Clayton Kershaw

Pouliot’s postseason award picks: National League

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There’s still one more American League game on Monday, so we’ll have to wait on those selections, which will probably be a bit more controversial than these. Here are my NL award picks for 2013:

NL MVP

1. Andrew McCutchen
2. Paul Goldschmidt
3. Clayton Kershaw
4. Yadier Molina
5. Carlos Gomez
6. Andrelton Simmons
7. Matt Carpenter
8. Shin-Soo Choo
9. Hunter Pence
10. Ian Desmond

The injuries make a real mess of this list. I think Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Molina were the NL’s three best players when they were on the field this year. Alas, only Molina played enough to be included in the top 10. David Wright and Carlos Gonzalez also would have cracked the list had they put in full seasons.

I picked Molina over Buster Posey last year, and I had him on top again this year until his 15-day DL stint in August. That was enough to drop him behind McCutchen, who ranked first in Fangraphs WAR and was in a dead heat with Gomez atop the Baseball-reference WAR list. I have fairly limited faith in WAR, but it follows my own reasoning in this case. It’s not even as though McCutchen is getting a lot of credit for his defense in either system; he’s rated as a bit above average in both, but not as anything special. Which is pretty much how I view him. While McCutchen should and will get the MVP award, it’s Gomez who deserves the Gold Glove.

Goldschmidt was the league’s best hitter, but not by enough of a margin to make up for McCutchen’s defensive value. Kershaw had a wonderful season, posting the lowest ERA of any pitcher since 2000, but the Dodgers were a mere 19-14 in his starts. It puts quite a dent in his MVP argument that the Dodgers were just as good when he wasn’t on the mound.

I don’t think I’ve ever put anyone on an MVP ballot strictly for defense before, but Simmons deserves it. He’s the Braves’ MVP, though Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel will get more support in the actual vote. And if he takes the same sort of step forward offensively that he did this season, he may well be the NL’s best player next year.

Choo over Joey Votto further down the ballot may seem an odd choice for a stathead to make — Votto does have the better numbers — but Votto was surprisingly crummy on defense both according to my eyes and the stats. Choo may have been, too, but the Reds knew that going in; he’s a corner outfielder miscast in center. Choo improved considerably out there after a rocky start and wasn’t nearly as much of a liability as expected. I’m not sure what Votto’s excuse was.

NL Cy Young

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Cliff Lee
4. Matt Harvey
5. Jose Fernandez

There isn’t much explanation needed for first place here; Kershaw led the league in everything except wins. Lee’s late charge made it close for second place; B-ref WAR says he was the clear No. 2, while Fangraphs much prefers Wainwright. Wainwright threw 20 more innings with essentially the same ERA and allowed seven fewer homers. That’s good enough for the No. 2 spot in my book.

After the top three, the three best pitchers were clearly Harvey, Fernandez and Zack Greinke, with the caveat that those guys all finished in the 170-180 IP range. None of the 200-inning starters really compare, though Mat Latos was closest.

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Jose Fernandez
2. Yasiel Puig
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu
4. Julio Teheran
5. Shelby Miller

The Marlins’ original plan was for Fernandez to throw 150-170 innings. That they let him hit and slightly exceed the high end there just barely gets him the nod over Puig here. He ended up second in the NL with a 2.19 ERA and third with a 0.979 WHIP. Puig never stopped making an impact in his 104 games, but his recklessness on the basepaths and with his big arm did cost the Dodgers and take away some of his value.

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.