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Hot Stove Roundup: Waiting for Giancarlohtani

My latest for Sports on Earth rounds up the most significant trades and signings thus far this offseason. Below you can find my quick takes on the remaining moves in which a free agent signed a deal worth $1 million or more or a player was traded from one team’s 40-man roster to another’s prior to Friday, Dec. 8.

Tigers sign CF Leonys Martin for $1.75M/1yr plus up to $1.1M in bonuses

An excellent fielder in center, Martin is quite valuable when he hits. The trouble is, he rarely hits. The Tigers may find use for his left-handed bat in a centerfield platoon with righties JaCoby Jones or Mikie Mahtook, but more likely the 30-year-old Martin will simply serve as a safety net at the position.

Rangers re-sign RHP Tony Barnette for $1.5M/1yr

After six years with the Yakult Swallows, righty reliever Barnett returned to the Major Leagues in 2016 via a two-year deal with the Rangers. He posted a 2.09 ERA in 53 games in year one, and a 5.49 ERA in 50 games in year two, but was closer to average than those extremes in both seasons (combined 4.04 deserved run average). The Rangers declined his $4 million option last month, but understood the quality of his underlying performance, which included 36 outings of more than three outs over the last two years, and brought him back at his 2016 salary.

Royals sign RHP Wily Peralta for $1.525M/1yr plus $3M option (with $25K buyout) and up to $1.25M in bonuses

Formerly a heralded rotation prospect, Peralta regressed steadily after his 17-win sophomore season in 2014. The Brewers finally gave up on the 28-year-old this past season, bumping him first to the bullpen, then off the roster. The Royals, more interested in Peralta’s upper-90s velocity than his 11.94 ERA in 11 relief outings for Milwaukee this summer, are hoping a full-time move to the bullpen can unlock his potential.

Angels acquire RHP Jim Johnson and $1M in international spending capacity from Braves for LHP Justin Kelly

Despite a spike in his home run and walk rates and a drop in his groundball rate, Johnson wasn’t as bad as hit 5.56 ERA this past season. He won’t close in Anaheim, but he should be a reasonably reliable set-up man. Lefty reliever Justin Kelly is a non-prospect who was drafted in the 33rd round in 2016 and spent time at five different minor-league levels in 2017. More significant that perhaps either player is the financial side of this deal. The Angels assume Johnson’s $4.5 million salary for 2018 while also receiving $1.21 million in international spending capacity from the Braves. The Angels, one of the seven finalists for Shohei Ohtani, have since added another $1 million in capacity via a minor trade with the Twins and now have more than $2.3 million to offer Ohtani as a bonus, up from the $150,000 they had available prior to these trades.

Blue Jays acquire SS Aledmys Diaz from Cardinals for CF J.B. Woodman

Cuban defector Diaz seized an opportunity as an injury replacement in early 2016 and stole the Cardinals’ shortstop job only to play his way out of that job in 2017. That job is now firmly in the grip of Paul DeJong, who is three years Diaz’s junior. The Blue Jays, burdened with an injury-prone shortstop of their own in fragile veteran Troy Tulowitzki, hope that, if and when the opportunity arises, Diaz can repeat his 2016 magic, which included a trip to that year’s All-Star Game. That doesn’t seem likely given that Diaz, now 27, was no better in Triple-A after a late-June demotion and had been dropped from the 40-man roster prior to the 2016 season. Still, Diaz arrives with five team-controlled years remaining, while Tulo has just three guaranteed years left. Woodman was the Jays’ first second-round pick in 2016. A college product, he struck out 157 times in 96 games in A-ball this past season and will turn 23 next week.

Rangers sign RHP Doug Fister for $4M/1yr plus $4.5M club option (with $500K buyout)

Joining his fourth team in four years, Fister, who will be 34 in February, is a depth move for the back end of the rotation of a team in desperate need of that depth. Fister arrives in Texas with an 8.73 ERA in seven career starts in Arlington.

Tigers sign RHP Mike Fiers for $6M/1yr

Fiers is a year younger than Fister, less well-travelled, and heading to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark (he has a 1.50 ERA in two career starts in Detroit), but he’s not significantly better. He’ll be an innings-eater on a bad team. In the best-case scenario, he’ll have some good luck and the Tigers can get something for him at the deadline.

