Jon Niese wasn’t a fan of the Pirates’ use of defensive shifting

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The Mets brought Jon Niese back on Monday, sending reliever Antonio Bastardo to the Pirates ahead of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline.

You may recall that, when the Mets traded Niese to the Pirates in December, the lefty praised the Pirates’ defense. Via Bernie Augustine of the New York Daily News, he said, “I’m sure what I’ll appreciate more than anything is the way (the Pirates) play defense. I’m looking forward to that.”

Niese’s comments were also taken as an insult to the Mets’ defense.

Now back with the Mets, Niese is walking that back. Per Marc Carig of Newsday, Niese said, “It’s unfortunate the way it got turned around but [it’s] certainly not what I meant by it. I’ve talked to a lot of the guys in the clubhouse and they respect me and I respect them and always loved them from the first time I played for them.”

Niese then criticized the Pirates’ defense, saying, “Sometimes, reinventing the game isn’t the best idea. Sometimes it helped, sometimes it didn’t.”

Niese left the Pirates with a 4.91 ERA and a 76/38 K/BB ratio in 110 innings. If the season were to end today, it would be the worst season of his career, at least by ERA. Blaming the Pirates’ defense seems weak. The error is by no means a terrific stat, but the Pirates have committed only 55 of them this season, the fourth-fewest total in the National League.

In fact, Niese’s problems have more to do with factors in his control. His 7.7 percent walk rate matches his highest rate since 2010. He’s allowed 21 home runs already, one shy of matching his career high. As a percentage of fly balls, his 21.6 percent HR/FB rate is by far a career high and is the highest rate in the majors among qualified pitchers. Niese’s 15.5 percent strikeout rate is more than two percent lower than his career average and only six other pitchers have a lower rate.

Niese has induced ground balls at an above-average rate of 53 percent. But his .244 BABIP on ground balls this year is actually below his career average ground ball BABIP of .250. If shifts were hurting him, his ground ball BABIP should be much higher.

Bogaerts reportedly heading to the Padres for 11 years, $280 million

xander bogaerts
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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres and Xander Bogaerts agreed to a blockbuster 11-year, $280 million contract, adding the All-Star slugger to an already deep lineup.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the contract to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

The Padres already had Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop, but he missed the entire season because of injuries and an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

San Diego also met with Aaron Judge and Trea Turner before the big stars opted for different teams. The Padres reached the NL Championship Series this year before losing to the Phillies.

“From our standpoint, you want to explore and make sure we’re looking at every possible opportunity to get better,” general manager A.J. Preller said before the Bogaerts deal surfaced. “We’ve got a real desire to win and do it for a long time.”

The 30-year-old Bogaerts was one of the headliners in a stellar group of free-agent shortstops that also included Turner, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson.

Bogaerts, who’s from Aruba, terminated his $120 million, six-year contract with Boston after the season. The four-time All-Star forfeited salaries of $20 million for each of the next three years after hitting .307 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs in 150 games.

Bogaerts is a .292 hitter with 156 homers and 683 RBIs in 10 big league seasons – all with Boston. He helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2013 and 2018.

Bogaerts becomes the latest veteran hitter to depart Boston after the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in February 2020. Rafael Devers has one more year of arbitration eligibility before he can hit the market.

Bogaerts had his best big league season in 2019, batting .309 with a career-best 33 homers and 117 RBIs. He had 23 homers and 103 RBIs in 2018.

In 44 postseason games, Bogaerts is a .231 hitter with five homers and 16 RBIs.