Author: Bill Baer

Michael Cuddyer
AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek

Michael Cuddyer is retiring after 15 seasons

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UPDATE: Cuddyer has officially announced his retirement in an excellent piece at the Players’ Tribune.

9:31 p.m. ET, Friday: An odd thing happened on Friday night: Michael Cuddyer was listed as having retired on MLB.com’s transactions page, and then it was gone. SB Nation’s Mets blog Amazin Avenue caught the slip-up. That led to the Mets being questioned on Cuddyer’s status and they offered a “no comment”, per Newsday’s Marc Carig. Moments later, Carig and ESPN’s Adam Rubin — among others — were able to confirm that Cuddyer is indeed retiring.

So there you have it.

Cuddyer, 36, signed a two-year, $21 million contract with the Mets in November 2014. $12.5 million of that total is remaining. The outfielder struggled this past season, hitting .259/.309/.391 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 408 plate appearances. The veteran battled knee and wrist injuries throughout the season and played in only 49 games the year prior due to a fractured left shoulder socket.

Over 15 seasons in the majors — 11 with the Twins, three with the Rockies, and one with the Mets — Cuddyer batted .277/.344/.461 with 197 home runs and 794 RBI in 6,102 trips to the plate.

Jeff Samardzija says he was tipping pitches in 2015

Jeff Samardzija
AP Photo/Eric Risberg
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Despite starter Jeff Samardzija‘s immense struggles with the White Sox this past season, the Giants still elected to sign the right-hander to a five-year, $90 million contract earlier this week. They’re betting on the veteran hurler benefiting from a change in parks and defenses, but they’re also hoping Samardzija can figure out what went wrong and make adjustments.

It sounds like Samardzija has a diagnosis: tipped pitches, according to CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic.

“When you’re tipping your pitches it’s hard to have a ton of success out there,” Samardzija said in an introductory press conference at AT&T Park. “Everyone has got a ton of film on you. Hours and hours and years and years, and you need to stay ahead of that. If anything it just made me realize that you do always have to stay on top of little things like that, how long you’re holding the ball when you’re set, how long you’re holding it when you’re throwing a slider, when you’re throwing a splitter.

“Where are you looking when there’s a runner on first? Are you checking on him or going home? That’s the aspect of this game that’s so great, is you can always get better. What’s pushing you is the competition, and there’s always someone watching you to try and find that hole that you have.”

Samardzija, who turns 31 years old in January, finished this past season with a 4.96 ERA and a 163/49 K/BB ratio in 214 innings. He led baseball in hits allowed (228) and earned runs (118) while leading the American League in home runs allowed (29). His strikeout rate, 17.9 percent, was his lowest since becoming a starter in 2012.

Sans Jason Heyward, Cardinals pursuing Carlos Gonzalez, among others

Carlos Gonzalez
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Now that outfielder Jason Heyward has signed with the division rival Cubs, the Cardinals are left in want of an outfielder themselves. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the club has discussed Carlos Gonzalez with the Rockies. They have also considered signing free agent first baseman Chris Davis, and free agent outfielders Alex Gordon and Justin Upton are still available.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, the Cardinals have their “sights set” on Gordon and plan to pursue him aggressively. One potential factor is that both Heyward and Gordon have the same agent, as Goold points out.

As currently situated, the Cardinals’ outfield would be comprised of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty.

D-Backs GM Dave Stewart offers some strange logic to defend the Shelby Miller trade

Dave Stewart, Chip Hale
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
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Though it came as a surprise, no one questioned the Diamondbacks’ decision to sign ace starter Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract. And though that signing pushed the Diamondbacks clearly into contention mode, the club’s acquisition of starter Shelby Miller raised a few eyebrows. The club sent breakout outfielder Ender Inciarte, 2015 #1 overall draft pick Dansby Swanson, and pitching prospect Aaron Blair to the Braves.

That is a lot to pay for a starter that, while good, has never posted an ERA below 3.00 and has crossed the 200-inning threshold only once. Sure, Miller is young, but he is only under team control for three more seasons and will get progressively more expensive while moving from a pitcher-friendly ballpark to a hitter-friendly park.

GM Dave Stewart resorted to some curious logic to defend the trade. Via Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports on Wednesday:

Reminded – or, perhaps, informed – that he gave an excessive amount to acquire Miller, Stewart, stone-faced, responded, “I would say that is incorrect. That’s three players. And, believe me, they’re very highly regarded players, but three players do not make our future.”

Besides, he said, a year ago Miller was traded for outfielder Jason Heyward, “And right now Jason Heyward is looking for $200 million. So we got a guy, quite frankly, if you value it that way, we got great value.”

By this logic, shortstop Jean Segura is valuable because the Angels sent him to the Brewers in exchange for Greinke in July 2012. There are numerous other examples one could use to point out the flaw in Stewart’s line of reasoning. Wayward pitcher Phillippe Aumont was one of three players the Mariners sent to the Phillies in exchange for Cliff Lee, who signed for $120 million. The Brewers sent Matt LaPorta, among others, to the Indians in July 2008 for CC Sabathia, who eventually signed for $122 million.

It’s not the first time Stewart has said something… questionable. Neil Weinberg ran down a handful at FanGraphs. Included is a gem from this past July in which Stewart did not know exactly how hard Touki Toussaint threw his fastball.

The Diamondbacks keep things interesting, that’s for sure.

The Braves are trying to unload Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are trying to trade outfielder Nick Swisher. This comes as no surprise as the club has sold off most of its remaining assets already this offseason, having previously dealt shortstop Andrelton Simmons, outfielder Cameron Maybin, and starter Shelby Miller.

The Braves acquired Swisher along with outfielder Michael Bourn from the Indians this past August in exchange for infielder Chris Johnson. The Braves owe Swisher the balance of his $16 million salary for the 2016 season, some of which is being paid for by the Indians, who sent $10 million to the Braves along with the two players. Bowman notes that the Braves would have to cover a large portion of Swisher’s remaining salary in order to facilitate a trade.

Swisher, 35, hit a paltry .196/.312/.320 with six home runs and 25 RBI between the Indians and the Braves. It marked his second consecutive season with dismal numbers, including a combined -2.4 WAR, according to Baseball Reference. Only Will Middlebrooks (-2.5) has been less valuable. Ryan Howard is tied wish Swisher at -2.4.