Veteran southpaw Billy Wagner posted a superb 1.43 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over 71 appearances for the Braves last season, saving 37 games and striking out 104 batters in 69.1 innings. He was ridiculously good, but he wanted to go out on top and called it quits as soon as the year was over.
Most teams would struggle with that kind of loss, but the Braves are rolling right along.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke this week with 22-year-old Craig Kimbrel, who is expected to battle 25-year-old Jonny Venters for the Braves’ ninth inning gig this spring. (For what it’s worth, O’Brien thinks Kimbrel is going to win it.)
“I’m ready to get things rolling,” Kimbrel said during Braves pitching camp at Turner Field on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a fun year. I’m just going to come in, get ready to pitch on the mound. Whatever role it’s in, I’ll be ready for it.”
Kimbrel, a righty, struck out 40 batters in just 20.2 innings last season during a short but impressive debut for the Braves. Venters, a lefty, also finished with great numbers — like a 1.95 ERA and 93/39 K/BB ratio.
Relievers are generally overrated, or at least over-discussed. After all, it’s hard to have much of an impact on a 162-game schedule when your contribution spans something like 50-60 innings. But the Braves are undoubtedly loving the fact that they have two cost-effective fireballers around to handle tight situations.
Former Tigers infielder Casey McGehee has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
It’s the fourth move the corner infielder has made in the last two seasons after seeing short-term stints with the Marlins, Giants and Tigers. He signed a minor league deal with the Tigers prior to the 2016 season, providing the club with some infield depth behind 24-year-old Nick Castellanos. When Castellanos hit the disabled list in August with a broken hand, McGehee was recalled from Triple-A Toledo for a 30-game stint and slashed .228/.260/.239 with one extra-base hit in 96 PA. His career batting line (.258/.317/.384 over eight seasons) isn’t too shabby, but his age and a long history of knee injuries puts a damper on his potential.
McGehee last appeared in the NPB circuit in 2013, when he signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He spent the bulk of his season at the hot corner, batting an impressive .292/.396/.515 with 28 homers in 590 PA and appearing in the Eagles’ first and only championship run to date.
The deal comes with a club option for 2018, Rosenthal reports, though no figure has been specified.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.