What we're watching – June 1

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– After homering in four of the Padres’ six games on the road last
week, Adrian Gonzalez returns home to Petco to take on Joe Blanton and
the Phillies. Gonzalez is hitting a relatively modest .259 with five
homers in 85 at-bats in San Diego this year. He’s at .313 with 15
homers in 96 at-bats on the road.

– Hiroki Kuroda wasn’t any good in his rehab start last week, giving
up seven runs — five earned — and nine hits over five innings for
Single-A Inland Empire, but the Dodgers have still chosen to bring him
back to face the Diamondbacks tonight. He was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in
four starts against Arizona as a rookie last year. The Dodgers will
have the advantage of facing Billy Buckner, who allowed five runs in a
loss to the Padres last time out. Buckner pitched in relief against the
Dodgers on April 11 and allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning.
He was demoted to the minors soon afterwards, only to be brought back
as a starter on May 22.

– With trade speculation ramping up, Roy Oswalt will take on the
Rockies tonight. He’s 6-1 with a 1.84 lifetime against Colorado, but
the Roy Oswalt who put up those numbers hasn’t shown up very frequently
this season. Coming off three straight no-decisions, Oswalt enters his
12th start of the season with a 1-2 record and a 4.62 ERA. Fellow
Opening Day starter Aaron Cook will pitch for Colorado.

– Derek Jeter enters Monday’s game against the Indians with a chance
of reaching two milestones: he’s two runs scored away from 1,500 and
two hits away from 2,600.

Game of the Night

Cincinnati vs. St. Louis – There are currently 38 starters with at
least five wins this season, but only one is pitching tonight. That’s
the Cardinals’ Todd Wellemeyer, who has a 5.02 ERA to go along with his
5-4 record. He has, though, allowed two runs in 11 1/3 innings over his
last two starts, both of which resulted in victories. The Reds will go
to Edinson Volquez, who is fresh off the DL after missing two starts
with back spasms. Volquez, who gave up seven runs in a start against
the Cardinals on May 10, is 4-2 with a 4.25 ERA this season.

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.