ESPN is way off with its early free agent calls

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By division, here’s a list of teams I can see opening up the wallets for a $10 million-plus-per-year pitcher this winter:

Blue Jays, Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees
Royals, Tigers, White Sox
Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers
Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Phillies
Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Pirates
Dodgers

And here’s a list of the elite pitching free agents available this winter:

Zack Greinke

I think it should go without saying that demand is going to exceed supply in a big way.

And that’s why ESPN’s Jim Bowden and Dan Szymborski look kind of foolish for a couple of their early calls.

Edwin Jackson is, in my mind, pretty obviously the No. 2 pitching free agent available this winter. He’s 29, he has practically the same ERA as Greinke the last three years (Greinke has a 104 ERA+, Jackson is at 102) and he seems to be on the upswing, if K/BB ratio and WHIP count for anything. I’ll be stunned if he has to settle for less than $48 million over four years this winter and my guess is that he gets something closer to $70 million over five years.

ESPN’s insiders aren’t thinking that far ahead, though. Bowden, in his column, says Jackson has only “proved himself to be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter.” He labels the Royals as the best fit for him, putting the Indians and Marlins as alternatives. He obviously doesn’t think the bigger spenders will go after him. But then, that’s the typical lack of insight one gets from Bowden.

(Bowden also has Fernando Rodney going back to the Angels or maybe the Giants or Dodgers in his column, not realizing that the Rays are just going to exercise their $2.5 million option on his services.)

I expect a lot more from Szymborski, and it’s rare that he disappoints. However, he lists Jackson and B.J. Upton among his five free agent bargains, ones “that won’t break the wallet.” And while I agree that those two look like better values than several other top free agents, there’s no way, no how that either goes off at a bargain price.

This winter is going to reveal that there’s a lot more money to be spent than quality players to spend it on. It’s going to take a lot more digging to find any bargains

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.