Tag:Matt Snyder
Posted on: February 7, 2012 7:38 am
Edited on: February 8, 2012 3:47 pm
 

Spring position battles: National League West



By Matt Snyder


We are finally just a few short weeks away from spring training beginning, so let's continue looking at some positional battles that will unfold through February and March. Monday, we looked at the AL West and now it's time to look at the NL West.

Arizona Diamondbacks
None: None yet.

I understand this probably comes off as a bit lame, but look at the D-Backs depth chart and tell me where there are any legitimate battles. From the starting lineup to the rotation to the bullpen, it would appear the defending NL West champs have very few question marks heading into the 2012 season. I would keep an eye on last year's first-round pick, starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (maybe pushing Josh Collmenter to the long relief role at some point in June or July?), but it's very doubtful he fits in the rotation out of spring. He got knocked around (7.56 ERA, 1.68 WHIP) in four Double-A starts last season. So I've got nothing here. They are already set.

San Francisco Giants
First Base: Aubrey Huff vs. Brandon Belt

Is it time to pass the torch yet? The Giants had no patience with Belt last season, as the 23-year-old prospect was shipped back to the minors in April after just 60 plate appearances. He came back to stay in the middle of July, hitting .231/.296/.469 the rest of the way, but that was only in 142 plate appearances. And he did show good power, hitting eight homers in that stretch. In 111 career Triple-A games, Belt has a .441 on-base percentage and 20 home runs. Meanwhile, Huff is 35 and coming off a season where he hit .246/.306/.370 with just 12 homers in 579 plate appearances. With the additions of Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera, it's unlikely the Giants shove Belt back in the outfield initially, so they must make a decision here. Do they leave Belt in Triple-A again, where he's proven he's a stud, have him ride pine in the bigs, or just move on past Huff and let Belt have the job?

Shorstop: Ryan Theriot vs. Brandon Crawford vs. Mike Fontenot

The 25-year-old Crawford is easily the best defender of this group, but at some point the Giants will need some offense. Crawford is a career .234/.291/.327 hitter in Triple-A. In 220 big-league plate appearances, Crawford hit .204/.288/.296 last season, so he's a complete offensive liability. Ryan Theriot hit .271 with a .321 OBP last year, and he also has no power. He does, however, have a career .282 average and .344 OBP. Fontenot hit only .227/.304/.377 last season, but he certainly has the most power of the trio here. Basically, there isn't really a good choice, but there's still one to be made. Of note: Fontenot and Crawford hit left handed, so maybe Theriot ends up platooning with one of them.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Left Field: Jerry Sands vs. Tony Gwynn Jr. vs. Juan Rivera

Did Sands' month of September give the Dodgers confidence he's ready to take over in left right away? It's possible. After hitting pretty poorly in his stint earlier in the season, Sands hit .342/.415/.493 with two homers, nine RBI and five doubles in 83 plate appearances in the last month. He's only 24, but he's also hit for great power in Triple-A (29 home runs in 418 plate appearances in Albuquerque last year). This one is all about him, with Gwynn being the backup option and Rivera being the desperation option.

Closer: Javy Guerra vs. Kenley Jansen

Guerra is the incumbent and successfully converted 21 of 23 save chances last season. He's only 26 and posted a 2.31 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in his 46 2/3 innings last season, too. So he's the obvious closer, right? I'm not so sure. The 6-foot-5 Jansen is only 24 and has elite closer written all over him. He had a rough start, but from June on, Jansen posted a 0.55 ERA, 0.67 WHIP with four saves, seven holds and zero blown saves. His stuff is nasty, as he struck out 96 hitters in 53 2/3 innings on the season. It looks like the sky is the limit, so would the Dodgers really leave him in the eighth inning due to Guerra's 2011 performance?

Colorado Rockies
No. 3-5 starting pitchers: Alex White vs. Drew Pomeranz vs. Juan Nicasio vs. Guillermo Moscoso vs. Tyler Chatwood vs. Josh Outman vs. Jamie Moyer

After stockpiling pitchers the entire offseason, it wasn't too surprising to see the Rockies trade away both Kevin Slowey and Jason Hammel. Of course, they got back Jeremy Guthrie and still have an absurd logjam behind Guthrie and Jhoulys Chacin. And Jorge De La Rosa will be back at some point later in the season (he had Tommy John surgery last June). White and Pomeranz are both young and inexperienced enough to justify more time in Triple-A, but they probably have the best stuff of anyone on the list. Chatwood got plenty of MLB experience last season, but he's still only 22 and his numbers weren't good. It's hard not to root for Nicasio, as he's coming back from a broken neck. He made some good starts for Colorado last summer, too. Outman's never really shown more than mediocrity and Moyer is 49. I very much like Moscoso's chances,  for one, as he's 28 and had a 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP last season for Oakland. The ballpark difference in home games will be bad, but the NL West has fewer fearful hitters than the AL West and some spacious parks. So I'll officially predict Moscoso gets in, but beyond him, it's a complete toss up.

