Now that their bullpen is sorted, the Braves have three things to sort out before spring training: leveraging their pitching surplus via a trade of a starter; filling their hole at first base; and adding an outfielder. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman — after first telling what have to rank as some of the lamest Tiger Woods jokes I’ve yet seen — gets to it:
- Frank Wren still thinks he can move Derek Lowe. I’m not convinced that Lowe doesn’t yet have a bounceback year or two left in him. If someone else agrees, great, a trade is made. If not, there are worse things than going into next season with Lowe in the rotation. If Boston showed us anything last season they showed us that there is no such thing as too much starting pitching;
- Marlon Byrd’s agent, Seth Levinson, is saying that the Braves have “strong interest” in Byrd. Maybe. But there are a lot of options for the Braves here: Josh Willingham, Mike Cameron, Jermaine Dye, Xavier Nady, Rick Ankiel, etc. Basically they need someone who can play right field at the beginning of the season and who can move to left once Jason Heyward has passed whatever the Braves imagine to be the Super Two barrier.
- “Some of the Braves players are lobbying for the club to bring Mark DeRosa back.” That’s cute. Why doesn’t he just say “Chipper Jones is lobbying to bring Mark DeRosa back?” Chipper is literally the only Brave who was on the team when DeRosa was last there in 2004.
Still no word on what they’re going to do about first base. Bring back LaRoche? Hank Blalock? Cheap wild card move: see if Matt Diaz can play there, call up Heyward now and start with an outfield of Heyward, McLouth and Free Agent X.
Of course, I’m irrational when it comes to the Braves. I just want to see Heyward, like, yesterday, so I’d be for just about anything that makes that happen.
The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.
Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.
Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.
There is little if any controversy to be had about the caps this year’s inductees will wear on their Hall of Fame plaques, but in case there was any doubt at all, it was put to rest this afternoon at the Hall of Fame press conference: Tim Raines will wear a Montreal Expos cap and Ivan Rodriguez will wear a Rangers cap. Jeff Bagwell, of course, never played for a team other than the Houston Astros at the big league level.
Though Raines had some good seasons with the Chicago White Sox and though he helped provide a nice kick start to the Yankees dynasty in the mid-1990s, his best seasons, by far, took place while he was an Expo. It’s also the case that the bulk of his Hall of Fame push came from Expos fans. He was particularly boosted by Jonah Keri, who recently wrote a book detailing the history of the Expos. So, yeah, that’s easy.
Rodriguez played 13 of his 21 years with the Texas Rangers, including his MVP 1999 season. He did have some notable years elsewhere, particularly in Detroit where he remains a fan favorite, but it was always going to be the Rangers for him, one would think. Maybe a slight, slight chance that he’d do the blank cap thing, Greg Maddux-style, but smart money was on the Rangers.
With Bagwell, the only question is which Astros cap he’ll wear. There are a couple of applicable ones: the brick red star, which he wore to the World Series in 2005. There’s also the shooting star cap he wore during his best seasons and which Craig Biggio’s plaque displays. He was around for the classic “H” over the star look, but he was just a kid then, so I doubt he’d wear it.
Anyway, sorry to the Marlins fans who wished that Raines and Pudge would wear the fishy-F.