Two years ago (October 16, 2012 to be exact) I was listening to Chelsea Peretti’s podcast when an anonymous 24-year-old caller named “John” told her the story of how his once-promising baseball career went downhill and he blew through his $210,000 signing bonus after being drafted by the Mets out of high school.
Here’s part of my recap at the time:
Peretti asked: “And then what happened, you started sucking at baseball?”
“They thought I was a good baseball player,” our mystery man explained, adding that he was a pitcher before his “elbow blew out” and he spent most of the signing bonus on a truck and “buying sushi every night.”
I did a little internet detective work and discovered the caller was 24-year-old right-hander John Holdzkom, a former Mets fourth-round draft pick who at the time was pitching for them at Single-A. They later released him and Holdzkom had to play independent ball just to keep his dream alive.
He pitched for two different independent league teams this year alone, but then the Pirates signed him and sent Holdzkom to Double-A. He thrived there, kept pitching well following a promotion to Triple-A, and then got the call up to the big leagues as part of September roster expansion.
Last night Holdzkom, now 26 years old, made his MLB debut. And it was a helluva debut, too: He struck out all three batters he faced in a scoreless eighth inning against the Cardinals.
Here’s our hero in action:
I just hope Holdzkom calls back in to Chelsea Peretti’s podcast to update his story.
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.