Padres sign Nick Hundley long term, block prospect Yasmani Grandal’s path to the majors

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Nick Hundley and the Padres have agreed to a multi-year contract that covers 2013 and 2014 while including a team option for 2015.

Hundley was already signed for $2 million this season and under team control through 2014 via the arbitration process, so the Padres will pre-pay for two seasons of arbitration eligibility in exchange for some cost certainty and the option of buying out his first year of free agency.

Hundley has had trouble staying healthy, playing fewer than 90 games in each of his four seasons, but the 28-year-old hit .288 with a .347 on-base percentage and .477 slugging percentage in 82 games last season and has thrown out 28 percent of steal attempts for his career.

Prior to last season’s .824 OPS his career mark was just .699, so committing to Hundley rather than going year-to-year via arbitration is certainly a risk. However, he’s a rare player who actually thrives in the majors’ most pitcher-friendly ballpark, as Hundley has hit .271 with an .818 OPS at Petco Park compared to .240 with a .657 OPS on the road. Those splits are tough to explain and probably aren’t sustainable, but either way he’s a solid-hitting catcher with decent defensive chops and the Padres now have him locked up through age 31.

Now that Hundley is signed long term it’ll be interesting to see what the Padres do with catching prospect Yasmani Grandal, who was acquired from the Reds in the Mat Latos trade and ranks as the No. 53 prospect in the majors according Baseball America. Grandal is 23 years old and figures to begin this season at Triple-A, so he’ll be MLB-ready long before Hundley’s deal expires.

UPDATE: Corey Brock of MLB.com has the breakdown of Hundley’s deal. He’ll get $3 million in 2013 and $4 million in 2014, and the 2015 option is for $5 million. Cheap enough that he could be traded or perhaps even move into a backup role once Grandal arrives, maybe.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.