Quick Links

A look at the Marlins vs. Nats series


A look at the Marlins vs. Nats series

By Doug McKinney

Nationals @ Marlins49-34 1st in NL East 41-44 4th in NL East

The RundownFriday, July 13-Monday, July 16Series 29Season Series Record: Marlins lead 3-2

Pitching Probables
Friday, July 13 7:10 pm
Jordan Zimmermann (5-6, 2.61 ERA) @ Josh Johnson (5-5, 4.06 ERA)

Saturday, July 14 7:10 pm
Gio Gonzalez (12-3, 2.92 ERA) @ Mark Buehrle (8-8, 3.25 ERA)
denotes left handed pitcher

Sunday, July 15 1:10 pm
Stephen Strasburg (9-4, 2.82 ERA) @ Ricky Nolasco (8-6, 4.35 ERA)

Monday, July 16 7:10 pm
Edwin Jackson (5-4, 3.73 ERA) @ Carlos Zambrano (4-7, 4.20 ERA)

Whos Hot & Whos Not
Hot: SS Ian Desmond .378 AVG, 5 HR, 12 RBI in last 10 games
Not: LHP Sean Burnett 6.00 ERA in July

Hot: OF Logan Morrison - .394 AVG, 3 HR, 10 RBI in last 10 games
Not: Closer Heath Bell 0-2, 9.64 ERA, in last 10 appearances
A Series Look
The Marlins flat out own the Nationals. Since coming to DC in 2005, the Nats have played the Fish 130 times, producing an awful 49-81 record against the artists formerly known as the Florida Marlins.

Tonights starter, Josh Johnson, is 8-0 with a 3.24 ERA and 87 strikeouts (his second most against any MLB club) against the Nationals. Luckily for DC, Miami wont have the services of OF Giancarlo Stanton (right knee). Stanton has posted video game like numbers against Washington. In his three-year career, the Marlins rightfielder is hitting .328 (with an absurd 1.122 OPS), belting 11 home runs (next closest total against another team: 8 vs. Phillies) and driving in 25 runs.

While the Nats have yet to win in the quirky Marlins Park, there may not be a better time to break that trend. The Marlins are 12-22 since the last time these two teams met up. Meanwhile, the Nats now own the best record in the National League and hold a nine-game lead over the fourth place Marlins.

A lot of analysts and fans were calling the Nationals series sweep over the Giants a statement series, but those who really know the Nats, would call this four-game set a more important one. Not only has Washington had problems with Miami, but manager Davey Johnson wants to open the second half of the season on a winning note. Doing so in a ballpark where they have yet to win a game, against a team they have struggled with, could go a long way for this club.

Prediction: Nationals win series 3-1

News and Notes
>There were whispers that RHP Drew Storen (elbow) would be activated for Friday nights series opener, but it sounds like the Nats brass want him to spend some more time on a rehab assignment. When the 24-year old returns, he will not be inserted into the closers role. Im expecting him to be brought back (to make his 2012 debut) when the team returns to DC for their series against the Mets on Tuesday.

>Staying on the DL front, utility man Chad Tracy (groin) should be back with the club in the next week or so. He had a setback during rehab over the weekend, but if he is cleared to resume playing in games, he shouldnt need very much longer. Tracy has been the Nationals best pinch hitter this season (.265 AVG, 3 HR, 12 RBI).

>With the All Star break over, its expected that Jayson Werth (wrist) will start swinging a bat in the near future. Werth had previously started baseball activities before the break. As Mark Zuckerman reported, the club is eyeing an early August return for the rightfielder. The former All Star was batting .276 with 3 HR, 12 RBI and a .372 OBP.

>Chien-Ming Wang (hip) starts his rehab assignment tonight with AAHarrisburg.

>The Nationals four All Star selections (Ian Desmond, Gio Gonzalez, Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg) are the most since the team came to DC.

>Tonight is the deadline for teams to sign their picks from the 2012 MLB Draft. The Nationals are hoping to agree to terms with first round pick RHP Lucas Giolito

Down on the Farm

>AAASyracuse: The Chiefs sent four players to the AAA All Star game this past week (Corey Brown, Zach Duke, Jim Negrych and Carlos Rivero) LHP John Lannan, who started two Opening Days for the Nationals, has posted a quality start in six of his last eight outings.

