What is going on ball, boys, and girls? Welcome into today's Around the Horn. We have some news to cover today, including Leauge news, free agent signings and rumors, trades and trade rumors, injury news, and prospect news. If you missed the last Around the Horn, that's okay; check that out right here.
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League News :
-Hall of Fame P Paul Niekro passed away on December 27th at 81 after a cancer battle. Condolences to his family, the Braves organization, and all who were close with him. Knucksie was a high nickname as he used his nasty knuckleball to stifle hitters for 24 seasons. Niekro retired at 48 and ended his career with 5404.1IP with 19/24 seasons with 200+ IP. The craziest thing about Nierko only pitched 140 MLB innings and one start before age 28. He won 318 games, had a career of 3.35ERA and 3342K, which is 11th all-time. Niekro was named to 5 All-Star games, won 5 Gold Gloves, and was the Cy Young runner in 1969. He spent most of his career with the Braves (740/864) while also playing with the Yankees, Indians, and Blue Jays from 1984-87. We extended our most heartfelt condolences to the Niekros family and fans worldwide from the Ball Boy Blog.
-The Phillies' new President of Baseball Operations has found himself a GM. Former MLB player Sam Fuld. Fuld worked for the team in the last three seasons as the director of integrative baseball performance. Fuld was in a role that allowed him to transmit and teach analytical data provided by the front office to the Phillies' players.
--The Phillies also promoted Jorge Velandia to Ass. General Manager and Terry Ryan will move into special assistant to the GM role.
-Next time you're at Costco, remember to grab TP and a Babe Ruth autographed baseball for the low price of $64K.
League News Updates:
-Starting date for the season: Now that there are two approved vaccines, owners could push to delay the season depending on the vaccine's availability for players and personnel. The MLBPA and players are all planning on showing up to spring training on time, and most of the PA feels the protocols and how COVID is being handled is enough to keep them safe. The players want to and plan to play a full 162 game season and not take any pay cut.
Free Agent Signings:
-KBO/NPB Signings: RHP Walker Alexander, 1B Robert Ramos, 1B/DH Jose Miguel Fernandez, LHP Ariel Miranda, RHP Fernando Romero, ING Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Raul Alcantara, LHP Dillon Overton, RHP Hector Noesi, RHP Daniel Menged, RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, OF Zoilo Almonte, RHP Gabriel Ynoa, RHP Junichi Tazawa, RHP Jake Brigham, RHP Drew Gagnon, UTL Rosell Herrera, RHP Bryan Woodall, RHP JC Ramirez, 1B Justin Smoak
-The Chicago White Sox made their presence felt in the international signing pool yet again. The White Sox are built off the global talent and have added another potent piece in #1 international prospect Yoelki Cespedes. The 23yo should immediately come in and compete for a regular-season roster spot.
-The Dodgers signed RHRP Tommy Kahnle to a 2yr MLB deal. Kahnle is unlikely to pitch in 2021 as he underwent Tommy John surgery back in early August. The value is likely to be backloaded, and the Dodgers will have a reliable late innings weapon when he returns.
-The Cincinnati Reds have signed RHP Edgar Garcia to an MLB deal. He was non-tendered by the Rays. Garcia ended 2020 with a 5.77ERA/6.57FIP and a 10.38K/9 to 6.00BB/9 over 39IP. The 24yo has plenty of room for improvement.
-The Detroit Tigers have signed RHP Jose Urena. Between 2017-18 Urena has the most productive years of his career, posting a 3.90ERA/4.68FIP with a 6.36K/9 and 46.3% groundball rate over 343.2IP. The last couple of years haven't been as friendly to the 29yo Urena as he owns a 5.25ERA/5.02FIP over 108IP.
-The Boston Red Sox have agreed to a deal with RHP Matt Andriese. Andriese is a reliable swingman. In his five-year career, he owns a 4.57ERA/4.23FIP over 460.2IP. In 2021 he will earn $1.85MIL, and the contract holds an option for $3.5-$4.5MIL if he tops 150IP.
-The Texas Rangers have signed RHP Kohei Arihara to a 2 yr deal worth 6-7mil. The 28yo Arihara was the #2 Japanese pitcher on the market this winter. He is coming to the MLB with a low 90's fastball with a +changeup and slider and FOUR other pitchers in his arsenal. He brings with him 836IP with a 3.74ERA, 6.7K/9, 2.1BB/9 in his career. Arihara will be an excellent replacement to Lance Lynn and create a good 1-2 punch with Dane Dunning. The Padres and Red Sox were the other two finalists for Arihara. Both could now be focusing on signing Tomoyuki Sugano.
