Pat Burrell, Charlie Manuel

Pat Burrell and the Class of 1998

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Pat Burrell, the first overall pick in the 1998 draft, is expected to announce his retirement in the coming days. J.D. Drew, another top player from the same class, may do the same. So, here’s a look at the top players from the 1998 draft, as judged by Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR (the list only includes 1998 picks who signed):

49.8: CC Sabathia – Cle – 20th overall
46.3: Mark Buehrle – CWS – 1139th
45.9: J.D. Drew – StL – 5th
30.9: Matt Holliday – Col – 210th
24.0: Adam Dunn – Cin – 50th
20.2: Aaron Rowand – CWS – 35th
18.7: Pat Burrell – Phi – 1st
17.9: Brandon Inge – Det – 57th
16.3: Mark Mulder – Oak – 2nd
15.8: Austin Kearns – Cin – 7th
15.5: Jack Wilson – StL – 258th
15.2: Carlos Pena – Tex – 10th
14.2: Aubrey Huff – TB – 162nd
13.6: Juan Pierre – Col – 390th
13.3: Jeff Weaver – Det – 14th
13.3: Eric Byrnes – Oak – 225th
12.2: Morgan Ensberg – Hou – 272nd
12.2: B.J. Ryan – Cin – 500th
10.3: Eric Hinske – ChC – 496th
10.3: Brad Wilkerson – Mon – 33rd
9.4: Matt Thornton – Sea – 22nd
9.0: Ryan Madson – Phi – 254th
8.3: Brad Lidge – Hou – 17th
8.0: Nick Punto – Phi – 614th
7.9: Adam Everett – Bos – 12th
7.8: David Ross – LAD – 216th
7.4: Gerald Laird – Oak – 45th
7.4: Jason Michaels – Phi – 104th
7.1: Felipe Lopez – Tor – 8th
7.0: John Buck – Hou – 212th
6.5: Bill Hall – Mil – 176th
6.4: Brian Lawrence – SD – 502nd
6.2: Corey Patterson – ChC – 3rd
6.2: Kip Wells – CWS – 16th
6.1: Joe  Kennedy – TB – 252nd

Burrell comes in seventh, which seems about right given his lack of defensive value. Of the players below him, only Inge and Pena would seem to have much chance of passing him on the list, and it’s entirely possible Inge will produce negative WAR over the remainder of his career.

The Phillies, incidentally, also landed Madson, Punto and Michaels. They and the Reds were the only teams to land draft four semi-useful players in 1998, as I judge it anyway. The Reds selected Todd Coffey along with Dunn, Kearns and Ryan.

Here’s that list:

4 – Phillies, Reds
3 – Astros, Athletics, Cubs, Rockies, Tigers, White Sox
2 – Blue Jays, Braves, Cardinals, Rays, Red Sox
1 – Brewers, D’Backs, Dodgers, Expos, Giants, Indians, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rangers
0 – Angels, Marlins, Orioles, Royals, Twins, Yankees

The Orioles drafted Cliff Lee and the Yankees picked Mark Prior, but neither player signed. I’d say the Royals had the worst draft of all: they had the 4th (Jeff Austin), 30th (Chris George) and 31st (Matt Burch) overall picks and got nothing from them.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.