This is by no means a scientific analysis but I think Pirates fans are starting to accept that this team is not going to crater on them and leave them sad for the 20 some-odth year in a row.
I base this on the fact that I wore my Pirates cap out in public last night and people got excited. It wasn’t for a long time. I only wore it to grab some food. But in that short amount of time out I had two people comment on it. Comment one was a long thing from the guy at the bar talking about how, finally, it’s “our” year and how “we” can finally wear Pirates gear with pride. The other one was just a thumbs up and a “go Pirates” from a guy who was entering the restaurant as I was leaving.
I didn’t have the heart to tell either of these guys that I wasn’t a Pirates fan and that I tend to wear caps from any of a half dozen different teams at any given time simply because I like caps.
As for these guys: I didn’t get a sense of bandwagoning here. I mean, I can’t be sure, as there are now all kinds of Steelers fans in Columbus that never existed here before they got good again in the 90s and 2000s, and perhaps there is just some local affinity for winning Pittsburgh teams at work. But I was here in the early 90s too and no one really got on the Pirates bandwagon then, so I sort of doubt this is what’s going on. These are people who probably always liked them but simply had nothing to cheer about for years and years. Now they do and, God, how good it must feel to finally be able to say something nice about their rooting interest.
But whether they’re bandwagon or genuine fans, I expect I’ll see a lot more of this over the next couple of months. I assume the Pirates will become a fashionable rooting interest among the otherwise non-aligned. And those who were always aligned, albeit silently, will finally be able to enjoy some October baseball. And we should enjoy that for their sake.
At least until they become insufferable like every other fan of every other winning team eventually does.
The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.
While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.
“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’
It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.
DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.
The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.
The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.
Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.
Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.
It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.