Beginning the season in a 9-for-63 (.143) slump is bad enough, but yesterday Brad Hawpe’s early struggles extended to his defense at first base, as his misplay contributed to the Braves’ five-run inning in a 7-0 defeat of the Padres.
Hawpe had started a grand total of eight career games at first base prior to this season and any problems there defensively are no doubt being magnified by the fact that he’s replacing two-time Gold Glove winner Adrian Gonzalez.
Stepping into Gonzalez’s shoes no doubt isn’t helping Hawpe’s cause offensively either, although there isn’t much of a cause to begin with at this point. Not only is he hitting just .143 through 21 games, Hawpe has zero homers and four walks versus 23 strikeouts, leading to a hideous .382 OPS. To put that into some context, considering that NL pitchers have a .326 OPS.
Hawpe is coming off a career-worst season with the Rockies and his raw numbers with Colorado were always inflated by Coors Field, but he’s still a career .269 hitter with an .829 OPS on the road and for a modest $3 million investment he seemed like a worthwhile pickup for the Padres.
Instead he’s been perhaps the worst player in baseball through four weeks and is in danger of being replaced.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.