Author: Matthew Pouliot

Ryan Klesko outdoorsman

Ryan Klesko was better than you remember

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The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff ran down every player on the Hall of Fame ballot in his column today, but this is all he had to say about Ryan Klesko:

A name we remember from the ‘90s Braves run, but not for anything in particular he did. He was a solid outfielder. No.

That’s about a quarter of the writeup that Jeff Conine, Roberto Hernandez and Aaron Sele received. Only Todd Walker got shorter shrift.

ESPN’s Jim Caple did something similar, though his column, as typical, was as much humor as baseball. Even so, Klesko got the shortest writeup, or at least tied with Jeff Cirillo:

Yes, he belongs on the ballot. After all, he was a one-time All-Star and a third-place rookie of the year finalist!

So, I think Klesko deserves better. One-time All-Star hardly does him justice.

A part-time player initially, Klesko nonetheless had a .907 OPS in 92 games in 1994 and a 1.004 OPS in 107 games in 1995 (both strike-shortened years). In the 11 years from 1994-2003, he never once finished with an OPS under .800. He topped .900 six times. And he did it while typically playing in pitcher’s parks.

143 players have had at least 6,000 plate appearances since 1990. Their OPS+s ranged from 195 (Barry Bonds) to 75 (Brad Ausmus). Klesko comes in 34th on that list at 128, placing him right there with Bobby Abreu, David Justice, John Olerud and Sammy Sosa (all 129) and Moises Alou, Ellis Burks and Tim Salmon (all 128). That’s not quite Hall of Fame territory, but it certainly makes for a heck of a career.

And as for doing nothing memorable, well, you know, he did homer in three straight World Series games for the 1995 Braves in their lone championship in the last 50 years.

So, no, Klesko isn’t a Hall of Famer or anything particularly close. But for 11 years, he was one of the NL’s top threats against right-handed pitching and a guy who typically hit third or fifth for six postseason teams. I think that’s worth a few sentences.

Former major leaguer Frank Pastore dies after four weeks in coma

Frank Pastore
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Former Reds pitcher Frank Pastore, who was injured in a car accident on Nov. 19, passed away Monday afternoon after four weeks in a coma.

The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported last month that Pastore was driving a motorcycle when he was struck by a car. The driver of the car had lost control, according to California Highway Patrol Sgt. Aaron Knarr, and hit Pastore’s Honda Shadow in the car pool lane. The driver of the car wasn’t hurt and was not intoxicated.

Pastore, 55, went 48-58 with a 4.29 ERA in an eight-year major league career that spanned 1979-86. He spent his first seven years with the Reds before finishing out his career as a reliever for the Twins. He had his best year in 1980, going 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA and a 110/42 K/BB ratio in 184 2/3 innings. Before the accident, he hosted a Christian radio show on KKLA in Los Angeles.

Wladimir Balentien, Lastings Milledge get multiyear deals in Japan

Lastings Milledge Getty
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For the longest time, it was unheard of for Japanese teams to sign its gaijin, or foreign-born players, to multiyear deals. That’s changed of late, though, and the Yakult Swallows have inked three of their imports to two- and three-year deals, MLB Trade Rumors reports.

According to Tim Dierkes, the Swallows have re-signed outfielder Wladmir Balentien to a three-year, $7.5 million contract, outfielder Lastings Milledge to a three-year, $4.4 million contract and reliever Tony Barnette to a two-year, $3.2 million contract.

Balentien hit .272/.386/.572 with a Central League-high 31 homers last year in his second season in Japan. Milledge hit .300/.379/.485 with 21 homers. The two were easily the Swallows’ best hitters; no one else on the squad managed an .800 OPS.

Barnette had 33 saves and a 1.82 ERA as the team’s closer.

While there probably weren’t any major league teams craving another shot at Milledge or Barnette, Balentien likely would have drawn some interest had he waited another year and chosen to return to the United States. The 28-year-old disappointed in his early major league stints, but he hardly embarrassed himself. After getting traded away from the Mariners and out of Safeco, he hit a respectable .264/.352/.427 in 110 at-bats for the Reds in 2009.

Blue Jays, Mets finalize seven-player R.A. Dickey trade

R.A. Dickey, Travis d'Arnaud
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R.A. Dickey passed his physical, clearing the final hurdle for his trade to Toronto. Here’s the official transaction:

Blue Jays acquire RHP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole and C Mike Nickeas from the Mets for C Travis d’Arnaud, C John Buck, RHP Noah Syndergaard and OF Wuilmer Becerra.

The final two names — those of Nickeas and Becerras — were just revealed today, and that part of the swap certainly favors the Mets. The soon-to-be 30-year-old Nickeas is strictly a third catcher; he’ll be called up to serve as a backup in the event of an injury to J.A. Arrencibia or Thole. Becerra has no track record to speak of — he played in just 11 games in his pro debut last season before getting drilled in the face and suffering a broken jaw — but he’s just 18 and he was a big signing out of Venezuela in 2011.

We also learned that there’s no cash in the deal, meaning that the Mets thought it was worth taking on Buck’s entire salary to get both d’Arnaud and Syndergaard in the deal. Buck was actually slated to be the most expensive player in the deal for 2013; he’s due $6 million, while Dickey was set to make $5 million. However, Dickey will be receiving a bit more now after agreeing to an extension as part of the deal.

That extension rips up Dickey’s previous deal, replacing it with a three-year, $29 million contract that includes a $12 million team option for 2016. It’s a bargain for a reigning Cy Young winner. For comparison’s sake, Zack Greinke will average $24.5 million per season as part of his six-year deal with the Dodgers.

Dickey will head a Toronto rotation also set to include Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Thole will likely serve as the knuckleballer’s personal catcher, with Arencibia handling the rest of the staff.

The Mets, obviously, get less help for 2013. While d’Arnaud may get a chance to compete for a starting job in spring training, expectations are that he’ll spend a couple of months in Triple-A to start the year, pushing back his free agency clock. The Mets will likely go with Buck as a starter and sign a cheap backup, hoping that Buck plays well enough to give himself a little trade value come June or July.

Still, if the Mets felt that had to trade Dickey (though they most certainly didn’t), this isn’t a bad return at all. D’Arnaud has All-Star potential and should be a solid regular at worst. Syndergaard, a 2010 supplemental first-round pick, is one of the game’s top 25 pitching prospects. He’ll open 2013 in high-A ball and perhaps contribute in 2014. Becerra is a lottery ticket.

The Jays are now the obvious favorites in the AL East, barring a surprise blitz from the Yankees. There are still some question marks in the bullpen, but the lineup could challenge for the AL lead in runs and the rotation is as talented as any in the league.

A’s sign Hiroyuki Nakajima for two years, $6.5 million

Hiroyuki Nakajima
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The A’s moved quickly on to their backup plan after losing out on Stephen Drew, signing import Hiroyuki Nakajima to take over at shortstop, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal and others. The San Francisco Chronice’s Susan Slusser reports that it’s a two-year, $6.5 million deal with a $5.5 million option for 2015.

Nakajima, 30, hit .311/.382/.451 with 13 homers and 74 RBI for the Seibu Lions last season, finishing second in the Pacific League in both average and OBP. He was fourth in slugging percentage.

The Lions originally posted Nakajima last winter, with the Yankees winning his rights, but he opted to return to Japan for another year rather than accept a modest offer and a utility role in New York. He was a free agent this time around.

Nakajima’s signing should complete a flexible A’s lineup, which might look something like this:

LF Coco Crisp – S
CF Chris Young – R
DH Yoenis Cespedes – R
RF Josh Reddick – L
3B Josh Donaldson – R
1B Brandon Moss – L
C Derek Norris – R/George Kottaras – L
SS Hiroyuki Nakajima – R
2B Jemile Weeks – S/Scott Sizemore – R

Alternatively, Nakajima or Weeks could hit second and bump Young down to fifth if either impresses in spring training. Also, there will be plenty of movement around the outfield, with Cespedes getting lots of starts there, and Seth Smith is still around as a DH against right-handers.