Author: Matthew Pouliot

Mike Piazza

HOF voters: choose Mike Piazza or accuse him of using steroids


Jeff Bagwell gave the Hall of Fame voters an easy way out. Sure, his body of work leaves him qualified for Cooperstown based on the standards for first basemen, but he didn’t bat .300 for his career or hit 500 homers. His one MVP season came in strike-shortened 1994. That’s also the only year he led the league in a Triple Crown category.

Thus, a Hall of Fame voter can look at Bagwell’s record and say it’s not quite Hall of Fame worthy, all without getting into the messy steroid issue.

Will they be able to do the same for Mike Piazza? A career .308/.377/.545 hitter with 427 homers in 16 seasons, Piazza is pretty obviously the greatest offensive catcher the game has ever seen. His 143 OPS+ is well in front of any other player to catch at least 70 percent of his games. Joe Mauer is next at 135, and he’s yet to enter his decline phase. Mickey Cochrane is third at 129, followed by Bill Dickey and Johnny Bench.

Of course, Piazza’s defensive reputation was shaky at its best, dreadful at its worst. But that was mostly (almost entirely?) due to his arm. It doesn’t seem like he ever held back his his teams. Here are the NL ERA ranks from all of Piazza’s staffs in his years as a team’s primary catcher:

1993 Dodgers: 3rd
1994 Dodgers: 9th
1995 Dodgers: 2nd
1996 Dodgers: 1st
1997 Dodgers: 2nd
1998 Mets: 4th
1999 Mets: 5th
2000 Mets: 3rd
2001 Mets: 5th
2002 Mets: 5th
2005 Mets: 3rd
2006 Padres: 1st

So, how bad of a defensive catcher could he have been? In 12 years as a primary catcher, his pitchers finished in the top third of the league in ERA 11 times.

(And whether it’s worth pointing out or not, the 1994 Dodgers, the one odd ball on the list, had a 3.97 ERA with Piazza catching and a 5.28 ERA with Carlos Hernandez and Tom Prince behind the plate.)

All of this has been a long-winded way of saying there’s absolutely no way to justify leaving Piazza out of the Hall of Fame based on performance. We can argue whether Piazza is inner-circle or not, but he’s certainly a Hall of Famer according the numbers. Still, I’m guessing he’ll be left off 35-45 percent of the ballots when the votes are counted in January, despite never having failed a drug test.

And for that reason, I’m challenging Hall of Fame voters; if you don’t vote for him, call him out for using steroids. Say “I’m not voting for Piazza because I think he was a cheater.” Preferably present some evidence if you have it, but whether you do or not, make the reason clear. No wishy-washy stuff. There’s no excuse for leaving him off the ballot otherwise.

Breaking down Friday’s non-tenders: Wilson, Reynolds and more

Brian Wilson Getty

Here’s the official list of Friday’s non-tenders:

American League

Angels: none

Athletics: OF Jermaine Mitchell

Mitchell had already been designated for assignment. He had a breakthrough 2011 in Triple-A, hitting .302/.401/.453, but he regressed to .252/.345/.386 for Sacramento last season.

Astros: none

Blue Jays: C Bobby Wilson

Wilson is minor league contract material. The 29-year-old has hit .208/.272/.321 in 389 major league at-bats. 

Indians: 3B Jack Hannahan, LHP Rafael Perez, LHP Chris Seddon

The Indians seem to like Hannahan as a part-timer, but they paid him $1.75 million to hit .244/.312/.341 last season. Maybe he’ll be brought back for less if he doesn’t find the open market to his liking. Perez is a goner after shoulder surgery limited him to eight appearances last season, but there will be several teams interested in taking a flier on him.

Mariners: INF Robert Andino

Andino would have been non-tendered by the Orioles, but the Mariners traded outfielder Trayvon Robinson for him earlier this month, apparently with the idea that he wouldn’t be looking for much of a raise on top of the $1.3 million he made last season. He balked, so he’s gone for now. He could always be re-signed if he doesn’t find free agency to his liking.

And the Mariners have already re-signed Andino to a one-year contract. He’ll serve as a backup at both middle infield spots next year.

Orioles: RHP Stuart Pomeranz, INF Omar Quintanilla, 1B Mark Reynolds

Reynolds says the Orioles didn’t even offer him a deal after a down season in which he hit .221 with 23 homers in 538 at-bats. He could bounce back to 30 homers next year and he has more defensive value at first than he did at third, so some team could commit $8 million to him on a one-year contract.

Rangers: RHP Jake Brigham, 1B Brandon Snyder, C Geovany Soto

The Rangers traded Brigham to the Cubs for Soto in July and then took him back earlier this month as a result of his arm problems (the Cubs ended up getting RHP Barret Loux instead). It’s a pretty good guess that he’ll will be re-signed to a minor league deal. … Soto, on the other hand, seems likely to depart after he failed to come to terms on a one-year deal. Even though he hit just .198/.270/.343 in 324 at-bats last season, he could well wind up as a starter. Expect the Yankees to give him a look.

