Rick Ankiel is ready to return from his quadriceps injury and manager Davey Johnson said today that he’ll come off the disabled list as the Nationals’ starting center fielder.
Roger Bernadina has started six of the Nationals’ seven games in center field, with Jayson Werth moving over from right field to take the other start.
Bernadina has hit just .238 with a .657 OPS in 260 career games, so it’s easy to see why Johnson and the Nationals are quick to replace him, although it’s also worth noting that Ankiel hit a nearly identical .239 with a .659 OPS in 122 games for Washington last season.
Michael Morse has been shut down for at least the next six weeks following a setback in his rehab for a lat muscle injury, so the Nationals can certainly use the outfield help, but Ankiel doesn’t figure to provide much relief offensively or defensively.
Former Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is up for grabs this offseason, and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says that as many as nine suitors are interested in bringing the righty aboard. While the Red Sox are eager to retain Eovaldi’s services after his lights-out performance during their recent postseason run, they’ll have to contend with the Brewers, Phillies, Braves, White Sox, Padres, Blue Jays, Giants, and Angels — all of whom are reportedly positioned to offer something for the starter this winter.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 28-year-old in 2018, however. After losing his 2017 season to Tommy John surgery, he underwent an additional procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in March and didn’t make his first appearance until the end of May. He was flipped for lefty reliever Jalen Beeks just prior to the trade deadline and finished his season with a combined 6-7 record in 21 starts, a 3.81 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, and 8.2 SO/9 through 111 innings.
Despite his numerous health issues over the last few years, Eovaldi raised his stock in October after becoming a major contributor during the Red Sox’ championship run. He contributed two quality starts in the ALDS and ALCS and returned in Games 1-3 of the World Series with three lights-out performances in relief — including a six-inning effort in the 18-inning marathon that was Game 3.
A frontrunner has yet to emerge for the righty this offseason, but Cafardo points out that the nine teams listed so far might just be the tip of the iceberg. Still, he won’t be the most sought-after starter on the market, as former Diamondbacks southpaw Patrick Corbin is expected to command an even bigger payday following his career-best 6.0-fWAR performance in 2018.