Tigers, Nationals swap hard-throwing relievers

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It’s a challenge trade: the Tigers and Nationals pulled off an exchange of right-handed relievers Ryan Perry and Collin Balester on Friday.

The trade is a bit more surprising from Detroit’s point of view, but it appears that the Tigers soured on Perry as last year went along, even though he pitched better in the second half than the first. Perry, the 21st overall pick in the 2008 draft, ended the year with a 5.35 ERA and a 24/21 K/BB ratio in 37 innings. Overall, he has a 4.07 ERA and a 129/82 K/BB ratio in 161 1/3 innings as a major leaguer.

Balester is viewed more of a flop than Perry, but he also has the better raw stuff; while both tend to throw in the 93-95 mph range, Balester’s curveball is a superior offering to Perry’s slider. It shows in the strikeout numbers, as Balester has fanned 62 in 56 2/3 innings of relief over the last two years.

Balester, though, has more of a wild streak than Perry. He’s also out of options, whereas Perry still has an option year left. That definitely played a role in the Nationals’ thinking here, as they had at least five relievers ahead of Balester on the depth chart.

Personally, I’d give the edge to the Tigers. Perry’s upside appears quite limited at this point, and while he may be a better bet to give a team 65 acceptable innings than Balester, I’d take my chances with Balester fulfilling his potential one of the years. He’s only been a full-time reliever for 1 2/3 seasons now.

MRI reveals rib inflammation for Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo rib inflammation
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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo underwent an MRI on Tuesday that revealed rib inflammation on his left side, Maddie Lee of NBC Sports Chicago reports. Rizzo has been dealing with back soreness for the last week and has missed several intrasquad games as a result.

Rizzo is unsure if he can avoid opening the regular season on the injured list. He said, “I’ll do everything I can to stay off of it, obviously. … Every game’s important. So, we’ve got to get off to a good start and hopefully I’m out there with the guys. I plan on it, but you can’t control it and you’ve got to be smart.”

Rizzo, who turns 31 years old next month, is coming off of another highly productive season in which he hit .293/.405/.520 with 27 home runs, 94 RBI, and 89 runs scored over 613 plate appearances. In the event he needs to open the season on the IL, Victor Caratini figures to get the first crack at handling first base.

The Cubs missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2014, finishing in third place with a 84-78 record. Rizzo, no doubt, will play a big role if the Cubs are to find themselves back in the postseason.