Frank Robinson took over as Vice President of Baseball Operations last week. The move was views by many — me included — as a way for Bud Selig to put someone tough in charge of the umps and to do a better job carrying out baseball’s on-the-field priorities like speeding up the pace of the game and stuff. Ken Rosenthal reminds us, however, that this is nothing new:
So I’m talking to Frank Robinson on the phone, talking to him about his
new position in baseball, talking to him about his plans to speed up
the game. And suddenly, it hits me:Haven’t I had this conversation before?
In fact, I have — just after the 2000 World Series, during Robinson’s
first tenure as a vice president of baseball operations. Yes, almost 10 years ago.
Rosenthal quotes Selig from back in 2000 talking about how pace-of-game issues were “a very high-priority thing.” Those were to be Frank Robinson’s responsibility, but they were obviously were never addressed, so what makes anyone think they’ll be addressed now?
Rosenthal also throws cold water on the notion that Robinson is going to come in, snap his fingers and get the umps to fall in line. To the contrary, Rosenthal’s sources say that Robinson will be tasked with “improving communication with the umps.” Seems to me that the only communication that needs to happen right now is for the umps to be told, in no uncertain terms, that no one comes to the park to see them so quit acting all arrogant and getting in players’ faces, but I suppose we’ll leave that to Robinson.
Robinson does say he has “a special message” he wants to convey to the umpires. I hope that’s a euphemism for a size 10 EE in their collective posteriors, but it doesn’t sound like it will be.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.