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2016 MLB thread. THE CUBS HAVE BROKEN THE CURSE! Chicago Cubs are your 2016 World Series champions. - Page 661

post #19801 of 77570
Thread Starter 
No idea why they'd pay him when they have almost the exact same closer.
post #19802 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

No idea why they'd pay him when they have almost the exact same closer.
Cashman low-balling expectations for Ma Kun.

http://espn.go.com/new-york/mlb/story/_/id/10419250/gm-brian-cashman-new-york-yankees-projects-masahiro-tanaka-no-3-starter
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post #19803 of 77570
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post #19804 of 77570
Last year he loses weight and this year he gains. He's grasping for anything to work. Maybe he should just maintain and pick up yoga and better stretching routines. Health is his greatest weakness.
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post #19805 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Last year he loses weight and this year he gains. He's grasping for anything to work. Maybe he should just maintain and pick up yoga and better stretching routines. Health is his greatest weakness.
Baseball aside, I hope Josh remains addiction free. It's likely he won't ever warrant the contract the Angels gave him on the field.

http://elitedaily.com/sports/mind-body-soul-10-athletes-took-game-next-level-yoga/
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post #19806 of 77570
Josh bulking up isn't going to help him catch up to the pitching in the AL West. He'll crush mistakes (as he usually does), but I'm betting he made himself further vulnerable to better pitchers.
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post #19807 of 77570
28 pounds of muscle in 1 offseason? Lol that has PEDs all over it
post #19808 of 77570
Was it muscle or just pounds? 28 LBS. of muscle would be insane.
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post #19809 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by JumpmanFromDaBay View Post

28 pounds of muscle in 1 offseason? Lol that has PEDs all over it

Quote:
Originally Posted by 651akathePaul View Post

Was it muscle or just pounds? 28 LBS. of muscle would be insane.
Gluten-free diet.

Lulz.
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post #19810 of 77570
The dude that wrote the "Breakout Sluggers of 2014" piece that Pro posted yesterday, Lewie Pollis, is a great baseball mind.

He used to run an Indians blog, but got an internship with the team, is now freelancing for ESPN and is taking a baseball ops internship with the Reds this season. He also won a huge award for a sabermetrics thesis he wrote last year, and had a pretty publicized debate with Dave Cameron about the price of a win not too long ago (his research concluded that it's more like $7 million than the standard $5 million that Fangraphs uses). Still in school (Brown). I've corresponded with him on a few Indians-related things.
Edited by Kevin Cleveland - 2/7/14 at 4:37pm
post #19811 of 77570
I'm adding Moustakas to the sluggers list.
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post #19812 of 77570
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post #19813 of 77570

Paul Maholm to the Dodgers according to sources. It may be a minor league deal cause Mattingly said he isn't expecting any changes to the 40 man roster.

post #19814 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhillyzPhan View Post

Paul Maholm to the Dodgers according to sources. It may be a minor league deal cause Mattingly said he isn't expecting any changes to the 40 man roster.
Makes sense when LAD lost Arroyo to D-Backs. Dominoes falling.

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24435922/reports-dodgers-appear-to-have-a-deal-with-paul-maholm
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post #19815 of 77570

Dodgers have a nice rotation. Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Haren, and Billingsley. If the Maholm signing works out and Beckett's problems were because of that nerve issue he had surgery for, they could be loaded.

post #19816 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhillyzPhan View Post

Dodgers have a nice rotation. Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Haren, and Billingsley. If the Maholm signing works out and Beckett's problems were because of that nerve issue he had surgery for, they could be loaded.
In my heart I want to believe Beckett has another good year or two left in him.
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post #19817 of 77570

A world of his own

Aroldis Chapman lives the American dream, but pines for the life he left in Cuba

Originally Published: February 7, 2014
By Eli Saslow | ESPN The Magazine
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
IT IS WELL past noon in the mansion they call the American Dream House, and the owner has yet to wake up. Half a dozen friends and relatives sit under an imported Italian chandelier in the living room, watching the hours pass on a silver-plated clock, waiting for Aroldis Chapman to come downstairs. House rules dictate that nobody disturbs him; it is Chapman's $30 million contract that paid for this house, and it is his singular left arm that brought his family from a coastal province in Cuba to the manicured suburbs of Florida's gold coast, where nothing is quite as they expected.

"We are usually just sitting here, trying to pass the hours," says Maria Caridad, his mother, speaking in Spanish as the clock closes in on 1 p.m. She mops the kitchen floor even though a crew of six housecleaners performed the same chore a few days earlier. She turns on some salsa music and cooks pigs' feet on the kitchen stove, leaning over the pot to inhale the familiar smell. "This reminds me of Cuba," she says. "Of home."

Across the living room, her husband and Aroldis' father, Juan Alberto, turns the TV to Channel 374, the only Spanish-language station available on their deluxe cable package. One of Chapman's assistants has been teaching Juan Alberto some English, hoping to ease the 74-year-old's transition to the United States, but the lessons fail to solve a bigger problem. "I'm too old to learn, and there's no one here I need to talk to anyway," he says, so he settles into the recliner for his third Cuban soap opera of the day.

Every new immigrant in this household has developed an antidote to boredom, and for Aroldis, it is sleep. Midday gives way to early afternoon. Early afternoon turns toward dusk. His parents move outside to sit by the swimming pool, where they study the ornate drapes of his second-story bedroom for any sign of movement. Some days during the offseason, the Reds' 25-year-old closer stays in his room until sunset, sleeping, watching movies or just throwing a racquetball against his bedroom wall.

Finally, a few minutes before 4 p.m., the curtains lift and Chapman descends the spiral staircase to the pool deck. He wears sandals, sunglasses and a tank top obscured by heavy gold chains. He lights a Marlboro Red cigarette and flops down onto an all-weather mattress near the pool.

"Why so late like this?" Maria Caridad asks. "Why all this sleeping?"

"There's nothing else to do," he says.

This is the irony of Chapman's life in the United States and a dilemma familiar to many Cuban athletes: He spent so much time and energy working to reach this place that he rarely considered what it would mean to finally arrive -- a feeling of destiny and displacement all at once.

Chapman defected from Cuba in July 2009, signed with the Reds the following January and bought this $1.8 million offseason home in Davie, Fla., in 2011 mainly because it reminded him of American mansions he had seen on TV shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: a grand entry hall, oil paintings, an eight-seat movie theater and a five-car garage, all within an hour's drive of Miami. It's close enough to a Cuban community but removed from the temptations of South Beach. "My first home," he says, gesturing toward the raised ceilings and the 20-foot Christmas tree. "Not so bad." But he sometimes gets lost amid Davie's identical streets and man-made canals, and he swims barely well enough to enjoy his own pool. The hallway lamps still bear their price tags. The books in his personal library are not only titled in unfamiliar English but are hollowed and fake, bought by his home designer at World Market for $5.99 each.

Sometimes Chapman walks through the quiet halls of his five-bedroom, six-bath mansion and finds himself missing the humble three-room house, with its leaky ceiling and cracked walls, where he grew up -- missing the living room crowded with relatives, the friends, noise, gossip, chaos and uncertainty. "There is my life in Cuba and my life in America, the old life and the new life, and almost nothing about them is the same," he says.

Even his relationship with baseball, the game that brought him here, has begun to change since he abandoned his Cuban national team at a tournament in the Netherlands, walking out of his hotel with nothing but a passport and a pack of cigarettes to begin his slow escape to the United States. "I get bored of watching baseball on TV," he says. "It's repetitive to me." So instead of practicing his pitching during the offseason, he spends time in the batting cages at a nearby school. The man who threw the fastest recorded pitch in major league history -- clocked at 105 mph in a 2010 game -- now imagines what it would be like to play first base.

His mother brings him breakfast -- meat and beans, with a glass of mango juice -- by the pool as he lights another cigarette. He stares out at his waterfall and palm trees and a man-made pond in the distance. "Life here is easy," he says. "This is fat living, and that's nice. But sometimes I miss the craziness. That's the problem I'm trying to solve."

HE HAS DECIDED part of the solution is rooted not in his new life but in his old one; not in baseball but boxing.

A few years ago, Chapman and fellow Cuban pitcher Livan Hernandez began reconnecting with boxers from their homeland, offering to sponsor them once they reached the U.S. Chapman says his motivation was simple: Here was a chance to retrace his own journey, to support fellow Cuban athletes still trying to earn their way. Maybe he could vicariously experience some of the scrappiness and uncertainty that defined his life before his defection.

For a while, Chapman says, he considered partnering with the rapper 50 Cent and starting a formal boxing promotion company, but those plans dissolved within a few months. "I don't want it to be so complicated -- promoters, a business plan, none of that," Chapman says. So instead, he offers informal help to half a dozen Cuban boxers who are now training in New York and Miami. He helps cover their travel costs, rent and training supplies. "An investor" is how the boxers describe Chapman's role, but Chapman doesn't care whether they pay him back, and no one does. "This is as much for me as it is for them," he says. "They get some money. I get some of the old excitement."

Chapman had once wanted to be a boxer too. In Cuba his father was a trainer and later an athletics official for the state, which meant that Chapman's family owned the only three sets of boxing gloves in his rural neighborhood. Aroldis spent afternoons sparring with friends after school, drawing the borders of a boxing ring with his foot in the dirt road next to his house. He possessed a knockout left hook, quick feet and a quicker temper, which sometimes caused him to fly into a rage and throw rocks when he lost. "You have the temperament for a calmer game," his mother told him one day when Chapman was 11, forbidding him from boxing. "Try baseball instead," she said.

So he started playing first base for a local team, became a pitcher at 15 and within two years was one of Cuba's best prospects. He played on the national team for a few years before successfully defecting on his second attempt, an unconventional escape from the Cuban team's Rotterdam hotel that was followed by four days of partying in Amsterdam, 22 hours of driving through France with an MLB agent and a few months spent establishing residency in Andorra to qualify as a free agent. The agents who traveled to Europe to pursue him talked mostly about the money and the freedom that would define his future, but Chapman says he spent just as much time thinking about his past. He had left behind his girlfriend and 3-day-old daughter. He had not even told his parents he was planning to defect, never said a single goodbye. "They didn't know anything," he says. "I just disappeared. What choice did I have? I left it all behind with no idea what was next."

He had watched only a few major league games on TV when he arrived in the U.S., and he could name no more than a handful of players. He signed a long-term contract with the Reds, a team he knew nothing about, with teammates whose names he couldn't pronounce, in a city he couldn't place on a map. He rented a Cincinnati mansion from a former Reds pitcher because at least the Cuban flag near the entrance reminded him of home. He bought Rosetta Stone tapes to help him learn English but made little progress, so a minor league assistant coach taught him how to order food at restaurants. Chapman -- whose only mode of transportation in Cuba had been a friend's broken-down bike -- bought a Lamborghini with $40,000 of custom work. His new teammates chuckled while watching him spend 15 minutes trying to maneuver the car into a parking space at the stadium.

After a lifetime in communist Cuba, he behaved with a freedom that felt to him entirely American and with the flashiness to which he believed American stars were entitled. Hire a personal bodyguard? Absolutely. Pose for pictures with a lingerie-wearing waitress? Sure. Arrange for a stripper to meet him at hotel rooms on the road? Why not?

He collected six speeding tickets. He wore sunglasses indoors and did a somersault off the pitching mound. He became tabloid fodder when his hotel room was robbed, possibly aided by the stripper. He switched to a bigger agent and a bigger manager and cut ties with friends who had facilitated his defection. In 2012 he became the target of a $24 million lawsuit that alleges Chapman made false accusations to Cuban state authorities after his failed defection attempt that landed an acquaintance in prison and allowed Chapman to regain a spot on the country's national baseball team.

While the case is pending in U.S. District Court, Chapman -- who has denied through his lawyer that he did anything improper -- stays home and sleeps. "I don't know who I can trust and who is using me for who I am," he says. Out of an abundance of caution, he has decided to trust nobody. Teammates regard him as cordial but distant. "Sometimes, when he's not here mentally, you don't know where he is," then-Reds manager Dusty Baker said in 2011.

Every immigrant chases memories, re-creating a community that feels somehow familiar, and Chapman has spent four years building his. During his first stop in the U.S. -- White Plains, N.Y., where he lived for two months with Edwin Mejia, his first agent -- Chapman spent each morning at a small Dominican restaurant, where the owner cooked him salami and mashed plantains for breakfast. In Coral Springs, Fla., where Chapman lived while training for his first season, he spent many evenings at a Hispanic senior center, where the bingo games were called in Spanish and the old-timers told stories of Cuba before Fidel Castro took power. "It's so much success happening so fast," he says. "You spend your whole life trying to make it, and then you wake up with everything. It's confusing."

Chapman has a small circle of confidants, including his parents, who arrived in January 2013. His daughter, Ashanti Brianna, now 4, and her mother, Raidelmis Mendosa Santiestelas, finally joined him in the U.S. in January. He won't talk about the details of how they left Cuba, but he clearly values their presence. "I'm either by myself or with them," he says, "because they understand life before and life now."

When their company isn't enough to bridge the divide, Chapman goes alone to the top floor of his house in Davie, walking past the plastic pears in the kitchen and the hollow books in the library. He goes into his gym and puts on a pair of boxing gloves. Then he steps up to the punching bag and hits something solid.

A FEW WEEKS after his 2013 season, Chapman invited one of his boxers to the mansion for a winter visit. Yordenis Ugas represented Cuba in the 2008 Olympics before defecting. His immigration story is quite different from Chapman's. "Nothing here is easy," Ugas says. His U.S. professional career has been a succession of ramen dinners and group apartments. He bounces from Miami to New York to New Jersey, training wherever he can, fighting whoever will fight him. He arrived at Chapman's mansion light on cash and exhausted.

Chapman gave him a tour of his sports cars -- the factory Mercedes and the Lamborghini with its custom license plate -- mph 105. He showed Ugas the pool table in his living room and the cigar collection by the pool.

Chapman rarely offers any of his boxers advice -- "They are professionals," he says -- and he rarely talks to them about his own career. Instead, he shares details about his early life in Cuba: the steel bars that guarded the windows of his childhood bedroom from the neighborhood gang violence, or the way he learned to pitch by throwing a rock wrapped inside a sock.

"He likes to trade stories of the struggles," says Ugas, who at 27 is two years older than Chapman. "That's what we all have in common. Now he's famous, but he still misses little things about the old life."

Ugas had to leave after a few days in Florida to catch a flight to New York. He was scheduled as an undercard at a small venue, where he hoped to earn a few months' rent by fighting a shady opponent who had yet to be cleared by doctors. "My crazy adventure," Ugas says.

Chapman had to leave for Cincinnati to attend a mandatory fan appreciation day, where he would serve as a public ambassador for a city he hardly knows. That was the irony of the immigrant life at the highest ends of American baseball: He still felt like a foreigner, but thousands of fans had committed the details of his life to memory and purchased an imitation version of his jersey. Chapman's autograph line in Cincinnati would be staffed by a translator. He would visit hospitals and hug sick strangers. "My day job," he says.

The two men said goodbye at the mansion and headed off into their disparate versions of immigrant America, each in some ways envious of the other.
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post #19818 of 77570

Wow, when you hear about Cuban baseball players defecting, especially the big name ones like Puig, Livan and Orlando Hernandez, etc. you always think that they're living the dream and glad to be here. Chapman story really shows a different side.

 

And how are you in Florida with a deluxe cable package and only get 1 Spanish speaking channel? 

post #19819 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhillyzPhan View Post

Wow, when you hear about Cuban baseball players defecting, especially the big name ones like Puig, Livan and Orlando Hernandez, etc. you always think that they're living the dream and glad to be here. Chapman story really shows a different side.

And how are you in Florida with a deluxe cable package and only get 1 Spanish speaking channel? 
What's good with Puig and Chapman driving like "quarter-mile at a time" Vin Diesel.
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post #19820 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhillyzPhan View Post
 

Wow, when you hear about Cuban baseball players defecting, especially the big name ones like Puig, Livan and Orlando Hernandez, etc. you always think that they're living the dream and glad to be here. Chapman story really shows a different side.