San Diego Padres
Catcher: Nick Hundley vs. John Baker vs. Yasmani Grandal

Hundley has had parts of four seasons to prove himself. Last season, he did hit well, with a .288/.347/.477 line, but injuries limited him to just 82 games. His career high, due to many different circumstances, is 85. The 31-year-old Baker has had the past couple seasons ruined due to an arm injury (Tommy John surgery and rehab took out nearly all of last season), but back in 2008-09 he hit .281/.364/.423 for the Marlins. The two could actually platoon, because Baker hits lefty while Hundley hits righty. Grandal, though, has loads of talent. He was the Reds' first rounder in 2010, is a switch hitter and has a career minor-league line of .303/.401/.488. He's only played four games in Triple-A, though, so he'd probably have to go nuts with his bat in the spring to get a shot out of the gate. The smart money is on the Padres going with Hundley as the primary starter, Baker as a backup who sees a good amount of playing time and Grandal spending most of the season in Triple-A. Maybe even a platoon with Hundley and Baker. Still, there's enough here for a potentially good three-way battle this spring. And you never know on Grandal. He jumped from High-A to Triple-A in 2011 and his experience before that was just eight Rookie League games in 2010. Maybe he's one of those guys that doesn't need much minor-league seasoning.

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Posted on: February 6, 2012 4:31 pm
 

Rangers sign Conor Jackson, Joe Beimel

By Matt Snyder

The Rangers have signed free agents Conor Jackson and Joe Beimel to minor-league contracts, the club announced Monday afternoon. Both players have also received spring training invites.

Jackson, 29, was primarily a first baseman for most of his career, but then last season he played every corner position in addition to serving as a designated hitter. He still played 53 games at first while getting 52 games of action in the outfield (31 in right, 23 in left). Jackson hit .244/.310/.341 with five homers and 43 RBI. He played 102 games for the A's and 12 for the Red Sox.

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Beimel, 34, is a left-handed reliever. He worked 25 1/3 innings for the Pirates last season, putting together a pretty dreadful line -- an ERA of 5.33 and a WHIP of 1.70. He was actually a productive reliever from 2006-10, though, so last year could have been an anomaly.

Both players have a decent chance to make the team.

The Rangers bullpen appears to be full right now, assuming no more moves. However, Koji Uehara is reportedly being shopped (he blocked a trade to the Blue Jays) and Beimel is left handed. Go down the line -- Joe Nathan, Mike Adams, Alexi Ogando, Scott Feldman, Mark Lowe, Uehara, Yoshinori Tateyama, Mark Hamburger -- and you'll find that the Rangers don't have a lefty in the bullpen, unless they wanna turn to Michael Kirkman. So that's where Beimel could find a job, as a specialist.

Jackson also has a shot to make the club. The starting nine is obvious, just as Craig Gentry, Yorvit Torrealba and Julio Borbon figure to get spots on the bench. That leaves one spot, with Jackson, Brad Hawpe, Alberto Gonzalez and several minor leaguers competing for the final spot. And that's barring injuries, which could open more up chances.

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Posted on: February 3, 2012 2:12 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 6:23 pm
 

Josh Hamilton comes clean in press conference



By Matt Snyder


The news that broke Thursday night -- which was that Josh Hamilton had relapsed and drank alcohol -- was a bit vague. Friday afternoon in a press conference, Hamilton was very forthcoming about what took place Monday night and cleared things up.

He spoke completely from the heart with no prepared statement.

According to Hamilton, this is what happened:

1. He went out to dinner and ordered a drink. He ended up having "three or four" drinks.

2. He called teammate Ian Kinsler to come hang out with him. Hamilton noted he didn't tell Kinsler he was drinking nor did he drink when Kinsler was with him. Hamilton said that he can be "deceptive" when he drinks.

3. Hamilton and Kinsler left the restaurant and went to an "other place" for about "25, 30 minutes" and then Kinsler went to drive Hamilton to where he was staying.

