thinks Werth and Zimmerman return to their pre-injury production down the stretch and Kimbrel is the last piece of the puzzle, then we’ll have to reserve judgment and see how things play out. But color me skeptical on any of those three propositions being fulfilled.

MLB Trade Deadline: Where do Nats fit in?

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is this Friday. It’s a frenzied time of year, with baseball fans glued to social media to see who their favorite team has picked up — or traded away.

Fans of the Washington Nationals are no different, with rumors the team has been attached to acquiring big-name relievers such as Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Jonathan Papelbon and former Nats-Tyler Clippard, who was traded to the division-rival New York Mets on Monday.

It’s easy to assume, then, that the Nats are looking for bullpen help. The anchor of the bullpen, Drew Storen, has All-Star qualifications this season, but the rest of the equation is still a work in progress. Matt Thornton, quietly, has been excellent, but Tanner Roark has been wildly inconsistent, Blake Treinen was demoted and David Carpenter, a basement-bargain pick-up, was disabled.

So it only seems that a deal for consistent reliever would be in the offing.

But looking at the roster, it’s hard to determine, other than that, what the Nats really need.

We still haven’t seen the real Nats on the field this season with all the injuries. It’s easy to see Anthony Rendon back in uniform, and imagine Denard Span, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman joining the team as well to finally field the team Mike Rizzo thought he put together at the start of the season.

Many have been trying to make the point that the Nats are in first place without all these starters on offense, so their re-joining the team will be better than any trade deadline acquisition — without giving up any prospects to do so.

But what are the Nats getting with these guys coming back to the lineup? Rendon is still young and should reasonably perform up to standards once he gets him MLB timing back. Span was performing admirably before his balky back required a now-lengthy stay on the DL. But Werth and Zimmerman have been accumulating injuries the past several seasons and there’s really no way to tell what they are going to provide to the offense until they are back in the lineup.

We can’t just assume they will both return to their pre-injury performance level. Werth’s age, and the nature of Zimmerman’s injury, really leave the door open to what level of play they’ll bring once they return to the field.

It’s one thing for a fan to look at the sheer number of players returning from the DL and assume things will be better once all these players are back in the lineup. And there’s no doubt Rendon and Span should provide a boost to the top of the order.

But counting on Werth and Zimmerman to provide pre-DL production is a risky move for anyone looking at the roster with an analytic approach.

 

OPINION: The Caps deadline deals make them better, but not good enough

Another trade deadline has come and gone. It’s a time when general managers try to inflate the importance of all the moves they made/didn’t make and a time when fans and analysts alike sit back and overestimate the impact a handful of depth players will have around the NHL.

Excuse me for not planning a Stanley Cup parade in Washington after the Capitals added Tim Gleason and Curtis Glencross to the roster.

I like both of these players. I’m not thrilled that the Caps have so few draft picks in what is supposed to be an excellent draft, but in the NHL where players outside of the first round rarely make the big leagues, I’m okay with making the types of deals general manager Brian MacLellan did in pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

But come on. Have the Caps really gone from a wild card team to Cup contender with these additions? [Read more…]

Quick Take: Caps add more forward depth with Curtis Glencross

Washington Capitals first-year GM Brian MacLellan made another move in advance of Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline, dealing a second and third round pick in the 2015 draft to Calgary in exchange for forward Curtis Glencross.

Glencross is a sturdy, rugged winger who has two 20-goal seasons to his credit in nine NHL seasons. He had nine goals and 19 assists for Calgary this season. He routinely plays long minutes against tough competition and rarely took an offensive zone draw for the Flames this season. Much like Tim Gleason, picked up Friday from Carolina, Glencross immediately upgrades the Caps toughness factor without bringing in a “dirty” player.

The problem is that Glencross’ profile matches several players the Caps already employ, and his addition will probably mean subtraction of minutes for a younger, arguably more-talented player — specifically Andre Burakovsky.

Rumors were floating that Burakovsky was going to be sent to Hershey — on paper anyway — to make the youngster eligible for the AHL playoffs. If the Caps don’t make another deal before the deadline, they’ll have to remove a forward from the roster to make room for Glencross. Maybe Burakovsky is it.

Analyzing the roster and line moves all season, it’s become obvious that coach Barry Trotz isn’t ready to trust top-six minutes to Burakovsky or Evgeny Kuznetsov — and Nate Schmidt on defense — in the playoffs. The nightly tinkering to find a running mate on the top line is more evidence that Trotz isn’t comfortable allowing those youngsters the leash to handle that responsibility.

Glencross isn’t the perfect fit there wither, obviously. He’s more skilled than Jay Beagle or Tom Wilson — at least at this point in their careers — but he brings the toughness and hard work Trotz tries to instill in that spot with an upgrade in talent.

The Caps might not be done. They’ve still been linked to Erik Cole and Joffrey Lupul, two more forwards that could be a better fit on that top line with 8 & 19.

But to this point, the Caps’ new GM had made two moves that look an awful lot like those low-to-medium risk, low-reward moves of his predecessor at trade deadlines of years past.

Glencross and Gleason are both nice players, but they hardly move the needle on the Caps’ Cup chances. They make the Caps deeper perhaps, but not more talented.

The biggest issue, then, is how the Caps see themselves. And it’s organizational, not just at the GM level. The Caps organization believes it has a Cup championship core, and they need to fill in around the edges. They’ve been operating around this premise for several seasons.

But the truth is, they don’t have enough top-line talent. Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom can’t do it all by themselves. This team needs to surround that pair with more talented players, not more role players.

