home-run-derby

The 2013 Home Run Derby participants have been announced

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Just announced on ESPN’s SportsCenter, here are the participants for the 2013 Home Run Derby, which will take place next Monday at 8 p.m. ET at Citi Field in New York. Keep in mind that all of the players selected were also chosen for the All-Star Game. So there’s no Giancarlo Stanton here. Oh well.

National League

David Wright (NL Captain) – Wright is the captain for the National League side this year, as his team is hosting this year’s Midsummer Classic. The 30-year-old third baseman is quietly in the middle of one of his most productive seasons, hitting .306/.394/.519 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in 85 games.

Carlos Gonzalez – An easy choice for Wright, as Gonzalez currently leads the National League with 24 home runs. It’s worth noting that he’s out of the lineup tonight after leaving yesterday’s game with a sprained right middle finger, so this is assuming his health cooperates.

Michael Cuddyer – A bit of a swerve on Wright’s part, as some may have expected to see someone like the Phillies’ Domonic Brown here. However, Wright picked someone who he has a long history with dating back to AAU ball in Virginia. To his credit, Cuddyer is having a fine season with the Rockies, batting .337/.392/.583 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI in 68 games.

Bryce Harper – This is going to be a real treat, as few players in the game have more raw power than the 20-year-old phenom. He has launched 35 home runs in 190 career games. Only four players (Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Mickey Mantle) have had more before turning 21 years old.

American League

Robinson Cano (AL Captain) – Appropriately enough, Cano is the captain once again for the American League side. The 30-year-old has 20 home runs in 88 games this season and has reached at least 28 home runs in each of the past three seasons.

Prince Fielder – A no-brainer for Cano, as Fielder is the defending champion from last year’s Home Run Derby in Kansas City. The 29-year-old first baseman has 15 home runs in 87 games this season and has hit at least 28 in each of his full seasons in the majors.

Chris Davis – The man everybody wants to see. With a swing that almost looks effortless, Davis currently leads the majors with 33 home runs. The leading vote getter for this year’s All-Star Game, he has the most home runs by anyone before the All-Star break since Barry Bonds back in 2001.

TBA – Cano is still deciding on who his final pick will be, with an announcement expected tomorrow. For now, let your imaginations run wild with the possibilities. Here’s hoping for Brett Cecil.

Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada falls after a slide by Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley during the seventh inning of an NL Division Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP
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After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.

The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:

Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.

However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.

There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”

Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:

And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang:

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.

Free agent reliever Eric O’Flaherty weighing interest from four teams

New York Mets pitcher Eric O'Flaherty throws against the Miami Marlins during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Miami, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Mets defeated the Miami Marlins 8-6. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper
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Veteran reliever Eric O'Flaherty is coming off the worst season of his career, but there’s still plenty of interest in a bounceback, as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that he’s deciding between four teams and “should sign a deal by the weekend.”

You really can’t sugarcoat O’Flaherty’s 2015. The 31-year-old was flat-out bad, posting an 8.41 ERA and 21/18 K/BB ratio over 30 innings of work between the Athletics and Mets. Opposing batters hit .343/.427/.482 against him. I keep going back to check if that’s a misprint, but nope, it’s real. He also missed some time with shoulder inflammation. On the bright side, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported last month that O’Flaherty feels healthy and believes that he has fixed his mechanics.

O’Flaherty’s career has veered off track since Tommy John surgery in 2013, but he has enjoyed plenty of success in the past and throws from the left side. He’s the kind of guy who will continue to get chances.

Mets sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

Cincinnati Reds v Arizona Diamondbacks
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Veteran outfielder Roger Bernadina has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets that includes an invitation to spring training.

Bernadina was a semi-regular for the Nationals from 2010-2012, but never developed as much as hoped offensively and didn’t play in the majors at all last season.

At age 32 he’s a career .236 hitter with a .661 OPS in 548 games as a big leaguer and given the Mets’ outfield depth–they already have Alejandro De Aza and Juan Lagares in bench/part-time roles–Bernadina seems likely to begin the season in the minors.