One of the things gumming up the works on the long-discussed move of the Oakland Athletics to San Jose is that even if Major League Baseball buys off, er, I mean successfully negotiates a territorial rights agreement with the Giants, the Athletics still need a park to play in.
Sure, Lew Wolff has long said that he’s going to build it himself, but no matter what some will have you believe, there’s really no such thing as a totally private stadium. Dodger Stadium wouldn’t be there if the Los Angeles government hadn’t grabbed the land under an arguably fraudulent eminent domain proceeding and then forced out the residents who lived there. Even the shining beacon of private stadium construction — AT&T Park — required millions in infrastructure upgrades and some land swap stuff to happen.
The point is that there was never a guarantee that San Jose would go for an Athletics’ ballpark and in all likelihood some sort of referendum is going to be required to let the project go through. Given the Bay Area’s recent aversion to public stadium and arena projects, such a proposition is no gimmie.
But maybe there is hope for Lew Wolff: the voters of Santa Clara, California — right next door to San Jose — just approved a new stadium with a fairly significant amount of public financing for the 49ers. Santa Clara is not San Jose, of course, but they are right next door to each other, so perhaps the politics of all of this has started to change in the region.
But first things first: baseball actually needs to end its more than year-long “study” of the situation and actually say what it wants to have happen to the Athletics.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.