There isn’t a lot happening in free agent land yet. As Olney notes today, a big reason for that is the pending Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is likely to alter free agent draft pick compensation pretty substantially, thereby changing the overall value/cost of a big name free agent.
Thank goodness for folks playing the “what if” game, then, because we need some sort of creativity around this sport until we complain about awards votes next week. Ken Rosenthal is playing it in his latest column, with specific reference to the Rangers:
The Rangers need to change the conversation … I’m talking about spring training, when the team will want to move past its crushing Series defeat. I’m talking about finding a new direction, a new energy, a newraison d’etre. I’m talking about doing something big — something so big, the players will regain their swagger and re-emerge as one of the favorites in the American League.
He thinks the Rangers should go after Prince Fielder. And Mark Buehrle. And one of the top closers like Heath Bell. He acknowledges that it would be crazy-expensive to do that sort of thing but thinks it’s worth it to shake things up.
I like the idea of Buehrle because I think the Rangers could use some rotation bolstering, but going after one of the big first baseman and a closer seems a bit much. They still have the three-headed Napoli/Young/Moreland monster at first base to deal with. They have a fantastic bullpen already, its World Series shortcomings being a matter of fatigue, not lack of talent.
Mostly, though, I see a team that won its division by ten games. And which doesn’t look to be any worse next year. And whose competition isn’t likely to be any better. And a team who, if Nelson Cruz didn’t feel the wall looming in Game 6, would have won the World Series.
The Rangers doesn’t seem like a candidate for a tone-change. Just some better luck and another crack at it next year.
Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.
It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.
Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.
After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.
Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.
Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.
O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.
It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.
The greatest closer in history is going to get the ultimate honor the New York Yankees bestow on August 14. That’s when Mariano Rivera will get his plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium before a game against the Rays.
There was some chatter in the last year or two about whether the Yankees were somehow lowering their standards out there, what with guys like Tino Martinez getting honored. But if that’s something you care about it won’t matter in this instance. Rivera would’ve been worthy even if the old snobby ways had held and only inner-circle types got a plaque, what with him being a key member of five World Series-winning teams and his status as the all-time saves leader in the regular season and the postseason.
The Yankees retired Rivera’s No. 42 in 2013. He’ll get his plaque in August. Then, on the first ballot for which he is eligible, he’ll be voted into the Hall of Fame, likely with a percentage in the mid-to-high 90s.