2013 Winter Meetings Preview

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — Greetings from the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort, deep in the dark recesses of the happiest place on Earth. I have been down here with my children since last Tuesday, doing battle with a mouse. The mouse is a worthy adversary. Much respect for him and his hyper-efficiency at separating a man from his hard-earned dollars. Normally when you spend as much money as I have these past few days you feel regret and maybe even some anger. All I can do now, however, is tip my hat in awe and wonder at just how good the mouse is at what he does best.

Now I return my full attention to baseball and its biggest offseason event: The Winter Meetings.

One might think that, given the outrageous flurry of free agent and trade activity over the past week, the Winter Meetings would be anticlimactic and boring. Cano did what everyone expected and took all of the Mariners’ money.  Carlos Beltran signed with the Yankees. Joe Nathan, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau, Scott Kazmir and Ryan Vogelsong all signed deals in, like, a six minute period last week. There were something like seven trades last week involving close to 30 players. The wheel spun ’round and ’round and everyone was cast hither and thither and yon. So this week will just be baseball executives drinking and shooting the breeze and stuff, right?

Not necessarily.

Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, Stephen Drew, Bartolo Colon, Kendrys Morales, Grant Balfour, Corey Hart, James Loney and many, many more free agents are still on the board. Big names like Matt Kemp, Mark Trumbo, David Price, Brett Anderson and Jeff Samardzija are on — or are at least rumored to be on — the trading block. Maybe the sexiest of the sexiest deals have been done, but there is still volume business to attend to on the hot stove.

It’s also worth remembering that the Winter Meetings are about more than trades and signings. Indeed, the bulk of the 3,000 or so people who have descended on Disney World don’t care about that stuff. They are here to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball. Ever year we hear about a rule change. Or a proposal for future rule changes. Or changes in the circumstances of the game, be it relocation, realignment, replay or any other “re” you can imagine. The point of meetings are for humans to actually get together rather than send emails around, and as most of you know, when you get face-to-face with someone, more things can get done. Expect the unexpected. Expect something new to come out of Bud Selig’s office before we all go home.

Finally, there is Hall of Fame business to attend to. There’s a great chance that Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, George Steinbrenner and maybe — at long, long last — Marvin Miller will be voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee when it meets later this week. Steve Garvey, Dave Parker, Billy Martin and many others from the 1970s-on are under consideration as well.

So, no, we will not be on Cano-Watch this week. We will almost certainly not see anything as big this week as we saw last time the Winter Meetings were in Florida and the Red Sox did things like acquire Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. But baseball is about more than its stars. It’s about several thousand players across 30 major league and 243 affiliated minor league teams. It’s about the execs and employees of those teams. It’s about all of them meeting each day and showing up in the lobby of a strange-looking hotel each evening to drink, chat, brainstorm, mingle and — if we’re at all lucky — get up to no-good.

And HardballTalk will be following it all closely, from both on-site and from our satellite offices around the country. Be sure to check back often between now and Thursday to keep fully-apprised of everyone in baseball doing the do.

And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Saturday’s scores and highlights:

Yankees 3, Athletics 2: Dellin Betances is fast. Very fast, in fact. Take this pitch, for example, which registered an approximate 100.2 m.p.h. on the radar gun before it ripped through Gary Sanchez‘s mitt — literally:

Josh Phegley flied out to left field on the next pitch, and you have to think he was relieved not to be behind the dish during that at-bat. The win marked the Yankees’ fourth of the week, just enough to keep their heads above water in the AL East.

Blue Jays 3, Rangers 1: It just wasn’t Rougned Odor‘s day. While none of the Rangers looked particularly sharp against Toronto’s defense on Saturday, Odor had the worst of it. He struck out swinging against Marco Estrada in the first inning, then was stranded in the fourth after lassoing a single to left field. In the sixth inning, he tried and failed — in spectacular fashion — to beat out an infield single:

Odor took a final at-bat in the ninth inning as the Rangers attempted a last-minute rally, but it went about as well as the others had, falling in the Rangers’ favor as they executed a smooth play to catch him at first base.

White Sox 3, Tigers 0: There was something for everyone during Saturday’s doubleheader. Game 1 went to the White Sox, where rookie right-hander Tyler Danish made his first major league start to the tune of five scoreless innings, distributing three hits, six walks and six strikeouts for his first career win. Opposing starter Michael Fulmer took the first complete game loss of his career, firing nine hits, three runs and four strikeouts in eight frames.

Most exciting, however, was watching the player tasked with throwing the ceremonial first pitch: none other than Cuban prospect Luis Robert, whom the White Sox officially inked with a $26 million signing bonus earlier that day.

Tigers 4, White Sox 3: The Tigers took the edge in Game 2 of the doubleheader, finally getting on the board with home runs from John Hicks and Victor Martinez and a pair of productive outs (including a run-scoring wild pitch on a swinging strikeout) from J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton. The win effected little change for either team, however, keeping them neck-and-neck in third and fourth place in the AL Central.

Twins 5, Rays 3: Brian Dozier extended his hitting streak to eight games on Saturday, fueling the Twins’ 26th win of the season after he clobbered a two-run, tie-breaking home run in the eighth inning. Byron Buxton rounded out the rally with an RBI single of his own, giving the club just enough cushion to finish off the Rays in the ninth. With the win, the Twins are now a full three games ahead of the second-place Indians.

