Quick Links

Winter Meetings Rumors: N.L. East

espinosa_12-3.png

Winter Meetings Rumors: N.L. East

Washington Nationals

Once again the Nationals are the subject of tons of rumors in the offseason and now they are focused on their need for another starting pitcher. Two players in particular have been linked to the Nats. A trade for James Shields of the Rays was discussed according to Nats Insider Mark Zuckerman, but the teams aren’t close to a deal at the moment. The Rays wanted both Michael Morse and Danny Espinosa, two starters on the team’s 2012 team that won 98 games. Shields went 15-10 with a 3.52 ERA through 227 2/3 innings in 2012. 

The Nats have also been linked to free agent right-hander Mike Pelfrey who is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Pelfrey spent the last seven seasons with the New York Mets and holds a 4.36 ERA in his career.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies are still believed to be looking for their starting center fielder and could be seeking a cheaper alternative to Michael Bourn. Angel Pagan may be their primary target as the 31-year-old isn’t seeking a deal as long or as lucrative. Pagan was a member of the World Series champion Giants and they are believed to be competing with Philadelphia for his services. [UPDATE: The Giants have re-signed Pagan to a four-year, $40 million deal]

Atlanta Braves

The Braves have already been active in this year’s offseason in acquiring B.J. Upton and Jordan Walden. It appears they are still shopping, but could be waiting for the market to play out. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says the team may still be interested in Shane Victorino and Angel Pagan, but not at their current prices. They also discussed a trade for Dexter Fowler of the Rockies and that pitcher Mike Minor was requested in return. Sounds like that was more than Atlanta wants to give up.

New York Mets

Believe it or not, the Mets have continued talks with teams about trading 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. It sounds like the 38-year-old is unlikely to reach a contract extension with New York and the team wants to see what they can get with his value as high as it will ever be. These types of scenarios are rare, so it will be interesting to see what the Mets can get for the veteran knuckleballer.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins aren’t going to throw around money like they did last year, but Miami is interested in acquiring some veterans on the cheap for 2013. Juan C. Rodriguez of The South Florida Sun Sentinel has reported the team’s interest in free agent outfielder Mark DeRosa. DeRosa, 37, was a bench player for the Nationals in 2012.

Quick Links

Gio Gonzalez bounced early as Nats fall to Diamondbacks

Gio Gonzalez bounced early as Nats fall to Diamondbacks

Postgame analysis of the Nats' 3-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night at Nationals Park.

How it happened: The Nationals will be starting Gio Gonzalez in the NL Division Series against the Dodgers whether it's their preference or not. That's not to say they aren't at all comfortable with having him on the mound in the playoffs. He's been there before and happens to have plenty of recent success against the very team he'll face.

It's just that with Stephen Strasburg injured and Joe Ross not yet stretched out since returning from the disabled list, Gonzalez is essentially their third starter by default. And with how inconsistent he's been lately, that produce an interesting dynamic in the postseason. It's Gio Gonzalez roulette: who will take the ball and stare down Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez, Good Gio or Bad Gio?

The latter was on display Wednesday night in the Nats' 3-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, a game shortened to 6 1/3 innings by unrelenting rain. He managed just 3 2/3 innings on 100 pitches. That's not an MLB record for pitches in such a short start, but it's not far off. Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia, for instance, threw 107 pitches in 3 2/3 just five years ago.

Gonzalez' latest outing may not go down in the annals of history, but it was a troubling sight for the Nationals. The next time he will pitch is against the Dodgers, either in L.A. or Washington. And given the nature of a five-game series, their season could be on the line.

Gonzalez needed 24 pitches to get out of the first inning and was fortunate to give up just one run in the frame, that on a groundout by Paul Goldschmidt. Gonzalez needed 24 more in the second after giving up a single and a walk, but no runs. 

He threw 29 more in the third, including an RBI double to Brandon Drury. In the fourth, he tossed 23 more pitches and was pulled after Goldschmidt landed an RBI single, Gonzalez' third run of the evening.

Gonzalez has been bounced after 4 1/3 innings or less in four of his last nine starts. In his last five outings, he's surrendered 19 earned runs in 23 innings. He's trending in the wrong direction after a strong July and August, and it's not good for the Nats.

Gonzalez didn't go deep in his start, but he wasn't necessarily terrible either. The Nats' offense fell closer to that description. They managed zero runs on five hits and one walk against Arizona starter Shelby Miller. His 6.15 ERA through 20 starts this season makes his 2015 All-Star nod seem like a distant memory.

The Nationals lost their second game of this series against the Diamondbacks and will now hope for a four-game split on Thursday. Washington has dropped seven of their last 11 games.

What it means: The Nationals fell to 92-65 not the year with four games remaining. Their magic number to clinch home field advantage in the NLDS stands at four.

Rendon lands two: Anthony Rendon was once again a standout for the Nats on offense with a pair of singles in two plate appearances. That came one night after he led the Nats to victory with a three-run homer. Rendon now has six hits in his last five games and appears to be heating up as the Nats enter the final four games of the regular season. With Wilson Ramos out, Rendon is even more important as one of the Nationals' most potent right-handed bats.

Belisle keeps it up: He may not pitch in high-leverage spots, and he may not bring electric stuff out of the bullpen, but veteran Matt Belisle just continues to produce in whatever role the Nats ask of him. He replaced Gonzalez in the fourth inning on Wednesday and tossed 1 1/3 perfect frames. He got four outs on seven pitches, a nice change of pace from the 100 pitches Gonzalez needed to record 11 outs. Belisle was even checked on by trainer Paul Lessard before he began the fifth inning, but he didn't show any problems afterwards.

Gio playing with a heavy heart: Gonzalez was pitching with a lot on his mind Wednesday night following the death of his friend Jose Fernandez over the weekend. Gonzalez was in tears while warming up in right field before the game and plans to fly to Florida in the morning to attend the funeral services of the late Marlins star. 

Up next: The Nats and Diamondbacks finish of their series with a 1:05 p.m. start on Thursday afternoon. Joe Ross (7-5, 3.48) will pitch opposite former Nats prospect Robbie Ray (8-14, 4.77).

[RELATED: Podcast: Can Nationals win without Wilson Ramos?]

SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE NATIONALS STORIES

Quick Links

Ledecky explains how Bryce Harper ended up wearing her swim cap

Ledecky explains how Bryce Harper ended up wearing her swim cap

When the Nationals clinched the AL East, you might have noticed Bryce Harper sporting a swim cap as he and his teammates celebrated with the traditional champagne spraying.

He got the swim cap from none other than Olympic gold medalist and Bethesda native Katie Ledecky… but how exactly did he acquire it from her? 

Remember when she threw out the first pitch at the Nationals game while Harper held all of her medals? Ledecky sent Harper a thank you note for doing that, along with one of her swim caps. 

“I told him that maybe [the swim cap] could help him contain his hair as he was rounding third base,” Ledecky joked in a Twitter video posted by Stephen Whyno during Wednesday night’s Team USA Awards. 

Harper might not have used the cap for that, but we’re pretty sure Ledecky approves of how Harper used the cap anyway.