When you fire your GM, you give his replacement carte blanche to burn it all down and sell everything off. You do that in the middle of the season when you actually have some useful relievers, you’re definitely gonna make some trades because everyone wants bullpen help in the middle of the year. That’s where the Padres find themselves right now. Even though they don’t yet have a replacement for the fired Josh Byrnes.
Jon Heyman reports that the Padres are receiving calls about Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit. Both of them are having excellent seasons, with Street posting a sub-1.00 ERA and Benoit doing almost as well. Each have closing experience and each would be attractive targets for contenders seeking help for the back end of the pen. Contract-wise, Street is making $7 million this season with a $7 million club option for 2015 and Benoit is making $6 million this season and $8.5 million in 2015 and a 2016 club option. Both of those represent relative bargains for closers these days and the deals are quite tolerable even if they’re used as setup men.
Heyman has the Tigers, Angels, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers and Marlins as possible landing spots for Street and Benoit. But really, almost any and every contender at least kicks the tires on bullpen arms in July most years.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.