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With spring training looming, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado aren't the only free agents still unsigned

With spring training looming, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado aren't the only free agents still unsigned

Everyone is waiting on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado to make their decision on where to play in the 2019 season. The free agency period this off-season has been overshadowed by Harper and Machado, mainly to see where the power will shift once these young, generational players pick their suitor.

While many of the 2019 free agents have found a new home, its gone mostly unnoticed. Still, there are still several notable names that are available with spring training just three weeks away. 

Notable Players Still Available

Bryce Harper, OF: Harper, along with his agent Scott Boras, is still looking for a deal worth upwards of $300 million. The Dodgers are assumed to be out of this race after they picked up A.J. Pollock. Teams Interested: Nationals, Phillies, White Sox

Manny Machado, SS: When and where Machado lands is still very much up in the air. Will he budge before Harper and sign with a tem first, setting the market for the remainder of the offseason? Teams Interested: Phillies, White Sox, Padres?, Mets?!

Dallas Keuchel, SP: There’s been an underlying assumption that Keuchel will return to his former club this entire offseason. Yet, the Astros have still yet to sign him. Teams Interested: Astros, Reds, Phillies, Braves

Craig Kimbrel, RHP: A lot of teams have found their top reliever already this offseason, but any team would be foolish to not pursue Kimbrel. Teams Interested: Red Sox, Twins, Phillies, Braves

Mike Moustakas, 3B: Moustakas has been on the back burner ever since the Royals won the World Series back in 2015. He was dealt to the Brewers before the 2018 trade deadline and could potentially return to Kansas City. Teams Interested: Royals, Padres, Mets

Gio Gonzalez, SP: Not too much news on Gonzalez during this offseason. While Nats fans are familiar with his inconsistencies, he could still help out a team, just not in a starring role. . Teams Interested: Braves, Twins,

Adam Jones, OF: The top outfield option, behind Harper, is now Jones, who at 33 has some of his best days behind him. Teams Interested: Mets

Off the Market:

Patrick Corbin (Nationals): Former Diamondbacks starting pitcher signed a six-year, $140 million deal with the Nationals early in December. 

A.J. Pollock (Dodgers): Former Diamondbacks OF agreed to a contract worth $55 million over a four-year period, with an option for a fifth year with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Jan. 24. 

Josh Donaldson (Braves): Former Blue Jays 3B agreed to terms on a one-year, $23 million contract to join his old general manager Alex Anthopoulos with the Braves. 

Yasmani Grandal (Brewers): One of the most sought-after free agents at his position, the former Dodgers C agreed to a one-year, $18 million deal with the Brewers on Jan. 10. 

Nelson Cruz (Twins): Still kicking it at 38, DH Nelson Cruz moved from the Mariners to the Twins this offseason for a year deal worth $14 million, with a team-option in 2020. 

Adam Ottavino (Yankees): Former Rockies reliever joins the Yankees for three years with a contract for $27 million to bolster a deep bullpen in the Bronx. 

Andrew McCutchen (Phillies): Perhaps in a tentative move, in case they do not get Harper, the Phillies added another former NL MVP to their outfield with the former Yankee for $50 million over three years. 

Michael Brantley (Astros): Former Indians OF signed with the Astros for a deal reportedly for two years and $32 million. 

Wilson Ramos (Mets): Gathering pieces, the Mets bring on the former Phillies C for a two-year, $19 million contract. 

J.A. Happ (Yankees): The Yankees were able to keep their SP for a $34 million, two-year deal. 

Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox): The Red Sox keep their star SP for a deal reported to be upwards of $68 million for four years. 

Andrew Miller (Cardinals): Former Indians reliever Andrew Miller agreed to join the Cardinals for two years at $25 million. 

David Robertson (Phillies): Open salary space allowed the Phillies to build by bringing on the former Yankees reliever for $23 million over two year. Robertson will likely become the Phillies’ closer in 2019.

Kelvin Herrera (White Sox): With a brief stint as a reliever for the Nationals, Herrera is joining the White Sox for two years with a deal worth $18 million. 

DJ LeMahieu (Yankees): A lot of Machado to NYY rumors blew up in smoke when the Yankees added the stellar 2B from Colorado for a two-year, $24 million deal. 

Daniel Murphy (Rockies): Continuing his leapfrogging across the NL, the former Cubs 2B joins the Cubs at two years for $24 million.

Important Offseason Dates

Wednesday, Feb. 13: Pitchers and catchers report for the Washington Nationals
Thursday, Feb. 14: First full-squad workout for Washington Nationals
Thursday, Feb. 21: First game of Spring Training takes place (Mariners vs. Athletics)
Friday, Feb. 22: First Grapefruit League game takes place (Phillies vs. Rays)

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

Max Scherzer’s black eye receded from the full-circle package to a dark half-moon before he took the mound in Miami. And his memory reminded him of the last time he was there. It was April 20 and produced his worst start of the season: 5 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six earned runs, a loss to drop his record to 1-3 and raise his ERA to 4.34. The latter number has declined in every start since.

