You often hear of the times when scouts and stats are in disagreement, such as last year’s AL MVP debate between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. One area in which the two happily agree is the defense of Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), found at FanGraphs, rates him as the best defensive third baseman in baseball, ahead of Evan Longoria and Nolan Arenado. He leads all American League defenders in defensive Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference. And the scouts say he’s the best in the business at the hot corner, too.
Today, he showed that in a big way. With the Yankees up 1-0 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Luis Cruz hit a ground ball down the third base line. Machado ranged to his right but the ball kicked off of the heel of his glove. He stuck with it, corralling the ball almost immediately in foul territory, then fired an off-balance throw to first baseman Chris Davis for the out. Judging from the naked eye, the throw might have been 135 feet.
Shades of Brooks Robinson.
He went 0-for-4 at the dish, but still leads the league with 39 doubles, putting him on pace for 71 over 162 games. That puts him on pace to break Earl Webb’s single-season record of 67 doubles set in 1931.
Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.
The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.
Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.
After rumors of the deal surfaced on Thursday, the Mariners officially signed veteran reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a two-year, $11 million deal on Friday night. Per a report by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the lefty is due $5.5 million in 2017 and 2018.
The signing marks the left-hander’s fourth trade since July 2015. He bounced from the Indians to the Padres at the 2015 trade deadline, then to the Athletics in the offseason, then to the Nationals in late August of 2016. Last season, he pitched to a career-best 2.64 ERA during 47 2/3 innings with the Athletics and Nationals, but hit an all-time low with 5.5 BB/9 that fed into a 1.59 K/BB rate. While the 31-year-old’s split against right-handed batters are underwhelming (a career .277/.377/.431 line with 123 walks and 24 home runs), he’s held lefties to a respectable .222/.291/.298 line with just 52 walks and eight homers.
Adding Rzepczynski to the bullpen should check off another to-do item for Mariners’ GM Jerry Dipoto, though FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman notes that the club is still likely to pursue an additional reliever and a No. 4 starter before the offseason comes to a close.