Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees

Would you have kept the ball from Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit?

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I joked last week that there was no need to put a special marking on Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit ball because it was almost certain that it would be some infielder who got it.  Boy, that was wrong. Unless you were under a rock all weekend you know that number 3,000 was a homer. You also know that the fan who caught it — a 23-year-old man named Christian Lopez — simply gave the ball back to Jeter rather than keep it and auction it off for what would probably be several hundred thousand dollars.

That led to a lot of stories about Lopez’s selflessness — and got Lopez premium tickets for the rest of the season and a ton of replacement memorabilia — but I can’t say I would have made the same decision he did.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a 23-year-old dude. I have a mortgage and bills to pay and kids who look like they’ll be going to college if I don’t kill them first. A couple hundred grand would help all of that out nicely.  Sure, it was a nice gesture on some level that Jeter got his trophy, but when you consider that he already has a gigantic mansion, a scorching hot girlfriend, five World Series rings, hundreds of millions of dollars in the bank and the adoration of millions and millions of people — and you realize that the Yankees and Jeter are making millions off of the hit already — I can’t say that I’d lose a wink of sleep over him not having his 3,000th hit ball.

Hell, if Jeter wanted it that bad, he could bid on it just like everyone else. It would only cost him pocket change. For a regular person, keeping that ball could mean the difference between making ends meet or not.  The grand total of Jeter’s inconvenience would be a quick cell phone call to his business manager to authorize a bid. It doesn’t seem like it would be a tough call. Even this Lopez guy’s dad agrees that his son might not have gotten that call right.

But then again, I’m not the sentimental type, and you’ve heard me go on and on about how I place little value on the possessing of memorabilia (short version: it’s the memories, not the totems of those memories, that matter).  Maybe you’re wired differently than I am and you, like Mr. Lopez, would have given Derek Jeter his ball back.  So let’s vote on it:

Before seeing any vote totals, I’m willing to bet that there will be a disconnect between the kudos given this Lopez guy for being noble and selfless and the number of people who would have kept the ball and taken care of themselves before they took care of Derek Jeter. But don’t let my cynical take influence your vote.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.

White Sox reportedly considering Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.

After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.

Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.

Pirates sign reliever Eric O’Flaherty

Eric O'Flaherty
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Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.

O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.

It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.