Nick Hundley

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.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.