Remember that big stink in early 2009 in which the Nats gave a big signing bonus to a guy who was found out to be four years older than they thought he was? And that he was, you know, a totally different person than they thought he was. Boy, was that embarrassing! But it gets worse: Nats’ personnel knew he was a fraud and didn’t say anything after they found out:
Carlos Alvarez, who was 20 when he passed himself off to the Nationals as 16-year-old prospect Esmailyn Gonzalez, testified in June in a Dominican appeals court that he told [Nats’ DR coordinator Jose Baez] that he wasn’t in fact Gonzalez after he had signed with the team. Alvarez told the court that he confessed the fraud to Baez because the family who provided him with fake documents had tried to blackmail him. Nelson Tejada, the investigator for Major League Baseball who discovered the fraud, testified that “Baez told me that he knew of this name change” and that Baez’s mistake was “knowing [of the fraud] and not reporting it.”
Former GM Jim Bowden’s right-hand man Jose Rijo knew about it too, Alvarez testified. The FBI has been investigating this matter too, by the way, to see if any Nats employees committed fraud, so that’s fun too.
Just something to remind Nats fans that Mike Rizzo has a lot more to rebuild in this organization than just the major league roster.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.