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Depleted Nats go for sweep in Cincinnati

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Depleted Nats go for sweep in Cincinnati

For a team enjoying more success right now than it has at any other point since arriving in town seven years ago, the Nationals are also dealing with as much crushing injury news as they've ever experienced. The latest shock, of course, was this morning's revelation that Wilson Ramos will miss most, if not all, of the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Thus, the spotlight now shines brightly on Jesus Flores, the Nationals' one-time, long-term answer behind the plate who will again be asked to take on starting responsibilities. His backup, for now, will be 23-year-old Sandy Leon, promoted all the way from Class AA Harrisburg.

And yet through all of this, the Nationals continue to win. Today, they'll be seeking a series sweep at Great American Ball Park and a continued hold on first place in the NL East. They'll send Edwin Jackson to the mound, and hope their reconfigured lineup can provide the necessary run support...

WASHINGTON NATIONALS at CINCINNATI REDS
Where: Great American Ball Park
Gametime: 1:10 p.m. EDT
TV: MASN2, Ch. 50, MLB.tv
Radio: WJFK (106.7 FM), WFED (1500 AM), XM 183
Weather: Rain, 60 degrees, Wind 7 mph in from LF

NATIONALS (21-12)SS Ian Desmond
LF Roger Bernadina
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Bryce Harper
2B Danny Espinosa
CF Rick Ankiel
C Jesus Flores
RHP Edwin Jackson

REDS (16-16)CF Drew Stubbs
LF Chris Heisey
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
RF Jay Bruce
3B Todd Frazier
C Ryan Hanigan
SS Wilson Valdez
RHP Bronson Arroyo

UMPIRESHP Marty Foster, 1B Tim Timmons, 2B Jeff Kellogg (cc), 3B Eric Cooper

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Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

Patrick Corbin's contract is insanely backloaded, but that's S.O.P. for the Nationals

The specifics of the six-year, $140 million deal Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals have come out, and unsurprisingly, much of the money is backloaded. 

Here are the details, courtesy of Jon Heyman:

As you'll notice, the Nats will be paying Corbin $35 million in 2024, his age-35 season. That's an $11 million jump from the previous year, and $22.5 million more than he'll be making in the 2019 season. 

That may sound like a lot of money to be paying an aging pitcher in the final year of his deal. But with the Nats, that's standard operating procedure.

To demonstrate, let's take a look at the contracts of Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Washington's other two marquee starters (contract details found on spotrac.com)

Scherzer signed a seven-year, $210 million deal with the Nats before the 2015 season, the average annual salary sitting at $30 million. However, he's only been receiving a base salary of $15 million a year -- plus signing bonus money and incentives -- through his first four years in D.C.

Why? His contract is very backloaded: starting in 2019 until his contract expires in 2021, he'll start earning a base salary close to or more than $30 million. In addition, much of his money is deferred: from 2022-28, Washington will be paying Scherzer $105 million, good for $15 million each year. 

As for Strasburg, his contract includes an even more dramatic salary jump than Corbin's or Scherzer's. Since he signed his seven-year $175 million deal, he's earned base annual salaries of $10.4 million, $15 million and $15 million from 2016-18. 

In 2019, that number balloons to $35 million, then down to $25 million in 2020 and back to $15 million in 2021 and 2022, before rising once again to the tune of a whopping $45 million in 2023!

In conclusion, the Nats will be paying their top three pitchers a ton of money, but Washington has decided to delay cutting those checks to give themselves more financial flexibility in the present. 

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Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

Dave Martinez reiterates door remains open for Bryce Harper

LAS VEGAS -- This is not Davey Martinez’s kind of place. He’s more of a Tampa guy, maybe some Nashville. Not Las Vegas. He’s not in the desert to gamble or make the casino scene. Work brings him here, not some desire to burn life earnings during the offseason.

“Social gambler,” Martinez said. “How’s that?”

He’s able to make the rounds, at least. Martinez is 54. He entered the major leagues in 1986. Only four years since then have been spent outside of the major leagues. Which makes this event more of a chance to see old friends in the game. 

Work is limited. Mike Rizzo finished the majority of the roster before the Nationals’ contingent arrived in Las Vegas. Maybe they upgrade at second base. Maybe they add another veteran starter to the spring training mix. Maybe another bullpen option with the same line of thought. But, for the most part, Martinez knows what he will be working with in 2019. 

“Mike and I talked at the end of the season with ownership,” Martinez told NBC Sports Washington. “We sat down. Had a couple meetings. And Pat Corbin, all the guys we got were on our list and he got it done. It was a nice early Christmas present for me to get these guys and get this ball rolling.”

Martinez has harped on certain points since the close of the season. The Nationals need to be better fielders, baserunners and situational hitters. It sounds mundane, something that should be built-in at this level, but anyone who watched last season saw mediocre baseball being played. A throw to the wrong base. An extra base not taken. A double-play unturned.

“Last year we played a lot of one-run games,” Martinez said. “When I looked back and watched some of the replays of the games this past winter, it’s about not allowing teams 28, 29, 30 outs.” 

The Nationals will have days in spring training without hitting. Emphasis on fielding and baserunning drills will increase. They want to play faster and smarter. 

They also believe a healthy start is in place. Martinez said Adam Eaton’s leg continues to gain strength. Ryan Zimmerman’s body is in a good place. Stephen Strasburg is feverishly working out at Nationals Park. 

“As you know, last year when he got hurt and went down, our starting pitching took a beating a little bit,” Martinez said. “Hopefully, he comes back and he’s strong and he can get back and compete. If we can get Stras up to 25 starts, we’re going to be really good.”

Listening to Martinez hints at lessons learned from last season. In particular, his use of the bullpen. Sammy Solis made 30 appearances by the end of May. That matched his total from 2017. 

“I go back to the earlier part of last year,” Martinez said. “He was really good. He kept our bullpen stable. And I used him a lot. And I think at one point -- and I’ve heard this before -- I might have used him too much. What I see now, I’m going by what I saw earlier in the season in hopes that he comes back that guy. And then kind of use him in that role. Because he was really good. He was getting lefties and righties out. … I think Sammy has a lot of upside.”

The back of the bullpen remains structured the same as last season. At least in roles. Kyle Barraclough and Trevor Rosenthal are a swap for Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson. Sean Doolittle maintains his spot as the closer. If he needs a day off, Rosenthal will step in.

That all leaves one enormous question.

“As you know Bryce and I have a special relationship,” Martinez said. “As a player, as a person, as a kid, I think he’s awesome. I love him to death, I do. Right now, we have to continue to move forward and try to get better. Not by any means, and I heard Rizzo say this and I feel the same way, that the door’s closed on Bryce. He’s got big decisions to make. Ultimately, he’s going to make the decision. And It’s tough. I know how he feels about his teammates, I know how he feels about Washington, but it’s a tough decision he needs to make for him and his family.” 

Life is easier with answers. Martinez has most of them for 2019. He, like everyone else, is waiting on one more.

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