Posted in Baseball

Ch-ch-ch-changes…

Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

The fans in Pittsburgh watched Andrew McCutchen play his last game as a Pirate on tv Oct. 1. He went one-for-three, hitting a double off of Gio Gonzelez and left the game for a pinch-runner. The Pirates went on to win 11-8 over the playoff-bound Washington Nationals, notching their 75th and final victory of 2017.

Last night, the Pirates traded McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants for reliever Kyle Crick and minor league outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

The Giants, very much in win-now mode, will be interesting to watch. In addition to McCutchen, they added longtime Tampa Bay Rays star third baseman Evan Longoria this offseason. I don’t remember the last time a team acquired two players who were so strongly identified with a different franchise in one winter. Neither is the star that they once were, but magical things seem to happen in San Francisco.

The Pirates are clearly hoping to build for the future. Crick gives them a potentially interesting reliever who’s ready to help at the big league level and Reynolds gives them a lottery ticket for 2020 or so. Given the lackluster return Pittsburgh got for two years of Gerrit Cole, this isn’t an awful package for one year McCutchen.

But it’s the end of an era that once showed such promise in Pittsburgh, and it’s sad that the team wasn’t able to do more when they had McCutchen than go to the playoffs three times and only advance to the Divisional Series once.

And more bad news for Pirates fans… team owner Bob Nutting says this cycle is going to keep happening until there’s a “fundamental redesign of the economics of baseball; that’s not what we’re going to have.”

But as frustrating as it’s gotta be, at least the Pirates have a plan and an owner willing to take some responsibility for the team’s moves. You can argue that Nutting should be willing to risk more of his own money or sell the team to someone who is, but he’s out there sharing his point of view with the media and the fans. (Contrast that with Mets ownership, where everyone is content to let GM Sandy Alderson take all the fallout from unpopular moves even though it’s unclear what financial resources he’s got to work with.)

In other news of interest:

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Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

January thaw

Like the temperatures in the Northeast, Major League Baseball’s frozen hot stove season experienced a brief thaw late last week.

The New York Mets got things started by signing Jay Bruce to a three-year, $39 million contract Wednesday, and added Adrian Gonzalez over the weekend. The Pittsburgh Pirates shipped former Cy Young Award contender Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros for a package of four middling prospects. We finally have some actual news to discuss instead of just rumors.

The Mets’ moves are not exciting, but they should help the team.

Bruce is a consistently productive hitter with inconsistent defensive ratings, though the eyeball test is going to tell you that you’re in trouble if you ever consider him one of the best defensive players on your team. He can help provide power in the middle of the batting order and buy time for Michael Conforto to fully recover from last year’s shoulder injury, even though Conforto will likely be forced to play center field when he does return. And Bruce proved versatile enough to play first base, if there is a need.

Gonzalez is a low-risk, moderate reward signing. With the Atlanta Braves on the hook for all but $545,000 of his $21.5 million contract, Gonzalez can provide spring training competition for Dominic Smith. He can be a veteran bat off the bench if Smith wins the first base job, and Gonzalez can be released if he shows he can’t play at a high enough level to help the Mets.

After all, neither Smith nor Gonzalez had good seasons at the Major League level last year. Gonzalez hit .231 / .287 / .355 with three home runs in 231 at bats in an injury shortened season that saw him lose his job to rookie Cody Bellinger. As a late-season call-up, Smith hit .192 / .262 / .395 with nine home runs in 167 at bats.

For a rebuilding team, it would be an easy call to see if Smith could grow into a starting role. A team that sees itself as a contender needs a fallback plan. fans can’t be criticized for hoping that plan would be more ambitious than Gonzalez. But Gonzalez makes the Mets a better team and shouldn’t preclude them from continuing to shore up their infield by adding a second baseman or third baseman join Asdrubal Cabrera and Amed Rosario and the winner of the first base competition.

Here’s hoping that infielder is coming…and I wouldn’t mind another starting pitcher. Even Bartolo Colon on a minor league deal wouldn’t be a bad idea.

The Cole trade is more of a head-scratcher. Sure, it’s a easy win for the Astros — the defending World Series champs add to an already-good starting rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton.

Even if pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz, infielder Colin Moran, who was Houston’s No. 5 prospect and outfielder Jason Martin, who was Houston’s No. 15 prospect, pan out for the Pirates, the Astros made a move that helps them defend their title with minimal impact on their 2018 roster.

