Tim Wakefield

2012 Top 111 Free Agents: Best of the rest

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Starting Monday, I’ll be spending the week counting down next winter’s top 111 free agents. First, though, here are some notable names failing to make the cut.

(All ages as of April 1, 2012)

Vicente Padilla (33 – Dodgers): No. 112 on the list. Pitching out of the pen for the first time since 2001, Padilla was briefly the Dodgers’ closer this year and picked up three saves and five holds in nine appearances. Unfortunately, his season is already over due to neck surgery.

Tim Wakefield (45 – Red Sox): If he decides he wants to continue his career, then he’ll be in the top 111 come November. Filling in for Daisuke Matsuzaka, Wakefield has gotten the chance recently to show that he’s still a perfectly viable bottom-of-the-rotation guy, even at age 44. He’s 3-2 with a 4.39 ERA.

Chris Young (32 – Mets): Had a 1.88 ERA in four starts before his latest shoulder injury knocked him out for the season. He’ll be signing another incentive-laden deal this winter.

Bill Hall (32 – Giants): The Astros gave him $3 million to play second base, but he flopped, hitting .224/.272/.340 in 147 at-bats. Now he’s with the Giants trying to rebuild his value.

Mike Cameron (39 – Red Sox): Boston hoped a healthy Cameron would be one of the game’s best fourth outfielders, but he’s hitting just .157 in 83 at-bats. He could opt for retirement after the season.

Mike Gonzalez (33 – Orioles): Gonzalez fanned 90 batters out of the pen for the Braves in 2009, causing the Orioles to sign him as a closer. In the year-plus since, he’s recorded just one save and amassed a 5.29 ERA in 47 2/3 innings.

Brandon Webb (32 – Rangers): After missing more than two years due to shoulder problems, Webb has progressed to the point at which he’s now making rehab starts for the Rangers’ Double-A club. If he’s able to contribute in the second half, he’ll shoot up the list quickly.

Eric Hinske (34 – Braves): Hinske is slumping in an extended role of late, but he’s a rock solid bench player. He’s hit 19 homers in 430 at-bats for the Braves the last two years.

Jerry Hairston Jr. (35 – Nationals): A useful spare part who has received too much playing time the last two years, Hairston can start at any of six positions without hurting a team. He’s hitting .249/.321/.350 in 177 at-bats for the Nationals this season.

Casey Kotchman (29 – Rays): Kotchman has quietly hit .339/.400/.468 in 171 at-bats since getting a chance to overtake Dan Johnson as the Rays’ first baseman.

Joel Zumaya (27 – Tigers): Zumaya had a 2.58 ERA in 38 1/3 innings before suffering a broken elbow on the mound last year. He is questionable to return this season after a follow-up surgery in May. If he misses the entire season, then he’ll probably have to settle for a minor league deal this winter.

Omar Vizquel (44 – White Sox): Still doing a nice job as a utilityman for the White Sox, Vizquel is hitting .279/.312/.360 in 86 at-bats this season. Maybe this will finally be it for him, but he hasn’t given any indication that he’s done.

Jack Wilson (34 – Mariners): Injuries have robbed Wilson of some of his defensive abilities, and it’s not like he can make up for it with his bat. Now buried on the Seattle bench by the Dustin Ackley callup, he badly needs a trade.

Jack Cust (33 – Mariners): Cust doesn’t seem long for Seattle with his playing time starting to go to Mike Carp. He’s still getting on base, but he’s gone from hitting 33 homers in 2008 to just two in 182 at-bats so far this season.

Yuniesky Betancourt (30 – Brewers)*: The Brewers won’t be picking up Betancourt’s $6 million option, and it’s possible that no one will want him as a starting shortstop next year. He’s hitting just .227/.251/.330 at the moment.

Carlos Guillen (36 – Tigers): Guillen, who has yet to play this season, is now hoping to return from knee surgery after the All-Star break. With his four-year, $48 million contract coming to an end, he could possibly have a nice run as a role player in the right situation. He just needs to stay healthy.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez killed in a boating accident

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 03: Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during a game against the New York Mets at Marlins Park on August 3, 2015 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Horrible news: Miami Marlins ace starting pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boat crash off of Miami Beach late last night.

No details have been released yet, apart from the fact that Fernandez was one of three people killed. The Marlins have issued a statement confirming Fernandez’s death, stating that the organization is devastated and that their thoughts and prayers were with Fernandez’s family. Today’s Marlins game against the Braves has been canceled.

Fernandez was only 24 years old. Though only in his fourth season in the majors, he was easily one of the best and most exciting pitchers in the game. In his four seasons he won 38 games and posted a fantastic ERA of 2.58 while striking out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He was an electric presence on the mound and was poised to become one of baseball’s most highly-paid and entertaining superstars.

His baseball exploits seem trivial now, however. His loss at such a young age, tragic. Our thoughts today are with Fernandez’s family, the Marlins organization and those who knew and loved him.

The Nationals are NL East champs once again

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Max Scherzer #31 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after clinching the National League East Division Championship after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 at PNC Park on September 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Another day, another division title in the bag. The Nationals coasted to a 6-1 finish over the Pirates on Saturday evening; coupled with a Mets’ loss later that night, the NL East title was theirs for the third time since 2012.

The Nationals put up a three-spot in the first and fourth innings, scoring five of six runs on productive outs while Washington starter Joe Ross tossed 2  innings of one-run ball in his second start off the disabled list. Prior to the game, manager Dusty Baker seemed reluctant to delegate a set number of pitches to the right-hander, opting instead to base Ross’s workload on his performance.

Washington’s bullpen carried the team the rest of the way, combining for 6 ⅓ scoreless frames to preserve their five-run lead. When Anthony Rendon snared a liner from Andrew McCutchen to end the game, all eyes turned to the clubhouse TVs:

Murphy had sufficient cause for worry: After trailing 10-0 through four innings, the Mets returned with an eight-run drive that culminated with Jay Bruce‘s solo shot in the ninth inning. Had Bruce hit the home run after Philadelphia closer Michael Mariot issued a pair of walks, and not before, the Mets would have edged out the Phillies, 11-10. Instead, their late-game rally ended on a fastball down the middle, and the Phillies’ 70th victory confirmed the Nats’ place atop the NL East.

While Max Scherzer donned his two-toned goggles and Bryce Harper braved the champagne showers in U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky’s swim cap, Baker was already thinking about Sunday’s start. Against the Pirates’ Tyler Glasnow, Baker announced his plans to start 24-year-old A.J. Cole, whose seven starts have yielded a 4.68 ERA and 0.2 fWAR in 32 ⅔ innings this year.

Cole hasn’t displayed the sharpest stuff in his sophomore season, touting a high 3.03 BB/9 and 1.93 HR/9, but with the division locked down and the Cubs in sole possession of home field advantage through the NLCS, the Nationals have bigger concerns as the playoffs draw near.