Daily Dose: Waiver claim nets ChiSox Rios

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Alex Rios signed a seven-year, $70 million extension with the Blue Jays just 13 months ago, but on Monday afternoon general manager J.P. Ricciardi decided to simply dump the remainder of that contract on the White Sox when they put in a waiver claim for the 28-year-old. “This allows us to get out from under a contract and enables us to do more to address our club going forward,” Ricciardi said.
Rios is a career .285/.335/.451 hitter who’s at just .264/.317/.427 this year, so it’s tough to blame Ricciardi for not wanting to pay him an average of $12 million per season through 2014. However, Rios’ great glove and baserunning mean that his value goes far beyond production at the plate and if he returns to pre-2009 levels the White Sox will gladly pay that to replace impending free agent Jermaine Dye.
For now though Dye remains the starting right fielder and Carlos Quentin is fixed in left field, so most of Rios’ playing time figures to come at the expense of Scott Podsednik in center field. Calling the White Sox’s power-boosting ballpark home gives Rios a much improved chance of finally cracking 25 homers at some point, but in the short term a crowded outfield could take a chunk out of his value.
While the Blue Jays shed payroll and the White Sox add an underrated outfielder in his prime, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Just when an eight-game winning streak finally had the Nationals headed in the right direction, the team received bad news during Monday’s off day. Dr. James Andrews has recommended Tommy John elbow surgery for Jordan Zimmermann after reviewing his MRI exam. Zimmermann may seek a second opinion, but the 23-year-old right-hander is done for the season and figures to go under the knife.
Zimmermann looked extremely promising before suffering the injury around three weeks ago, posting a 4.63 ERA and 92/29 K/BB ratio in 91.1 innings spread over 16 starts after basically skipping Triple-A. With a bit more seasoning and a better defense behind him Zimmermann looked like a possible ace and he may still get there, but it likely won’t be until at least 2011.
* Chris Young certainly earned a demotion to Triple-A by hitting .194/.297/.359 in 103 games, but it was still surprising to see the Diamondbacks actually make the move Monday. His sub-.200 batting average shouldn’t shock anyone after Young hit .237 as a rookie and .248 last season, but just seven homers in 315 at-bats stands out after he showed about twice that much power coming into the year.
Young will likely be back once rosters expand in September and remains part of the long-term plans, so he may be a bargain in NL-only leagues next year. In the meantime Arizona added Rusty Ryal to play some second base, Ryan Roberts is likely to see time in left field along with Trent Oeltjen, and Gerardo Parra is the everyday center fielder. Ryal has a cool name and 20-homer pop, but little else.
* Pedro Martinez will join the Phillies’ rotation Wednesday against the Cubs, with Charlie Manuel announcing that Jamie Moyer and his 5.47 ERA will be moved to the bullpen. Previously the Phillies said that Moyer wasn’t a relief option, but J.A. Happ has simply been too good to pull from the rotation and Martinez striking out 11 in his third rehab start apparently convinced the team that he’s an upgrade.
AL Quick Hits: Justin Duchscherer (elbow) had an encouraging first rehab outing Sunday at Triple-A, throwing 55 pitches … Jacoby Ellsbury topped last season’s total with his 51st stolen base of the year Monday … Torii Hunter (groin) is set to begin a rehab assignment Tuesday at Single-A … Gil Meche (back) is scheduled to come off the disabled list Thursday against the Twins … Magglio Ordonez had three extra-base hits Monday and is batting over .400 this month … Joe Maddon speculated Monday that Troy Percival will retire rather than come back from his latest injuries … Tim Wakefield (calf) tossed a simulated game Monday, but had to take three rests during the 51 pitches … Edwin Jackson needed 104 pitches to complete four innings Monday versus the Red Sox, allowing four runs … Mark Grudzielanek was released by Minnesota after the 39-year-old veteran struggled in eight games at Double-A.
NL Quick Hits: Johnny Cueto left Monday’s start after suffering a hip flexor hitting in the third inning … Billy Wagner (elbow) threw his fifth straight scoreless inning while rehabbing Monday at Single-A … Chad Billingsley (hamstring) is unlikely to make his scheduled start Wednesday … Leo Nunez notched his 12th save after Matt Lindstrom struggled with a five-run lead Monday … Aaron Cook (toe) is now on track to start Friday against the Marlins … Tom Gorzelanny headed for X-rays after being hit on the foot Monday, but gave up six runs in 1.1 innings first … Tim Hudson (elbow) is slated to begin a rehab stint Thursday at Triple-A … Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang have both cleared waivers … Former second overall pick Greg Reynolds has been shut down with shoulder problems that surfaced in April … LaTroy Hawkins (shingles) reported no issues after Monday’s simulated game … Troy Tulowitzki had a monster game Monday, hitting for the cycle while knocking in seven runs, and is slugging over .600 since June 1.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]