So, will Clemens get convicted?

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As I said earlier today: an indictment is one thing. A conviction, well, that’s something else entirely.  With the massive, massive caveat that I haven’t seen the indictment yet, my gut tells me that Clemens stands a good chance of walking away from these charges a free man.

Why?  His accuser, mostly.

There will certainly be more to the feds’ case than Brian McNamee’s word against Roger Clemens’ word.  There may be some DNA evidence on the syringes McNamee kept. There will likely be testimony from Andy Pettitte, Jason Grimsley, Jose Canseco and others. It’s not going to be a two man show. But Brian McNamee is the most important prosecution witness, and his credibility is more than a bit shaky.

McNamee is an admitted drug dealer. Worse for his credibility as a witness is that he has a history of lying or being suspected of lying, and on at least one occasion, it occurred in some seriously seedy circumstances.

While employed by the Yankees, he was caught having sex in a hotel pool with a woman
who was basically passed out
. Witnesses told police that they believed
McNamee drugged the woman. Police asked McNamee about it and he denied it.
The police reported reflected their belief that they believed McNamee was lying to them, but ultimately charges were never brought due to lack of evidence. More germane to this particular case is that McNamee once wrote an editorial for the New York Times defending
Roger Clemens against accusations of PED use. He later admitted that the whole thing was made up.

While McNamee will certainly be able to say that (a) the lack of charges in the pool thing back up his story; and (b) that he lied in the New York times in an effort to protect his employer, the fact is that, at a trial, he will be asked the one question ever lawyer waits his whole career to ask of an adversarial witness: “Mr. McNamee, were you lying then or are you lying now?”  Defense counsel — if they have a lick of ability — will pummel McNamee, far more so than most prosecution witnesses get pummeled in cases like this.

None of which is to say that McNamee is lying now.  Having closely followed the Mitchell Report and the Congressional hearing and everything before and since, it’s my gut feeling that he’s telling the truth.  But juries are outrageously sensitive to questions of a witnesses credibility, and McNamee will come under serious fire on this score.

Many will cite the success rate of federal prosecutors in handicapping this case. It’s something like 90%.  But it’s less in perjury cases and even less in cases involving well-heeled defendants with fancy defense counsel who fight the case hard — as Clemens no doubt will — as opposed to copping a plea.

Throw in the very damaged credibility of the government’s primary witness, and I think Clemens has a puncher’s chance. 

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.