The annual BBWAA Awards in New York had to be canceled on Saturday night because of the massive snowstorm that blew across the East Coast, but Bryce Harper accepted his 2015 National League MVP plaque in a smaller, private ceremony and gave a heartfelt speech. He had to fight back tears when he brought up his father, a steelworker who laid rebar for many of the hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas strip and would spend his free time throwing batting practice to his boys.
You can watch part of Harper’s speech here …
Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon got sent home early last season because of a lack of effort. He was then involved in a crazy benches-clearing brawl in the Venezuelan Winter League. And he also recently contracted the chikungunya virus, which caused him to miss a scheduled appearance on the Tigers’ annual caravan tour around the state of Michigan.
An ugly string of events, but the hard-throwing 25-year-old right-hander is expected to report to spring training on time and should be a full participant from the get-go. Tigers GM Al Avila spoke this weekend with Aaron McCann of MLive.com …
“That virus, his virus, it’s a contagious thing,” Avila said Saturday during TigerFest at Comerica Park. “Even though right now he’s probably OK, our doctors felt why put the other guys at risk?
“It was more of a precaution to keep him there, because he’s still not 100 percent ready to go. But from everything our doctors are telling me, he should have no issues in spring training.”
Rondon was once considered the Tigers’ closer of the future and he earned five saves as a fill-in last season, but he has taken a tumble down the bullpen depth chart. He finished the 2015 campaign with a 5.81 ERA in 35 total appearances.
Washington bid close to $200 million on outfielder Jason Heyward before he signed in mid-December with the Chicago Cubs. And the Nationals front office then made a play for Justin Upton before he inked a six-year, $132.75 million contract earlier this week with the Tigers.
It’s pretty clear that the Nationals want to make a big splash, and there’s only one top-tier free agent remaining on the open market. Connect the dots.
Here is FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal …
Could the signing of free-agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes be the next bombshell out of Washington D.C.?
The exact market for Cespedes remains unclear, but the Nationals are indeed pursuing the slugger, according to major-league sources.
Rosenthal says the Nationals have made a formal offer to Cespedes, though it is “said to be for less than the Tigers gave Upton.” Would something in the five-year, $100-110 million range get it done?
Cespedes had the best year of his career in 2015, slashing .291/.328/.542 with 35 home runs and 105 RBI in 159 games between the Tigers and Mets.
The 30-year-old Cuban slugger is not a great on-paper fit for the Nationals’ current roster given that veteran left fielder Jayson Werth is owed $42 million over the next two seasons, right fielder and 2015 MVP Bryce Harper is locked in through 2018, and Ben Revere was brought in this winter to share time with Michael Taylor in center field. But a trade or two could clear some room.
Cespedes is also being pursued by the White Sox and Mets, but both of those teams are reluctant to go beyond three years. It’s a winnable bidding war for the Nats, who were a major disappointment last season.
From Jon Heyman of MLB Network comes word that the Red Sox have avoided arbitration with reliever Junichi Tazawa by agreeing to a one-year, $3.375 million contract for 2016.
This was Tazawa’s final turn through the arbitration process. He can become a free agent leading into the 2017 season.
Tazawa faltered to the tune of a 4.14 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 2015, but he put up a stellar 2.62 ERA and 1.135 WHIP in 175 1/3 innings between 2012-2014.
Boston is hoping that the offseason additions of Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith will help Tazawa and fellow Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara avoid second-half fatigue in 2016. Tazawa made 71 appearances last year and 71 appearances the year before.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Mets have agreed to terms on a contract with free agent left-hander Antonio Bastardo. It’s a two-year, $12 million deal, per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.
Bastardo, 30, posted a 2.98 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and 64/24 K/BB ratio in 57 1/3 innings last season for the Pirates while holding left-handed batters to a .138/.233/.215 slash line. For his career, Bastardo boasts a .178/.277/.319 slash versus lefty hitters.
Bastardo is obviously not Yoenis Cespedes, but he is a nice fit for the Mets’ bullpen mix in 2016.
The southpaw also drew interest this winter from the Blue Jays, Orioles, Twins, Cubs, and Dodgers.