As expected, there was very little baseball news in the days leading up to and following Christmas. Daniel Murphy provided the lone transaction-related headline, as he inked a three-year, $37.5 million deal with the Nationals on Christmas Eve.
The Nationals had reportedly agreed to a trade with the Reds for second baseman Brandon Phillips, but that deal hit a snag when Phillips wanted a contract extension in order to waive his 10-and-5 rights. (For those unfamiliar, a player earns 10-and-5 rights when he has spent 10 years in the majors, including the last five with the same team. Essentially, the player earns a no-trade clause.) The Nationals moved on and filled their infield gap with Murphy.
Murphy, 30, was drafted by the Mets in the 13th round of the 2006 draft. Though he made his major league debut in 2008, he wouldn’t emerge until 2011, when he finished the season with an .809 OPS in 423 plate appearances. While Murphy didn’t play great defense and was an inefficient base-stealer, he hit .288/.331/.424 in his career as a Met, mostly playing second base – a position where good hitting is less common than at other positions.
The Mets acquired second baseman Neil Walker from the Pirates earlier this offseason, a tacit admission they would not be able to retain Murphy’s services. Murphy was a significant factor in the Mets’ playoff success this past season, as he homered in six consecutive postseason games to set a new major league record. More impressively, his home runs came against dignitaries such as Clayton Kershaw (twice), Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, and Jake Arrieta.
Murphy set a career-high with 14 regular season home runs in 2015, so the Nationals shouldn’t expect his playoff power surge to carry over into the next season. He’ll hit 35-40 doubles along with 10-15 home runs, which is still quite useful. Fantasy players shouldn’t be disappointed either provided they go in with realistic expectations.
Zimmerman, Howard Implicated in PED Investigation
In an Al Jazeera undercover investigation, Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, and free agent catcher Taylor Teagarden (as well as NFL quarterback Peyton Manning) were said to have used a performance enhancing drug called Alpha-2. The Al Jazeera report, “The Dark Side”, can be viewed here. Travis Waldron and Ryan Grim elucidated on the findings in a terrific article at The Huffington Post as well.
Major League Baseball and the Nationals have already issued statements on the matter. The agent for both Zimmerman and Howard, William Burck of Quinn Emanuel, also issued a statement to MLB Trade Rumors, calling the allegations “inexcusable and irresponsible while promising legal action to hold Al Jazeera responsible “for smearing our clients’ good names”.
Major League Baseball will be investigating the matter. If it deems it worthy, MLB could suspend Zimmerman, Howard, and/or Teagarden for 80 games without pay. Such a result would impact the Nationals much more than the rebuilding Phillies. Teams would also be much more unlikely to sign Teagarden with half of his season gone.
Zimmerman is owed $60 million over the final four years of his contract. Howard will earn $25 million for the 2016 season plus a $10 million buyout for the following year.
Many Free Agents Remain
David Price, Zack Greinke, and Jason Heyward – among others – have signed, but many elite players remain unsigned as we head into the new year. Among them: Justin Upton, Chris Davis, Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Ian Desmond, Scott Kazmir, Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo, and Dexter Fowler.
Cespedes and Kazmir are the only ones mentioned who don’t have draft pick compensation attached to them as a result of rejecting a $15.8 million qualifying offer. Not coincidentally, Cespedes and Kazmir were traded during the 2015 season which made them ineligible for receiving a qualifying offer.
Here’s a rundown of which teams have expressed interest in the aforementioned:
- Upton: Orioles, Giants, and Angels (Jim Bowden on Twitter, Dec. 10); White Sox (Nick Cafardo, Dec. 27)
- Davis: Orioles (Roch Kubatko, Dec. 18)
- Cespedes: Tigers (Bob Nightengale, Dec. 24); Angels (Mark Feinsand, Dec. 5)
- Gordon: White Sox (Ken Rosenthal, Dec. 22); Royals (Cafardo, Dec. 26)
- Desmond: Padres (Dennis Lin, Dec. 4)
- Kazmir: Dodgers (Rosenthal, Dec. 22); Nationals, Orioles, Royals (Jon Heyman, Dec. 22)
- Chen: Nationals (Bill Ladson, Dec. 19); Royals (Heyman, Dec. 18)
- Gallardo: Astros, Orioles, Royals (Cafardo, Dec. 26)
- Fowler: Mets (Buster Olney, Dec. 2)
Quick Hits: Utilityman Jordany Valdespin signed a minor league deal with the Tigers on Tuesday … The Cubs released infielder Brendan Ryan on Wednesday … The Mets are reportedly “officially out” on free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes … The Cardinals have interest in outfielders Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Corey Dickerson of the Rockies, according to a recent report … The Dodgers signed utilityman Elian Herrera to a minor league contract on Saturday … Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda was reportedly at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.