Today is Derek Jeter’s 40th birthday. I have not done a ton of research into the matter, but based on the columns and tributes I’ve seen coming out of New York, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that Jeter is the first Major League Baseball player in history to turn 40-years-old. That’s a pretty great accomplishment and we should all talk about how classy and winning a strategy turning 40-years-old really is.
But while no baseball player has ever turned 40 before — again, Jeter is simply incomparable — normal people can turn 40 sometimes. Take me, for instance. I’m 40-years-old. And I feel like that’s not the only thing Jeter and I have in common. I mean, we are both single. We both have less hair than we did in the 90s. Neither of us can move to our left that easily. We both have jobs that 40-year-olds don’t usually have and, being honest, if there were younger cheaper people capable of doing what we do better than us just hanging around, we’d probably be sitting on the bench. We’re just lucky to have found ourselves in the right situation at this point in our lives.
But I kid, Derek. He knows I kid. To the extent he cares — and I seriously, seriously doubt he cares one iota — he knows that people like me who like to make jokes about The Captain are really reacting to the Jeter Industrial Complex which has venerated him to the extreme, not to The Captain himself. That, when we stop trying to be snarky and actually allow ourselves a genuine bit of reflection, we know that we have been really damn lucky to see Jeter play these past 20 years. That while one can assign value to him statistically, make judgments about him objectively or simply count the number of championship rings he has won, the more subjective stuff about him — his consistency, his durability, his star power and his dignity in a world where dignity is often hard to find — is something that even people who would love to see the Yankees lose more often than they win can and do appreciate. There are only a handful of careers like Jeter’s in all of baseball history, and people around our age have gotten to see the entire thing, from start to finish.
So happy birthday, my fellow follically-challenged carbon-based life form who no longer sees Minka Kelly (you by choice, me by restraining order). Here’s hoping it’s a good one, in which no loud teenagers congregate around you lawn and in which no one asks you why you make so many weird noises when you sit down or stand up.
New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.
Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.
The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.
It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.
Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.
The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.
Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.
Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.
While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.
Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.