The Pirates are getting young, Major League-ready talent… but no one who projects with enough upside to be a star. Their fans are still left wondering if Cole was the first step of a full rebuild or an attempt to reload for another run with Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison. And they’ve got to be coming to the realization that if the return for Cole – a 27-year-old with two years of team control – was disappointing, McCutchen – a 31-year-old in the final year of a seven-year contract – may not bring back anyone of note at all.

With less than a month to go before players start reporting to spring training, hopefully we’ll get some more actual baseball news to talk about instead of rumors created for the sake of page clicks.

And hey, if we don’t? Those “Player X is in the best shape of his life” stories might be a little more interesting if Player X is still looking for a job when they run.

Posted in Baseball

Ex-Met Milledge looks for 2nd chance with Lancaster Barnstormers

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is a league of second chances.

Minor League Baseball teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball teams. New Jersey’s Trenton Thunder are a New York Yankees’ farm team, while the Lakewood Blue Claws are affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. These major league clubs supply the players and coaches to staff the minor league teams. If you go to see them, you’ll be able to watch a handful of players the big league squads consider as prospects as well as a larger number of “organization guys” that are needed to complete the roster.

Each year, some of the “prospects” lose their shine and some of the “organization guys” get pushed out by someone younger or more talented. Independent baseball teams like the ones in the Atlantic League give these displaced players another shot to prove their worth to one of the 30 big league team. Sometimes, it works out — before signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he pitched in the playoffs in 2016, Rich Hill spent a summer with the Long Island Ducks. More often, guys just get to keep playing for an extra season or two.

Lastings Milledge, seen here playing for the Norfolk Tides in 2006, signed a contract with the Lancaster Barnstromers last month. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Lastings Milledge, seen here playing for the Norfolk Tides in 2006, signed a contract with the Lancaster Barnstormers last month. (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

Continue reading “Ex-Met Milledge looks for 2nd chance with Lancaster Barnstormers”

Posted in Baseball

Ex-Mets on the move

Mets reliever Carlos Torres signs autographs before the July 4, 2013 game between the Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Mets reliever Carlos Torres signs autographs before the July 4, 2013 game between the Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

With the start of spring training just days away, we’ve reached the point in the off-season where free agents get ready to take minor league contracts with invitations to major league camp.

On Wednesday, former Mets reliever Carlos Torres signed with the Atlanta Braves organization.

Today, former Mets reliever Eric O’Flaherty signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

And former Mets first baseman Ike Davis has been approached by the New York Yankees, who find themselves in need of a regular first baseman in Triple-A as the result of Greg Bird‘s season-ending injury.

Continue reading “Ex-Mets on the move”

Posted in Autographs, Baseball

Featured autograph: Antonio Bastardo

Antonio-Bastardo
Signed Antonio Bastardo 2009 Upper Deck Update baseball card from my collection

Reliever Antonio Bastardo has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with the New York Mets.

I’ve been waiting to see what Yoenis Cespedes will do for the past few days even though I don’t really expect him to stay with the Mets, but strengthening the bullpen is important too.

Continue reading “Featured autograph: Antonio Bastardo”

Posted in Baseball

Monday news & notes: Andrew McCutchen, Vic Black, Hisanori Takahashi

Here’s a few things that caught my attention over the weekend:

Andrew McCutchen makes an impression

Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)
Pirates OF Andrew McCutchen warms up before an exhibition game between the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark in 2010 (Photo credit: Paul Hadsall)

During the course of the Major League Baseball season, most teams send their players on visits to various children’s and veterans’ hospitals. And to those of us watching the clips on the news, it sometimes seems like those events are just photo ops to get positive publicity for millionaire athletes and their teams. But that overlooks the impact those visits can have on the people in those hospitals.

Continue reading “Monday news & notes: Andrew McCutchen, Vic Black, Hisanori Takahashi”

Posted in Autographs, Uncategorized

Spring training autographs, part 4

This will be short & sweet, because I only got one envelope back since my “Part 3” post.

2015-03-17 10.09.06

RHP Vic Black, 26, was originally drafted by the New York Mets with a late-round pick in 2006 but did not sign. The Pittsburgh Pirates used a supplemental pick at the end of the first round of the 2009 draft to select him, and he began his pro career with the State College Spikes in the New York-Penn League that season.

The Mets acquired Black in August 2009 along with 2B Dilson Herrera for OF Marlon Byrd and C John Buck, one of the best trades Sandy Alderson has made as the Mets’ general manager.

Continue reading “Spring training autographs, part 4”