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Nationals face deadline for qualifying offers

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Nationals face deadline for qualifying offers

Having hired their manager and filled a couple of positions on their coaching staff, the Nationals can begin shifting attention to the biggest task of the offseason: Adjusting their roster.

That process, in many ways, begins later today when one of baseball’s first key offseason deadlines arrives. By 5 p.m. EST, all clubs must decide whether to extend qualifying offers to their free agents. This often amounts to nothing more than a procedural move, but this is a particularly big deal this time around for the Nationals, who have four prominent players now reaching free agency: Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Doug Fister.

A quick primer on how this works…

— Clubs may extend a qualifying offer to any free agent, which amounts to an offer of a 1-year contract worth roughly $15.8 million.

— Players then have one week to either accept the offer (and thus return to their original teams for another season) or decline it (in which case they become free agents and the club is guaranteed to receive draft-pick compensation if and when those players sign elsewhere).

— If a team doesn’t extend a qualifying offer, it doesn’t get any compensation whether that player signs elsewhere.

— This system has been in place the last three years, with 34 MLB players given qualifying offers. None of them has accepted the offer.

Asked Thursday if the Nationals were still figuring out what to do with their four free agents, general manager Mike Rizzo said the club has already made those decisions in each case. (He wouldn’t reveal what those decisions are.) He didn’t, however, rule out a chance of retaining any of the four players in 2016.

“It’s a possibility,” Rizzo said. “It’s something we’ve discussed. At this point, we haven’t made any final decisions about it.”

As we count down the hours to 5 p.m., let’s run through each of the four cases and make a prediction on what will happen…

JORDAN ZIMMERMANN
Though the right-hander is coming off a down year by his standards, he still went 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA over 201 2/3 innings. That’s hardly a bad season. And combined with his longstanding track record of consistent effectiveness (career 3.32 ERA) and durability (he has made at least 32 starts each of the last four seasons) Zimmermann is going to get a nine-figure contract this winter. The Nationals all but gave up trying to re-sign him over the last 12 months, staking their future to Max Scherzer instead. But they’ll want to make sure they get some kind of compensation for losing the best pitcher in club history. Interestingly enough, the Nats were able to draft Zimmermann way back in 2007 with a compensation pick they got for losing Alfonso Soriano to free agency.
Prediction: Yes, they’ll make a qualifying offer to Zimmermann, and he’ll sign a major contract (something in the range of 6 years, $120 million) elsewhere this winter.

IAN DESMOND
Desmond won’t get the nine-figure deal he and the Nationals discussed two years ago, not after a hugely disappointing season that saw him post career-lows in batting average (.233), on-base percentage (.290) and steals (13) while posting a career-high in strikeouts (187) and committing 27 errors (most since he was a rookie in 2010). But he’s still 30-year-old shortstop with three Silver Slugger Awards, three 20-20 seasons and a sterling reputation as a clubhouse leader and stalwart in the community. Desmond could, in theory, decide to gamble by accepting a qualifying offer and then re-establishing his value before becoming a free agent again one year from now. But we saw how he struggled under the pressure of a contract year. And by the final week of the season, his words, actions and emotions certainly conveyed he knows he’ll be playing somewhere else in 2016.
Prediction: Yes, the Nationals will make a qualifying offer to Desmond, and he’ll sign a medium-length contract (something in the range of 4 years, $60 million) elsewhere this winter.

DOUG FISTER
One year ago, there was reason to wonder if the Nationals would be wise to lock up Fister to a long-term deal, banking on his consistency and ability to induce weak contact. But then came a disappointing season for the tall right-hander, one that saw him battle forearm tightness, diminished velocity and a complete lack of consistency. The Nats had no choice but to demote him to their bullpen down the stretch, and though he was more effective in that role, Fister did nothing to re-establish his value. After going 5-7 with a career-high 4.19 ERA and 1.40 WHIP while throwing his fewest innings since 2009 (only 103), he isn’t going to get near the contract everyone figured last year.
Prediction: No, the Nationals won’t make a qualifying offer to Fister. If they did, he’d undoubtedly accept it, leaving the club to pay $15.8 million to a 32-year-old pitcher coming off a disappointing season.

DENARD SPAN
This is by far the toughest decision facing the Nationals. In some respects, they would love to have Span back for one more year, recognizing how important he has been to their lineup and outfield defense. On the other hand, $15.8 million is a lot to guarantee a 32-year-old coming off back, hip and core muscle injuries that required three surgeries. And given the uncertainty surrounding his market in free agency, Span might just be inclined to accept the offer. If he didn’t, other clubs might be discouraged to sign him, not wanting to lose a draft pick in the process. This one truly could go either way.
Prediction: Yes, the Nationals will make a qualifying offer to Span. He’ll think long and hard about accepting it, but ultimately will take his chances on the open market, likely signing an incentive-laden deal with another club, possibly not until spring training has begun.

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

MORE NATIONALS: FULL 2018 SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

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Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

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