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Daniel Hudson’s return to Nationals continues his hunt for World Series ball

Daniel Hudson’s return to Nationals continues his hunt for World Series ball

Once the older two girls settled in, and the baby was situated, Daniel Hudson and his wife, Sara, started to think about what just happened.

The Nationals, Hudson’s third team of 2019, worked through October all the way to Game 7. He finished the season with a slider under Michael Brantley’s bat to make Washington World Series champions for the first time. From the end of the regular season to the finish of the postseason, Hudson became a closer and national storyline. His decision to skip Game 1 of the National League Championship Series in order to attend the birth of his third daughter rambled into the national dialogue. The month was, in a nutshell, a lot.

“That type of stuff doesn’t happen too often to people,” Hudson said on a conference call Tuesday. “We considered ourselves very fortunate to have a really good strong support system around us.”

Part of that goodwill brought Hudson back to the Nationals' bullpen on a two-year, $11 million deal this offseason. He, like many, thought his odds of returning were diminished, if not done, when the Nationals signed Will Harris. But, the sides kept talking, Washington came back to him, and a second year on the contract assured his return plus a chance to further haggle with Yan Gomes.

Hudson’s slider ended up in Gomes’ mitt. While Hudson was removing his glove and throwing it in celebration, Gomes slipped the baseball into his roomy back pocket and went to meet Hudson near the mound. Gomes has retained the ball since.

Both attended Jeremy Hellickson’s wedding in Iowa last weekend. There, Hudson rebooted the discussion about how to co-own the ball. He wants a piece of it, somehow.

“I asked him if he still had it, and he said yes,” Hudson said. “I don’t know exactly what he plans on doing with it. I told him I want half of it at some point if we can maybe cut it in half or something, depending on what he feels like he needs to do. I’m not exactly sure where he’s got it.

“Negotiations are ongoing. Maybe we can work something out where we can have joint custody.”

His new deal will allow those talks to continue in West Palm Beach. Two years of commitment means he will be paid through his 35th birthday. Hudson said he knew his age and injury history were not on his side when asking for multiple years, but credited the Nationals for the offer which made him and his family even more sure he wanted to return.

“Recreating what we had is going to be tough, but I felt like I wanted to be a part of that,” Hudson said. “From the beginning of free agency I made it known to my agent I’d be open to going back, luckily they still had the interest in me as well. Like I said, I feel like the window to keep winning in D.C. is definitely still open and I’d like to be a part of that still.”

Now, about that ball...

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Kris Bryant loses grievance against Cubs, chances of trade to Nationals slim

Kris Bryant loses grievance against Cubs, chances of trade to Nationals slim

Kris Bryant will remained signed with the Chicago Cubs for at least the next two seasons, although the team continues to field calls for trade proposals, ESPN reported Wednesday morning.

The Cubs have dangled Bryant in trade talks all offseason after the team signaled its desire to get under the luxury tax. Washington was rumored to have contacted Chicago about the third baseman earlier this winter, but those talks have “gone nowhere” according to The Athletic.

After incumbent third baseman Anthony Rendon signed with the Los Angeles Angels at the Winter Meetings, the Nationals pursued Josh Donaldson in free agency but ultimately refused to meet his asking price. Instead, the team re-signed infielder Asdrúbal Cabrera and will give top prospect Carter Kieboom the chance to compete against him for the starting job in spring training.

Chicago retaining two years of control over Bryant raises his trade value to the point where the Nationals likely wouldn’t be able to put together a competitive offer. Washington only has one consensus top-100 prospect in Kieboom and has been hesitant to deal him in past trade discussions.

The Atlanta Braves, who lost Donaldson to the Minnesota Twins in free agency, have been rumored to be interested in Bryant and would be in a much better position to make an offer enticing enough for the Cubs to trade him. The same goes for the Texas Rangers, who are moving into a new ballpark this season and would benefit from bringing in a star like Bryant to put fans in seats.

There’s also the likelihood that Chicago holds onto Bryant to start the 2020 season. The Cubs still have most of the core that led the team to its first World Series in 108 years back in 2016 and figure to be competitive in a wide-open NL Central. If they end up struggling to start the year, they could always field calls for him at the trade deadline when there might be more suitors.

Meanwhile, the Nationals appear content with the depth they’ve accumulated at third base. In addition to Kieboom and Cabrera, Washington also signed Starlin Castro and retained Howie Kendrick—both of whom have experience at third. With the team already projected to be close to the luxury tax threshold, a move for Bryant remains unlikely.

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The Big Twenty: The beginning of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper

The Big Twenty: The beginning of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper

For the next two weeks, NBC Sports Washington will be rolling out the 20 biggest stories in DMV sports in the past 20 years. Here is No. 13.

 

No draft pick in professional sports offers true guarantees and the Major League Baseball draft may be the biggest guessing game of them all. 

There are 40 rounds, over 1,200 players selected and even the best organizations may only find a few big leaguers each year. Per Baseball America, only 17.6 percent of players who were drafted and signed (900-plus each year) even make it to the majors.

While No. 1 pick phenoms in the NBA, NFL and NHL have at least decent success rates, baseball is a much different story. For instance, the first overall picks in MLB drafts from 2013 through 2019 have a combined 3.7 wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball Reference.

Sure, that includes recent selections who simply aren't yet big-league ready. But the first overall picks in 2013 (Mark Appel), 2014 (Brady Aiken) and 2016 (Mickey Moniak) haven't even reached the majors. Appel is now retired, Aiken has never pitched above Single-A and Moniak hasn't graduated from Double-A.

So, just because you get the first overall pick in baseball doesn't mean you are ensured a superstar. Yet somehow the Washington Nationals landed two of them in back-to-back years. In 2009, they got pitcher Stephen Strasburg. The following year he made his first start - and the Nationals drafted outfielder Bryce Harper.

Both were phenoms and prototypes for their position who were as can't-miss as baseball draft picks can be and the clear-cut No. 1 prospects the years they came out. And despite the uneven track record of No. 1 picks, they both panned out in Washington, becoming multi-time All-Stars and franchise players. 

Harper won NL Rookie of the Year in 2012, made six All-Star teams and won the 2015 MVP award during his time with the Nationals.

He also became one of the most marketable players in the sport.

Strasburg overcame a particularly troubled history for starting pitchers taken first overall. At the time he was drafted, no pitcher picked No. 1 had won a Cy Young award.

Since joining the Nats, Strasburg has made three All-Star teams and most notably was the 2019 World Series MVP. He was an indispensable part of their championship run.

 From 2002 through 2006, the first overall pick produced next to nothing. There is Justin Upton from the 2005 draft, a four-time All-Star. But then there's Bryan Bullington (2002, -0.2 WAR), Delmon Young (2003, 2.4 WAR), Matt Bush (2004, 2.6 WAR) and Luke Hochevar (2006, 3.5 WAR). That makes four busts in five years.

Really, the Harper and Strasburg picks couldn't have worked out much better for the Nationals. One guy won a league MVP and the other a World Series MVP. That's not a bad haul for back-to-back drafts.

But keep in mind that when they were picked, neither Harper or Strasburg was a certainty.
They each took their rookie contract negotiations down to the deadline. Both battled injuries early in their Nationals careers. And both were lightning rods for criticism as they came into their own as MLB players.

Ultimately, they developed into superstars and transcendent players, the best-case scenario for any No. 1 overall pick, much less two taken in consecutive drafts by the same team.