Marc Topkin reports that Joe Maddon is concerned about two Rays players currently in the WBC. One because he’s working too much, the other because he’s not working enough.
Closer Fernando Rodney has pitched in all six games, closing five, over 10 days for the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, catcher Jose Molina has had only three plate appearances for Puerto Rico backing up his little brother Yadier.
Not sure that Molina’s lack of playing time should be such a concern. Wear and tear on a catcher over the course of a season can be considerable, even when that catcher is one of the seemingly indestructible Molina brothers. And while I suppose rust at the plate is a concern, it’s not like Molina hasn’t spent most of his career as a backup catcher anyway, for whom at bats have always been few and far between. And let’s be honest: what’s the inactivity gonna do? Sap his status as an offensive juggernaut? The guy is a career .238/.286/.355 hitter. Can it really get much worse?
As for Rodney: those six games are on top of three spring training games he tossed for the Rays before the WBC began. Scanning around the league, closers who are not in the WBC have typically pitched in four games so far, though some have pitched in as many as seven. They’re different kind of innings — stressful vs. stress free, basically — but it’s not like Rodney is on another planet. And it’s not as if Rodney has had any games in which he’s labored or thrown a ton of pitches.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.