After swinging and missing throughout the offseason, the Washington Nationals finally connected by signing former New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy to a three-year deal.
Murphy helped lead the Mets to the World Series in 2015 and belted a home run in a record six-straight postseason games. He batted .298 with 14 home runs and 73 RBIs this season. He fills a hole the Nats looked to address this offseason. The deal comes after Washington’s deal to acquire Cincinnati Reds’ second baseman Brandon Phillips fell through after Phillips used is 10-5 rights to nix the deal. The 10-5 rights was put in by the MLB Player’s Association and occurs when a player has played at least 10
years in the league and at least five with one club. Phillips reportedly just bought a house in Cincinnati and is said to really like the area. The Nationals were going to take on his $27 million contract over the next two years.
Outfielder Jason Heyward and utility man Ben Zobrist both took less money from the Nationals to sign with the Chicago Cubs. Heyward declined a $200 million offer and signed for $184 million. Zobrist left $60 million on the table to accept a $54 million deal. Both players add something the Cubs need by getting on base. Heyward is one of baseball’s best defensive players and does a pretty good job at the plate. Zobrist is a utility man that can be used anywhere on the field. He also brings a World Series ring and a ton of experience with him, something that will help that young team tremendously. Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann declined the Nats’ qualifying offer to sign a five-year $110 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. Zimmermann is 29-years old and had a 46-24 record over the last three seasons, including a 19-win season in 2013. This is coming after he had Tommy John surgery back in 2009. Washington also lost starter Doug Fister to free agency and are seemingly alright with moving Tanner Roark and Joe Ross to the starting rotation. This doesn’t mean that they won’t sign another starter, as they are rumored to be interested in starters Wei-Yin Chen and Scott Kazmir.
All of this comes after the tumultuous end to the 2015 campaign, where there was a ton of in-house drama and even a player fight in the dugout that involved the franchise player Bryce Harper. Immediately following the season, the Nats fired manager Matt Williams and then had a deal in place with Bud Black to become the next manager until they surprised Black by hiring Dusty Baker to fill that spot. Did the late-season collapse, where they blew the division lead to the Mets, who went on to win the National League pennant, ward off free agents? Another big issue the Nats face in the future is whether or not they can get Harper signed to an extension before he becomes a free agent in 2018. It might not seem like a big deal two years out, but Washington will have to have a backup plan or two if they can’t retain Harper.
Christmas comes a day early for the Nationals after looking like they were getting nothing but coal and rejections for Christmas.