Alex Rodriguez

Look, nothing is going to happen to A-Rod over this poker business


It was rather notable to see the reports — emanating from the entertainment press, not the sporting press — about Alex Rodriguez and the allegedly high-stakes, cocaine-and-Tobey-McGuire-fueled poker games.  Kind of salacious and, because most people like talking about A-Rod, kind of fun.  But let’s be clear about something: the reports that Major League Baseball is looking into this and could dole out some discipline in A-Rod’s direction are kind of silly.

Oh, I have no doubt that someone at Major League Baseball is saying that they’re really concerned and may do something, but that’s a p.r. thing. Because our society is wired in the puritanical way that it is, they can’t just blow off reports of one of their players being in the same room as drugs, gambling and wicked women.  I mean, this isn’t like players driving drunk or beating their wives which are apparently easy things for MLB to ignore.

So someone tells a reporter that baseball thinks it’s serious. A short meeting — complete with photographers to catch A-Rod entering the building in a penitent posture — is held. Some leak occurs in which A-Rod is described as being on double secret probabtion or something and the matter is considered closed.

And there really is no other option.  Unless MLB has stopped testing for cocaine, there is no basis for it to say that A-Rod was taking drugs. Unless the cops came in, busted the card game and arrested everyone, there is no proof that A-Rod was involved in anything illegal.  Unless A-Rod ran out of chips one night and, in order to call Tobey McGuire’s bluff, he threw a paper with “I.O.U. the outcome of five Yankees baseball games” on it, he did not break any rules of Major League Baseball.

This is all about baseball still possessing some vestigial concern that its ballplayers come off as heroic and clean cut young men, as if the last 50 years of American society and cultural evolution never happened.  It’s actually kind of cute and endearing in some weird way.

But it’s not going anywhere. A-Rod is a big boy. If he wants to play cards, he’s gonna play cards. And if Bud Selig truly wants to punish him for it, he’s going to get into a fight with the union he doesn’t want.

And really, deep down, isn’t the image of A-Rod playing high stakes poker with movie stars cooler than most of the other off-the-field glimpses we get of the guy?  Kind of manly! What a bad boy!  Really, Bud, let this one ride. It’s better for everyone.

The Diamondbacks met with Johnny Cueto’s agent

AP Photo/David Goldman
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.

Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.

Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.

As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski is reportedly trying to trade Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Nick Cafardo provides this interesting nugget in his Sunday notes column at the Boston Globe

Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense.

Cafardo notes that “there are huge hurdles to cross” before a trade could happen — like how much of Hanley’s remaining salary the Red Sox would have to eat and what positions the soon-to-be 32-year-old is able to play defensively at this point in his career.

Boston’s higher-ups have asked Ramirez to learn first base and drop 20 pounds this winter. Whatever team is looking to acquire him would probably have to be comfortable with him serving primarily as a designated hitter.

Hanley is owed $68.2 million over the next three seasons and he carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019. He batted just .249/.291/.426 in 105 games this past year.

Ben Zobrist is the “Mets’ No. 1 target”

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …

It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?

Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.

Tigers agree to deal with starter Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Hey, the hot stove is finally generating some real fire …

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Tigers have agreed to terms on a contract with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. It’s a five-year deal worth around $110 million, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

This should have a domino effect on a loaded starting pitching market. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija are just a few of the names still out there.

Zimmermann, 29, posted a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 164/39 K/BB ratio in 201 2/3 innings this past season for the Nationals. He had a 2.66 ERA in 2014 and threw a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Zimmermann’s free agency is tied to draft pick compensation because he rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Washington, but the Tigers finished with one of the 10-worst win-loss records in 2015 so their first-round pick in 2016 is protected. Detroit will give up its second-round pick instead.