This is a fascinating story. It’s from Andy Martino of the Daily News and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen from a baseball writer who works the beat or writes a column for a major media outlet. It’s about the Ike Davis vs. Lucas Duda battle for the Mets first base job. But it’s mostly about Martino examining his role as a reporter and questioning whether he got things right.
Actually, he admits he got things wrong in preferring that the Mets keep Ike Davis and ship out Duda. The Mets did the opposite and the results have been great for them. Duda has thrived at first base for them. Martino wonders why he was so convinced that was the wrong choice.
Specifically, he wonders if his comfort with interviewing Davis, which he far preferred to interviewing Duda, and their significant personality differences made him think Davis was the better choice:
On a subconscious level, did I convince myself that Davis was a better choice because he was a better quote, a friendlier guy, one for whom I came to feel genuine affection as a person? . . . Davis was interesting to talk to, sympathetic and likeable; did that up-close knowledge render me incapable of drawing an objective conclusion, and presenting it to readers? And to overstate Duda’s problems, which he seems to have since overcome?
Those are a couple of rare and brutally honest questions for a baseball writer to ask himself. In my personal experience of interacting with baseball writers there is a near-religious belief that players with personalities like Daivis’ can cut it in New York and players with personalities like Duda’s can’t. There is an even more prevalent belief that a good quote is a good person and that a good person is a good baseball player. If you doubt this, criticize a favorite but flawed baseball player on a given team and see how many steps of argument it takes for the beat guy for that team to defend with some variation of “but he’s a good guy” or “his makeup is off the charts” or whatever. Sometimes that’s the team’s view of the matter. More often than we realize, I believe, that’s the writer’s view.
Really interesting stuff from Martino. I’d be curious to know how many other baseball writers ask themselves these questions, even if they do it in private instead of in print like Martino does here.
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.