Phillies 4, Reds 3: If you’re in the market for a walk-off hit, Tommy Joseph is your guy. The Phillies’ first baseman came through in the clutch again on Saturday, polishing off his two-hit performance with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Joseph provided the Phillies with his first career walk-off hit on Thursday, lashing a single against the Rockies’ Scott Oberg to finalize the Phillies’ 2-1 win. According to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, no Phillies player has produced as many walk-off hits in a three-day span since Juan Samuel did so in 1985.

Red Sox 6, Mariners 0: Spot starter Brian Johnson took the mound in place of David Price on Saturday, and what a spot start it was. The 26-year-old returned to Fenway Park for the first time since 2015, executing nine flawless frames in his third major league start and first career complete game shutout. The outing was a redemptive one for the southpaw, who took a line drive to the face when he last pitched in Fenway several years ago.

Johnson’s picture-perfect outing brought the Red Sox within two games of the division lead, but his contributions capped a short-lived stay in the majors. With David Price set to make his season debut on Monday, the rookie left-hander was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to clear a roster spot for the returning ace.

Nationals 3, Padres 0: Next to the Astros, the Nationals have the largest margin between a first and second place team in any MLB division, sitting a comfortable 8.5 games above the next-place Braves. It’s easy to see why after Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg ripped through the Padres’ lineup this weekend, combining for 28 strikeouts in back-to-back wins. Strasburg’s 15 strikeouts were the most of any start in his career to date, stifling the Padres’ offense through seven innings of the Nats’ 3-0 shutout.

While Strasburg has been pitching with an average run support cushion of 4.31 in all other starts this season, he only needed a three-run backing to put up his sixth win on Saturday. Bryce Harper and Michael Taylor did the honors, scoring on a fielder’s choice and a two-RBI home run, respectively.

Brewers 6, Diamondbacks 1: There hasn’t been a no-hitter in the majors since Jake Arrieta‘s gem last April, but Brewers’ starter Chase Anderson gave it his best shot on Saturday. Anderson crafted seven pristine innings against the Diamondbacks, surrendering three walks and striking out 11 of 25 batters before Nick Ahmed came through with a leadoff single in the eighth.

Anderson was pulled after Ahmed’s single, but even if he had managed to keep the no-no going, it seems unlikely that club manager Craig Counsell would have pushed his starter much further. The righty had already tossed 114 pitches, a career-high mark and the most he’d thrown in a single outing since last May.

Royals 5, Indians 2: Ned Yost was handed his 40th career ejection during the Royals’ win on Saturday — or, as his three-year-old grandson would put it, a “timeout.” Yost was booted in the first inning after arguing against a strikeout call on Eric Hosmer‘s check-swing attempt. While Yost mulled over the ejection in the clubhouse, his grandson took him to task:

Angels 5, Marlins 2: No one can shatter a Mike Trout record like Mike Trout. The Angels’ slugger went yard for the 16th time this season, drilling a 2-2 pitch from Vance Worley 443 feet into the left field concourse during Saturday’s win. According to Statcast, the ball traveled at approximately 113.8 m.p.h. — Trout’s hardest-hit home run in 13 months.

“I hit it good,” Trout told reporters after the game. Truer words were never spoken.

Astros 5, Orioles 2: The Astros prevailed for their third consecutive win on Saturday, helped in part by a Cirque du Soleil-esque catch by shortstop Carlos Correa in the eighth inning. Down 5-2 after seven innings, the Orioles’ Joey Rickard skied a pop up to shallow center field. Correa and Jose Altuve ran in on the play, narrowly avoiding a collision as the shortstop made an impressive over-the-shoulder grab for the first out.

Altuve attempted to dust off his teammate following the play, but Correa wasn’t having it:

Dodgers 5, Cubs 0: The Cubs have yet to score on their road trip this weekend after Brandon McCarthy initiated the Dodgers’ second consecutive shutout of the series on Saturday. In fact, the Cubs have only won two of eight games on the road — and their last road trip win dates all the way back to May 12.

There was no beating McCarthy, however. The right-hander contributed six innings of two-hit ball, striking out six batters before he exited in the seventh with right knee tendinitis. Ross Stripling finished off the shutout, allowing one hit and striking out two of 11 batters to preserve the lead.

Pirates 5, Mets 4 (10 innings): John Jaso played the unlikely hero during the Pirates’ walk-off win on Saturday. He’s batting just .194/.295/.357 through his first 44 games of the year, but had a breakthrough moment in the ninth inning, lacing a pinch-hit single to left field to send the game to extras.

The Pirates chased Tyler Pill out of the 10th inning, loading the bases to bring Jaso back to the plate. He battled through nine pitches against Josh Edgin, finally selecting a 3-2 slider for his second RBI single — and walk-off run — of the night.

Cardinals 3, Rockies 0: Adam Wainwright is on a roll. He turned in his third win in a row after holding the Rockies scoreless through seven innings, giving up three hits and six strikeouts to bring the Cardinals within half a game of the division lead.

The Rockies, meanwhile, took the loss in stride. Gerardo Parra kept fans distracted from the team’s losing effort, even handing out sticks of gum in the ninth inning:

Giants 6, Braves 3: After four straight losses and a cumulative six runs scored, the Giants finally broke through against the Braves on Saturday. Nick Hundley got things started in the second inning, putting the Giants on the board with his first home run of the season:

In the fourth, Brandon Belt drove a four-run spread with his tenth home run of the year, while Ty Blach engineered his own run support with an RBI single. Blach was even better on the mound, pitching through 7 2/3 innings with two runs and five strikeouts and setting Mark Melancon up for his 10th save.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.