Frank Thomas

You don’t have to love the designated hitter, but you do have to acknowledge its existence

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I don’t love the DH — I have an irrational, subjective preference for pitchers batting — but I do accept that it exists. Heck, I even think — when I’m not being irrational and subjective — that it’d be better for baseball to make the DH uniform across the leagues. I’ve argued that much in the past.

But even if you’re not as willing to subvert you own religious beliefs as I am, don’t you at least have to acknowledge the DH’s existence? An existence that has lasted longer than almost everyone who votes for the Hall of Fame has been covering baseball? Not if you’re Paul Daugherty you don’t. Here’s his take on Frank Thomas’ Hall of Fame candidacy:

Thomas is close. But some of his highly impressive numbers came as a DH, and he played for a very long time. Great career? Yeah. HOF career? Eh.

He goes on:

 DH is NOT a position. It’s a hybrid creation, used by half of MLB.How many lifetime NL guys might be in the Hall had they been traded in their dotage to the American League, where all they had to do was rake?

And if me auntie was a man she’d be me uncle.

The DH was created in 1973. That was 15 years before Daugherty began covering sports in Cincinnati and certainly includes the vast majority of his baseball-watching life. It’s more established and ingrained than the ninth-inning-only closer. It has existed longer than integrated baseball had existed at the time the DH was adopted. It’s not new-fangled. It’s not experimental. And as the exploits of Paul Molitor, David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas show, it’s not some silly and obscure footnote to what happens on a baseball field.

I think one of the worst things about Hall of Fame voters is when they impose their own arbitrary standards into the analysis. But it’s way worse for them to do this by importing their own arbitrary rules to the game of baseball itself like Daugherty is here.

Astros sign Carlos Beltran to one-year, $16 million deal

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: Carlos Beltran #36 of the Texas Rangers hits an RBI against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning during game three of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.

In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.

The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:

Rays and Braves reportedly interested in Welington Castillo

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks hits an RBI double in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.

The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.

Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.