Dick Kaegel is a pretty optimistic guy — he’s predicting the Royals will take the AL Central with 88 wins — but that might not be the craziest thing he wrote in his “10 questions” piece for MLB.com:
Which player will be the biggest surprise of the 2010 season?
I’m picking Betancourt, who’ll find new life under the guidance of
coaches Eddie Rodriguez and Dave Owen. The shortstop seems to be
catching on to nuances of the game that eluded him in his rapid rise to
the Majors after leaving Cuba.
Apparently those nuances don’t include taking pitches or fielding the baseball with any degree of competence. Betancourt is a near-lock to make contact (88.3% for his career),
but that doesn’t make the results any less frustrating. The best
surprise for Royals fans would be if Mike Aviles works his way back
from Tommy John surgery to take the starting shortstop job back from this
sort of mediocrity.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.