<span class="vcard">Bill Baer</span>

Minnesota Twins pitcher J.R. Graham pauses to look at the baseball after he gave up a three-run home run to Toronto Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion during the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in Toronto. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)
Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP

Twins reliever J.R. Graham lost 30 pounds

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Phil Miller of the Star Tribune reports that Twins reliever J.R. Graham has lost 30 pounds over the last four months. The reliever said the weight loss was incidental as he stopped eating pizza and drinking alcohol, and started eating breakfast which dropped him to 170 pounds. Graham is listed on Baseball Reference at 210 pounds, so that would actually be a 40-pound loss. Is Graham in the best shape of his life?

Graham, 26, made his major league debut last season, posting a 4.95 ERA with 53 strikeouts and 21 walks over 63 2/3 innings of work. He was among baseball’s 100 best prospects heading into the 2013 season, according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. The right-hander features a fastball that averages close to 95 MPH, but he had trouble staying away from the barrel of the bat in 2015, serving up 10 home runs.

Blue Jays sign Maicer Izturis to a minor league deal

Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Maicer Izturis fumbles the ball allowing New York Yankees' Robinson Cano to reach second safely on a ball hit by Yankees batter Vernon Wells during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Saturday, April 20, 2013. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young

John Lott reports that the Blue Jays have signed infielder Maicer Izturis to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. He spent the last three seasons with the Jays but played in only 11 games in 2014 and missed all of last season due to groin and shoulder injuries.

Izturis, 35, is a career .269/.331/.372 hitter and has plenty of experience playing third base, second base, and shortstop, so he can serve as affordable depth for the Jays. They had paid him him $10 million over the past three seasons but declined his 2016 option.

Report: Royals, Mike Moustakas have discussed a two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas stretches at batting practice before Major League Baseball World Series against the New York Mets Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

According to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas told him that his representatives and the Royals have discussed a two-year deal which would buy out his remaining years of arbitration eligibility.

Moustakas earned $2.64 million last season in his first year of eligibility. He filed for $7 million while the Royals countered at $4.2 million.

During the 2015 campaign, the 27-year-old hit .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI across 614 plate appearances. Considering Moustakas had posted an OPS only as high as .708, 2015 was a breakout year for the Royals’ first round pick (second overall) in the 2007 draft.

Rangers avoid arbitration with Jake Diekman for $1.255 million

Newly acquired Texas Rangers pitcher Jake Diekman works against the San Francisco Giants in the seventh inning of a baseball game Friday, July 31, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Jon Heyman reports that the Rangers and reliever Jake Diekman have avoided arbitration in the lefty’s first year of eligibility, agreeing on a one-year, $1.255 million contract for the 2016 season. Diekman had filed for $1.55 million while the Rangers countered at $975,000. As some amount of math will show, Diekman settled for slightly under the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The Rangers acquired Diekman along with ace starter Cole Hamels from the Phillies in a blockbuster trade at the non-waiver trade deadline last season for five minor leaguers and starter Matt Harrison. The 29-year-old finished with an aggregate 4.01 ERA, 69 strikeouts, and 31 walks across 58 1/3 innings. He struggled with the Phillies and turned things around with the Rangers, however. In Texas, he posted a 2.08 ERA with 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 21 2/3 innings.

Diekman features a blazing fastball, clocking in at 96.5 MPH on average, tied with former teammate Ken Giles as the 11th-fastest average fastball last season. He’ll figure to be an important piece in the Rangers’ bullpen for the next few seasons.

Phillies hire former quantitative analyst from Google


On Thursday, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reported that the Phillies hired Andy Galdi as the club’s director of baseball research and development. Galdi spent the last three years working as a quantitative analyst for YouTube, which is owned by Google.

Galdi does have sports experience, as he was a baseball operations intern with the Mets in 2009, then in 2010-11 worked in the NBA Commissioner’s Office as a statistical analyst. He represents the latest in a much more modernized front office in Philadelphia, which saw Pat Gillick step down and Ruben Amaro, Jr. fired. Andy MacPhail took over Gillick’s role as team president, and Matt Klentak was hired from the Angels as the club’s new GM.

During MacPhail’s introductory press conference over the summer, he and part-owner John Middleton discussed the importance of embracing analytics in running a baseball team, something the Phillies were notoriously reluctant to do in previous years. In fact, ESPN The Magazine ranked the Phillies dead last out of 122 professional sports teams in their use of analytics. That the club now has a legitimate analytics department is a huge step up from just two years ago.

Of course, the effects of their modernization are unlikely to be felt in 2016. FanGraphs projects the Phillies to once again finish with baseball’s worst record. However, some recent high draft picks — plus #1 overall this year — and some big returns in the Cole Hamels and Ken Giles trades have bolstered a once desolate minor league system. That, along with their burgeoning analytics department, could bring the Phillies back to relevance soon.