While the baseball world waits for Bryce Harper to find a new home, there are other names out there connected to the Washington Nationals, who are believed to be in the market for pitching and catching this winter.
While not much else is going on, we figured we’d take a look at the rumors and see which make sense and which we should probably dismiss...
First off, this isn’t a rumor as much as a report we just haven’t really seen anywhere else.
According to Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo, the Nationals hired former Miami Marlins’ scouting director Jim Cuthbert to an advance scouting position.
Cafardo characterizes the signing as “another home run” for Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, noting that Cuthbert had previously, “... served as [Terry] Francona’s advance scout in Cleveland and was an instrumental part of the Indians’ success.”
Elsewhere in his Sunday Baseball Notes column, Cafardo wrote about the market for Harper and the Nationals’ rumored 10-year/$300M offer, speculating that the Nats are likely waiting to see what other teams are willing to offer before countering. If they move on from Harper, Cafardo suggests, “... they’ll likely devote that money toward signing a veteran pitcher such as [Dallas] Keuchel and/or trade for a catcher such as Miami’s J.T. Realmuto.”
The problem the Marlins are experiencing, he adds, is that, “... suitors tend to take their best two or three prospects off the table,” like everyone but Milwaukee did in the Christian Yelich market last winter, but, he writes, “Miami needs to get Washington’s best to deal a player such as Realmuto, who you can build your team around,” which would mean either Victor Robles or Carter Kieboom, both of whom figure to be in the Nationals’ plans for the near future.
Would Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office actually include either (and likely more) in a deal if it meant getting the catcher they’ve reportedly had interest in for a couple years?
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote about the Marlins’ early asking price for Realmuto this time around, noting that it, “... is said to be beyond staggering.”
“Last winter, the Marlins insisted the Braves include Ronald Acuna Jr. in any Realmuto deal, and asked for Victor Robles from the Nationals -- and this fall, rival evaluators report, Miami’s demands for Realmuto are even higher.”
Elsewhere in the article, Olney discusses free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal as an option for teams in the market for a backstop this winter, if you like his power, patience, and pitch framing ... and can ignore what you’ve seen from him in the postseason.
Will the Nationals, who’ve struggled in the postseason as well, risk signing a catcher that’s experienced some of the same October issues? MLBTraderumors.com matched the Nats and Grandal up in their free agent predictions, projecting that the veteran will command a 4-year/$64M deal as the best available free agent catcher.
Meanwhile, there are some rumors out there about the Nationals’ search for a rotation arm to slot in behind Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, and in front of Tanner Roark and an arm like Erick Fedde or Jefry Rodriguez or whatever other depth Rizzo and Co. add over the next few months.
MLBTraderumors.com matched the Nats and free agent left-hander Dallas Keuchel up with the projected contract for the veteran starter something like a 4-year/$82M deal coming off a 2018 campaign which saw the southpaw go (12-10) in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, a 3.69 FIP, 58 walks (2.55 BB/9), and 153 Ks (6.37 K/9).
The big stat with Keuchel, however, is his ground ball percentage, which the MLBTR writers note, “perennially ranks among the league leaders,” though it did drop from a career-best 66.8% in 2017 to 53.7% in 2018.”
Keuchel generates weak contact and limits the home runs, (0.79 HR/9) in 2018.
Keuchel’s agent Scott Boras, according to The Athletics’ Ken Rosenthal, described his client as, “the soft-contact genius of his era” and “the greatest groundball pitcher in the game.”
Over the past seven seasons, Rosenthal notes, Keuchel’s soft contact and ground ball rates are the best in the majors among pitchers with at least 1,000 IP.
That profile does sound super-Rizzo-ish. Rizzo told Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes at the GM Meetings earlier this month that the Nationals are, obviously, in the market for some pitching help, explaining that when it comes to the team’s success, “...starting pitcher is the driver to me.”
“We’ve built our clubs based on having a guy in the middle of the diamond who gives us a chance to win every day.”
Other names mentioned in that WaPost piece? Charlie Morton, Nathan Eovaldi, and another lefty, Patrick Corbin.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi wrote this week that Corbin, “... is viewed as the top available starter by most in the industry, and he’s drawing interest from the Yankees, Phillies and Nationals, among others.”
MLBTR’s prediction was for Corbin to sign a 6-year/$129M deal.
Fancred’s Jon Heyman mentioned in his latest Inside Baseball column that the Nationals have been, “linked to Nathan Eovaldi, and that makes sense. He has the kind of stuff that impresses Rizzo, who made his bones as a scout.”
MLBTR has Eovaldi getting something like 4/$60M.
Which of those options seem like the best fit for the Nationals? Any chance you think they add two pitchers to the rotation this winter? An argument could be made that they need more than one arm.
The catching options? Which backstop makes the most sense for the Nationals? Will Rizzo zig when everyone thinks he’s zagging and sign someone like Wilson Ramos or try to work out a trade for a catcher?
Or will they find a deal for Realmuto that the Marlins are willing to accept?