4. Hamilton said Kinsler asked him if he was going to stay in the rest of the night. Hamilton assured Kinsler he would stay in, but he lied. He went back out. By Hamilton's account, he "had some more drinks." He noted that no one around him really saw him with drinks in his hand, and again reiterated that he can be deceptive and find ways to drink without others realizing it.

He also talked about how when he drinks there's a point where a "switch flips, and you never know when that point is gonna be reached -- whether it's the first three or four, or, you know, the 15th. And that's what is so dangerous about it."

Hamilton took full ownership and accountability of the situation.

"It was just wrong, is what it comes down to," the apologetic Hamilton said. "I needed to be in a different place. I needed to be responsible in that moment -- in that day, period -- and I was not responsible."

He also said that no drugs whatsoever were used and he's had two drug tests since that night.

Hamilton also said he will fly, at some point, to New York to meet with Major League Baseball and their doctors. He said he wants to look back and see where he went wrong, while letting everyone help him.

At several times throughout the press conference, Hamilton said he has "beat himself up," feels "terrible," and wants to get back to the point where everyone can trust him again.

Later Friday afternoon, general manager Jon Daniels had a conference call with reporters. He said that the Rangers were told about the relapse on Tuesday, and that he met with Hamilton Thursday.

They are going to wait until after the MLB evaluation before taking any further steps, and they are looking over everything to see if there are better ways to supervise him, or keep this from happening again. In terms of not having an accountability coach in place at present, Daniels said it likely wouldn't have mattered anyway, being the offseason.

Daniels was asked about Hamilton's contract status -- he's set to be a free agent after 2012 -- and Daniels said there are more important things to worry about right now. He also noted that when he first found out, his immediate thoughts were for Hamilton's family, not baseball.

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Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:47 am
 

Nats taking steps to avoid Phillies fans in park



By Matt Snyder


The Washington Nationals' front office is tired of seeing Phillies fans take over their ballpark when Washington hosts the Phillies, so they're trying to do something about it.

In an effort they're calling "Take Back the Park," the Nationals are making it as difficult as possible for Phillies fans to outnumber Nationals fans in the May 4-6 series. Beginning today (Friday morning), the Nationals are offering single-game tickets for the series -- and only this particular series -- even though other single-game tickets won't be for sale for another month. Not only that, only buyers with credit cards tied to an address in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia will be allowed to buy tickets (all information from WashingtonPost.com).

The Nats mean business. Not only on the field, where they've had a good offseason and appear to be a legitimate contender in the loaded NL East. But check out this series of quotes from COO Andy Feffer, all via WashingtonPost.com:

• “Frankly, I was tired of seeing it. Forget you, Philly. This is our park, this is our town, these are our fans, and it’s our time right now.”

Washington offseason
• “We’ve heard it enough, we’ve seen it enough, and I don’t like it any more than anyone else. We’re trying to build a team here, and nothing irks me personally or the people here more than to see another team’s fans — particularly Philly fans — in our ballpark, holding up signs. That’s not the way it should be. And I think we’ve got an opportunity here to do something different.”

• “We’ve got some other things planned for the Phillies. Don’t expect their buses to be hanging out and dropping off their fans right around the ballpark here. I’m gonna stick ‘em across the river if I can, make ‘em swim across.” [Note: The Post noted this was said as a joke]

• “Seriously, for those fans who do come, we treat all guests with respect and courtesy. But look, we’re not gonna make it easy for group sales, for buses coming from Philly. I will not make it easy for those guys to buy tickets or get into this ballpark. Once they’re here, obviously we treat all our guests as patrons, with respect.”

• “Look, this is what a rivalry’s about. The Phillies and Nationals should be that rivalry that people get fired up about, and that’s ok. I want Phillies fans to acknowledge that we’re a legitimate contender and that we’re for real. And you know what? If Phillies fans are a little bit irked, that means they’re paying attention.”

Whoa. Breaking out the big guns, eh, Nationals? I have to say, I love it. Old, traditional rivalries are great (Yankees/Red Sox, Cubs/Cardinals, Dodgers/Giants, etc.), but it's even more exciting to see new rivalries emerge. What if the Nationals are a contender this year and we see them lock horns with the Phillies a few times? That's great for baseball.

So what say you, Phillies fans? Are you "irked" and "paying attention" to the Nationals yet?

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Category: MLB
Posted on: February 3, 2012 7:53 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 10:13 am
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part III: Pitchers



By Matt Snyder


As we conclude the short series on overpaid players, we'll take a look at the man on the hill: The pitcher.

