Pitchers and catchers are officially scheduled to report to their various Spring Training facilities throughout the week, so get excited.
Baseball is coming.
So let’s take a tour around the league.
- At ESPN, Bradford Doolittle discusses who is due for a comeback in 2017 from every Major League team. For the Cubs, that man is (you guessed it!) Jason Heyward. Doolittle recognizes how severe Heyward’s struggles were in 2016, but does not believe it’ll be long before he returns to form. In fact, he goes as far as to say “don’t bet against him,” and I’m inclined to believe it. As you know, Heyward’s been working on his swing all offseason long, and is ready to show it off. Plus, if the extra bit of positive regression from his batted ball profile actually shows up, he can be as ready to hit right out of the gate as anyone.
- It’s interesting how the three biggest big money free agents from last year’s class show up on Doolittle’s list in addition to Heyward (Zack Greinke and David Price).
- According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Rays have just added the hardest throwing starting pitcher in all of baseball (for now), Nathan Eovaldi, to a one-year/$2 million deal with a club option for 2018. Eovaldi is still just 27 years old and throws as hard as anyone in the game, but has dealt with injuries in the recent past. In fact, he needed surgery on his pitching elbow to repair a torn flexor tendon and a partially torn UCL – a very scary prognosis for a pitcher. But the Rays are no stranger to signing broken players with big upside, as they also made the move to bring in free-agent (and injured) catcher Wilson Ramos earlier this offseason. Eovaldi is not expected to pitch in 2017, so what the Rays really bought was the chance to have a healed pitcher in 2018.
- A South Korean court recently set a February 22 trial date to address DUI charges against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ infielder Jung Ho Kang(his third such incident). Given that the Pirates’ first full squad workout is scheduled for five days before that court date, the future is a bit unclear. So, as a precaution, the Pirates have acquired infielder Phil Gosselin from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Minor League right-hander Frank Duncan. More on the story and trade here at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Marlins’ closer A.J. Ramos is just as curious, but perhaps not as surprised, over Jeffery Loria’s potential sale of the Marlins as anybody. “I’ve come to expect things like this,” said Ramos. “I feel like there’s always something that comes out, always something we’re going to have to talk about. Every year I kind of wait. ‘OK, what’s it going to be this year?'” Indeed, several Marlins players – Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Ramos – feel left a bit out of the loop, but are mostly focused on the upcoming season. If you’re looking to catch up on this story, Tim Healey’s report at the Sun Sentinel is a great place to start.
- If you recall back to the terrible boating tragedy that took the life of young Marlins star Jose Fernandez, you’ll remember that two others – Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Jesus Macias – had their lives taken in the accident as well. According to the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel, the families of those other two men are suing Fernandez’s estate for $2 million each. According to the Miami Herald, the Fernandez estate is currently valued between $2-$3 million and his mother recently petitioned to take it over. What was already an extremely sad story is suddenly becoming even murkier, but I’d reserve your judgements.
- When the Atlanta Braves signed former Pirates infielder Sean Rodriguez to a two-year, $11.5 million deal in November, they envisioned big things at the plate in 2017. And, given that Rodriguez slashed .270/.349/.510 with 18 home runs in 2016, that wasn’t entirely off-base. Unfortunately, a car crash at the end of January left Rodriguez with an injured shoulder that’s put his career into question.
- Apparently, the Braves wouldn’t comment on the status of Rodriguez or even the nature of his injury, but the recent acquisition of Brandon Phillips from the Reds is fairly telling – at least for the prospect of a return early in the season. A report from Ken Rosenthal suggest that Rodriguez might be out for 3-5 months, but other reports imply that the whole season may be lost. Rodriguez may have never been a favorite of Cubs fans, but this is obviously pretty terrible news for a guy that finally broke out in a big way last season.
- Over the past four seasons, Paul Goldschmidt has been worth a collective 22.7 WAR – third most among position players over that stretch. And at just 29.5 years old, he figures to have a lot of good baseball left in the tank. But which team will he play for? At AZ Central, Nick Piecoro writes that the Diamondbacks may soon face a decision on Goldschmidt – perhaps as soon as this upcoming trade deadline. Essentially, with an unbalanced roster and very little impact prospects on the way, the Diamondbacks may have to rebuild sooner than later. In fact, depending on how the early season goes, A.J. Pollock (who has just two years of team control remaining) may be on the chopping block, as well. For now, the front office is content in seeing how the season plays out, but don’t be surprised to see either name in rumors when the calendar flips to July.
- Aroldis Chapman loves what he’s seeing in New York, and likens the Yankees’ progress to the youth movement in Chicago and Houston. “Chicago started doing the same thing, bringing young players in the beginning, combined with veterans,” Chapman said. “It worked for them, and it’s a solid team. The Yankees are similar in that way. They’re trying to bring in some youth, athletes that are very gifted.” Funnily enough, former Cub shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres might quickly be a part of that group to which Chapman’s referring. More at Yankees.com.
- At NorthJersey.com, Bob Klapisch takes the 25 year anniversary of the 1992 season as a chance to reminisce about a Mets team that most would probably like to forget – the worst team money could buy. From the beginning of a multiple-season-playoff drought, to serious issues in the clubhouse, you’re going to want to read about this fantastical Mets team that held media boycotts, threw firecrackers towards fans, and squirted bleach at a group of reporters. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of any of this. It just seems so crazy.
- At the Hardball Times, John LaRue discusses the homogenization of ballparks in the last 20 years. Specifically, the increasingly common impetus to create a stadium that plays fair to lefties and righties as well as pitchers and hitters. For a detailed look and explanation of the differences between the 30 Major League stadiums (and a whole lot of interesting history), head over to the Hardball Times.
- According to multiple reports, Seth Maness has agreed to a Minor League Deal with the Royals, wherein he can make $1.25 million if he makes the Major League roster (plus another $750,000 in incentives). Maness, who goes from the Cardinals to the Royals via free agency, was briefly attached to the Chicago Cubs earlier this offseason, but will instead head to Kansas City. You’ll recall that he is attempting a return to baseball after opting for an alternative to Tommy John surgery. If successful, his return could actually be a fairly enormous story, as his recovery time (7.5 months) is far shorter than the standard 12-18 months for TJS.
- If you missed it earlier, MLB is reportedly pushing for time limits on instant replay.
- And finally, NL batters watch out:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) February 13, 2017