Carlos Lee

Thoughts on the Carlos Lee-to-Miami deal

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– It was obvious the Marlins had to upgrade. Gaby Sanchez looked like a borderline All-Star at this time last year, but he hit just .225/.320/.359 after the break, and even that would be a big improvement on his 2012 line of .194/.240/.283. He posted OPSs of .576 in April, .484 in May and .496 in June. It’s not Marlins Park, either: he’s hit .163/.212/.245 on the road this year. I wouldn’t write him off entirely for 2013 and beyond, but his 2012 looks like a lost cause.

– So, in steps Carlos Lee. I like the fit. Lee isn’t a big home run guy anyway, so Marlins Park won’t scare him off. His .286/.336/.412 line this year is modest enough, but he has more extra-base hits (21) than strikeouts (17). He’s a league-average first baseman, and that’s a big upgrade for Miami right now.

– The price was surprising, but that’s because the Marlins, unlike the Dodgers, wanted the Astros to pick up all Lee’s remaining salary. They’ll pay only about $200,000 of the approx. $9 million he’s still owed. It’s not my money, so I think the Astros did better here than they would have getting right-hander Garrett Gould from the Dodgers.

– In Matt Dominguez, the Astros get a potential third baseman of the future. I’ve never been very high on the former first-round pick, but he truly is an excellent defender, and if he can just shake the injury bug, he might prove adequate enough offensively to make it as a regular. He’s still just 22 years old. I’m not a Chris Johnson fan, and I don’t think he’ll prove to be any sort of long-term answer for Houston. Besides, he’s a poor defensive third baseman, so even if he does prove me wrong offensively, he’ll make more sense at first or DH for Houston anyway.

– Left-hander Rob Rasmussen was the other prospect in the deal. The 2010 second-round pick is 4-7 with a 3.90 ERA and a 75/36 K/BB ratio in 87 2/3 innings as a repeater at high-A Jupiter this season. Baseball America rated him as the Marlins’ No. 7 prospect headed into the season (Dominguez was No. 4), but realistically, he’s probably a reliever at best.

– Besides getting a couple of youngsters, the other benefit here for Houston is they’ll get to see whether Brett Wallace should be included in their future plans. If they had the chance, they’d certainly take back the trade that brought him from Toronto for center fielder Anthony Gose two years ago. Wallace did excellent work filling in for an injured Lee earlier this season, going 12-for-36 with two homers in 11 games. Still, that only pushed his career OPS up to .701 through 516 major league at-bats. He still has the nice line-drive stroke that made him a prospect, but he possesses limited power and little defensive value. The Astros should give him every chance to succeed in the second half and then look to move on this winter if he doesn’t progress.

– Given that the Marlins didn’t take on any salary here, they should still have the ability to go get another piece this month, whether it’s a center fielder or a late-inning reliever. The problem is that the cupboard is pretty bare: the Marlins have two excellent prospects in outfielder Christian Yelich and right-hander Jose Fernandez, but there probably aren’t more than two or three minor league systems with less depth to them.

Mets owners get some breathing room on their Bernie Madoff settlement payments

New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon stands on the field before baseball's Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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For years the central fact of life of the New York Mets has been that their owners, the Wilpon family and Saul Katz, lost a ton of money after investing it with friend and business partner Bernard Madoff, perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. It has hampered their payroll and led to huge amounts of borrowing and restructuring that, before last year’s pennant run, seemed like it’d be a millstone on the Mets competitive prospects for years to come.

In addition to losing money, it was later determined that Katz and the Wilpons unfairly gained in some other respects and thus they ended up having their phony earnings clawed back via a settlement with the trustee managing the fallout of the Madoff scandal.  The upshot: the Wilpons and Katz, in addition to their losses, were ordered to pay nearly $60 million dollars back, half payable this week, half payable next year. That’s a lot of money for anyone to fork over and this week’s payment loomed large.

Now, however, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Wilpons and Katz will get some breathing room. Specifically, they have modified their agreement with the trustee and some of the owed money has been deferred. Instead of some $29 million payable this week, they will only have to pay $16 million. The remainder will be paid in four installments — from 2017 through 2020 — with an interest rate of 3.5 percent on the unpaid balance, Rubin says.

Now, there obviously was no promise that the $13 million saved this week be invested in the baseball team, but it’s probably a good thing overall for the Mets if their owners’ debt payments are reduced a bit.

Mike Napoli hit a homer for a fan with cancer

CLEVELAND, OH -  MAY 30: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the sixth inning against the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field on May 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Last night a fan named Kathi Heintzelman showed up at Progressive Field in Cleveland with a sign asking Indians first baseman Mike Napoli to hit a home run for her and to give her a hug. But there was a reason beyond her love for Mike Napoli. She’s starting chemotherapy today and the hug and homer would be a nice thing.  Hard to disagree with that, even if everyone knows that ballplayers can’t hit homers on demand.

Well, most players can’t. Mike Napoli did the easy part before the game, giving her a hug. Then in the sixth inning, he went yard:

 

Whether you believe that such things can be fated or if you merely acknowledge that Heintzelman asked Napoli for a homer at a good time — he’s on a hot streak right now and has hit bombs in four of his last 11 games — it’s a great story.

 

The Twins recall Byron Buxton

Byron Buxton
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Byron Buxton has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester by the Twins.

Buxton will replace Danny Santana, who was placed on the disabled list following a hamstring injury. But the bigger picture here is that Buxton will get a fresh go-around to show that he is the future of the Twins like so many assume he will be. The 22-year-old hasn’t hit so far in the majors, but he batted .336/.403/.603 with six homers, four steals, and a 26/11 K/BB ratio over 129 plate appearances after his demotion to Triple-A last month.

At this point the Twins, who stink on ice, need to just put their top young player in the game and let him learn to swim at the big league level rather than try to squeak out a few extra relatively meaningless wins with guys who won’t be part of the next contending Twins team.

92-year-old World War II vet throws a nifty ceremonial first pitch

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Think of how many bad ceremonial first pitches you’ve seen. From the worm burners from local business owners and pillars of the community at minor league games to ex-big leaguers who obviously haven’t picked up a ball since they retired to the famous celebrity ones that go viral the next day, there are probably a lot more bad first pitches out there than good ones.

But when the good ones come, they’re really enjoyable. And few are more enjoyable than the one which preceded yesterday’s Padres-Mariners game in Seattle. The pitcher: Burke Waldron, a 92-year-old veteran of World War II. He did it in his dress whites. He ran out onto the field beforehand. And though his catcher didn’t set up the full 60 feet, six inches away from where Waldron threw it, it was still a spiffy pitch. Way better than most: