Each winter we keep tabs on which players — and sometimes which managers or even bloggers — report to spring training in The Best Shape of Their Lives. Let’s see how the winter 2011-12 roster did compared to their 2011 seasons when, presumably, they were in terrible shape.
Note: there may have been a few stragglers after this list was compiled back in February. If I’m missing someone, let’s talk about them in the comments:
- Chris Tillman: WAY better in 2012. IMPROVED
- Franklin Gutierrez: Played better when available, but only played 40 games. DECLINED
- Miguel Olivo: OPS decreased, games played decreased. DECLINED
- Miguel Cabrera: Was awesome, became awesomer on the surface, but actually saw his batting average and on base percentage go down and had his worst OPS+ in three years. Still, the dude did move to third base, and that’s a way better indication of his shape than the offensive stat line: IMPROVED
- Justin Smoak: Took a nose dive. DECLINED
- Dexter Fowler: Improved in most offsensive categories and played more games. IMPROVED
- Jaime Garcia: Declined in most categories and spent much of the year injured. DECLINED
- Miguel Tejada: 36 games in Triple-A and called it quits. Gonna go out on a limb and say that his BSOHL was an agent’s talking point. DECLINED, perhaps DIED
- Aubrey Huff: Fell into a pit and is presumably still plummetting. His season highlight was getting injured trying to jump the dugout railing to celebrate Matt Cain’s perfect game. DECLINED
- Vicente Padilla: Hadn’t pitched much the past couple of years but took the ball 56 times from the bullpen. Results were pretty “meh” and he remained the same irritable SOB he always has been, but just in terms of durability one has to say he improved, yes? IMPROVED
- Carlos Zambrano: He pitched in 35 games and didn’t cause any riots or anything, even when demoted to the bullpen. Still, a stiff back limited his innings and effectiveness. I’m going to go with NO CHANGE.
- Yonder Alonso: Weird for a guy as young as he is to even make the BSOHL claim. He was adequate at times in his first full season of action, but his ballpark and the playing time certainly exposed him. He did lose some weight over the offseason I guess, so it was a legit claim of BSOHL, but we need more data to see if he improved. For now: NO CHANGE.
- Carlos Gutierrez: Spent the whole season in the minors again, but his “whole season” was 10 relief starts before a shoulder injury ended his season in July. Then he was waived. Gonna say that he was not in the BSOHL at any time in 2012. DECLINED
- Mark Teixeira: Was injured and hit worse for most of the season when he did play. DECLINED
- Dmitri Young: He actually had no real chance to make a major league roster, but given his dramatic weight loss, he certainly was in the BSOHL. And based on this picture from last night, he has kept it off. Life is more important than baseball, and Young is taking charge of his life. IMPROVED
- Yoenis Cespedes: I can’t remember the basis for this claim, but given that he exceeded most reasonable expectations, I’d say he IMPROVED
- Phil Hughes: He frustrated Yankees fans at times in 2012, but he was healthy most of the year, pitched nearly 200 innings and bounced back from a disastrous 2011. IMPROVED
- Brett Cecil: Didn’t make the Jays out of camp and the was demoted again to Las Vegas after some time in Toronto. DECLINED
- Bill Hall: Multiple signings — Yankees, Orioles — and a DFA by the Orioles to Triple-A where he really didn’t hit like he needed to. He’s done, it seems. He, Miguel Tejada and Aubrey Huff should go open a bar somewhere and make the BSOHL Cocktail their feature drinks. DECLINED
So there you have it. It’s almost enough to suggest that, when someone says they’re in the Best Shape of His Life, they may not actually be. Troubling, I’ll admit, but let’s not stop keeping track of it.
If you see a BSOHL claim this offseason, be sure to raise the alarm with the HardballTalk BSOHL Strike Team.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.
Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.
Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.
After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.
It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.
LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.
Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.
Update (7:58 PM EST): Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart met with Cueto earlier this month in the Dominican Republic and made a contract offer that the right-hander turned down. The Diamondbacks maintain interest in the free agent.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.
Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.
Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.
As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.