“You need to trust your teammates,” Yadier Molina said afterwards. Because he obviously didn’t trust himself.
The Cardinals were down 3-2 in the top of the ninth Wednesday against the Padres. Allen Craig opened the frame with a double off Luke Gregerson, putting the tying run in what most of us consider scoring position. The Cardinals pinch-ran with Adron Chambers to make it even more likely that a hit would score a run. Molina decided it wasn’t position enough, so the league’s fourth leading hitter dropped down a sacrifice bunt.
Such a decision would have been defensible if the game was tied. Or it would have been defensible if the Cardinals were down 3-2 at home instead. Maybe it even would have been defensible with a .215 hitter at the plate, though I still would have been strongly against it then.
As is, the decision was indefensible. It was ridiculous. It was a case of Yadier Molina — a four-time All-Star, a two-time world champion and one of the NL’s 10-best players this year — flat-out choking.
Of course, the decision didn’t work out. And I wouldn’t be writing this if it had. But regardless of how it played out, it was a boneheaded move. Playing for the tie on the road is foolish. If Molina’s bunt incrementally increased the chances of the Cards going to the bottom of the ninth even, it also upped the likelihood that the team would lose a 15-inning game at Petco and burn out its bullpen ahead of a huge four-game series against the Dodgers that starts Thursday.
One would think a guy with a neck tattoo would know a bit more about going for the jugular.
No, the catcher who signed a $75 million contract earlier this year passed the buck on to a guy making $508,000. David Freese grounded out for the second out of the ninth with Chambers holding at third. After Carlos Beltran walked, Skip Schumaker grounded out to end it. It was an opportunity lost for the Cardinals, as they were swept in a three-game series in San Diego.
Look, it’s a long season. I don’t think Molina made his decision because he was scared. But he wasn’t mentally where he needed to be tonight. I know it’s tough for the Cardinals to give him much of a breather this time of year, but he seems to require one.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.
Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.
Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.
It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.
Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.
After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.
Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.
Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.
O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.
It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.