Quick take: Caps add Gleason, more toughness, to defensive corps

With Monday’s trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Washington Capitals made what could be the first of a couple of moves on Saturday, acquiring defensive defenseman Tim Gleason from Carolina in exchange for defenseman Jack Hillen and a fourth round pick in this year’s draft.

Gleason, 6’0″, 215, is a 32-year old left-handed shooting defender. He represents a slight upgrade over Hillen as the Caps sixth defenseman, but in wildly contrasting styles.

Hillen is slightly built, and nominally a puck-mover, though hardly a prolific scorer. Gleason, on the other hand, plays with toughness and will bring (another) mean streak to the Caps blue line.

According to all indications, Gleason will be paired with Mike Green, which means two things: 1) Green isn’t going anywhere at the trade deadline; and 2) The Caps really felt like they needed “protection” for Green getting run in the playoffs.

Gleason really is built in the Brooks Orpik mold. Neither defender is huge in stature, but they are both tough, willing to block shots and do the “dirty” work to protect the crease. Reasonable folks can argue all day about the value these types of players add to a team, but if you believe in the concept of “playoff hockey”, both Orpik and Gleason fit the mold as to the type of player that encompasses.

The Caps are also expected to be in the market for a “top six” forward before the deadline, and have been linked to varying degrees with veterans Patrick Sharp, Curtis Glencross and Erik Cole.

Free agent decisions loom large for Caps as trade deadline approaches

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Green during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

As the teams return from the All-Star Break and meaningful hockey starts again, the next big day on the NHL calendar is the trade deadline.

The NHL trade deadline is on March 2 at 3 pm, just over a month away. The task for each team over the next few weeks is to determine what their realistic goals are for this season and going forward so that they can determine if they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline.

On an individual level, general managers need to determine the future of their pending free agents, i.e. who they will seek to re-sign and who already has one foot out of the door.

The Washington Capitals are no exception. There are currently 10 players on the roster who are in the final year of their contract and General Manager Brian MacLellan has to determine now who he wants to see back in Washington next season. [Read more…]

Washington Nationals trade for Asdrubal Cabrera, per source

The Washington Nationals have traded for middle infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, late of the Cleveland Indians, per the Indians MLB.com beat writer. According to a further report, the Nats will send SS Zach Walters to Cleveland.

Cabrera will be a free agent at the end of the season.

NHL Trade Deadline brings more questions for Caps than answers

The Washington Capitals were busy at the 2014 NHL Trade Deadline. Out went Michal Neuvirth and Martin Erat; in comes Jaroslav Halak and Dustin Penner. General Manager George McPhee made a couple of moves that might help this team sneak into the playoffs this season, though back-to-back losses this week to the team immediately ahead of them in the standings, the Philadelphia Flyers, makes that task that much more daunting.

But that’s immaterial. The real benefit of these moves will come in the offseason, when the money comes off the books.

Halak and Penner are both dependable NHL veterans and will contribute on the ice. Had they been here since Day 1 this season, things might look a little different for the Caps. But neither player lines up at the Caps biggest weakness, on defense. It’s there that the Capitals hope that the return of undersized puck-moving defenseman Jack Hillen will give the team the boost it needs on the blueline.

But Wednesday’s loss to the Flyers, with Hillen in the lineup, provided no evidence that will be the case.

Hillen was primarily responsible for the Caps’ first goal against, when Sean Couturier outmuscled Hillen to a puck near the Caps blueline, then fed a streaking Claude Giroux who beat Braden Holtby cleanly with a backhand after deking the Caps’ netminder.

This isn’t a critique of Hillen in his first game back. But expecting Hillen to be a difference-maker on the defensive squad is akin to putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. The team probably needs to add two NHL-caliber defensemen to the roster; a legitimate shutdown defender, the type teams have to game-plan around and another rugged defenseman that can skate. It’s easier said than done.

McPhee said Wednesday after the trade deadline that those types of players just weren’t available. A look at the defensemen that did get moved (Rafael Diaz, Andrej Meszaros, Nick Schultz) is evidence of that. Useful players, but not the types teams sacrifice assets to bring in. McPhee said the players already on the payroll were as good as what got moved today and while any of the three previously mentioned players would knock a Caps player or two back to Hershey, it’s certainly easy to see that true quality defensemen didn’t get moved at the deadline.

This isn’t to defend McPhee. The team he put together this season was woefully inadequate on the back end and it’s proven to bite his team night in and night out. And he couldn’t — or wouldn’t — find a dance partner at the deadline to address that issue.

But in the long run, the moves he made today will help the Caps out — not necessarily in making the playoffs, because I think that damage has already been done. Bringing in two players who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season opens quite a bit of money for the Caps to have available to go fishing during the offseason, either via free agency or taking on other teams’ overpriced veteran players. Considering the salary cap is expected to go up next season, the Caps could be sitting pretty.

That’s the real benefit from the deals the Caps made this week. Removing Erat and Neuvirth’s salaries from the books for next season opens up a world of possibilities. If they use their second compliance buyout on Brooks Laich, there would be even more money to go around.

Could they re-sign Mikhail Grabovski, Penner and still go out and pick up two NHL defensemen? That would be expensive, but with the money the Caps could have available, anything would be possible.

This week’s moves amount to a well-hidden fire sale. McPhee brought in two veterans that might help the Caps sneak into the playoffs, but they are both on expiring contracts — and he moved a significant amount of money off the books. The real benefit will be in the offseason. This week’s moves were not the type that a man fearing for his job security makes.

%d bloggers like this: