Pouliot's thoughts on Wednesday's moves: Andruw, Liz, Hulett

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andruw jones rangers.jpg*White Sox sign outfielder Andruw Jones, who had been with the Rangers, on a one-year, $500,000 contract.
Surprisingly, the deal includes just $1 million in incentives.
Jones must have looked at what happened to guys like Jim Edmonds, Geoff Jenkins and Shannon Stewart last season and decided that taking an extremely modest deal was better than being forced out of the league.
I think this is a great move for the White Sox. Andruw didn’t do much in the second half last season, but the Rangers also didn’t give him a real chance to hit out of his slump. When he did play, he showed he can still hit the ball a long way. He finished at a respectable .214/.323/.459 with 17 homers and 43 RBI in 281 at-bats for the season.
If his body holds up — something that didn’t happen last year — then Jones could very well be a more-than-adequate regular in right field for the White Sox. If not, then he’s a part-time DH who costs the team next to nothing and who would be very easy to cut if someone better (Tyler Flowers?) comes along. While it’s unlikely that he’ll be an everyday guy initially, it’s conceivable that he could hit 30 homers and still cost the White Sox just $1.5 million. That makes it a great pickup for GM Ken Williams.
*Padres claimed RHP Radhames Liz off waivers from the Orioles.
It shows how far Liz’s stock has fallen that he was able to make it out of the AL before someone claimed him. The Orioles made a big mistake in never allowing Liz to settle into a short relief role. He’s never mastered the breaking ball, but he throws in the mid-90s while working an inning or two at a time and he has a pretty good changeup. It’s still not beyond the realm of possibility that he becomes a legitimate closer at some point.
That didn’t stop a bunch of teams from passing on him, though. He’s 6-8 with a 7.50 ERA and an 82/76 K/BB ratio in 110 1/3 innings as a major leaguer. Plus, he’s going to be out of options next spring, which means he’ll have to make a team or go right back on waivers again.
Kevin Towers is no longer around, but the Padres have a great track record of turning castoffs into quality major league relievers and Liz fits the profile. He’ll be far from a lock to make the team next spring, but he’s worth watching, particularly with incumbent closer Heath Bell a possibility to be shopped at the trade deadline.
*Red Sox acquire infielder Tug Hulett from the Royals for a player to be named or cash
Hulett was removed from the Royals’ 40-man roster last week, so nothing of significance was surrendered here.
The 26-year-old Hulett hit .291/.384/.473 with Triple-A Omaha last season, but the Royals never gave him a shot with such luminaries as Willie Bloomquist, Luis Hernandez and Mitch Maier in need of playing time. He’s had 67 at-bats as a major leaguer, coming in at .194/.270/.254. If he were a legitimate backup shortstop, Hulett would likely have a fine career as a utilityman. Unfortunately, he’s not really playable there. He is adequate at second and third, plus he has some experience in the outfield corners. Also, he’s a left-handed hitter, which should help his cause. The Red Sox probably won’t carry him out of spring training, but he’ll be a handy guy to have around as depth.

The Chicago Cubs: Spring training games, regular season prices

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — I’ve been covering spring training for eight years, and in just those eight years a lot has changed in the Cactus and Grapefruit League experiences. The parks are bigger and fancier and the vibe is far more akin to a regular season major league one than the intimate and laid back atmosphere most people think of when they picture February and March baseball.

Just imagine, however, how much has changed if you’ve been coming to Florida or Arizona for a really long time.

“When we first started coming, you could bring your own beer in,” says Don Harper, a lifelong Cubs fan from Kennewick, Washington who spends his winters in Arizona. “You couldn’t bring a cooler, but you could bring a case of beer and a bag of ice and you just set it down in between you and you just put the ice on it and keep it cold.”

I asked Don if the beer vendors complained.

“They didn’t sell beer,” he said.

That was three decades and two ballparks ago. They certainly sell beer at the Cubs’ gleaming new facility, Sloan Park. Cups of the stuff cost more than a couple of cases did back when Don first started coming to spring training.

The price of beer is not the only thing that has changed, of course. The price of tickets is not what it used to be either. Don told me that when he started coming to Cubs spring training games tickets ran about seven dollars. If that. It’s a bit pricer now. Face value for a single lawn ticket, where you’ll be sitting on a blanker on the outfield berm — can be as high as $47 depending on the day of the week and the opponent. Infield box seats run as high as $85.

The thing is, though, you’re not getting face value seats for Cubs spring training games. Half of the home games sold out within a week of tickets going on sale in January. Since then just about every other game has sold out or soon will. That will force you to get tickets on the secondary market. According to TickPick, the average — average! — Cubs spring training ticket on the secondary market is $106.30. For a single ticket. It’s easily the highest price for spring training tickets in all of baseball, and is $26 higher than secondary market tickets for the next highest team, the Red Sox:

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That may be shocking or even appalling to some, but as the automatic sellouts at Sloan Park and those high secondary market prices suggest, there are at least 15,000 people or so for each Cubs home game who don’t seem to mind. Supply meet demand meet the defending World Series champions.

I spoke with two younger Cubs fans, Corey Hayden and Eleanor Meloul, who traveled here from Salt Lake City. On Sunday they lucked out and got a couple of lawn seats for $28. On Saturday, however, they paid $100 a piece on StubHub to get some seats just beyond third base. I asked them if there is some price point that would keep them from coming.

“There isn’t one,” Hayden said. “I paid $4,500 for a World Series ticket, so . . .”

Don Harper wouldn’t do that, but he doesn’t really mind the higher prices he’s paying for his spring tickets. Of course, he’s a longtime season ticket holder so he gets access to the face value seats. I asked him whether his spring training habit would end if those prices got jacked up higher, as the market would seem to bear, or if he had to resort to the secondary market.

Don paused and sighed, suggesting it was a tough question. As he considered it, I put a hard number on it, asking him if he’d still go if he had to pay $50 per ticket. “Yeah, probably,” he said. “$75?” I asked. He paused again.

“As long as I got enough money.”

Don is a diehard who, one senses, will always find a way to make it work. Corey spent a wad of cash on that once-in-a-lifetime World Series ticket, but he and Eleanor seem content to bargain hunt for the most part and splurge strategically. If you’re a Cubs fan — and if you’re not rich — that’s what you’ll have to do. The ticket it just too hot.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.