Sunday Slate: Halladay vs Lester, Yankees Old-Timer's Day, Young Guns in Cincy

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Quick peek at the best pitching match-ups on Sunday:

Red Sox at Blue Jays: Could it be Roy Halladay’s
final start as a Blue Jay? Guessing that if he gets traded, it’ll be
closer to the deadline, so probably not. He’s struggled (all relative)
lately, going 0-2 with a 4.50 since a DL stint, and had a rough time in
the All-Star Game. It’s his first start against Boston this year, after
dominating them in 2008 (2.56 in 5 starts). Meanwhile, Jon Lester
has found it in a big way, rocking a silly 1.48 ERA in his last 8
outings, including 69 Ks in 54 2/3 innings. He’s also 2-0 against the
Jays this year, giving up a total of 2 runs.

Brewers at Reds: The Battle of Red Hot But Now Struggling Youngsters. Both Yovani Gallardo and Johnny Cueto
were dealing for the first 3 months of the year before opponents
started soiling their All-Star credentials in July. Gallardo has given
up 9 runs in his last 10 innings. Cueto didn’t make it out of the 1st
inning against the Phillies (very embarrassing), and then got lit up by
the Mets (even more embarassing). Interesting albeit useless fact: they
were born 12 days apart in February, 1986.

Giants at Pirates: Zach Duke and Matt Cain
are linked because the former took the latter’s place on the All-Star
roster because of an injury. Duke faces a terrorizing G-Men lineup that
has scored 1 run in 23 innings this series. To be fair, the Pirates
have only scored 4. If Cain doesn’t come through today, you can bank on
Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s Monday radio show to be even more animated than his rant from a couple weeks ago when he “fired” his whole staff. Go Buccos.

Tigers at Yankees: Sure, the two starters are intriguing (Edwin Jackson vs Joba “5 and a third” Chamberlain). But I gotta think everyone headed to the Stadium today for Old-Timer’s Day is just itching to see Pat Kelly put on the pinstripes again. I guess Alvaro Espinoza wasn’t available?

Angels at A’s: Be sure to tune in as John Lackey helps out his ERA in healthy doses against the woeful Oakland offense. At least the A’s have Brett Anderson on the hill, who is only 138 outs shy of Orel Hershiser’s consecutive scoreless innings record.

You can follow me on Twitter at mattcasey9.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.