I walked into the Hilton Anatole at 6:30 AM. I feel like I just left. Probably because I kind of did. The festivities go late at the Winter Meetings. Why I’m the only one who was both late and arrived early is an open question probably best reserved for my psychologist. As it is, I’m the only person in the media room right now. It’s actually kind of peaceful.
Less so last night. The crowd in the lobby is a people-watcher’s fantasy. At one point my field of vision contained:
- Tony Perez laughing it up with some friends;
- Billy Beane leaving the restaurant sort of yelling “booyah!” at a couple of people milling around outside;
- A half dozen eager young job-seekers, resume-containing portfolios in-hand, scanning the room for someone to whom they can deliver their elevator pitch;
- Some guys from the trade show who make and sell these weird masks walking around in said masks. Someone within earshot looked at one of the guys and asked who his mask was supposed to be. The guy said Babe Ruth. Pro Tip: if people in town for the baseball convention can’t identify your Babe Ruth mask, you may want to redesign it; and
- A national writer I know who shall remain nameless almost run over Frank Robinson. Disaster was averted, however. Which is good, because I’m guessing MLB has a special skull-cracking force to specifically deal with that kind of thing.
But for all of the gawking and talking and drinking, this is still a baseball thing, and the topic of conversation for most people remained the Florida Marlins. How serious is this Pujols business? Most people think it’s not, but we’ve all learned not to rule anything out. What’s up with Hanley Ramirez? No word yet on who will get behind his Michael Young-style MVP campaign if he asks for a trade because of a position shift. Because that’s going to happen with him too, right?
Anyway, on a day with no really big breaking news, there was a sense of anticipation among most people I talked to. Something big is going to happen today, many believe. Someone will overpay C.J. Wilson, some suspect. Others think that the Albert Pujols tease can only last so long and that he’ll either commit back to the Cardinals soon (most think this) or break for that crazy show they are building in Miami (chaos-lovers are praying for this).
For our part: we’re just jacking back in to the Matrix, passing along everything we see and hear. Oh, and my betters at NBC think it’s a good idea to let me go on TV tonight. Hey: it’s their network and they know better than I do. More on that later, though.
Don’t go anyplace.
UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.
Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.
After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.
Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”
You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.
O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.
Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.
Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.
At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.
Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost “roughly 30-40 pounds this offseason.” It’s not a result of workouts, though. Just a change in diet. Bollinger says that Graham cut out sugar, alcohol and foods heavy in carbs and focused on a high-protein diet with lots of salads, meats and vegetables.
That’s an awful lot of weight to lose in four months, but the dude is only 26 and guys in their 20s lose weight just by thinking about it. Which is so very annoying to those of us who aren’t guys in their 20s.
The real test, of course, will come when he is working out far more strenuously once spring training starts and gets into the season. Normal schmos like me can keep up that kind of diet without much of a hitch as long as we have the willpower. An athlete’s energy requirements are far greater and far more specialized, so he’ll need more fuel than he’s probably been getting this offseason. Word is, however, that professional sports teams have people on staff that, you know, have made monitoring that kind of thing their life’s work.
In the meantime:
“I can just feel the change,” Graham said. “The energy. Everything. I feel great. I’m excited to see how it’ll translate into spring. I know I shouldn’t have any problems because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m faster. All that. So it’s really exciting.”
It’s very exciting indeed. Because, with that, Graham becomes the latest baseball player to be . . . In The Best Shape of His Life.