The Rangers are matching up with the Blue Jays for the first time this season, which means catcher J.P. Arencibia gets the chance to face his former team. The Jays non-tendered Arencibia last December, and shortly thereafter Arencibia signed a one-year, $1.8 million deal with the Rangers. Despite hitting 64 home runs between 2010-13 in Toronto, Arencibia received criticism for his low batting average (.212) and on-base percentage (.258). The average ranked as the third-worst in that time span among qualified hitters while the on-base percentage was dead last.
The two teams opened up the series on Friday night, and there was radio silence between Arencibia and the Toronto media. But he broke it on Saturday to accuse Toronto writers of portraying him as the team’s villain. Via Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star:
“I learned the media controls a lot of things and the only question that you guys were writing in the off-season was what they were going to do behind the plate, when obviously the pitching was something that needed to be addressed,” he told the Star after taking batting practice. “But I was the only question because I was the villain of the team.”
“I think the media made me out to be a monster — I wasn’t. They changed a lot of things that I said or made up stories. So I thought that that was a big thing that went down. I learned how much media does control things.”
Arencibia also added that he is very much enjoying his time with the Rangers, citing a different and more fun culture. However, he is slashing a meager .133/.182/.233 in 66 plate appearances. His poor performance with the Rangers isn’t as likely to draw as much criticism because he doesn’t have a history with the team. Arencibia was taken in the first round, 21st overall, in the 2007 draft. He crushed minor league pitching, bashing 80 home runs between 2008-10, giving fans the hope that he would be the club’s catcher of the future. Alas, it was not meant to be.
At any rate, it sounds like Arencibia has a bit of a persecution complex.
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.