Joey Votto, Nick Swisher named to All-Star teams

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The winners of the Final Vote were announced Thursday as the the Reds’ Joey Votto and the Yankees’ Nick Swisher. Both have won fabulous all expenses-paid trips to beautiful Anaheim, California for a two-day All-Star extravaganza in which they’ll be able to mingle with elite superstars such as Albert Pujols (hold for applause), Alex Rodriguez (ooh, aah) and Omar “The Exterminator” Infante.
It will be the first All-Star appearances for both players. Votto, the current NL leader in OPS, won his vote easily, being singled out on approximately half of the ballots cast in the NL vote.
Swisher’s victory over Kevin Youkilis is being billed as the closest in the vote’s nine-year history. He ranks 12th in the AL in OPS, tied for 15th in homers and 23rd in RBI. That makes him a worthy, if borderline, AL All-Star. He just doesn’t compare to Youkilis, who is currently fourth in the league in OPS and was a far superior player each of the previous two years as well.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.