What a day for Brian McCann.
On an afternoon when neither the Braves nor the Astros seemed too enthused about scoring runs, McCann took the game into his own hands, hitting a solo shot with two out in the bottom of the ninth to send it into extra innings and then, a few minutes ago, hitting a two-run bomb in the bottom of the 11th to give the Braves a 3-1 win and mini-sweep of Houston in the two-game series. Best part, I neglected to add when this post first went up: he didn’t even start. Came in as a pinch hitter for that first dinger.
The homers were particularly satisfying given that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had his players attempt something on the order of 125 bunts in this game. Indeed, Fredi is so enamored with giving the Braves two-out innings that I’m convinced that he grew up dreaming of hitting World Series-winning bunts when he was a kid.
Bunts make managers feel smart. Homers win ballgames. Brian McCann knows that, and today he showed why he’s the best hitting catcher in the game.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
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.