Nationals manager Davey Johnson broke the news to Stephen Strasburg on the plane ride home Monday: the 24-year-old right-hander will “probably” make just two or three more starts this season.
Johnson says he has a “pretty firm plan” for Strasburg, but it’s based on how many innings the right-hander pitches in his next starts. Strasburg is currently at 150 1/3 innings. Speculation all year is that he’d be shut down once he reached 160 innings.
Strasburg is slated to make his next start at home against the Cardinals on Sunday. His final outing will probably come at home against the Marlins on Sept. 7 or on the road in New York on Sept. 12.
The Nationals will likely plug John Lannan into Strasburg’s rotation spot. Assuming that they hold on to win the NL East, they could use a rotation with a top three of Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson in October. Ross Detwiler would be favored over Lannan for the fourth spot.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.