Ron Gardenhire announced this afternoon that Carl Pavano will be Minnesota’s starter on Opening Day, which is noteworthy because the Twins chose Francisco Liriano over Pavano to start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Yankees just four months ago.
Perhaps picking Pavano for Opening Day has everything to do with his veteran-ness or maybe the Twins went with Liriano in Game 1 of the playoffs mostly because they felt he matched up better specifically against the Yankees, but whatever the case today’s announcement only adds to the recent speculation about the team souring on Liriano.
Last week Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Twins weren’t interested in signing Liriano to a long-term contract extension despite his being eligible for free agency after 2012 and are opening to trading the 27-year-old left-hander who had a 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts in 192 innings last year.
Earlier this week, after Liriano had to push back his first throwing session of spring training due to some minor shoulder soreness, pitching coach Rick Anderson told LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune that Liriano’s lack of offseason training led to the soreness.
Taken individually the reports, speculation, public criticisms, and passing him over for the Opening Day start may not seem like much, but together they certainly paint the picture of a team frustrated with their young ace or perhaps not even looking deep enough at his performance to realize that he’s actually their ace. Ultimately everyone in the rotation is going to start 32-34 times as long as they stay healthy, so the Opening Day assignment isn’t especially meaningful, but in this case it definitely adds more fuel to the Liriano fire.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.