I know that sounds counterintuitive — and it may be dumb wishful thinking — but I just read a Matt Williams quote about replay that makes me wonder if some delays-in-play brought on by replay may, in the long term, lead to faster game play. Here’s what Williams said:
Williams said another issue would be if managers tried to stall while other team officials monitored the play to determine whether the play was worthy of instant replay. The rules say a manager must react in a timely manner, meaning before the pitcher and catcher are set to face the next batter, if he wants to officially review a call.
“There’s some cagey managers in this game,” Williams said with a sheepish grin.
I doubt managers will obviously stall. That’s because there are so many existing, accepted ways for players to stall. The pitcher and catcher will know when there was a controversial play on defense. They can fart around, visit and do all sorts of things like they already do to stall a bit. If it’s a play the offense may want reviewed the batter has a whole host of fidgets and glove-adjustments and oh, I need a new bat things to buy time.
They do this all the time now and it’s what has led to such long games these days. And we let them do it because, however annoying, it’s not truly affecting the game. But when they do it to mess with a replay review, people will probably take notice. And the only way to crack down on that is to crack down on the behavior itself — the fidgeting and farting around — and how do you craft new rules or make a point of stricter enforcement regarding such things in the replay context without regulating the behavior overall?
Maybe someone stepping out of the box too much or pitchers pacing behind the mound and wiping their brow too often will mess with replay enough to where baseball actually cracks down on it. And maybe the behavior is reduced overall as a result.
Or, like I said, maybe I’m just engaging in wishful thinking here.
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.
Many have speculated on a potential match between the White Sox and Ian Desmond this winter, but we haven’t heard much in the way of legitimate interest. That could be changing with spring training right around the corner, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that Chicago is among the teams considering the free agent shortstop.
After turning the page on Alexei Ramirez this offseason, the White Sox currently have Tyler Saladino in line to serve as their starting shortstop in 2016. The 26-year-old is considered a strong defender, but he batted .225/.267/.335 with four homers over 254 plate appearances as a rookie in 2015. Desmond is coming off a nightmare of a walk year and has seen his strikeout rate climb by 8.5 percent since 2012, but he possesses more offensive upside and it’s not hard to imagine a bounceback campaign while calling U.S. Cellular Field home.
Similar to fellow free agents Yovani Gallardo and Dexter Fowler, Desmond is attached to draft pick compensation after turning down a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals. It’s a big reason why a potential deal with the Rays is reported to be a “long shot.” Chicago’s No. 10 overall pick in this year’s draft is protected, so they would give up their No. 28 overall pick if they sign a qualifying offer free agent like Desmond.
Left-hander Eric O'Flaherty has agreed to a minor-league deal with the Pirates that includes an invitation to spring training.
O’Flaherty was one of the best relievers in the league for the Braves from 2009-2013, posting a combined 1.99 ERA in 249 innings, but Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career and he struggled for the A’s and Mets in 2015 while dealing with shoulder problems.
It’s tough to know if O’Flaherty is healthy at this point, but the 31-year-old southpaw certainly has a chance to be a nice reclamation project for the Pirates on a no-risk contract.