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.

Dexter Fowler: “I didn’t say anything wrong.”

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Dexter Fowler #81 poses for a portrait during St Louis Cardinals Photo Day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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New Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler was recently asked by ESPN’s Mark Saxon how President Trump’s efforts to institute a travel ban affected him and his family. Fowler’s wife is from Iran and Fowler said that he had reconsidered traveling with his daughter to Iran to visit her family. His wife’s sister also delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar as a result of Trump’s executive order. “It’s huge,” Fowler said. “Especially anytime you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

Fowler’s statement was pretty bland as far as athletes wading into political waters go. He didn’t criticize Trump or conservatives, nor did he espouse support for liberals or Democrats. It was a simple statement that his life had been adversely impacted by an executive order.

The responses to Fowler’s comment were mostly awful. The @BestFansStLouis Twitter account highlighted this, as did Jeff Passan for Yahoo Sports and Will Leitch for Sports on Earth. Fans suggested that Fowler “shut up and play” because “nobody cares” and that Fowler is “property” of the Cardinals. The responses were so negative that Fowler tweeted about it:

Fowler, however, isn’t backing down. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” Fowler said. “I think it was taken out of context [by other outlets]. I don’t think people read the article. I think people made their own [headlines]. The question was asked out of empathy to my family, and I appreciate that. If anybody is asking about my family, then I’m going to let them know that, ‘Yeah, obviously it affected my family. My wife is Iranian.’ … I think it’s kind of ignorant of people to just come at me like that and not read the article.”

[…]

“I’m always going to care for my family,” Fowler said. “And if a question is asked out of concern, I’m going to answer the question. And I’m going to answer it truthfully. It’s not to hurt anybody. It’s unfortunate that people think of things that way. I believe they’re sensitive. I’m not the sensitive one. I appreciate the ones that understood.”

Manager Mike Matheny has Fowler’s back. He said, “I think he handled it correctly. He was very clear that he was trying to make a statement about his family [and it] ended up becoming a political statement.”

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, also expressed support for Fowler:

“Baseball players are a microcosm of society, and I was a grown man before I was a baseball player,” Clark said. “If I have a view, I should be willing to share it, while understanding what I’m a part of and what my responsibilities are. Any player understands that when they take a particular position, it may not be a popular one.

“There may be pushback. That shouldn’t be a reason not to have an opinion. In this instance, it’s a very personal one to Dex. I respect the commentators that responded. I respect their freedom to respond to it.”

Indeed, Fowler had every right to say what he said and it’s good to see that both his manager and the head of the MLBPA support him fully. It would have been easy and politically safe to allow Fowler to hang out to dry.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.