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Winter Meetings Rumors: N.L. East

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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.

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Even after two-plus years, Hunter Strickland couldn't forget last meeting with Bryce Harper

Even after two-plus years, Hunter Strickland couldn't forget last meeting with Bryce Harper

965 days. That's the amount of time that separated the second time Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland faced each other on an MLB diamond and the third one.

In that second matchup, which came back in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, Harper launched a game-tying home run in the seventh inning off of Strickland. Harper also hit a blast off Strickland in Game 1 of the same series.

Well, apparently, the Giants reliever still hasn't gotten over his last time he saw the Nationals star, because on Monday, the right-hander plunked the MVP candidate with a fastball the first chance he had since their postseason encounters almost three years ago.

Ironically enough, after San Francisco beat Washington in the NLDS, Strickland told the SF Chronicle how he would have to "have a short memory" on the mound for the rest of the playoffs and keep his composure after the home runs. Judging by this video, however, it's clear that Strickland's had some issues moving on:

RELATED: MORE ON THE HARPER VS. STRICKLAND BRAWL

When you look back at that Game 4 meeting, you'll see Harper pause at home plate and watch his moonshot after sending it into the McCovey Cove, then glare at Strickland a few times as he rounds the bases. Some will call what No. 34 did a violation of baseball's unwritten rules, but it was a huge moment on a huge stage, which contributed to Harper's emotional reaction.

The fact of the matter is that plenty of pitchers have moved on from much more egregious things in much shorter time frames, but for whatever reason, Strickland just wasn't able to.

Afterward, Harper explained why he thinks the hit by pitch should've never happened.

But Ryan Zimmerman had the best quote of all when talking about the sequence:

The veteran is right on with that statement. Harper was better than Strickland back in 2014, so Strickland felt the need to tag Harper first before Harper had a chance to tag him again on Monday. Essentially, the pitcher followed the, "If you can't beat him, bean him" strategy.

965 days is a long time to get over a grudge. For Hunter Strickland, though, 965 days still wasn't enough.

MORE: 10 INSANE BALLPARK FOODS YOU CAN EAT IN 2017

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Bryce Harper charges mound, throws punches after Hunter Strickland hits him with pitch

Bryce Harper charges mound, throws punches after Hunter Strickland hits him with pitch

In their two previous meetings, Bryce Harper took Hunter Strickland deep. Very deep, in fact.

So in their third encounter, Strickland made sure that Harper wouldn't have the chance to do it again. 

RELATED: HERE'S THE HISTORY BETWEEN BRYCE HARPER AND HUNTER STRICKLAND

In the top of the eighth inning of Monday's Nationals-Giants game, the San Francisco reliever went after Washington's best player on the first pitch and hit him in the thigh with a 98 MPH fastball.

Harper — without hesitation — responded by charging the mound and throwing his helmet at Strickland, and the two then squared off and exchanged punches.

Here is the wild video of the whole sequence:

Harper and Strickland were, of course, ejected after initiating one of the best MLB fights in recent memory. This was the pair's first time facing each other since Harper's two home runs in the 2014 NLDS, meaning Strickland's had a long time to get over No. 34's blasts but simply couldn't do it.

MORE: 10 INSANE BALLPARK FOODS YOU CAN FIND (AND TASTE) IN 2017