Pierzynski_A.J.

A.J. Pierzynski is baseball’s meanest player

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Sports Illustrated polls major leaguers about a number of things throughout the year. Or else it polls them once and then releases the results in drips and drabs throughout the year.  Today’s drip/drab:  “Baseball’s Meanest Players.”

Problem: it doesn’t really list a criteria.  Which matters here, because “meanest” could be the most personally unpleasant. It could also have some mix of hard-nosed competitiveness to it, which is at least in part admirable.  Of course, since they have A.J. Pierzynski number one — and since he’s often talked about like he’s a grade-A jerk — I tend to think it leans more toward the former

Anyway, here’s the post.  Sadly, it is a slide show.  For those of you with the good sense to stay away from web slides shows, I’ll tell you that Chase Utley is number two, followed by Milton Bradley, Carlos Zambrano and Vicente Padilla.

OK, wait a minute. Now I’m certain that it’s just a list of jerks, because those last three are universally despised.  Which makes me wonder how Utley makes that list, because you rarely hear him talked about in the same way those other guys are.

A-Rod, Chris Carpenter and … wait for it … Albert Pujols come next.  I apologize Brewers fans. Seems that you’re not the only ones on the planet who think Pujols is a jerk.  Two-hundred and fifteen major league baseball players agree.  Of course, don’t get too smug because he’s followed on the list by Nyjer Morgan. And yes, there are Red Sox, another Yankee and another Brewer in the top 15.

No Braves of course. Everyone loves Braves.

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.