Kirk Gibson appeared in over his head at times in the postseason last year, but now he’s back demonstrating why he was the 2011 NL Manager of the Year in the first two games of 2012.
After not using him there all spring, Gibson inserted Chris Young into the second spot in the order Friday against Tim Lincecum. Young made it pay off in a hurry, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning as part of Arizona’s 5-4 victory.
With the Giants going to a left-hander in Madison Bumgarner today, Aaron Hill moved back into the No. 2 spot, with Young batting fifth. Hill was the Diamondbacks’ regular No. 2 hitter last season after arriving in the Kelly Johnson trade and did a great job, but he slumped all spring and was dropped to eighth Friday. Given his career numbers, that’s closer to where he belongs against righties. Versus lefties, though, he is a decent enough choice to hit second. And he’s looked more than decent today, homering in his first two at-bats to drive in three of the Diamondbacks’ four runs so far.
In this day and age of everyone always wanting to know their role, it can be difficult for managers to try to play matchups and mess with their lineups. Fortunately, Gibson commands a whole lot of respect in the Arizona clubhouse and his players seem well in tune with his choices. Batting Hill second against lefties and low in the order against righties makes a whole lot of sense. It might not be a permanent arrangement — there’s really no need for anything to be a permanent arrangement — but it’s certainly worked for the Diamondbacks for two games.
The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.
In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.
The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:
Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.
The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.
Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.