The interesting thing I found about pitchers is that not too many "long-term" contracts stood out like a sore thumb as being bad in terms of what is left on the current deal. A lot of the honorable mention types are for just one year, maybe two. This, I believe, illustrates the caution the overwhelming majority of teams exercise when coughing up long-term deals for pitchers.

That doesn't mean there are no guys on the list, however. We have a couple really good fits.

As a reminder, we're only talking about the contracts from now until the conclusion of the deal. Any money already banked doesn't count in this exercise.

Right-handed starters

Worst: John Lackey
Remaining contract: 3 years, $47.85 million

Ignore that Lackey is injured now and will miss all of the 2012 season. In fact, that actually helps the Red Sox here if last season was any indication. Lackey was brutal in '11, putting together a 6.41 ERA, 1.62 WHIP while leading the majors in earned runs and wild pitches. He allowed a whopping 203 hits in his 160 innings pitched and posted a negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement player). And when he's healthy again, he'll be 34.

Honorable Mention

A.J. Burnett, Yankees: He helped the Yankees win the World Series title in 2009, but was he really integral? He was bad in the ALCS and was terrible in one of his World Series starts after leading the league in walks and wild pitches during the regular season. Since then, Burnett is 21-26 with a 5.20 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He's now the Yankees' fifth starter and will make $33 million for the next two seasons.

"Fausto Carmona," Indians: He may miss the season after being caught for identity fraud (his name is actually Roberto Hernandez Heredia). He's due $7 million this season.

Jake Peavy, White Sox: It's hard to not appreciate the way Peavy is an absolute bulldog on the hill, but he was 7-7 with a 4.92 ERA last season as he battled back from a severe injury and he's set to make $17 million in 2012.

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: Twelve starts in 2010 got Westbrook a two-year deal with the Cardinals. He's going to make $8.5 million this season after a pretty bad 2011 campaign.

Carlos Zambrano, Cubs/Marlins: He'll make $19 million this year, but the Cubs are paying most of it so Big Z can pitch for the Marlins.

Derek Lowe, Braves/Indians: He'll make $15 million this year, but the Braves are paying most of it so Lowe can pitch for the Indians.

Left-handed starters

Worst: Barry Zito
Remaining contract: 2 years, $39 million

Perhaps the worst news is there's actually a club option for 2014. Now, obviously the Giants won't pick that up, barring Zito becoming Tim Lincecum overnight, but there's a $7 million buyout if they don't pick up the option. So Zito will cost the Giants $47 million more, at the very least, before they can wash their hands of him. This actually has to be one of the worst contracts of all time. Zito is 43-61 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and zero postseason innings pitched in his five seasons with the Giants.

Honorable Mention

Johan Santana, Mets: He was earning his deal pre-injury, so this one isn't really anyone's fault. Santana is due $49.5 million for the next two seasons, though, so that is rough.

Relievers

Worst: Rafael Soriano
Remaining contract: 2 years, $25 million

Soriano wasn't even the Yankees' best setup man last season (David Robertson was way better). Soriano was a stud in Tampa Bay in '10, so it's possible he's a great closer for the Yankees in 2013, if Mariano Rivera retires. But even when Soriano had a good second half last season, his numbers weren't awesome. And, again, we're talking about a non-closer making eight figures per season.

Honorable Mention

Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies: It will be interesting to see how Papelbon performs throughout this contract. He could very well earn his $50 million over the course of the next four years, but I'm wondering what the Phillies' front office thought when they saw that the Reds signed 2011 Philly closer Ryan Madson to a one-year, $8.5 million deal. I also wonder how this deal will feel if the Phillies can't find a way to lock up Cole Hamels long-term (he's a free agent next offseason). So this one has less to do with Papelbon and more to do with what the deal might end up costing the Phillies, because $50 million is an awful lot to give to a closer.

Brandon Lyon, Astros: Lyon will make $5.5 million this season. His 2011 season was cut short due to an injury, but he had an 11.48 ERA with as many blown saves as actual saves (four).



Part I: Infielders and catchers
Part II: Outfielders and designated hitters

Source for all figures was Cot's Baseball Contracts

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 9:33 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 2:35 pm
 

Reports: Josh Hamilton relapsed, drank alcohol

By Matt Snyder

Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton has a past that isn't a secret to any baseball fan. He battled drug and alcohol addiction for years and then came back from them to become one of baseball's most recognizable stars.

Unfortunately, according to the Dallas Morning News, Hamilton relapsed and drank alcohol this week in the Dallas area. If the initial report wasn't enough, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is also reporting the relapse.

