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.

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.