Bill Baer

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - AUGUST 4:  Richie Shaffer #36 of the Tampa Bay Rays warms up on deck to bat during the third inning of a game against the Kansas City Royals on August 4, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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What the offseason is like for fringe major leaguers

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For fringe major leaguers Richie Shaffer and David Rollins, their offseason has been anything but time off. After ending the season with the Rays, Shaffer ended up being traded to the Mariners on November 18 as part of a five-player trade involving mostly minor leaguers. Just a few weeks later, on December 7, the Mariners designated him for assignment. The Phillies claimed him off waivers on the 14th, then DFA’d him on the 20th. The Reds claimed him on the 23rd. On January 26, the Indians claimed him off waivers. On the 30th — you guessed it — he was DFA’d again.

For Rollins, it’s a similar story. He finished the year with the Mariners, but the Cubs claimed him off waivers on November 18. The Rangers then claimed him off waivers on the 22nd, the Phillies claimed him on December 2, and DFA’d him on the 14th. The Rangers claimed him on the 21st, then the Cubs claimed him on the 23rd.

At Sports Illustrated, Jon Tayler provides a glimpse into what it’s like to be one of those fringe major league players. Of his whirlwind winter, Rollins said, “I just laugh at it now. It’s happened so many times that it feels like a bad joke.”

Shaffer said, “Every call I get from a number I don’t know, I’m always like, ‘What is this.’ My wife panics every time I’m talking on the phone.”

Shaffer also described what it was like attending an office Christmas party with his wife Danielle. As Tayler tells it, Shaffer had been claimed by the Phillies off waivers from the Mariners on that day. Danielle told Richie to just pretend that he was still with the Mariners. The two had bought $600 worth in Mariners merchandise as holiday gifts, all of which needed to be returned (except for a personalized jersey). When Danielle asked if she should buy Phillies stuff, Richie told her not to, and he ended up being DFA’d shortly thereafter.

Ryan Lavarnway, who spent last season in the Blue Jays’ and Braves’ minor league systems, shared what his offseason was like three years ago. He put a despoit down on a home for spring training in Arizona after the Dodgers claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox. However, he ended up being claimed by the Cubs, then the Orioles, so his actual spring training home ended up being in Florida. “I didn’t get my money back,” Lavarnway says of the deposit he put down on that Arizona home.

We tend not to think much about what life is like for these fringe minor leaguers, but it can certainly be stressful. Remember, these are the guys that survived the unholy conditions of the minor leagues, which for many of them included being paid below minimum wage.

Tayler’s whole article is worth a read. Go check it out at Sports Illustrated.

Report: Chris Carter might leave North America to play baseball

MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER 5:  Chris Carter #33 of the Milwaukee Brewers rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Chicago Cubs at Miller Park on September 5, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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Free agent slugger Chris Carter, who led the National League with 41 home runs last season, could take his services overseas according to his agent (and former Diamondbacks GM) Dave Stewart, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. “I think at some point we have to make it a serious consideration. It’s getting late there, too. Those teams are filling their spaces, too,” Stewart said.

Along with the 41 dingers, Carter knocked in 94 runs and hit .222/.321/.499 over 644 plate appearances. The negatives are obvious: Carter strikes out a lot, having led the league with 206 punch-outs in 2016. He also doesn’t play a premium position, nor does he play even adequate defense when he is on the field, limiting him ideally to a DH role. As a result, Carter was only with 0.9 Wins Above Replacement last season according to Baseball Reference, despite the prodigious power.

According to Stewart, Japanese teams showed interest in Carter last year before he signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Brewers. The Brewers chose to non-tender Carter in early December rather than pay him a projected $8 million for the 2017 season.

Report: Blue Jays sign J.P. Howell

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 31:  Relief pitcher J.P. Howell #56 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers to home plate during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 31, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Blue Jays have inked reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year deal, pending a physical. Financial details have yet to be revealed.

Howell, 33, had a mediocre 2016 campaign with the Dodgers, finishing with a 4.09 ERA and a 44/15 K/BB ratio over 50 2/3 innings. However, the lefty put up a 1.43 ERA in 2015, a 2.39 ERA in ’14, and 2.03 in ’13, so it’s reasonable to think he could return to that level of pitching. Howell showed a reverse platoon split in 2016 — meaning lefties hit him better than righties — but has historically dominated left-handed hitters. Howell is also quite good at inducing ground balls. Since 2013, Howell’s 58.5 percent ground ball rate is 13th best among relievers (min. 150 innings).

Howell gives the Jays a second lefty in the bullpen along with Aaron Loup.