Also, the Rangers have released this statement: "We are aware of a situation, but we don't have further comment at this time."

Hamilton is without an "accountability coach" at present. This isn't the first time he's relapsed, either. Back in 2009, he drank in excess and some photos of him surfaced on Deadspin.com. Hamilton would say, at the time:

"It just crossed my mind that night, 'Can I have a drink?' Obviously I can't and this reinforces that. Since that night, I have not had another thought like that. I know it's something I shouldn't do because it leads to other things." (Dallasnews.com)

Hamilton is a free agent after the 2012 season.

UPDATE: Katie Hamilton, Josh's wife, has posted the following message on Twitter:

“Truly appreciate all the encouraging & supportive tweets we've been getting. God is Faithful and forgives- so thankful that you all are showing us such love and encouragement during this time.”

UPDATE II: Hamilton spoke for a bit over 10 minutes in a press conference and came clean.

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 4:41 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 5:04 pm
 

Casey Kotchman to sign with Indians

By Matt Snyder

The Cleveland Indians have agreed to sign free agent first baseman Casey Kotchman, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman has learned. Heyman reports the deal is for one year and worth $3 million plus incentives.

Kotchman, 28, will now join his fifth team since the start of the 2009 season. Last season, he hit .306/.378/.422 with 10 homers and 24 doubles for the Rays. He's a bit overlooked offensively because he's a first baseman with little power, but the .378 OBP is great. For a club with little money to spend like the Indians, this is a good signing.

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Expect Kotchman to be the everyday first baseman for the Indians, meaning Matt LaPorta and recent acquisition Russ Canzler will be fighting for backup jobs.

With the addition of Kotchman, the Indians should have their opening day lineup set. Carlos Santana will catch with Kotchman, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall around the infield. Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo will man the outfield while Travis Hafner will DH. 

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Posted on: February 2, 2012 1:39 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 7:07 pm
 

Edwin Jackson signs one-year deal with Nationals



By Matt Snyder


Edwin Jackson is entering his 10th major-league season, and he'll do so with his seventh team. He is an agreement with the Washington Nationals on a one-year contract, the team announced Thursday. The deal, which was first reported by CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman, is pending a physical and Heyman reports it's believed to be between $8 million and $12 million.

"We saw an opportunity here to acquire a young, hard-throwing, power-pitching, innings-eating type of starting pitcher, and we thought it was good value at a good term," general manager Mike Rizzo said during a telephone conference call.

Jackson, 28, went 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 148 strikeouts in 199 2/3 innings last season for the White Sox and Cardinals. He was dealt to St. Louis in late July and ended up winning a World Series ring with St. Louis. Also, while control was an issue early in  Jackson's career, his walk rate was a career-low 2.8 per nine innings in 2011.

"His walks are trending in the right direction," Rizzo said.

Jackson had a .339 opponents' batting average with the bases empty and a .239 average with runners on last season, but the Nationals think they can work with the issue.

"We're going to make a few tweaks to his delivery," Rizzo said. "Last year he was a different pitcher out of the windup than he was from the stretch."

Washington offseason
The Nationals won their arbitration hearing with fourth starter John Lannan this week, but the signing of Jackson could be a signal Lannan is on the move via trade. In fact, Fox Sports reported earlier Thursday the Nats are "aggressively shopping" Lannan. The Nationals now have a very strong front four in Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Jackson with either Chien-Ming Wang or Lannan filling the fifth spot. No matter who it is, that's a formidable top to bottom rotation.

Note that Strasburg is on an innings limit and the Nats can't be sure if Wang will hold up all season, so it wouldn't hurt to have extra starting pitching. If they did deal Lannan, they could still turn to Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen or Tom Gorzelanny in a pinch. But for now, it's all about adding Jackson.

Jackson has been unable to find a permanent home in his career, but he's always been a productive pitcher. He doesn't profile as a frontline starter, but Washington doesn't need him to be one. He has great experience for his age, with over 1,000 regular-season innings pitched and seven postseason appearances, including four starts. Also good for Jackson is that Nationals Park profiles as a slight pitchers' park.

Jackson had been asking for a three- to five-year contract, but when the market dried up, agent Scott Boras and Jackson looked for a one-year deal so they could hit the market again next season. Washington bit.

"It made it much more palatable to us," Rizzo said.

The Nationals are coming off an 80-81 season in which they finished third place in the NL East for the first time since moving to Washington. With a full season of Strasburg and the additions of Gonzalez and Jackson, they appear eager to compete in a loaded division.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com