Daily Dose: Hardy back in Milwaukee

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J.J. Hardy is headed back to Milwaukee now that rosters have expanded, but three weeks spent at Triple-A is just enough time to delay his free agency by another year. Rather than being arbitration eligible for the final time next season Hardy is under the Brewers’ control through 2011, which should come in handy when trying to trade him this offseason.
Alcides Escobar has started 13 of 17 games at shortstop following Hardy’s demotion, but general manager Doug Melvin indicated that the two players will split the position down the stretch. Hardy hit just .246/.279/.415 in 17 games at Triple-A, but it makes sense for the Brewers to give him some action in the hopes that he can build up a bit of additional trade value. Still, expect Escobar to be the primary starter.
While the Brewers slickly gain an extra year of Hardy’s services, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Much like John Smoltz did a couple weeks ago, Brad Penny signed with a National League team Monday immediately after clearing waivers and being released by the Red Sox. He joins the Giants on what is essentially a one-month, $100,000 deal to replace Joe Martinez as the fifth starter and clearly hopes to follow further in Smoltz’s footsteps by turning his awful season around in the weaker league.
Penny went 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA and 89/42 K/BB ratio over 131.2 innings in Boston, including 0-4 with a 9.11 ERA in his final five starts. His fastball has still clocked in at an average of 94.0 miles per hour this season, but it’s been one of the least-effective heaters in baseball against AL batters. Don’t expect a dramatic turnaround, but he’s certainly capable of having some value in NL-only leagues down the stretch.
* As expected, the Diamondbacks placed Chad Qualls on the disabled list Monday after the closer suffered a gruesome-looking dislocated kneecap on the final play of Tuesday night’s game. Qualls will miss the remainder of this season and his status for the beginning of next season could be in some doubt. No official fill-in has been named, but rookie Juan Gutierrez is the obvious choice followed by Clay Zavada.
* Kyle Blanks’ strong rookie season came to a halt Monday when he was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Blanks blasted 10 homers and 19 total extra-base hits in just 148 at-bats, joining Adrian Gonzalez this year and Milton Bradley in 2007 as the only hitters to produce an Isolated Power above .250 calling Petco Park home. The ballpark limits his upside, but expect 25-plus homers in 2010.
AL Quick Hits: Ichiro Suzuki (calf) was held out of the lineup again Monday, but did take batting practice and shag fly balls before the game … Jarrod Saltalamacchia (hand) could be headed for surgery after being removed a rehab game Monday at Double-A … Jarrod Washburn was rocked for eight runs Monday, giving him a 6.81 ERA in six starts with the Tigers … Tim Wakefield (back) received a cortisone shot Monday and will be evaluated further later this week … Adrian Beltre is expected to rejoin the lineup Tuesday just three weeks after injuring his testicle … Carlos Guillen went 4-for-5 with two homers, four RBIs, and three runs Monday … On the disabled list with complications from past back surgeries, Joe Crede denied reports that he’s considering retirement … Jeremy Bonderman is due to come off the DL when rosters expand Tuesday, but is not a rotation option … Is there something higher than MVP? Joe Mauer homered, singled, stole a base, and scored twice in a 4-1 win Tuesday.
NL Quick Hits: Rich Harden struggled Monday after the Twins failed to trade for him, giving up five runs on five hits and six walks in five innings … Lou Piniella said that Geovany Soto will begin to lose playing time to Koyie Hill because of his season-long struggles … Tim Lincecum’s next start has been pushed back one day after he threw a season-high 127 pitches in eight shutout innings Friday … Carlos Beltran (knee) is scheduled to begin a rehab stint Wednesday at Single-A … Johnny Cueto threw five innings of one-run ball in his return from the disabled list Monday after going 0-6 with a 10.63 ERA in his previous eight starts … Jordan Schafer had season-ending wrist surgery Monday, but should be ready for spring training … Nick Johnson (hamstring) is set to start a rehab assignment Tuesday at Single-A … Daniel McCutchen hurled a Quality Start in his debut Monday despite serving up a leadoff homer … Brandon Phillips revealed Tuesday that he’s been playing with a fractured wrist for two weeks.

Ben Zobrist is the “Mets’ No. 1 target”

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …

It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?

Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.

Tigers agree to deal with starter Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Hey, the hot stove is finally generating some real fire …

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Tigers have agreed to terms on a contract with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. It’s a five-year deal worth around $110 million, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

This should have a domino effect on a loaded starting pitching market. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija are just a few of the names still out there.

Zimmermann, 29, posted a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 164/39 K/BB ratio in 201 2/3 innings this past season for the Nationals. He had a 2.66 ERA in 2014 and threw a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Zimmermann’s free agency is tied to draft pick compensation because he rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Washington, but the Tigers finished with one of the 10-worst win-loss records in 2015 so their first-round pick in 2016 is protected. Detroit will give up its second-round pick instead.

Video: Statcast’s 10 longest home runs from 2015

Giancarlo Stanton
AP Photo/Joe Skipper

Here’s a pretty good way to finally break out of that turkey-induced Thanksgiving tryptophan coma.

It’s a compilation of the 10 longest home runs from the 2015 season, with MLB.com’s Statcast technology providing data along the path of each blast …

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.