December 19, 2014

Nats Nightly: Washington Nationals mid-winter update; trades; Harper

Dave Nichols of District Sports Page and Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball discuss the Washington Nationals offseason moves thus far, including the Steven Souza and Ross Detwiler trades and the Bryce Harper grievance non-hearing.

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Washington Nationals acquire Trea Turner, Joe Ross from Padres; send Steven Souza to Rays

According to multiple sources, the Washington Nationals completed a three-way deal with the San Diego Padres and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Nats will acquire SS Trea Turner and RHP Joe Ross from San Diego and sent OF Steven Souza, Jr. and LHP Travis Ott to Tampa. Tampa sent Wil Myers and others to San Diego.

Turner and Ross are both former first round picks and were on the Padres Top 10 Prospect List.

Since Turner was drafted this past summer, he will have to be included in the deal as a “player to be named later” and will most likely play in extended spring training next season until the deal can be consummated.

Turner, 21, was the 13th overall pick by the Padres in last summer’s amateur draft. He hit .323/.406/.448 with four home runs and 23 steals in 27 opportunities between low- and high-A last year in 321 plate appearances. He grades out with 80 speed according to MLB scouts with the defensive ability to stick at shortstop.

Ross, 21, was the 25th overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Padres. In 62 minor league appearances (60 starts) he’s 15-18 with a 3.90 ERA, 1.308 WHIP, 7.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. His strikeout numbers took a tick up last season moving from low- to high-A and he made four appearances in AA at the end of last season. According to one report, Ross features a plus fastball in the low 90’s with heavy life, a slider that projects as above average, and a changeup that is still mostly a show-me pitch.

Souza, 26 on opening day, enjoyed his career last season in Syracuse, hitting .350/.432/.590 with 18 home runs in 407 plate appearances. He will forever be remembered by Nats fans for making the spectacular diving catch to save Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the last day of the 2014 season.

Ott, 19, is a former 25th round pick in the 2013 draft. He’s 4-4 with a 3.96 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 6.8 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 23 appearances, mostly in rookie league and short-season A ball. He’s a soft-tossing lefty with limited MLB upside.

This trade, as with last season’s deal for Doug Fister, is a bona fide and clear win for Nats GM Mike Rizzo. He moved an older prospect and a fringe at best lefty for two of the Padres top minor league prospects, both legitimate MLB talents. Turner obviously becomes the Nats best middle infield prospect, providing strong insurance if the Nats can’t — or won’t — re-sign Ian Desmond to a long-term contract. Ross is added to an already crowded stable of hard-throwing right-handed starters in the Nats minor league system.

Souza was clearly a fan favorite for his catch and power potential, but he had no place in the Nats outfield and, frankly, has limited MLB potential. He owns a long swing and is not a quality defender, despite his tremendous diving catch. The Nats got two of the three best players in this 11-player deal and didn’t give up the third. The Nats got better for the future without giving up any of the present.

Win-win for Rizzo and the Nats.

Nationals avoid hearing with Harper with 2-year deal

OUTFIELDER SIGNS TWO-YEAR, $7.5 MILLION CONTRACT

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract Sunday evening according to reports, which will allow the sides to avoid a messy, potentially ugly grievance hearing which was scheduled for Tuesday.

The grievance stemmed from a complication in the original rookie contract Harper signed after his draft. The player’s agent, Scott Boras, believed Harper had the right to opt out of that original contract and be eligible for salary arbitration this season, as Harper qualifies for “super two” status.

The “opt-out” clause is common in the industry but not standard, and was not included in Harper’s original contract. There has been speculation why the language was not included, but the team reported said it was an oversight due to the speed of last-minute negotiations as the sides approached the deadline for a deal.

Harper will make $2.5 million in 2015 and $5 million in 2016, comparable to what he might have made in arbitration. He will then have two arbitration years before becoming a free agent after the 2018 season.

Washington Nationals trade Ross Detwiler to Rangers for minor leaguers

According to multiple reports, the Washington Nationals on Thursday traded LHP Ross Detwiler (29 opening day) to the Texas Rangers for two minor leaguers. According to USA Today, those players are 2B Chris Bostick and RHP Abel de los Santos.

