Brett Lawrie

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Report: Rays will consider signing Brett Lawrie

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Infielder Brett Lawrie is set to enter free agency on Sunday after the White Sox placed him on unconditional release waivers on Friday. According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, one interested party may be the Rays, who could try to sign the infielder for his right-handed bat.

Lawrie, 27, completed a one-year run with the White Sox in 2016. He batted .248/.310/.413 with 12 home runs and a .723 OPS through the first half of the year, but saw his season derailed after suffering a hamstring strain in July.

The Rays aren’t in dire need of another second or third baseman this season; for that, they’ll rely on Brad Miller and Evan Longoria, with utility infielders Nick Franklin and Tim Beckham waiting in the wings. Assuming Lawrie can stay healthy for a full season, however, the added bat off the bench and infield depth would make the acquisition worthwhile, particularly with the White Sox eating $600,000 of his salary.

The White Sox are releasing Brett Lawrie

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The Chicago White Sox announced this afternoon that they’ve requested release waivers on infielder Brett Lawrie. This is a preliminary move made with the intention of giving him his unconditional release.

That’s unexpected.

The White Sox and Lawrie agreed to a one-year, $3.5 million deal back in December, avoiding arbitration. That was a salary cut from the year before, but if they didn’t want him they could’ve simply non-tendered him. What happened between December and now is unclear, but he’s obviously no longer in Chicago’s plans.

Lawrie posted a more or less normal-for-him season in 2016, batting .248/.310/.413. His career line is .261/.315/.419. He was the White Sox’ second baseman last year after playing mostly third base for the A’s and Blue Jays earlier in his career.

It’s been quite a fall for Lawrie over the past few years. He was once thought of as a potential star. While he never realized his potential in Toronto, he was still valued enough to where the Jays were able to use him as the centerpiece in a package to acquire Josh Donaldson before the 2015 season. Donaldson went on to win the MVP in his first year in Toronto.

Now Lawrie is looking for a job at a time of the year when most teams are looking to cut players, not sign them.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.