The Negro Leagues Strat-O-Matic game is fantastic

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Though not an avid player, I really like Strat-O-Matic. Though I’ve never met him in person, I’ve known Scott Simkus, the man behind the Negro Leagues version of Strat-O-Matic for a year or two.  At the Winter Meetings a couple of weeks ago I sat next to the Los Angeles Times’ Kevin Baxter in the media room for four days, and he was a really nice damn guy.  So of course I’m going to link a story by Kevin Baxter about Scott Simkus’ Negro Leagues Strat-O-Matic set when it gets published:

His name is Scott Simkus, and about a dozen years ago he commandeered a
microfilm reader at the offices of a suburban Chicago newspaper
searching for the results of a long-ago game his late grandfather, a
semipro outfielder, played against the Negro Leagues’ Cuban Stars.

Simkus, 39, never found exactly what he was looking for, but in the
archives of the Chicago Tribune and newspapers such as the Baltimore
Afro-American and the Pittsburgh Courier, he found more than 3,000
other box scores, which he parsed and cataloged into what may be the
most detailed collection of Negro League statistics ever compiled.

Those numbers allowed Simkus and Hal Richman, founder of Strat-O-Matic,
to put together a Negro League version of the game — no small, or
unimportant, feat.

The cool part of the article is that Baxter and Simkus traveled to Cedar Rapids Iowa to visit Negro Leaguer Art Pennington, the last surviving player for whom Simkus was able to compile a Strat-O-Matic card.  Pennington, Baxter and Simkus played some Strat and traded war stories.  Baxter told me in Indianapolis that it was a great trip, if for no other reason than Cool Papa Bell led off with a homer off Satchel Paige in one of their games.  Pennington sounds like an awesome dude, if for no other reason than he used the phrase “dipsy doodle,” which I haven’t heard deployed non-ironically since my uncle Harry died 25 years ago.

It’s a slow day. This is a great story.  Feed your minds a bit today ladies and gentlemen.

Angels sign outfielder Rafael Ortega to one-year contract

Rafael Ortega
AP Photo/John Bazemore
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According to the official Twitter account of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the club has agreed to terms on a one-year major league contract with outfielder Rafael Ortega.

It’s worth the MLB minimum, which should be a little north of $507,000 in 2016.

Ortega was once considered a top prospect in the Rockies’ minor league system, but he has made only six total plate appearances at the big league level since signing out of Venezuela in 2008. The 24-year-old batted .286/.367/.378 with two home runs and 17 stolen bases in 131 games this past season for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis.

He’ll be in the running for an Opening Day roster spot next spring in Angels camp.

Report: Ben Zobrist’s price tag is currently four years, $60 million

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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Ben Zobrist will turn 35 years old early next summer, but that doesn’t seem to be putting too much of a dent in his free agent value.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the “sense among interested teams” is that Zobrist’s price is currently hovering around four years, $60 million and it “may go higher.”

There was a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Sunday stating that the Mets have made Zobrist their “No. 1” offseason target, and over a dozen other clubs have linked to him since the World Series ended. That’s the kind of attention you command when you can both hit — Zobrist posted an .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 2015 — and also cover a range of positions defensively.

He makes sense for just about any club looking to contend in the coming seasons.

Wilin Rosario elects to become free agent

Wilin Rosario
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Wilin Rosario was designated for assignment by the Rockies late last month. Now, according to Thomas Harding of, the 26-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year vote-getter has elected to become a free agent.

Rosario is a bad defensive catcher and wasn’t much better when the Rockies tried him at first base, but he should draw some interest from American League teams looking for a bench bat and part-time DH.

Rosario slugged 28 home runs for the Rockies in 2012 and he’s averaged 26 home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career.

He boasts a .319/.356/.604 career batting line against left-handed pitching.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.