11:00 p.m. EDT update: Burnett retired the side in order in the ninth to finish a one-hit shutout of the Cubs. It was his first shutout since 2006, his first year with the Blue Jays, but his 10th overall. He moved to 13-3 with a 3.27 ERA for the season.
10:39 p.m. EDT update: Burnett lost the no-hitter on an Adrian Cardenas single with two outs in the eighth.
Burnett previously hit Darwin Barney in the helmet with a pitch in the eighth, forcing Barney from the game. It was a breaking ball, though, and it actually was only rib-high, except Barney had the misfortune of ducking right into it.
Despite the little bout with wildness, Burnett easily could have gone into the ninth with the no-no intact. He threw a 2-2 curve to Cardenas that looked like a strike on the outside corner, but it was called a ball with the catcher having been set up inside. Cardenas lined the next pitch to right field.
With one no-hitter already under his belt, the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett is now six outs away from No. 2. He retired the Cubs on six pitches in the seventh and is at just 74 pitches after seven innings.
It’d be a sharp contrast from Burnett’s previous no-hitter against the Padres on May 12, 2001. Pitching for the Marlins, he walked nine batters that night and threw 129 pitches against a lineup that included Rickey Henderson, Ryan Klesko and Dave Magadan (hitting cleanup!). Burnett has walked just two batters tonight.
If Burnett can get it done, it’d be the first time the Cubs have been no-hit in 47 years.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.