Monthly Archives: January 2021

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The Senators played a key role in the 2019 World Series title.

With Triple-A Fresno on the other side of the country, Washington general manager Mike Rizzo and director of player development Mark Scialabba posted several Major League-ready players in the Pennsylvania capital.

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That made them a lot closer to Nationals Park or East Coast cities if needed on short notice.

One player who spent most of the 2019 season in Harrisburg was outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who came up big in the postseason with several clutch hits and plays on the defensive end. Taylor, drafted by the Nationals, recently signed with Kansas City.

Right-hander Aaron Barrett pitched for Harrisburg in 2019, was named to the Eastern League All-Star Game and led the league in saves. He returned to the majors in September 2019 and even though he was not on the postseason roster he was part of the wild celebration in the visiting clubhouse the night the Nationals won Game 7 over the Astros.

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Akron Aeros Vs. Harrisburg Senators 8-18-2011
“It is surreal,” Barrett said in the Nationals’ clubhouse at Minute Maid Park. “Four years ago I couldn’t even throw batting practice. It is just a special; it is a blessing.”

One of the catchers for Harrisburg in 2019 was Jake Lowery, the best college catcher in the country and the Johnny Bench Award winner in 2011 at James Madison in Virginia.

He was able to catch in the bullpen and games for some Major League veterans that year that the Nationals also used in Washington as well.

Harrisburg had veteran pitchers on the roster for part of 2019.

Unless his hitting never comes around, Bell will be a National for at least two seasons.

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It does not make sense that Mike Rizzo would invest in a player with Bell’s defensive capabilities if there were not at least a good chance he could DH.

Interleague play in AL parks will certainly give Ball a chance to hit in the DH slot, but he could be an excellent DH candidate if it’s back the National League this year.

Commissioner Rob Manfred imposed the DH on the NL, expanded the postseason field, and introduced some other quirks because COVID shortened the 2020 season.

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Those rules will expire unless the owners and the players’ union agree to extend them.

However, with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire after the 2021 season, the two sides could be anxious to agree early on things that might not be contentious, like the DH and expanded postseason, so they can spend more time negotiating serious issues, such as the owners’ contention that they suffered more than $3 billion in operating losses in 2020, despite paying prorated player salaries. Teams have already slashed non-player payrolls and consolidated the minor leagues and left 42 teams without big league support. Owners will be seeking more salary concessions from players who have already taken a cut.

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The Nats will acquire at least one more pitcher…

The Nats gave up two pitching prospects in the deal for Bell. The last time they surrendered multiple pitching prospects in an offseason trade, they shipped Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning, and Reynoldo Lopez to the Chicago White Sox for Adam Eaton. They then bolstered their pitching corps by trading for Austin Adams and Kyle McGowin and signing Matt Albers and Joe Nathan.

Only Albers worked out among the pitchers they signed that year, but the club still obtained more arms to replace the ones they lost.

The Nats will have an opening in their rotation with the loss of Aníbal Sánchez. Although, Erick Fedde, Joe Ross and Austin Voth will all be competing for two open spots in the rotation, there are still many free-agents available who could be considered more reliable and experienced than any of the three. Stephen Strasburg missed most of the 2020 season with a carpal-tunnel injury, and Max Scherzer worked through multiple injuries in the 2019 World Series championship season. Odds are that the Nats will need some more depth in 2021.

With an ice-cold free agent market driving down prices, and potential trades still on the horizon, don’t discount Mike Rizzo’s ability to snag a fourth ace to keep pace with Atlanta’s additions of Charle Morton and Drew Smyly and San Diego’s trades for Blake Snell and Yu Darvish.

That includes Trevor Rosenthal, Justin Miller, Erick Fedde, Brad Boxberger, and Kyle Barraclough.

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The manager of the Senators in 2019 was Matt LeCroy, a former catcher for Washington and a former bullpen coach for the Nationals.

Before the 2020 season, South Carolina native LeCroy was named control quality coordinator for the Nationals.

“It is just another set of eyes for our staff and player development,” LeCroy, who would have been in uniform at games in the minors in 2020, told Federal Baseball earlier this fall of his new role.

“We want to make sure we are on the same page with our program and make sure we are on the same page with the big-league staff.”

