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J.J. Hoover to handle closer’s role for the Reds

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Pity the man who has to fill the enormous shoes of Aroldis Chapman. The Reds sent the flame-throwing left-hander to the Yankees earlier this offseason, leaving an enormous vacancy in the back of the bullpen. Reds manager Bryan Price says that the closer’s role is now J.J. Hoover‘s to lose, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports.

Hoover, 28, is no slouch. Over parts of four seasons with the Reds, the right-hander has a 3.34 ERA with 225 strikeouts and 101 walks in 223 2/3 innings. His fastball even sits at a capable 93 MPH. There are some warning flags, though, as Hoover’s strikeout rate dropped from 27 percent to below 20 percent between 2014-15 and his average walk rate (11 percent) is rather high for someone handling high-leverage innings.

Price also mentioned prospect Zack Weiss as someone to keep an eye on. Across 52 innings at Double-A Pensacola last season, he compiled a 2.42 ERA and a 68/14 K/BB ratio. The 23-year-old was selected by the Reds in the sixth round of the 2013 draft and was used as a closer exclusively in 2015.

Rays stadium project dead, team stuck in Tropicana Field until 2027

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LAS VEGAS — Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg appeared at the Winter Meetings a few minutes ago and said that the project which was intended to result in a new ballpark for the team in Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa has fallen apart. No new ballpark will be built and the three-year window granted to the team by the City of St. Petersburg to negotiate for a new ballpark will come to a close without any deal. The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027.

Sternberg’s statement came mere hours after it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred sent a sternly-worded letter to Hillsborough County officials, blasting the framework for the deal for the new stadium in Ybor City, saying it lacked specifics and criticized “the actual level commitment” from the public side. It’s not unreasonable to read that as the Commissioner’s dissatisfaction with how much public money the County was pledging to complete the project.

In his comments this morning Sternberg noted that the Rays had worked “for ten years” to get a new stadium and that they’d continue to try to work to that end, but the team’s options are extremely limited. The Rays are party to what has been described as an iron-clad lease for Tropicana Field, lasting through 2027. Until three years ago the Rays were  prohibited from even talking to anyone about building a new ballpark outside of St. Petersburg. In December 2015 St. Pete granted the team a window to negotiate with Hillsborough County which Sternberg called “very generous.” It is now closing, however, and Sternberg said that there are no plans to ask St. Petersburg officials for a new one.

Which means that the Rays are likely stuck in Tropicana Field through 2027. While Sternberg talked of being creative and searching for any and all available options, he likewise said that “we need to figure out where the 2028 season will be played.”