Daily Dose: Hello Billy, Goodbye Gary?

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Billy Wagner came off the 60-day disabled list Thursday, rejoining the Mets’ bullpen less than 12 months after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery. He looked great while rehabbing in the minors, tossing seven scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts and zero walks, but now enters an odd situation because the Mets have little use for him now and aren’t planning to pick up his $8 million option for next season.
Wagner’s remaining contract means that he should clear waivers without a problem, which would allow the Mets to trade him to a contender willing to take a shot on the greatest left-handed reliever in baseball history still having some gas left in the tank. He’s owed another $2.5 million or so this year with a $1 million buyout for 2010, so the Mets need to eat salary to get anything in return. He’s worth a pickup, for sure.
While the Mets welcome someone back from the shelf ahead of schedule for once, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Of course, it wouldn’t be the Mets without some trouble to go along with Wagner’s return and Gary Sheffield provided the drama Thursday by reportedly asking for an extension and then threatening to leave the team. Earlier this week Sheffield made some odd statements about not expecting to finish the season with the Mets, so his causing a stir now is hardly shocking.
He’s had a very nice season, hitting .286/.378/.468 in a part-time role for one of the best adjusted OPS+ totals in baseball history by a 40-year-old outfielder, but clearly the Mets can’t be blamed for not looking to lock him up to an extension. They pulled Sheffield back from waivers when he was claimed earlier this month, so a release is the only possible resolution if he can’t be placated.
* Cincinnati decided to put Johnny Cueto on the disabled list Thursday after he went 0-6 with a 10.63 ERA in his last eight starts. Obviously something isn’t right with the promising 23-year-old and the official word is right shoulder inflammation, although the Reds gave no indication that the injury is serious and are hoping that he can get back in the rotation when eligible to return early next month.
Cueto had followed up a very solid rookie campaign by going 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 16 starts prior to his implosion, so assuming that the injury proves minor the horrible recent numbers are likely to make him significantly undervalued heading into 2010. For now Micah Owings will replace him in the rotation after spending three weeks on the DL with shoulder problems of his own, but he has little fantasy upside.
AL Quick Hits: Jon Lester tossed eight innings of one-run ball Thursday for his fourth straight Quality Start … Joba Chamberlain is scheduled to make six more starts this season as the Yankees limit his workload … Nelson Cruz came off the disabled list with a homer Thursday … Jason Varitek missed his third straight game with a sore neck Thursday, so Victor Martinez filled in behind the plate … Matt LaPorta rejoined the Indians by driving in three runs Thursday … J.D. Drew went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers Thursday while batting eighth in the lineup … Jarrod Washburn served up four homers to his former Mariners teammates Thursday, giving him eight long balls allowed in four Tigers starts … Justin Morneau has flown back to Minnesota to have his inner-ear infection and dizziness examined by a specialist … Chris Duncan was released Thursday less than a month after coming to Boston in the Julio Lugo trade.
NL Quick Hits: Drew Stubbs hit a walk-off homer Thursday in his second MLB game after going deep three times in 107 games at Triple-A … Carlos Zambrano (back) threw five shutout innings in a rehab start Thursday at Single-A … San Francisco’s dominant pitching and awful hitting continued Thursday as they wasted a Matt Cain gem … Ian Stewart struck out in all four at-bats Thursday and has now whiffed in 30 percent of his at-bats overall … It took 23 starts of a 5.47 ERA, but the Mets finally cut Livan Hernandez loose Thursday … Anibal Sanchez will return from the 60-day disabled list to start Friday against the Braves … Justin Upton (oblique) is slated to begin a rehab stint Monday at Single-A … Johan Santana got stuck with another tough-luck loss Thursday despite giving up three runs in seven innings … Aaron Harang allowed one run in seven innings Thursday, but once again was left without a victory … Nick Johnson (hamstring) is likely headed for the DL if he doesn’t show improvement soon.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

Banned
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Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

Jose Bautista Blue Jays
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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.

The Rays are REALLY ready to get to work on that new ballpark

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Last month St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays reached an agreement that would allow the Rays to seek a new ballpark outside of the St. Pete city limits, anywhere in the Bay Area. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports¬†today that the Rays have submitted a required report to that end which “describes how they plan to evaluate potential ballpark sites across the Tampa Bay area” and serves as a rough outline of the sort of facility they’re looking to build.

They submitted it 39 days before deadline. Ya think they’re eager to get moving?

As for the specifics, it sounds like they’re shooting for a Braves or Cardinals style destination place with surrounding entertainment, retail and the like. The Braves are achieving that by basically building the park at a mall and plan to surround it with other mall/entertainment district-type development. The Cardinals built a downtown park, but have developed Ballpark Village after the fact. This is to be contrasted with downtown parks which either counted on existing city businesses or spurred separate development.

All of which makes sense given that there isn’t one dominant location in Tampa which all but demands development there. Tampa has a few different areas that might make sense and the place is generally more spread out than older cities. It also makes sense for the Rays’ owners who are likely well aware that being in the real estate business is just as good for them as being in the baseball business.

Will anyone EVER break that record that was broken nine years ago?

Hank Aaron
Associated Press
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In 2007, Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. He would go on to hit six more, finishing his career with 762. That was nine years ago and, at present, the active home run leader is nearly 80 homers behind him and no sure bet to come close. The next closest guy is over 200 homers back and clearly entering a period of decline.

All of which raises the question: will anyone EVER pass the home run total of Hank Aaron, who is in second place on that list?

Maybe you think that’s not really a pertinent question. We tend not to ask whether people who do not, by any objective measure, hold a record will have their records surpassed. But you’d be wrong. Why, just today, on Hank Aaron’s 82nd birthday, at least two journalists speculated whether anyone would ever become the all-time second place home run king:

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That’s from Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated. As always, it’s excellent work from Cliff. Right up there with his seminal “will anyone ever catch Lou Brock in stolen bases?” and “who can catch Trevor Hoffman in career saves?” pieces.

Then there’s Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who approves of the question posed and has his own response:

You can imagine how those tweets were received by those parts of Twitter who are all about PED apologia, math, objective standards, noting that Aaron admitted that he took a PED that would have him banned today too and stuff like that. As always, these things get ugly.

Not that they have to be. It’s almost as if, if one were to try, one could celebrate the amazing inner-circle Hall of Fame career of Hank Aaron, full as it is with nearly unsurpassed accomplishment, without applying a revisionist gloss to the one accomplishment that, according to all objective measures and the accounting of Major League Baseball, has been surpassed. That one could talk about Aaron without slagging on Bonds.