Tag:Washington Nationals
Posted on: August 17, 2010 1:10 am
 

Score it another big night for Nationals

On a warm August evening as the kids prepare to head back to school, the Washington Nationals' just-before-the-midnight-deadline signing of outfielder Bryce Harper really wasn't as urgent as the Padres extending their lead in the NL West, the Atlanta Braves' stirring comeback win over the Dodgers or the Mets' dilemma with the outrageous behavior of closer Frankie Rodriguez.

But a couple of years from now?

Oh, you bet an otherwise non-descript summer's evening has every chance to be historic if the Nationals continue to close the talent gap on their rivals with nights like this.

One year after signing Stephen Strasburg just before the clock struck 12 -- and you've seen this summer why Strasburg is so important -- Nationals' general manager Mike Rizzo hammered out a deal with agent Scott Boras that granted Harper a major-league contract worth a guaranteed $9.9 million, according to CBSSports.com sources.

It was déjà vu in that the two chief negotiators -- Rizzo and Boras -- were the same two men who battled to the deadline with Strasburg last year.

It also is déjà vu in the importance to the Nats' franchise: Down-and-out in the years after leaving Montreal with a farm system badly in need of restocking, Washington made history in becoming the first franchise to pick first overall in two consecutive drafts.

"No one ever had the opportunity to have two No. 1 [overall] picks two years in a row," Rizzo said in a post-midnight conference call, and just before taking a celebratory shaving-cream pie in the face from club president Stan Kasten. "And to be fortunate enough to have two picks this vastly talented is extraordinary, I believe."

The Nationals intend to assign Harper to their Florida Instructional League team at the soonest possible moment and, depending on how Harper fares there, he could wind up in the Arizona Fall League this autumn. Maybe.

Either way, he'll be in spring training with the big boys next year thanks to his major-league deal, and Rizzo said the Nats believe Harper capable of being "fast-tracked" to the majors despite his tender age of 17.

The signing was no surprise; Harper worked a loophole to get out of high school early, play ball at a Nevada community college and become draft-eligible at 17. That's how badly he's been wanting to get started on his professional career.

The Nationals, meanwhile, are committed under Kasten and Rizzo to building from the ground up. We saw this with the $15.1 million deal they handed Strasburg and the $1.6 million signing bonus granted Drew Storen last year and we saw it again Monday.

In addition to the $9.9 million guaranteed Harper, the Nationals spent roughly $3.8 million on three other players: Second-rounder Sammy Solis, a left-handed pitcher from the University of San Diego; fourth-rounder A.J. Cole, a right-handed high school pitcher; and Robbie Ray, a left-handed pitcher from Tennessee.

"It means a commitment from ownership," a pleased Rizzo said. "They gave us the resources to have an impactful draft.

"We picked four players that at some time during the amateur season were [projected] to be first-round picks on Baseball America's list. They're guys we're extremely happy about. ...

"Kris Kline and Roy Clark [the Nationals' director of scouting and the vice-president of player personnel, both of whom were hired last Oct. 16 as Rizzo constructed his front office after earning the GM job earlier last summer] did an outstanding job. We knew they would. That's why they were brought here."

Posted on: July 31, 2010 7:49 pm
 

Is Manny coming to end of the line in LA?

The Curious Case that is Manny Ramirez took another twist at the trade deadline Saturday when the Dodgers fielded offers for the disabled outfielder.

The door clearly has begun to crack open for his departure.

Question is, when?

After this season, when his two-year, $45 million contract expires?

In August, when he almost certainly will sail through waivers (and when it especially would be incumbent upon the Dodgers to investigate deals for him if they drop out of the pennant race)?

"This club is built with him as our left fielder," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said in a conference call shortly after Saturday's 4 p.m. EDT trade deadline passed. "We haven't had him for most of the year.

"That doesn't mean he can't provide us with some help the last couple of months."

Still, the man who stole headlines two Julys ago when the contending Dodgers scooped him up from Boston was back in them for a time in the final, crazy hours as clubs stampeded toward this year's trade deadline.

"We got a call from one team that offered us a very low dollar figure with no players attached to it," Colletti said in recapping the latest chapter in Mannywood. "That's what began it."

