With contract extension unlikely, Nationals may look to trade Josh Willingham


Josh Willingham is under team control for one more season as an arbitration eligible player and would like to sign a contract extension to remain in Washington, but Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals aren’t interested in giving him a long-term deal and may look to trade him.

Willingham, Adam Dunn, and Ryan Zimmerman were the only Nationals hitters with more than 300 plate appearances to post an OPS above .700, so trading Willingham while seeing Dunn depart as a free agent would leave an already weak lineup looking very bare.

However, it doesn’t really make sense to give Willingham a long-term contract when he’s already 31 years old and has never been an elite hitter. He’s a solid-hitting corner outfielder who gives back some of his offensive value with poor defense, and those just aren’t the types of players you want to commit to into their mid-30s.

General manager Mike Rizzo has said that keeping Willingham for 2011 and letting him walk as a free agent is an option, but also told Kilgore that the Nationals have been getting calls from several teams interested in him. That he’s coming off August knee surgery may complicate things a bit, but Willingham is expected to be fully healthy by spring training. The question is whether he’ll still be with the Nationals by then.

David Phelps to undergo Tommy John surgery

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Pitcher David Phelps has a torn UCL and will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2018 season, the Mariners announced on Wednesday. Phelps was making brief one-inning stints in the Cactus League as he worked his way back from a procedure to remove a bone spur from his elbow last September. He said he felt the ligament tear on his final pitch against the Angels in his March 17 appearance.

Phelps, 31, was expected to set up for closer Edwin Diaz. The right-hander, between the Marlins and Mariners last season, posted a 3.40 ERA with a 62/26 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. He and the Mariners avoided arbitration in January, agreeing on a $5.55 million salary for the 2018 campaign. Phelps will become eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.

As the Mariners noted in their statement, the expected recovery period for Tommy John surgery is 12-15 months, so this very likely cuts into Phelps’ 2019 season as well.