The Nationals' managerial candidates

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Buried in Rosenthal’s latest notes column is some dish on who the Nationals may be looking at as their next manager.  Quick: which of these names is not like the others: Chip Hale, Bob Melvin, Jim Riggleman, Bobby Valentine.

The answer, of course, is Valentine, who casual fans in Washington have actually heard of and who may spur some excitement in a fanbase that desperately needs some.

Not that this makes him the best candidate. Indeed, Hale may actually be the most attractive candidate of them all. He is a former PCL manager of the year and won the league championship in 2002.  In fact, he’s won as a manager at every level in the minor leagues.  He also has the benefit of being 14 years younger than Valentine. You can’t simply assume that this makes it easier for him to relate to young guys than would Valentine, nor can you simply  assume that he’d have more energy and all of that, because (a) Valentine is a different kind of guy than your average 60 year-old manager; and (b) well, you know what happens when we assume.  But it does suggest those things, doesn’t it? At least to the point where the Nats should be very, very careful to test those kinds of things before entrusting their very young club to Valentine. 

I feel more comfortable dismissing Riggleman and Melvin.  Neither of them bring anything to the table that your average veteran, retread manager does not.  Nice guys, I’m sure, but the Nats need something more than that.  They need life and breath and excitement, and neither Riggleman nor Melvin have ever shown the ability to supply that.  Valentine — because of his history, his time in Japan, and the fact that he’s just kind of a neat guy — and Hale — because he fits the profile of a young, accomplished manager ready to finally take over the reins of Major League team — each seem better positioned to do so. 

Upshot: I don’t know enough about the merits of either Valentine or Hale to definitively say that one is superior to the other, but of the names mentioned thus far, they’d be my front runners.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.