Say what? Jeter not so bad at defense

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I hope you’re sitting down for this, because I’m going to share a notion that might shock you right out of your Snuggie.

No, it’s not that Jose Canseco is suing MLB. Or that Congress is now setting its sights on Sammy Sosa. Those two nuggets wouldn’t even surprise this guy.

No, what I’m going to point out is so shocking, you might question everything you thought you knew about baseball:


That’s right, he’s not. In fact, at the age of 34 (35 in 9 days, don’t
forget to send a card), Jeter is putting together his finest defensive
season since they’ve been keeping advanced defensive metrics.

Looking at two fielding stats, range runs and UZR, Jeter has improved immensely since 2005, when he contributed to one of the worst defensive teams to ever make the playoffs.

Here is how Jeter’s numbers stack up since that season:

Range runs (Number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls in his vicinity)

2005: -17.1
2006: -7.1
2007: -16.0
2008: -3.2
2009 (through 60 games): 0.6

Ultimate zone rating
(Number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs,
outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined)

2005: -14.3
2006: -6.8
2007: -15.3
2008: -0.5
2009 (through 60 games): 1.6

The improvement clearly started last season, when Jeter rededicated himself to defense, employing “exercises designed to improve his lateral quickness and first-step explosiveness.”

So how has Jeter gone from being among the worst defensive shortstops in baseball to a slightly above-average one?

Is it something simple like these exercises he’s doing? His diet? The fact that no one wants to hit the ball on the ground at the new Yankee Stadium?

I wonder what Jerod Morris thinks? That last one was a joke, folks.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.