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Lack of standout first-timers on next year’s HOF ballot is good news for Larkin and Bagwell

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Deserving players like Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, and Jeff Bagwell fell short of reaching the 75 percent of the votes required for Hall of Fame induction this year, but they’ll have a good chance to increase their totals in 2012 as the pool of first-year eligible players doesn’t include anyone likely bound for Cooperstown.

Here’s an unofficial list of first-time players eligible for induction in 2012:

HITTERS                PITCHERS
Bernie Williams        Brad Radke
Tim Salmon             Scott Erickson
Ruben Sierra           Terry Mulholland
Javy Lopez             Pedro Astacio
Vinny Castilla         Jeff Fassero
Carl Everett           Rick Helling
Matt Lawton            Jose Lima
Eric Young             Matt Clement
Edgardo Alfonzo        Tim Worrell
Jeromy Burnitz         Danny Graves
Brian Jordan           Mike Remlinger
Phil Nevin             Jeff Nelson

Bernie Williams has a better Hall of Fame case than he’ll probably get credit for, particularly in his first year on the ballot, but aside from him it’s tough to see any of the other first-timers garnering significant support.

In addition to the lack of big names joining the ballot, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will be off the ballot after being inducted and Dave Parker will be ineligible following the maximum 15 years on the ballot. That trio received a combined 1,075 votes from the 581 ballots this year,  and while not all of them will be reallocated to other players in 2012 it’s a safe bet a large chunk of them will be.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Kenny Lofton, and Curt Schilling lead an exceptionally strong class of first-timers for 2013, so if Larkin, Raines, Bagwell, and others are going to make major progress toward joining Alomar and Blyleven in the Hall of Fame it will come next year.

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.