The Nationals topped the Cubs 2-1 this afternoon at Nationals Park for their 82nd victory of the season. This guarantees them their first winning record since moving from Montreal to D.C. for the 2005 season. The club went 81-81 in their first season in D.C. and 80-81 last year.
Ross Detwiler was excellent this afternoon, holding the Cubs to just four hits over seven shutout innings. Drew Storen pitched a scoreless eighth inning while closer Tyler Clippard danced around an RBI single by Welington Castillo in the ninth to lock down his 30th save of the season. Adam LaRoche launched his 25th home run of the season in the win while Ryan Zimmerman added an RBI double.
At 82-52, the Nationals currently own the best record in baseball and hold a 6 1/2 game lead over the Braves in the National League East. There’s officially winning baseball in D.C. for the first time since the Washington Senators went 86-76 in 1969.
Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.
There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.
The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.