Pelfrey strives to become an "actual pitcher"

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Mike Pelfrey.jpgWednesday has been an incredibly busy day on the MLB news front, so much so that one of my favorite quotes of the afternoon got lost among the abundance of noise.

Here’s Mike Pelfrey, as quoted by Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, after allowing one run on four hits over four innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday:

“I think one day I’d like to become an actual pitcher.”

Though he was speaking in jest, there’s a real kernel of truth in there. The 26-year-old right-hander was recently told by pitching coach Dan Warthen to rely less on his sinker, his primary pitch. In turn, Pelfrey estimates than more than half of the 66 pitches he threw on Wednesday were his secondary offerings  — curveball, slider and splitter.

Of course, Pelfrey has long been praised for his sinker, but while the pitch was a real weapon for him in 2008, he turned in a negative run value with the pitch last season, according to Fangraphs.

Pelfrey was 10-12 with a 5.03 ERA last season, garnering the reputation as a headcase on the bump thanks to six balks, but it probably didn’t help that someone who induced groundballs 50.1 percent of the time had one of baseball’s worst defenses behind him. Thus, we shouldn’t be too surprised to see his batting average on balls (or BABIP) in play go up nearly 20 points to .321 and his strand rate fall to 66.7 percent.

Sure, I understand that news about pitchers tinkering with their arsenals is typical spring training fodder. I get that. I really do. But for a rotation in need of a reliable arm behind Johan Santana, the prospect of Pelfrey becoming less predictable to opposing batters just became an intriguing storyline to track this season. Still, nothing can save him from Luis Castillo patrolling second base.
   

BREAKING: Manny Machado to sign with the Padres: 10 years, $300 million

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Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Manny Machado has a deal with the San Diego Padres. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal is for ten years and $300 million with an opt-out after year five.

At the moment there is some disagreement as to how “done” this deal is, with Padres chairman Ron Fowler saying “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.” Ken Rosenthal, however, says that’s “semantics” and that the financial terms are in place, with the deal requiring over some final touches on language and Machado’s physical, which will likely be a formality.

The Padres were a late entrant into the Machado sweepstakes, but they reportedly met with Machado last week. The club has obviously not won for a long time, but they have a strong farm system. While that usually mitigates against a big free agent signing, Machado’s age — 26 — means that he’s still likely to be a productive player when that core of prospects is mature. And if it doesn’t develop, hey, he’s made some serious bank and can still opt-out at an age when he might get another decent paycheck.

For the Padres, Machado represents the biggest single investment in a player in club history. Last year they spent too, of course, giving Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million contract, but this is definitely next-level. As for the baseball side of things, it’s likely that Machado will be the full-time third baseman with Luis Urias handling shortstop. While all of the talk about Machado over the past several months has been focused on money and, sometimes, his alleged lack of hustle, the Padres are getting a player with a career line of .282/.335/.487 (121 OPS+), 175 career homers and a 33.8 career WAR in seven big league seasons. While he played shortstop last year and as a minor leaguer, his past and future is at third, where he is a superior defender. As for the hustle: it has almost exclusively been an obsession of the media, based on an ill-advised postgame quote in October. He has received no bad reviews from former teammates, all of whom speak highly of his game and his work ethic.

When the offseason began it appeared that the Phillies or the Yankees or, perhaps, the White Sox had the inside track on Machado. Everyone took a wait-and-see approach, reasonably believing that by waiting out Machado, a better deal could be struck. The risk of that approach, of course, is that it allowed the Padres to talk themselves into getting bold and, ultimately, swooping in to strike this deal.