Champs Keep Adding
Following their World Series victory, the Nationals entered the offseason knowing that they would be unable to retain both Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. Ultimately, they were able to keep their star hurler in tow, but Rendon moved across the country to the bright lights of Los Angeles.
The Nats have certainly taken that in stride though, and continue to add -- on an almost daily basis it seems -- quality pieces to their roster.
They pursued Josh Donaldson as a potential replacement for Rendon, and are one of three teams (along with the Braves and Twins) who reportedly made four-year offers for more than $100 million. Rather than sitting around and waiting to see where Donaldson ultimately chooses to play, the Nationals have been stockpiling viable options.
They re-signed Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera, then added Starlin Castro on a two-year $12 million pact over the weekend to solidify the infield. Even after that signing, they still had interest in bringing back Ryan Zimmeman and hadn’t pulled their offer to Donaldson off of the table. The Nationals then went out on Monday and signed former Brewers’ slugger Eric Thames to a one-year, $3 million contract that also includes a $4 million club option ($1 million buyout) for 2021.
Don’t let the discounted contract fool you though, the Nationals are getting a high-quality bat here -- especially when deployed against right-handed pitching -- which he will be in his platoon role with the Nats. Against right-handers in 2019, Thames slashed .254/.348/.529 with 23 homers and 55 RBI in 397 plate appearances -- that’s an .877 OPS.
Thames could wind up being an absolute steal on draft day. He’s going to serve as the strong side of a platoon at first base for the Nationals, in a championship-caliber lineup, and is currently coming off of draft boards at an average draft position outside of the top 500 players overall.
They also spread some of the wealth around over the weekend, bolstering their bullpen by signing Will Harris to a three-year, $24 million contract. Most assumed that he would function in the late-game high-leverage rule that Daniel Hudson had vacated, possibly sharing closing duties with left-hander Sean Doolittle.
Not so fast. On Monday, the Nationals agreed to a two-year $11 million deal to keep Hudson in the bullpen mix. The 32-year-old right-hander was outstanding in his time with the Nationals in 2019, posting a 1.44 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 23/4 K/BB ratio across 25 innings.
Even if they’re not able to lure Donaldson away from the Braves or Twins, the Nationals are still going to field a team that will be among the favorites to win the National League and should have a solid chance to defend their World Series title.
Rangers Reunite with Chirinos
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported late Tuesday afternoon that the Rangers were closing in on an agreement with free agent catcher Robinson Chirinos. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic followed later in the evening, confirming that the two sides had reached an agreement to reunite.
The contract will carry a $5.75 million salary for 2020 and a $6.5 million club option (or $1 million buyout) for 2021, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. Texas got pitiful offensive production from the catcher position in 2019, and Chirinos should help in that regard.
Chirinos played for the Rangers from 2013-2018 before heading to Houston last winter and posting a strong .790 OPS with 17 home runs over 114 regular-season games for the 2019 American League-champion Astros. Jose Trevino and Jeff Mathis will battle for the backup job behind Chirinos, though there's a chance the Rangers might carry three catchers with MLB rosters expanding to 26.
Even as a free agent, and with the uncertainty surrounding where he would be playing in 2020, Chirinos had been the 23rd catcher on average plucked off of NFBC draft boards over the past four weeks. That was at an average pick of around 330 overall. Now that he’s locked into a secure role -- in what is expected to be a good hitter’s park -- I’d expect that number to climb well inside the top 300.
The Full Nelson
Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday that the Dodgers had reached an agreement on a contract with free agent right-hander Jimmy Nelson. The deal will guarantee Nelson just $1.25 million in 2020. The deal doesn't offer much in the way of guaranteed money for Nelson, but it's packed with incentives and can be worth as much as $13 million if the right-hander reaches all of the benchmarks. The contract also includes a $2 million vesting option for 2021 that can run as high as $9 million based on those aforementioned benchmarks.
The former Brewers’ hurler was one of the better starters in the National League in 2017 before tearing his shoulder in a fluke accident while diving headfirst back into first base on a pickoff attempt. The injury forced him to miss the entire 2018 campaign and the results across the board were horrendous in 22 innings at the big league level, posting a 6.95 ERA, 1.91 WHIP and 26/17 K/BB ratio.
He makes for a nice low-risk, high-reward option for the Dodgers and for fantasy owners alike. Over the last four weeks, his average draft position in NFBC drafts has sat outside the top 500 players overall - making him an afterthought in most formats. If he’s able to secure a spot in the Opening Day rotation, there’s a good chance he’ll deliver substantial profit at that price -- even if he’s unable to remain healthy all season.
American League Quick Hits: Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that the Rangers are among the finalists to sign free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Giants, Cubs and Reds are also believed to be in the mix… Darren Wolfson of KSTP in Minneapolis reports that the Twins have had “nearly daily dialogue” with free agent slugger Josh Donaldson… The Orioles signed shortstop Jose Iglesias to a one-year, $3 million deal that also includes a $3 million mutual option for 2021… The White Sox added Steve Cishek to their bullpen on a one-year, $6 million deal that includes an option for 2021… The Angels’ landed right-handed hurler Kyle Keller in exchange for catcher Jose Estrada in a deal with the Marlins… To make room on the club’s 40-man roster, the Halos designated Jake Jewell for assignment… The Tigers avoided arbitration with right-hander Michael Fulmer, agreeing to a one-year, $2.8 million contract… The Orioles designated Eric Hanhold for assignment… The Angels officially announced their one-year, $6.85 million deal with Jason Castro… The Halos designated Adalberto Mejia for assignment in a corresponding move… Free agent reliever Bud Norris is planning to conduct a workout for interested teams on January 13 at Rice University… Miguel Castro was robbed at a baseball training facility in his native Dominican Republic on Tuesday.
National League Quick Hits: The Marlins officially announced their two-year, $17.5 million contract with Corey Dickerson, designating Austin Brice for assignment in the process… The Marlins also acquired catcher Jose Estrada from the Angels for right-hander Kyle Keller… The Giants signed catcher Tyler Heineman to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training… The Cubs added Carlos Asuaje on a minor league deal… The Giants signed Sam Moll, Joey Rickard, Chad Tromp and Matt Carasiti to minor league deals with invites to big league camp… The Rockies signed Kelby Tomlinson and Elias Diaz to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training… The Dodgers signed Edubray Ramos to a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp… The Cardinals inked backstop Oscar Hernandez to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training… The Phillies signed Ronald Torreyes to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league camp… The Nationals signed Carlos Tocci to a minor league deal… The Marlins inked right-hander Ryan Cook to a minor league deal with an invitation to major league spring training.