Greetings from Spring Training


Welcome to spring training.jpgMy plane landed in Miami on Saturday morning and after lunch and some sightseeing with a mystery person I’ll tell you about later, I booked it up I-95 to Port St. Lucie, or as it may be more aptly called, Long Island South. Yes, there are a few Mets fans here.

Tradition Field and the Mets’ spring training complex is not really in Port St. Lucie proper. Oh, that may be the address, but it’s actually the anchor for St. Lucie West, a “Master Planned Community,” according to the signage, which may represent the first time in recorded history that the Mets have been so closely associated with a master plan.

St. Lucie West is pretty nice if you’re into meticulously landscaped boulevards, the worst timed traffic lights on the eastern seaboard and strip malls so tucked away and hidden that it makes finding the Taco Bell an unnecessarily difficult ordeal.  I’m sure there’s nice golf in the area, however.  Other notable observations upon my arrival:

  • My hotel is about a half mile from Tradition Field. The people behind the counter all wear Mets jerseys, which is pretty cool;
  • My doctor recommended that I take extra good care of myself while on assignment, so I stopped at a liquor store Saturday night to stock up on some Kentucky medicine. Behind the counter was the friendliest and least discreet clerk I’ve ever met. He asked me if I was in town for baseball and I said yes. He then told me that Mets pitcher John Maine had been in there a half hour earlier, came up to the counter with a bottle of Grey Goose and was getting ready to pay for it when a Mets coach walked in. Maine and the coach talked for a few minutes, and then Maine walked out, forgetting to buy his vodka.  I got this mental image of him getting back to whatever social gathering he was attending and someone asking him where the booze was, only to have Maine go “Ummm, oh. Man.”
  • I woke up yesterday morning to get my continental breakfast on, and in the lobby was a young woman in black spandex pants, Mets fleece and Mets cap yelling at one of the desk clerks.  Seems she left her car someplace the night before — obviously not at Maine’s party, as there was no booze there — and needed to get a cab to go and pick it up. When told it would be 45 minutes before a car could get out there, she yelled “I’m from New York and this sh– doesn’t fly!!  I live an HOUR outside of Manhattan, and I can get a car to my house faster than that!”  I suppose she has a point about 45 minutes being a long time to wait, but I’ve found that one generally doesn’t get what one wants in this world by telling people that you come from someplace better and more important than they do.

Oh yeah, I was in Port St. Lucie for some baseball too.  More on that in a bit.  I think it’s going to be a fun week.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.03.34 AM
Leave a comment

For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

AP Photo/Ben Margot
1 Comment

New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
1 Comment

It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.

Report: Around 20 teams have contacted the Braves about Shelby Miller

AP Photo/John Bazemore
Leave a comment

The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.

Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.

Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.