Nationals have “reached a near-final decision” to bench Nyjer Morgan for Rick Ankiel

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Last week there was speculation about the Nationals benching Nyjer Morgan in favor of Rick Ankiel and now Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that they’ve “reached a near-final decision” to make Ankiel the starting center fielder.

Morgan has certainly earned the demotion by hitting like a fifth outfielder, running the bases recklessly, and behaving like a jackass, but the odds of Ankiel actually being an upgrade are pretty slim.

Ankiel grades out considerably worse than Morgan defensively and has hit just .232 with a ghastly .298 on-base percentage and .388 slugging percentage in 196 games over then past two years. Morgan has hit .279 with a .343 OBP during that time, although certainly Ankiel brings far more power to the table.

According to Kilgore the Nationals haven’t decided yet what to do with Morgan, who would wind up back in the minors (or perhaps on the trading block) if they don’t keep him as a bench player.

BREAKING: Manny Machado to sign with the Padres: 10 years, $300 million

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Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Manny Machado has a deal with the San Diego Padres. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal is for ten years and $300 million with an opt-out after year five.

At the moment there is some disagreement as to how “done” this deal is, with Padres chairman Ron Fowler saying “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.” Ken Rosenthal, however, says that’s “semantics” and that the financial terms are in place, with the deal requiring over some final touches on language and Machado’s physical, which will likely be a formality.

The Padres were a late entrant into the Machado sweepstakes, but they reportedly met with Machado last week. The club has obviously not won for a long time, but they have a strong farm system. While that usually mitigates against a big free agent signing, Machado’s age — 26 — means that he’s still likely to be a productive player when that core of prospects is mature. And if it doesn’t develop, hey, he’s made some serious bank and can still opt-out at an age when he might get another decent paycheck.

For the Padres, Machado represents the biggest single investment in a player in club history. Last year they spent too, of course, giving Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million contract, but this is definitely next-level. As for the baseball side of things, it’s likely that Machado will be the full-time third baseman with Luis Urias handling shortstop. While all of the talk about Machado over the past several months has been focused on money and, sometimes, his alleged lack of hustle, the Padres are getting a player with a career line of .282/.335/.487 (121 OPS+), 175 career homers and a 33.8 career WAR in seven big league seasons. While he played shortstop last year and as a minor leaguer, his past and future is at third, where he is a superior defender. As for the hustle: it has almost exclusively been an obsession of the media, based on an ill-advised postgame quote in October. He has received no bad reviews from former teammates, all of whom speak highly of his game and his work ethic.

When the offseason began it appeared that the Phillies or the Yankees or, perhaps, the White Sox had the inside track on Machado. Everyone took a wait-and-see approach, reasonably believing that by waiting out Machado, a better deal could be struck. The risk of that approach, of course, is that it allowed the Padres to talk themselves into getting bold and, ultimately, swooping in to strike this deal.