>AAHarrisburg: OF Chris Rahl (William & Mary) won the Home Run Derby at the 2012 Eastern League All Star game. For video, check out: Senatorsbaseball.com.

>A (Advanced)Potomac: The P-Nats have hosted a lot of big leaguers on rehab assignment over the last couple weeks (Storen, Tracy, Xavier Nady to name a few) There is still no update on 2011 1st round pick 3B Anthony Rendon (ankle). The Nationals expect him to return to action sometime in August.

>AHagerstown: 2011 1st round pick Alex Meyer is fresh off his appearance in the Futures Game. Meyer flashed a good fastball, dialing up 98 MPH on the radar gun. In addition to his heater, Meyer possesses a plus slider and a developing change-up. Look for a promotion to APotomac before the season is over Multiple position players are having fine seasons for the Suns including 3B Matt Skole (.280 AVG, 21 HR, 73 RBI, 14 2B) and OF Brian Goodwin (.315 AVG, 6 HR, 32 RBI, 14 SB) Former prospect who went by the name Esmailyn Gonzalez (now Carlos Alvarez) made his debut for Hagerstown last night, going 0-for-3 (with an RBI and BB) and serving as the DH.

>A (Short Season)Auburn: RHP Taylor Jordan, a 2011 SAL Mid-Season All Star, is currently rehabbing for the Doubledays Pedro Encarnacion, who was demoted from AHagerstown earlier this season, has been in a groove since the move (2-0, 1.71 ERA, 20 K7 BB in 21 innings).

>RookieGCL and DSL Nationals: 2008 5th round pick Catcher Adrian Nieto is currently on a rehab assignment for GCL Nationals. Expect Nieto to rejoin AHagerstown once he is ready, where he will return to a .259 clip (4 HR, 25 RBI) Relief pitcher Rafael Martin, who is highly regarded by some members of the Nationals think tank, has pitched in two games recently for the Nats rookie club. He is on the mend after violating MLBs drug policy.

Q&A Corner

This weeks guest is Matt Eddy, Associate Editor of Baseball America. (For more go to BaseballAmerica.com)

CSN: The trading deadline is approaching rapidly and so far, the first place Nationals haven't been mentioned as buyers in trade rumors. Do you think that will change and who will they be targeting?

BA: If the Nats are going to make a July trade, it'll be for an outfielder it would seem. Either a center fielder to take burden off Harper or a corner guy in the event that Werth doesn't make a full return. They look like they're in good shape everywhere else, especially if Storen returns at a level similar to last season.

Quick Links

Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Majestic’s reign as the maker of MLB jerseys are about to come to an end. 

In 2020, Fanatics and Under Armour will be teaming to make on-field jerseys and apparel for all MLB teams, according to a Sports Business Journal report. 

The news outlet also reports that the deal means the MLB’s licensing relations with Nike will be over as well. 

Under Armour will produce the jerseys starting in Spring Training of the 2020 season, and “broad apparel rights” will go to Fanatics. 

New Era will continue to be the maker of MLB hats. 

Given that Maryland native Kevin Plank founded Under Armour, and that the business' headquarters are in Baltimore, it’s sure to be a splash with baseball fans in the DMV.

You can read the full Sports Business journal report here. 

Quick Links

Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Here is an early look at the biggest questions facing the Washington Nationals as they embark on another offseason in their quest to build a championship team...

What to do with Wilson Ramos and the catcher position?

The Nationals' biggest question entering this offseason is without a doubt at catcher with All-Star Wilson Ramos on the mend after having the ACL in his right knee repaired on Friday. Not only is the recovery a long one - he could be out until well into the 2017 season - it is the second time he's had the ligament fixed. At 29, his viability as a primary catcher moving forward is a real question. Even Ramos admitted he may have to transition to the American League with his next contract.

If Ramos does leave, behind him will be a significant hole on the Nationals. They have several in-house options, but none that are anywhere close to Ramos, who emerged this season as the best offensive catcher in baseball. Pedro Severino is a nice young player, but has a career .632 OPS in the minors. The drop-off on offense from Ramos to him would be significant. The same can be said about Jose Lobaton.