Harrisburg was also a solid training ground for several players that came up through Washington’s system.

Harrisburg Senators v Bowie Baysox
Photo by Diamond Images/Getty Images
That includes pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the MVP of the 2019 World Series; and former stars Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon.

Juan Soto played briefly for the Senators before he was promoted right to Nationals Park in May 2018.

The 2010 Harrisburg manager was Randy Knorr, who was recently added to the Major League coaching staff after being with Fresno in 2019.

The 2011 manager for the Senators was Virginia native Tony Beasley, who played at Liberty University and in the minor leagues with the Orioles and Pirates.

He was once traded for Fairfax native Tommy Shields, now the co-field coordinator in player development for the Nationals.

Beasley was a former coach for the Nationals under Frank Robinson. Shields played at Rochester while in the Baltimore system and played in the majors for the Orioles and Cubs.

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Going with this because a scout told Pirates beat writer (at The Athletic) Rob Biertempfel he could see it happening to clear up holes at first base and in the middle of their order, and I couldn’t think of anything else to put here. Plus in that article, Jim Bowden said he’s still big on Bell. And he’s good at talent evaluation.

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DECEMBER 24, 2020 – TWITTER:
Per sources: Pirates closing in on a trade of Josh Bell to the Nationals.

— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) December 24, 2020
First baseman Josh Bell has been traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Washington Nationals, a source tells ESPN. Two young pitchers headed back to Pittsburgh.

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— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 24, 2020
Can confirm that the Nationals are acquiring first baseman Josh Bell in a trade with the Pirates. Reported return to PIT is two young pitchers in Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean. @JMackeyPG was first to mention a deal was brewing.

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals for pitching prospects Eddy Yean and Wil Crowe on Thursday.

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Crowe was the third-ranked prospect in the Nationals organization, and Yean ranked sixth, per MLB.com.

Jeff Passan of ESPN and Jon Heyman of MLB Network first reported the deal and the players involved.

Bell has spent his entire career with the Pirates, emerging as a power-hitting All-Star during the 2019 season. He struggled during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 campaign, hitting .226/.305/.364 with eight home runs and 22 runs batted in, but the Nationals are banking on a bounce-back in a stronger lineup.

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The Pirates are moving on from Bell in what amounts to a long-term cash-saving measure. He has one year of arbitration remaining before he reaches free agency after the 2022 season.

The Pirates regularly have one of the lowest payrolls in the sport. Bell likely would have been out of their price range once he hit the open market, so they’re getting ahead off the curve by trading him—receiving more in return and punting on a 2021 campaign in which they were not expected to compete.

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The Nationals could be more likely to pay Bell over the long term, especially if he returns to 2019 form. If not, the opportunity cost is relatively low. He’s a dangerous power bat who can hit in the Nos. 4-6 slots but doesn’t bring much (if anything) defensively.

Washington desperately needed help at first base after Eric Thames struggled to fill the spot in 2020.

— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) December 24, 2020
According to the multiple reports above, the Nationals are acquiring Josh Bell, 28, from the Pirates in return for pitchers Wil Crowe and Eddy Yean.

Bell, a 2011 2nd Round pick by Pittsburgh, is coming off a .226/.305/.364 campaign in 2020 which saw the first baseman hit three doubles and eight homers in 57 games and 223 plate appearances, over which he was worth -0.4 fWAR in his fifth big league season in the Bucs’ lineup.

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In his last full season in 2019, Bell, a 6’4’’, switch-hitting, right-hand throwing first baseman, put up a .277/.367/.569 line, with career highs in doubles (37) and home runs (37), over 143 games and 613 PAs in a 2.5 fWAR campaign.

The Nationals are acquiring Bell, who has two years of team control left, in return for Crowe, 26, who made his MLB debut with the club in 2020, and Yean, 19, who signed for $100,000 out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2017.

Crowe was ranked No. 3 on the MLB Pipeline list of the Nats’ top prospects this year, while Yean, who pitched in the Gulf Coast and New York/Penn League’s in 2019, was ranked 6th overall in the organization.

GM Mike Rizzo talked last week about a power bat being the organization’s No. 1 priority this offseason, and mentioned finding one who could play first base or a corner outfield spot as the ideal addition. It looks like the first big move of the offseason is to add some middle-of-the-order pop at first base.

