Michael Bourn

Astros should have done better for Michael Bourn

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I was impressed with Houston’s return for Hunter Pence.  By all indications, Astros GM Ed Wade did a nice job of playing the suitors off each other and he ended up with a pair of top-50 prospects from the Phillies for his troubles.

The Michael Bourn trade with Atlanta was also a four-for-one deal, but in this case, the four wasn’t nearly so impressive.  And one can argue that Bourn is just as valuable of a property as Pence.  Factoring in his exceptional defense and his value on the basepaths, he’s been the superior player this year while hitting .303/.363/.403 in 429 at-bats.  And while Pence is under control for the additional year, Bourn at about $7 million for 2012 alone sounds better than Pence at approximately $23 million for 2012-13.

In return for Bourn, the Braves gave up outfielder Jordan Schafer and three pitchers: Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.

Schafer, 24, was a top prospect two years ago, but he ended up on the shelf for much of 2009 and all of 2010 and he’s hit just .223/.310/.303 in 363 major league at-bats.  He’s a legitimate center fielder, and he could yet establish himself as a quality regular if he can get healthy and stay that way.  He’s currently on the DL with a chip fracture in his left middle finger.

Oberholtzer, a 22-year-old lefty, is the top pitching prospect in the deal, but he’s only in the second tier of Braves arms.  The 2008 eighth-round pick is 9-9 with a 3.74 ERA and a 93/42 K/BB ratio in 127 2/3 innings for Double-A Mississippi.  His fastball is pretty average, but both his changeup and curveball should be quality major league pitches.  He projects as a No. 4 starter.

Clemens, a 23-year-old righty, was drafted one round ahead of Oberholtzer in the 2008 draft and was his teammate at Mississippi this year, going 6-5 with a 3.73 ERA and a 93/44 K/BB ratio in 108 2/3 innings.  He’d been in the pen more often than not leading up to this year, and his secondary pitches will have to get better for him to remain a starter.  His fastball, though, reaches the mid-90s.

Abreu, a 26-year-old right-handed reliever, has good stuff out and a spotty track record.  Pitching in Triple-A for the first time, he’s had something of a breakthrough year, amassing a 2.25 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 48 innings.  He has walked 27, though, and the Braves never thought he was worthy of a callup.

So, Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart these guys are not.  If this was the best Wade could do now, he should have kept Bourn until the winter.  The deal from the Astros’ perspective will probably come down to Schafer and whether he fulfills his promise an an everyday player.  He’s still young enough to turn the corner, but three straight injury-plagued seasons don’t bode well.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.