Interesting story from Jane Lee of MLB.com about the Athletics’ Jeremy Barfield, who is busy making the transition from position player to pitcher.
Jeremy, the son of former major league outfielder Jesse Barfield, was informed about his move to the mound back in July. An eighth-round pick of Oakland in 2008, the 25-year-old posted a .261/.329/.399 batting line over parts of six seasons in the minors and didn’t appear likely to reach the majors as a position player. The A’s have always been intrigued by his arm strength from the left side, so they are hoping he can follow a similar path as Sean Doolittle, who has made the switch from oft-injured first base prospect to one of the most dominant relievers in the American League.
Barfield started out in the instructional league and recently spent some time in the Dominican Republic for winter ball. A’s director of player development Keith Lieppman understandably still considers him “raw” at this point in his development, but he’s topping out at 93 mph with his fastball and also throws a slider and split-finger.
Interestingly, Barfield learned his slider in part due to former All-Star Dontrelle Willis, whom he met while doing his other job of hanging up Christmas lights on houses in Arizona. Most of those houses are owned by major league players. Barfield uses his second job as a motivational tool.
“All those houses make me want to work harder,” Barfield said, “just so I can live there. All I want is a chance.”
Really cool story. Barfield is very active on Twitter, so be sure to follow his journey there.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.