God

God told Josh Hamilton he was going to hit a home run

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Josh Hamilton hit a huge homer to put the Rangers up by two in the 10th inning of last night’s thriller.  After the game, he said this:

“I would tell y’all something, but y’all wouldn’t believe me … The Lord told me it was going to happen before it happened. You hadn’t hit a home run in a while. You’re about to right now.’”

Before we go any further, can I tell you how much I wish that David Freese, when asked about his walkoff homer in the 11th, said that Satan had told him he’d do it, and then he held up the devil horns, Dio-style?  That would have been epic.

Anyway:  I realize that I’m a big damned-to-Hell agnostic type and everything, so I’m not an authority here. I’m not going to push my non-belief on others. Even if I don’t subscribe to it, I’m not one of those militant atheist types who turn going after religion into a crusade (those people have their own, almost religious zealotry that is more than a little ironic). I think religion can be an important part of a person’s life. I’ve seen it work wonders in people. So if Josh Hamilton believes that God told him he was going to hit a home run and that fills him with wonder and purpose, I feel great for Josh Hamilton.

But can I ask the believers out there: If there is a God, do you really think He rolls like this? That He takes interest in the events of Man on such a granular level that He’s not only telling a guy like Hamilton that he’s going to hit a homer, but He’s also going to note beforehand that Hamilton hadn’t hit a homer in a while?  God cares about baseball stats?  Is God … a sabermetrician?!

No, of course he isn’t. If He was, He would have said “Josh, you are going to get on base.” Or else He wouldn’t have cared about baseball at all, because I’m told statheads hate baseball and only love numbers, so never mind.

Anyway, theology is not my bag. Maybe God does tell people when they’re about to do their job well.  When you’re omnipotent you can multitask. Attend to the suffering here, orchestrate the wonder and miracle of creation there, smite the wicked in another place and still have all of the time in the world to tell rich athletes that they’re about to do something special.  Really, it’s not a problem.

Is it?

Dallas Keuchel, Astros did talk long-term contract

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Dallas Keuchel‘s agent Darek Braunecker told MLB Network Radio in early January that he had not engaged in any long-term contract negotiations with the Astros’ front office. Two weeks later, the sides reached a one-year, $7.25 million agreement, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing. So was a bigger financial commitment ever discussed?

Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle has the answer, writing in his offseason review that the “Astros and Keuchel have had substantial talks about extensions [this winter] … but to no avail.”

Keuchel carries all the leverage in the world after winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award with a 2.48 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, and 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He also made three appearances in the postseason to a 2.57 ERA in 14 frames.

Keuchel’s $7.25 million salary for 2016 will be a record for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Locking up some of his free agent years (2019, 2020, 2021, etc.) would likely take a commitment of $120 million or more.

Houston has the 28-year-old left-hander under contractual control through 2018, and it sounds like the plan is to go season-to-season with his salaries.

He’ll remain a huge value to a good-looking Astros team.

Yadier Molina gets cast removed from surgically-repaired thumb

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Norm Hall/Getty Images North America
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Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.

It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …

Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.

Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.

Jose Fernandez wants $30 million a year, Marlins don’t plan on paying

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You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.

There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”

If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.

A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.

Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.

If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.

Michael Brantley’s timetable off shoulder surgery is “hazy”

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Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.

Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”

Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.

Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.

Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.

Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?

Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?