What’s next for Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office? What do you think of adding Bell to the mix in the nation’s capital? And the cost? The club just made the deal official…

“We are thrilled to be adding a player of Josh Bell’s caliber to our team,” Nationals’ President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a press release today.

“He adds a switch-hitting power bat to our lineup. And we know Josh will be an outstanding addition to our clubhouse and our community.”

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The first year of Patrick Corbin’s six-year/$140M deal with the Washington Nationals ended with the left-hander tossing three scoreless innings in relief in Game 7 of the World Series, which the Nats won. Corbin’s second season in D.C. ended in disappointment as the club limped to a 24-36 finish in the 60-game 2020 campaign and missed out on the postseason altogether after winning it all in 2019.

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Looking back on the second year of his contract with the Nationals, immediately after he’d completed the season with a (2-7) record in 11 starts, over which he’d put up a 4.66 ERA, a 4.17 FIP, 18 walks (2.47 BB/9), 60 Ks (8.22 K/9), and a .308/.349/.489 line against in 65 2⁄3 IP, (after he posted a 3.25 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 3.12 BB/9, 10.60 K/9, and .227/.293/.375 line against in 33 starts and 202 IP in ‘19), the lefty said things clearly did not go how he or teammates in the nation’s capital wanted it to go.

Patrick Corbin, Filthy 82mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/wCNWF6lgO8

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— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 26, 2020
“Obviously I think a lot of us would have wanted things to have gone differently,” the 31-year-old southpaw said, “… but you try to look at some positives, and finishing on a strong note, and ending this season healthy was definitely a big thing for me. So … just going to hopefully prepare for a normal offseason and a normal spring next year, and get ready for next season.”

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Corbin went winless in his final eight outings (0-7, with a 5.48 ERA and .338/.381/.541 line against in 47 2⁄3 IP over that stretch), so the fact that he was calling a seven-inning start in his final appearance, which saw him give up 10 hits and 3 ER in a 3-2 loss to the New York Mets, a positive finish, says a lot about how things went in 2020 overall.

The 85 total hits Corbin allowed on the season were the most in the majors in the truncated campaign, and the eight-year veteran saw opposing hitters’ exit velocity go up (90.7 MPH —up from 89.9 in ‘19), and his hard-hit% rise (from 38.7% in ‘19 to 44.2% in ‘20), while hitters’ average on his sinker was significantly up (.378 vs .280), as was the average against his four-seamer fastball (.415 from .232), with the BAA on his slider (.198 in ‘20 vs .158 in ‘19) up, but a bit less dramatically.

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Hitters had a .240 AVG on his changeup, down from .370 in 2019, and a .429 AVG on his curveball, up from .214, though they accounted for just 7.7% of the pitches he threw this season between the two of his five offerings.

“He struggled with his location at times, he has mentioned that,” manager Davey Martinez said before Corbin’s final 2020 outing.

Patrick Corbin, Wicked 81mph Slider…and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/8HpMAF1QSK

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— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 12, 2020
“He said his sinker sometimes didn’t sink, it just flattened out, trying to go in,” Martinez said.

“This is something that he knows coming into next year. He is going to be fine. His slider is his go-to pitch.

“He threw it, he threw it well, so I think the rest with him is going to help him out a lot.”

Corbin told reporters that he was hoping for a return to some sense of normalcy in 2021 after the late start, COVID restrictions, and all the testing/safety protocols in 2020.

“I just — maybe all year the ball just wasn’t coming out as it normally does,” he explained, “… and not really sure why that was. So, I just want to go into next year, hopefully, like I said, a normal season where you’re able to build up, get your arm strength there and be ready to make 33 starts. That’s kind of what I’m looking at, and obviously it’s a disappointment for us this season.”

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Having the season start late and end early for the Nationals, Corbin suggested, could be a positive in the end after he and his teammates endured that long run to the Fall Classic in 2019.

“Yeah I mean, we played an extra month last year,” he said.

“I think this year it will help. I mean, we did have a lot of time coming into this year, we had more time than we expected, so like I said, I just hope things are normal going into next season, and we are able to have a normal offseason, normal Spring Training and be ready to go.”