Greg Maddux

The Hall of Fame ballot is out, and it’s jam-packed with Hall of Famers

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The Hall of Fame ballot for the 2014 inductions has been released and it’s so full of Hall of Fame-worthy players it’s a bit ridiculous. Of course, because voters are limited to ten votes and most voters have decided to make the Hall of Fame election a morality test rather than just an assessment of baseball merit, hardly any of these guys will get in.  But some will.

The entire ballot can be seen at the BBWAA website. The most notable first-timers: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina. Among the holdovers with seriously strong Hall of Fame chances or, at the very least, cases: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell. There are several others on the ballot who deserve strong consideration as well but aren’t getting it.

A big reason some of them aren’t getting it? PEDs. Bonds, Clemens and McGwire were considered locks for the Hall of Fame at one point in their career, but are all practically disqualified now due to voters’ aversion to PED-connected players entering Cooperstown’s hallowed Hall. Bagwell and Piazza got way fewer votes than they should have because voters’ aversion to PEDs is so great that they’ll assume PED use even for guys who have never been credibly connected with the stuff. This is what we’re dealing with, folks.

As for handicapping the voting, Raines, Piazza, Bagwell, Morris and Biggio got over 50% of the vote last year, so they have to be considered contenders. Maddux, Glavine and Thomas are all pretty close to locks, one would assume, given the absence of PED-ties and their clearly strong cases on purely baseball merits. Of course, not all of them will get in, most likely because the overstuffed ballot will split support among the many worthy candidates.

Gun to my head, I figure Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio and Morris get in, with everyone else left out in the cold. If more than those guys creep in I’d say it’d be Bagwell or possibly Mussina, but my guess is they have some years to wait.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.