Detwiler, the former No. 6 overall draft pick of the Nats, was left off the playoff roster last season as his stock had fallen from Game 4 playoff starter in ’12 to middle reliever to afterthought in two seasons.

The tall lefty battled delivery issues early in his career, which led to hip injuries and decreasing velocity. With the loss of speed, Detwiler also lost any semblance of a strikeout pitch, as he turned completely into a “generate weak contact” type of pitcher. He threw his sinking fastball over 90 percent of his pitches and never did develop suitable secondary pitches.

He has never struck out more than 5.8 per nine innings in his career.

Bostick, 22 in March, hit .251/.322/.412 in 130 games in double-A single-A last season in the Rangers organization with 11 homers and 24 steals. He exclusively played second base the past two seasons.

de los Santos, 22, was 5-3 with a 1.92 ERA, 0.959 WHIP and 10.4/2.9 K/BB ratio in 41 appearances between low and high-A for the Rangers last season. In 105 minor league appearances he owns a 9.2 K/9 ratio.

Perhaps the most significant by-product of the deal is shedding Detwiler’s $3 million contract for the upcoming season as the Nats still do not have an answer for their 2B/3B opening as the Winter Meetings come to a close.

Should Washington Nationals trade Tyler Clippard?

I usually stay out of the fray when it comes to the Hot Stove league. Generally, I’d rather comment on what happened rather than try to sift through all the noise that the click-baiters are trying to generate this time of year.

But one of the Washington Nationals biggest decisions — among several, I might add — is whether to seize a good opportunity to move a reliable, veteran player that is going to get expensive very quickly before he is eligible for free agency.

Not Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister or Ian Desmond, though the same applies to all three.

No, obviously from the title of the article you know that I’m already talking about Tyler Clippard.

Clippard, 30 on opening day, is already getting bites from general managers across the league. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said on the radio the other day he’s already “penciled in” Drew Storen as closer for next season, which leaves Clippard as the main set-up guy again, a role he’s performed admirably the past six-plus seasons, including two all-star campaigns.

Clippard has shown no signs of slowing down, posting a 7-4 record, 2.18 ERA, 0.995 WHIP and 10.5/2.9 K/BB ration last season. In fact, it might have been his most impressive season, including his 32-save year of 2012.

But here’s the deal: desperate teams will dramatically overpay for a closer, and Clippard could fill that bill. He’s reliable, consistent and excellent. He’s also going to get very expensive for a set-up guy very quickly, but still have a quite reasonable salary for a closer.

Think that’s screwed up? Sure it is. But that’s how desperate teams think. To go out on the free agent market to acquire a veteran closer is a fool’s errand, and it’s prohibitively expensive. One needs to look no further than the two-year Rafael Soriano experiment here.

So smaller or mid-market teams looking for a veteran reliever that can close can do that on the trade market easier than outbid the bigger-market teams in free agency.

Clippard made $5.875 million last season and is 3rd year arbitration eligible, meaning this is his last arbitration before becoming a free agent at the age of 31 after the upcoming season. Considering his track record of excellence, two all-star noms and almost unprecedented reliability, Clippard will probably command $8 million-plus in arbitration this year.

Can the Nats afford to pay their set-up guy $8 million, and have any hope of re-signing Zimmermann, Fister or Desmond? Not to even mention looking down the road at Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper.

Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family are going to have some bridges to cross in the next couple of seasons, and this is one of them. The team has plenty of arms currently in the bullpen and plenty more candidates where they came from. If Rizzo has proven one thing as GM, it’s that he loves stockpiling mid-level starter prospects with big arms and has had real good success turning them into reliable relievers.

Clippard was the first.

Despite the Lerner’s deep pockets, they aren’t limitless — at least when it comes to baseball finances. Rizzo might have to start to pick-and-choose on the players he retains and the players he moves to re-stock the cupboards.

Clippard might be that first hard choice this winter, even before Zimmermann, Fister or Desmond.

Nationals Matt Williams Named NL Manager of the Year

Matt Williams NL Manager of the Year

NATIONALS MANAGER MATT WILLIAMS NAMED
2014 BBWAA NATIONAL LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams was named the 2014 National League Manager of the Year Tuesday night by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Williams received a total 109 points, including 80 first-place votes. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle finished second in the voting, and San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy was third.