-KBO SS/2B Ha-Seong Kim was on a flight to the US for a physical on the morning of 12/28. He was reportedly mulling offers from the Padres, Blue Jays, and Red Sox as favorites. He then quickly signed a deal towards the evening of the 28th, and he will become a member of the San Diego Padres. The agreement is for 4yrs with an annual salary of $7-8MIL. Since 2019 Kim has batted .307/.393/.500 with 49HR, 56-62 in stolen base attempts. The move has significant ramifications for the Padres, and they don't intend to move Cronenworth from 2B to LF and are just stockpiling talent to compete with the Dodgers for the NL West. However, the team could take a long look at Cronenworth, Tatis Jr., and Kim in the outfield come spring training. Keep an open mind, SD fans.
-The ramifications for the rest of the MLB are also significant as The Blue Jays can now push the Yankees and Mets for DJ LeMahieu. The Red Sox will have to continue to look elsewhere for their higher to 2B Dustin Pedroia. The Rangers will have to go a little deeper into their rebuild and be stuck with Odor and Andrus. The rest of the MLB will need to be on notice and be more afraid to face the Padres.
-The Twins signed RHP Hansel Robles to a 1yr $2Mil deal with $500K available in incentives. Robles was non-tendered by the Angels back in December. Robles had a 2020 season to forget, posting a 10.26ERA over 16.2IP. However, the 2018 track record of 2.97ERA over 36.1IP and the 2019 breakout of 2.48ERA, 23saves over 72.2IP gives the Twins plenty of hope Robles can get back on track.
Free Agent Rumors:
-Not a rumor and not a signing, but more a note. OF/P Oscar Colas will officially be an MLB International Free Agent. He will be eligible to sign with a team beginning Jan 15th, 2021, when the international signing period opens.
-The NY Met's could make another surprising but not unexpected move at the same time. After being in talks with JT Realmuto, they ended up signing James McCann. Now, we could see a pattern emerging as they have been the most prominent team linked to Trevor Bauer but are "looking into" RHP Tomoyuki Sugano. With George Springer being the focus, signing Sugano would be a more cost-effective option with a higher upside.
--The Mets also recently contacted FA DJ LaMahieu. We could see a bidding war for DJ between the Yankees and Mets
-Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and JT Realmuto's Agent spoke on Monday 12/21. There were no negotiations, from what I understand, and it was more just a call to check in and say Congrats on the job. Dombrowski, of course, expressed how the Phillies wanted JTR back. There is an offer on the table from the Phillies to JTR.
-In an interview with Darren Wolfson of SKOR North, Brad Hand said that he "loves to play" for the Twins in 2021. The two sides haven't spoken on a deal, and the Minnesota Native isn't sure the Twins are interested in signing him.
-The Cardinals consider C Yadi Molina and SP Adam Wainwright "legacy players," The organization wants both players back with the team. Still, there is significant work to do to resign the Hall of Famers.
Free Agent Notes:
-FA SP Trever Bauer is not considering one-year deals. Teams interested will need to pay up! He is seeking the highest of Mega-deals, 5-6 years with an avg Salary of $36-40Mil a year. My goodness.
-FA Catcher JT Realmuto or JTR asks interested clubs for a deal in the range of 5yr for $125mil. He is still the top priority for the Phillies.
-Take it for what you will, Yankees OF Aaron Hicks and FA SP Taijuan Walker were pictured playing beer pong together at Hicks' home.
-The Red Sox have shown "a strong interest" in FA Enrique Hernandez.
-The Astros and Jason Castro were close to an agreement on 12/23
-FA OF Tyler Naquin has drawn interest from multiple teams. A reunion with the Indians is unlikely.
-Now, with the addition of Kim, the Padres appear unlikely to re-sign UTL man Jurickson Profar. It's still a possibility the team could resign RHP Kirby Yates.
We have a Trade to Announce:
-The Washington Nationals have acquired 1B Josh Bell from the Pirates in exchange for NO.3 prospect RHP Wil Crowe and NO.6 prospect RHP Eddy Yean. Bell fills a significant void for the Nats at 1B and a power bat to support Juan Soto in the middle of the order. The 28yo Bell struggled in 2020 to a .226/.305/.364 slash with a career-high 26.5% strikeout rate. The 26yo Crowe will give the Pirates an immediate MLB ready rotation piece. Crowe made his MLB debut in 2020, getting tagged for 11R over 8.1IP. Yean is more of a depth piece as he is only 19yo but holds plenty of upside with a 97MPH fastball in his back pocket.
