Normally if you get an unsolicited package in the mail from a group called “The National Ethnic Heritage Foundation in partnership with the Order of Sons of Italy in America,” you’re going to want someone else to open it. I got such a package today, but figuring that I have neither told anyone what I was thinking nor gone against the family recently, I figured I was pretty safe. And I’m glad I opened the package.
Inside: a baseball card set called “Italian American Baseball Heroes.” Rather than photos, the cards have oil portraits. More than just the obvious subjects — DiMaggio, Berra, Rizzuto — the cover just about every paisan who hurled or hit the horsehide. Don Mossi, as you can see to the right, was in there. So was Joe Pepitone. And Kevin Tapani and Bart Giamatti and Leo Mazzone and a bunch of other dudes. I’ve never seen a Leo Mazzone card. Guess he didn’t stop rocking long enough for anyone to take his picture. There are 100 cards in the set. For every DiMaggio there’s like, five Tom Pagnozzi-level guys, including Pagnozzi. The randomness of seeing middlin-at-best players given the same reverent treatment as DiMaggio and Berra is what I love the most about the set. You can see all of them here.
I’m assuming they were sent to me so that I’d promote them. And normally I wouldn’t. I don’t do payola. This is a professional outfit here, and if you want to get advertising, you have to pay Mr. and Mrs. NBC to do it. These cards, however are (a) kind of adorably ridiculous, so I want more people to know about them in the same way Joe Posnanski wants people to know about Snuggies; and (b) they aren’t being sold commercially. As best I can gather, you can get them here or here in exchange for a donation of some type.
And you can do that if you want to or not. I don’t care, and I don’t endorse. I just want people to know that someone spent some quality time doing an oil painting of Don Mossi that going forward, will be prominently displayed on my desk.
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.