Now that he’s found a taker for Rafael Soriano on a heavily deferred deal, Scott Boras is trying to get teams interested in ex-Tigers closer Jose Valverde.
Valverde, 34, was 49-for-49 saving games for the Tigers in 2011 and 35-for-40 last season, but the postseason meltdown that saw him give up nine runs in 2 2/3 innings, combined with some declining peripherals from the regular season, has scared away seemingly every team this winter.
Boras knows he can’t use words to sweep away Valverde’s October struggles, but he does cite workload and fatigue as a possible reason for the sudden swoon. Counting the postseason, Valverde appeared in 81 games in 2011 and 75 last season.
“Closers normally have anywhere from 58 to 62 appearances and Valverde’s just had two years where he was used a lot,” Boras told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “It was a very unusual year this year, because he had so many non-save situations. He had like 31 of them, which normally they only have 17 or 18. So, it was a very unusual year.”
Those non-save situations are another thing working against Valverde this winter. He has a history of struggling without a save on the line, so contenders aren’t looking at him as a potential setup man.
Realistically, Valverde is going to have to settle for a cheap one-year deal with a chance to rebuild his value. If he’s willing to sign for $2 million or so, then maybe the Mets, Astros, Marlins or Twins could give him the chance to close. There’s certainly no reason to give him anything more than that, not with Brian Wilson, Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Capps, Jon Rauch and Francisco Cordero all sitting around waiting for phone calls, too.
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.