 

And how are you in Florida with a deluxe cable package and only get 1 Spanish speaking channel? 

word.....I don't have the top top package and I have multiple spanish channels :lol

post #19821 of 77570
Homer Bailey and the Reds at a wide impasse.
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post #19822 of 77570
Scott Elbert went on the 60-day to make room for Maholm I believe
post #19823 of 77570
Shark gets $5.345M to avoid arbitration.
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post #19824 of 77570
Anyone follow La Serie del Caribe?
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post #19825 of 77570
Reading up on Gerrit Cole's 2014 projections. Would anybody else prefer Michael Wacha to Cole.
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post #19826 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChampCruThik View Post

Reading up on Gerrit Cole's 2014 projections. Would anybody else prefer Michael Wacha to Cole.

Cole has a much higher ceiling than Wacha. Cole was lights out at the end of last year, and Wacha obviously was too lol

Wacha just lacks a quality breaking ball from truly being elite cause he's got a good fastball and a plus plus change up.
post #19827 of 77570
Before 2013 I seriously thought Zack Wheeler would have a better career than Gerrit Cole.
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post #19828 of 77570
I don't like the sound of Globe Life Park.

I wonder when the Nats are gonna sell the naming rights to their ballpark.
post #19829 of 77570
Quote:
Originally Posted by madj55 View Post

I don't like the sound of Globe Life Park.

I wonder when the Nats are gonna sell the naming rights to their ballpark.
Brian Goodwin. Rich man's Denard Span. We ready.
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post #19830 of 77570
Thread Starter 
Players with much at stake this spring.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Red Sox have seen enough in Xander Bogaerts to believe that he’s ready now, and the Indians are counting on Danny Salazar, who was so good at the end of last season, to plug a rotation hole.

There are other young players who have more at stake in spring training:

1. Shortstops Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius, Arizona Diamondbacks Theirs will be a good ol’ fashioned showdown for Arizona’s everyday shortstop job, which bears a lot of responsibility considering how the D-backs have loaded up and taken their payroll over $100 million.

Gregorius is the incumbent, coming off a rookie season in which he played decently, but was inconsistent offensively from month to month:

OPS
April (seven games): 1.226
May: .799
June: .588
July: .674
August: .513
September: .780

That sort of trend is fairly common among young players as they adapt to the longer season. But the Diamondbacks love the daily energy and preparation that Owings provided after his promotion late last season, and so the staff will go into spring training with eyes wide open. Arizona GM Kevin Towers told Steve Gilbert that the loser of this competition will be sent to Triple-A.

My guess: Gregorius might be the favorite, as Towers told Gilbert, but will need to play well in the spring to win this spot at the outset of the year; Owings might have a slight upper hand in how he’s perceived within the organization.

2. Second baseman Kolten Wong, St. Louis Cardinals. In a perfect world for St. Louis, Wong will be at least a platoon player this year and perhaps more, seamlessly integrating into the fabric of the team in the same way the Cardinals’ young pitchers have over the past couple of years. But the Cardinals have prepared a safety net, signing right-handed-hitting veteran second baseman Mark Ellis, just in case.

3. Center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox. They love his ability to get on base and his defense, but they also know his ascension could take time. If he plays well in March and makes the team out of spring training, he'll be brought along slowly, hitting near the bottom of the order. If he plays poorly in spring, well, the Red Sox have alternatives in place, with outfield depth that now includes Grady Sizemore.

4. Third baseman Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers. It appeared that his path to the big leagues was blocked the last couple of seasons, because Miguel Cabrera was locked into third base and Prince Fielder was at first. But now the door is wide open for Castellanos, and it’s up to him to kick it in. Castellanos is coming off a year in which he had good production in Triple-A, but he didn’t dominate the league, hitting .276 with 100 strikeouts and 54 walks in 134 games. He turns 22 next month.

5. Pitcher Taijuan Walker, Seattle Mariners. He had three starts in the big leagues in 2013, and tossed 156 1/3 innings in all, so he’s ready for a full-time promotion to the highest level. Considering his talent, and the fact that Seattle has invested so much in 2014, Walker has a great opportunity right now.

6. Pitcher Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles. He was pushed to the big leagues by need in 2013 and struggled, with a 5.66 ERA in 20 games. Baltimore is again starved for pitching, having added so little this winter, so while the Orioles may be more circumspect about where Gausman is in his development, he will have the chance to make an impression in spring training. The Orioles need help, and a lot of it.

The opening of camp is right around the corner, and the Orioles are running out of pitching options, writes Peter Schmuck.

[+] Enlarge
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Speedster Billy Hamilton needs to work on certain facets of his game.
7. Center fielder Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati has bet a lot on Hamilton, and why not, considering that he is almost peerless in how he can impact a game with his speed. He’s going to get a chance in the big leagues, regardless of how he plays in spring training. The Reds need him to be a factor as the man taking over for Shin-Soo Choo in center field. But Hamilton is still learning about switch-hitting, and his development as a left-handed hitter will be really important. It may be years before his on-base percentage will impress statistical analysts, but Hamilton needs to be at least competitive as a left-handed hitter for the Reds to succeed this year.

8. Pitcher Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks. With most teams, the plans for Bradley would be cemented. Given that he is just 21 years old and hasn’t pitched above Double-A, Bradley would be ticketed to the minors under most circumstances, with a real chance for promotion sometime this year. Bradley threw 152 innings last year and was absolutely dominating, with a 1.84 ERA, 69 walks and 162 strikeouts. The Diamondbacks’ signing of Bronson Arroyo gives them the depth to go into the season without having to count on Bradley.

But it’s worth remembering the level of urgency the Diamondbacks have placed on the 2014 season, with their club-record payroll of $108 million. If Arizona is hit by an injury or two and Bradley demonstrates in spring training that he is ready for the big leagues, you do wonder if the Diamondbacks might be more aggressive with this rising young star than they initially planned to be.

9. Pitchers Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, Kansas City Royals. Like the Diamondbacks have done, the Royals have built a rotation with depth by signing Jason Vargas and Bruce Chen to go along with James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie. So they don't need to include Ventura. But they appear to have one spot open, and Duffy certainly has the talent to fill it, given his overpowering stuff, although questions linger about his command. Duffy has 83 walks in 157 1/3 innings.

The 22-year-old Ventura was promoted at the end of last season after a good summer in the minors, started three games in a pennant race, and had some real "wow" moments with his 100 mph fastball. Remember his debut, when he busted hitters inside over and over? Or this start? Like the Diamondbacks, the Royals have bet heavily on 2014 as a year to push through, and it figures that if Duffy and/or Ventura show in spring training that they can have an impact, they’ll get a chance. If everything is equal, Ventura should get this job, writes Vahe Gregorian.

10. First baseman Jon Singleton, Houston Astros. Wrote here last week that the pressure for the organization to win more games in the big leagues has been ramped up, after a sandbagged 2013 season in which the team spent almost nothing. That said, the Astros may well remain as disciplined as the Rays in maximizing the development time of their prospects and handling potential arbitration and free agency with maximum efficiency.

So while Singleton may have a better chance for promotion in late June than at the outset of the season, he will essentially be auditioning for a big league promotion in the months ahead. Singleton is a highly rated prospect, but did hit a speed bump last year in Triple-A, where he hit .220 with six homers in 73 games. Singleton turns 24 this year. He hit well in winter ball, posting a .933 OPS.

The Astros have a lot of guys competing at first base this spring, writes Jesus Ortiz.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Diamondbacks players are appreciative of the signing of Arroyo.

2. Paul Maholm signed with the Dodgers. The left-hander was on track for a strong 2013 season before he got hurt, and club sources say that at the outset of the winter, he was looking for a major league deal in the range of $8 million. But given the concerns about his health, almost all the offers he got were for minor league contracts, and in the end, he worked out a $1.5 million base salary with incentives that could raise his earnings to $8 million. The Dodgers have a surplus of veteran starters, with Josh Beckett coming back and telling teammates he feels great, and Chad Billingsley making strong progress as he prepares for a return around May.

Beckett needs to prove himself, writes Steve Dilbeck.

3. Vinnie Pestano lost his arbitration case against the Indians.

4. Jeff Samardzija settled his case with the Cubs.

The battle For jobs

1. J.J. Putz wants to win back the closer’s role for Arizona.

2. The Rays will use a handful of players at DH, including Matt Joyce, who says he put on 20 pounds this winter.

AL East

• The Rays are going to spring training with great expectations, writes Marc Topkin.

• The Red Sox still have questions to answer in Fort Myers.

• Jonny Gomes got a big Red Sox tattoo.


AL Central

• Joe Mauer is still good with his move to first base, writes Phil Miller.

• Brad Ausmus is not that much different from Jim Leyland, writes Shawn Windsor. I’d respectfully disagree. Very different personalities.

• Phil Coke is prepping for a bounce-back season.

• The White Sox are eager to turn the page on an ugly year, writes Darryl Van Schouwen.

AL West

• The Athletics are OK with their underdog status.

• John Jaso feels healthy.

• The Mariners -- who have signed Robinson Cano and Fernando Rodney and are the presumed front-runners for Nelson Cruz -- are entering a wide-open spring, writes Ryan Divish. The Mariners face a lot of questions this spring, writes Bob Dutton.

• The Rangers offered some advice to players at their academy in the Dominican.

NL East

• Bob Ford believes the Phillies can contend. In order for the Phillies to have a shot in this division, they will need the Braves and Nationals to play down to their level, to a degree. If Washington or Atlanta wins 92 or more games, I can’t see the Phillies keeping up with that without Ryan Howard returning to MVP-level production.

• If you read between the lines of this story on Darin Ruf, you wonder if the Phillies are at the point where they might consider platooning Howard.

• The Mets could improve dramatically, writes Mike Puma.

NL Central

• Here are 10 things to watch in the Cardinals’ camp, from Derrick Goold.

• Bernie Miklasz is curious about what he’ll see from Jhonny Peralta.

• Arroyo has class, but it was time for the Reds to move on, writes John Fay.

• Here’s a Q&A with Ron Roenicke, courtesy of Tom Haudricourt.

• There’s little reason to think the Cubs’ tough times won’t end, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

• Florida is a good place for the Pirates’ hitters to get their mojo back.

• Have heard this from some rival evaluators: Stats show there is a strong chance of regression for the Pirates.

NL West

• Jorge De La Rosa wants to be even better this year, writes Troy Renck.

• Yasmani Grandal is aiming for the season opener.

A-Rod runs out of people to blame.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Until Alex Rodriguez was willing to testify under oath, there was no reason to take any of his costly legal maneuverings seriously.

But along the way, before his abrupt capitulation Friday, we needed an abacus to keep track of the attempted diversions, from the gold-plated lawsuits to the beautifully scripted I’m-Not-Going-To-Take-It-Anymore exit from the arbitration hearing to the declaration of innocence on WFAN. This was like the wizard of Oz imploring you to ignore the man behind the curtain.

In the end, none of the machinations changed the essential truth: Rodriguez broke the rules and used performance-enhancing drugs, then tried to get away with it.

A dozen other players were caught in the same Biogenesis net, including Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz, and, when presented with the evidence, they essentially threw up their hands and acknowledged: I surrender, you got me.

Not Rodriguez, who bypassed two windows of opportunity in which he could take responsibility and accept his punishment like the other players. If he had done so, his relationships with the Yankees and others would’ve been damaged but workable.

Instead, he started flame-throwing blame at just about everybody around him. This included the Yankees, commissioner Bud Selig and the arbitration system negotiated by his union, plus, in his last act of desperation, at the union itself. His lawsuit against the union specifically named Michael Weiner, the beloved former head of the union who passed away from cancer at the end of last year -- someone who spent far too many hours in the last year of his life working to defend Rodriguez, who had cheated and lied over and over.

What a complete waste, of time, of money, of good will, of grace.

All of that was squandered without Rodriguez ever getting serious about his defense, without ever testifying under oath to support his assertions that he was innocent.

He’ll look to come back a year from now, and maybe he’ll arrange a sit-down interview in which he goes for another mea culpa, and apologizes again, says he made mistakes, says he was old and stupid. But really, that’ll be another diversion, another tactic convenient in the moment when he’s trying to win back good will.

If that happens -- no, scratch that -- when that happens, do not let it distract from another essential truth: In his handling of the Biogenesis accusations, Rodriguez acted despicably rather than taking responsibility, from beginning to the merciful end.

• A-Rod now slinks away, writes Joel Sherman.

• He should have ended the lie a long time ago, writes Bob Klapisch.

Around the league

Baseball’s winter market seems to follow the calendar like clockwork, a front-office executive noted, and there comes a time when it just slows down for good, right around Christmas and New Year’s Day.

After arbitration figures are exchanged, front offices begin to settle in, their budgets and payrolls all but defined, generally comfortable with the rosters they have assembled for spring training.

So, for free agents still unsigned, still looking for big dollars, the landscape is awful and the attitudes of the teams have changed dramatically. In fact, if you want some sense of how a lot of clubs view free agents banging on their doors for jobs so late in the winter, imagine each team as a keeper of a desert oasis: Sure, we’ll provide you with some relief -- on our terms. And if that’s not good enough, well, good luck to you.

We are in our second year of qualifying offers creating draft-pick compensation, and by now the lessons should be ingrained in second-tier free agents and their agents: As the offseason begins, you must determine what a player’s value is and make your best possible deal early -- before the decision to accept or reject the qualifying offer from your old team.

It becomes more evident by the day that at least some of the last free agents on the board would’ve been better off taking the qualifying offer. There is a lot of hand-wringing over the fairness of the current system and how it favors big-market teams, which can more readily make qualifying offers, plus how it hurts a small group of players. This winter, that group includes Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Stephen Drew, Kendrys Morales and Nelson Cruz.

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Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY Sports
Starter Ervin Santana remains one of the top free agents on the market.
In the end, Cruz might get something close to what he would’ve gotten without the qualifying offer, given his age (33) and recent PED history. But Santana’s asking price early in the winter was more than $100 million, and, considering that he was released by the Angels in the fall of 2012 and considering the concern teams have about the condition of his right elbow, a deal of that magnitude was almost certainly never going to happen. The multiyear deal the Royals wanted to talk about in September might seem really attractive, in retrospect, and so might the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer.

The market for DHs not named David Ortiz has all but evaporated, as Kansas City discovered when it tried to trade Billy Butler. Very few teams plan around full-time DHs the way they used to, which means Morales might not get a salary as high as the qualifying offer from Seattle he rejected. Morales has history playing first base, of course, but the fact is teams view him now as they viewed him in October -- as a subpar defender and a player at heightened risk for injuries, particularly if he’s asked to play first base regularly.

The Mets like Stephen Drew, but, in the cold of winter, the market for him has all but evaporated. The Mets are willing to make a deal -- completely on their terms.

The Blue Jays appear positioned to sit and wait until the perfect deal for someone like Santana or Jimenez -- a deal collapsed in scope and minimized in risk -- falls to them. Some teams are carefully watching the prices drop, just in case they can pluck a bargain. Cruz could go back to the Rangers, in theory, but at such a reduced price that it would be untenable.

Twenty-two players have been given qualifying offers the past two winters, and all 22 have turned them down. Next fall, that should change because it’s now cemented that late January and early February is a really bad time to be looking for a new contract when you’re attached to draft-pick compensation.

Complaining about the system, at this stage, is like griping that the sun comes up in the morning and goes down in the evening. Like it or not, the system negotiated by the union is what it is, and it’s time for the players and their agents to adjust.

• The Diamondbacks landed the starting pitcher they have sought, in Bronson Arroyo. He will benefit from the larger ballparks in the NL West.

• Joel Hanrahan is not linked to a draft pick, of course, coming off a year in which he rehabbed from elbow surgery. Hanrahan is nearing the end of that working, throwing on flat ground at about 75 percent. In a month or so, when Hanrahan gets closer to 100 percent, he’ll be ready to throw for teams and audition for his 2014 job.

Hanrahan will be looking to re-establish himself in the year ahead before hitting the market again in the fall, and the Mets could be a strong fit for him. However, closer needs elsewhere could always develop. Last spring, for example, the Tigers went into camp thinking Bruce Rondon had a chance to be their closer. But, by the end of March, that was no longer considered a possibility. Something could develop in that way for Hanrahan.

• After the Mariners signed Robinson Cano, there was some expectation that Seattle might market its second-base incumbent, Nick Franklin, in a trade. Last year, Franklin -- a first-round pick in 2009 -- had mixed results at the plate (33 extra-base hits, including 12 homers, in 412 plate appearances).

But Franklin also hit .225, with a .303 on-base percentage, and had 113 strikeouts in 102 games.

Given that performance, I asked some evaluators how they view Franklin, who turns 23 in early March, and what the best approach the Mariners could take with him might be.

Their feedback:

“I like Franklin -- don't love him,” emailed a longtime evaluator. “Have to give him credit for track record and more power than his body would suggest. I think the Dodgers are a good fit, but the Mariners likely won't trade him unless they can fill a specific need. They could still option Franklin and be patient with respect to a trade.”

From a front-office evaluator: “Franklin to me represents extreme risk because of his excessive strikeout ratio. It has always been high, and he's not a terrific athlete either, and had to move from shortstop to second base, and may have to move to the outfield potentially. The best thing the Mariners can do with Franklin is hold on to him, hope he rakes in the PCL and try to include him in a deal for something they want this summer. Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, and Kyle Seager aren't going anywhere.”

• Some evaluators involved in the conversations with A.J. Burnett believe his preference is to remain in the NL. In fact, some are wondering why Burnett hasn’t worked out a deal to go back to the Pirates. “He’s perfect for their park, and that team,” said one scout.

Burnett was said by sources to be extremely unhappy with the decision to bump him out of the Game 5 start in last year’s playoffs.

• The Phillies and Orioles are reportedly out of the running for the right-hander.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Rays are inviting five guys to their minor league camp.

2. The Rangers are talking about a deal with Tommy Hanson.

3. Coco Crisp signed a two-year extension.

4. Mike Sweeney returned to the Royals.

5. The Brewers re-signed Francisco Rodriguez.

6. The White Sox signed Mitchell Boggs.

7. The Nationals signed Luis Ayala.

8. The Pirates signed a catcher.

NL East

• Freddie Freeman’s salary will soar after the Braves move to their new ballpark.

• The Phillies have packed up.

NL Central

• The Cardinals got a jump on spring training, as Derrick Goold writes.

NL West

• Ryan Spilborghs retired.

• The Dodgers must overcome their brittle nature. They could have an age issue, with a weakened bench.

• Carlos Quentin was a hit at his media session.

AL East

• CC Sabathia is the leader of the Yankees’ staff, says Brian Cashman.

• With the Red Sox, there is reason to worry, writes Steve Buckley.

• Jackie Bradley Jr. welcomes the center-field competition.

AL Central

• The Royals hope Kyle Zimmer is part of their staff for the playoffs, writes Andy McCullough.

• Justin Verlander is working hard to come back for Opening Day.

• Andy Dirks thinks the Tigers will have more speed.

• Brad Ausmus is headed to Lakeland, writes Tony Paul.

• Will the Indians be even better this year?

AL West

• Yoenis Cespedes wants an extension.

Reds should trade Homer Bailey.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
The Cincinnati Reds are in trouble heading into 2014. That might sound like a controversial statement, though it really shouldn't be, considering how circumstances have changed in the NL Central. The St. Louis Cardinals, fresh off a trip to the World Series, will get the benefit of a full season of their celebrated young pitching and have finally filled their black hole at shortstop. The Milwaukee Brewers will have Ryan Braun back along with Matt Garza in their rotation, and while the Pittsburgh Pirates haven't added anyone of note, a full year of Gerrit Cole and the impending arrivals of Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon should make them dangerous once again.

And the Reds? The sum of their offseason has been to import bench players Brayan Pena and Skip Schumaker, who combined for minus-0.8 WAR last year. They watched Shin-Soo Choo and his .423 on-base percentage depart for Texas, and they plan to replace him with Billy Hamilton, who has elite speed but enormous questions about whether he can get on base enough to use it, as evidenced by a .308 OBP in Triple-A last year. When Brandon Phillips drops from 103 runs batted in to 70-something, it's not going to be because he's playing any worse; it's going to be because he won't have Choo on base all the time to drive in. For a team that finished only 15th in wRC+ even with Choo last year, that's a big problem.

The Reds need to do something, and that something is to trade Homer Bailey, for reasons we'll get to in a moment. But more importantly, the loopholes of the current collective bargaining agreement mean that they would be best served to do it before Opening Day.

Maximizing incentives
If you're sick of hearing about Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kendrys Morales and Ervin Santana by now, know that you're not alone. The presence of the qualifying offer on their heads has undeniably caused a drag on their free-agent values, to the point that they all remain unsigned as we head into the second week of February.

Teams don't mind giving up a pick for a top free agent like Jacoby Ellsbury, but they do for these midlevel guys, and we saw the same thing happen to Kyle Lohse and others like him last year.

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AP Photo/Al Behrman
Shin-Soo Choo's departure leaves the Reds with a void in their lineup.
For some players, they've been lucky enough to fall under a pretty glaring loophole that prevents the qualifying offer from being given to players traded within a season, and that has proven to be a boon to the second- and third-level free agents who might otherwise have been anchored with an offer.

Take, for example, a solid-yet-hardly-great pitcher like Ricky Nolasco, who signed with Minnesota for four years and $49 million in November. Nolasco and Santana were born a single day apart from each other in December 1982, and are coming off somewhat similar 2013 seasons. (WAR has them as being equal.) Since Nolasco was traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers in July, he was able to go into the market unfettered; since Santana was a Royal all season long, he's hurt by the offer, and the latest rumors have him potentially needing to settle for a three-year deal.

This all impacts Bailey and the Reds, because he's heading into the final year of his contract, with most reports indicating that there isn't a long-term contract coming from the team. After five years of stops and starts in attempting to become a reliable regular starter, Bailey has put up 417 innings of very solid baseball for Cincinnati over the past two seasons, contributing approximately 6 WAR to the Reds. Assuming he's neither extended nor injured, he'll head off to free agency next winter as an appealing second-level starter behind the trio of Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, pending movement by their current teams to retain them first.

The Reds could allow him to play out the season and then depart, like the Royals appear to be doing with Santana. They could trade him in July, like Miami and Chicago did with Nolasco and Garza. Or they could be proactive about it and trade him before Opening Day rosters are set, which is the deadline set in the CBA for whether or not a player can receive a qualifying offer.

That's an easy benefit for a team going after Bailey, because not only would they get him for an entire season, rather than just 10 starts or so if he were a trade-deadline acquisition, they would also be gaining the right to offer Bailey a qualifying offer and receive the pick that would come with his presumed departure. That's a valuable asset, and it's something Cincinnati could and should use as a bargaining chip in any discussions, as long as they happen before Opening Day, when it disappears.

Cincy set to fall off
For the Reds, that makes this a math problem. Is it more valuable to them to have the production Bailey would provide in 2014 and the ability to tender an offer themselves, or is it better to reap the rewards of trading Bailey and the pick for a larger return?

The Reds fancy themselves contenders this year, so it's more likely than not they'll hang on to Bailey, but that may be a miscalculation in a tough NL Central. The rotation is deep, with Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Tony Cingrani joining Bailey, but the lineup is thin behind the wonderful Joey Votto and right fielder Jay Bruce.

Phillips has been on a steady decline for several years (his wOBA has fallen from .353 to .325 to .307), left fielder Ryan Ludwick is 35 and has been a 2-WAR player once in the past four seasons and Hamilton is beyond unproven. It was merely a decent offense last year; without Choo, it will be a decidedly below-average attack.

Since Bailey, Latos, Cueto and Leake are all headed toward free agency in the next two years, the team is going to have to make some tough decisions about which part of their rotation they keep. Trading Bailey now, when his value is at its highest, could help fill that offensive gap while leaving behind enough of a rotation to remain competitive.

To fully maximize his value under the current rules, the clock is ticking toward Opening Day. As soon as it arrives and the ability for other teams to tender Bailey a qualifying offer disappears, so does part of his trade value.

Why Freeman is Votto 2.0.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Freddie Freeman's $135 million contract extension raised a lot of eyebrows this week, not just because of the size of the commitment but because of Freeman's somewhat undeveloped power for a first baseman. The position has long been considered the domain of hulking sluggers, and even in this age of reduced power, it's a position where teams still expect to get a fair share of home runs. And the 24-year-old Freeman is not really a home run guy.

Over the last three years, he's hit 67 home runs (21 in 2011, 23 in both 2012 and 2013), which in that time frame ranks just 14th among qualified first basemen. And of the top 30 qualified first basemen in home runs, Freeman's rate of home runs per plate appearance -- one every 28.1 trips to the plate -- ranks 23rd, putting him in the same category as guys like Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland. If one was to judge Freeman solely on his ability to hit the ball over the wall, he would grade out as an average first baseman at best.

However, even if chicks dig the long ball, not even a first baseman has to specialize in dingers in order to be highly productive and extremely valuable. While Freeman's home run rate compares with lesser players, it also puts him in the same range as Joey Votto -- he's averaged one home run every 28.7 trips to the plate -- and he's probably the best hitter in the National League. And while Freeman certainly doesn't have Votto's track record, there are some similarities here that should make Braves fans less nervous about such large commitment to a first baseman who doesn't physically remind you of the Incredible Hulk.

No shift
Freeman's 2013 breakout season came in large part because of production in hitting the ball to the opposite field, which has been a hallmark of Votto's career. Last year, 112 of Freeman's contacted balls were hit to left field, and he posted a .448 wOBA on balls hit to the opposite field; among qualified first baseman, only Chris Davis (.648 wOBA) and Votto (.529 wOBA) were more productive when using the opposite field. In fact, Freeman's opposite-field wOBA was nearly as high as his pull wOBA (.464), so he didn't lose any real production going the other way.

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Mike McGinnis/Getty Images
Votto's opposite-field prowess has helped him lead the NL in OBP four straight years.
How is that helpful? Hitters who use the whole field rather than focusing on pulling the ball to maximize their power regularly post higher rates of hits on balls in play. Freeman's .371 BABIP is almost certainly unsustainable on a yearly basis, but the way he used the field suggests that higher-than-average BABIPs should be expected in the future. For instance, the 10 left-handed hitters who hit the ball to the opposite field the most often -- Votto was No. 1, and the list also includes guys like Joe Mauer and Shin-Soo Choo -- last year combined for a .322 BABIP, 25 points higher than the league average.

With the increased emphasis on the shift as a defensive weapon against left-handed pull hitters, a hitter who can drive the ball to left field has a significant advantage. While pull-focused hitters like Mark Teixeira have routinely seen line drives caught by a defender playing short right field, hitters like Freeman and Votto are harmed less by the shift, because their offensive approach doesn't involve trying to hit the ball to right field as hard as humanly possible.

Quantity can trump quality
Because it's easier to pull a ball over the fence than it is to drive a home run to the opposite field, the trade off is a lower quantity of home runs, but more hits overall. It is essentially the age-old balance of quality versus quantity, and it is important to remember that there is a quantity of singles and doubles that makes up for a lack of home runs, even for a "power position" like first base.

With $135 million in guaranteed money coming his way, it can be tempting to think that Freeman has to develop more power to justify his contract, and become more of a slugger than he has been to date. But he doesn't, really -- $135 million isn't what it used to be, and it certainly doesn't buy elite power anymore.

Choo, probably the closest approximation in terms of skill set to Freeman on the market this offseason, landed a seven-year, $130 million contract as an opposite-field, line-drive hitter, and Choo is headed for the decline phase of his career. Freeman is already as good as Choo, and is on the upswing of his career; factor in three more years of salary inflation, and Freeman's eventual free-agent price would have been far more than the $22 million per year that he sold his five free agent years for in this extension.

Freeman isn't Prince Fielder or Ryan Howard, and if you just focus on home runs, it might be easy to miss the reasons that Freeman is actually a good player. He probably won't be able to sustain his 2013 batting line -- even Votto's career BABIP is .359, pretty much the upper limit for this kind of player -- and some expected regression might make Freeman more of a good player than a great one. But $135 million for the prime years of a good player is simply what the market has dictated in 2014.

This contract doesn't require Freeman to be a superstar, or to hit a lot of home runs, in order to be a good investment. He simply has to keep hitting line drives all over the field, and the Braves will be just fine.

Arizona makes mistake by signing Arroyo.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Bronson Arroyo barely made my Top 50 free agents, which meant I saw him as a candidate for a low-dollar, one-year deal, not the substantial two-year deal Arizona just gave him in spite of all of the red flags in his recent history.

Arroyo does two things well: Stay healthy and throw strikes. Those are valuable skills, although one's ability to stay healthy declines with age, and Arroyo just signed for his age-37 and 38 seasons. They're also increasingly overshadowed by the things Arroyo doesn't do well: throw hard, keep the ball in the park or get left-handed hitters out.

Arroyo's fastball averaged just barely higher than 87 mph over the last three seasons, according to Fangraphs, more than 2 mph below his peak years. While some of that is a function of him attempting to throw a sinker, the pitch doesn't have great sinker movement, and he's not a ground ball pitcher. What often happens is Arroyo throws a below-average pitch without much life somewhere in the zone, which a good major-league hitter would politely refer to as a “BP fastball.”

Arroyo has long been homer-prone because he pitches with below-average velocity and doesn't have great movement or sink on whatever we want to call his fastball. While pitching in Cincinnati, one of the majors' most homer-friendly parks, hasn't helped, the reality of Arroyo's recent history is that he's not homer-prone because of Great American Ballpark -- he's homer-prone because he has below-average stuff. Over the last three years, his home run allowed rates have been nearly equal at home and on the road, whether we go by home runs per 9 innings pitched (1.59 at home versus 1.51 on the road) or by home runs per 30 batters faced (1.26 at home, 1.22 on the road). Any further loss of velocity will only exacerbate the issue, and his gopheritis is already one of the worst cases in the majors. This means he’s a few more homers a year away from being nonviable as a major-league starter.

Arroyo has also long had problems with left-handed hitters, another issue that isn't improving with age and that could intensify quickly with any loss of stuff. Over the last three years, lefties have hit .299/.339/.534 against Arroyo, and opposing managers have caught on to this weakness in his game, sending slightly more left-handed batters to the plate against him than right-handers. And it all came without Arroyo facing three of the NL's best left-handed hitters in Votto, Bruce and (in 2013) Choo. At best, Arroyo is vulnerable against teams that lean left-handed or have good pinch-hitting options for the second and third time through the order. At worst, it's a third red flag for guaranteeing Arroyo a second year or this kind of money.

The oddest part about the signing is that the D-backs already had a player a lot like Arroyo last season and gave him away for 50 cents on the dollar: Ian Kennedy. Kennedy was also a homer-prone, fringy-fastball, strike-throwing innings eater type, but didn't have Arroyo's platoon-split issues and will make just $6 million in 2014. IPK did infuriate Arizona management with his makeup, a question that arose when he was still with the Yankees in 2008, something you'll never hear about Arroyo. But is the difference between these two pitchers likely to be $5.75 million over this next year, plus the added risk of Arroyo given his age and stuff? It looks as though the Diamondbacks got more expensive without getting substantially better -- at most about two wins over what they might have gotten from Randall Delgado, less if you assume about half of those starts would have gone to Archie Bradley -- and took on an unnecessary financial risk.

Rumors.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Position battle: Diamondbacks SS
February, 9, 2014
FEB 9
1:25
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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In the words of ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Arizona Diamondbacks have "a good ol' fashioned showdown" on their hands this spring for their starting shortstop job, and whoever wins "bears a lot of responsibility, considering how the D-Backs have loaded up and taken their payroll over $100 million."

The candidates:

Didi Gregorius, age 23, bats left
Chris Owings, age 22, bats right
Cliff Pennington, age 29, bats both

Gregorius: A strong defensive shortstop, but over the course of starting 97 games for Arizona last year, his batting average dropped steadily with each passing month.

Owings: Played in 20 games for the Diamondbacks after a September call-up, hitting .291 in 55 at-bats. Clearly the better offensive option at shortstop, he hit .330 for Triple-A Reno prior to the promotion.

Pennington: With six years of big league experience under his belt, and the ability to play all over the infield, the veteran is all but guaranteed a spot on the roster.

Latest update: General manager Kevin Towers says that only one of the young prospects is likely to make the team, as Pennington's role as a backup is fairly secure. "I don't think it's good for their development (to sit). They're both everyday type players and they're ready to be everyday type players. I would just hate for one of those kids to be sitting on the bench and playing once or twice a week. They'd be better off being in Triple-A, getting at-bats and getting ready in case there's an injury."

Current leader: Gregorius, at least according to Towers. "The favorite has to be Didi. He was our shortstop last year. For a rookie, I thought he played very, very well. Great defender. He got off to a real hot start. The league probably caught up with him a little bit at the end. He probably got a little bit tired." It certainly sounds like Owings "probably" still has a chance to change people's minds.
Tags:Cliff Pennington, Didi Gregorius, Chris Owings
O's lowering the bar?
February, 9, 2014
FEB 9
12:43
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports says that the Baltimore Orioles are "talking with" a pair of left-handed free agent starters: Joe Saunders and Chris Capuano. That news didn't seem to please Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, who reacted negatively to the courting of Saunders by saying that Orioles need a top of the rotation starter. "He's not it."

More from Kubatko on the Orioles plans at pitcher: "Signing Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana would give the Orioles a veteran starter at the expense of the 17th overall pick in the draft, as well as a sizable amount of cash. They've been checking on both pitchers at various stages of the winter, just in case they couldn't reach agreement with A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo.

"Arroyo is headed to Arizona. Burnett would prefer to stay in the National League, according to sources... If the Orioles go that route (Saunders or Capuano) they will hold onto their draft pick and still lack a veteran who slots directly behind Chris Tillman."
Tags:Joe Saunders, Chris Capuano
Caribbean MVP hopes for another shot
February, 9, 2014
FEB 9
11:29
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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He has 16 major league hits to his name, the last one coming for the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2007. Yet, 34-year-old center fielder Chris Roberson is hoping that his performance in the Caribbean Series might get him one more shot to add to that total.

Roberson was named as the MVP of the series after leading his Mexican team, Naranjeros de Hermosillo, to the championship over Puerto Rico's Indios de Mayaguez. During the Pacific League's regular season, Roberson had finished tied for second overall in home runs and bested all others in total bases.

According to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, "Roberson's name had been discussed among the scouts in attendance all week at the Caribbean Series, but some organizations are hesitant to invest on a player his age."

Still, Roberson remains hopeful. "We'll see what happens and maybe somebody picks me up, and if not, I'll go back to Monterrey. If I get the opportunity to play in the big leagues, it will be a blessing. But I'm happy playing baseball. I could be working at UPS or scuffling at a job I don't like where I'm not happy, but I'm happy here."

Tags:Chris Roberson
Royals rotation ready to go
February, 9, 2014
FEB 9
10:12
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Vahe Gregorian of the Kansas City Star says that, barring an unexpected injury, there aren't likely to be any surprises when it comes to what players are going to be on the Kansas City Royals big league roster when Opening Day rolls around.

"With the addition of outfielder Norichika Aoki and second baseman Omar Infante, every starting field position has been cast," Gregorian writes. "And now almost the same can be said for the rotation."

According to general manager Dayton Moore, "it's pretty clear that to start the season, that unless something unforeseen happens" the Royals will have a rotation of Jason Vargas, James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen.

The obvious name left off that list is Yordano Ventura, of whom ESPN.com's Keith Law writes, "Ventura still looks a lot like a reliever to me, a slight, 5-foot-10 right-hander with a huge fastball but a strong fly ball tendency that may make him too homer-prone to start in the majors." Law ranks Ventura No. 50 in his annual list of top 100 prospects.

Moore is clearly not ready to commit to Ventura as a starter either, but does expect to see the pitcher in a Kansas City uniform. "We think he's ready for the major leagues. Certainly spring training will help validate that opinion. We expect him to be one of our 12 pitchers when we break camp unless something unforeseen happens."

Tags:Yordano Ventura
Kemp's progress up for debate
February, 9, 2014
FEB 9
9:01
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Because the Los Angeles Dodgers open their season with a two-game series in Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 22 and 23, they have one less week to prepare for the start of 2014 than most teams. The loss of that week may end up costing Matt Kemp some playing time.

Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles wrote on Tuesday that the outfielder "hasn't begun to run yet despite the fact he is more than three months removed from left ankle surgery. He has kept his conditioning up by working out on an antigravity treadmill, but hasn't tested it by running the bases or shagging fly balls."

"Given that the Dodgers' first game is six and a half weeks off," Saxon continues. "Opening Day in Australia appears an unlikely target for Kemp's return. Perhaps their U.S. opener, March 30, is a possibility?"

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports Saturday that after speaking with Don Mattingly, Kemp's status is no less clear: "Mattingly said it doesn't look like Matt Kemp will be ready for Australia, but (also said) he can't rule him out."

While he waits for Kemp to get back to full strength, Mattingly also told Gurnick he is toying with the idea of batting Yasiel Puig in the leadoff spot this season "because I like to get him extra at-bats" and dropping Carl Crawford down to No.2 in the batting order.
Tags:Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig
D-backs can be patient with Bradley
February, 8, 2014
FEB 8
10:00
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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The Arizona Diamondbacks added depth and durability to their rotation Friday, agreeing to a two-year, $23.5 million deal with Bronson Arroyo that includes an option for a third season.

Arroyo, who has pitched at least 199 innings in each of the last nine seasons, joins a rotation that includes Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Cahill and likely bumps Randall Delgado out of the starting five.

Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic makes another key point – Arroyo’s presence makes it unlikely that top prospect Archie Bradley will break camp on the big league roster. The 21-year-old Bradley made it to Double-A last season and had a 1.84 ERA at two minor league levels.

The signing of Arroyo makes it easier for the D-backs to avoid the temptation to rush their 2011 first round pick. Our Keith Law has Bradley No. 9 on his list of Top 100 Prospects and says we can expect to see him in Phoenix before the end of the year:


Keith Law
Archie Bradley, No. 9
"Bradley’s command and control were both significantly better in 2013; his walk rate dropped by nearly 30 percent from low Class A to Double-A, and his rate of walks plus hit batsmen dropped by 40 percent, while he even slashed his wild pitch total (which could also be a function of who was catching him) from 17 to 2. Bradley works with a 92-98 mph fastball and a power curveball in the low 80s with depth and right rotation. He needs more work on his changeup, and needs to use his large frame to stay on top of the fastball so it doesn't sit up in the zone. His arm works and he's extremely competitive on the mound, so the Diamondbacks were right to move him out of the hitter-friendly Cal League as quickly as possible. He'll be ready to help the major league team by the second half of this year and projects as their future No. 1 starter."

Could Nats make play for Burnett?
February, 8, 2014
FEB 8
9:25
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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Could the Washington Nationals make a bid for free agent A.J. Burnett?

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com says “speculation is going around baseball circles that the Nats could consider a late play” for Burnett, who only recently decided that he plans to pitch again in 2014.

Burnett makes his home in nearby Monkton, Maryland and reportedly would like to stay in the National League, which plays into the Nats’ favor. A deal late in the offseason is nothing new for Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, who signed closer Rafael Soriano well past New Year’s Day last winter.

The Pittsburgh Pirates still seem like the logical fit for Burnett, who had a 3.30 ERA for the Bucs last season. But Pirates general manager Neal Huntington has displayed no willingness to overpay, so there could be an opening for the Nationals. The Pirates declined to extend a $14.1-million qualifying offer to Burnett, so there is no extra ball-and-chain of draft pick compensation.

Burnett would be more of a luxury than a necessity in Washington, where he would slot in as a back-of-the-rotation starter behind Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister. So if Burnett were to land in D.C., it would be on the Nats' terms.
Tags:A.J. Burnett
Plenty of interest in Madson
February, 8, 2014
FEB 8
8:54
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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Multiple clubs have expressed interest in Ryan Madson, who held an open audition for about 15 teams Friday and threw 93 miles per hour, reports ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick.

Those impressive numbers should, at the very least, get the veteran reliever a minor league deal somewhere with an invitation to spring training.

Madson pitched in 491 games for the Phillies over nine seasons and posted 32 saves in 2011 before leaving via free agency. The righthander signed deals with the Reds and Angels, but elbow problems have kept him sidelined the last two years.

The Phillies were one of the teams to watch Madson on Friday and have been linked to the 33-year-old in recent weeks. The Mets are looking for a reliever, but did not plan to send any scouts to Madson’s showcase, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
What's next for Baltimore?
February, 8, 2014
FEB 8
8:28
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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It has been a rather quiet offseason for the Baltimore Orioles, and that was something they hoped to change with a deal for Bronson Arroyo. But the veteran righthander bypassed the Birds Friday for a two-year, $23.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks that includes a third-year option.

Arroyo would have been a nice fit for the Orioles primarily because of his durability, pitching at least 199 innings in each of the last nine seasons. Baltimore ranked just 22nd last season in innings from starting pitchers.

The question now is whether the Orioles accelerate their pursuit of the top remaining starters – A.J. Burnett, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. While Burnett lives in Maryland, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun says it’s more like that the righthander will remain with a National League team. Money, of course, could change all that.

At this stage, the Orioles are backing at the draft pick compensation tied to Jimenez and Santana. Jimenez also went less than six innings in half of his 32 starts, so he may be the type of pitcher the O’s want to avoid.

If the Orioles fail to land Burnett, Jimenez or Santana, they could not be blamed for simply allowing Zach Britton, Kevin Gausman, Steve Johnson, Josh Stinson, T.J. McFarland and the rest battle it out for the fifth spot. As Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com points out, the remaining crop of free agent starters does not necessarily represent a clear upgrade.

The O’s have been linked to South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon, but he may be viewed more as a reliever than a starter.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles
Mets kick tires on Hanrahan?
February, 8, 2014
FEB 8
7:49
AM ET
By Doug Mittler | ESPN.com
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The New York Mets say they are still in the market for some late-inning bullpen help, even if the market is closing fast.

The Mets had been in contact with the representatives for Fernando Rodney, but the former Rays closer agreed to a two-year deal with the Mariners on Thurday. Two other relievers came off the board Friday when Francisco Rodriguez and Mitchell Boggs signed with the Brewers and White Sox, respectively.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson reportedly told season-ticket holders Thursday night that they would have scouts watching Joel Hanrahan throw on Friday, A two-time All-Star, Hanrahan underwent Tommy John surgery and will not be available until May.

An agent for Hanrahan, however, said Friday represented only a "light bullpen session," and would not be ready for a "showcase workout" until March.
Tags:Joel Hanrahan
Friday Roundup: More O's talk
February, 7, 2014
FEB 7
2:35
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports continues to try and figure out which free agent pitcher the Baltimore Orioles are going to add to their staff for the 2014 season.

His latest guess is that it's down to one of three potential options. "(I'm) told Orioles are still in on Arroyo, Jimenez and Yoon, but it doesn't look good on Burnett. Not dead, but feeling is he wants to pitch in NL," Kubatko tweeted on Friday.

Kubatko also says the Orioles are also working towards an extension for shortstop J.J. Hardy in order to avoid a potential free agency at the end of the season. He says general manager Dan Duqette told Hardy that we're going to work on that between now and the start of the season."

Here's a quick recap of some of the other rumors and buzz making their way around the major leagues this Friday:
Philadelphia Phillies: Ruben Amaro Jr. was quoted as saying the team is done making any more free agent signings, at least for the very near future, which would seem to indicate that the Phillies are not going to be pursuing A.J. Burnett, or any other pitcher with whom the organization had previously been linked.
Stephen Drew: Agent Scott Boras is believed to be pursuing an "out-clause" in any deal that Drew might sign that would allow the free agent shortstop to become a free agent again at the end of 2014 if he so desired. While the New York Mets are still somewhat interested in Drew, such a clause would be a non-starter in any negotiation.
Nelson Cruz: The Seattle Mariners just announced a big deal with reliever Fernando Rodney, but are said to still be in the market for another big bat in their lineup. Assuming that current talks continue to progress, there could well be a press conference in the very near future to announce that Cruz will indeed fill that need.
Ervin Santana: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that there are some rumblings that the Chicago White Sox might be interested in the free agent pitcher, but he is quick to add that it "doesn't seem to be anything serious" at the present time.
Danny Espinosa: According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, there are "at least a dozen teams who have inquired" about the Washington Nationals second baseman. At present, the team appears to have no interest in dealing him away, and contend that "there will be a competition for the starting second-base job between Espinosa and Anthony Rendon."
Tommy Hanson: The Texas Rangers are said to be "in talks" with the pitcher, with perhaps a minor league deal and invite to camp on the near horizon. Even after losing Derek Holland to injury, there doesn't seem to be a rush for the team to go after some of the higher-priced free agents still on the market.
Greg Holland: The Kansas City closer is the last player on the Royals who has not yet come to an agreement with the team in order to avoid arbitration. Holland has requested $5.2 million while the Royals are offering $4.1 million. If this case goes to a hearing, it would be the first since Dayton Moore took over as general manager.
No panic with Rangers on rotation
February, 7, 2014
FEB 7
1:21
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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The Texas Rangers didn't go into panic mode when they learned they'd be without Derek Holland for a good chunk of the season. They didn't rush right out and make huge offers to Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez -- and they probably won't be doing so going forward either.

As ESPN.com's David Schoenfield writes, Texas should be more than fine in terms of pitching without making any big moves. "The Rangers should score more runs, they have the starter who may be the Cy Young favorite in Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison should be back after missing last season, Martin Perez is developing and they have a deep bullpen that had the second-best ERA (2.91) in the AL last season. Even with Holland out, I like them to get back on top in the West."

That's not to say the Rangers won't be looking to add a few big-league ready arms over the next few weeks. General manager Jon Daniels all but said as much in the aftermath of Holland's injury. However, the team is not going to have to break the bank to get some temporary help on the mound.

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Rangers are "in talks with free agent starter Tommy Hanson." If this particular deal ends up falling apart before it's done, expect the Rangers to pursue other free agents at Hanson's level, rather than making a huge play for the "bigger names" still out there looking for a landing spot.
Tags:Derek Holland, Tommy Hanson
Phillies out on Burnett?
February, 7, 2014
FEB 7
12:33
PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philadelphia reports that Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. does not sound as if he's planning on making any more free agent signings before the team begins its spring training workouts.

"I don't suspect we'll be doing anything," Amaro said. "I think we've got what we've got... We're always looking, always trolling. I know there are guys out there, but I don't suspect us having anything major coming through."

Assuming we take that claim at face value, that means that the team is no longer in the conversation to potentially sign A.J. Burnett. That would seem to leave the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates as the two favorites to end up with Burnett in the fold.

Additionally, the Phillies had been linked to Ryan Madson, who was reportedly scheduled to throw for a scout showcase in Phoenix on Friday. If the Phillies aren't going to be making an offer there, the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals may end up battling it out for the recovering reliever (elbow issues), if they like what they see.
Tags:A.J. Burnett, Ryan Madson
O's still looking for another arm
February, 7, 2014
FEB 7
11:31
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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The Baltimore Orioles continue to scour the free agent market in the hopes of signing at least one more starting pitcher to join their rotation, but as of yet, the team has not held a press conference to announce a signing.

"We've been looking for a veteran starter to bolster our staff all winter, and hopefully we'll be able to sign one," general manager Duquette said in a recent radio interview. "We've been trying this winter. We just haven't quite got it done yet."

According to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, the Orioles are "more willing to surrender their first-round pick than in previous years - they'd lose it if signing Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez - but it's apparent that they'd prefer to hold onto it. It's a tricky balancing act. Try to win now without mortgaging the future."

Eventually, the team is likely to come to terms with either Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett or Suk-Min Yoon. Outfielder Adam Jones doesn't care which one of those arms ends up with the team, but recognizes how important signing someone to help the rotation is essential.

"I think we're just getting better as a core. We've just got to figure out the small pieces to make this engine run. I know Burnett lives somewhere close to me. I'll go to his house. I'll take him some steaks if need be. It's out of my hands, but if you need me to help, I'll help," Jones said.
Tags:Adam Jones, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Suk-Min Yoon
Mariners spending spree not done
February, 7, 2014
FEB 7
10:16
AM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com
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Now that the Seattle Mariners have signed Fernando Rodney to a two-year, $14 million contract, pending a physical, there's a sense that another big deal might be just around the corner.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Mariners say "they are all in" and are "cautiously optimistic" that they will also be able to sign slugger Nelson Cruz to a contract in the very near future. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports seconds this line of thinking, "There's a belief Seattle is amenable to a multi-year deal for Cruz, perhaps two years, with maybe an option or possibly even a guaranteed third year."

Should the Mariners and Cruz reach an impasse, there's still a chance that they might turn to Kendrys Morales in order to add another bat to their lineup, but ESPN.com's Jim Bowden thinks that Morales may end up being this season's Kyle Lohse, "who didn't sign last year until late March."
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