Though Colletti would divulge no specifics, industry sources have told CBSSports.com that it was the Chicago White Sox who came calling with ideas of installing Ramirez in the middle of their lineup as they work toward holding off Minnesota in the AL Central.

"Once it was out, a couple of teams called in the last 30, 45 minutes, but it was too cumbersome [to negotiate with the deadline closing in]" Colletti continued.

The GM would not confirm how many clubs phoned the Dodgers regarding Ramirez, only saying, tongue-in-cheek, that it was "a few more than one and less than 30."

Ramirez has full no-trade powers, but given his trouble with his legs this season, it is believed he would accept a deal to an AL club that would allow him a soft landing into a DH role.

"The team that had the strongest interest was trying to get another player that we had interest in with another club," Colletti said. "But that went by the wayside.

"We didn't start the rumor and we didn't float his name. The rumor was started by another team, and I'm not sure what they were trying to accomplish."

One industry source familiar with the White Sox suggested that it was all tied to Chicago's pursuit of Washington slugger Adam Dunn, that Chicago GM Kenny Williams was trying to bluff the Nationals.

The logic there would be that it was a gamble that the Nationals were more eager to rid themselves of Dunn than they let on, and the Ramirez rumors might pique their attention enough to go back to the White Sox and cut a deal for Dunn.

Whatever, no dice.

In the end, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo called everyone's bluff and wound up keeping Dunn.

The Dodgers?

Well, first they need to get a healthy Ramirez back into their lineup.

Then, they need to climb back into the NL West race -- they opened Saturday trailing first-place San Diego by seven games, and they were 5 1/2 games behind San Francisco in the wild-card race. Then they lost a crushing 2-1 decision in San Francisco Saturday afternoon.

At some point then -- or during the process -- they'll assess.

One source close to the Ramirez talks Saturday said that "it has to be a good deal" for the Dodgers to trade Manny. And clearly, the Dodgers didn't think they were approached with one.

But with about $7 million remaining of his $20 million 2010 salary, Ramirez surely will pass through waivers, which will give the Dodgers freedom to trade him in August if they're approached with the right deal.

One very good question for now, though, is when the Dodgers might see him again.

Ramirez, 38, currently is on the disabled list for a third time this season, this time with a strained calf. He did not even travel with the Dodgers on their current trip to San Diego and San Francisco, opting to rehab at the club's Arizona spring training facility, and sources say the club has grown increasingly disenchanted with him this season as he has separated himself from the rest of the clubhouse.

The leg problems make him even more of a liability in the outfield, and his power has diminished significantly since last season's 50-game suspension for failing a test pertaining to baseball's performance-enhancement drug policy. In just 61 games this season (the Dodgers now have played 104), Ramirez has just eight homers and a .317 batting average.

When will Manny return?

"That's tough to say," Colletti said. "A week. Ten days, perhaps."

Colletti did very right by the Dodgers this week in adding speedy outfielder Scott Podsednik (from Kansas City), versatile infielder Ryan Theriot (Cubs), veteran starting pitcher Ted Lilly (Cubs) and closer/set-up man Octavio Dotel (Pirates). He's always been at his strongest during the July and August trading periods.

The roster is fortified and manager Joe Torre has even more options.

But as for Ramirez, whose production is diminishing and whose honeymoon in Hollywood is finished ... what's left?

Does the GM believe Manny will finish the season a Dodger?

"I sure hope so," Colletti said, pausing and choosing his words carefully. "I think he will be.

"Yeah, I guess I believe it. How's that?"

Posted on: July 30, 2010 4:24 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2010 6:17 pm
 

Dunn says he will DH: "My options are awesome"

Washington slugger Adam Dunn, subject of raging trade speculation as the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants and others attempt to acquire him, is in the Washington lineup tonight and says he's amenable to going to an American League team to DH.

Dunn just finished speaking with reporters before heading out for batting practice, and colleague Danny Knobler is in D.C. for tonight's Roy Oswalt debut.

Here's what Danny passes along from Dunn:

"My options are awesome," said Dunn, who notoriously in the past has said he is not interested in being a designated hitter and prefers to stay in the NL.

