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.
Brewers closer Corey Knebel set a modern major league record for relievers to start a season, as Thursday’s appearance marked his 38th consecutive appearance with a strikeout. He set down the side in order in the ninth inning, striking Josh Bell out to start the frame.
Aroldis Chapman held the record previously, recording a strikeout in his first 37 appearances of the season in 2014 with the Reds.
Knebel, 25, has flown under the radar despite having an incredibly good season. He moved into the closer’s role in mid-May when Neftali Feliz, now a free agent, struggled. After Thursday’s appearance, Knebel is 12-for-15 in save chances with a 0.96 ERA and a 65/17 K/BB ratio in 37 2/3 innings.
Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.
In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”
Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.
Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.