Perhaps the most succinct way to describe Jonathan Papelbon’s time with the Washington Nationals is that it was never meant to be. On Saturday, reports surfaced that the Nationals informed Papelbon of their plans to designate him for assignment, leading him to ask for his release instead. In a sense, any outcome that leads to Papelbon’s departure is not a hard a decision, given the circumstances faced by both team and player.
With three off-days in the last eight day span, the Nationals had plenty of time for birthday parties and nights out in DC. Bryce Harper and fiancee Kayla Varner showed off their cooking skills, Wilson Ramos (and his daughter) celebrated birthdays, and prospect Koda Glover showed off his instagram game.
Lost in the midst of the Nats’ disappointing loss to the Indians was another solid outing from Max Scherzer. He took a no hitter into the seventh inning and ended up allowing only three hits and one run over seven innings, leaving with a loss as the lineup failed to provide any semblance of run support. Scherzer was on the cusp of a transcendent outing and though it may not feel like, that has been the norm this season.
Coming into this year, it seemed that Wilson Ramos’ time with the Washington Nationals was winding down. The talented but often injured catcher was coming off the worst offensive season of his career and looked likely to get lost in the shuffle.
This season has presented a different case, however. In the midst of what is by far his most productive year, Ramos enters Tuesday’s action with a .338/.387/.556 triple-slash line, 18 homers (already a career-high), and a 147 OPS+. Both the Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs version of WAR put him just under a total of four, which is another career-high.
One year is just that — one year — but it might be enough for the Nationals to bring Ramos back long term. Ramos, who turns 30 on Thursday, has a few factors working against him on the free agent market, but a four-year deal seems like a reasonable target, perhaps with a salary in the $15-$17 million range. (Brian McCann’s five year deal with the New York Yankees is my model, cutting one year off because of Ramos’ injury history.)
Agreeing to a long-term deal with Ramos is not ideal in some respects, because of his injury history and the fact that — if his offense takes a dive — his defense will not be enough to offset the decline. Yet, it may play out in a scenario in which both player and team find that a reunion is a mutually beneficial option.
The ability to sustain a high value could prove tough for Ramos over the length of the contract, but that might not stop the Nationals. For starters, even if he fails to live up to this year’s production, Ramos is still likely to contribute more offensively than the typical catcher. He is also familiar with the pitching staff, which gives him an advantage in an organization where there is no obvious replacement for the starting role.
The Nationals work hard at developing catchers, but as the farm system stands, the team is faced with several good options defensively, including Triple-A Syracuse’s Pedro Severino and Double-A Harrisburg’s Spencer Kieboom. However, neither has developed offensively to the point where they stand out as major-league ready starting catchers.
For Ramos, the reason for returning may turn out to be equally compelling. The upcoming offseason’s market for catchers is similar to ones of past years—loaded with names, but thin on talent. Of the prospective free agent catchers, the best comp to Ramos might be Matt Wieters, whose offensive production has taken a dive in recent weeks. The Baltimore Orioles seem unlikely to replace Wieters with an expensive option, and there are no obvious potential matches for Ramos. (I’m assuming that Jonathan Lucroy’s $5.25 million club option will be picked up by the Texas Rangers.)
Perhaps an unforeseen team will include Ramos as part of a spending spree, but recent history suggests that that is not always the end-all solutions—just ask this year’s Arizona Diamondbacks, or last year’s San Diego Padres. Furthermore, the free agent market as a whole is not particularly robust, so whatever resources teams have might not go toward a catcher approaching 30 and instead be allocated in a trade.
There are a lot of unknown variables that could play out over the next several months. For now, however, it seems like Ramos is bound to stay in DC a little longer.
The Washington Nationals visited some old friends this week, splitting a series with the San Francisco Giants and former National Denard Span, and decidedly sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks, for whom former manager Matt Williams coaches third base. It was a busy week with the non-waiver trade deadline smack in the middle and an off day sprinkled in for good measure and extra off-field escapades. Anthony Rendon got kids to the eye exams, the Nats met Willie Mays, and we all said goodbye to Felipe Rivero and his infinite potential to welcome sturdy veteran closer Mark Melancon.
Since Frank kicked off “feel good about the Nationals week,” I figured I would keep the good times rolling. While he talked about how the Nationals are in prime position to lock up the NL East and a playoff spot, I’m just here to make to tell you the Nationals are a good team. Period.
After weeks of speculation, the Nationals finally made a deal for a closer, a deal that fans had been demanding for quite a while. Except the deal wasn’t for either of the Yankees’ hard throwing lefties, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. It wasn’t for Royals closer extraordinaire Wade Davis either. Instead, it was for Mark Melancon in a deal that at worst looks like a fair trade but at best could be considered a borderline steal. Melancon’s name wasn’t making the rounds on the rumor mill for long before the deal got announced. So who exactly is the Nationals’ new closer?
If you managed to stay awake for the ending of the Nationals game against the San Francisco Giants on Friday night, then you got to see a little piece of Major League Baseball history, and a fairly large piece of Washington Nationals history.
Given where the market was expected to go, few could have foreseen the price the Washington Nationals paid to acquire Mark Melancon. In exchange for the three-time All-Star, the Nationals sent the Pittsburgh Pirates a major-league reliever in Felipe Rivero and a solid, but unheralded prospect in Taylor Hearn, a package much smaller in terms of quantity and quality than many expected.