The Red Sox were supposed to have three MVP candidates, but it’s down to one now: Jacoby Ellsbury went 4-for-5 with his third homer in six games and four runs scored in Tuesday night’s takedown of the Blue Jays, raising his average to .321.
The 28-year-old Ellsbury is up to fifth in the AL in average, ninth with a .380 OBP and sixth with a .546 slugging percentage. He’s second with 108 runs scored, ninth with 27 homers, ninth with 94 RBI and fourth with 36 steals. He’s now tied with Gonzalez for the AL lead with 321 total bases.
Ellsbury is seven steals behind the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, so it doesn’t look like he’ll become the first player since Ty Cobb with the 1911 Tigers to lead his league in both total bases and steals. However, he’s on pace to become the 18th player in major league history with at least 350 total bases and 30 steals and possibly the 10th to have that many total bases and 40 steals. The last two with 350 total bases and 30 steals were Jimmy Rollins and Hanley Ramirez in 2007. Alfonso Soriano actually did it three times: 2002, 2003 and 2006.
Ellsbury has been particularly amazing since the beginning of July, hitting .346/.403/.651 with 18 homers, 54 RBI and 53 runs scored in 63 games. That’s be 47 homers, 139 RBI and 137 runs on a 162-game pace.
I don’t know if that makes him the AL MVP, but I think he’s joined Jose Bautista and Justin Verlander to form a trio that’s a clear notch above the rest of the pack.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.
In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.
Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.
He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.
Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.
Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.
At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.
Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.
Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.
He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.