Felix Hernandez was no match for Joe Blanton

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Here’s a perfect example of how baseball is simultaneously amazing and bizarre: Monday night Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez, a former Cy Young winner with the most wins in the league this season, matched up against Royals right-hander Joe Blanton, who briefly retired last year and has a 5.00 ERA since 2000.

Blanton out-dueled Hernandez, tossing six innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts and zero walks. Last time Blanton allowed one run or fewer with at least seven strikeouts and zero walks in a start? June of 2012. And before that it was August of 2010. And before that it was never, because Monday was just the third time in his 11-season, 250-start career Blanton has had such an outing.

Hernandez wasn’t exactly terrible, allowing four runs in 6.1 innings, but he continued a pattern of alternating great starts with bad starts that dates back to late May.

May 27: Complete-game shutout

June 1: Seven runs in 4.2 innings

June 6: Seven innings of one-run ball

June 12: Eight runs on 0.1 innings

June 17: Eight shutout innings

June 22: Four runs in 6.2 innings

Blanton, meanwhile, has a nifty 1.73 ERA and 24/3 K/BB ratio in 26 innings for Kansas City and the Royals somehow keeping chugging right along in first place with a patchwork starting rotation.

Yasiel Puig is still a free agent

Yasiel Puig
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Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.

There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.

The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.