Nationals targeting August 1 return for Jayson Werth “may be a bit too optimistic”

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Jayson Werth still hasn’t been cleared to swing a bat yet 10 weeks after breaking his wrist on May 6, but Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that the wrist is healed and the Nationals continue to target August 1 for his return date.

According to Zuckerman “that may be a bit too optimistic, but the club fully expects to have its veteran right fielder back for the stretch run.”

Because primary fill-in Steve Lombardozzi has played so well and the Nationals are in first place with the NL’s best record there’s little need to rush Werth back, so expect a lengthy minor-league rehab assignment during which he can show that the wrist injury hasn’t sapped his power.

Once he does return Bryce Harper will likely be asked to play center field regularly, with Mike Morse and Werth flanking him in the outfield corners and Lombardozzi sliding into a super-utility man role. Werth was having a nice bounceback season before the injury, hitting .276 with an .810 OPS in 27 games.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.