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Final haul and previous asks for Realmuto show why Nationals were hesitant

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Final haul and previous asks for Realmuto show why Nationals were hesitant

Rumblings about J.T. Realmuto and the Washington Nationals first popped in the 2016 offseason. He was even more enticing then, on a cheap contract with extensive control and All-Star production.

The Nationals had a distinct need for Realmuto, too. Wilson Ramos tore his ACL and contorted Washington’s postseason hopes late that season. Ramos’ injury also developed a hole at catcher. The minors did not offer relief. Backup Jose Lobaton did not offer a full-time replacement. Something needed to be done.

So Washington’s hunt for a Realmuto deal began. Derek Jeter and Co. eventually took ownership of the team the next year, stripped its talented outfield, but kept a tight grip on Realmuto, who made a measly $562,500 in 2017. His price tag was palatable to even a non-competitive team in the middle of a selloff. Which prompted the Marlins to ask for the moon. And the sun.

They locked in on Juan Soto. And Victor Robles. Together. It was an astonishing ask, and one that would never move the deal forward. Soto and Robles weren’t going to be moved individually, let alone as a pair, which provides insight into why the deal never worked with the Nationals.

The Marlins didn’t only make a massive ask of the Nationals. According to a report from New York, the Marlins also targeted Gary Sanchez and AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Miguel Andujar in exchange for Realmuto.

Finally, on Thursday, Miami found a deal it could work with. Philadelphia sent catcher Jorge Alfaro, right-hander Sixto Sanchez, left-hander Will Stewart and $250,000 in international bonus slot money to the Marlins for Realmuto.

Sanchez was considered the Phillies’ top prospect and rated the 27th-best prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. Alfaro has several raw tools and a dash of major-league experience. Stewart was effective (2.06 ERA) at Single-A Lakewood last season.

None of those players rival Robles or Soto in stature. The Marlins’ over-the-top insistence -- even last summer -- for both young outfielders drove the Nationals to an offseason solution of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki.

Individually, neither of the new catchers rival Realmuto, who is 28, expected to post better offensive numbers by playing in Philadelphia and will be there for two years before he can become a free agent. He’s arguably the best catcher in baseball. Though as a combination, they produce a more-than-viable option to fill a positional abyss from last season and a reasonable answer for the team that did not land Realmuto.

Realmuto has improved each year. His 4.3 WAR last season well outpaced his previous high of 3.6 the year before.

Suzuki delivered 2.1 WAR as Atlanta’s full-time catcher; Gomes 2.6 as Cleveland’s full-time catcher. Expect Gomes to play every day in Washington, as much as that applies to starting catchers now. Probably 120 games or so. He left Cleveland’s Progressive Field for a slightly more hitter friendly stadium in Nationals Park. Gomes’ offense should stay about the same. A ding in average would make sense, his power remaining about 12-14 homers would also make sense.

Suzuki, by sheer playing time, will take a step back in WAR. So, let’s estimate the Nationals have a 2.5 WAR player via their catcher platoon. Last season, Matt Wieters provided 0.6 WAR. Pedro Severino -1.1. Spencer Kieboom 0.4. The position was a mess.

But not enough of one for Rizzo to move Robles or Soto, and certainly not both, for Realmuto. The Nationals don’t enter 2019 with a comparable player. However, they don’t start the season with a hole there, either. And expect Juan Soto and Victor Robles to be the Opening Day starters in the outfield. Is that a better haul than Realmuto by himself following a gargantuan ask? The Nationals thought so.

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Nationals could be a landing spot for Kyle Seager if Mariners make him available

Nationals could be a landing spot for Kyle Seager if Mariners make him available

It was a difficult Wednesday evening for Nationals fans, who were forced to swallow a tough dose of reality when reports surfaced that Anthony Rendon was signing with the Los Angeles Angels.

That’s thrust the team into a thin third base market headlined by Josh Donaldson but doesn’t boast many viable options beyond him. Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado were both mentioned in trade rumors during the Winter Meetings, but the Nationals would be hard-pressed to acquire either of them with the significant prospect capital that would be requested in return.

But another option emerged Thursday night when The Athletic reported that the “possibility is increasing” of the Seattle Mariners trading Kyle Seager. The 32-year-old veteran has hit just .236 since 2017 but has at least 20 home runs each of the past eight seasons. Originally thought to be untradeable, Seager has reportedly drawn the interest of “multiple teams.”

The Mariners signed Seager to a seven-year, $100 million contract after a 2014 season in which he posted a .788 OPS and won a Gold Glove. The wrinkle in Seager’s trade value, however, is a $15 million team option for 2022 that converts to a player option if traded. That would guarantee him $52 million over the next three seasons, giving pause to teams who might be wary about his ability to perform at the plate.

But with Donaldson expected to garner a four-year deal despite entering his age-34 season, Arenado signed for $234 million over the next eight years and the Chicago Cubs likely seeking top prospects in return for Bryant, Seager may be the most affordable option for a team like the Nationals.

Washington’s farm system ranks among the lower third of the league, boasting just two consensus top-100 prospects in Carter Kieboom and Luis Garcia. The Nationals likely wouldn’t be able to compete with clubs that have deeper farm systems for Bryant, while Arenado is signed to a similar deal that Rendon just received. As for Donaldson, Washington is certainly in the running but is far from the only team interested and could very well lose out.

Seager presents All-Star upside and while he’d be due salaries north of $18 million each of the next two years with the 2022 player option, that would be at worst about the same average annual value Donaldson is likely to demand at two years older. In addition, Seager’s $19.5 million salary next season is just above Rendon’s 2019 total of $18.8 million, making the increase in payroll at the position would be marginal.

It’d by no means replace the production the Nationals lost when Rendon signed with the Angels, but trading for Seager would certainly be a more attractive option than signing the remaining third basemen left in free agency beyond Donaldson: Asdrubal Cabrera, Brock Holt, Todd Frazier, Pablo Sandoval and Maikel Franco, just to name a few.

Seattle doesn’t appear likely to make a trade anytime soon, but Seager’s trade availability will be worth watching as the offseason progresses.

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Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have 'probably the deepest rotation in baseball'

Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen claims the Mets have 'probably the deepest rotation in baseball'

By signing Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha this week, the Mets have built out quite the collection of starting pitchers. 

Porcello and Wacha will join Jacob de Grom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz in New York's starting rotation, a group general manager Brodie Van Wagenen thinks quite highly of. 

"There was a lot talked about our lack of starting pitching depth over the last couple of weeks," Van Wagenen said on SNYtv Thursday. "I think that story has changed, and I think that we're probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball."

Considering the Mets share a division with the Nationals, who still boast a starting rotation headlined by Max Scherzer, World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, this is a pretty bold statement by Van Wagenen. 

Obviously he's the general manager and he has to say positive things about the club he's putting together. But to say those exact words on the heels of a rival winning a World Series because of their rotation? 

The Mets will host the Nationals in the first series of the season starting on March 26, so we may not have to wait long for these two rotations to face off. 

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