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D’Backs, A’s and Marlins pull off three-way deal: Heath Bell to Arizona, Chris Young to Oakland

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Here’s doozy of a trade to break up an otherwise quiet day around major league baseball.

Per announcements from the clubs involved, the Diamondbacks, Athletics and Marlins have pulled off a three-way trade which will send Heath Bell to Arizona and Chris Young to Oakland.

Here are the specifics as we have them right now:

The Diamondbacks dealt outfielder Chris Young and cash considerations to the Athletics for infielder Cliff Pennington and prospect infielder Yordy Cabrera. The Diamondbacks then sent Cabrera to the Marlins in exchange for reliever Heath Bell to complete the three-team deal.

Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports that the Diamondbacks will cover $13 million of the $21 million remaining on Bell’s contract. It’s clear that something had to be done with the disgruntled reliever after his disastrous first season in Miami, where he clashed with manager Ozzie Guillen and even some teammates. With that in mind, the Marlins have to be thrilled that they were able to not only get rid of Bell, but somehow convince the Diamondbacks to cover the majority of his remaining salary.

We knew the Diamondbacks would likely deal at least one of their outfielders this winter, but it’s hard to believe Kevin Towers couldn’t do better than this as a return for Young, especially considering the money they will now owe to a declining reliever. And in a poor environment for a bounceback, to boot. Towers must really like Pennington, but it’s hard to understand the rush. The Diamondbacks picked up the option on J.J. Putz’s contract for 2013 this morning, so Bell will be asked to pitch in a set-up role with his new club.

This looks like an excellent deal for the Athletics, even though Young is a bit of a curious fit with Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick set in the corner outfield spots and Coco Crisp under contract for $7 million for next season. Still, hard to pass up a deal for a talented center fielder at this price. They likely got a bit of a discount because of Young’s shoulder injury from this season.

Young, 29, is owed $8.5 million in 2013 while his contract includes an $11 million club option for 2014 or a $1.5 million buyout. Per Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the Diamondbacks are sending $500,000 to Oakland as part of the deal.

Given the surplus of outfield talent with the A’s, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see some more wheeling and dealing from Billy Beane soon, possibly with a deal involving Crisp or Seth Smith. It’s also worth noting that by dealing Pennington to the Diamondbacks, the A’s are more likely to exercise their portion of the $10 million player option Stephen Drew’s contract for next season.

Cabrera was ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the Athletics’ organization by Baseball America coming into this season, but his numbers have been pretty underwhelming as a pro. The 22-year-old has a .230/.297/.351 batting line and a .648 OPS over three seasons and has yet to play above High-A. This was mostly about the Marlins getting out from under Bell’s contract. And they certainly accomplished that goal.

Joe Mauer reveals he’s had blurred vision since 2013 concussion

Joe Mauer
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After a decade as the best all-around catcher in baseball Joe Mauer suffered a concussion in August of 2013 that forced him to change positions and marked the end of his time as a great hitter.

Mauer was doing his usual thing at the time of the concussion, hitting .324 with a .404 on-base percentage and .880 OPS. Since returning from the brain injury he’s hit .270 with a .348 on-base percentage and .725 OPS while seeing his numbers decline across the board.

Mauer revealed today to Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that “lingering symptoms occasionally blurred his vision at the plate the past two seasons” and “he will experiment hitting with sunglasses for the first time to improve his pitch tracking” this season.

Here’s more from Murphy:

Bright sunshine sometimes triggered blurred vision that Mauer links to the concussion with which he was diagnosed in August 2013 after absorbing at least “two significant blows” from foul tips while he was still catching.

“I don’t want that to be kind of an excuse. If I’m out there, I’m out there. That’s just the way I am,” Mauer said. “There are times I’ve gone up to the plate and I just couldn’t pick up the ball. That’s part of the frustration because I’m trying to do everything I can to get back. It just takes time.”

There are more quotes along those same lines and Mauer’s numbers in night games were much better than his numbers in day games last season.

I live in Minnesota and it has been incredibly frustrating to see such a large (or at least vocal) segment of the Twins fan base treat Mauer’s steep decline as if it has nothing to do with the significant brain trauma he suffered. I’m hopeful that Mauer going public about literally struggling to see the baseball while at the plate will convince people to treat him more humanely, but that’s probably wishful thinking at this point.

What a shame, on every level.

Masahiro Tanaka can’t say for sure if he’ll be ready by Opening Day

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Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka said today that he “can’t say for sure” whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Tanaka underwent arthroscopic surgery in late November to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. Tanaka threw off a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since undergoing a cleanup procedure on his right elbow last October and, while healthy, may be behind other pitchers.

Tanaka posted a 3.51 ERA and a 139/27 K/BB ratio across 154 innings last season. He also has a partially torn UCL he’s been pitching through for some time which is always something the Yankees have on their mind when it comes to schedules and workouts for their ace.

Denard Span, not Angel Pagan, will be Giants’ center fielder and leadoff hitter

Denard Span
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Making official what was assumed when the Giants signed Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract last month, manager Bruce Bochy announced that Span will start in center field and bat leadoff.

That means 34-year-old Angel Pagan, who’s been the Giants’ starting center fielder and primary leadoff hitter for the past four seasons, will slide to left field and bat further down in the lineup. About a month before the Span signing Bochy said Pagan would remain in the center fielder/leadoff role, but the situation obviously changed.

It’s a move that makes sense, because Span–if healthy following hip surgery–is a superior defensive center fielder with better on-base skills. And if Pagan doesn’t bounce back following a rough 2015 season then having him in left field will make it easier for the Giants to platoon him or bench him in favor of, say, Gregor Blanco or a bigger bat.

Pitchers to receive new visor-like protective headgear

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For the past few years MLB, the MLBPA and cap and helmet manufacturers have been working on various models of protective headgear for pitchers. Some of the models have been unworkable, some of them have not met the satisfaction of pitchers and others have, well, looked a little odd. At present the only pitcher who routinely wears any headgear is Alex Torres, who wears the bulky isoBLOX helmet.

Now, however, there is a new option. And, as you can see above it’s a bit different than what we’ve seen before. It’s more or less like a visor, which will have a nylon top on them to give a full cap-like appearance. The ear flaps will be lefty and righty-specific, given that righties are more likely to be hit on the right and lefties on the left given their follow-throughs.

The new caps will be given out to players this spring and, like the old ones, will be used or not used at the choice of the players. You can read more about the new helmet at ESPN’s Outside the Lines report.