Beltré, Mauer eligible for Baseball Hall of Fame next year

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Scott Rolen is headed to the Hall of Fame. Next year, make way for another star third baseman.

Adrian Beltre highlights the first-time eligibles for 2024. While Rolen’s election Tuesday capped an impressive six-year rise in his vote total, Beltre has a good chance to go in on the first ballot. Although he was never an MVP, he finished his career with 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and five Gold Gloves, remaining productive all the way through his final season at age 39.

Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday are also expected to make their debuts on the ballot next year. Mauer is the only catcher to win three batting titles and was the American League MVP in 2009.

It was no surprise that several players made big jumps in the voting this year. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling – all of whom received majority support but fell short of the 75% threshold for induction – weren’t on the ballot anymore. Since there’s a 10-player maximum for each voter, when candidates like that are no longer an option, others can benefit.

Rolen improved from 63.2% to 76.3%, Todd Helton from 52.0% to 72.2% and Billy Wagner from 51.0% to 68.1%. Andruw Jones went from 41.1% to 58.1%.

The presence of Beltre, Mauer and Utley, however, could make it harder for other players to gain ground next year. Helton still has five more years on the ballot and Jones has four. Wagner, however, has only two more chances.

“Helton’s going to be pulling something like three-quarters of the vote, and Beltre might be the first guy to threaten a hundred percent since (Derek) Jeter and Mariano (Rivera), and then there’s certainly going to be a lot of Mauer and Utley support, I’d think,” said Ryan Thibodaux, who runs the online Hall of Fame ballot tracker that allows fans to follow the voting process as it unfolds each year.

“Is Wagner able to get that final 7% in one shot, or does it take him until his 10th ballot? I think that’s going to be really interesting to watch next year.”

DECENT START

Next year also seems like a significant one for Carlos Beltran, who received the support of 46.5% of the voters in his debut on the ballot. That type of first-year performance normally bodes very well for a candidate, but Beltran’s total was probably hurt by his role in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal.

“I made a bit of a joke in our Slack of our tracker team, that we should have, this entire time, been tracking who either said explicitly or sort of hinted that they were giving like a one-year punishment,” Thibodaux said. “I can only kind of anecdotally say that I think there are a significant number of voters who are planning to vote for him next year who didn’t vote for him this year.”

Bonds and Clemens, dogged by performance-enhancing drug accusations, seemed to hit a ceiling in the vote after a while. If Beltran is treated in a similar fashion he could be in trouble, but if voters indeed are only planning to penalize him for one year, that should be evident in 2024.

LAST CHANCE

Gary Sheffield received 55.0% of the vote, and next year is his last on the ballot. He needs to pull off a repeat of Larry Walker’s final-year surge.

Walker was at 54.6% in 2019. Then he made it to 75% the following year in his last chance.

But Jack Morris received 67.7% in his second-to-last year and never did get voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He was later elected by the Modern Era committee. That puts the jump Sheffield needs in perspective.

“That is going to be a really tough leap for him,” Thibodaux said.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.