Ex-Ranger Blalock still without a taker

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blalock fielding.jpgWith Russell Branyan joining the Indians and Carlos Delgado down following another hip surgery, the first base market is finally just about bare. Jermaine Dye would give the position a try if asked and Cuban defector Jose Julio Ruiz is getting some attention, but Hank Blalock is the one experienced viable major league regular left available.
And Blalock is a viable regular. He did a horrible job of getting on base for the Rangers last year, but he delivered 25 homers in 462 at-bats. The problem is that he hasn’t been both healthy and productive since 2004, his age-23 season. In 2007, he posted a 901 OPS in 58 games. In 2008, it was an 846 OPS in 65 games. He was mostly healthy last year, but he came in at 736 in 123 games, nearly half of them spent at DH.
My feeling is that Blalock’s upside makes him worthy of more than just a minor league contract, though he probably won’t get one at this point. He has four 25-homer seasons to his credit, and he’s a lifetime .269/.329/.465 hitter. While he’d always previously taken advantage of the friendly hitting conditions in Arlington, he was actually far more productive on the road (.256/.308/.493) than at home (.213/.247/.427) last year.
Blalock’s best hope now might be Tampa Bay. The Rays lost out on both Johnny Damon and Branyan in their quest for one more bat. Blalock wouldn’t get much of an opportunity to play defense there, but he’d be nice to have around in case Pat Burrell fails to bounce back from his awful 2009.
The other Florida team has also displayed some interest, though the Marlins would view him as a fallback to Logan Morrison or Gaby Sanchez at first base. The Red Sox weighed Branyan and may consider Blalock as well on a minor league deal. However, he’d only be a candidate to make that team if a Mike Lowell trade gets done. I think the White Sox make more sense. Andruw Jones is currently their best option at DH.

Dexter Fowler: “I didn’t say anything wrong.”

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Dexter Fowler #81 poses for a portrait during St Louis Cardinals Photo Day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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New Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler was recently asked by ESPN’s Mark Saxon how President Trump’s efforts to institute a travel ban affected him and his family. Fowler’s wife is from Iran and Fowler said that he had reconsidered traveling with his daughter to Iran to visit her family. His wife’s sister also delayed her return from a business trip to Qatar as a result of Trump’s executive order. “It’s huge,” Fowler said. “Especially anytime you’re not able to see family, it’s unfortunate.”

Fowler’s statement was pretty bland as far as athletes wading into political waters go. He didn’t criticize Trump or conservatives, nor did he espouse support for liberals or Democrats. It was a simple statement that his life had been adversely impacted by an executive order.

The responses to Fowler’s comment were mostly awful. The @BestFansStLouis Twitter account highlighted this, as did Jeff Passan for Yahoo Sports and Will Leitch for Sports on Earth. Fans suggested that Fowler “shut up and play” because “nobody cares” and that Fowler is “property” of the Cardinals. The responses were so negative that Fowler tweeted about it:

Fowler, however, isn’t backing down. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” Fowler said. “I think it was taken out of context [by other outlets]. I don’t think people read the article. I think people made their own [headlines]. The question was asked out of empathy to my family, and I appreciate that. If anybody is asking about my family, then I’m going to let them know that, ‘Yeah, obviously it affected my family. My wife is Iranian.’ … I think it’s kind of ignorant of people to just come at me like that and not read the article.”

[…]

“I’m always going to care for my family,” Fowler said. “And if a question is asked out of concern, I’m going to answer the question. And I’m going to answer it truthfully. It’s not to hurt anybody. It’s unfortunate that people think of things that way. I believe they’re sensitive. I’m not the sensitive one. I appreciate the ones that understood.”

Manager Mike Matheny has Fowler’s back. He said, “I think he handled it correctly. He was very clear that he was trying to make a statement about his family [and it] ended up becoming a political statement.”

Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA, also expressed support for Fowler:

“Baseball players are a microcosm of society, and I was a grown man before I was a baseball player,” Clark said. “If I have a view, I should be willing to share it, while understanding what I’m a part of and what my responsibilities are. Any player understands that when they take a particular position, it may not be a popular one.

“There may be pushback. That shouldn’t be a reason not to have an opinion. In this instance, it’s a very personal one to Dex. I respect the commentators that responded. I respect their freedom to respond to it.”

Indeed, Fowler had every right to say what he said and it’s good to see that both his manager and the head of the MLBPA support him fully. It would have been easy and politically safe to allow Fowler to hang out to dry.

Report: Extension talks between Mets, Neil Walker are “probably dead”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.

Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.

The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.