Nationals manager Davey Johnson just confirmed that Stephen Strasburg has been shut down for the season effective immediately. And his motivation for doing so was a little curious.
According to Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com, the team pulled the plug early in part due to the media hype surrounding his impending shutdown.
“He’s had a great year,” Johnson said. “And I know what he’s going through the last couple weeks. This media hype on this thing has been unbearable.”
Yes, let’s blame the media for doing their jobs and reporting on a unique situation where one of the game’s best pitchers is being shut down despite being healthy by all accounts. Meanwhile, his team has a legitimate chance to win the World Series. I mean, why would anyone want to talk about that? You know what could be a real distraction? If the Nationals lose in the postseason and every member of the organization is faced with constant questions about whether they could have won it if they had Strasburg. The chorus could get even louder if Strasburg gets hurt anyway or the team doesn’t get this close again.
Many have disagreed with the team’s decision to shut Strasburg down, but until now it was coming out of concern for the pitcher’s long-term health. But this explanation is just plain weak and only makes Strasburg’s path more difficult moving forward. The next time he is faced with a start in a critical situation, we’ll hear the narrative that he wasn’t mentally strong enough to perform well under the pressure of the shutdown. That won’t get old at all.
UPDATE: Thanks for the feedback, both good and bad. All shape my opinion, which is evolving. I hope you’ll read my most recent post on this matter now that I have had a few hours to think about it.
Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.
The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.
Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.
As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.