Nationals Rizzo Baseball

Mike Rizzo has odd ideas about why the Nationals are losing

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Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com wrote a column yesterday about how the Nationals and general manager Mike Rizzo are “not looking for scapegoats” following a 21-27 start.

Much of the article is about how they’ve dealt with lots of injuries to key players and about how Rizzo is “satisfied” with the performance of manager Jim Riggleman and hitting coach Rick Eckstein, but then there’s this piece that caught my eye:

Rizzo says there is only one problem with his club. “We’re playing terrific baseball except for the fact that we’re struggling with runners in scoring position,” Rizzo says. …

“Am I happy with the won-loss record? No. But I think it’s really based on us not hitting with runners in scoring position, getting the big hit. I hope that turns around. We’re played good enough baseball to be way better than our record indicates.”

What an odd thing to focus on.

Washington is hitting .230 with a .663 OPS overall, compared to .228 with a .697 OPS with runners in scoring position. In other words, they’ve actually been slightly better with runners in scoring position. Obviously the Nationals would have more wins if they were hitting, say, .328 with runners in scoring position, but when a team bats .230 overall and .228 with runners in scoring position pointing to that as the problem is silly.

As for the notion that the Nationals should be “way better than our record indicates” … well, that’s off base too. Washington would certainly be better if Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and now Adam LaRoche weren’t injured, but their actual performance has been every bit as bad as their record so far. They’ve been outscored by 18 runs in 48 games, which all things being equal projects to a 22-26 record. And they’re 21-27.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.