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What are the chances the Nationals acquire Gerrit Cole or Mookie Betts?

What are the chances the Nationals acquire Gerrit Cole or Mookie Betts?

The Nationals have a very difficult season ahead of them in 2020, and that'll be true whether Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon come back or not. 

The last National League team to win back to back championships was the 1975-76 Reds. Whenever a team sees the Nats on their schedule next year, they won't treat it as just another game.

They're the champs, and they'll either have to upgrade their roster or play at an even higher level than they did in 2019 to make it back to the World Series. 

In terms of upgrading their roster, keeping Strasburg and Rendon would be the continuity move. But what about Gerrit Cole and Mookie Betts?

On the latest episode of the Nationals Talk Podcast, Todd Dybas and Chase Hughes joined Tim Shovers to assess the chances Washington has at landing one of those two stars. 

They started with Cole, who could fill the World Series MVP sized hole Strasburg might leave if he's swept off his feet by another organization. 

"I think it's extremely, extremely low," Dybas said. "His [contract] numbers are just going to be well beyond what I would perceive the Nationals are willing to pay anybody this offseason.

"You still need to figure out second base, that's presumably going to cost you some money, you need to figure out first base, that's going to cost you some money. You need another high-end reliever and then probably two more relievers and like fliers on two more relievers after that, you need a backup catcher or maybe a starting catcher so Kurt Suzuki could be the "backup". And you might even need another starter, just to kind of be sure you're sure at the back end [of the rotation]."

From a Nationals perspective, they certainly seem to have too many needs around the diamond to commit a ton of long-term money to Cole. But Hughes pointed out the simple fact that Cole's best option may be in New York. 

[The Yankees] need starting pitching, Cole is the top guy out there, it just makes too much sense," Hughes said. "But [the Nationals] can't be ruled out because to do that would ignore precedence. We didn't think the Nationals were going to sign Max Scherzer and they did."

Mookie Betts is a different situation. The Red Sox are in cost-slashing mode under new Chief of Baseball Operations Chaim Bloom.

With a new contract on the horizon and an expectedly enormous arbitration salary for next season, Boston has flirted with the idea of trading the 2018 AL MVP to clear money off the books and get premium minor-league talent. 

But this is Mookie Betts we're talking about, and Dybas is skeptical that the Red Sox would move their best player. 

"I'm sure [the Red Sox] would prefer to get something done with him and kind of take it from there, because who wouldn't want Mookie Betts?" Dybas said. I'll believe it when I see it."

Hughes echoed a similar sentiment, talking about Betts in just about the highest way you can. 

"He's on Mike Trout's level essentially," Hughes said. " He could end up being one of the best players of his generation, so I think it's fair to talk about, I would say it's much less likely than [Scott] Boras client No. 4 Gerrit Cole."

The Nationals have the ability to chase the marquee stars of the offseason, but as Todd and Chase explained, showing they can chase them is probably the most they can do.


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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.