Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals

The Nats beat the Phillies … with Natitude


I spent a lot of time in the past few days mildly mocking the idea of “Natitude” and the Washington Nationals’ take-back-the-park initiative. Earlier today Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post spoke with Davey Johnson about it all and he didn’t sound like a fan himself:

“What’s going to sell tickets is if we win ballgames,” Johnson said. “That’s the way we’re going to take this stadium back … I can hardly pronounce the dang word,” Johnson said.

Well, they did something about that tonight. They beat the Phillies in dramatic fashion in front of nearly 35,000 mostly Nats partisans who did, after all, take back the park.

The Phillies did pretty well against Stephen Strasburg, hitting a couple of homers and scoring three runs.  But the Nats’ bullpen was on point, throwing five shutout innings.  And yes, the Nats got a little help from a shorthanded umpiring crew, but whaddaya gonna do? In the end it was Wilson Ramos who did the most damage, however, knocking a bases loaded walkoff single to win it in the bottom of the 11th.

Query: why wasn’t Jonathan Paelbon in this game? The Nats’ 11th inning rally came against the dregs of the Philly pen. Doesn’t one think that, in a jam in a tie game in extra innings, the Phillies’ best relief pitcher would have made it way more likely that the Philly hitters would get another shot if he were in the game?

We’ll never know, I guess, because it would seem that Charlie Manuel and his post-ejection designees are under strict orders to only use Papelbon in save situations. The dude now qualifies for two positions in most fantasy leagues: closer and spectator.

But that’s the Phillies’ problem.  For the Nats, they took one small step on their way to prominence: they took back their park and won a game the likes of which, in the past, they so often lost.  And I don’t think it’s hyperbole or premature to say that if they take this series, they have taken a big step forward in their history.

Heady times for the Nats. Filled with … Natitude.

The Diamondbacks met with Johnny Cueto’s agent

AP Photo/David Goldman
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.

Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.

Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.

As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski is reportedly trying to trade Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Nick Cafardo provides this interesting nugget in his Sunday notes column at the Boston Globe

Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense.

Cafardo notes that “there are huge hurdles to cross” before a trade could happen — like how much of Hanley’s remaining salary the Red Sox would have to eat and what positions the soon-to-be 32-year-old is able to play defensively at this point in his career.

Boston’s higher-ups have asked Ramirez to learn first base and drop 20 pounds this winter. Whatever team is looking to acquire him would probably have to be comfortable with him serving primarily as a designated hitter.

Hanley is owed $68.2 million over the next three seasons and he carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019. He batted just .249/.291/.426 in 105 games this past year.

Ben Zobrist is the “Mets’ No. 1 target”

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …

It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?

Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.

Tigers agree to deal with starter Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Hey, the hot stove is finally generating some real fire …

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Tigers have agreed to terms on a contract with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. It’s a five-year deal worth around $110 million, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

This should have a domino effect on a loaded starting pitching market. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija are just a few of the names still out there.

Zimmermann, 29, posted a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 164/39 K/BB ratio in 201 2/3 innings this past season for the Nationals. He had a 2.66 ERA in 2014 and threw a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Zimmermann’s free agency is tied to draft pick compensation because he rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Washington, but the Tigers finished with one of the 10-worst win-loss records in 2015 so their first-round pick in 2016 is protected. Detroit will give up its second-round pick instead.