Is Atlanta interested in Matt Holliday?

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Dave O’Brien mentions — and then almost immediately scotches — rumors of a Yunel Escobar for Matt Holliday trade:

While the Braves have made it known they are taking calls from teams
interested in potential Yunel Escobar trades, I’m told that three’s
nothing to the report out of Oakland of discussions between the teams
about an Escobar-and-prospects trade for Oakland’s Matt Holliday and
Orlando Cabrera.

Not saying they haven’t talked to Oakland at some point about
Holliday. Just saying the Braves haven’t talked to them about trading
Escobar and prospects for Holliday and Cabrera, two pending free

As O’Brien goes on to note, such a trade would be ree-dic-ulously awful
for Atlanta, as Escobar is both (a) useful; and (b) not even
arb-eligible until after 2010, and given that both Holliday and Cabrera
are free agents after the season. Oh, and Cabrera stinks and both he
and Holliday are expensive. If anything, such a deal would need
prospects coming back Atlanta’s way to make up for the virtual
certainty that both of those guys would bolt after the season is over.

Still, I’ve been reading O’Brien for many years, and one thing is
clear: he has some good sources in the Braves’ front office. So while
this particular trade makes little sense for Atlanta, I have to believe
him when he says that there are talks between Oakland and Atlanta
involving Escobar and Holliday. Stay tuned.

Shohei Ohtani is having a brutal spring training

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Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.

Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.

With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.

As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.

As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.

I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.