Will Webb's return come too late for Arizona?

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Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb has been sidelined with a strained
shoulder muscle since struggling in his Opening Day start, but played
catch from 120 feet earlier this week and said yesterday that he’s still hoping to return before the All-Star break.

Before he can think about rejoining Arizona’s rotation Webb will have
to stretch his arm out to throwing from 150 feet, progress to pitching
off a mound, throw several bullpen sessions, and then complete a
minor-league rehab assignment.

In other words, he’s still facing a long road back. Or as Webb put
it: “You can’t just start going into games right away. You’ve got to
build your arm up.”

Arizona has filled Webb’s spot in the rotation
with Yusmeiro Petit, Billy Buckner, and Bryan Augenstein, who’ve
combined to post a 6.80 ERA while the team goes 2-7 in nine starts. If
you assume for a moment that a healthy Webb would have reversed those
figures with the team going 7-2 in his starts, the Diamondbacks could
be sitting at 26-22 right now and Bob Melvin would probably still be
managing.

Unfortunately instead they’re holding the fourth-worst record in the
league at 21-27 and even if Webb is able to return by the All-Star
break the Diamondbacks will likely be completely out of the NL West
picture (they’re already 12.5 games back of the Dodgers) and may also
be trailing by double-digit games in Wild Card race (they’re 6.0 games
behind the Brewers right now).

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

Braves 2
Associated Press
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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.