The Comeback Player of the Year: an award you never want to be a candidate for, but one which, if you win, represents a triumph. It’s gotta feel pretty good overall. And Mariano Rivera and Francisco Liriano are probably feeling pretty good today, because won the Comeback Player of the Year Awards for the AL and NL, respectively, last night.
The award, voted on by MLB.com writers, is presented annually to one player in each league who has re-emerged on the field during the season. Often the award is given to a player who missed a season or a large part of a season due to injury or illness. But, as is the case with Liriano, it can go to a guy who simply bounced back from ineffectiveness.
And Liriano was in the competitive wilderness for a while. He posted ERAs of 5.34 and 5.09 in 2012 and 2011, with a combined record of 15-22 bouncing from the Twins to the White Sox. This season he put it altogether, though, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA in 26 starts for the Pirates. This after breaking his arm in the offseason. He was a key part to the Pirates improbable playoff run.
As for Mariano Rivera: the fact that I forgot he was injured and missed most of 2012 with that ACL injury until I saw the announcement probably tells you that it was a pretty good and thorough comeback. Indeed, he didn’t miss a beat in his final year, saving 44 games while compiling a 6-2 record with a 2.11 ERA and 54 strikeouts and nine walks. All at age 43.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.