Greg Maddux needles Mets, offers wisdom, will be missed

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Prior to Mets-Braves last night, Greg Maduxhad
his number 31 retired at Turner Field. And after a nice ceremony,
Maddux concluded his remarks with this gem: “Let’s beat the Mets …
like old times.” Who knew that Greg Maddux was funny? Even as a Mets
fan, that slayed me. And his matter-of-fact delivery just forces you to
nod your head begrudgingly in agreement.

Later, in an interview with WPIX’s Kevin Burkhardt,
Maddux was asked about setting hitters up. Within his answer, he noted
that he “still had to play to a hitter’s strengths in order to keep
their weaknesses.” Loved that, and not just because it sounds like
something you might hear Phil Jacksonsay. It goes in
line with the stories that Maddux purposefully threw (what appeared to
be) meatball changeups to hitters, but placed them just far enough
inside so they’d pull them foul.

Maddux will be most remembered for his whiffleball movement,
ready-to-field-the-position delivery, and masterful precision. But
here’s three more underrated things that stick out and make him unique:

  1. In the 90’s, just about everyone had switched to the solid color
    sock, and some guys had brought back the knee-high look. But Maddux
    always had his pants stop right below his calf so there were like 6-8
    inches of sock before his shoe. And when stirrups went out of fashion,
    he still wore those white socks that had the colored line stitched in.
    The problem was, if you wore low-tops, the stitch ended before the
    cleat started and solid white showed at the bottom. Fashion disaster. I
    guess you can wear whatever you want when your ERA is like a 1.50.
  2. He despised pitching to Braves catcher Javy Lopez,
    and eventually had his own personal catcher. So even though Lopez was
    one of the better hitting catchers in baseball at that time, Bobby Cox would have to pencil in the likes of Charlie O’Brien and Eddie Perez every five days.
  3. When
    he wasn’t pitching, there was a 50-50 chance that if the television
    cameras shot him on the bench, he was picking his nose. It probably
    only happened a few times, but those few images are burned into my
    brain. And this was before Joe Torre perfected it.

Maddux will be missed.

Finally, now that Maddux has his number retired by both the Cubs
and the Braves, here’s the list of players who have been honored by
multiple clubs:

  • Nolan Ryan (Angels, Astros, Rangers)
  • Rod Carew (Twins, Angels)
  • Reggie Jackson (A’s, Yankees)
  • Carlton Fisk (White Sox, Red Sox)
  • Frank Robinson (Orioles, Reds)
  • Rollie Fingers (A’s, Brewers)
  • Hank Aaron (Braves, Brewers)
  • Casey Stengel (Mets, Yankees)

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.