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Plenty of storylines for Nats in Nashville


Plenty of storylines for Nats in Nashville

The baseball world converges today on Nashville, with executives, managers, coaches, trainers and more from every franchise, a phalanx of agents, minor-league officials, regular folks seeking work in the sport and -- of course -- media members taking over the gargantuan Opryland Resort and Convention Center for the next five days.

The annual Winter Meetings are quite a spectacle, so many people affiliated with the game of baseball hunkered down in one location, and they're quite often the scene of some major news. (Anyone remember the Albert Pujols extravaganza last year in Dallas?)

Slowly but surely over the years, the Nationals have become a more significant force at the meetings, their biggest splash coming two Decembers ago at Disney World when they shocked the industry by signing Jayson Werth to a $126 million contract.

Now that they're coming off a 98-win season their first-ever playoff appearance, the Nationals won't sneak up on anyone at the meetings. Plenty of observers will be watching Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson and Co. closely over these next few days, waiting to see if there's another big move in the works.

With that in mind, here are some of the most important Nationals storylines to keep an eye on this week in the Music City...

Though we've been saying for more than a month now that the Nationals' No. 1 priority this winter involved Adam LaRoche, there's not a lot of reason to believe that issue will be resolved at the Winter Meetings. LaRoche, by all indications, is willing to take his time before deciding whether to return to D.C. or sign elsewhere, and he's just now learning what other clubs are willing to offer.

So the biggest thing the Nationals could do this week is finalize their starting rotation, adding one more arm to the already-talented quartet of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler.

There are no shortage of veteran starters on the market, with Zack Greinke topping everybody's list. Rizzo loves the right-hander and nearly pulled off a major trade (and $100 million contract extension) for him two years ago before Greinke nixed the deal because he didn't think the Nationals were ready to win. Obviously, they're ready to win now, though there's reason to question whether Rizzo is as willing to fork over that much dough to Greinke this time around, considering all the other money he's already committed to his roster over the next several years.

If they want to aim lower, the Nationals still have plenty of viable choices. Dan Haren, Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Brandon McCarthy, Joe Saunders and Shaun Marcum are all free agents and potential additions to the rotation.

Or, Rizzo could seek to find a pitcher via...

We already know he's willing to take this route to acquire a player he covets. He did it last winter with Gio Gonzalez. And he just did it last week with Denard Span.

What pitcher might be available this winter? Keep an eye on the Rays, who are forever looking to keep payroll down and are willing to listen to offers for more than one member of their rotation. And there are two really big fish in Tampa who could be shopped around this week: David Price and James Shields.

Price, of course, is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. Shields is no slouch, a 200-inning-a-year workhorse who struck out 448 batters over the last two seasons.

Either would carry a steep price. But Rizzo has pieces at his disposal, whether in the form of Michael Morse (who may be out of a job if LaRoche re-signs), Danny Espinosa (who could be replaced at second base by Steve Lombardozzi) or perhaps even top prospect Anthony Rendon.

Would such a mega-deal ever actually go down? Who knows. But given his history, would you put it past Rizzo to do something along those lines in order to acquire another big-name pitcher?

The Nationals don't just need another starter, though. They desperately need...

With Sean Burnett, Michael Gonzalez and Zach Duke all free agents and Tom Gorzelanny now on the open market after he was non-tendered Friday night, the Nationals desperately need a left-hander or two for their bullpen.

They have the ability to re-sign any of those pitchers, and perhaps they will, though Burnett's price tag is hefty. He's seeking a three-year deal similar to the one the Giants gave Jeremy Affeldt to stay in San Francisco, and the Nats may not be willing to make that kind of commitment to anyone who lives in the up-and-down world of a major-league bullpen.

Gonzalez and Duke would be much more affordable, though neither possesses the recent track record of success and durability that Burnett has shown.

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The Nationals really did put Bryce Harper on waivers and the Dodgers tried to claim him

USA Today Sports

The Nationals really did put Bryce Harper on waivers and the Dodgers tried to claim him

Bryce Harper is staying with the Washington Nationals after being placed on revocable waivers as part of the team's major Tuesday shake-up that saw the departures of Matt Adams and Daniel Murphy. 

The Dodgers, who made a splash at the July 31 trade deadline with acquisitions of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier, were reportedly the mystery team that won the claim for Harper, according to Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan.

The Nationals ultimately declined the Dodgers' trade offer, which has now expired. 

In order to properly understand how the Harper situation shook out, it’s important to be familiar with baseball’s waiver trade system. 

Each National League team, in order from worst to first, had the opportunity to claim Harper. When Harper was claimed, the two teams open negotiations for a trade. When the two teams failed to reach a deal, the team who placed the player on revocable waivers (Nationals) chose to pull the player back. 

This appears to be what took place Tuesday with Harper. 

Davey Martinez’s team currently sits 62-63 trailing the first-place Atlanta Braves by 7.5 games. The Nats are 3-7 in their last 10 games. 

In 122 games this season, Harper is hitting .246 with 30 home runs and 79 RBIs. 



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The Nationals' fire sale is here, with Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams shipped out of town

USA Today

The Nationals' fire sale is here, with Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams shipped out of town

The Nationals decided at the July 31st trade deadline they wouldn't be sellers.

Tuesday, they changed their mind. 

Second baseman Daniel Murphy is off to the Cubs, as first reported by Craig Mish. First baseman Matt Adams is headed back to St. Louis, as first reported by Jeff Passan. Even Bryce Harper was placed on revocable waivers and reportedly claimed by the Dodgers.

When players are placed on revocable waivers, the two teams can either work out a deal or in the Nationals' case, they can pull that player back and keep them. 

"There was alot of thought put into it," GM Mike Rizzo said to reporters. "It was something we put into play four days ago, we felt the time was right to make the final decisions we had to make".

Nationals acquired infielder Andruw Monasterio and a player to be named later or cash considerations from the Cubs in exchange for Murphy.

Monasterio, 21, hit .263 with 14 doubles, two triples, three homers, 31 RBI, 52 walks, 10 stolen bases and 52 runs scored in 109 games for Myrtle Beach of the Single-A Carolina League this season. 

The Nationals also get cash considerations back in return from the Cardinals for Adams.

Harper though likely will be staying put according to multiple reports, because the 48-hour deadline to work out a deal for Harper passed.

"We took a chance at the first trade deadline and held tight," said Rizzo. "These are tough decisions. These moves allow us financial flexibility going into the 2019 season, to allocate our resources towards that."

The Nats are 7.5 games back in the NL East with 5 weeks to play.