Little reason to intentionally walk Ichiro

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The A’s and Mariners were tied at 3 in the top of the ninth tonight when Rob Johnson walked with one out and advanced to second on an infield chopper. That brought up Ichiro Suzuki with the go-ahead run at second. Like most managers would have in that situation, Bob Geren opted for the intentional walk and then brought in his closer, Andrew Bailey, to face Chone Figgins.
Again, it’s what most managers would have done. It was undeniably the wrong strategy, though.
Ichiro is, of course, the game’s best singles hitter. If Johnson had been on third, rather than second, than walking Ichiro probably would have been good idea. It also might have been justifiable with one out, as it would have set up a double play. With two outs, it was an awful idea.
Ichiro entered the day with 489 career plate appearances with a runner at second and no one else on. In those, he had been intentionally walked 70 times. In his 384 official at-bats, he had 142 hits, good for an exceptional .370 average.
Yet, those 142 hits had plated all of 73 runs. 124 of them were singles, many of the infield variety. With the catcher running, it’s pretty unlikely that an Ichiro single would have scored a run.
Figgins, on the other hand, had 196 career at-bats with men on first and second and knocked in 46 runs. Not an exceptional rate by any means, but still significantly better than Ichiro’s with merely the man on second. And this wasn’t a situation in which one run would have ended the game. The A’s made it far more likely that the Mariners would score multiple runs with their strategy.
And that’s exactly what happened. Figgins hit what should have been an inning-ending grounder to third, but Kevin Kouzmanoff, who had an absolutely horrible game in his A’s debut, made a wild throw and everyone was safe. Casey Kotchman followed with a two-run single to make it a 5-3 game.
So, yeah, maybe the luck was even worse than the strategy. But Geren made the wrong call and paid dearly.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.