Williams, who becomes the second manager in Nationals history to earn this honor, had an exceptionally successful rookie season in the dugout as he led the Nationals to an NL-best 96 victories and the National League East Championship.

“On behalf of the Lerner Family and the entire Washington Nationals organization, I want to offer heartfelt congratulations to Matt on this well-deserved award,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “His first year in the dugout was excellent, and it was a pleasure to watch him grow throughout. He is a respected leader, and the steady hand that navigated our team through many challenges this season.

“What we accomplished this season would not have been possible without the right man at the helm. That was Matt this season, and we’re all looking forward to 2015.”

Since the inception of the award in 1983, Williams is just the fourth first-year manager ever to win it. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he joins Hal Lanier (Houston Astros, 1986), Dusty Baker (San Francisco Giants, 1993), and Joe Girardi (Florida Marlins, 2006).

“I am incredibly honored and humbled by this award,” Williams said. “This was a very special year for us, and I am proud of what we accomplished in my first season at the helm. For me, as a newcomer to the managerial fraternity, it is a privilege just to be considered amongst the best in our game. Clint and Bruce are certainly that.

“While this is an incredible acknowledgement by the writers, I know we have bigger goals to accomplish in Washington and I look forward to the challenge that the 2015 season will bring.”

The Nationals, though besieged by injuries, won their division by the largest margin (17.0 games) of any in the Major Leagues under Williams’ watch. Over the course of the season, the Nationals saw 948 total games missed due to stints on the Disabled List, with key players like Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche and Denard Span accounting for 284 of those games.

While the Nationals withstood that barrage, Williams’ guided them toward steady improvement as the season progressed. After playing to a .500 record (27-27) through the season’s first two months, the Nationals were at least four games over the .500 mark in each remaining month of the season, finishing 69-39 from June through September. That stretch included a 19-10 month of August that featured a 10-game winning streak from Aug. 12-21, the longest winning streak in the National League this season.

On Sept. 16, the Nationals clinched their second National League East Division title in the last three years, and they finished the regular season with a 96-66 record.

Williams, 48, was named the fifth field manager in Nationals history on Oct. 31, 2013. The five-time All-Star third baseman was also voted by his managerial peers as the 2014 Sporting News Manager of the Year.

NATIONALS MANAGERS TO WIN BBWAA N.L. MANAGER OF THE YEAR (2005-2014)
2012 Davey Johnson
2014 Matt Williams

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.

NATS: Color Run at Nationals Park

Have you ever wanted to step onto the warning track at Nationals Park? Now is your chance! The home of the Washington Nationals will become a colorful place on Saturday, November 1 for the 5K Color Run.

You can feel like a major leaguer and run through the tunnel and continue around the warning track! Tickets are still available! Use the discount code NATIONALSPARK to receive $5 off your Color Run registration.

Color runs have become very popular and are a fun way to exercise with friends and family while getting “dirty.”

If running is not your thing, volunteering is an option.

Race Info.

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NATS: Player Appearance by Strasburg

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg will make an appearance at the grand opening of the Microsoft Store at the Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland on Saturday, November 22.

According to the website, the first 200 people in line for the Microsoft opening on Saturday, November 22, will receive one complimentary meet and greet ticket for the Xbox One event with Stephen Strasburg on November 22. Tickets are limited to 200. Must have ticket to enter line. Check facebook.com/microsoftstore to get up-to-the-minute details.

Strasburg even tweeted about the event today.

Stephen Strasburg made his last start at home for 2012 - Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 9/7/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Stephen Strasburg made his last start at home for 2012 – Miami Marlins v. Washington Nationals, 9/7/2012. (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

NATS: Washington Nationals NatsFest for 2015 Season

natsfest_dec

The biggest fan event of the offseason will be held Saturday, December 13, 2014
from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Season Plan Holders will have exclusive access to the event for an entire hour (10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.) before #NatsFest opens to the general public at 11:00 a.m.

Tickets and autograph vouchers will go on sale on Wednesday, October 29 at 9:00 a.m.

Tickets purchased in advance at will cost $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under, with prices increasing to $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and under the day of the event. Season Plan Holders will receive an information about purchasing NatsFest tickets at a discounted rate.

A full schedule of events will be available in the coming weeks.

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