Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina elected to Hall of Fame

Mariano Rivera
Here's your fun fact of the day: Edgar Martinez has a .579 career batting average against Mariano Rivera.

With that kind of track record against the greatest closer of all-time, it makes you wonder how in the world it took Martinez 10 years to get elected to Baseball Hall of Fame, doesn't it?

Regardless, Rivera and Martinez both were elected to Cooperstown on Tuesday, along with Roy Halladay and Mike Mussina.

Rivera became the first player in history to earn unanimous election, appearing on all 425 ballots. Previously, Ken Griffey Jr. had the record for highest vote percentage (99.3 percent) after he was named on 437 of 440 ballots in 2016.

Frankly, I'm surprised Rivera got 100 percent of the vote -- not that he isn't deserving. The former Yankees closer has 652 career saves and five World series championships -- and an 8-1 record with a 0.70 ERA and 42 saves in 96 postseason appearances.

I just didn't think a closer would be the first guy to break down the barrier and appear on every ballot. Think about it: Greg Maddux threw more than 5,000 innings in his impeccable career as a starting pitcher, but not even he got 100 percent of the vote. Rivera, however, did, despite only pitching 1,283 innings in his career.

It's an interesting argument, but ultimately it doesn't matter much, since Rivera is no-doubt Hall of Famer regardless of what percent of the vote he received -- as are Maddux, Griffey Jr. and dozens of others.

I've long been an advocate for Martinez as a Hall of Famer, and I'm glad to see him receive 85.4 percent of the vote (75 percent is required for induction). The former Seattle designated hitter is one of only six players who began their career after World War II to retire with a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. Martinez won two batting titles and retired with a .312 batting average and 309 home runs in 18 seasons.

Halladay is going to the Hall posthumously, after his tragic death in November 2017 when a plane he was piloting crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast. The right-hander totaled 203 wins and a 3.38 ERA in 16 seasons -- 12 with the Toronto Blue Jays and four with the Philadelphia Phillies. He won a Cy Young award in both leagues and finished second on two other occasions. He threw a perfect game and is best-known for the no-hitter he threw for the Phillies in the 2010 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. From 2003 to 2011, he threw 61 complete games -- more than twice as many as the next-closest pitcher during those years (CC Sabathia had 30).

As for Mussina, will he go into the Hall as a Baltimore Oriole, or as a Yankee? I hope he goes in as an Oriole, but it will be close. Mussina pitched 18 seasons, 10 in Baltimore, eight in New York. He won 270 games, 147 with the Orioles, 123 with the Yankees. Mussina won seven Gold Gloves and totaled 2,813 strikeouts. He never won the Cy Young award, coming close in 1999, when he finished second to Pedro Martinez.

These four players will join Harold Baines and Lee Smith in the Class of 2019. Baines and Smith were elected in December by a Hall of Fame veterans committee. This year's induction is July 22.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Report: Avisail Garcia to sign one-year deal with Rays

Avisail Garcia
When the White Sox non-tendered outfielder Avisail Garcia, a few cynics out there didn't believe the team actually would move forward with someone else in right field for 2019.

Fear not, cynics, Garcia is moving on. So will the Sox.

According to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, Garcia has agreed to terms on a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The contract includes $2.5 million in incentives.

Garcia is coming off a bad season in which he hit .236/.281/.438 with 19 home runs and 49 RBIs. Yes, the 19 home runs were a career high, but the .281 on-base percentage was a career worst by almost 30 points. Not to mention, knee and hamstring injuries limited Garcia to only 93 games.

There probably are a handful of true Garcia believers out there because of the All-Star season he put up for the Sox in 2017, when he hit .330/.380/.506 with 18 home runs, 27 doubles and 80 RBIs in 136 games.

However, Garcia played for the Sox for five seasons, and 2017 was the only one in which you could say he lived up to expectations.

Aside from 2017, Garcia never had another season where he batted better than .257. Aside from 2017, he never had an on-base percentage higher than .309, and obviously, he won't be winning any Gold Gloves in right field.

This is a player who needs to hit in order to be useful, and in four years out of five with the Sox, he didn't hit enough. Maybe he'll revitalize his career in Tampa Bay, but I'm willing to bet he doesn't, and I'm fine with the Sox cutting ties.

And why is a player with a long history of leg injuries signing with a team that plays in a dome anyway?

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Jon Jay signing official; Charlie Tilson DFA; White Sox avoid arbitration with four players

Once upon a time, White Sox fans thought Charlie Tilson could at least be a serviceable fourth outfielder, if not a starting player.

Well, forget about that.

Tilson's Sox career has been defined by injuries, and he did nothing with an opportunity he received during the 2018 season. He accumulated a -0.9 WAR while batting .264/.331/.292 with no home runs and 11 RBIs in 41 games.

Now, he's been designated for assignment to make room on 40-man roster for Jon Jay, whose signing to a one-year, $4 million deal became official Thursday.

In other news, the Sox on Friday avoided arbitration with all four of their arbitration-eligible players. They agreed to one-year contracts with first baseman Jose Abreu ($16 million), starting pitcher Carlos Rodon ($4.2 million), relief pitcher Alex Colome ($7.325 million) and infielder Yolmer Sanchez ($4.625 million).

These new deals bring the Sox's 2019 payroll to $80,166,668, per Spotrac. That means there still is plenty of room to sign a premier free agent, as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Catcher Yasmani Grandal (shockingly) gets only a one-year deal

Yasmani Grandal
Was I wrong for thinking Yasmani Grandal was the best free agent catcher on the market this offseason?

He's durable, having appeared in 115 games or more in each of the past five seasons. He's a switch-hitter with power, having hit 27, 22 and 24 home runs, respectively, in the past three seasons.

