Nationals

Quick Links

MLB investigating report 2017 World Series champion Astros stole signs, broke rules

MLB investigating report 2017 World Series champion Astros stole signs, broke rules

Major League Baseball has expanded its investigation into the Houston Astros after The Athletic website reported the team stole signs during home games in 2017 by using a camera positioned in center field.

The report Tuesday quoted pitcher Mike Fiers, who played for the Astros that season, and three other unidentified people with the club. The Astros won the World Series that year -- two sources told The Athletic that Houston used the system into the playoffs while another source said the system ended before the postseason.

The website said the process was started by a struggling hitter and a coach, neither of whom was identified. The camera at Minute Maid Park was connected to a television monitor in the tunnel between the Astros' dugout and clubhouse, The Athletic said, and team employees or players would communicate expected pitches by banging a trash can to signal off-speed pitches.

"I just want the game to be cleaned up a little bit because there are guys who are losing their jobs because they're going in there not knowing," Fiers told the website.

The Astros said in a statement the team "has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball" and declined additional comment.

Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow declined to talk about specifics.

"We take the allegation seriously and we're going to look into it. If you're not following the rules, it's a serious matter," he said Tuesday at the annual GM meetings. "I'm not going to get into exactly what I knew or anybody knew at this point. So I'm just going to have to wait and see. But I'm sure there will be an appropriate time to answer that question directly."

Luhnow said he hoped the allegations wouldn't put a damper on Houston's recent run of success, which includes the team's first World Series title in 2017 and an AL pennant this season.

"Teams are competing with one another and everybody's trying to find an edge," Luhnow said. "But we all have to follow the rules and the rules are set by Major League Baseball. We all agree to follow them and if you don't there's ramifications to that. We want to follow the rules and we want to compete and win. That's what every other club does, as well."

Danny Farquhar, who pitched for the Chicago White Sox twice at Minute Maid Park in September 2017, told The Athletic of `"a banging from the dugout, almost like a bat hitting the bat rack every time a changeup signal got put down." He said after Chicago changed to more complex signals "the banging stopped."

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Carson Smith added to the sign stealing allegations on Twitter, saying that the Astros bullpen catcher would send signs to certain batters. He added that the "Astros went to extreme measures, undoubtedly still do, and it's paid off for them."

MLB strengthened its rules against sign stealing before the 2019 season, instituting procedures attempting to ensure teams did not use video to steal signs.

"After we review this new information we will determine any necessary next steps," MLB said in a statement.

Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Wednesday there was "scuttlebutt" that the Astros were stealing signs during the 2017 World Series, but "we certainly did not know anything definitive at the time." The Dodgers lost to the Astros in seven games.

"There are things that have kind of existed since the beginning of time. And then there are other things that are even more egregious and clearly across the line," he said. "And I think there are enough people involved in it, it would be pretty brazen to do certain things. And when you do, I think people are going to find out about it."

MLB already is investigating the Astros. Assistant general manager Brandon Taubman was fired for directing inappropriate comments at female reporters during a clubhouse celebration after the team beat the New York Yankees to win the AL pennant on Oct. 19. The team issued and then retracted a statement accusing a Sports Illustrated reporter of trying to "fabricate a story." Taubman was fired by the Astros on Oct. 24.

Luhnow said he didn't think the Taubman situation and the sign stealing allegations are related.

"I don't think they're tied together, but they obviously have come one after another it seems like the last few weeks," Luhnow said. "It's disappointing. If there is an issue that we need to address, we'll address it."

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: 

Quick Links

Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

While Nationals fans are understandably disappointed Anthony Rendon is no longer a member of the Nationals, they can rest easy knowing he didn't see himself signing the the NL rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers never made an offer to Rendon, per The Athletic, after "sensing that he didn’t want to play in Los Angeles." He instead signed with the Los Angeles Angels, inking a seven-year, $245 million deal to play for the California team that receives considerably less media attention than its in-state rival.

Now entrenched in the AL on the other side of the country, Rendon won't face the Nationals very often nor will his team's play have any effect on Washington's playoff chances from year to year. It was a best-case scenario for fans after it became likely he wouldn't be returning to Washington.

After being spurned by Rendon and losing out on top free-agent pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the Dodgers are still looking to make their first big move of the offseason.

There's still plenty of time for them to make a move, but Los Angeles can expect little sympathy from Nationals fans that Rendon won't be suiting up in Dodger blue for the next seven years.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Here’s the list of players on the Nationals’ active roster who could play third base: Wilmer Difo, Jake Noll, Adrián Sánchez, Howie Kendrick, Carter Kieboom. Career major-league starts at the position: Difo, 29; Noll, one; Sánchez, nine; Kendrick, 25; Kieboom, zero. 

Such is the state of third base for the defending World Series champions. Not good. 

Which makes Josh Donaldson’s agent smile and any semi-skilled third baseman with a pulse a possible target. Possible trades? Count the Nationals in. On most. Not on Nolan Arenado. That’s a non-starter because Washington is not going to send assets (prospects) for a contract it was unwilling to give Anthony Rendon in the first place. Zero chance. Zilch.

However, Kris Bryant is more intriguing depending on the years and ask -- as always with trades. Beyond him and Kyle Seager, is there another third baseman the Nationals could pursue in a trade? The question takes on weight because of the aforementioned toothless list of in-house candidates and shallow free-agent talent pool beyond Donaldson.

Any trade consideration needs to begin with an understanding of the parameters Washington is working from. Last season, Rendon’s one-year deal to avoid arbitration earned him $18.8 million. When Washington looks at the cost for its next third baseman, the number will be similar to last season’s cost for Rendon. A bump in the competitive balance tax threshold, plus savings at first base and catcher, provide the Nationals wiggle room for increases in spots. So, $18-25 million annually for a third baseman is in play.

Second, the Nationals’ farm system needs to be taken into account. Their 2018 first-round pick, Mason Denaburg, had shoulder problems last year. Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings that Denaburg is healthy and progressing. But, the early shoulder irritation for a high school pitcher who also had problems his senior year with biceps tendinitis provides his stock pause. He’s a would-be trade chip. So is Kieboom.

But, what is Kieboom’s value? What damage did it receive during his rocky, and brief, appearance in the majors last season? Did his potent hitting in the Pacific Coast League after being sent back mitigate his big-league struggles? 

Beyond Kieboom, the farm system’s next tier is manned by Luis Garcia, 2019 first-round pick Jackson Rutledge, Wil Crowe and Tim Cate, among others. Only Garcia is part of MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list (which is more of a guide than an industry standard).

So, when Bryant or Seager -- or anyone not named Arenado -- are mentioned, know where the Nationals are coming from. If they are positioned to take on money, they don’t want to use assets to do it (this is the Donaldson Scenario). If they can save money, find a solid player and retain the few high-end assets, then a trade could be in play (this would be the Seager Scenario, if Seattle pays some of the contract). 

The Bryant Scenario is the most appealing and challenging. He’s the best player of the group. However, acquiring him would be high-cost and short-term. Bryant has two years remaining before he can become a free agent -- with an outside shot at becoming a free agent after next season because of a grievance he filed against the Cubs for service-time manipulation. Obtaining him would likely focus on multiple pitching prospects.

There is no Arenado Scenario. Just a reminder.

Piled together, Washington is in a tough spot. What it has is not enough. What it needs will be costly.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: