Victor Zambrano’s mother was recovered from kidnappers in Venezuela on Tuesday. That’s good. The threat to anyone connected with Major League Baseball, however, remains the same: if they think you can pay a ransom, your family is subject to kidnappers. That’s bad! So bad that the Mets are considering asking their catching prospect Josh Thole to return home from his winter league team there.
Whether Thole — a young, not-yet-rich American who presumably has no family in Venezuela — faces the kind of threat that rich, native Venezuelan starts like Zambrano and Yorvit Torrealba do is an open question. I mean, it’s my uneducated guess that these kinds of people don’t want to risk the kind of heat that would come down if they started picking up random U.S. citizens, but who the hell knows?
What I do know, though, is that if I were running a Major League team I’d (a) do everything I could to persuade my Venezuelan players to relocate their families; and (b) I’d probably not want anyone playing in the Venezuelan winter leagues. Baseball simply ain’t worth this kind of thing.
Free agent right-hander Chris Tillman is narrowing his pool of potential suitors, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Returning to the Orioles is one option, of course, but Heyman also mentions another two undisclosed teams who are still in the running. An earlier report from Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggests that as many as four teams may be in the mix; either way, a final decision is expected by Monday.
Tillman, 29, has spent the entirety of his major league career in Baltimore. After posting career-high numbers in 2016, his progress was derailed during an injury-plagued 2017 campaign, during which he missed nearly six weeks on the disabled list with recurring right shoulder inflammation. He finished the season with a bloated 7.84 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 4.9 SO/9 over 93 innings.
While the mystery teams have yet to reveal themselves, the Blue Jays, Twins and Tigers have all expressed interest in the veteran right-hander this offseason. Both the Blue Jays and Twins have made big moves to bolster their rotations over the last few days, with the additions of Jaime Garcia and Jake Odorizzi, respectively. That doesn’t mean that Tillman is out of reach, however — if his price is right, he could provide some much-needed depth for pitching staffs that finished 15th and 22nd in the league last year.