It was announced this morning that 2014 will be the last season the Athletics train at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. They’re going to move into Hohokam Park, where the Cubs currently train, after the Cubs move into their new place in Mesa and after Hohokam gets a $20 million face lift. Arizona State University’s baseball team will take over this place.
Speaking to the scribes this morning Bob Melvin said it’s a good thing because, for whatever you can say about Phoenix Muni, “it’s dated” and “it’s lacking a bit.” He’s not wrong about that. The park has been around since the early 60s. And while they have done a good job of upgrading the concourses and the press area, the stuff the players actually use has been outclassed by the newer construction. It was probably inevitable that this park would cease to be a spring training home for the majors one day soon.
Still, it makes me a little sad. I have a soft spot for this place. It reminds me of the public schools I went to in the 70s. It was built in a forward-looking, modern/brutalist style in an era where nostalgia simply didn’t exist in the world of sports architecture. Why on Earth would anyone put in some frieze or some quaint feature when there is room for more poured concrete? Poured concrete is cheap and efficient! And, dammit, our resources must be conserved because we have a Cold War to win.
Oh well. Progress. Other random observations from Phoenix municipal:
- I did the clubhouse thing this morning. It’s a split squad day for the A’s, so half the team hopped on a bus at 9:30 AM, leaving things pretty dead. I can report, however, that Pat Neshek wears Oakland A’s-colored Zubaz. Just thought you should know.
- Before he left on the bus Bartolo Colon handed a pair of spandex workout shorts to a clubbie to have a hole sewn up. BARTOLO COLON SPANDEX. They don’t pay clubbies nearly enough money.
- I like coming back to the same parks each year to see the upgrades young players get in locker placement from year to year. I mentioned Mike Trout the other day. Last year I was here for Yoenis Cespedes’ spring debut and he was down at some crowded end with players with numbers in the 70s. He has a nice big locker with plenty of space this year.
- In addition to Michele and the Phoenix Bats, some guy was in the clubhouse taking measurements for custom-made suits too. I think if you’re a major leaguer you eventually forget how to do your own shopping.
- I spoke with Bob Melvin. He seems kind of excited to be playing the Italian team today. He was with the Dbacks when they played Mexico back in the 2006 WBC down in Tucson. He said the crowd was insane and the electricity off the charts. It makes me pretty excited to watch the U.S. vs. Mexico game in Chase Field on Friday night. I’m thinking of rooting for Mexico just to be annoying.
Time to settle in for Italy vs. Athletics. They just played the Italian National Anthem. It’s not short, but it is quite a pretty tune. Oh, and there are plenty of seats available:
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.
The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.
In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.
The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report: