Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun celebrates his 2 RBIs against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 5th inning of Game 1 in the MLB National League Championship Series baseball playoffs in Milwaukee

NL MVP preview: it’s a two-man race

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It doesn’t get much closer than this when it comes to a couple of MVP candidates.

  • Player A:  .332/.397/.597, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 runs
  • Player B: .324/.399/.586, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 111 runs

But then you add in that Player A played a pedestrian-to-bad left field and Player B played a good center field, and it should tip it in B’s favor.

Except I have a pretty strong feeling that it won’t this time, because Player A — Ryan Braun — played for a division winner and Player B — Matt Kemp — did not.  And when such a state of affairs exists, MVP voters are almost always going to go for the guy on the winning team.  I bet Braun takes the hardware and that’s not nearly as close as it should be.

source: Getty ImagesTo be sure: Braun winning will not be a miscarriage of justice. He had a fantastic season. I’m just saying he wouldn’t be my choice.

I’m more animated — in advance — that a lot of people who cast their ballot for Braun will likely have done so on the basis of his team’s performance, which seems so beside the point to me.  But that’s what you get when you have the word “valuable” right in the title of the award.  It it were about the most outstanding player it wouldn’t be as tricky, but the concept of value seems to demand something for it to serve, and in this case the voters tend to see that as team goals, not individual accomplishments.

Which is troublesome to me because it’s all based on a fallacy that games in which non-contending teams play are somehow less important than games involving contenders. Maybe they are to those of us who write about baseball and thus focus on playoff implications. But are you telling me that Matt Kemp didn’t take the games in which he played as seriously as Ryan Braun did? That the pitchers he faced let up?  I don’t think anyone would have the guts to even ask Matt Kemp what he thought about that concept, so basing an awards vote on it seems silly to me.

Oh well. We’ll see at 2PM eastern.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.