The Atlanta Braves: third place team

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That’s not me talking. Remember, I’m a big fat fanboy. That’s Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, throwing cold water on the optimism that has pervaded Braves Nation Universe Republic Township this spring:

Me, I’m still skeptical. I eagerly await the coming of Jason Heyward,
but I also wonder if the age on this team — and there’s a ton of it —
will show over 162 games. I wonder about the offense. I wonder about the
defense. I wonder about the zen of Wren. I’d be more than happy to be
proved wrong in my doubting, but as of now I’m still saying what I said
back in February.

Third place.

He doesn’t go into details, but I still take the point. While I think the upside of this team is pretty high up, it wouldn’t take a ton to send the Braves’ season skidding out of control. Chipper Jones could continue on like he played in the second half last year. Derek Lowe too. One of the old arms in the bullpen gets hurt. Glaus either gets hurt or just doesn’t have anything anymore.  Unlike a lot of team’s worst-case-scenarios — Utley and Howard forget how to hit! — no single component of the Braves’ list of imaginary horribles is much of a reach.

I’m still sticking with my predictions, of course, but Bradley’s pessimism is a good reminder that for all of the virtual ink we’ve spilled these past few months, the games matter and anything can happen.  Thank God they begin in earnest in a couple of hours.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.