As Drew wrote over the weekend and as everyone has been talking about since, Major League Baseball is considering realignment. There are a couple of flavors to it: either just having the Astros moving to the AL or having that happen plus the elimination of divisions. As has frequently been noted in these reports, that this will happen is no sure bet. It’s just something on the table.
My initial reaction to it all is cautious optimism. I agree with Drew’s take about it being unfair that some teams are in a four team division and others in a six team division. I don’t have a visceral problem with an interleague series taking place at all times because, by this point, interleague has been around long enough to where it isn’t remarkable. Maybe if there is more overall interleague play it will allow the unfairness of teams in the same division playing interleague slates of varying difficulty to be fixed a bit.
As I’ve written a few times recently, I also like the notion of divisions being eliminated and the top four or five (if they insist on an expanded playoffs) teams making the playoffs. This would help some AL East teams or others who, in the future, may have to deal with a would-be divisional foe with a massive spending advantage. And would help reduce the possibility of a truly wretched team from making the playoffs. If it did happen you’d almost have to balance the schedules, it seems, and I’m not sure that baseball is willing to take Red Sox-Yankees games off the schedule.
My biggest area of concern is less of a competitive concern than it is of a business concern, and it may very well be the reason this doesn’t happen: as of now we have multiple playoff races, even if they’re diminished somewhat due to the wild card and playoff expansion. If you go to a “take the top five teams” scenario, would it not make it likely that, in several years, you’d really only have one playoff race, and that’s for the fifth best record in each league? Not exactly riveting, and it could have a negative impact at the gate.
But like I said, I haven’t wrapped my brain around it yet and, unless and until there is a concrete proposal out there with some non-trivial chance at passing, I’m not sure I want to invest more brain time in it.
But I do want to know what you think, so let’s do this totally unscientifically with a quickie internet poll. More importantly, let’s talk about it in the comments.
Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo
The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.
Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.
The signing marks the left-hander’s fourth trade since July 2015. He bounced from the Indians to the Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, then to the Athletics in the offseason, then to the Nationals in late August of 2016. Last season, he pitched to a career-best 2.64 ERA during 47 2/3 innings with the Athletics and Nationals, but hit an all-time low with 5.5 BB/9 that fed into a 1.59 K/BB rate. While the 31-year-old’s split against right-handed batters are underwhelming (a career .277/.377/.431 line with 123 walks and 24 home runs), he’s held lefties to a respectable .222/.291/.298 line with just 52 walks and eight homers.
Adding Rzepczynski to the bullpen should check off another to-do item for Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto, though FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that the club is still likely to pursue an additional reliever and a No. 4 starter before the offseason comes to a close.