Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo made a play for Ben Zobrist last winter, but the free agent infielder/outfielder eventually signed with the Chicago Cubs who are tied up at 1-1 after two games in the World Series. Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office tried to trade for Brandon Phillips too, but the infielder blocked a proposed deal that would have reunited him with former Cincinnati Reds’ skipper Dusty Baker in D.C.
Eventually, the Nationals signed Daniel Murphy to a 3-year/$37.5M deal.
That worked out well enough, with Murphy putting up a .347/.390/.595 line and career highs in doubles (47) and home runs (25) in a 142 games and 582 plate appearances in a 5.5 fWAR campaign that has him in the conversation for the National League’s MVP.
Washington’s search for a free agent outfielder, Fanrag.com’s Jon Heyman reminded readers on Wednesday, did not go nearly as well.
mlb insider, icymi: cespedes to exercise opt out, and notes from the WS & around the league. https://t.co/cf9m8K6KvA— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 27, 2016
Heyman, in writing about Yoenis Cespedes, and his plan to opt out of his deal with the New York Mets, noted that when the 31-year-old outfielder was available last winter, the Nationals were one of the teams that made a play for his services.
“The Nationals and White Sox were among other teams that made offers to Cespedes,” Heyman wrote.
“But with one-and-a-half exceptional seasons in the National League, he should find the free-agent market even more to his liking this time around.”
Cespedes put up a .282/.348/.554 with 39 doubles and 48 HRs in 189 games and 792 PAs with the Mets, hitting 25 doubles and 31 HRs in a 3.2 fWAR campaign in 2016.
Heyman reported that Cespedes, who signed a 3-year/$75M deal with New York last winter, “... plans to exercise his opt-out clause shortly after the World Series,” will forego the $47.5M he would have been owed over the next two seasons, and once again test the free agent market.
Cespedes later said the Nationals were never a serious consideration as he looked at potential options last time around.
“I was never close to signing with the Nationals,” Cespedes told ESPN’s Adam Rubin, through an interpreter.
“From the start I was pushing my agent because I wanted to come back to the Mets.”
Will he return to New York on a new deal in 2017? Will Washington try to sign him away from their divisional rivals after unseating the defending NL East champs?
Rizzo went after Jason Heyward too, before the now-27-year-old outfielder signed an 8-year/$184M deal with the Cubs, that included two opt outs.
“The Nats’ offer was believed to be for $200 million,” Heyman wrote, “but probably didn’t include the opt outs and probably did include deferred monies, so it’s hard to know whether it was worth the same.”
Without divulging the details of the offer they made, Rizzo acknowledged that the Nationals expressed interested in Heyward.
“We made an aggressive, legitimate, market value offer to a terrific player and he decided to take it elsewhere,” he explained.
Heyward put up a .230/.306/.325 line, 27 doubles and seven home runs in 142 games and 592 plate appearances in his first season in Chicago, finishing the season at 1.5 fWAR, down from 3.4, 5.1 and 6.0 in 2013, ‘14 and ‘15, respectively.
He came up in Heyman’s column because Chicago’s skipper, Joe Maddon, didn’t start Heyward in either of the first two games in the World Series after he went 2 for 28 (.071/.133/.179) with a double and triple in 10 games in the NLDS and NLCS.
Ben Revere, the outfielder the Nationals acquired after swinging and missing on both Heyward and Cespedes, put up a .217/.260/.300 over 103 games and 375 PAs in a -1.2 fWAR campaign, injuring an oblique on Opening Day and struggling once he returned.
Revere was left off the Nats’ NLDS roster in favor of Michael A. Taylor, who struggled and failed to claim the starting job in center, forcing the Nationals to move their top prospect, Trea Turner, out there when they brought him up for good in July.
Revere is under team control and arbitration-eligible after earning $6.25M in 2016 with a modest raise to around $6.3M projected. Does Revere stay in D.C. as a fourth outfield option?
If Turner returns to short in 2017, will Revere get a chance to bounce back and start in center or will the Nats be back in the trade or free agent market this winter, looking for an outfielder again as they try to add a big bat?