And so it begins: Boras starts to over-sell Strasburg

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Stephen Strasburg and agent Scott Boras held a media conference call
this afternoon and Boras predictably explained to all the reporters on
the line that Strasburg is “a different breed of cat” and worthy of a
mold-breaking signing bonus. Here’s more from the agent who’s never met
a player he couldn’t over-sell:

I don’t think you need me to say it, but obviously Stephen falls
into that class of players really not associated with the inherent
[risk] elements of the draft. They are just players who happen to be
available, whether that be through free agent or posting means. They
just have extraordinary ability. The idea of an extraordinary player
receiving a substantial bonus high above other draft picks has happened
before with Ben McDonald, Mark Teixeira, J.D. Drew.

It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. The reality of it is,
if you look at the players who have gotten $5 million or more, since
1998, and evaluate all of them, you can see the scouting system of
major league baseball is extraordinary. They don’t give out that money
unless those players are very good. Every one of them has made the
major leagues. The risk factor are extremely low. Frankly, the risk
factors are zero.

Boras can spin it however he wants and he’ll no doubt try to do just
that between now and the mid-August signing deadline, but the reality
is that even the greatest talents in draft history have a relatively
spotty track record of success as long as you’re not defining “success”
by simply making the big leagues. And no one but Boras is doing that,
least of all the Nationals.

He brought up Ben McDonald as an example of “an extraordinary player
receiving a substantial bonus high above other draft picks” and that’s
certainly true. McDonald was considered one of the greatest college
pitchers of all time when he was the No. 1 pick in the 1989 draft …
and he won all of 78 games in the majors. Not exactly the greatest
example to show that “the risk factors are zero.”

Along with McDonald, the other pitchers who’ve gone No. 1 overall
during the past 25 years are Andy Benes, Brien Taylor, Paul Wilson,
Kris Benson, Matt Anderson, Bryan Bullington, Luke Hochevar, and David
Price. If anything that list highlights the incredible amount of risk
involved in selecting a pitcher with the top pick, as Benes is the only
one to even make an All-Star team and even he finished with a modest
155-139 career record.

Boras would no doubt argue that Strasburg is more than just another
pitcher picked No. 1 overall, which is fair. Of course, Mark Prior was
the last guy to get tagged as the greatest college pitcher of all time
before Strasburg came around, received a record-breaking $10.5 million
to sign after the Cubs made him the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft, and
has won 42 games as a big leaguer. Any conversation about “zero risk”
in handing a huge amount of money to a great college pitcher can pretty
much end right there.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero
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Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.

Marlins announcer Tommy Hutton was let go because he was “too negative”

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We heard earlier this week that Marlins television analyst Tommy Hutton was let go after 19 seasons on the job. By all accounts, he’s well-liked and respected, so it smelled a little fishy with a team that has owner Jeffrey Loria calling the shots. Well, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald was told by a source close to the Marlins that Hutton was let go because he was “too negative.”

Jackson was also able to get in touch with Hutton, who provided some details about how things went down.

“I know there were times I was negative, but I thought those times were called for,” he said. “Ninety percent of what I said was positive. I tried not to be a homer, but you could tell I wanted the Marlins to do well.”

After being told that his salary wasn’t a factor in the decision, Hutton suspected that his candid, blunt analysis might be the impetus for his ouster.

So after learning his fate on Monday, he asked that question – whether they thought he was too negative — to both a Fox producer (at a meeting at Starbucks) and the Marlins’ vice president/communications (by phone).

He said the question was met with silence by both executives.

“I couldn’t get a yes or a no,” he said.

Hutton said there were three incident in recent years where he was told the Marlins were uncomfortable with something he said. He disclosed one example where he was exasperated at the ballpark’s dimensions after former catcher John Buck flew out to the warning track for the final out of a game. He was told by a Marlins vice president after the game that Loria prefer he not talk about the ballpark’s dimensions. Of course, the team is moving in the fences this winter.

To be clear, Hutton said he was told it was a “mutual decision” between the Marlins and FOX to let him go, but Jackson’s source hears that the concern about his “negativity” came from the team.

Hey, do you know the best way to prevent “negative” talk about your team? Fielding a winning baseball team without a dysfunctional ownership and front office. Crazy idea, I know, but it could be cool?