Tommy Hunter expected to take over closer role for Orioles

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Now that Fernando Rodney has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract with the Mariners, Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com writes that Tommy Hunter is expected to take over the closer role for the Orioles.

Of course, that wasn’t the original plan. After the Orioles traded Jim Johnson to the Athletics in early December, they soon agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal with Grant Balfour. However, the signing was nixed due to concerns raised in a physical and Balfour eventually landed with the Rays. While the Orioles were linked to Rodney, they will now go in-house to replace Johnson.

Hunter was a full-time reliever for the first time last season, posting a 2.81 ERA and a 68/14 K/BB ratio over 86 1/3 innings. He also notched four saves. The 27-year-old right-hander has experienced a big velocity spike in the bullpen, though it hasn’t translated to an elite strikeout rate. Hunter doesn’t induce grounders like Johnson did and left-handed batters have been a trouble spot for him, so it might not be a smooth transition.

BREAKING: Manny Machado to sign with the Padres: 10 years, $300 million

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Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Manny Machado has a deal with the San Diego Padres. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the deal is for ten years and $300 million with an opt-out after year five.

At the moment there is some disagreement as to how “done” this deal is, with Padres chairman Ron Fowler saying “We do not have a deal. We are continuing discussions.” Ken Rosenthal, however, says that’s “semantics” and that the financial terms are in place, with the deal requiring over some final touches on language and Machado’s physical, which will likely be a formality.

The Padres were a late entrant into the Machado sweepstakes, but they reportedly met with Machado last week. The club has obviously not won for a long time, but they have a strong farm system. While that usually mitigates against a big free agent signing, Machado’s age — 26 — means that he’s still likely to be a productive player when that core of prospects is mature. And if it doesn’t develop, hey, he’s made some serious bank and can still opt-out at an age when he might get another decent paycheck.

For the Padres, Machado represents the biggest single investment in a player in club history. Last year they spent too, of course, giving Eric Hosmer an eight-year, $144 million contract, but this is definitely next-level. As for the baseball side of things, it’s likely that Machado will be the full-time third baseman with Luis Urias handling shortstop. While all of the talk about Machado over the past several months has been focused on money and, sometimes, his alleged lack of hustle, the Padres are getting a player with a career line of .282/.335/.487 (121 OPS+), 175 career homers and a 33.8 career WAR in seven big league seasons. While he played shortstop last year and as a minor leaguer, his past and future is at third, where he is a superior defender. As for the hustle: it has almost exclusively been an obsession of the media, based on an ill-advised postgame quote in October. He has received no bad reviews from former teammates, all of whom speak highly of his game and his work ethic.

When the offseason began it appeared that the Phillies or the Yankees or, perhaps, the White Sox had the inside track on Machado. Everyone took a wait-and-see approach, reasonably believing that by waiting out Machado, a better deal could be struck. The risk of that approach, of course, is that it allowed the Padres to talk themselves into getting bold and, ultimately, swooping in to strike this deal.