Former top prospect Dennis Tankersley attempts comeback with Padres

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Four years after his last minor league appearance and eight years since he last saw the majors, right-hander Dennis Tankersley is attempting a comeback. He signed a minor league deal with the Padres, his former team.

Tankersley was just a 38th-round pick of the Red Sox in 1998, but given his early success, it appalled many when he was traded to San Diego for Ed Sprague two years later. He quickly emerged as a top arm in the San Diego system, going 10-4 with a 1.98 ERA and a 173/44 K/BB ratio in three stops in 2001. Baseball America rated him the franchise’s No. 2 prospect entering 2002, sandwiching him between Sean Burroughs and Jake Peavy.

Unfortunately, Tankersley never could establish himself in the majors. He went 1-4 with an 8.06 ERA in nine starts and eight relief appearances in 2002. In 2003, he had one disastrous appearance with the Padres, giving up seven runs without retiring a batter. He was a bit more successful in 2004, but he still had an 0-5 record to go along with his 5.14 ERA in six starts and three relief appearances. Overall, he was 1-10 with a 7.61 ERA and a 68/61 K/BB ratio in 86 1/3 innings.

After 2004, Tankersley spent four more seasons in Triple-A rotations, never bettering a 4.00 ERA in any of them. He was last seen going 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA for the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in 2008.

Tankersley is still just 33, and if his arm is sound, there’s little harm in giving him a shot. He’ll probably top out in Triple-A again, but with pitchers, one never knows for sure. Just ask the Giants about Ryan Vogelsong.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.