Torii Hunter's Statement

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Torii Hunter has released a statement on his website. I won’t reproduce the whole thing here — it’s long and you should read it in its entirety in its context — but this is the part that I consider to be most significant:

We all come from different places and backgrounds. Coming from Pine
Bluff, Ark., my hometown, is no different than being a kid from San
Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. We all share the common
bond of a love of baseball, and it pulls us together on the field and
in the clubhouse.

What troubles me most was the word “impostors” appearing in
reference to Latin American players not being black players. It was the
wrong word choice, and it definitely doesn’t accurately reflect how I
feel and who I am.

What I meant was they’re not black players; they’re Latin American
players. There is a difference culturally. But on the field, we’re all
brothers, no matter where we come from, and that’s something I’ve
always taken pride in: treating everybody the same, whether he’s a
superstar or a young kid breaking into the game. Where he was born and
raised makes no difference.

Despite the conversations about racial identity that have sprung up in the comments, the original reason I posted this morning was not to open that can of worms. Rather, it was because I thought Hunter’s use of the term “impostors” and “imitator” was completely out of line. I don’t think anyone in baseball is trying to pass themselves as anything other than a ballplayer, and suggesting as much is an insult to Latin American players who didn’t get where they are by pretending to be anything other than what they are. Well, and sometimes pretending to be younger versions of themselves, but that’s another conversation.

Anyway, unless the USA Today reporter seriously misquoted Hunter, I view the above statement as more of a retreat than a clarification — and the passive voice regarding the word impostor “appearing” in his statement is a bit telling — but that’s fine. We all say dumb things sometimes, and we should all be allowed to get a mulligan. Hunter’s a good guy and he deserves a mulligan too.

Still, I have to note that something is absent from Hunter’s statement, and that’s anything relating to the other part of his comments in USA Today with which I had a problem: his theory — he actually said “we have a theory,” apparently referring to U.S.-born blacks — that Major League Baseball has an active agenda to overlook U.S. born blacks in favor of foreign born players. Unless Hunter (or anyone else) has some evidence for such an agenda on the part of Major League Baseball, I think it’s a pretty irresponsible charge. Frankly, I’m rather surprised Hunter didn’t address it here.

At any rate, that appears to be that. Unless someone decides it isn’t that, at which point I’ll write something else that will rile everyone up again.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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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
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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
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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.

Mets expected to tender a contract to Jenrry Mejia

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12:  Jenrry Mejia #58 of the New York Mets reacts as he walks off the field after getting the final out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on July 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.

While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.

Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.