Matthew Pouliot

Starlin Castro
AP Photo

Yankees acquire Starlin Castro from Cubs

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The Yankees have themselves a new second baseman, acquiring Starlin Castro from the Cubs in exchange for right-hander Adam Warren and a player to be named.

Castro is coming off a disappointing age-25 campaign in which he hit .265/.296/.375 in 547 at-bats. He’s a career .281/.321/.404 hitter in 3,524 at-bats since debuting at age 20.

In return, the Cubs, who just landed Ben Zobrist to take over at second base, pick up a pretty useful piece in Warren, who had a 3.29 ERA in 17 starts and 26 relief appearances for the Yankees last season. He’ll most likely be in the pen initially, but his addition gives the Cubs four experienced rotation fallbacks, what with Travis WoodTrevor Cahill and Clayton Richard already on the roster.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports, the Cubs will not be picking up any of the $38 million that Castro is owed over the next four years.

Oddly enough, this trade comes together because of one that never did in July: the A’s sought to get Warren and second baseman Rob Refsnyder from the Yankees for Zobrist then. The Yankees turned them down, not wanting to trade Warren for two months of Zobrist. Now they are trading Warren for a player expendable because another team signed Zobrist.

UPDATE: The player to be named is reportedly veteran utilityman Brendan Ryan.

 

Cubs sign INF/OF Zobrist to four-year, $56 million pact

Ben Zobrist
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The Cubs have beaten out the Mets, Nationals and Giants for Ben Zobrist‘s services.

He’s getting a four-year, $56 million contract.

Zobrist, who turns 35 in May, won a World Series with Kansas City after hitting .276/.359/.450 in 467 at-bats for the A’s and Royals last year. One of the game’s most consistent hitters, he’s batted between .269 and .276 each of the last five years, also posting at least a .350 OBP each season.

Unfortunately, Zobrist’s defensive numbers took a huge hit last year, both as a second baseman and as an outfielder. One could choose to ignore those metrics, but those are the same metrics that rated him as such a valuable defender earlier in his career.

Zobrist has indicated he’d prefer to focus on one position next year. The Cubs have the ability to trade Starlin Castro and/or Javier Baez and turn second base over to Zobrist. Left field is also an option, though that depends on what happens with Kyle Schwarber. Whether it happens in 2016 or not, Zobrist figures to spend the majority of his contract as a corner outfielder.

Report: Braves sign Tyler Flowers to two-year deal

Tyler Flowers
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The rebuilding Braves have decided to go with a catching duo of 39-year-old A.J. Pierzynski and 30-year-old Tyler Flowers after signing Flowers to a two-year deal on Tuesday.

USATODAY’s Bob Nightengale reports that the contract is worth $5.3 million.

Flowers, a former Braves prospect, hit .239/.295/.356 in 331 at-bats as the White Sox’s primary catcher last year. He’s a career .223/.289/.376 hitter in 1,267 at-bats. While he wasn’t previously known for his defense, he’s recently gotten very good grades for his pitch-framing.

The Braves’ addition means there’s no longer any room on the team for former top prospect Cristian Bethancourt, who is out of options. He’ll likely be traded in the coming months.

Report: Cubs in on Ben Zobrist, talking to Yankees about Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro Getty
Getty Images
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With Ben Zobrist reportedly nearing his decision time, the Cubs could be looking to free up time for the super super-utilityman by sending Starlin Castro to the Yankees, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports.

The Yankees have second base open for Castro and wouldn’t be overly afraid of the $38 million he’s owed over the next four years. They could even send Brett Gardner back to the Cubs, matching up the salaries (Gardner is owed $38 million for the next three years or $48.5 million for four). It’s doubtful the Yankees would do that as a straight-up deal, though.

Newsday’s Marc Carig confirmed with a source that the Cubs are very much in on Zobrist.

Zobrist is close to deciding on his next team, and he’s indicated that he’d like to play one position primarily, preferably second base. The Cubs could make that happen, though the same goes for the Mets and Nationals. FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi reports that Zobrist has a four-year offer in hand.

UPDATE: The New York Post’s Joel Sherman says Gardner is not involved in the Cubs-Yankees trade discussions.

UPDATE 2: Rosenthal reports that Zobrist is choosing between similar offers from the Cubs and Mets.

 

 

 

Remembering Tommy Hanson’s talent

Tommy Hanson
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I know next to nothing of the person Tommy Hanson was, though I’ve never heard anything bad. I can only write about the pitcher who immediately became one of my favorites after bursting onto the scene in 2009.

That pitcher was pretty awesome from day one. Well, day 11 anyway. He didn’t allow a single run in his third, fourth and fifth big-league starts. He opened his career 9-2, with the Braves getting shut out in both of his losses.

Hanson wasn’t always brilliant in those days, but he was a constant threat to bring no-hit stuff to the mound with him. When he had both his slider and his curve working, there was nothing anyone could do against him other than to try to wait him out. It had to have been a helpless feeling for right-handed hitters in particular. Hanson almost looked like he was cracking a whip in his delivery, and he truly did snap off those breaking balls.

Hanson finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting despite his late callup in 2009. The next year, he made 34 starts with a 3.33 ERA.

It was in 2011 that Hanson broke through as an elite pitcher. On June 12, he struck out 14 Astros to improve to 8-4 with a 2.48 ERA. Five days later, he was placed on the DL with shoulder tendinitis. Unfortunately, the Braves let him return to the mound just 11 days afterwards. He was effective for another five weeks (and somehow passed over for the All-Star Game despite being 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA), but then the shoulder shut him down again. Never again would we see peak Tommy Hanson.

Hanson came back and made 31 starts in 2012, but he never had his former velocity. It was impressive enough that he went 13-10 with a 4.48 ERA anyway. Everyone knew he was damaged goods, yet the Angels traded for him the following winter. He made 13 more big-league starts in 2013, posting a 5.42 ERA.

Even though his stuff wasn’t coming back, Hanson never gave up on pitching. He made 10 starts for the White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate in 2014. In 2015, he pitched in the Giants system, amassing a 4.76 ERA in 15 starts.

Hanson was just 29 when he died Monday. What led to his catastrophic organ failure is unclear at this point. Knowing the cause won’t make it any less sad.

It’d be wrong to say Hanson failed to fulfill his potential as a big-league pitcher. He did. His time just didn’t last nearly long enough, neither in MLB nor on Earth.