Nationals fire hitting coach Rick Eckstein

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Hitting coach Rick Eckstein is the first person to take the fall for Washington being one of the most disappointing teams in baseball this season, as the Nationals announced that he’s been fired and minor-league hitting coordinator Rick Schu will replace him.

After scoring the fifth-most runs in the league last season the Nationals kept the lineup mostly intact while adding a new leadoff man in Denard Span, but they’ve fallen to 14th in scoring as injuries have often wrecked the lineup and Span, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, and other key contributors have struggled.

Interestingly, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com manager Davey Johnson “was not supportive of the decision” to fire Eckstein, who remained on the coaching staff when Johnson replaced Jim Riggleman as manager in mid-2011. Eckstein’s profile on MLB.com notes that he “has helped to establish Washington’s lineup as one of the NL’s top offensive units over the last four seasons.” So much for that.

UPDATE: Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes that as of a month ago both Johnson and general manager Mike Rizzo “offered double-barreled support for” Eckstein and Rizzo even “admonished reporters” for asking about Eckstein’s job security.

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.