Rangers sign Conor Jackson, Joe Beimel to minors deals

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Texas added some depth today, signing first baseman/corner outfielder Conor Jackson and left-handed reliever Joe Beimel to minor-league contracts with invitations to spring training.

Jackson’s career was derailed by valley fever in 2009. At the time he was a 27-year-old former first-round pick with a .287 career batting average and .810 OPS in 454 games, but in three seasons since then he’s hit just .224 with a .635 OPS in 204 games.

He made $3.3 million last year while playing for the A’s and Red Sox, but will have to compete for a spot as a right-handed bench bat.

Beimel is 35 years old and coming off his worst season since 2004, but he posted a sub-4.00 ERA every year from 2005-2010 and could be useful as a left-handed specialist or middle reliever. Texas has plenty of bullpen depth overall, but not much in the way of veteran southpaws.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.