Author: Matthew Pouliot

Ben Zobrist

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

18 Comments

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
1 Comment

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
17 Comments

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
18 Comments

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.

Josh Donaldson, Lorenzo Cain not among Gold Glove finalists

Lorenzo Cain
37 Comments

Rawlings unveiled this year’s Gold Glove finalists on Wednesday, and there were some surprising omissions, especially in the American League. Let’s start there. 2014 winners are asterisked.

American League

Pitcher
Mark Buehrle – Toronto
Sonny Gray – Oakland
Dallas Keuchel – Houston*

Catcher
Jason Castro – Houston
Russell Martin – Toronto
Salvador Perez – Kansas City*

First Base
Eric Hosmer – Kansas City*
Mike Napoli – Texas
Mark Teixeira – New York

Second Base
Jose Altuve – Houston
Brian Dozier – Minnesota
Ian Kinsler – Detroit

Third Base
Adrian Beltre – Texas
Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay
Manny Machado – Baltimore

Shortstop
Xander Bogaerts – Boston
Alcides Escobar – Kansas City
Didi Gregorius – New York

Left Field
Yoenis Cespedes – Detroit
Brett Gardner – New York
Alex Gordon – Kansas City*

Center Field
Kevin Kiermaier – Tampa Bay
Kevin Pillar – Toronto
Mike Trout – Los Angeles

Right Field
Kole Calhoun – Los Angeles
J.D. Martinez – Detroit
Josh Reddick – Oakland

Not making the cut were Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy, both of whom had won three straight Gold Gloves. Dustin Pedroia also missed out after winning back-to-back years, though that’s because he was limited to 93 games this year.

Still, the most notable omission here would seem to be Lorenzo Cain, who gained so much attention for his defense in the 2014 postseason and seemed well positioned after putting in a full season in center this year (he spent considerable time in right field in 2014). The voters got it right by including Kiermaier and Pillar among the finalists despite their middling bats. It’s Trout’s spot that really should have gone to Cain. That said, even though Cain deserved a place in the top three, Kiermaier seems like the best choice for the actual award.

Josh Donaldson‘s omission at third is also odd, particularly in light of his huge offensive numbers (like it or not, offense is usually a key component in getting noticed for Gold Gloves). The metrics say Donaldson ranks among the league’s top third basemen, too, and that he should have gotten Longoria’s spot. Donaldson, though, has always been more error-prone than most, and some are holding it against him.

Also unfortunately absent is Indians rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was the AL’s best defensive shortstop from the moment he was called up this year. Unfortunately, that callup came a few days too late, and he was ineligible for the award because he didn’t play in enough games prior to the beginning September. That’s the case even though he ended up finishing the season with more innings at shortstop (865 1/3) than left field finalist Alex Gordon did in the outfield (864 2/3).

National League

Pitcher
Jake Arrieta – Chicago
Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh
Zack Greinke – Los Angeles*

Catcher
Yadier Molina – St Louis*
Buster Posey – San Francisco
Wilson Ramos – Washington

First Base
Brandon Belt – San Francisco
Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona
Adrian Gonzalez – Los Angeles*

Second Base
Dee Gordon – Miami
DJ LeMahieu – Colorado*
Brandon Phillips – Cincinnati

Third Base
Nolan Arenado – Colorado*
Matt Duffy – San Francisco
Todd Frazier – Cincinnati

Shortstop
Brandon Crawford – San Francisco
Adeiny Hechavarria – Miami
Andrelton Simmons – Atlanta*

Left Field
Starling Marte – Pittsburgh
Justin Upton – San Diego
Christian Yelich – Miami*

Center Field
Billy Hamilton – Cincinnati
Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh
A.J. Pollock – Arizona

Right Field
Curtis Granderson – New York
Bryce Harper – Washington
Jason Heyward – St. Louis*

The NL was much lighter on controversial picks, and one can expect a bunch of repeat winners here. The only certain exception is in center field, where Juan Lagares wasn’t a finalist after being limited by injuries this year. Hamilton or Pollock should get the nod there. I imagine we’ll also see a change from Yelich to Marte in left field and possibly from Gonzalez to Goldschmidt (the 2013 winner) at first base.

The award winners are set to be announced on Nov. 10.