Even if he's dealt to the AL and is asked to DH for the rest of the season?

"This will be a DH situation for two months," said Dunn, a free agent at season's end. "It's not career-ending."

Dunn, in good humor, also had a great line when asked his feelings about going to the White Sox if Chicago GM Kenny Williams is able to build the right package around pitcher Edwin Jackson.

"I like their uniforms," Dunn said. "I like black."

When the session ended, several reporters covering the Nationals shook Dunn's hand and wished him well.

"I'm not going anywhere," Dunn responded. "I'll see you guys after the game."

He may wind up being right or, at the very least, right for right now.

Even with fewer than 24 hours remaining before Saturday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, the Nationals are holding steady and not on the verge of dealing him.

"Suffice to say, he's a very popular player right now," Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo said during batting practice before the Nats-Phillies game.

As for the Nationals' high asking price, Rizzo said: "I will come to the price we set or we won't trade him. The price will not come down."

Posted on: July 30, 2010 3:35 pm
 

Aggressive Rangers acquire Nats' Guzman

The high-flying, first-place Texas Rangers, leaving their fingerprints all over this year's trade deadline, have scooped up infielder Cristian Guzman from Washington as a replacement for injured second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Guzman, 32, has played second base and shortstop for the Nationals this season and, occasionally, right field. A former shortstop who came up in the Twins' organization, Guzman has lost range at second and is considered by scouts to be better suited for second base at this stage of his career. He was hitting .282 with a .327 on-base percentage for the Nationals, who are expected to assume most of the pro-rated portion of his $2.87 million salary for this year.

The Rangers, leading second-place Oakland by 8 1/2 games in the AL West, need a short-term fix at second base Kinsler, who landed on the 15-day disabled list the other day with a strained groin.

Posted on: July 29, 2010 10:07 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 11:57 pm
 

Twins acquire Matt Capps

The Twins, having veered away from their first choice of starting pitching because of the lack of it in this year's trade market, have agreed to send Triple-A catcher Wilson Ramos to the Washington Nationals for closer Matt Capps, CBSSports.com has learned.

The Nationals also are sending an undisclosed amount of cash to the Twins and will receive 24-year-old, Class A left-handed pitcher Joe Testa.

Capps, who has 26 saves and a 2.74 ERA in 46 appearances for the Nationals, gives manager Ron Gardenhire a proven, All-Star closer who is expected to replace Jon Rauch in the ninth innings.

Capps' arrival also adds depth to a Twins' bullpen that already ranks first in the American League with a 3.19 ERA but has been taxed lately by a rotation that is pitching too few innings. Twins' starters rank 10th in the AL with a 4.39 ERA.

In Capps, the Twins add depth to go with Rauch and set-up men Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares. The Twins recently recalled reliever Anthony Slama as well but are not sure how he will respond during the heat of a pennant race.

Meantime, they moved Brian Duensing from the bullpen to the rotation, further taxing the bullpen.

The Nationals have been entertaining offers for Capps, who is a free agent this winter and would be cut loose because Drew Storen is the club's closer of the future. Capps is due a little less than $1 million in salary for the rest of this summer.

The Twins still have money in their budget for a starting pitcher to boost a lagging rotation after Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano, but they've had difficulty even finding a quality starter who would consider them. They talked with Houston about Roy Oswalt, but Oswalt had the Twins on his no-trade list. So, too, did Dan Haren -- about whom the Twins also inquired. Ditto for Ted Lilly, whom the Cubs are looking to move but in whom there is far less interest than there was in Oswalt or Haren.

The Twins into Thursday were second in the AL Central, trailing the Chicago White Sox by one game.

Posted on: July 29, 2010 9:16 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 9:41 pm
 

Twins, Nationals talking Capps

The Twins, having veered away from their first choice of starting pitching because of the lack of it in this year's trade market, are deciding tonight how much Washington closer Matt Capps is worth to them.

