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Nationals Mailbag No. 2: MASN and Some Other Minutiae...

Since we’ve hit another point where there isn’t much “news” as I would define it for the Nationals, we’ve opened up the mailbag again.

While ownership-related questions have continued to pop up, we’re pleased to see that there is still interest in Washington’s on-field product. It’s a reminder that even in a season when the team has little hope for anything other than the No. 1 overall draft pick, there are plenty of story lines and reasons to keep tuning in.

Let’s dive into it!

Give us a primer on the MASN deal and the likely paths forward (or lack thereof) – Justin R. (@young_jred on Twitter): We’ll start with this question, since it’s the one that’s been the most on my mind. In fact, I’ve circled around it in some of my recent writing.

Keep in mind that Peter Angelos and the Orioles own the MASN television contract. A new owner would likely ramp up MASN negotiations, but a new owner does not automatically make the contract void.

Enter Ted Leonsis into this discussion.

As we’ve discussed, he and Monumental Sports & Entertainment are acquiring NBC Sports Washington. That’s the network that currently broadcasts (among other programming) Wizards and Capitals games, both of which are franchises that Leonsis owns.

A logical conclusion to come to would be that if Leonsis bought the Nationals, they would migrate to Monumental’s television network. But again, given Angelos’ stranglehold over the MASN deal, it’s not entirely up to Leonsis – or any new owner.

How long the MASN contract runs is somewhat unclear, as a multi-year extension was announced prior to last season. In any event, I think the Nationals can get out of it, but, it’s very complex and will likely require a level of legal involvement that I’m not knowledgeable enough to discuss – sorry, guys!

I’ll caution everyone of one thing, though. Leonsis or any other prospective owner could simply buy the Orioles and forgo the extra MASN hurdles. There’s some reporting suggesting that Leonsis is indeed exploring the Orioles, who may also come up for sale. In his case, having control over both teams (if the MASN structure remained) would only strengthen Monumental.

My guess is Leonsis would rather own the D.C. market, but constructing a D.C.-Baltimore partnership definitely has some appeal from an owner’s perspective.

If I was a betting man, I’d say Leonsis takes over one of the two teams. That would result in MASN being impacted in some way by Monumental, whether the existing MASN rights are acquired or scrapped completely.  One way or another, I expect Peter Angelos to be out of the picture.

There’s a lot that we don’t know about ownership, but as we’ve mentioned, the candidates aside from Leonsis appear to be Larry Lucchino, Josh Harris, Michael B. Kim and Stanley Middleman. If one of them purchases the team and Leonsis doesn’t take over the Orioles, all bets are off in regards to MASN.

Now let’s transition to on-field conversations that don’t require me drawing inferences from reports!

Harvey or Finnegan as the primary closer next season? – Jose S. (@Js_Smiles14 on Twitter): For argument’s sake, I’ll throw Carl Edwards Jr. into this discussion.

Truth be told, this seems like a better late-inning trio than the Nationals have often boasted. As long as it’s working, I wouldn’t tamper with it. No one of the three is outplaying the others.

With that said, I’m high on Harvey. He hasn’t proven that he can close games yet and I’d like to see him stay healthy, but I think he profiles as a capable closer.

My ideal scenario would be for the Nationals to keep Harvey-Edwards-Finnegan as the 7th-8th-9th  trio, trade Edwards and Finnegan at next year’s Trade Deadline, and transition Matt Cronin and Mason Thompson into setup roles – with Harvey taking over as the closer.

Notice that I didn’t include Tanner Rainey. Do so if you wish, but I’m hesitant to count on anything from him next season.

To put the record straight, I also like Victor Arano and believe he could factor into the mix if needed. As is the case with many of these relief arms, he just needs to stay healthy. And of course, there are other young pitchers like Zach Brzykcy, Jose Ferrer or Evan Lee – who I think becomes a reliever – who could grow into key roles next season, too.