-The rumor below on the Padres calling on Yu Darvish; well, they decided to invest that wealth of prospects to acquire SP Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays; in exchange for RHP Luis Patino(5.19ERA over 1mil7.1IP at the MLB level), C Francisco Mejia(career .225/.282/.386 slash over 334AB at the MLB level), C/1B Blake Hunt(2019 at the A level in 376PA .255/.331/.381), and RHP Cole Wilcox(1.57ERA in 23IP at the NCAA level in 2020). Snell has earned 1 Cy Young award, 1x All-Star, and 1 ERA Title. Over 556IP, the 28yo Snell owns an 11.4WAR, 42-30 record, 3.24ERA/3.50FIP with 648K-232BB in his career. In 35IP in the postseason, he carries a 2.83ERA with 44K-14BB. The Padres will have Snell through the end of the 2023 season and now have a much-improved rotation for 2021 and 2022 when Clevinger returns from Tommy John surgery. The 2021 rotation will be looking great with Snell, Dinelson Lamet (had a Cy Young caliber 2020), Zach Davies, Chris Paddack, and at some point in 2021, MacKenzie Gore. Add the rotation to a lineup that includes Frenando Tatis Jr, Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, Trent Grisham, and Eric Hosmer. The Padres will be aiming to push the Dodgers for the NL West in 2021.
-The Padres struck again; the Padres will acquire RHP Yu Darvish and C Victor Caratini from the Cubs in exchange for RHP Zach Davies, SS Reginald Preciado, Teison Santana, OF Own Caissie, and OF Ismael Mena. The Cubs are also expected to pick up a "minor portion" of the $59mil due to Darvish's next three seasons. Darvish is fresh off a 2nd place finish in the Cy Young after posting 76IP, 2.01ERA/2.23FIP, 11.01K/9, and best 95.5MPH fastball average. Caratini was Darvish's catcher in Chicago and holds a career .250/.327/.372 slash line of over 677PA. He ranked in the 98th percentile in the pitch-framing department in 2020 as well. Darvish now joins Snell, Dinelson Lamet, and Chris Paddack in the rotation with MacKenzie Gore and several other high-end prospects vying for a spot as well. The return for the Cubs not only saves a bunch of money but brings them a top-tier starter as he posted a 2.73ERA/3.88FIP over 69.1IP. Davies is 27yo and due only $6.3MIL in 2021. The 17yo Preciado has a 6'4" frame, and scouts hope he can grow into an elite switch hitter. The 18yo Mena was signed to an expensive $2.2MIL bonus in the 2019-20 international signing period. Menas had the potential to be a consistent 20/20 player. The 18yo Cassie was a 2nd round pick in the draft; he possesses exciting upside but has significant swing-and-miss concerns. The 20yo Santana was impressive in rookie ball from 2018-19 when combined for a .306/.418/.425 slash in 365PA.
-A three-team trade went down after the Darvish trade. The Rays, Phillies, and Dodgers are linked up on this one. The Phillies will acquire LHP Jose Alvarado; The Rays will get 1B Dillion Paulson and PTBNL or cash from the Dodgers; lastly, the Phillies will send LHP Garrett Cleavinger to the Dodgers. The track record for Alvardo wasn't excellent in 2019-20 as he was slowed by injuries that made him put up a 5.08ERA, 1.58K/BB rate over 39IP. The Phillies hope Alvardo is past the injuries and can get back to his 2018 numbers of a 2.39ERA, 11.3K/9 over 64IP. Alvardo is only 25yo and has three seasons of control left. Cleavinger made his MLB debut in 2020, throwing only .2IP in one appearance for Phillidelphia; however, he owns a 4.08ERA, 2.26K/BB rate at the MiLB level 12.0K/9 over 220.1IP. Cleavinger is 27yo and controllable through 2026. The 23yo Paulson was a 13th round pick by the Dodgers in 2018 out of USC. He has hit for a .253/.373/.464 slash over 778PA and has so far reached the high-A ball. Paulson will provide great depth for the Rays at 1B and could turn into an OBP machine.
-The Washington Nationals are open to moving Carter Kieboom in trade talks this winter. I think this could open up a new avenue in trade talks for a guy named Kris Bryant.
-Now that the Tampa Bay Rays traded Blake Snell to the Padres, the club is now focused on trading OF Kevin Kiermaier next.
-The Pittsburg Pirates SP Joe Musgrove is drawing increased trade interest from around the MLB now that Blake Snell is off the board.
-The Cubs aren't done shopping and shedding payroll ahead of the 2021 season. The club is reported "extensively shopping" catcher Wilson Contreras.
-Yankee FA LHP James Paxton held a showcase on 12/23 with as many as 20 teams in attendance. Paxton fastball reached 94 MPH. Paxton wasn't great in 2020 as he pitched to a 6.64ERA/4.37FIP over 20.1IP he did also have an 11.51K/9 and 3.1BB/9. The velocity is rebounding as well; it looks like after averaging the only 92.1MPH in 2020.
-Pirates OF Gregory Polanco fracture his right wrist playing winter ball. Polanco will be out 4-6 weeks but should be ready for spring training and not impact his season.
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