Results tagged ‘ Winter Meetings ’

Down on the Farm: The Rule 5 Draft

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by Noah Frank

One of the most confusing and misunderstood of all of baseball’s annual traditions took place last week at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando. The Rule 5 Draft, the unofficial closing to baseball’s Winter Meetings, is a function of the Major League Baseball Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement that helps give players a chance with a new club if they meet certain eligibility requirements. Unlike the Rule 4 Draft (more commonly known as the First-Year Player Draft, which takes place each June), players are picked from other organizations in both a Major League and Minor League phase. You can learn more about the intricacies and minutiae of the proceedings in this handy FAQ.

farm graphicThe Nationals’ 40-man roster was already full heading into the draft, so they did not procure anyone in the Major League phase (though they saw catcher Adrian Nieto taken by the White Sox). They did, however, make a couple of acquisitions in the Minor League portion of the event, selecting outfielder Theodis (Theo) Bowe from the Cincinnati Reds and right-handed pitcher Martires Arias from the New York Mets.

Aside from his terrific name, Bowe brings both speed and defense as a center fielder. In essence, he helps replace Billy Burns, recently traded to Oakland for left-handed reliever Jerry Blevins. Bowe is one season removed from a 70-steal campaign, and at just 23 years of age, Nationals Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba hopes to get a look at what he might provide moving forward.

“Bowe is still a young, left-handed outfielder that possesses two plus tools in his speed and defense,” explained Scialabba. “We had good information on his makeup, skill set and the way he played the game. He will compete for a spot at Double-A Harrisburg.”

Finding Arias is a credit to Nationals Director of Player Procurement Kasey McKeon, who scouted him in the Dominican Republic earlier this year and recommended him for the Rule 5 Draft. Also 23 years old, the 6-foot-7 hurler reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, giving Scialabba and the Nationals’ staff another pitcher in the mold of many the organization has drafted in recent years.

“He’s another tall, power arm that we can add to our inventory and take on as a project,” Scialabba said. “We would like to see if we can make some adjustments to maximize his ability.”

Matt Williams and Mike Rizzo meet the media at the Winter Meetings

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From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Live from the Winter Meetings

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Hello everybody.

Greetings from the Swan and Dolphin Hotel in Orlando, where I am on the ground at Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings.

I understand everyone back home is dealing with the aftermath of yesterday ice/frozen rain/hail storm and that more snow accumulation could be on the way.

The rumor here is that Central Florida is drenched in bright sunshine with temperatures in the low 80s, but I’d never know it, if not for passing a hotel window every so often. Our work here keeps us inside and the hotel’s layout on the Disney Campus does not present many opportunities to enjoy the warm weather.

Congratulations to Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre on their election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Could there be any more baseball symmetry than these three gentlemen being inducted together this July in Cooperstown?

Together, Cox, La Russa and Torre combined on 7,558 regular-season victories, eight World Championships and infinite respect from both inside and outside the game.

The trio set the standard for baseball’s modern manager in the dugout and cultivated lasting relationships with the likes of Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera in the clubhouse.

Sure, they had great players, but they established programs and team cultures that have lived on well past their departures from the Braves, Cardinals and Yankees. This is truly a fantastic moment for the game of baseball.

