Brandon Webb threw off flat ground on Saturday morning, his first throwing session since saying he felt “stagnant” last week. Manager A.J. Hinch told John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse that he was encouraged by the right-hander’s progress:
“He showed more life in his arm today,” Hinch said. “Throwing a few
breaking balls may not sound like big news, but it is to us. That means
he’s able to throw without reservation, and that’s big.”
Assuming his surgically-repaired shoulder feels up to snuff, the Diamondbacks hope he can throw a bullpen session within the next week or so before facing live hitters for the first time. Still, Hinch recognizes that time is working against Webb:
“Edwin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and Dan Haren have all thrown twice (in spring
games) and are working on their third time,” Hinch said. “He hasn’t
thrown off a mound yet while other rotation candidates are stretching
themselves out in games. The fact that we are running out of time for
him (to start games in the first week of the season) is fairly obvious.”
If Webb opens the season on the disabled list, as expected, that would push Billy Buckner up to fourth in the rotation. And technically, because the Diamondbacks have two days off in the first eight days of the new season, they probably wouldn’t even need a fifth starter until the beginning of the third week of the season. Still, if Webb isn’t ready by then, Hinch will have to choose between an uninspiring group that includes Kevin Mulvey, Rodrigo Lopez, Cesar Valdez, Bryan Augenstein and as mentioned earlier, possibly Kris Benson.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.