Smoltz, Penny won't change Boston's buy-low rotation plans

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Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald wrote a good article today about the Red Sox’s rotation plans heading into the offseason, noting that this season’s low-risk, high-reward deals for John Smoltz and Brad Penny working out poorly won’t stop general manager Theo Epstein from pursuing other pitchers with injury issues.
Here’s what Epstein had to say about Smoltz, Penny, and his offseason plans:

There’s a tendency on the heels of some of those buy-low, one-year deals not working out to go in the other direction, and say we’re not going to do that, we’re going to avoid anyone who’s coming off a bad season or anyone who’s got health concerns. But the reality is, you sign one-year, buy-low deals for a reason because a lot of them don’t work out.

But they provide you flexibility. So when they do work out, hopefully you have an option and you can keep that player for next year. If they don’t work out, you move on and you have flexibility both during that season and in future years to address needs.

Epstein went on to say that the Red Sox will likely pursue another buy-low starter to pair with Tim Wakefield at the back of a rotation fronted by Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Clay Buchholz. McAdam mentions Ben Sheets as an option and calls Brandon Webb “the most interesting of those pitchers” if the Diamondbacks decline his $8.5 million option for 2010, but speculates that Rich Harden is a more likely target for the Red Sox.
Harden had a mediocre 9-9 record and 4.06 ERA for the Cubs, but led baseball with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings and has a 3.39 career ERA. Of course, he hasn’t thrown 150 innings in a season since 2004 and has never logged 200 innings. He’s an ideal buy-low target, but my guess is that Harden is young enough and dominant enough when healthy that some team will take a multi-year, big-money gamble on him. And it won’t be Boston.

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.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.