Smoltz falls short in bid to qualify for U.S. Open

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smoltz-golf-100510.jpgWe learned last week that former pitching great John Smoltz was going to play in a local qualifier in hopes of advancing to play in one of golf’s biggest tournaments: the U.S. Open.

Unfortunately, we find out today that Smoltz, despite carrying a 2-handicap, came up short. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

He didn’t embarrass himself, but didn’t make it, either. His 6-over 76 was six shots away from contention. Smoltz didn’t play poorly, but he failed to hit his approach shots close enough to give himself a chance to make birdies.

The real difference came on the greens, where Smoltz had trouble getting anything to drop. After missing a two-footer on his 11th hole, he quipped, “That’s what happens when you don’t putt gimmes.” He later predicted a putter change, saying he’d probably make a call to the bullpen for one of the 25 different putters he owns.

Despite his putting woes, Smoltz showed he still had the ability to close the deal when he banged in a 20-footer to save par on the final hole, a conclusion that drew applause from the 100 or more who gathered there to watch.

His dream temporarily dashed, Smoltz will return to broadcasting games for MLB and the Turner Network, and presumably, since he has yet to retire, searching for a team. Smoltz has said he would like to play on the Champions Tour when he becomes eligible – by turning 50 – in 2017. With seven years to practice, and Smoltz’s competitive fire, don’t be surprised if it happens.

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Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.