Is the DiSarcina Era worse than the Sendley Era? – Alex Y. (@0Simalex2 on Twitter): I’m glad Alex referred to the eras, not Gary DiSarcina and Bob Henley directly. The truth is more complex than that.

I’m sure Alex is primarily referring to runners being thrown out rounding third base and heading home. Statistically, the Nationals have been worse under DiSarcina than Henley in that regard. Sunday’s out at home by way of Luke Voit was the 19th  such occurrence this season – tied for the most in baseball.

So to answer Alex’s question, it’s worse. However, there are some other related points that should be made:

  1. This team’s official base running coach is first base coach Eric Young Jr., who is also in charge of the outfield. In that sense, he’s more comparable to Henley.
  2. DiSarcina handles the infield – which is its own debacle. Performance in that area was better under Tim Bogar (currently the bench coach).
  3. The Nationals have a lot of objectively bad base runners. Their leader in stolen bases by a healthy margin is Victor Robles, and everyone knows how enigmatic he can be. 

Any word on how Stras has been recovering? – @CXiminez1967 on Twitter: Back on August 3, Mark Zuckerman of relayed via Dave Martinez that Stephen Strasburg is “not doing anything” until the stress reaction in his ribs heals. That’s the last we’ve heard about him.

There’s no real clarity on whether his injury will require surgery yet, but there’s also no indication that he’ll need a repeat operation of the TOC surgery he had returned from earlier this season.

Strasburg is obviously out for the rest of this season. Anything beyond that is unclear. As a reminder, he’s owed $35 million per year through 2026, although a portion of that salary will be paid through deferrals.

As for any broader roster-building questions, I wouldn’t bank on him as a part of the on-field future.

Why couldn’t I get the Nats broadcast on Audacy this weekend? – @steeljawscribe on Twitter: This is a good reminder, for fans who can’t view games or prefer audio-only experiences, you can listen to games via the team’s radio broadcasts. The Audacy app allows you to navigate or subscribe to 106.7 The Fan, where most games are broadcasted.

With that said, I’m not sure why you were unable to find game(s) this weekend, especially since none of them were national broadcasts. I’ve solicited feedback, but nobody’s come up with an explanation or solution.

Does Roger Bernadina get enough credit for being the original Shark for the Nats? Feel like everyone forgot about this. – @PutJacobyInHOF on Twitter: I love this question! I don’t think he does.

Back during the pandemic, while I was writing for my own blog site, I made note of Bernadina while constructing first and second-team All-Decade rosters. Bernadina wasn’t a sensational hitter, but he was a decent defender and a great energizer. He eventually got left behind once the team improved, and his career fizzled, but during the transitional years at the beginning of the decade, he was one of the more “appointment viewing” players on the roster.

Some Miscellaneous Updates

Maikel Franco has been designated for assignment, and Yadiel Hernandez has been transferred to the 60-day IL, ending his season. If the Nationals wish to claim or promote a position player, it seems that Cesar Hernandez is next on the chopping block.

There’s no Monday game for the Nationals, but then they’ll host the Oakland Athletics for three games before going on the road for a week and a half to face the Mets, Cardinals and Phillies.

Martinez has announced Erick Fedde, Anibal Sanchez and Cade Cavalli as the starters for the next three games. He’ll presumably trot out Paolo Espino, Patrick Corbin and Josiah Gray respectively after that before restarting the rotation.

Martinez also stated that Cavalli and Gray will likely receive an extra day between starts going forward. He hasn’t said whether that means the Nationals will use a six-man rotation or fill select days with bullpen games, though, nor which starter might eventually move to the bullpen. Nonetheless, the overall intent is to limit Cavalli and Gray’s innings – the latter of whom had his last start skipped for the same reason.

Keep an eye out for more mailbags going forward. They’ve been sporadic, but we love to keep delivering the content you want to see!



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Sunday, 29 January 2023

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