The party is most definitely on in Chavez Ravine.
New Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez strutted to the plate to a rousing standing ovation in his first at-bat Saturday night at Dodger Stadium and connected for a three-run homer on the second pitch he saw from Marlins starter Josh Johnson.
The Dodgers lead 4-1 at the end of the first inning.
Gonzalez was acquired from the Red Sox in the nine-player blockbuster trade that was finalized this afternoon after getting the approval of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
Gonzalez took a private jet from Boston to Los Angeles along with right-hander Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto, arriving at his new home park just a couple hours before first pitch.
Beckett is set to make his Dodgers debut Monday. Punto is on the bench tonight, serving as a utilityman.
Gonzalez is now batting .301/.345/.476 with 16 home runs and 89 RBI in 124 total games this season. We’ll track his activity the rest of the way as the Dodgers try to gain ground on the first-place Giants.
UPDATE, 9:56 PM: Gonzalez struck out swinging in his second plate appearance of the evening. That’s baseball for you. The Dodgers lead the Marlins by a score of 5-2 at the end of the second inning.
UPDATE, 10:32 PM: Gonzalez struck out swinging again in his third at-bat. L.A. is up 6-2 in the fifth.
UPDATE, 11:04 PM: Gonzalez grounded out to first base in his fourth at-bat. The Dodgers lead 7-2.
UPDATE, 11:52 PM: Gonzalez popped out to center field in his fifth — and probably final — trip to the plate. The Dodgers will carry an 8-2 lead into the top of the ninth inning.
UPDATE, 12:01 AM: Yep, that’s it. Gonzalez goes 1-for-5 with a homer and three RBI in his first game with the Dodgers. Andre Ethier went 4-for-4 and Matt Kemp finished 3-for-5.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.