Rick Hahn

White Sox decide closers exist to be cashed in


It’s a world gone topsy-turvy, I tell you. Billy Beane’s Athletics are going to spend about $10 million on closer Jim Johnson next year, even though their bullpen would seem to be plenty good without him. Meanwhile, the White Sox are playing at Oakland’s old game, trading their closers as soon as they can manufacture them.

That’s what they did two years ago, when they sent Sergio Santos to Toronto after his breakthrough 2011 season saw him save 30 games. And they did it again today, shipping Addison Reed to Arizona for third baseman Matt Davidson after he saved 79 games in his first two seasons in the majors.

The really interesting thing is that the White Sox aren’t even waiting for these guys to start getting expensive. Santos and Reed both had two years of service time when they were moved, meaning they weren’t even eligible for arbitration yet. Reed would have made barely more than $500,000 next season prior to his three years of arbitration and then free agency.

Unfortunately, the Santos-for-Nestor Molina trade hasn’t worked out for either team yet. Santos hurt his shoulder just a couple of weeks into his Blue Jays career and also had some elbow problems last season, though he did return to post a 1.75 ERA in 25 2/3 innings in the second half. Molina, who was viewed as a potential No. 2 or No. 3 starter at the time of the deal, floundered in Double-A in 2012 and missed much of last season.He’s not hopeless yet, but it looks like he might be a reliever if he makes it at all.

The return for Reed isn’t overwhelming, either. Davidson didn’t hit for as much power as hoped last year, though he did come it at a respectable .280/.350/.481 with 17 homers in 443 at-bats for Triple-A Reno. If the Diamondbacks had thought he was ready, they wouldn’t have needed to trade for Mark Trumbo. The White Sox, though, have been struggling to find a third baseman for years now, and there just weren’t any attractive options in free agency for them. Davidson gives them some real hope at the position, even if he could use another half-year in the minors.

And now the White Sox get to try to find another closer to build up and eventually trade (Nate Jones and Daniel Webb being the obvious candidates). As quickly as relievers come and go, it seems like a great strategy, even if the payoff isn’t what it might have been 10 years ago. That Molina and Davidson were the best the White Sox could do for young, cost-controlled save specialists shows there just aren’t as many gullible GMs as there once were.

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.

Pirates’ Nick Leyva selected as senior advisor of baseball ops

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 17:  Coach Nick Leyva #16 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photo during photo day at Pirate City on February 17, 2013 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.

Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:

The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.

In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.

This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.

Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.

Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:

We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.