Rays: OF Ben Francisco

Francisco’s OPS has dropped three years running (he came in at .670 in 2012), and he hasn’t hit lefties the last two seasons. He’s not worth a guaranteed roster spot at this point.

Red Sox: RHP Scott Atchison, LHP Rich Hill, OF Ryan Sweeney

No Alfredo Aceves, though that seemed to be a given when he wasn’t let go prior to the purge of non-arbitration eligible players last week. … Atchison was Boston’s best pitcher last season, finishing with a 1.58 ERA in 51 1/3 innings. Hill was also quite effective, amassing a 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings after returning from Tommy John surgery. One gathers that the Red Sox will attempt to re-sign both, but there’s certainly no reason for either to accept minor league contracts. … Sweeney hit .260/.303/.373 in 62 games last season before going down with a self-inflicted hand injury.

Royals: OF Derrick Robinson

Luke Hochevar keeps his spot despite last season’s 5.73 ERA and a likely $4 million salary. … Robinson reached Triple-A in his seventh season in the Royals minor league system, hitting .268/.344/.325 with 23 steals for Omaha. Even a future as a fifth outfielder seems unlikely at this point. He could be re-signed to a minor league deal.

Tigers: LHP Daniel Schlereth

A key component in the big Curtis Granderson-Max Scherzer-Edwin Jackson deal, Schlereth was supposed to develop into a big-time reliever after getting sent from Arizona to Detroit. However, his command has never come around and he missed most of last season with shoulder woes. The Tigers will try to keep him in the organization on a minor league contract.

Twins: RHP Lester Oliveros

Oliveros remains a promising reliever, but Tommy John surgery will sideline him for most or all of 2013. The Twins will want to re-sign him to a minor league deal.

White Sox: RHP Anthony Carter, 1B Dan Johnson

Carter was an intriguing relief prospect a couple of years ago, but he’s stumbled to 5.84 and 4.60 ERAs the last two seasons. Johnson would make for nice insurance for Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, but he’s the kind of player the White Sox would much prefer to have on a minor league deal than occupying a 40-man roster spot.

Yankees: none

National League

Braves: RHP Jair Jurrjens, RHP Peter Moylan

After two lost seasons due to back and shoulder seasons, Moylan wasn’t going to get much of a guarantee from the Braves. However, he’s healthy now and he should draw quite a bit of interest. … That Jurrjens went 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 2011 has already been forgotten after a 2012 season in which he showed diminished stuff and got knocked around in 10 starts. No one was interested in acquiring him and paying him $6 million through the arbitration process, but now that he’s free, several teams will come calling. 

Brewers: LHP Manny Parra

Parra was nearly non-tendered last winter, but the team opted to give him one more chance. A full-time reliever for the first time, he had a 5.06 ERA in 62 appearances, though it did come with 61 strikeouts and just three homers allowed in 58 2/3 innings. He still has plus stuff, and several teams will think they can get better results from him.

Cardinals: none

Cubs: RHP Zach Putnam, RHP Jaye Chapman, 3B Ian Stewart

Stewart was known to be long gone after hitting .201/.292/.335 in 55 games and then missing the rest of the season with a wrist injury. In such a thin third base market, he could get a chance to compete for a starting job elsewhere in the spring. The two righties will likely be offered minor league contracts to stick around.

Diamondbacks: C Wil Nieves

The Diamondbacks won’t splurge on a backup catcher, but it won’t be hard to find an upgrade over Nieves, even if was a nice surprise in limited action last season (.301/.330/.410 in 83 AB).

Dodgers: none

Giants: RHP Brian Wilson

Even though he missed all but the first 10 days of the season following Tommy John surgery, Wilson wasn’t interested in taking a significant paycut. He’ll draw plenty of interest in free agency, so his Giants career is almost surely over. Between Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla, the Giants will be spending plenty on their bullpen regardless. 

Marlins: none

Mets: RHP Manny Acosta, RHP Mike Pelfrey, OF Andres Torres

Pelfrey’s non-tender was a given after he underwent Tommy John surgery. The Mets will likely attempt to re-sign him for about half of the $5.6875 million he made last season. … Acosta shook off a horrible start to post a 1.78 ERA in the second half of the season. He would have earned $1.5 million or less in arbitration, so it’s disappointing the Mets didn’t bring him back. … Torres will be looked at as a fourth or fifth outfielder after hitting .230/.327/.337 in his lone year with the Mets.

Nationals: C Jesus Flores, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, LHP John Lannan

It seems like the Nationals are just throwing away a fair amount of talent here, but it must be that no one offered anything in trade. Lannan was likely due about $6 million in arbitration, Gorzelanny $3.5 million and Flores $1.2 million. Lannan is a lock to wind up in some team’s rotation next year after the Nationals allowed him to waste away in Triple-A for much of 2012. Gorzelanny had a nice 2.88 ERA in 72 innings out of the pen last season. Flores was a disappointment after initially stepping in for the injured Wilson Ramos, hitting .213/.248/.329 in 277 at-bats. Still, someone will want him as a backup.

