We’ve spent a lot of time this winter talking about how Johnny Damon took a backseat to Matt Holliday getting his cash with agent Scott Boras. On second thought, at least Damon has been in the car. Free agent infielder Felipe Lopez has been left on the side of the road with his thumb in the air.
Frustrated that he is without a team just days before pitchers and catchers report, Lopez has fired Boras, signing on with Beverly Hills Sports Council, reports Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. It’s hard to argue with Lopez here, who surely thought he had a nice payday coming after the best season of his career. Lopez, who turns 30 in May, batted .310/.383/.427 with nine home runs and 57 RBI with the Diamondbacks and Brewers last season. As I compiled in November, Lopez ranked fourth among impending free agents in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in 2009.
A former first-round pick of the Blue Jays in 1998, Lopez has never really matched the considerable hype attached to him early on, but even if he won’t be paid like a four or five win player at this point, he’s exactly the kind of infielder a team just be investing in. He’s still young and can play a variety of positions without embarrassing himself. Yet we’ve largely seen teams opt for short commitments with veteran infielders.
Placido Polanco – three years, $18 million (Phillies)
Marco Scutaro – two years, $12.5 million (Red Sox)
Orlando Hudson – one year, $5 million (Twins)
Jamey Carroll – two years, $3.85 million (Dodgers)
Juan Uribe – one year, $3.25 million (Giants)
Orlando Cabrera – one year, $3.02 million (Reds)
Alex Gonzalez – one year, $2.75 million (Blue Jays)
Kelly Johnson – one year, $2.35 million (Diamondbacks)
Craig Counsell – one year, $2.1 million (Brewers)
Adam Everett – one year, $1.55 million (Tigers)
Adam Kennedy – one year, $1.25 million (Nationals)
According to Stark, the Cardinals are the only known club to have interest in Lopez. It makes even more sense as a match after Brendan Ryan’s recent wrist surgery, but Lopez may have a few more suitors now that Boras is out of the way.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.