Josh Willingham officially announced his retirement at age 35, following 11 seasons in the majors for the Marlins, Twins, Nationals, A’s, and Royals.
Willingham signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins in 2012 and had a career-year that season, hitting .260 with 35 homers and an .890 OPS in 145 games.
He struggled to stay healthy in the final two seasons of the contract, playing a total of just 203 games in 2013/2014 while hitting .211 with a .724 OPS.
Willingham perhaps could have struck around for another season as a bench bat or platoon designated hitter versus left-handers, but he ceased being a serviceable defensive left fielder.
He finishes with 195 career homers and an .823 OPS in 1,147 games–including an OPS above .800 every season from 2006-2012–which is fantastic production considering Willingham didn’t get his first extended action in the majors until age 27 despite topping a .900 OPS at Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.
Third baseman Kyle Seager and the Mariners are on the verge of agreeing to a seven-year, $100 million contract extension, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Seager has emerged as one of MLB’s best all-around third basemen at age 27, combining Gold Glove-winning defense with 25-homer power despite calling pitcher-friendly Safeco Field home.
He’s arbitration eligible for the first time in 2015 and under team control through 2017, so a seven-year contract would cover his three arbitration-eligible seasons and buy out his first four years of free agency.
Among all MLB third basemen from 2012-2014 he ranks fifth in Wins Above Replacement, sandwiched in between Chase Headley and Evan Longoria. A seven-year deal would put him under the Mariners’ control through age 33.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles have reassigned hitting Jim Presley to a different role within the organization due to a “personal situation.”
Presley has been the Orioles’ hitting coach since 2011, during which time they ranked ninth among MLB teams in scoring. This season, despite losing several key hitters to injuries, Baltimore scored the sixth-most runs in the league.
According to Connolly the Orioles will be interviewing hitting coach replacements this week and it’s unclear what type of role Presley will take on.
Rays Triple-A pitching coach Neil Allen beat out longtime MLB pitching coach and former Twins reliever Carl Willis to become Minnesota’s new pitching coach.
He joins first-year manager Paul Molitor’s new-look staff, which includes Tom Brunansky, Eddie Guardado, Gene Glynn, and Rudy Hernandez. Minnesota has not yet named a new bench coach or first base coach.
Allen was the Triple-A pitching coach for the Rays from 2007-2014, during which time Tampa Bay’s young pitching and overall player developed keyed a long string of success despite low payrolls.
If reports that the Red Sox are signing both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval prove accurate the assumption is that Boston will be moving Ramirez to the outfield after nearly 10,000 career innings at shortstop.
Shifting a 30-year-old career-long shortstop to the outfield is certainly a rare occurrence and may seem strange at first glance, but in Ramirez’s case it’s perhaps not that crazy.
Ramirez has always hit like a corner outfielder, which is what made him so valuable at shortstop. However, now that most people think he can no longer handle shortstop defensively on a regular basis the idea of taking a defensive hit to keep his bat in the lineup at an up-the-middle position is less appealing. In other words, at shortstop his glove is now canceling out too much of his bat.
And once that happens, why not just move the corner outfield-hitting shortstop to an outfield corner? During the past three seasons Ramirez hit .285 with a .356 on-base percentage and .486 slugging percentage in 371 games for an .842 OPS that would have ranked 12th among all MLB outfielders during that time, sandwiched in between Matt Kemp and Nelson Cruz.
In other words, simply duplicating his 2012-2014 production would make him one of the 10-15 best-hitting outfielders in baseball. And if the Red Sox signed one of the dozen best-hitting outfielders to a $90 million deal, it probably wouldn’t seem odd at all. Ramirez’s overall value as an outfielder would depend largely on his defense, which is awfully tough to predict, but given some of the unathletic, weak-armed left fielders the Red Sox have trotted out it’s hard to imagine a career-long middle infielder with 261 career steals being a total disaster out there.
Boston clearing its logjam of outfielders after adding Ramirez to the already crowded mix is another issue, but “Hanley Ramirez, corner outfielder” can be a damn good player.