Daily Dose: Pedro Who?

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ja happ.jpgWith the Phillies facing a decision on who to bump from their rotation once Pedro Martinez is deemed ready, J.A. Happ submitted his case for remaining a starter with the best performance of his career Wednesday. He tossed a complete-game shutout against the Rockies, striking out a career-high 10 while allowing just four hits and two walks, and the 127-pitch effort makes him 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA.
Happ’s outing ranks among the top dozen starts in the NL this season and easily overshadowed the six innings of three-run ball that Martinez threw at Double-A in his third and perhaps final rehab appearance. Jamie Moyer is the obvious choice to be replaced by Martinez thanks to his 5.55 ERA, but the 46-year-old is signed for next season at $6.5 million and the Phillies don’t see him as a bullpen option.
That leaves poor Happ as the odd man out, because Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Joe Blanton obviously aren’t going anywhere. There’s no question that Happ is a better option than Moyer or Martinez down the stretch, but the Phillies may want to prep him for a postseason bullpen role and a six-game cushion in the division gives them a chance to do that without really risking their odds of getting there.
While the Phillies make a choice between experience and money or performance and youth, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Believe it or not the Mets suffered another big injury Wednesday, as Jon Niese exited his start in the second inning with what turned out to be a complete tear of his right hamstring. He was just starting to look like he was in the majors to stay, but the 22-year-old lefty will miss the remainder of the season. Nelson Figueroa tossed 4.1 shutout innings in relief of Niese and could take his rotation spot.
Bobby Parnell is another option, as Jerry Manuel admitted that he’s considered a move back to the starting role that he filled in the minors and seemingly took the first step toward stretching out his arm with a three-inning relief appearance. His upside as a starter is fairly limited, because Parnell had a 4.67 ERA and 188/104 K/BB ratio in 45 starts between Double-A and Triple-A before moving to the pen.
* Already on the disabled list with an injured shoulder, Erik Bedard is headed for an MRI exam after complaining of soreness following a bullpen session Tuesday. Bedard is eligible to come off the shelf on August 10 and if healthy could still be traded by the Mariners, but even a minor setback would rule that out and end the impending free agent’s time in Seattle after 30 starts and 11 wins in two years.
AL Quick Hits: Tim Wakefield (calf) felt strong enough to throw a bullpen session Wednesday, but there’s no timetable yet for his return … Bobby Jenks was again unavailable Wednesday because of kidney stones … Jason Berken will remain in the rotation despite going 0-9 since winning his MLB debut … Boston inked Paul Byrd to a minor-league deal Wednesday and he could be a September rotation option … Acquired from the Cardinals last week to finish the Mark DeRosa deal, Jess Todd could claim a late-inning role in the Indians’ bullpen … Cody Ransom began the season as Alex Rodriguez’s fill-in, but was designated for assignment Wednesday after batting .190 … Brandon McCarthy (shoulder) is slated to begin a rehab stint Saturday at Triple-A … Francisco Liriano took his AL-high 11th loss Wednesday, allowing four runs before the bullpen imploded … David Ortiz was benched Wednesday versus lefty David Price, with Mike Lowell starting at DH.
NL Quick Hits: Scott Rolen went deep in his return to the lineup Wednesday after getting beaned Sunday … Roy Oswalt (back) threw from flat ground Wednesday and will try a mound session Friday … Clint Barmes was hitless Wednesday and is now 8-for-66 (.121) since the All-Star break … After starting 54 straight games since being called up, dizziness kept Andrew McCutchen out Wednesday … B.J. Ryan will try to find another minor-league deal after being released Wednesday by the Cubs … Chris Young is expected to avoid surgery on his injured shoulder, but won’t pitch again this year … Wandy Rodriguez (hamstring) tossed a bullpen session Wednesday and noted afterward that he “felt great” … Chad Gaudin had his second straight poor outing Wednesday after looking like he was ready to be a fantasy asset … Micah Owings (shoulder) threw a simulated game Wednesday and could begin a rehab stint next week … Jimmy Rollins homered Wednesday for the third straight game.

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.