Bryce Harper’s hustle (or lack thereof) was the big topic of conversation following the Nationals’ 3-2 loss to the Mets last night at Nationals Park.
With two runners on and two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Harper hit a weak grounder to Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy. Assuming that he would be out by a mile, Harper put his head down in disgust and didn’t run at 100 percent. Murphy bobbled the ball, but recovered and threw out Harper by a few steps at first base.
While it’s possible that Harper still would have been out even if he busted it down the line like he usually does, Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com notes that the play drew some sharp criticism from Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr.
“The thing about Bryce right now that’s tough: He gets frustrated,” said bench coach Randy Knorr, who had to take over for an ill Dave Johnson mid-game. “I don’t think he does it intentionally, but he’s gonna have to start picking it up a little bit, because we’ve got everybody else doing it. He gets frustrated at times and it just comes out of him. It’s something we’ve got to fix.”
“It’s hard for me to say,” Knorr said. “I’m not 20 years old in the big leagues and all this stuff going on around me. Something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of and keep talking to him, because eventually we’re just going to have to take him out of the game.”
This comes one day after teammate Jayson Werth told reporters that he’d really like to see Harper “settle in” and “focus in for a month and see what he could do.” Harper addressed the eighth inning play after the game by saying, “I guess I’ll learn from it.”
To be fair, there were other reasons the Nationals lost last night. In fact, the key play of the game occurred in the top of the eighth inning when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman made an ill-advised off-balance throw which allowed Daniel Murphy to score what proved to be the winning run. Zimmerman defended his decision after the game by saying he’d “throw that every time” and that Murphy would have been out at home plate if Adam LaRoche was able to field his wild throw. But that’s not nearly as fun to talk about, is it?
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.