I’ve said enough about the blahness of interleague play. Let’s be done with that. Because, as Tiffany noted at the end of the video, there are some redeeming matchups that generate some actual organic fan interest, and the top of that list this season is the Red Sox vs. the Cubs.
These two storied franchises square off for three in Fenway Park this weekend and, as Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com notes in an excellent column today, it’s a very different world now than it was in 1918, which was the last time they met. Oh, and Castrovince gets bonus points for being the first baseball writer I can recall ever dropping a reference to the Zimmerman Telegram. Totally underrated episode in world history and, if it hasn’t been used for this end a hundred times already, would be the great launching point for a good alternate history yarn.
But of course 1918 was a long time ago. The Cubs were not too far removed from an actual world championship, both them and the Red Sox were playing in shiny new ballparks that I’m sure the old timers called “gimmicky,” and Tim Wakefield was but a child. Today the stakes of a Red Sox-Cubs matchup are far lower than they were the last time they met.
On the line for Boston: a six-game winning streak that has allowed them to pull a game and a half of the Rays. The Cubs are only 19-23, but they just took two from a good Marlins team and a nice weekend — and a couple of breaks in the Reds and Cardinals respective series — can put them back in the thick of things in the NL Central.
So we have history. And we have novelty. And we have meaningful baseball. I’ll gladly set aside my interleague ennui on account of that.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.