“The Houston Astros will win the NL Central in 2011. I’m calling it right now — Astros ’11 division champs.”
— ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume, waxing a bit too optimistically, methinks, over the Astros downright respectable second half.
I don’t want to take too much away from the Astros’ impressive in-season turnaround, but there’s no escaping the fact that, in addition to the legitimate improvements the team has made, the Astros’ schedule has gotten considerably easier in the second half of the season than it was in the first half.
Obviously a lot will happen in the offseason. As I sit here today I’d feel fairly comfortable picking them to finish third again, depending on what the Brewers do. But first place? Sorry, can’t feature it.
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.