Neither of these moves come as a huge surprise, but the Diamondbacks announced this evening that they have declined their club options on Aaron Hill and Zach Duke.
Hill’s contract included a pair of $8 million options for 2012 and 2013. The 29-year-old second baseman played well after being acquired from the Blue Jays in August, batting .315/.386/.492 with two homers, 16 RBI and an .878 OPS over 142 plate appearances. The small sample of success wasn’t enough to convince Arizona GM Kevin Towers to make the hefty investment, but they are interesting in retaining him at a lesser salary.
Duke, who was acquired from the Pirates last December, will receive a $750,000 buyout rather than a $5.5 million salary in 2012. The 28-year-old left-hander didn’t make his season debut until May due to a broken hand and ended up posting a disappointing 4.93 ERA and 32/19 K/BB ratio over 76 2/3 innings. He was banished to the bullpen following the All-Star break.
The Diamondbacks also exercised mutual options on utility infielder Willie Bloomquist and backup catcher Henry Blanco. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that Bloomquist will become a free agent after declining his portion of the mutual option, but that he is interested in returning as part of a multi-year contract. If Blanco opts to exercise his part of the mutual option, he will earn $1.15 million in 2012.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.