The first manager sitdown just happened — Bobby Cox on one side of the room, Jim Riggleman on the other. You won’t be surprised to hear that I went with Cox, figuring that a chance to ask questions to the guy who has shaped and lead my favorite team since I was a teenager wasn’t one to pass up. I wasn’t alone, however, as Cox easily had three times the number of reporters around him than Riggleman did. Random Bobby Cox stuff:
- The Braves have thought about moving Chipper Jones to first base here and there, but they’ve had no discussions with him about it this winter and probably won’t. Cox admits that Jones had a bad year defensively last year, but that he should have won the Gold Glove two years ago. I guess Terry Pendleton was once a gold glover too, so at some point I suppose you have to cut off that kind of analysis.
- Is Martin Prado your starting second baseman, Bobby? “He’s gonna start somewhere.” Cox suggested that he could be an outfielder. Or a first baseman. I’d be shocked to see him start anywhere other than second, but I suppose the Braves still have holes and/or the need for leverage in negotiations with guys like Adam LaRoche.
- What about the possibility of Rafael Soriano or Mike Gonzalez accepting arbitration? “If they both accept we’ll have the best bullpen ever.” Despite this, Bobby has no idea. He does know that no matter who’s in the bullpen next year, Billy Wagner is the closer. “He’s the closer no matter what,” Cox says.
- Cox, in his last season as manager, wants no part of naming his successor. He thinks any number of guys on his staff would be good, but that’s Frank Wren’s decision, says Bobby.
- He was cagey about whether Jason Heyward would start the season on the big club. After acknowledging that he’s probably the best prospect in baseball and has a great makeup, he would only say that “we’re going to give him a chance to win a job next year.” I suppose you can’t just come out and admit that you’re going to keep a dude on the farm until you’re sure he’s not going to be a Super Two.
Lou Piniella is sitting down now. I’m going to go ask him why he’s been so unfair to Milton Bradley.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.
Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.
Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.
Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.
Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.
The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”
Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.
Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.
On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.