Nationals

Free agents reject $13.3M deals as GMs head home

Free agents reject $13.3M deals as GMs head home

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Kyle Lohse were among nine free agents who turned down $13.3 million offers from their former clubs Friday as the annual general managers' ended and team officials headed home for what figures to be a busy month of negotiations.

Also rejecting the one-year guaranteed offers were the New York Yankees' trio of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano and Hiroki Kuroda along with David Ortiz, Michael Bourn and Adam LaRoche.

Under baseball's new labor contract, all the deadlines of the business season has been speeded up in an attempt to prompt quicker decisions before the Christmas holidays. That should create more activity in the market before teams head to the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., from Dec. 3-6.

``It expedites things, People are out there and available and being discussed right away,'' said Dave Dombrowski, president of the AL champion Detroit Tigers. ``It definitely has picked things up more quickly.''

Under the old rules, teams had until Dec. 7 to offer salary arbitration to their former players who became free agents. Top players under a statistical formula that was part of the 1981 strike settlement had compensation attached if they signed with new clubs - which would lose high-round draft picks.

Under the labor contract agreed to last November, that system was replaced by qualifying offers. A team could make a qualifying offer last week that was the average of the 125 highest big league contracts by average annual value - $13.3 million this year.

Just nine of 165 major league free agents were given the offers - Ortiz then agreed to a $26 million, two-year deal to stay with the Red Sox. The group all said no in anticipation of receiving more dollars and years in the open market.

Now if they switch teams, their new club will lose a draft choice next June - its highest pick, unless that selection is among the top 10 in the first round. If a club signs more than one qualified free agent, it forfeits its highest remaining pick for each additional qualified free agent it adds.

For some of the remaining eight players, compensation may cause some teams to shy away.

``Would I have less interest in guys if I lost my No. 1 pick? Yes,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. ``I've been recently trying to steer clear of losing our draft pick.''

In the past decade, free agents requiring compensation ranged from a low of 12 in 2003 to a high of 41 the following year - with the average at 22. The new rules mean teams can sign more players without figuring in the loss of draft selections, who are prized because they are years from eligibility for arbitration and free agency.

Only the elite players require compensation. The group that's below them include pitchers Zack Greinke and Ryan Dempster, outfielders Torii Hunter and Ichiro Suzuki, catcher Mike Napoli and first baseman Carlos Pena. Melky Cabrera, the All-Star game MVP, also is available after serving his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test.

``Most qualifying offers are really for players of the highest value,'' agent Scott Boras said. ``There's a lot of good players that didn't receive qualifying offers. It allows for so much earlier planning than the other system, so I think it's really been very good. It allows more freedom for those players that fit below that top regime of talent.''

There wasn't a major trade announced during the three-day session, and the podium at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa - owned by Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort - wasn't used a single time.

But there was ample discussion among team executives and with the many agents on hand. While in past seasons teams held off completing free agent deals until Dec. 8 - not wanting to lose draft picks - they anticipate being more aggressive.

Trade talks appear to be in the feeling-out stage. Among the players who might be available are Arizona outfielder Justin Upton and Boston outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

``Individually there might be people who are gaining momentum in their discussions,'' Cashman said. ``I'm not.''

NOTES: Physicist Leonard Mlodinow addressed the GMs Friday and they were given copies of his book, ``The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives.''

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

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How to entice Bryce Harper in to re-signing with the Nationals? With food, of course!

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… and if that leads us to Bryce Harper’s potential landing spot, then I present to you the yummiest reasons he should stay with the Washington Nationals.

In a video from TMZ, a paparazzi follows Harper to baggage claim and implores him for any hints toward where he is signing this offseason. The only true answer he got was that Harper likes a place called Steak 48 in Chicago. This surf-and-turf hot spot in the River North neighborhood of downtown Chicago has the audacity to serve “Maryland STYLE lump crab cakes.” Really, Bryce? Will the real thing convince you?!

On that note, let’s start off with the seafood we have to offer. This is the Mid-Atlantic, after all.

