St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

The Reds got bunt-happy last night and it cost them dearly

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If the Reds fall a game short of the Cardinals and/or Pirates — or, heaven forbid, the Diamondbacks or Nationals — they might want to look at last night’s game against the Cardinals as the reason why. It was a night the Red squandered multiple opportunities thanks to ill-advised bunts.

The first weird attempt did no harm, but it was nonetheless head-scratching. In the bottom of the 14th inning the Reds were down by a run. The leadoff hitter reaches and Dusty Baker wisely inserts Billy Hamilton into the game as a pinch runner. The entire point of Billy Hamilton’s existence on a major league roster right now is to steal bases. But rather than have him steal, Baker puts on the bunt with Zack Cozart squaring. He didn’t get the bunt down and Hamilton stole on the next pitch anyway and then scored when Cozart, swinging away, singled.  Maybe that was just a missed sign by Cozart?

The second one came right afterward, with Cozart on first. Dusty Baker had Devan Mesoraco try to bunt him over. He bunted it back to the mound and Cozart was out at second.

The third one came in bottom of the 15th. Score tied and Shin-Soo Choo singles. The heart of the order is due up: Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. Baker has Phillips — who has 100 RBI on the year which we’re all told is supposed to mean something — bunt Choo over. Votto was then retired, but did advance Choo to third. The open first base allowed Mike Matheny to issue an intentional walk to Jay Bruce. Then:

For reasons known only to God, Chris Heisey tries to bunt. Two outs, runner on third, a flamethrower on the mound and Heisey is playing suicide squeeze. Choo is a dead duck when Heisey misses and a rundown ensues. After the game Dusty Baker made it clear that Heisey was freelancing there.

It was a dumb freelance, obviously, but I’m reminded of this:

Just substitute “bunts” for “drugs.” And ask yourself why Dusty and his players seem to love to bunt so darn much.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.