  • Matt Williams presserSpeaking of managers, I flew down to Florida with Matt Williams over the weekend. We had another in a long line of fantastic chats. Some dealt with baseball. Some did not. If it is possible, I am even more convinced that Matt was the right hire for our club at the right time.
  • For those who followed his career, preparedness was a big part of Matt’s game. No detail is too small. Well, he seems to have carried this over to his managerial career. For instance, Matt and his staff are in the late stages of scheduling Spring Training workouts. But before Matt signs off on the final schedules, he is driving an hour over to Viera, Fla., so he can lay his own eyes on Space Coast Stadium and the layout at the Washington Nationals Training Complex. In Matt’s 25 or so years in baseball (he was drafted in ’87), he has experienced only one spring in the Grapefruit League. In 1997, Matt spent Spring Training with the Indians in Winter Haven, FL. To the best of Matt’s recollection, he did not travel east that spring to Viera. So, rather than leave workout schedules to chance, Matt will visit Viera for himself on Thursday.
  • Mike Rizzo held his first staff meeting this morning in the team suite. He went over the roster, handed out staff assignments and talked about some of the team’s needs. Matt Williams had his turn at bat and spoke too. This was our scouting staff’s prime opportunity to pick Mike’s mind, compare notes on various players and offer names (internal and external) to keep an eye on. Mike seems pleased with the offseason’s progress to date, but he verbalized that there was more work to be done.
  •  I have to think the primary reason for Mike’s upbeat meeting was last week’s acquisition of Doug Fister. From what I’ve gathered, Doug is a Grade-A individual who just so happens to be 6-foot-8 and throw a heavy 89-90 mph sinker, from an arm angle that gives opposing batters fits. And Fister, unlike recent offseason rotation additions such as Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson, will be here for a while. We control his rights for two seasons. Doug’s repertoire should benefit when contrasted with the 95+ mph fastballs of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.

Well, that’s it for today. For those battling the elements back in DC, please stay safe, warm and dry.

Mark

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner

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Hello everyone.

Another summer of Nationals baseball is in the books.

Eighty-six wins and a late-season charge that both captivated and frustrated fans and players alike.

I have been asked by friends and fans how a team with such a talented roster could play sub-.500 baseball for four months – breaking our hearts – and then come back and play so well during the season’s final six weeks?

All I know is there is no ‘sure thing’ in our game and we were certainly reminded of that in 2013. Some might answer that baseball’s true beauty is rooted in its humility. I’m proud of the way this team struggled back to finish the season, going 32-16 in the last seven-plus weeks – giving us back our hope for 2014.

Here are a few of my final thoughts on this season:

  • Congratulations to Ian Desmond on his second consecutive 20-homer, 20-stolen base season. It is a joy to watch a true professional play at his level, day-in and day-out. From my seat, I see that he’s quickly becoming the best shortstop in baseball.
  • Jayson Werth led the Nationals late-season surge.

    Jayson Werth led the Nationals late-season surge.

    Jayson Werth’s stellar season should put him on a short, short list for National League Comeback Player of the Year. His return from last year’s gruesome left wrist injury is simply remarkable. I know from personal experience how seriously and with what care he treats his health – intense rehab and workouts, and near fanatical nutrition.

  • Wilson Ramos is a difference-maker in our lineup. His ironman streak of 24 consecutive starts behind the plate with seven home runs and 24 RBI was one of the major factors in bringing this team up in the standings.
  • It was disappointing that Jordan Zimmermann was not able to capture his 20th win last week at Busch Stadium, but that takes nothing away from a terrific ‘13 season. I would expect Jordan to capture some votes in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
  • While Denard Span’s 29-game hitting streak was memorable, I also think it meant he finally found his comfort level in D.C. and the National League. If you remember, Jayson coped with some of his own transition issues when he joined us in 2011 after a long tenure with the Phillies, but found his groove and became the team contributor that we see today.
  • We had our fair share of injuries and adversity in 2013. I would have loved to see one more month out of Werth, 130 total starts from Ramos, and for Bryce Harper to have avoided that right field wall at Dodger Stadium at the beginning of the season, but those were the cards we were dealt. That said, those injuries afforded Anthony Rendon, Taylor Jordan, Ian Krol and Tanner Roark the opportunity to showcase their talents over the long stretch. Both the team and the players will benefit from those innings on the field.
  • I’d be remiss if I did not thank Davey Johnson for an historic run as our manager. Who will ever forget the summer of 2012, when postseason baseball returned to The Nation’s Capital for the first time since 1933? I know I won’t. Thanks Davey for helping to author memories that will never fade.
  • Lastly, I want to thank not only those reading this blog, but all of our fans that stand behind this team on a daily basis. Attendance was up over 9% this season. TV ratings were fantastic. Your passion for Nats baseball is felt all the way to the clubhouse – I’ve even heard our players talk about it. Your enthusiasm reminds us all why this game matters.  Thank you!
Jordan Zimmerman's 19 wins paced the Nationals staff.

Jordan Zimmermann’s 19 wins paced the Nationals staff.

Mike Rizzo will soon begin interviews to find our next manager. With most of our young talent in place for the next several years, and a strong pitching foundation built around an accomplished rotation, I have to think we have an attractive position to offer. I know Mike has a working list of candidates in mind, but he’s also talking to executives from around the game that he respects. This search will be extensive and we expect he’ll deliver the right man for the job.

It’s my hope that many of you will be able to meet our new skipper at NatsFest in January. We will be rolling out the specifics on our signature offseason event shortly. And MLB’s Winter Meetings (December 9-12 in Orlando, FL) will be here in short time too. Almost time to fire up the Hot Stove.

Yes, I know we all just completed a grueling 162-game season, but my optimism is already on ‘high’ for 2014.

Mark

From The Desk of Mark Lerner: Meetings Complete

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Hello everyone. I am back in D.C. after a successful stay in Nashville for MLB’s annual Winter Meetings.

Obviously, our biggest strike came with the signing of right-hander Dan Haren. When word of the signing began to leak out on Monday, there was a palpable buzz resonating from Nashville. Everywhere I turned at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (and trust me, there are a lot of twists and turns due to its EXPANSIVE layout), there was someone from the media or from another club complimenting the signing. Most commented on the ideal length and quality of our rotation.

Haren fits and he really wanted to be here. He was born just outside of Los Angeles and played the vast majority of his career on the West Coast. He had other offers, but in the end, he saw an opportunity to win with us here in D.C. That really closed the deal.

Mike Rizzo and company strategize in the Nationals team suite at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

Mike Rizzo and company strategize in the Nationals team suite at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

There is a belief that Stephen, Gio, Jordan and Ross will really learn something about pitching from watching Haren. He is a three-time All-Star and pitched in two postseasons. And at the same time, Haren might just benefit from the jolt that comes with keeping up with our four young guns.

- I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Bo Porter while in Nashville. Both personally and organizationally, we are so proud of Bo. He is obviously very excited about the opportunity with the Astros. He knows that they have some work to do and the switch to the AL will present its own unique challenges. But the Astros picked the right man, in my opinion. And he’s a hometown manager to boot.

- I very much enjoyed our annual Affiliates Reception on Tuesday night. Most don’t know this, but Minor League Baseball’s 150-plus affiliates actually account for the vast majority of the 3,000 that annually attend the Winter Meetings. I enjoyed chatting with our extended family from Syracuse, Harrisburg, Potomac, Hagerstown and Auburn. The Nationals are very thankful for their warmth, kindness and professionalism in welcoming players as they migrate through our system.

- Unofficially, most in baseball view the Winter Meetings as the offseason’s midpoint. So, take note … Spring Training is coming quick.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!! (CLICK FOR VIDEO)

Rounding Out The Rotation

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The Nationals officially signed veteran right-handed pitcher Dan Haren to a one-year contract on Friday, after he passed his physical. Haren brings a solid presence and track record to the Washington rotation, giving the Nationals the fifth starter they were looking for heading into the Winter Meetings. But to call the 32 year-old Haren a “fifth starter” does not do his resume justice.

The addition of Haren gives the Nationals an even stronger rotation.

The addition of Haren gives the Nationals an even stronger rotation.

The right-hander eclipsed 216 innings in seven straight seasons prior to 2012, and carries a 119-97 career record with a 3.66 ERA. The three-time All-Star has won at least twelve games in each of his eight full seasons as a Major Leaguer, and has terrific peripheral numbers, carrying a career strikeout-to-walk rate of 4.02, averaging 189 K’s per season over that span.