How can you work here April-September without eating local crabs in some form? I think that’s impossible. You can choose from hard shell or soft shell, but no shame in either game.

Live Chesapeake blue crabs can be bought at Captain White’s Seafood and other vendors on The Wharf off Maine Avenue. Otherwise, you can sit down and have them steamed for you at Quarterdeck, Ivy City Smokehouse, Bethesda Crab House or Captain Pell’s.

If Harper is more of a soft shell guy, all of those places also serve out-of-the-park crab cakes, but you can’t go wrong with Hank’s Oyster Bar, Old Ebbitt Grill, Chris’ Marketplace, or Clyde’s.

If the star really wants to dive in to local taste, he should eat Chesapeake Bay oysters from the largest estuary in America. My personal favorite selection is at Whaley’s (seafood tower on me, Bryce), but Rapphanock Oyster Bar, The Dabney, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Black’s Bar & Kitchen can’t be beat.

I find it hard to believe the team hasn't had an outing at The Salt Line, the lively seafood spot just a short throw from Nats Park where teammate Ryan Zimmerman is an investor and co-owner.

Now that we’ve satisfied Harper’s iron intake, let’s break down his protein. In order to keep the superstar here, I want to make sure he knows that D.C. cares about providing a well-rounded diet.

Barbecued meats in general around here are delectable. Sitting in juxtaposition between the north and south, D.C. restaurants bring a mash-up of styles of smoked and sauced meats. Favorites are Federalist Pig, Hill Country, Fat Pete’s and Hardy’s BBQ truck.

However, if Bryce Harper show he’s as invested in authentic Nationals fans as our season tickets are in him, he should really pick up a half-smoke, the district’s original recipe for a spicy, thicker pork and beef dog that’s aggressively seasoned and sometimes served with chili sauce.

Could you imagine Harper making his announcement to stay over a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl? I think even the panda statue would cry tears of joy.

Another hyper-local taste is mumbo sauce. While proven not originally from here, D.C. natives are enthusiastic about the special sauce. Yum’s is pretty well-known for carrying it.

Time for dessert! I think we can all agree that in the past 10 years, cupcakes have become iconic in the district with Georgetown Cupcakes, Baked & Wired and Sprinkles all having a home in Georgetown. To settle the debate, Baked & Wired is best. They are ranked #1 on Yelp if you don’t believe my own palette.

But what if it’s game night, you ask? D.C. has it’s hearty share of restaurants that are open even after extra innings. The Diner, Kramerbooks, Mandu, New Big Wong, Old Ebbitt Grill, Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Amsterdam Falafelshop and Jumbo Slice are all here to keep you warm at night no matter what you’re craving post-victory. Need I go on?

Bryce reassured Nats fans and TMZ that he is “still a National right now.” Better eat these while you can, Bryce, or you’ll be sorry you didn't sign in one of the best food cities in the MLB.

Do you have any local food or restaurants you think will convince Bryce Harper to stay with the Washington Nationals this offseason? Send them to @NBCNationals or @rmhopmayer. Maybe we can throw together a friends-giving or holiday dinner for those that want him to stay our beloved Guest of Honor.

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Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman wants to play 'early Santa,' will give away Redskins tickets

Josh Norman caused quite a stir with his comments Sunday about the atmosphere at FedEx Field, and the Redskins cornerback made it clear he plans to do his part in making sure the stadium is packed for Sunday's game against the Texans. 

Norman told reporters Thursday he's going to be giving away "40 or 50" free tickets for the Houston game, online and perhaps even in person.

"Yes, I will be giving out free tickets," he said. "I'll be doing it on my socials as well, I think I'll probably post tonight or something about it."

"Who knows, you may see me coming out and being an early Santa somewhere in the mall or something, just handing out tickets."

And if you are one of the lucky fans who gets a ticket from "Santa Norman," he has specific instructions on how you should behave at Sunday's game:

"Whoever get(s) them, we want them loud and just obnoxious. Just really obnoxious."

Norman joins several Redskins players who have promised to give away tickets to the Texans game.

It may be November, but the Christmas spirit is alive and well at Redskins Park. 

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