A’s sign RHP Yusmeiro Petit for $10M/2yrs plus club option for $5.5M (with $1M buyout)

Swing-man Petit had a career year working primarily out of the bullpen for the Angels in 2017. He cashes in here, landing set-up job with the A’s, who traded away Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle in July.

 

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Posted by on December 8, 2017 in Deleted Scenes

 

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Deleted Scenes: My SI.com debut

The first thing I ever did for SI.com was write the Friday entry for “Fungoes,” the site’s first attempt at a baseball blog. After Ben Reiter, Albert Chen, Alex Belth and Jon Weisman tackled the six divisions over the first four days of the week, I would write a “Wild Card” entry on any topic of my (and my editor’s) chosing on Friday. My very first Fungoes entry, on April 6, 2007, concerned the Diamondbacks’ brand new uniforms and color scheme. With Arizona having replaced that uniform set on Thursday night, this seemed like as good a time as any to add this to the pieces I’ve salvaged from my personal archives. As with the other articles that were lost in the site’s redesign in June 2014, this is the version I submitted, presented here unaltered and prior to any editing by SI.com’s editors. The many embedded links (blantantly imitating the style of Paul Lukas’s Uni-Watch, but with his blessing) are from the original, as well, so my apologies for the many that now lead to dead ends and since-deleted pages.

If Jerry Seinfeld’s right that we baseball fans really just root for laundry, then it only seems appropriate that, after all of the words spilled on new faces in new places (or rather, old faces in new laundry), we spill a few on the laundry itself. This year, the Diamondbacks and Reds have entirely new looks. New designs were sorely needed in both cases, though both could have done better than what they ultimately came up with. The Reds became victims of the dreaded black drop shadow in 1999 and, though they are one of the few teams with some historical claim to black as a team color, the Reds always looked better when they either stuck exclusively to red and white, or used navy instead of black. Their new duds do greatly reduce the amount of black in their color scheme, but that blasted drop shadow is still there.

The Diamondbacks were the clear choice for worst uniform in the majors from the moment they entered the league in 1998 (so much for Buck Showalter’s reputation as a traditionalist, even a dirt path to the pitchers mound couldn’t make up for the Snakes’ seemingly endless combinations of purple, teal, gold, and black). They’ve finally toned things down, but now they just look like the Astros. Despite the lack of creativity in the D-backs’ new design (see also the Washington Nationals), their wholesale color scheme change is actually rather historic.

Many teams have added or deleted third or even fourth colors (such as the Mets, Royals, Rangers, and Reds flirtation with black drop shadows in recent years). Some have completely inverted the significance of their main two colors (see the Angels and Rangers, who went from predominantly blue with red highlights to the reverse, and, in the case of the Rangers, back again). Others have made gradual changes to their color schemes, such as the Padres switching from yellow and brown, to yellow, orange, and brown, to just orange and brown, to orange and blue, to blue and “sand” over the course of a quarter century. Still others have made what amount to changes in tint, the most extreme being the Astros, whose colors had always been based in orange and navy, but who switched to rust and black in 2000. Similarly the White Sox have always used some combination of navy, black and red, though at different times they’ve reduced their color scheme to just one of the three, the most striking recent examples being their early ‘70s duds, the home versions of which looked exactly like their current home unis but whereas the current versions are entirely black and white, the 1971 to 1975 versions were entirely red and white.

What the Diamondbacks have done, however, is to change their entire color scheme in the course of a single winter, something that has only happened twice before in modern major league history. The first time was in 1948 when the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had always worn some combination of blue and red, adopted the colors of the Pittsburgh city flag, the black and gold since worn by the city’s other two major sports franchises, the NFL’s Steelers and NHL’s Penguins. The second came in the wake of Charlie O. Finley’s 1961 purchase of the Kansas City Athletics. The Athletics too had worn only shades of blue with occasional use of red throughout their history in Philadelphia and Kansas City, but in their third year under Finley they took the field in colors Finely dubbed “kelly green,” “Fort Knox gold,” and “wedding gown white.” Mickey Mantle said the A’s, “should have come out of the dugout on tippy-toes, holding hands and singing.” The Mick’s homophobia aside, that sort of strong reaction was exactly what Finely was going for. His A’s didn’t just use their green and gold on stripes and text, they wore bright yellow vests and pants with green hats, green undersleeves, and green stirrups. Remember, this was back when uniforms were wool and the last active player to sport a moustache during the regular season was Frenchy Bordagaray in 1936. (Actually, there was a third instance, but the Brooklyn Dodgers flirtation with green lasted just one season before they returned to their traditional Dodger blue, whereas the other two changes persist to this day, even despite such horrors as this).

