Nationals

Quick Links

By acquiring Mookie Betts, David Price, Dodgers take risk Nationals would not and wait to see if it pays off

By acquiring Mookie Betts, David Price, Dodgers take risk Nationals would not and wait to see if it pays off

Mookie Betts is off to Los Angeles to beam there for a year. He’s gracious, skilled and under-marketed, falling into the same public relations space so many of baseball’s elite are mired in.

He’s there because the Dodgers were willing to do something the Nationals were not: Take on enormous risk for the prime payoff. Out is intriguing Alex Verdugo, solid Kenta Maeda and hot-and-cold Joc Pederson. In are Betts and David Price, bringing superlative cost to Los Angeles, as well as exceptional firepower to a legacy franchise choking on 1988 and losing to a cheating organization in 2017. Price needed a do-over after poor returns and PR in ever-rumbling Boston. Betts can become a free agent after the 2020 season.

He’s a star, but his twinkle in Los Angeles could be brief. The Dodgers won’t care if they win the World Series.

Meanwhile, on South Capitol Street, well-invested pragmatism reigns. The Nationals did not meet Josh Donaldson’s final number. They low-balled Bryce Harper with full knowledge the offer was the equivalent of sitting on, then zipping, his suitcase to make sure everything fit before he left. They chose Stephen Strasburg over Anthony Rendon, and to avoid the competitive balance tax over everything else. They spend. A lot. Then they stop.

Los Angeles spends, too. Betts becomes the second-highest-paid player on the team. Price is fifth. The Dodgers now stack up as No. 2 in payroll -- only behind the cash-distributing New York Yankees -- a year after being one of four teams to pay more than $200 million in total payroll last season. However, this process is a pivot.

The Dodgers like short deals. Each big-name free agent is naturally tied to Los Angeles. Maybe the player will take a higher average annual value to go there? Maybe the allure of winning quickly will change things? Legacy? Glamour? None of these brought players to Chavez Ravine the last three years. Homegrown players populate the roster. The longest contract still going? Kenley Jansen’s five-year, $80 million deal (two years remain). Clayton Kershaw signed a three-year extension. He’s done after the 2021 season.

Justin Turner is in the final season of a four-year deal. Los Angeles doesn’t do long deals, and that approach has cost it players.

Which is why Tuesday’s reports about acquiring Betts were such a jolt. This is an enormous swing by the Dodgers, taking on payroll plus sending out a young player -- though from a deep farm system and not their top prospect. More than 20 years without a title tweaked a patient front office into a big-name move. The Dodgers' most significant offseason move before the deal? Signing Blake Treinen to a one-year, $10 million deal. A chance for Betts finally woke Los Angeles from its slumber. And the cost for a new leadoff hitter who won the American League MVP in  2018 was $96 million owed to Price over the next three years. Boston is reportedly handling a portion of that. Regardless, it’s an out-of-character deal for the Dodgers to slap on their books. They are paying for past performance from Price for one year of Betts. This is a gamble. 

The Nationals are again structured under Mike Rizzo’s team-building philosophy: starting pitchers matter most. Flexibility may be second. Providing a team which can win 88-93 games and find a way to the postseason is the goal. The process graduated from effective in past years to championship-winning last season.

Washington will not be the favorite in the National League. It could well not be the favorite in its division. Only two more years remain of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin working together. Winning a title allows a buffer against failure-produced anxiety. So, the Nationals did not pay Donaldson or Rendon or send a prospect somewhere to solve third base (yet). They did what they always do. The Dodgers? They decided Betts was too good to pass on, a rare commodity valuable enough to break protocol for.

The question is which approach will turn out to be correct in October. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Gerardo Parra says playing baseball in Japan ‘feels weird’ without fans

Gerardo Parra says playing baseball in Japan ‘feels weird’ without fans

While baseball players in the U.S. have yet to receive any update on when the 2020 MLB season will begin, the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball league has twice tried to reschedule its season opener only to delay it as a result of the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The NPB had hoped to begin its season April 24, more than a month after its originally scheduled start date of March 20. However, the league announced on Friday that “thing are getting worse now” after three of its players, including star pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, tested positive for COVID-19. As of Monday afternoon, there were 3,654 confirmed cases in Japan—up from just over 2,600 last Thursday (per Johns Hopkins).

Unlike the MLB, Japan’s NPB elected to continue playing out its preseason back in February despite the spread of the virus. The league announced Feb. 26 that its 72 remaining preseason games would be played without fans in attendance. It was something that former Nationals outfielder Gerardo Parra, now with the Yomiuri Giants, didn’t enjoy as much as the real thing

“It feels weird,” Parra said on a recorded FaceTime call with MASN’s Alex Chappell and Mark Zuckerman. “It feels weird because the motivation for us [as] players, we want to see a lot of fans. I want to see fans enjoy the [game], it brings me a lot of energy.”

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

Parra joined the Nationals midway through the 2019 campaign and is widely credited with helping the clubhouse loosen up before turning around its season. After starting out 19-31, the Nationals rallied to secure a Wild Card bid before riding a postseason full of comebacks on their way to winning D.C.’s first World Series title since 1924.

If anyone can make the best out of a weird situation, it’s Parra. But as long as the coronavirus outbreak continues to restrict everyday life, there aren’t going to be many other options for playing baseball.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle calls wait for regular season a ‘crash course’ in being a relief pitcher

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle calls wait for regular season a ‘crash course’ in being a relief pitcher

With the start of the MLB season delayed indefinitely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, baseball players are having to do whatever they can to stay in shape while stuck in their homes.

Not all are as lucky as Nationals starter Max Scherzer, who’s social distancing in his West Palm Beach home with Orioles catcher Bryan Holaday. Many players are training with household items, while others have been soliciting the help of their family members in lieu of a coaching staff.

It’s been a unique experience for players who entered the month of March thinking their offseason was about to end. Instead, they’re having to maintain a workout regimen that will have them ready for Opening Day—whenever that might be.

That feeling is a bit familiar for Nationals closer Sean Doolittle, who appeared on SiriusXM’s MLB Network Radio channel Monday morning to talk about how he’s been holding up since the season was postponed back in early March.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST

“Everybody’s kind of getting a crash course in what it’s like to be a relief pitcher right now,” Doolittle said. “Sometimes as a relief pitcher, you kind of have to get ready and steady ready even though you’re not exactly sure when you’re going to come into a game. It’s just kind of the nature of the job.

“The bullpen phone might ring and just say, ‘Hey, get ready’ and you say, ‘Well, who do they want me for? What spot am I going in?’ and the answer a lot of times is, ‘They didn’t say, just get ready and stay ready.’ So that’s kind of what a lot of guys are having to do right now.”

Of course, things are a bit easier for Doolittle as a closer. But even he sometimes goes into games early to get a few extra outs. Getting hot right before going into a game is a tricky science for a reliever, as the rest of the players on the field are finding out.

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: