You might not guess it by looking at him, but Jayson Werth is a very good base runner. The 34-year-old veteran has stolen 37 bases in 43 attempts in three somewhat injury-plagued seasons with the Nationals. In his prime with the Phillies, under the tutelage of first base coach Davey Lopes, Werth stole 60 bases in 68 attempts. As a result, he ranks fourth all-time in stolen base success rate at 87 percent, according to Baseball Reference.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that Werth is happy about manager Matt Williams’ intent to have his team be more aggressive on the bases. Via James Wagner of the Washington Post:
“The key to stealing bases is being aggressive,” Werth said. “We’re where we need to be. This will be the first year that it’s like this.”
Werth also believes the Nationals could thrive under this new way of thinking about running. The Nationals coaches have freed up players to make reads on their own and have given veterans green lights to decide when to run. Players can use their instincts instead of relying on signs.
“That’s the only way to steal bases,” Werth said. “That’s how base stealers steal bases. That’s how guys become great base stealers. You don’t become a good base stealer by getting steal signs and stealing. That’s when you get thrown out. Those philosophies are right now. I’m really happy about that.”
Last season, Werth was one of four Nationals to reach double-digits in stolen bases, along with Bryce Harper, Denard Span, and Ian Desmond. Recent free agent signee Nate McLouth could join them as well.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.