James Wagner of the Washington Post chronicles what it’s like when you combine a team that wins a boatload of games and some veterans with senses of humor:
The Nationals carry the best record in baseball on the field, but they’re also a vibrant and jovial group of players off it. They smile and laugh in the dugout, the bullpen and behind the scenes — enlivened by winning. But few of the players have ever been in a pennant race, and the light-hearted tone set by veterans is as important now as ever.
The article describes most of the stuff you’ve heard about from happy clubhouses before: pranks, jokes, icy-hot in jockstraps, etc. Still, it’s all new in Washington.
How you can tell when the Nationals have really arrived, however? When they do this stuff all year, win 100 games and then have bad luck in the playoffs, after which some bitter tabloid columnist writes the “maybe the Nats should have been more serious” column like you’d see in New York or Boston.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.