Pete Rose is doing that publicity stunt managerial gig tonight, and since it’s about the publicity he’s doing interviews. And, since he’s doing interviews, he’s waxing optimistic about his chances to get back in the game:
Really, where I belong is back in baseball. I still believe it can happen.”
Yes, he’s talking within seven months, before Commissioner Bud Selig leaves office Jan. 24, 2015.
“To be honest with you,” Rose says, “I really haven’t given up on Bud giving me a second chance.”
I used to laugh at this sort of thing, as baseball has never shown any intention of reinstating Rose. But part of me is starting to wonder if Selig won’t issue a pardon as he leaves office. For a couple of reasons. First, to keep the Rose issue from being one that bothers his successor every couple of years. Second, and more importantly, for legacy reasons.
I never would’ve thought that Selig would have pursued the Biogenesis case in the aggressive and arguably extra-legal manner in which he did. But Selig was a motivated man. Motivated to make A-Rod, and not himself, the face of steroids in baseball. That’s a man who is conscious of his legacy. Rose is obviously a different case — he was his predecessors’ issue — but he is still an immensely popular figure among fans. Imagine what the stories would look like if Rose were reinstated as Selig leaves baseball. He enters amid labor turmoil, fan indifference and drug abuse. He leaves with baseball riding high, the druggies cast out and as the man who brought Pete Rose back. And hell, maybe Shoeless Joe. It’s feel-good stuff for people who either don’t know or don’t care about the history of gambling in baseball. It’s a huge boon to the Hall of Fame too.
Is it likely? I don’t know. I’m assuming Major League Baseball would say it’s preposterous and that Rose is delusional. But I can’t shake the idea that someone close to Selig is at least suggesting how the politics of reinstating Rose and/or Jackson might look as a career-capper. While some of us would be turned off by it, I bet way more people would eat it up.
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.