What exactly the Diamonbacks are trying to accomplish with their new colors is more difficult to discern. The team’s official press release stated that the new colors were “chosen to better represent the personality and beauty of Arizona.” I get that. The connection between their new shade of red and the rocks in Sedona is obvious. But when the Pirates and A’s made their palette changes, they distinguished themselves in the process. No other major league team before or since has worn Finley’s green and gold or Pittsburgh’s yellow and black. The Diamondbacks, however, look almost exactly like the Astros, who have been wearing “brick red” and black since 2000, supposedly in tribute to the importance of railroads in Houston’s history (which only makes sense for a team first named after a gun and then for the city’s connection to the space program). Then again, anything that will prevent things like this from happening has got to be considered an improvement. It’s just troubling that something so historic could seem so uninspired.

  • Game of the Week: Braves 3, Phillies 2, 11 innings. A seven-inning pitchers duel between veteran Tim Hudson and wunderkind Cole Hamels erased by a Braves comeback on a game-tying, ninth-inning two-run home run by Brian McCann and an eleventh-inning game winner by Scott Thorman.
  • Player of the Week: Miguel Cabrera – 7 for 10 with 5 walks, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 6 RBIs and 5 runs scored. Cabrera made just three outs in fifteen plate appearances over three games against the Nationals.
  • Performance of the Week: Felix Hernandez vs. Oakland, Tuesday April 3 – 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K
 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Deleted Scenes

 

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Postseason Coverage: Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012

I have five pieces up on SI.com today, so rather than send out five tweets about them, I thought I’d put the five links here for one-stop shopping. They are:

Enjoy!

 
 

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Deleted Scenes: The 2012 Oakland A’s

When Spring Training 2012 began I wrote a series of six articles for SI.com, one for each division, that took a look at the “big question” “big battle” and “big prospect” for all 30 teams. I wrote the AL West first, because the A’s and Mariners were opening the season early in Japan. In the short time between when I submitted it and when it was published, the A’s signed Yoenis Cespedes, forcing me to scrap my “big question” section for something on Cespedes. With the A’s having clinched a playoff berth Monday night, I thought it would be interesting to see what wound up getting scrapped. Here it is:

Oakland Athletics

The Big Question: How much of a step back did the A’s really take? Hope springs eternal in February, and in that spirit, it’s possible to squint at the A’s 2012 roster and see a team that hasn’t lost much ground compared to the year before despite trading Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, and Andrew Bailey and losing Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, and, eventually, Hideki Matsui to free agency. It might not happen this year, but Jarrod Parker, obtained from the Diamondbacks for Cahill, could be as good or better than Gonzalez. Brad Peacock, part of the package received from the Nationals for Gonzalez, could be as good or better than Cahill. Brian Fuentes has plenty of experience closing ball games. Free agent signings Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes could form a platoon that is more productive than Willingham was last year (see below), and DeJesus and Matsui had lousy seasons last year, setting the bar low for new right fielder Josh Reddick, acquired from Boston in the Bailey deal, and whoever fills Matsui’s spot in the lineup.

I didn’t exactly nail it. Peacock was lit up in the Pacific Coast League and didn’t throw a single pitch for the A’s. Fuentes saved just five games before being released in mid-July. Gonzalez was a Cy Young candidate for the Nationals (though Parker did compare favorably to Cahill). Meanwhile, the A’s won just 74 games in 2011, so “hasn’t lost much ground” is still a huge miss, but I feel as though I was one of the few mainstream writers who was even remotely positive about the A’s offseason, at least prior to the Cespedes signing (you know, the guy who filled Matsui’s spot in the lineup). Here’s the version that was published in February.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2012 in Deleted Scenes

 

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