Ken Rosenthal spoke to Tony Clark, head of the MLBPA. The topic: smokeless tobacco. Tony Gwynn was a personal hero of Clark’s, and Rosenthal asked him if Gwynn’s death — almost certainly caused by smokeless tobacco use — was enough to get the union to either push for or agree to a ban on smokeless tobacco among major league ballplayers.
Clark’s answer: a diplomatic “no”:
“The MLBPA continues to discourage the use of smokeless tobacco products by its members or by anyone else. As you know, the subject of their use is a collective bargaining issue, and new regulations regarding the use of smokeless tobacco products were introduced in the last round of bargaining. In general terms, included in the smokeless tobacco policy negotiated in 2011 are restrictions/prohibitions on its use, increased emphasis on education and cessation programs, as well as oral examinations. At this point in time, Player education continues to be a focus of ours.”
I can’t say I have a problem with that.
I’d never use the stuff. I’d strongly urge anyone else not to. If I was in government I’d consider taxing/regulating it to bring its actual cost as a product in line with the medical and social costs it inflicts on taxpayers and society. And I would certainly make great efforts to keep it away from kids. But the stuff is legal and ballplayers are adults. They’re stupid adults if they use it despite the clear health risks it occasions, but part of being an adult is having the freedom to make dumb choices.
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:
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.