It is with a heavy heart that I get on a plane this morning and leave Arizona. No, it’s not a paradise. But for a few weeks in late February and on through March it is pretty damn close to it. The weather is perfect. The baseball is plentiful. Hope is ubiquitous. Friends — at least my friends in baseball — are all over the place.
Yes, it’s been a wonderful week here in the Valley of the Sun. A week that has re-energized me and has made me anxious for the regular season to start. That has made me realize that no matter how many baseball seasons I’ve lived through, each one begins anew, unspoiled and wonderful. It has been a week that has made me remember that, even though life has its ups and its downs, baseball is always there for us. As a diversion or, if we need it to be, as something more.
It’s been a pretty rough, dark winter in a lot of ways. But it’s a winter that ends now. Ends with the dawning of a new morning. A morning in which we learned a few things. Such as:
- Brian Wilson has no idea about how the universe works, but OH MY GOD he inspired something wonderful.
- Sometimes you walk into a room with three Hall of Famers just sitting at a table reading newspapers and shooting the breeze;
- Sometimes you walk down a concourse and see two Hall of Very Gooders.
- Sometimes you get accosted by some weirdo with a head wound at a seedy bar on the unfashionable side of town;
- Yoenis Cespedes is pretty freakin’ awesome, even if your momma could hit a homer off Jeff Francis;
- Yu Darvish is pretty freakin’ awesome, even if your momma could hold the San Diego Padres scoreless;
- To be successful, first you see the ball, then you hit the ball;
- Coco Crisp thinks it’s funny that I’m bald;
- So too does the Indians’ beat writer from MLB.com, but at least Manny Acta has my back;
- For some people, the Expos will never die;
- Robin Yount needs a bigger cap;
- Ron Roenicke is a neat guy;
- Maryvale Baseball Park may be in Phoenix’s most gang-ridden neighborhood, but it’s still pretty nice;
- At some point you get too old to hold on to souvenir baseballs;
- Chief Wahoo sucks, and I’m never gonna get tired of talking about it;
- Talking to baseball players may make me not want to rip them as much, which probably means I should stop talking to baseball players;
- Lots of reporters wanted to see Yu Darvish in person;
- Torii Hunter has gone to the Crash Davis school of not telling nosy reporters anything of substance;
- A person actually bought an orange Marlins’ cap;
- Bobby Abreu actually thinks he can pitch; and
- The Angels are a happy bunch.
As you read this, I’m at 30,000 feet. Next time you hear from me I’ll be back in my fortified compound on the outskirts of Columbus, Ohio, refreshed by my travels and primed for a new baseball season.
Per Eric Stephen of SB Nation’s True Blue LA, the Dodgers announced that pitching prospect Frankie Montas will be out two to four months after undergoing rib resection surgery to remove his right first rib.
The Dodgers acquired Montas from the White Sox in a three-team trade in December 2015 that also involved the Reds. The 22-year-old made his big league debut with the Pale Hose last season, allowing eight runs on 14 hits and nine walks with 20 strikeouts in 15 innings across two starts. Montas had spent the majority of his season at Double-A Birmingham, where he posted a 2.97 ERA with 108 strikeouts and 48 walks in 112 innings.
MLB.com rated Montas as the 95th-best prospect in baseball, slipping a few spots from last year’s pre-season ranking of 91.
The Brewers’ rebuild continues, as the club announced on Twitter the trade of outfielder Khris Davis to the Athletics in exchange for catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Bubba Derby. MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports that the A’s have designated pitcher Sean Nolin for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for Davis.
Davis, 28, was the Brewers’ most valuable remaining trade chip. He blasted 27 home runs while hitting .247/.323/.505 in 440 plate appearances this past season in Milwaukee. Adding to his value, Davis won’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season and can’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season. In Oakland, Davis will give the Athletics more reliability as Coco Crisp was injured for most of last season and is now 36 years old. Though he doesn’t have much of a career platoon split, Davis split time in left field with the left-handed-hitting Gerardo Parra last season. It’s unclear if the A’s will utilize him in a platoon as well.
With Davis out of the picture, Domingo Santana is a leading candidate to start in left field for the Brewers, GM David Stearns said, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Nottingham, 20, started the 2015 season in the Astros’ system but went to the Athletics in the Scott Kazmir deal. He hit an aggregate .316/.372/.505 at Single-A, showing plenty of promise early in his professional career. With catcher Jonathan Lucroy on his way out of Milwaukee, the Brewers are hoping Nottingham can be their next permanent backstop.
Derby, 21, made his professional debut last season after the Athletics drafted him in the sixth round. Across 37 1/3 innings, he yielded seven runs (five earned) on 24 hits and 10 walks with 47 strikeouts. He’s obviously a few years away from the majors, but the Brewers are looking for high upside.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees and closer Aroldis Chapman have avoided arbitration, settling on an $11.325 million salary for the 2016 season. It is the lefty’s third and final year of arbitration eligibility.
Chapman had filed for $13 million while the Yankees countered at $9 million, so he gets slightly more than the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
With the Reds this past season, Chapman posted a 1.63 ERA with 33 saves and a 116/33 K/BB ratio over 66 1/3 innings. The Reds have opted to rebuild, so they traded him to the Yankees this offseason in exchange for four minor leaguers. Chapman, who turns 28 at the end of February, will make for a fearsome 1-2-3 punch in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen along with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Tommy Hunter has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians. It’s a major-league deal, so Hunter gets a spot on the 40-man roster and will be in the Opening Day bullpen if he’s fully recovered from core muscle surgery.
Hunter split last season between the Orioles and Cubs, totaling 60 innings with a 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio. He had a sub-3.00 ERA in both 2013 and 2014, and has generally been a setup-caliber reliever since shifting to the bullpen full time.
He has good control and a mid-90s fastball, but Hunter has never missed many bats despite the big-time velocity and often struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’ll likely fill a middle relief role in Cleveland initially.