Haren throws a two-seam and four-seam fastball, as well as a cutter, a splitter, a spike curveball and a changeup. His ability to mix speeds with accuracy (as evidenced by his low walk rate) helps keep hitters off-balance and makes him a highly unpredictable pitcher.

The Pepperdine product was originally selected in the second round of the 2001 First-year Player Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. After breaking in with St. Louis, Haren was traded as part of the Mark Mulder deal to Oakland, where he came into his own as the ace of the Athletics staff from 2005-07. He was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the ’08 season as part of a blockbuster trade that included both Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson. He was then dealt mid-season in 2010 to the Los Angeles Angels, with whom he pitched through the 2012 season.

Duke gives the Nationals veteran depth in the bullpen.

Duke provides veteran bullpen depth in Washington.

It has been a while since Haren has been to the postseason (2006 with the A’s), but he has had success, going 2-0 with a 3.26 ERA (7 ER/19.1 IP) in seven career playoff appearances (two starts). Regardless, his wealth of regular season experience brings exactly what the Nationals were looking for in their final addition to the rotation entering the offseason.

The Nationals also announced on Monday that they have come to terms one a one-year Major League deal with pitcher Zach Duke. Duke started the 2012 season on a Minor League contract with Triple-A Syracuse, where he opened eyes with a 15-5 record and 3.51 ERA in 26 starts. That solid season earned the lefty a September call-up and he was added to the 40-man roster for the stretch run.

Duke pitched very well in his limited duties, going 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA (2 ER/13.2 IP), striking out 10 while walking four over eight relief appearances. He gives the Nationals a solid long relief option out of the ‘pen, and has the starting experience to possibly compete for a job in the rotation, or at the very least fill in as a spot starter. The 29 year-old was an All-Star with the Pirates back in 2009 and has twice notched double-digit win totals at the Major League level.

From The Desk Of Mark Lerner: Welcome To Opryland

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Greetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

Baseball’s Winter Meetings are well underway and almost at its halfway point.

But remember, Mike Rizzo made his primary strike last week with the addition of Denard Span.

In the weeks approaching the actual trade, Mike sold us on Denard and his place within our culture in D.C. His intangibles fit. As does his offensive game. As does his left-handed swing. As does his defense in center field, which frees up Bryce Harper from the rigors of that position and nudges Jayson Werth into a lineup spot befitting his talents (although he really was a heck of a leadoff hitter last year).

Davey Johnson got his center fielder and leadoff man in Denard Span.

Davey Johnson got his center fielder and leadoff man in Denard Span.

And when was the last time a Davey Johnson team had a true leadoff hitter of this caliber? I’ll have to ask him later today. Perhaps Eric Young in 1999 with the Dodgers?

As attractive as Denard is, to trade a young pitcher with Alex Meyer’s obvious talents is always difficult. We truly enjoyed having him in our organization and wish him nothing but the best in his future with the Twins.

I again have enjoyed the dialogue and debate that Mike cultivates in our War Room here in Nashville. The expertise and recall that all of our scouts possess on so many players is really remarkable. The stories told can only be described as priceless. It really is a fantastic group that Mike has brought together. Trust me when I say, these guys have it all covered.

I am also very much looking forward to NatsFest (Saturday, January 26 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center), which was officially announced yesterday. We think the timing and venue for NatsFest are the ideal way to celebrate last season and pivot toward what is setting up to be an exciting 2013 campaign. Cannot wait.

Until we blog again …

Spanning The Future

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After much speculation about how they would handle center field for the foreseeable future, the Washington Nationals answered that question today, acquiring Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins. In exchange, Washington sent Minor League right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer back to the Twin Cities.

“He fits very well for us,” said EVP of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo of Span. “His skill set is something we have been looking for for some years now. He’s a front-line defensive center fielder and a consumate leadoff type hitter.”

Span, after hitting a walk-of single last season with the Minnesota Twins.

