Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times alerts us to something neat: the Mariners are going to call up and presumably play the first Italian-born player in nearly 50 years. And it’s not as if he were born at Aviano Air Base and came to the states when he was still in diapers, either. He’s totally Italian:
[Alex] Liddi, 23, will also be the first graduate of the MLB European Academy to play in the majors as well as the first Italian born and raised player to do it … Liddi stayed in his native city of San Remo and played amateur baseball in Italy until signed by Seattle at age 17.
Cue a bunch of obvious Italian stereotypes because most of us just can’t help ourselves. And cue some not-so-obvious ones from people like me.
You see, my wife’s family is Italian. Like, really Italian with a whole branch of it including her much older half-sister having been born, raised and still living over there. Which means I have a nephew named Marco over there who is not much younger than Liddi, and through a couple of meetings and a lot of silly interaction on Facebook I have been exposed to a fair amount of Italian youth culture. Which is simultaneously awesome, hilarious and frightening.
If Liddi is anything like that completely ridiculous nephew of mine and his dozens of completely ridiculous Italian friends, I would highly, highly recommend that the beat writers get near this guy in the clubhouse after games because he will NOT offer you the boilerplate “I just want to help the team win some games” rebop. Rather, he’ll, like, dance and then name-check some weird European combination hip hop/death metal band and then show you inappropriate pictures of his friend’s girlfriend which — when you see them — you’ll wonder how in the hell his friend let him have a copy in the first place. And when you try to gently criticize him, everyone will yell at you for being insensitive to the impressionable young boy.
Or maybe I’m just working through some family issues right now.
Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.
Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.
Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.
Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.
Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.
Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.
Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.
Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.
Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.