Looking to add bullpen help in lieu of finding a starter, the Twins are in deep discussions with the Nationals, who are requiring a high-level prospect in return, sources with knowledge of the discussions have told CBSSports.com. The high-level prospect currently at the top of Washington's wish list from the Twins is catcher Wilson Ramos, sources say. One sign of how serious the Twins-Nationals talks have become: Ramos was a late scratch from Triple-A Rochester's lineup tonight, according to LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Capps, who has 25 saves and a 2.80 ERA in 46 appearances for the Nationals, would give manager Ron Gardenhire another late-innings option to go with closer Jon Rauch and set-up men Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares. The Twins recently recalled reliever Anthony Slama as well but are not sure how he will respond during the heat of a pennant race.

As for the others, Capps could close on days when Rauch is not available, or mix into the seventh and eighth innings.

The Nationals are looking to get something in return for Capps, who is a free agent this winter and would be cut loose because Drew Storen is the club's closer of the future. Capps is due a little less than $1 million in salary for the rest of this summer, but the Twins have money to spend.

Theoretically, they intended to spent it on a starting pitcher to boost a lagging rotation after Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano, but the Twins have had difficulty even finding a quality starter who would consider them. They talked with Houston about Roy Oswalt, but Oswalt had the Twins on his no-trade list. So, too, did Dan Haren -- about whom the Twins also inquired. Ditto for Ted Lilly, whom the Cubs are looking to move but in whom there is far less interest than there was in Oswalt or Haren.

The Twins into Thursday were second in the AL Central, trailing the Chicago White Sox by one game.

Posted on: July 29, 2010 5:08 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2010 7:01 pm
 

Toronto's Downs hot property & other trade notes

Toronto was the focal point of last year's trade deadline, then-Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was the point man and ace Roy Halladay was the bait.

A year later, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt having been traded and Saturday's 4 p.m. EDT non-waivers trade deadline bearing down?

Toronto again is a focal point, first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos is the point man and reliever Scott Downs is getting as much action as anybody on the market.

Now Downs might not pack as much marquee punch as Halladay, but this year's trade market isn't exactly heavyweight, either.

And given the overwhelming bullpen needs of the majority of contenders this summer. ...

"He might be the best guy out there," the general manager of one club with interest in Downs says. "He's owed just a little more than $1 million, he's left-handed, he can close, he can set up. ..."

Among other clubs, the Blue Jays have fielded inquiries about Downs from the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Mets, Dodgers, Rockies, Giants, Reds and Phillies over the past several days.

Clubs also are watching Jays relievers Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor.

-- The Nationals are holding out hope of signing slugger Adam Dunn to a contract extension between now and Saturday's trade deadline, which is why talks remain slow between them and other clubs like the White Sox, Yankees and Giants. If contract talks don't progress, trade talks are expected to.

-- The Dodgers, who obtained outfielder Scott Podsednik from Kansas City on Wednesday, still want to acquire a starting pitcher and worked hard to try and pry Roy Oswalt from Houston until the Phillies finally finished the deal. The Dodgers were given indications that Oswalt would have waived his no-trade clause to go there.

-- The Dodgers have scouted the Cubs' Ted Lilly but are lukewarm on him, particularly given that they'd get only about 10 starts for the roughly $4 million he's still owed. They also have had a scout sitting on Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm, who was blasted by the Rockies in Coors Field on Thursday (five earned runs, seven hits, 4 2/3 innings). The Pirates have not indicated yet whether they intend to move Maholm.

-- GM Ned Colletti thinks the chances of the Dodgers acquiring pitching help might be better in August given the slim pickings right now. Plus, Dodgers under Colletti have made several of their key moves in August. Last year, they added pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland, infielder Ronnie Belliard and pinch-hitter Jim Thome in August. Two years ago, they added Greg Maddux in August.

-- The Twins and Mets also continue to engage the Cubs regarding Lilly.

-- The sinking Rockies want to move starter Aaron Cook, according to one source, but there has not been much interest.

-- Philadelphia scouted Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa as a fallback in case Roy Oswalt did not work out.

-- The Angels, who are just about DOA right now, had been working toward a deal for the Cubs' Derrek Lee for several weeks before Lee nixed it. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter had dinner with Lee in Chicago on June 18 after that afternoon's game that doubled as a recruiting session. Lee must be one of the few people in baseball who can't be charmed by Hunter.

