Aaron Gleeman

Tony La Russa

Tony La Russa “will be brokenhearted” if Diamondbacks don’t have winning record in 2015

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Arizona went 64-98 this season for the worst record in all of baseball, which is how manager Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers got fired and 70-year-old Hall of Famer Tony La Russa took over as the Diamondbacks’ czar.

And now La Russa is saying he thinks the Diamondbacks can be contenders in 2015.

In fact, he told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: “I will be absolutely brokenhearted if we don’t have a winning record next year.”

Here’s more from La Russa:

I don’t think that you give in on the potential that sooner rather than later we could be contenders. Because if you’ve got a good talent pool and they play tough and they play well, you win extra games. We have a nice young, nucleus so there’s a lot to build on here. We’ve got some quality veterans.

I will be absolutely brokenhearted if we don’t have a winning record next year, which is 82-80. I mean, I really believe that that’s realistic, but 82 is not going to get you into October. I think the message that we’re careful to send to our fans is that we are not a patient bunch. We are not going to ask them to hang with us for four or five years.

It’s worth noting that the Diamondbacks technically haven’t had a winning record since 2011, although they did go 81-81 in both 2012 and 2013 before falling apart this year.

Perhaps not surprising that a 70-year-old with a long history of managing good teams plans to turn his current bad team into a good team very quickly rather than going through a lengthy rebuilding process, but … well, good luck Tony.

Nick Markakis is close to re-signing with the Orioles

Nick Markakis
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Baltimore declined its $17.5 million option on Nick Markakis for 2015, making him a free agent after nine seasons with the Orioles, but now Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the two sides are close to a four-year deal for him to return.

Sherman says it’ll likely be for around $44 million, which would be three years and $26.5 million than his option.

As a top-10 draft pick and stud prospect who had some big years early in his career Markakis looked like a long-term star, but now he’s 31 years old with a .435 career slugging percentage. Combined during the past three seasons he hit .279 with a .396 slugging percentage and .738 OPS. Markakis has a great defensive reputation, including a pair of Gold Glove awards, but the numbers do not view him as especially strong in the field.

Then again, $11 million per season is probably pretty close to the going rate for a good but not great corner outfielder and this deal runs through his age-34 season.

Remember this when Salvador Perez is worn down next year

salvador perez light blue getty
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Salvador Perez caught an MLB-high 143 games during the regular season and was behind the plate for all 15 of the Royals’ postseason games, finishing the year with the most starts by a catcher in the history of baseball.

Not surprisingly he struggled down the stretch and into the playoffs, hitting just .190 in his final 22 regular season games and .207 in the postseason.

And now Perez is starting even more games at catcher for the MLB team in the All-Star Series in Japan.

Jon Morosi of FOXSports.com is treating this as a good thing, writing stuff like “Perez earned his paycheck” and “loves the game.” And that’s all true, but he’s also a 24-year-old catcher who has now caught more than 160 games and spent more than 1,400 innings behind the plate in one year. Catchers tend not to age particularly well anyway, but if Perez looks worn down in 2015 (and perhaps beyond) it won’t exactly be a mystery why.

Ike Davis likely to be non-tendered by the Pirates, working out in the outfield

Ike Davis Getty
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Pirates first baseman Ike Davis has been working out in the outfield recently to improve his versatility, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. And in related news, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Pirates are expected to non-tender Davis before the December 2 deadline to offer arbitration.

Pittsburgh looks set to go with Pedro Alvarez at first base, shifting the third baseman across the diamond following his extreme throwing problems this year. That leaves Davis as the odd man out after he hit just .233 with 11 homers and a .722 OPS in 143 games for the Mets and Pirates this season.

Davis still draws a bunch of walks, but his power has vanished since smacking 32 homers in 2012 and he’s got a .223 batting average in 402 games during the past three seasons. He’d be due around $5 million in 2015 via arbitration.

Barry Zito is making a comeback

Barry Zito
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Barry Zito didn’t pitch in 2014, taking a year off to, as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com describes it, “travel, surf, and enjoy life away from baseball.”

And now he’s making a comeback.

Zito’s agent, Scott Boras, told reporters at the general managers meetings yesterday that the former Cy Young winner has been working out with his eye on returning in 2015 at age 36.

He called me on the phone in August and said, “I’m ready to go. I want to pitch.” He set up the plan and did all of that.

Here’s the problem, though: Zito wasn’t any good when he stepped away.

He went 5-11 with a 5.74 ERA and .318 opponents’ batting average in 133 innings for the Giants in 2013, losing his spot in the rotation. He was decent the year before, but combined during his final three seasons Zito had a 4.97 ERA in 371 innings. And really, he wasn’t much better than a back-of-the-rotation at any point during his seven-year (and $126 million) stay in San Francisco.