Span is expected to lead off and play center field for the Nationals in 2013, allowing Bryce Harper to shift to a more natural corner outfield spot and Jayson Werth to return to the middle of the lineup. Rizzo cited the Nationals wealth of defensive outfielders, mentioning that all three were capable of playing center field at a Major League level.

“I’m definitely excited, I’m very excited to be coming to Washington,” said span of his trade to the Nats, specifically singling out Harper and Werth. “I’m ready to be coming to a team that is already in place to win. They’re definitely going to elevate my game, just playing alongside them.”

Rizzo also said on Thursday that he has had his eye on Span for a while now, and even saw him play as a prepster at Tampa Catholic High School. He explained that discussions with the Twins have been ongoing for the past three to four weeks, but that they accelerated at the General Managers Meetings in Indian Wells earlier this month.

Span has compiled a career .284/.357/.389 Major League slash line playing almost entirely in center field over the last five seasons for the Twins. He has also stolen 90 bases over that time, including 17 in 128 games last year. Rizzo believes that speed may develop even farther with Span’s move to the more small ball-oriented Senior Circuit.

“We think he’s really going to come into his own as a base-stealer here in the National League,” the GM said, also noting Span’s strong ability to make contact. “He’s one of the tougher guys in the league to strike out.”

Span is expected to lead off and play center field for the Nats.

The 28 year-old whiffed just 62 times in 568 plate appearances in 2012 while drawing 47 walks. Born in D.C., the Tampa, Florida native was originally selected 20th overall by Minnesota in the first round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. After spending his first 10 years as a professional with Minnesota, Span said his change of scenery makes him a little nervous, but more so excited.

“That’s the greatest feeling any ballplayer can have is know they’re wanted,” said Span of Washington’s – and particularly Mike Rizzo’s – desire to acquire him. “I could hear it in his voice, how excited he was to have me.”

With the trade, the Nationals do not give up any Major League talent while acquiring a player in Span who is under contract for the next two seasons with a team option for 2015. Meyer, the return in the trade, just finished his first professional season, which he split between Low-A Hagerstown and High-A Potomac.

“To get a good, established Major League player at Denard’s age with the contract that he has, you have to give up a quality player,” said Rizzo, explaining that it is always a tough decision to part with young prospects, but that it was the right time for the move. “We feel that we have great depth in the Minor League system.”

With tonight’s trade, the Nationals have filled the first missing piece of their 2013 puzzle.

From the Desk of Mark Lerner: An Unforgettable Journey

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My intent was to post my own blog on the eve of hosting Game One of the NLCS. But the offseason came rather quickly, and in an especially cruel fashion.

I want to sincerely thank Nationals fans near and wide for their support during what was in so many ways a DREAM season. Your words and notes of support meant so much, not only to me, but my family.

Jayson Werth’s Game Four walk-off punctuated a thrilling season.

The roars heard in conjunction with Jayson Werth’s Game Four homer and the record crowd (45,966) for Game Five will long be remembered in these parts, but the 2012 season was so much more.

We, of course, began our journey together in the Grapefruit League. We survived an opener at Wrigley Field that appropriate for the Windy City. We Took Back The Park from the Phillies. We swept a series at venerable Fenway Park. We won The Pine Tar series from Joe Maddon’s Rays. We witnessed The Shark defy gravity in Houston.

We watched D.C.’s favorite teenager come of age right before our eyes. We watched our primary off-season acquisition exceed every expectation by winning 21 games and do it all with a smile. We watched our Opening Day starter win 15 games and provide us with the cushion needed to hold off Chipper’s 94-win Braves. And yes, in early September, we shut him down for all what we firmly believe to be the right reasons.

We won the NL East, arguably the toughest division in baseball.

We ended D.C.’s 79-year postseason drought.

Davey Johnson and Mike Rizzo guided the Nationals to the NL East title.

We posted MLB’s best record.

We won 100 games.

We made a ton of history.

