Nats claim Ford from Rays, prepare to face young Marlins

In their continued quest to improve organizational depth, the Nationals claimed Mike Ford off waivers from the Rays on Monday, hoping the former Yankees first baseman can produce at Triple-A and perhaps help out at the big league level at some point.

Ford, 29, has spent parts of the last three seasons in the majors with the Yankees, first making a name for himself as a rookie in 2019 when he hit .259 with 12 homers, a .350 on-base percentage and .909 OPS in 50 games.

He failed to reproduce those numbers the last two seasons, though, hitting a combined .134 with five homers, a .250 on-base percentage and .526 OPS in 51 games. The Yankees wound up trading him to the Rays on June 17, and in 40 games at Triple-A Durham he hit .243 with 11 homers, a .346 on-base percentage and .874 OPS.

Stuck in the minors all summer, Ford was designated for assignment by Tampa Bay over the weekend to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. The Nationals claimed him and officially acquired him Monday, then immediately optioned him to Triple-A Rochester, where he’ll begin playing.

The left-handed-hitting Ford was undrafted out of Princeton but signed with the Yankees in 2013 and began a long, slow climb up their organizational ladder before making his major league debut six years later.

He won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2023 and free agency until 2026 at the earliest, and still has one more option year available, so the Nationals won’t be in any danger of losing him anytime soon.

Whether Ford has a future with a club that already has switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell set to return next season remains to be seen. But given the organization’s depth issues, Ford was a logical acquisition.

Ross-Delivers-White-Sidebar.jpgTo make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Nats transferred Joe Ross to the 60-day injured list. Ross, who has been shut down for the season with a partially torn right elbow ligament, already was on the 10-day IL.

* The Nationals are going to be facing some intriguing young pitchers this week in Miami, including one former prospect of theirs and another top prospect set to make his major league debut.

Jesús Luzardo, the Nats’ third-round pick in the 2016 draft, starts tonight’s series opener for the Marlins against Erick Fedde. The left-hander was part of the 2017 trade that brought Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington and impressed in Oakland after debuting two years later.

Luzardo, who had a 1.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 12 innings in 2019, finished eighth in American League Rookie of the Year voting last season after producing a 4.12 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 59 innings for the Athletics. But he struggled this season and wound up going to the Marlins last month in a deal for outfielder Starling Marte.

It’s been slow going for Luzardo (who grew up near Miami and went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School) in his first four starts for the Marlins, during which he has allowed 19 earned runs and 21 hits while walking 16 batters in only 17 2/3 innings.

On Wednesday night, the Nationals will get their first look at 23-year-old right-hander Edward Cabrera, the Marlins’ No. 2-rated prospect who will be making his big league debut. The 6-foot-5 Cabrera possesses a 100-mph fastball and sported a 2.93 ERA and 92 strikeouts in only 61 1/3 minor-league innings this season.

The Nats are scheduled to send their own impressive 23-year-old to the mound Wednesday in Josiah Gray, making for a compelling pitching matchup that could become annual theater for these division opponents.

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