Projecting the AL All-Star roster – Take 2

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With All-Star balloting set to wrap up this week, I’m going to try
projecting the AL All-Star roster one more time. Here’s what I went
with four weeks ago (starters in bold):

C – Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez
1B – Kevin Youkilis, Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira
2B – Ian Kinsler, Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia
3B – Evan Longoria, Brandon Inge
SS – Derek Jeter, Jason Bartlett
OF – Jason Bay, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford, Torii Hunter, Adam Jones, Johnny Damon
P
– Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Justin Verlander, CC
Sabathia, Edwin Jackson, Joe Saunders, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan
Papelbon, Frank Francisco, Andrew Bailey, Joe Nathan, Scott Downs

And now:

Catchers

Starter: Joe Mauer
Backups: Victor Martinez

The vote was over long ago, and Martinez has always been a
no-brainer as the backup. Now it just remains to be seen whether the AL
will opt to make room for a third catcher. No player is especially
deserving, and I imagine everyone would like to see Mauer play at least
six innings.

First basemen

Starter: Mark Teixeira
Backups: Justin Morneau, Kevin Youkilis

Youkilis just reclaimed a modest 40,000-vote lead in the balloting,
but the Yankees are at home this week and the Red Sox are on the road,
suggesting that Teixeira will move back in front. Both should go
regardless, though I’d still prefer to see Youkilis considered the
backup third baseman, making room on the roster for Miguel Cabrera,
Carlos Pena or even Russell Branyan.

Second basemen

Starter: Ian Kinsler
Backup: Aaron Hill, Dustin Pedroia

In an extremely close vote, Kinsler currently leads Pedroia
2,170,100 votes to 2,163,270. But again, the Rangers are at home this
week and the Red Sox are on the road, so barring a big Internet push,
Kinsler would seem to have the clear advantage. Aaron Hill has been the
league’s best regular second baseman and should make the team as the
backup. Pedroia, as the defending AL MVP, is quite worthy of a spot
even if his recent slump has left him with weaker numbers than some of
the competition. Odds are that he’d win the Fan Vote for the last spot
if left off the team initially.

Third basemen

Starter: Evan Longoria
Backup: Brandon Inge

Longoria has a lead of 1.6 million votes on Alex Rodriguez for the
position. Inge still seems like the best choice as a backup, though
it’d be hard to argue with Scott Rolen. Inge has an 894 OPS to Rolen’s
881 mark. Unfortunately, Michael Young might trump them both. Chone
Figgins is another possibility.

Shortstops

Starter: Derek Jeter
Backup: Jason Bartlett

Jeter is the AL’s leading vote-getter, and Bartlett has been the
league’s most productive shortstop. They’re the obvious two, even if
Bartlett did recently spend some time on the DL.

Outfielders

Starters: Jason Bay, Ichiro Suzuki, Josh Hamilton
Backups: Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, Jermaine Dye

Hamilton hasn’t even been any good when healthy this year, but the
fans clearly want to see him again after what he did in last year’s
Home Run Derby. He has a 145,000-vote lead on Torii Hunter for the last
outfield spot.

I’ve replaced Adam Jones and Johnny Damon from the list of backups
with Zobrist and Dye. Zobrist, who wasn’t on the All-Star ballot, has
to be included somewhere and the outfield is the easiest place to do
it. Dye has been just about as valuable as Adam Lind and has his career
numbers on his side. He could be the White Sox representative, though
Mark Buehrle and Bobby Jenks have cases for spots.

Pitchers

Starters: Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Edwin Jackson, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Tim Wakefield
Relievers: Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey, Brian Fuentes, George Sherrill

Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and Jered Weaver would receive
consideration, but they’re due to pitch on the Sunday before the
All-Star break, likely ruling them out for the game itself. Kevin
Millwood, Buehrle and Joe Saunders are also deserving.

Wakefield may seem like an odd choice, but he is 10-3 and the Red
Sox are pushing for him. It’d be great to see him get to go to his
first All-Star Game at age 42.

Bailey and Sherrill have strong cases anyway, but they can be the
token picks for the A’s and Orioles, respectively. Fuentes isn’t
especially deserving, but he is the AL leader in saves and he’d still
be a fine choice to face a key left-hander in the All-Star Game.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.