It won't be easy replacing Ramos with an external option, if that's the way the Nats opt to go. Catchers who can hit and play defense like him are a rarity. Matt Wieters of the Orioles would be the best option in free agency, but he's a year older and is also a step down offensively. Unless they like Wieters - who does happen to be represented by Scott Boras - they may have to trade for a new backstop, and that won't be easy either. 

This is all not to rule out the Nationals re-signing Ramos, but right now it's difficult to project what type of contract he will garner and whether that could fit in their plans. Surely it would be tough for them to offer a long-term deal, but maybe they make sense if he decides to take a short-term contract to reset for free agency either next offseason or the one after that.

Any major upgrades needed?

The Nationals are in an interesting spot, having won 95 games and the NL East, but with yet another disappointing end to their year. General manager Mike Rizzo loves to make big splashes in the offseason. Every single winter he does something aggressive and unexpected. What will he do this year? There aren't many areas where he could potentially upgrade, but that hasn't stopped him in the past.

If Ramos leaves, catcher is obviously the biggest need. But beyond that, the two major problem areas in their lineup this season were at shortstop and first base. Danny Espinosa played solid defense and hit 24 homers, but held an unsightly .209 batting average. His .552 OPS in the second half was worst in baseball among those with at least 165 at-bats. 

Espinosa is always looking over his shoulder this time of the year and just this past winter appeared to be the odd-man out when the Nats traded for Ben Revere and signed Daniel Murphy. Espinosa managed to overcome the odds and play 157 games. He has one year left on his contract, so one way or another the Nats will need to start thinking long-term about his position.

Shortstop is an easier situation to evaluate than first base, where Ryan Zimmerman is due to make $14 million each of the next two seasons and $18 million the year after that. He had the worst season of his career with a .642 OPS through 115 games. Bringing in a first baseman to flat-out replace Zimmerman seems unrealistic, given his contract. But perhaps they can find someone who plays both first base and left field, with Jayson Werth having just one year left on his deal.

Who will be the closer?

The Nationals found success in the ninth inning with Mark Melancon after they acquired him at the trade deadline in a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it was just a rental. Now Melancon is due for free agency and the Nats once again have questions at the position. They could opt to re-sign Melancon, or go with another free agent option. Aroldis Chapman, whom they have coveted in the past, will be available. So will Kenley Jansen, who just helped end their season with the Dodgers. It's an unusually deep crop of star closers and it would be a surprise if the Nationals didn't snag one of them. Another option would be to promote Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen, but that would be out of the Nationals' character.

Are they content with the rotation?

If one were to pick the biggest reason the Nationals lost their NL Division Series against the Dodgers it would have to be the starting rotation. It was their most glaring weakness and it wasn't even close. This is despite the Nats being built on starting pitching and boasting one of the best regular season rotations in baseball. Losing Stephen Strasburg to injury didn't help, but they still had four capable starters left over. Max Scherzer struggled in Game 1, while Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross combined to pitch just 11 1/3 innings in their respective outings. 

If you look at the year as a whole, starting pitching was not a major concern. But the Nats are always aggressive in addressing their needs, whether big or small. They have top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, but neither distinguished themselves this season. Do they sit tight and hope things improve, or do they try to make another game-changing move? With a weak free agent class, any outside upgrade would have to come through a trade. Also, Gonzalez' $12 million team option is definitely something to watch this winter.

Will extension talks with Harper heat up?

Both the Nationals and Bryce Harper, one could argue, may have incentive to back away from the negotiating table this winter, given the Nats have to be less confident in giving Harper a record-setting contract after his disappointing year, and that Harper may not be wise to sign his new deal when his stock has lowered. But if the Nats and Harper do not come to terms this winter, that sets up a lot more pressure for the following offseason. Harper has two years left on his contract. Heading into next offseason without a deal, with just one year remaining, would create a lot of uncertainty for all sides involved, including the fans who certainly want to see the 2015 MVP remain in Washington for a long time. The storyline would dominate their offseason.

This upcoming winter always seemed like the best time to broker a deal to avoid that scenario, but the timing has not worked out with Harper's production on the field. Also, would anyone be surprised if it turns out Harper was dealing with an injury this season that held him back at the plate? If it were a serious one, he wouldn't have kept playing. But any injury has to be factored in those discussions.

[RELATED: Bullpen, baserunning leads to Nats heartbreak]