Brad Lidge blew a save Saturday for the fourth time in 14 tries, but came back yesterday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 11th save and got a vote of confidence from manager Charlie Manuel:
I’ve definitely got to show him that I’m willing to stay with him and we’ll see what happens. … He definitely wants to prove he’s that man and he can still do it and that he’s good for our team and he can help us and he wants to keep his closer’s role. I feel like we’ve definitely got to give him some time.
That’s a lot of “definitely” in one quote. But wait, there’s more:
Believe me, I’ll never let my heart overrule the fact that we’re a team. I want what’s best for the team. I definitely think he’s got to be better than what he’s been so far. I also feel like, I think at times, I really believe he’s got to save a couple in a row. Today was a good start. Now he’s got to have two or three games in a row and run a clean slate. And then I think he may be all right. Because he’s very capable.
I appreciate the sentiment from Manuel, but since this is basically identical to how things played out with Lidge last season the “we’ve definitely got to give him some time” and “I’ll never let my heart overrule the fact that we’re a team” lines ring particularly hollow.
Philadelphia won the World Series in 2008 while Lidge went 48-for-48 converting saves between the regular season and playoffs, including closing out the decisive Game 5 win over the Rays. Since then he’s blown 15 of 57 save chances while posting a 6.69 ERA in 80.2 innings, serving up 16 homers while allowing opponents to bat .288 with a .508 slugging percentage.
Yes, he’s had some good stretches during that time, both this year and last year, but for the most part he’s been horrible now for two consecutive seasons. When the Phillies were coasting to a division title last year it wasn’t such a huge deal, but now they’re 2.5 games back of the Braves in the NL East and trailing two teams for the Wild Card.
And it’s not as if Manuel lacks options. Jose Contreras has been solid all season with a 3.65 ERA and 40/12 K/BB ratio in 37 innings and Ryan Madson has a 13/0 K/BB ratio in 11.2 innings since returning from the disabled list. Pick one as the new closer, use the other as the primary setup man, and make Lidge earn the job back by actually stringing together some impressive appearances in middle relief, where every ugly outing doesn’t have a chance to cost the Phillies a game.
New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.
Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.
The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.