Saturday signings: Masset, Medders

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There’s plenty of activity this weekend, as players and teams settle on
new contracts to avoid arbitration. Here’s a couple deals that were
announced on Saturday:

The Reds signed reliever Nick Masset to a two-year, $2.58 million contract.

Masset entered 2009 as a potential rotation candidate, but ended
up being one of the most trusted arms in Dusty Baker’s bullpen,
amassing a 2.37 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 76 innings. The 27-year-old
right-hander averaged 8.3 K/9 last season, his highest rate on the
major league level, while inducing groundballs at a rate of 54.1 percent. According to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com,
he will make $1.035 million in 2010 and $1.545 million in
2011, taking care of his first two years of arbitration. He has a
chance to earn even more with incentives.

The Giants and right-hander Brandon Medders avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $820,000 contract.

Medders managed a 3.01 ERA in 61 appearances with the Giants last
season after earning a spot as a non-roster invitee during Spring
Training. Though he has an impressive 3.36 ERA over 196 big league
appearances, he’s always struggled with his command, averaging 4.0 BB/9 during his career. He succeeded with an 80.4 percent strand rate and 4.3 BB/9 last season, suggesting that a regression is likely in store for 2010.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