Back in August the Marlins talked about the possibility of moving in their fences to make their ballpark a bit more home run happy. They’re in the process of doing that now, and over at MLB.com the On Cloud Conine blog — nice name, BTW — there are some detailed pictures of the in-progress reconstruction of the outfield walls.
Center field around to right-center will see the most dramatic change, with walls coming in from a crazy 418 feet to a less-crazy 407. Moreover, all around the outfield the height of the walls will be reduced from 11.5 feet down to as low as 7 feet in height in some places, while remaining higher where preexisting video boards are in place. The lowest part of the wall will be in front of the Clevelander bar and its pool.
Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13-year, $325 million deal last March, so figure this is part of the push to get him to not opt out of it. Beyond him, the Marlins were second-to-last in team home runs last year with only 120, so the changes will no doubt be welcome up and down the lineup.
This has been rumored for several days, with reports last week that the Padres were “closing in” on a deal for Fernando Rodney, but now it is actually happening: Jon Heyman reports that San Diego has an agreement with the ex-Cubs and Mariners closer.
Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that it’s a one-year deal with an option, which can max out to around $7 million with performance bonuses. Not too bad for a guy who, when he’s on, is pretty darn good.
Of course the issue is whether he’ll be on. Rodney posted a 5.68 ERA in 51 innings for the Mariners to begin last season, but then turned things around following a late-August trade to the Cubs. In Chicago he posted a 0.75 ERA and 15/4 K/BB ratio in 14 outings. Maybe that was a blip. Maybe he has quite a bit left and just needed a change of scenery.
Rodney is certainly positioned to rebuild his value in San Diego. While the Padres aren’t likely going to compete in 2016, he’ll likely have the closer role all to himself, what with Craig Kimbrel traded to Boston, Joaquin Benoit traded to Seattle and Brandon Maurer moved to the rotation. Basically, if there is a save to be had or blown, it’ll be Rodney’s to register it or blow it.
Yesterday Phillies manager Pete Mackanin spoke to the media for the first time in 2016, and he made a point of saying that your reputation and your salary will have little bearing on how much playing time you get this coming season. Rather, if you hit, you will play. It’s that simple.
That goes specifically for Ryan Howard who, in a move most felt was long overdue, was finally benched against lefties when Mackanin took over as manager last season. Here’s Mackanin discussing the permanence of that move in Jim Salisbury’s report at CSNPhilly.com:
“I’m going to make that decision in the spring,” he said. “But at this point, I’m going to have a discussion with Ryan and tell him, ‘If you want to face lefties, you have to hit them better. If you don’t hit them better, I’m going to platoon.’ That’s basically what we’re looking at. It’s gotten to that point . . . It’s hard for me to justify not playing a guy who led the majors in OPS against lefties and that’s Darin Ruf. It’s hard for me not to play that guy if he’s sitting there and we’re trying to win games. And it could be helpful to Ryan because he’s getting older and (it would) keep him fresh.”
It’s hard to argue with that. It was only 114 plate appearances, but last year Ruf absolutely raked against lefties, hitting .371/.447/.660. For his career (288 plate appearances) he’s hit .300/.390/.556. Howard, meanwhile, had a .418 OPS against lefties in 107 plate appearances in 2015. For his career he’s hit .219/.296/.419 against them. It’s just not working and has never really worked particularly well.
The difference now: there is really no one around with an investment in Ryan Howard. Sure, the Phillies still owe him $25 million for 2016 and a $10 million buyout after the season ends, but the man who gave that deal to him and the managers who counted on his performance as a cornerstone of their job security are no longer in the organization. Everyone in a position of authority is able to move on. That moving on involves looking for a new first baseman and power hitter around whom to build a team and, in the meantime, getting as much performance from first base as possible, regardless of who the performer happens to be.
It seems like a no-brainer, then, to do a Howard/Ruf platoon, full-time.