Not content with their first championship in franchise history, the Nationals have been aggressive this winter in building a team that can contend for a repeat title in 2020.
Over the weekend the team agreed to terms with three players, re-signing Asdrubal Cabrera and adding free agents Will Harris and Starlin Castro. Cabrera signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract, Castro agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal and Harris inked a three-year, $24 million contract.
Harris, of course, is plenty familiar with the Nats, having given up a go-ahead two-run home run to Howie Kendrick in the seventh inning of Game 7 of last fall's World Series. Harris ended up being the losing pitcher in the contest.
Despite the bad taste in his mouth from his last outing, Harris has been one of the game's best relievers in recent years. The 35-year-old posted a microscopic 1.50 ERA and 0.93 WHIP while striking out 27.1 percent of batters faced during the regular season.
"We still think that he's got a lot left in the tank, and he's one of those professional relievers that you can count on," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said of Harris. "We think that he's going to help us."
Castro and Cabrera, meanwhile, will likely slide into starting roles for the Nats. Cabrera, who was with the team in a reserve role last season, is penciled in to replace departed star third baseman Anthony Rendon, and Castro appears destined to be the everyday starter at the keystone in free agent Brian Dozier's stead.
Castro, who will turn 30 years old before the season begins, somewhat quietly hit 22 homers with 86 RBI and 68 runs scored with the Marlins last year, slashing .270/.300/.436 in 162 games. Cabrera, meanwhile, split time between the Nationals and Rangers, struggling to a .235/.318/.393 line before being released by the Rangers in early August but hitting a robust .323/.404/.565 in 38 games with the Nats down the stretch.
The moves were just the latest for the defending champs, who earlier this winter worked quickly to retain two of the biggest stars of their championship run, Kendrick and Stephen Strasburg. The team wasn't able to retain Rendon, who signed with the Angels, and guys like Dozier and Hudson may move on, but next year's club won't look drastically different -- for the worse, at least -- than the team that made the magical run to the title in October.
Padres Keep Stammen In The Fold On Two-Year Deal
Craig Stammen has endured the down times for the Padres.
Now, he wants to be part of the good times.
Stammen and the Padres agreed to a two-year, $9 million contract on Saturday, keeping the right-handed reliever in San Diego after he's spent the past three seasons in the Friars' bullpen. The deal includes a club option for a third year at $4 million and also includes performance bonuses, according to MLB Network's Jon Paul Morosi.
Stammen has seen the Padres finish fourth, fifth and fifth, respectively, in his three years on the coast, but he said he believes the team is on the verge of better things.
“I’m going to keep trying to build on the previous three years,” Stammen said, “to try to help make this into a winning organization. This team is right on the cusp of being a playoff contender.”
Early in his major league career Stammen was a middling starter with the Nationals. It was after he made the move to the bullpen, though, that his career took off.
Since making the switch to relief, Stammen owns a 2.93 ERA across 384 games between the Nats and Padres. As a member of the Padres, the 35-year-old has a 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 235/60 K/BB ratio over 241 1/3 innings of work.
The move isn't the first to address the bullpen by the Padres this winter. The team signed right-hander Pierce Johnson to a two-year, $5 million contract late last month after he spent the 2019 season in Japan, and in November they made a big splash by giving southpaw Drew Pomeranz a four-year contract worth $34 million.
Pomeranz, like Stammen, has been more successful as a reliever of late, and the two will combine with Kirby Yates to form a stout back-end of the bullpen in San Diego.
“I’m sure there will probably be a change in roles,” Stammen said. “But it’s the people that get outs who wind up getting the ball. I’m going to continue going out there to get outs. I think we’ve got a great bullpen, and I’m looking forward to being part of it.”
Quick Hits: The Nationals still have a four-year, $100 million offer on the table for Josh Donaldson even after the signings of Howie Kendrick, Starlin Castro and Asdrubal Cabrera. The Nats are also expected to re-sign Ryan Zimmerman. The infield appears to be set but Donaldson would be a huge upgrade. The Twins and Braves are also pushing hard to sign the veteran third baseman while the Dodgers might also be lurking. Atlanta is considered the frontrunner. Donaldson put up a .900 OPS last year for the Braves with 37 home runs, 94 RBI and 96 runs scored despite getting off to a slow start. The Nationals' aggressiveness is part of the reason why Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the Twins have "grown pessimistic" about their chances of signing Donaldson. ... Jon Paul Morosi of MLB Network reports the Angels have had discussions with the Indians about a trade for Mike Clevinger. Some preliminary discussion seems to be all that has taken place to this point, with Morosi adding that "there has not been active dialogue in recent days." Per Morosi's sources, the Indians (rightly) asked for top prospect Jo Adell in any talks, part of the reason they stalled. Adell has a bright future but Clevinger is already a star, posting a 2.71 ERA with 169 strikeouts in 126 innings last season. The Indians have been discussing the 28-year-old with a few teams this offseason but none of the talks have gone far, given Clevinger's value and the sky-high asking price for the right-hander ... Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Cuban outfielder/pitcher Oscar Colas has defected and is seeking a contract with a major league team. Colas, 21, played in Japan this past season and batted .302/.350/.516 with 11 home runs over 66 games. The left-hander is also a pitcher and some believe he could make it as a two-way player, although other believe his future is as an outfielder. Passan notes that while Colas could sign during the current international signing period, he might wait until July when teams' bonus pools reset ... Nikkan Sports reports that Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama is traveling to Cincinnati to undergo a physical with the Reds. The Reds haven't announced anything yet, but last week several outlets reported that they had agreed to a three-year deal with the Japanese star. Nikkan Sports says that the contract will pay Akiyama around $20 million. The 31-year-old is expected to play all three outfield spots for the Reds and would also seem to be a candidate to hit leadoff for them ... Giants signed RHP Tyson Ross to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. USA Today's Bob Nightengale says that Ross will make $1.75 million if on the major league roster, with a possible $1.75 million more available in incentives. Ross posted a 6.11 ERA over seven starts for the Tigers this past season before going down with elbow and neck problems. He's healthy now and will compete for a spot in the Giants' rotation.