I’ve mentioned several times that I don’t like the impending Stephen Strasburg shutdown. I think that the Nationals, especially after they realized they had a playoff contender on their hands, needed to manage his workload in such a way that he could pitch into the postseason.
That said, one cannot be blind to pitcher injuries and workload in making the pitch Strasburg case. And one guy who appears to be really, really blind to it is former Braves and Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
Mazzone was on the radio in San Francisco yesterday, and he told a story about how back in the Braves glory years, his young pitchers used to carry a big load. Like Steve Avery for instance:
Let me tell you something we had pitchers when they were young in 1991 okay…Steve Avery and John Smoltz and Pete Smith and Tom Glavine were all kids. They took us to the 7th game of the World Series and they all had great careers ... I remember in 1993 when we trying to catch the Giants and we were out in San Francisco and we were 7 and half games out or 8…whatever it was in late July. We are trying to catch him and Steve Avery who was 22 years old at the time already was an MVP of the NLCS and said, ‘Leo we got them now.’ I said, ‘Oh I am glad you said we got them now. Last I looked we were about 7 or 8 out.’ He said, ‘No. John Burkett and Bill Swift are talking about how they pitched 150 innings and they might be getting a little tired. We don’t get going until we got to 150.’ ”
Steve Avery pitched 223 innings that year, which was his age 23 season. The year before he pitched 233. When he was 21 he pitched 210. In the minors and majors in the two years before that he pitched 170 or so each season. On top of that, as Mazzone noted, he pitched a lot in the postseason: 29 innings in 1991, 20 innings in 1992 and 13 in 1993.
And at the end of that 1993 season he got injured and was never truly healthy or durable again.
I don’t think Strasburg is on the Steve Avery path. The Nationals have been careful with him and, even if you disagree with the strategy they’re employing now, they are trying to continue to be careful with him. But man, if you’re going to go after what they’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be bringing up Steve freakin’ Avery as your go-to example.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.
The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.