Within 12 hours of Ryan Braun — described by one national columnist as a “cockroach” — getting unprecedented discipline and going down without even bothering to fight, the calls have already started for baseball to get even tougher. Just this morning I have seen multiple calls for automatic lifetime bans, contract-voiding provisions and all manner of draconian proposals. These calls are couched in the assumption that Ryan Braun somehow got off easy and that, because of that, Major League Baseball is still somehow not doing enough to stop PEDs.
This is nothing short of madness. It’s auto-piloted rage, flown in from 2006, and offered with all spleen and no thought.
Ken Rosenthal lays all of this bare in his excellent column this morning, which I implore you to read. The short version: Baseball, in the space of a few short months, investigated and suspended a major star with the largest-ever penalty for first-time discipline. It did so without a test. It did so in such a way that union publicly implored the player not to fight and the player, in fact, did not fight. It did so with the vocal approval of many current players who, just a few short years ago, would have said nothing and probably would have supported their union’s efforts to fight to the death.
We have experienced a complete paradigm shift with respect to performance enhancing drugs in baseball. One in which there is no truly acceptable defense to cheating and which the league is empowered by all stakeholders to root it out.
Yet, in light of that, people think the system is a joke. That the penalties need to be increased. That baseball isn’t doing enough? Jesus, people, do you see what baseball just did?
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.