tim beckham 2

2008 first overall pick Tim Beckham becomes a long shot

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As the St. Petersburg Times’ Marc Topkin points out here, the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Tim Beckham, was left off Baseball America’s list of the Rays’ top 10 prospects when it was announced last week.

Beckham, a shortstop taken out of a Georgia high school, was ranked by BA as the Rays’ No. 2 prospect behind David Price headed into 2009 and the team’s No. 6 prospect a year ago.    As a 20-year-old, he hit .256/.346/.359 for high-A Charlotte in the Florida State League last season.

The Rays have traditionally had strong prospect lists, and they have a few more outstanding youngsters coming along in pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore and outfielder Desmond Jennings.  Still, their second five is nothing special at the moment and it says something that Beckham and all of his tools can’t crack the list.

Beckhan has managed to hold his own while being among the youngest players in his leagues, but he hasn’t excelled at any point since being drafted.   There’s still good reason to think that he’ll develop 20-homer power as he matures.  However, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll last at shortstop and he’d have to get a whole lot better offensively in order to make it as a corner outfielder.   Third base could be another option for him, but not with the Rays.

With fellow 2008 top-five picks Buster Posey, Brian Matusz and Pedro Alvarez all showing a lot of promise as rookies last season, the Rays appear to have made a costly misfire.   But that’s the gamble they made by taking a chance on the raw talent.  Unlike with the Padres and Matt Bush years earlier, this wasn’t a case of the Rays going with an overdraft in an attempt so save money.   The team thought it was pretty well set at catcher and third base with Dioner Navarro and Evan Longoria, and Beckham was given pretty much the same bonus that Posey and Alvarez received.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.