Instead of waiting for the free-agent outfielder dominoes to fall in the aftermath of B.J. Upton’s deal with the Braves, the Nationals took to the trade market, acquiring Denard Span from the Twins for minor-league right-hander Alex Meyer. R.J. Anderson has more details on that trade here; today’s Roundup begins with a look at three of its possible consequences.
Impact of Span trade on Adam LaRoche’s talks with Nationals unclear
The first is the impact of the Span pickup on Washington’s talks with its 2012 first baseman. General manager Mike Rizzo and LaRoche’s agent, Mike Milchin, have not seen eye-to-eye on the 33-year-old’s value after a career-best 3.6 WARP campaign. In addition to filling a void in center field, Span gives Rizzo more flexibility at other positions—which, in this case, means more leverage in negotiations with Milchin.
Washington Times beat writer Amanda Comak was told on Thursday that Rizzo’s plans regarding LaRoche are the same as they were when Span was still a Twin: He wants him back, but only on team-friendly terms that account for some level of regression. If Milchin sticks to his guns, said to be a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $33 million, then Rizzo could let LaRoche walk, move left fielder Michael Morse to first base, and save $11 million annually in the process. Conversely, if Rizzo and Milchin come to terms, then Morse would likely become a trade chip, with a starting pitcher to replace free agent Edwin Jackson topping the Nationals’ short list of needs.
But Span’s contract, which has two guaranteed years remaining at a total cost of $11.25 million, also keeps the door open for bigger things. By upgrading his outfield without breaking the bank for Upton or Michael Bourn, Rizzo has kept his coffers well stocked on the heels of a 98-64 season enabled, in part, by owner Ted Lerner’s willingness to raise his payroll from $68.3 million to $92.5 million. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote last night that Rizzo should utilize his financial flexibility to bring in an elite talent, and the additional $4-5 million that he would save by retaining Morse ($6.75 million 2013 salary) over LaRoche (projected $11 million AAV) could help him to do just that.
Rosenthal’s column focused on Zack Greinke, who has also been tied to the deep-pocketed Rangers and even-deeper-pocketed Dodgers, but who might prefer the already-open window of competition in Washington D.C. If maximizing income is Greinke’s top priority, then he figures to land in Chavez Ravine, but Rosenthal suggests that Greinke’s awareness of teams’ situations—which, incidentally, led him to decline a trade to the Nationals two years ago—could play a pivotal role in his decision. The opportunity to co-anchor a rotation that also features Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t come around every day, and if Rizzo puts enough green on the table, Greinke may choose to forgo a record-setting haul for a chance to contribute to a dynasty.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark tweeted on Tuesday that the Greinke bidding is “moving slowly” and probably won’t heat up until his agent, Casey Close, arrives at the Winter Meetings. How involved the Nationals are at that point will reveal the true impact of the Span trade on their 2013 plans.
Ryan Dempster a popular third-tier starter option
Meanwhile, some of the teams that cannot afford Greinke or have moved on for other reasons are setting their sights on Dempster, who scuffled after a midseason trade to the Rangers, but nonetheless topped 2.0 WARP for the fifth consecutive season. The 35-year-old northpaw missed three weeks with a shoulder strain suffered in mid-June, but that absence marked his first arm-related trip to the disabled list since he underwent Tommy John surgery in August 2003. Even in his mid-30s, durability remains one of Dempster’s strengths.
And that’s one reason why, according to Rosenthal, Dempster appeals to the Angels, Brewers, and Red Sox. The Angels need someone to supplant Greinke’s output, the Brewers could lose Shaun Marcum to free agency after shipping Greinke to Anaheim in July, and the Red Sox are looking for whatever quality innings they can find. Dempster is no ace, but he should be a serviceable number-three or –four starter at a relatively reasonable price.
ESPN’s Buster Olney heard on Thursday that Milwaukee might be Dempster’s preferred destination because of his familiarity with the Midwest, but if agent Craig Landis is—as Rosenthal reported—shopping for a three-year pact, then budget-conscious general manager Doug Melvin could get cold feet. The Red Sox, who have been burned in recent years by long-term hitches with pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey, might also think twice before signing Dempster through his 38th birthday.
If that’s the case, Landis and Dempster may be better served trading length for average annual value. On the other hand, Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star wrote on Thursday that the Royals “dropped out” of the running for Dempster when Landis rejected a two-year, $26 million pact. That decision, apparently rendered within the last week, suggests that he already has at least one three-year proposal on the table.
Manny Parra could soon join the crowded reliever unemployment line
With the deadline for arbitration-eligible players to be non-tendered set for this afternoon, rumors on the topic are a dime a dozen. An intriguing one that may have flown under the radar, though, concerns Parra, who could be cut by the Brewers as Melvin cobbles resources to plug other holes.
After bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen during his first four major-league seasons, and then spending the 2011 campaign on the shelf while recovering from surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his elbow, Parra made all 62 of his 2012 appearances out of the bullpen. The result was a tale of two seasons.
From April through July 22, the 30-year-old southpaw was effective, if occasionally erratic. Blessed with a four-pitch arsenal but hindered by poor command, Parra logged a 46-to-17 K:BB and allowed only two home runs over 43 innings, good for a 2.85 FIP. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. Parra issued six combined walks in his next two trips to the mound, and was subsequently placed on the DL with shoulder inflammation. He returned 17 days later, but wasn’t the same, issuing 12 walks in 14 2/3 innings the rest of the way.
Parra is arbitration eligible for the final time in 2013, and after earning $1.2 million last season, he is likely to get a modest raise if the Brewers don't send him packing. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt spoke with Melvin on Thursday, and was told that the team “might” choose to seek a replacement for the league minimum. Miguel De Los Santos, a 24-year-old who amassed 70 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings for the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate and was signed by the Brewers in September, is one option, and there is no shortage of others with less upside on the minor-league free-agent wire or in next week’s Rule Five draft.
Considering Parra’s solid first-half performance, assuming that he can prove that he has recovered from his summertime shoulder woes, he should land on his feet regardless of this afternoon’s decision.
Update (3:11 p.m. ET): Haudricourt is now reporting that the Brewers have indeed decided to non-tender Parra.