Rough day for three potential free agents

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Along with the big Johan Santana and Billy Wagner news today, there were three lesser items that figure to negatively impact a few of this winter’s potential free agents.
Wanting to make room for Chris Davis, the Rangers placed Andruw Jones on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.
Jones’ OPS stood at 903 on July 29, but he’s gone 8-for-53 with no homers since, leaving him with a .217/.329/.482 line for the season. Just as much of a concern for his value going forward is that leg injuries have limited his outfield time, making him primarily a DH even after injuries to Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz opened up spots. Jones does have his 17 homers in 253 at-bats this season, so if he were still an adequate center fielder, he’d be well worth considering as a regular next year. However, as is, that’s an awfully difficult thing to judge. It would help if he got himself into better shape and then logged some innings in winter ball.
In this case, Jones’ loss is another free agent’s gain. Hank Blalock could have lost a lot more playing time to Davis, but he’ll likely stay in the lineup against right-handers now.
The Mets revealed that J.J. Putz suffered a setback with his forearm and probably wouldn’t pitch again this season.
If that’s the case, Putz could well end his Mets career with a 5.22 ERA and a 19/19 K/BB ratio in 29 1/3 innings, all accumulated during the first two months of this season. GM Omar Minaya expected him to function as an elite setup man in front of Francisco Rodriguez, but it seems clear now that the one-time dominant closer will never be so effective again.
The Mets have the option of keeping Putz at $8.5 million or buying him out for $1 million next year. It’d be a lot to pay for a setup man anyway, and there’s just no way that Putz is worth it now. Exercising the option and trading him might have worked if Putz came back and impressed in September, but that’s also out. Odds are that he’ll become a free agent, and he might latch on with a low payroll club willing to give him an opportunity to close (Florida? Baltimore?).
Nick Johnson has been slower than expected to recover from a strained hamstring and could be placed on the DL prior to tonight’s game.
Incredibly, Johnson went 4 1/2 months without suffering an injury of any significance. However, the slow healing first baseman is down now after appearing in just 13 games following a trade from the Nationals to the Marlins. Johnson, who is batting .296/.419/.408, had a ton to gain as a free agent by playing in 150 games this season. It likely would have put him in line for another three-year deal. Something like $15 million for two years might be more likely now.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.