Padres: LHP Juan Oramas

Oramas, who went 3-4 with a 6.37 ERA in eight Double-A starts last season, will miss at least the first couple of months of 2013 after Tommy John surgery. The Padres will likely re-sign him to a minor league contract.

Phillies: OF Nate Schierholtz

With his fine defense in right field, Schierholtz makes for a quality fourth outfielder. The only problem there is that he has yet to resign himself to a career as a bench player, and he’s made it clear he much prefers to start. He hit .257/.321/.407 in 241 at-bats for the Giants and Phillies last season.

Pirates: RHP Jeff Karstens

I never imagined Karstens would stick when he originally came up with the Yankees, but he’s added some velocity through the years and he posted ERAs of 3.38 in 162 1/3 innings in 2011 and 3.97 in 90 2/3 innings last season. He’s a fringe guy as a full-time starter, but as a swingman, he’d be very handy to have around.

Reds: INF-OF Kris Negron, OF Denis Phipps

Two expendable players. The 26-year-old Negron is very versatile, but he’s posted OPSs of .607 and .628 in two years in Triple-A. Phipps has a little pop and enough range to handle center on a part-time basis, but he just isn’t good enough in any one area to carve out a career.

Rockies: none

Astros claim RHP Philip Humber off waivers from White Sox

Philip Humber

Update: And the Astros have already signed Humber to a one-year deal with a club option for 2014. No word on the terms yet, but a guarantee around $2 million seems likely.


The White Sox were planning to non-tender Philip Humber before Friday’s deadline, but they went ahead and placed him on waivers beforehand, thinking they might pick up a few bucks in process. The Astros took advantage, grabbing Humber with their No. 1 waiver priority.

Humber threw a perfect game against the Mariners in April, yet he finished the season 5-5 with a 6.44 ERA in 16 starts and 10 relief appearances for the Pale Hose. It was quite a comedown after a fine 2011 season in which he went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 163 innings.

Assuming that the Astros work out a contract with Humber, he’ll join a rotation set to include Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell (another guy who was claimed off waivers from the White Sox) and Jordan Lyles. Humber is eligible for arbitration for the first time, so he wouldn’t stand to make more than $1.5 million-$2 million in 2013.

The White Sox also today announced that first baseman Dan Johnson and minor league right-hander Anthony Carter have been non-tendered. Those two could be offered minor league contracts to stick around.

Francisco Rodriguez has domestic violence charges dismissed

Francisco Rodriguez
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With seemingly no one interested in testifying against him, Francisco Rodriguez had the domestic violence charges brought against him in Wisconsin dropped on Thursday.

K-Rod was accused of striking and injuring his 23-year-old girlfriend in September, but the woman later recanted and said that Rodriguez didn’t cause her injuries.

Both the woman and a member of the household staff in Rodriguez’s home that night who witnessed the argument have returned to Venezuela and haven’t responded to the prosecutor attempting to bring the case to trial.

“At this point, I can’t drag her back kicking and screaming,” district attorney Brad Schimel told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Regardless of how the dismissal unfolded, not having the case hanging over his head will make Rodriguez a more attractive free agent this winter. Still, this being his second domestic violence arrest, some teams are certain to stay away. At 31, it’s unlikely that he’s finished as a quality reliever. However, he’s no longer so good that teams will overlook his baggage.

Twins’ overhaul can’t stop with Denard Span trade

Josh Willingham, Denard Span, Ben Revere

After consecutive seasons of 99 and 96 losses, the obvious answer for the Twins is to tear it all down. True change, though, hasn’t come to Minnesota in a long time.

These Twins have employed two managers in 25 years, with Ron Gardenhire replacing Tom Kelly in 2002. General manager Terry Ryan spent 14 years on the job, stepped down in favor of his longtime assistant, Bill Smith, in 2007 and then came back a year ago only after Smith proved totally inadequate.

When the Twins decided to make some coaching changes at season’s end, it was mostly a reshuffling. The new hitting coach simply moved up from Triple-A. The old hitting coach became the third base coach. The old bench coach became the first base coach.

The Twins finally made a real move for the future Thursday when they traded center fielder Denard Span to the Nationals for a top pitching prospect in righty Alex Meyer. Even that was a compromise move, though. Trading Span isn’t starting over. It only clears $4.75 million from the 2013 payroll. And his replacement, Ben Revere, is a very similar player who probably won’t ever be as good as Span is.

That’s why this can only be the first domino to fall. Trading Span and keeping Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham would be crazy. With their unexceptional farm system, the Twins aren’t going to contend the next two years. There’s a case for holding on to Mauer as the face of the franchise, but Morneau and Willingham aren’t great bets for 2015, which is the year the Twins need to be thinking about now.