Non-tender tango: Garrett Atkins

Leave a comment

MLB_atkins.jpgDecember 12th is the deadline for teams to decide whether to
tender contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man roster. With that
in mind, this is the second in a series (
here’s the first one) regarding some of the most
likely non-tender candidates and where they may find new homes. Though
this assessment is based on some logic, it’s mostly intended to be a fun exercise.

Garrett Atkins – .226/.308/.342 with nine home runs and 48 RBI in 354 at-bats (126 games) in 2009



Why he’s a goner:



Atkins, who turns 30 in December, made $7.05 million in 2009 and
the Rockies simply won’t overpay him for a second straight year. Atkins
batted just .194/.270/.285 over the first two months last season,
losing his grip on the starting third base job to Ian Stewart. He
finished with a pathetic .199/.272/.287 slash-line against right-handed
pitching, continuing a disturbing tumble in overall production since
2006:




2006: .965 OPS (OPS+ 136)

2007: .853 OPS (OPS+ 113)

2008: .780 OPS (OPS+ 96)

2009: .650 OPS (OPS+ 66)



What’s
the cause of his precipitous decline? Well, general manager Dan O’Dowd
speculates that Atkins changed his approach at the plate after 2006
and has been unable to find his swing since:



“The way the game is set up, the
arbitration process pays for power and RBIs, for run production. Maybe
he felt this greater need to try to hit more home runs, because he was
naturally more of a line drive hitter, and tried to lift the ball and
do some different things.”




Perhaps
Atkins shouldn’t have spurned O’Dowd’s previous attempts at a
multi-year contract? Now that Atkins will reach free agency a year
sooner than originally thought, he won’t find a guaranteed starting job
waiting for him, but he does boast an .870 career OPS against
southpaws, including a respectable .790 OPS against left-handers in
2009. His best bet may be to find a platoon situation that could
blossom into a full-time gig.




Possible fits:



Orioles: We already know that team president
Andy MacPhail
doesn’t want prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell to
start the 2010 season in the majors
. While they wait, the Orioles will
consider a group of one-year stopgaps, including Troy Glaus, Carlos
Delgado and Hank Blalock to address a corner infield spot. The Orioles
are rumored to have interest in Atkins, as well, but they’ll take their
chances on signing him once he’s cut loose by Colorado.




Rangers: Atkins has never been anything to write home about
defensively, so he could fit the bill as a designated hitter/backup
infielder-type from the right side of the plate in Texas. He’d be
worthwhile insurance for Michael Young, as well.




Mariners:
The Mariners are looking at in-house options of Matt Tuiasosopo, Bill
Hall, Jack Hannahan or possibly Jose Lopez at third base with Adrian
Beltre leaving via free agency.




Phillies: The Phillies could use some righty pop late off the
bench, so Atkins would give them a bit of a safety net. The Phillies
are expected to look at a group of more notable free agents like Mark
DeRosa, Adrian Beltre and Placido Polanco to be the starting third
baseman.




Indians: In Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer, Paul Hoynes writes that
the Indians are seeking a right-handed first baseman
that would allow
Matt LaPorta to play the outfield against left-handers. Again, Atkins
is nothing special with the glove, but he has played 105 games at first
base in his career. Though, with LaPorta as the primary first baseman,
playing time would be infrequent.




Where he should end up:



Of the teams mentioned above,
Baltimore represents Atkins’ best situation to resurrect his career as
an everyday player. If signed, he would likely be a given a real chance
at a starting job, at least for a little while, until either Snyder or
Bell are ready for a promotion. Likewise, the Orioles could use Atkins
as a trade chip once they fall out of contention. Signing Adrian Beltre
or Chone Figgins would be a nice statement to appease the fans, but
even the most die-hard will admit they aren’t close to
contention quite yet. Though it won’t sell many tickets, signing Atkins would be
a low-risk move that could reap benefits for both sides.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.