Scherzer’s eight innings of one-run ball Tuesday night against the Marlins drove his ERA down to 2.52. His league-leading strikeout total again increased by 10 for the fourth consecutive game. He walked no one. It took just 94 pitches -- 71 strikes -- to reach that point Tuesday in the Nationals' 6-1 win.

Two questions emerged after the outing: Is Scherzer back in the National League Cy Young Award race? Is this the best month of his career?

The first is an easy yes. His 4.2 WAR (according to Fangraphs) coming into the night was by far the best of any pitcher in the major leagues. National League ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu is second in the NL at 3.3. Scherzer leads the National League in innings pitched, strikeouts, starts and strikeouts per nine. He is third in strikeout-to-walk ratio, fourth in WHIP, fourth in OPS against, seventh in batting average against. In a nutshell, Scherzer is again dominating while doing the heavy lifting. He makes every start. He gets into the seventh inning or later 58.9 percent time. He handles all comers.

His June blitz, in particular, has put him back in the Cy Young discussion. Following Tuesday night’s man-handling of Miami, Scherzer has a 0.97 ERA in the month. He’s struck out 54 and walked five. His WHIP is 0.70. Each start has lasted seven innings or more. He’s thrown 70 percent of his 536 pitches for strikes.

Why is he so diabolical? Look at the first three innings Tuesday against the Marlins. A 14-pitch first included some effort and 10 fastballs. Scherzer picked up no swinging strikes on those fastballs, which meant the eager Marlins were getting a good look at the pitch. So, he changed.

In the second inning, Scherzer threw five four-seam fastballs, four sliders/cutters, (Scherzer calls his 90-mph pitch often identified as a “cutter” his “power slider”), three changeups and three curveballs. That mix produced five swinging strikes.

In the third inning, six fastballs, five sliders, one changeup, three swinging strikes.

Which is the complication for the opposition. He will move off whatever is not working and immediately dispatch a fresh bouquet. He can command all of it, throw any of it when he wants, and he’s been obsessing over it for almost a week. Good luck.

An age-35 season is not supposed to be a time of ascension, but, as he is wont to do, Scherzer appears to be running against perceived norms. 

June of 2017 is the only month of his career to challenge June of 2019 for personal supremacy. The numbers that month: 0.99 ERA, 36 ⅓ innings pitched, 51 strikeouts, six walks, a 0.55 WHIP. He made five starts that month. He’s already made five this June, struck out more batters and walked fewer while carrying a lower ERA.

Scherzer has a start remaining this month. It comes against one of his former teams, the Detroit Tigers. No major-league club has scored fewer runs. That mix should further define this as the best month of Scherzer’s Hall-of-Fame bound career and help answer the Cy Young question, too.

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Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

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Ryan Zimmerman is ready to rejoin Nationals, but in what capacity?

Key for Ryan Zimmerman was the simplistic act of staying on his grumpy feet for nine innings. The idea had been elusive for weeks. Zimmerman last played a full baseball game on April 27. Plantar fasciitis sent him to this fate, and each time he progressed, an ache pulled him back.

Monday, Zimmerman played nine innings for Double-A Harrisburg. He picked up two hits, but more vital was the ability to play a full game his third time on the field in four days. Zimmerman played Friday and Saturday before taking Sunday off. Tuesday becomes decision day: is Zimmerman ready to join the team Wednesday or does he have to wait? He'll wait at least another day since he is in the Senators' lineup as the designated hitter Tuesday.

There's a benefit to waiting. Washington goes to Detroit for interleague play this weekend. That affords them a chance to use the designated hitter and a window to play both Howie Kendrick and Zimmerman throughout the series without greatly taxing either.

Bringing Zimmerman back sooner also has the benefit of putting his glove on the field and expanding bench options for manager Davey Martinez. The veteran can be protected in a rotation at first base. The Nationals have Brian Dozier hitting and fielding well. Kendrick hits line drives whenever he is in the lineup. Matt Adams provides a powerful matchup option. This is how things were supposed to work from the start of the season. But, they did not come to order until late June.

Zimmerman's injury has also decided the fate of his $18 million club option for next season. It has graduated from unlikely to no chance. Though, he appears open to coming back at a much lower price. Zimmerman's body has forced him into a position of being a part-time player only, at this stage. He said last week his body "felt great" outside of the plantar fasciitis issue in his foot. Don't be surprised if he and the Nationals work something out for one more season.

For now, the club has to decide when Zimmerman will be back on the field. If he felt good Tuesday following another rehabilitation game, he could be ready as soon as Wednesday. Which prompts another decision: Do they release spirit animal Gerardo Parra to make space? Would they entertain a change for Michael A. Taylor? Something has to give if Zimmerman is finally ready.

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