The “could baseball return to Montreal” thing kind of took off over the weekend, much the way it takes off every year or two. The impetus this year was a study by a Montreal business group that showed, under a certain set of assumption, yes, it could be financially feasible.
Which, yes, it may be under such assumptions or others. As a purely intellectual exercise all manner of things are possible. But understand that it is but an intellectual exercise. There is no one with money or influence in Montreal — be they private citizens or public entities — proposing or pledging anything. There is no one even five steps removed from talking about doing anything in any serious way, let alone turning dirt or moving teams.
I feel like I need to point this out because, whenever something like this study or some release or expression of interest happens, people seize on it a bit too strongly. Lots of places (including HBT) wrote about it over the weekend. MLB Network did a segment about it. I get that because it’s an interesting topic — all potential expansion/relocation stories are — but I feel like we need to be realistic about it for reasons separate and apart from protecting against disappointment.
The biggest reason: our excitement about such things plays right into the hands of those in and around Major League Baseball who would like to extort local governments and taxpayers for new ballparks and tax breaks and the like. It’s in the best interests of baseball ownership and management to have a plausible alternative to a current major league city so that they can bluff their way into free goodies. The NFL does this with Los Angeles. The NBA does this with Seattle. We used to see this all the time when Washington D.C. was a vacant city. Eventually baseball’s moved a team there, and it’s working out for them, but it did cost them a good bogeyman. Now, by bootstrapping some innocuous little studies and some generalized excitement, baseball can, increasingly, point to Montreal as a potential landing pad for teams in cities it deems sufficiently ungrateful or ungenerous.
My guess: baseball returns to Montreal one day. But that day is decades away, not years. In the meantime, Montreal will be used as a point of leverage and not much more. We should all strive to be realistic about that fact.
The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.
While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.
“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’
It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.
DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.
The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.
The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.
Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.
Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.
It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.