When Mets fans heard that Oliver Perez was getting rocked in the Mexican Winter League, they were cautiously optimistic that it would cause the team to finally part ways with the guy. I mean, if you can’t make it in Culiacan,* how are you supposed to handle the Big Apple?
But now it seems that things aren’t so cut and dry. Perez has thrown 10 consecutive scoreless innings and a source tells Adam Rubin that Perez is touching the low 90s on the radar gun:
“Early velocities were 87-89, occasional 90 — all out of the pen. Starting velocities have the consistent 88, but spikes are higher and more common — 91s and occasional 92s.”
I’ll believe that Perez is useful when I see it (could that be in k.p.h.?), but a successful conclusion to his winter league season would certainly make for a fun Mets spring training, no?
*Culiacan: where dreams go to die. It was 1991, and a middleweight boxer from my hometown of Beckley, West Virginia by the name of Tommy Small was knocking guys out all over Appalachia. Occasionally he made it to the big venues like Satchmo’s Night Club in Akron. That spring he stood at a gaudy 23-3 record and was ready for the big time. He got his shot: a fight with Julio Cesar Chavez. The champ. A man who, around that time, was considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The location: Culiacan.
It was short-lived excitement. Chavez made minced meat out of Small who, in reality, was merely a glorified sparring partner for the champ. My boss — who had been drinking tequila from the Wednesday he arrived until the time he called in with his last update from the fight — portrayed it was an epic battle, in which “our local boy may have lost, but he got the champ’s attention.” My guess is that he didn’t even get the champ to sweat, but it was probably the greatest moment in Beckley, West Virginia boxing history.
Well, unless you count the time Mr. T. was the referee for the Tough Man Competition at the Raleigh County Armory. That was pretty bitchin’ actually. There was foxy boxing and everything.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.
Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.
Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.
It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.
Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.
After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.
Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.
Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.
O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.
It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.