-- Multiple clubs have asked Milwaukee about veteran outfielder Jim Edmonds, but Edmonds has told the Brewers he does not want to go anywhere. He particularly would make sense for San Francisco, which is looking for an outfielder who can improve the offense.

-- This shoulder stiffness that sent Washington's Stephen Strasburg to the disabled list on Thursday is something completely new. His college coach, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, said at Petco Park on Wednesday night that Strasburg never had a shoulder or arm problem in three seasons at San Diego State. Not even something minor. "None. Zero. Nothing," Gwynn said.

Posted on: July 12, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 8:32 pm
 

Will young power arms finally shift tide to NL?

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- How long has it been since the National League has won a freakin' All-Star Game?

Let's just say this: Last time the NL won, 1996 in Philadelphia, Bob Dole was running for president.

It's weird, it's bizarre, it's ugly and it's a subject the National Leaguers get tired of answering. Current count: The AL's unbeaten streak has reached 13 years, including winning the past seven in a row (since the humiliating 2002 tie in Milwaukee).

Yet silly as this sounds, there is a very real sense that the tide might be beginning to shift away from Junior Circuit dominance in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Reasons?

Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Florida's Josh Johnson. San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. All All-Stars this year. And, Washington's Stephen Strasburg, and San Diego's Mat Latos, who very well could debut as All-Stars next summer when the game hits Phoenix.

You know about Strasburg. And Latos was the next pitcher NL manager Charlie Manuel would have chosen in the event of one more injury scratch.

"It needs to turn for us, the way it's been going," says San Diego manager Bud Black, a coach on Manuel's NL staff this week. "There are some fine young power arms in the National League.

"Hey, the American League's no slouch either, with David Price and CC Sabathia. And Felix Hernandez can probably throw it as hard as he wants to."

No question. But there is more sizzle in the NL's pitching this summer -- especially given all the incredibly talented young arms -- than there has been in quite some time.

"Just looking at our staff, I know I wouldn't want to be a hitter on the other side," says Mets third baseman David Wright, who has been in the NL clubhouse for the past four losses. "We have some power arms, really, top to bottom. Just seeing their age and the ability and the upside and what they've accomplished already is amazing.

"I know how I feel with a bat in my hands in the box against these guys. Then when you string together the depth that the NL has with their young power arms, it's pretty impressive."

Jimenez comes into the game with 15 wins, a no-hitter against Atlanta this year and a 33-inning scoreless streak compiled during one especially torrid stretch in May and June.

Johnson leads the majors with a 1.70 ERA and has allowed no more than one earned run in 10 of his past 11 starts.

Lincecum has won back-to-back Cy Young awards, Strasburg is showing signs of having Cy Young stuff ... the list goes on.

"I know you've got Strasburg, Jimenez, Josh Johnson ... those guys throw hard," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter says. "They're filthy. I've been watching them on television."

In the NL, Wright has been watching most of them from the batter's box.

"You know that it's going to be a rough day when you're battling to draw a walk," Wright says. "Or you're battling to plate one guy and you know you have to be perfect as far as situational hitting just to plate a run, that you're not going to have that big inning where you can put up some crooked numbers.

"Where you have to battle and grind and fight and almost hope that the other team makes a mistake. You know what an uncomfortable at-bat it is. You know what they're capable of doing."

Add Philadelphia's veteran ace Roy Halladay, who will pitch for the NL for the first time following six All-Star appearances for the AL, and Atlanta's cagey Tim Hudson, who is making his NL debut Tuesday following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery (and two All-Star selections when he was pitching in the AL), and it's not an easy staff to face.

As for Jimenez and Johnson, the NL's two most dominant pitchers in the first half and the ones many AL hitters will see for the first time on Tuesday night, well, Wright says his least favorite to face is. ...

"Neither. We've been fortunate in that we've missed Josh Johnson the last few times we've played the Marlins, but it's no fun having him in the division.

"When you go in for a series in Miami, you always know which day Josh is pitching. You know you'd better win the game before that or the game after that or the other games because you're likely not going to win that one."

Whether the same will hold true for the All-Star Game, well ... it's got to turn one of these years, doesn't it?

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com