And, just as importantly, made a fleet of memories to keep us warm this offseason.

I want to acknowledge the efforts of Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson, our coaching staff and especially the players themselves. What a fantastic season from top to bottom!

Setting aside the outcome of the World Series for a moment, I can honestly say that there is not one franchise in our game that I would swap futures with.

The 2013 season will not be without its own unique challenges. We are quite aware that there are no guarantees in this game. But I like where we are standing as a ballclub.

Let’s talk again soon, perhaps during MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville in early December.

Thanks again for an unforgettable journey…

Mark

Curly W Live – Introducing “Nat Gio”

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Hello everyone. I suppose a “Happy New Year” is still in order as this is my first blog of 2012.

We are only 26 days shy of pitchers and catchers reporting to Viera for Spring Training. It really is coming quick.

But not quick enough!

If our fans are half as excited about ’12 as I am, we’re in for a loud and enjoyable summer at Nationals Park.

With this first blog of ’12, I want to talk about Mike Rizzo’s last major strike of 2011. Namely, the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez from the A’s on Dec. 23.

We are thrilled to have Gio join our family. We’ve heard nothing but fantastic things about him as a pitcher, teammate and a person.

Gonzalez represented Oakland for the American League in the 2011 All-Star Game.

I am excited to meet Gio, as he is flying into town this afternoon. Later tonight, I’ll meet him and his family at the Caps-Bruins game at the Verizon Center.

Here is what we know. Gio is a front-line starter. Those do not grow on trees.

What’s better: Gio is a 26 year-old front-line starter who throws left-handed. Those too don’t grow on trees. And if they did, they’d reside only in the nation’s finest botanical gardens.

This is a 26 year-old pitcher who won 31 games and posted a 3.17 ERA for the A’s the last 2 seasons. While pitching for Oakland in 2010-11, Gio’s A’s went 36-29 (.554). When anyone else started for the Athletics in those same two seasons, they finished 119-140 (.459).

A South Florida native, Gio’s return to the East Coast and his exposure to our growing fan base will provide his system (and ours) a healthy jolt. Couple these factors with a good-old fashioned pennant race and there is good reason to believe Gio’s talents can rise to new heights.

Gio, 26, joins John Lannan, Ross Detwiler and Tom Gorzelanny as left-handed options in Davey Johnson’s rotation stable. Not bad weapons to have, especially in lieu of the annual 72 intradivision contests featuring either Jason Heyward, Ryan Howard, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Logan Morrison or Chase Utley.

This was hardly one of those spur-of-the-moment trades your read about from baseball’s glory days. I know Mike Rizzo and his baseball ops brain trust were working on this deal for at least two months. I sat in on a good number of the internal discussions, some of which took place during the Winter Meetings in Dallas.

GM Mike Rizzo and his staff worked hard to bring Gonzalez to Washington.

It was tough to give up A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock. All four of these youngsters possess considerable talents that made them desirable, not only by the A’s, but numerous other teams. And they are fantastic young men. We’ll be watching from afar where those talents take them and we thank them for their efforts and wish them nothing but the best. That said, I am glad they will be in the American League, at least in the immediate future!

As all our fans know, we have placed an inordinate emphasis on scouting and player development since coming on the scene in 2006. This is precisely what we had in mind upon crafting our organizational philosophy.

Think about the Gio trade. As stated, we (begrudgingly) dealt four talented players to Oakland. But digging deeper reminds us that none of the four were acquired with premium draft picks. Rather, they were 4th- (Cole, Norris), 10th- (Milone) and 41st-round (Peacock) selections.

Gio Gonzalez will toe the rubber for your Nationals during the first home series of the season (April 12-15 vs. Cincinnati) with the collective wisdom of our scouts and the diligence of our development staff.

So, I salute Mike and his various staffs for “a job well done,” which was essentially six years in the making. Yes, six years.

Remember, Brad Peacock was scouted and drafted in 2006.

Until our next blog meeting …

Mark L.

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