During a radio interview today Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made it very clear that 18-year-old stud prospect Bryce Harper won’t be playing in the majors this season.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview, via Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington:
It’s not gonna happen, because he’s not ready for that to happen. He’s got to learn the nuances of the game of baseball. We certainly don’t want to push him to a level where he’s overmatched and struggles even for a short period of time. We’re just not going to put him in a place where he has a chance to fail until we feel he’s 100 percent ready for that level.
When he is, we will certainly bring him up because, you know, we want to win as bad as anybody else. There’s nobody that wants to win worse than I do. Believe me, if I felt he was ready to hit in the big leagues right now and perform in the big leagues right now, he would be up in the big leagues. If he gave us the best chance to win, he’d be up there and trying to help us win.
That’s not quite true, of course, because Stephen Strasburg clearly gave the Nationals “the best chance to win” immediately after he joined the organization and they waited to call him up until sufficiently delaying his service time. None of which is to say that Rizzo is anything but correct about keeping Harper in the minors.
He’s destroying Single-A as an 18-year-old, which speaks to his amazing long-term upside, but it doesn’t mean he’d also destroy Triple-A pitching as an 18-year-old, let alone big-league pitching. And the Nationals aren’t going anywhere this season anyway, so Harper can develop at a reasonable but rapid pace and likely reach Washington at some point in 2012–when he’ll still be all of 19 years old–all while keeping his pre-free agency clock from ticking.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2010 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
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.