Buster Olney’s column today speculates about whether Major League Baseball will use next weekend’s Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown as a vehicle to promote its get-tough stance on Biogenesis:
The Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown will be held next weekend, in a year in which no recent retirees will be inducted, and if Selig makes his announcement of suspensions before Friday, he will be guaranteed three days of almost uniformly positive response.
Olney — who to be fair, is one of the most rational and reasonable guys around when it comes to PEDs and the Hall of Fame — correctly observes that if Major League Baseball were to announce suspensions before next weekend that there would be three days worth of old timers nodding their heads and patting the league on the back for doing the right thing and suspending players. It’s way better to have Hank Aaron out front defending the league, the thinking goes, than Bud Selig, and it would provide a P.R. bump for the league.
I can see the logic there from MLB’s perspective, but I question whether the league is truly willing to risk that bank-shot going in so cleanly. I can just as easily imagine Biogenesis newsmaking at the time of the Hall of Fame inductions being a big P.R. black eye. Because for every quote from a star of yesteryear patting the league on the back, there will be just as many things written — bad things and good things — trying to combine an inductee-free Hall of Fame induction and the Biogenesis news into a narrative about how baseball has lost its way, is irrelevant, is tragic and on and on. People love to pile on baseball during its marquee events — mostly people not familiar with the day-to-day of the league — and this would give them a big fat target.
A source I spoke with a couple of weeks ago who is familiar with the Biogenesis investigation suggested that Major League Baseball itself is wary of having the Hall of Fame events overshadowed by Biogenesis news. It’s possible that the league changes its mind on this. It’s possible that Selig gets on the freakin’ podium in front of the Hall of Fame and announces anti-PED justice. But I kinda doubt MLB wants to make that kind of news at that particular time. After all, it’s one thing for the story to be floating around like it is now but it’s another thing altogether for MLB to actively make a new news story regarding the suspensions just as things get moving in Cooperstown.
The league is historically awful at P.R. coordination when it comes to these things, but I don’t think it’s that bad.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.
Twins’ right-handed pitching prospect Yorman Landa passed away in a tragic car accident on Friday night, per a team statement. According to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press, 22-year-old Landa was in the passenger seat of the vehicle when it struck a fallen tree.
Daniel Szew, Landa’s agent, spoke highly of the young pitcher, who was one of his first clients back in 2010. Szew acknowledged Landa for helping him expand his company, LA Sports Management, and referred to the late pitcher as a leader and his “little brother.”
He was very even-keeled,” Szew said. “That was his personality. He wasn’t wild. That’s why this is so tragic. He wasn’t a wild guy. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who took life as it came, and he was super happy — always happy.
If leadership was one facet of Landa’s personality, so was loyalty. The 22-year-old agreed to a minor league contract with the Twins on Tuesday after getting cut from the 40-man roster, fulfilling a promise to re-sign with the club despite fielding multiple offers from competing teams. The deal included an invite to spring training, and comments from his agent suggested that the right-hander was “super confident” he’d break through to the major leagues in 2017, notwithstanding a troublesome shoulder injury that hampered his progress in High-A Fort Myers during the 2016 season.
“He never wanted to leave,” Szew told Berardino. “It was the only organization he ever knew.”
Our condolences go out to Landa’s family and the Twins organization during this terrible time.