AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

NL West managers say the Diamondbacks “play the game the right way”

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The phrase “play the game the right way” is vague, so it’s usually tough to know exactly what someone means when they use the phrase. Hitting batters as revenge, for example, could be “right” if you’re an old-school baseball type, or it may be wrong to someone else. NL West managers say the Diamondbacks “play the game the right way,” Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports.

On August 1, 2014 against the Pirates, Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt was hit by an Ernesto Frieri fastball and suffered a fractured left hand which ended his season. The next day, then-manager Kirk Gibson had reliever Randall Delgado exact revenge against Pirates superstar Andrew McCutchen, drilling him square in the back with a 2-0 95 MPH fastball.

That was the second overt revenge incident as Diamondbacks reliever Evan Marshall threw a ball behind Ryan Braun and then hit him with the next pitch in May.

The prior year in October, then-GM Kevin Towers appeared on radio station Arizona Sports 620 and said that he expects his players to protect their teammates. He said, “I think come spring training, it will be duly noted that it’s going to be an eye for an eye and we’re going to protect one another.” Towers was shown the door after the 2014 season, as was Gibson.

Perhaps something changed in the way the Diamondbacks approach the game that has caught the attention of opposing managers. More likely, it’s just empty praise. The Diamondbacks hit 48 batters last season, only three fewer than in 2014 and down from 2013’s total of 60.

Fortunately for the D-Backs, they didn’t spend the offseason stocking up on players who only “play the game the right way”. Instead, they signed talented players. They inked Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million deal, acquired Shelby Miller in a trade with the Braves, added Tyler Clippard, extended A.J. Pollock, and acquired Jean Segura in a trade with the Brewers. The Diamondbacks are set up well to compete in the NL West, which is what should really concern opposing managers.

What do the losers of the Gerrit Cole derby do now?

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Gerrit Cole is now a New York Yankee. Nine years and $324 million make that so. But though the Yankees are the only team who gets him, they weren’t the only team interested in him. So let’s take a look at what the losers of the Gerrit Cole derby — the Dodgers and the Angels — can do now that they know they’ve lost.

Dodgers

The Dodgers were hopeful they had a shot due to Cole’s Los Angeles ties. Welp, that didn’t pan out. Which is not a shock. I’m struggling to think of the last time that whole “he’s from [place] so he’ll want to sign with [team near place]” thing worked out. It didn’t happen with CC Sabathia in the Bay Area. It didn’t happen with Mark Teixeira in Baltimore. It didn’t even work out with Brandon Webb in Cincinnati. Money talks, geography walks.

But the Dodgers wanted Cole. They wanted to bolster a pitching staff that has relied on an aging and now free agent Rich Hill and on free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu. There’s a hole to fill, and without Cole available to fill that hole, they’ll have to do something. What is the something they can do?

How about sign their chief rival’s last big pitching star?

It’s certainly a decent plan. But it’s one that might get expensive for Los Angeles. USA Today reported on Monday that Bumgarner was seeking five years and $100 million-plus. Some raised their eyebrows at that report, but given how much Stephen Strasburg and Cole commanded, it seems downright reasonable now. That’s especially the case given that the Giants — despite being on the brink of a rebuild — probably don’t want to see their franchise hero sign with the hated Dodgers:

So it’ll be a bidding war. A war that will make Madison Bumgarner a very large amount of money.

 

Angels

The Angels made no secret of their desire to land Cole. Joe Maddon talked openly about him in his press conference here at the Winter Meetings on Monday. Cole talked openly during the 2019 season, and since it ended, about his connection to Orange County and the Big A.

But the Angels didn’t have the talent to entice Cole and to make him believe that they could contend like the Yankees can. If they made a competitive offer — and we don’t know if they did — they still would’ve had to convince him that they could win. And, really, there is no real basis to believe that they could make a credible case for that.

So where do the Angels go?

General Manager Billy Eppler said on Tuesday that the Angels did not have Gerrit Cole tunnel vision and that they could spend in excess of $20 million a year on multiple players, none of which had to be Cole. On Tuesday the Angels shed the contract of Zack Cozart and, with his $12 million+ and roster spot opened up, the Halos are said to be interested in third baseman Anthony Rendon or, as a fallback, Josh Donaldson.

As for pitching, the Angels will likely prove to be competition for  Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and perhaps free agent Dallas Keuchel. They could also pursue trade options such as affordable pitchers like Miami’s Caleb Smith or Detroit’s Matthew Boyd or less-affordable — but less-costly in a trade — options like David Price, who the Red Sox were rumored to be shopping in the name of salary relief. Which is to say, the Angels have options, even if their top option is off the table.

But both they and their counterparts up in Los Angeles County, now have to go back to the drawing board now that Gerrit Cole is New York bound.