With their trade for Denard Span the Nationals’ outfield is set with Span in center field and Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth flanking him in the corners. That would shift Michael Morse from left field to first base and seemingly signal the end of free agent Adam LaRoche’s time in Washington, but general manager Mike Rizzo might have another idea.
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com spoke to a source who says the Nationals are “definitely shopping Morse a little bit.” If they traded Morse they’d presumably re-sign LaRoche to play first base, although they certainly have plenty of competition for him on the open market right now.
Washington potentially trading Morse isn’t surprising–I wrote about the possibility just last week, and that was before the Span deal. He’s been excellent since becoming a regular for the Nationals in mid-2010, hitting .296 with 64 homers and an .861 OPS in 346 games, but Morse is one season from free agency and Rizzo may not be keen on inking him to a long-term deal at age 31.
If the Nationals can re-sign LaRoche to a two- or three-year deal and swap Morse for some prospects or help elsewhere, that would make a lot of sense. Or if they wanted to save money and get younger the Nationals could deal Morse, not re-sign LaRoche, and turn first base over to 25-year-old Tyler Moore.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP