Interesting thing I did not know until now: St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster lost his reelection bid on Tuesday. This could be significant inasmuch as Foster was the primary force behind St. Pete’s unwavering insistence that the Rays stick to their Tropicana Field lease and not pursue other stadium options elsewhere. Maybe his successor and the city council don’t change the stance — money is money and leases are leases after all — but it could signal change.
Against that backdrop, Tampa’s Mayor talked big about a Rays stadium in downtown Tampa yesterday:
Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Thursday told a gathering of hospitality officials that a downtown ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays is within reach, despite challenges that persist. “It’s either going to be Tampa or someplace else, not St. Petersburg,” Buckhorn told 100 members attending the Hillsborough County Hotel and Motel Association’s annual luncheon.
His statements imply that Tampa would be willing to help finance a parch as well. He mentioned a couple of sites and said that a financing plan that did not include a “taxpayer giveaway” would need to be put in place. That’s a clever bit of nuance there. If it were to be all private he’d say a plan that did not include “taxpayer funds.” He seems to be OK with public money being used as long as someone — someone pro-ballpark — can characterize it as smart or responsible as opposed to a “giveaway.” And there is always someone who is willing to do that even if it’s disingenuous in the extreme to do so.
But that’s Tampa’s problem. With Foster leaving office and Tampa’s mayor talking like this, one suspects that we’re in for a new act in the Rays ballpark drama.
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.