When the Nationals promoted Bryce Harper from low Single-A to Double-A two weeks ago there was speculation that they decided to have the game’s best prospect skip high Single-A altogether because of the terrible field conditions in Potomoc.
Mike Rizzo denied that was the case at the time, but yesterday the general manager issued a statement about what he called “dangerous field conditions” at Pfitzner Stadium:
The Washington Nationals would never consider asking our players, or those of our opponents, to play on a field that we believe represents a safety threat. The Nationals have repeatedly requested that dangerous field conditions be addressed under the supervision of Major League Baseball. Recent unsupervised work has resulted in a field that is even more dangerous. We regret any inconvenience this may cause to fans of the Potomac Nationals, but we know they join us in wanting only the best for our players.
I’m sure the quality of the playing surface wasn’t the sole driving force behind where the Nationals assigned one of the most valuable assets in all of baseball, but based on Rizzo’s statement it sure sounds like they would have been extremely hesitant to send Harper to “a field that we believe represents a safety threat.”
What a mess.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”