According to Baseball Prospectus' blocking and framing stats, he's been the best defensive catcher in the game over the past four seasons. And, he's not that old; 2019 will be his age 30 season.

So why is he settling for a one-year deal?

The Milwaukee Brewers reportedly have agreed to terms on an $18.25 million contract with Grandal for the upcoming season.

What a steal for Milwaukee, which had the combination of Manny Pina and Erik Kratz behind the plate last season. It was a minor miracle that 38-year-old Kratz batted .236 for the Brewers in 2018. That team needed to upgrade its catching situation, and even if Grandal can't duplicate his numbers from the previous three years, he's better than both Pina or Kratz.

What I can't figure out is how Grandal didn't get a two- or three-year deal. Grandal turned down the $17.9 million qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and who can blame him? It would have been totally reasonable for him to believe he could get, say, three years and $40 million on the open market.

Hell, it was only four offseasons ago that the Toronto Blue Jays gave 31-year-old Russell Martin five years and $82 million.

Times have changed. Not even the best free agents can make a deal. We're almost to mid-January and two dynamic superstars in their prime have yet to sign free-agent contracts. And, very few teams seem to be in the hunt for Bryce Harper (Nationals, Phillies, White Sox) and Manny Machado (Yankees, Phillies, White Sox).

You can't help but wonder if we might seem some labor strife in MLB when the collective bargaining agreement expires. Even good players who are age 30 and younger are having to wait it out in this marketplace.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

White Sox sign outfielder Jon Jay, pitcher Kelvin Herrera

Jon Jay
This is starting to feel like a college recruitment, isn't it?

The White Sox are giving perks to the friends and family of Manny Machado, in hopes of luring the superstar free agent infielder to the South Side of Chicago.

They already traded for Machado's brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso. Now, reports indicate the Sox have agreed to a one-year, $4 million contract with Jon Jay, who just happens to be Machado's close friend and offseason workout partner.

The Sox will try to portray that as a "baseball move," and it is fair to say the team needs outfielders. With Avisail Garcia non-tendered and Eloy Jimenez likely to start the season at Triple-A Charlotte because of service time manipulation, the incumbent major league outfield includes Daniel Palka, Adam Engel, Nicky Delmonico and Leury Garcia.

So, in that context, perhaps Jay can help. The 34-year-old has a career .352 on-base percentage, swings left-handed and can competently handle both left field and center field. (I don't think his throwing arm is strong enough for right field.)

Jay split the 2018 season between the Kansas City Royals and Arizona Diamondbacks. He batted .307/.363/.374 in 59 games with the Royals, enticing the Diamondbacks to trade for him. It didn't work out for Arizona, as Jay slumped to a .235/.304/.325 slash line in 84 games.

Let's hope the Sox get the Kansas City version of Jay, or something similar.

In a separate move that likely has nothing to do with Machado, the Sox signed 29-year-old reliever Kelvin Herrera to a two-year contract worth $18 million. Minor league pitcher Ian Clarkin was designated for assignment to make room for Herrera on the 40-man roster.

Herrera, of course, had his best years with the Royals, and he possesses a World Series ring from the 2015 season. The rebuilding Kansas City club traded him to the Washington Nationals in the middle of the 2018 season, and he struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness.

In 27 games with the Royals in 2018, Herrera went1-1 with a 1.05 ERA. In 21 games with the Nationals, he went 1-2 with a 4.34 ERA.

Once again, let's hope the Sox get the Kansas City version of Herrera, or something similar.

If the moon, the stars and the sun align, the Sox could have a pretty decent late-inning bullpen to start the season. Herrera joins Alex Colome and Nate Jones as veterans with plenty of high-leverage experience.

Alas, Jones and Herrera are injury risks, so who knows if manager Rick Renteria will have the luxury of stacking up these guys in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings?

Regardless, it's a good idea for the Sox to add veteran bullpen help to the roster. That pushes Juan Minaya, Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr and Jose Ruiz down the leverage ladder. Those younger, inexperienced relievers should get late-inning opportunities only on merit now, as opposed to necessity, and that's the way you would prefer it.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Report: White Sox make formal offer to Manny Machado

Manny Machado
As of 9:40 p.m. Thursday, the lead headline on mlb.com reads, "Report: White Sox make formal offer to Machado."

For this blog, I've tweaked that headline a little bit, just in case anyone out there believes the Sox are trying to sign Dixon Machado. (You can never have enough utility infielders, right?) Or maybe the Sox are trying to bring back Robert Machado as a roving catching instructor or something.

Nah, this article actually talks about the Sox's interest in superstar free agent Manny Machado. I believe the report because it comes from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, who has more credible Sox information that most national reporters.

Nightengale reported the long-term offer is serious, but closer in value to $200 million over the life of the deal than $300 million. If that's the case, then maybe Bruce Levine's report that the Sox want to give neither Machado nor Bryce Harper more than seven years is accurate.

Personally, I still think it's going to take a 10-year offer worth $300 million to lure Machado to the South Side, and I won't believe that the Sox are willing to do that until I see it. If the Sox are going to offer only seven years, then they will finish third in the pursuit of these high-end talents.

Robertson to Philadelphia

Former Sox closer David Robertson has signed a two-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The deal is worth $23 million and contains a club option for $12 million for 2021 with a $2 million buyout.

Robertson probably becomes Philadelphia's closer at this point, unless the Phillies decide to add either Craig Kimbrel or Zach Britton. Of course, Philadelphia also is in the running for both Machado and Harper, so I'd be surprised if the Phillies do anything else significant before they get an answer from the two superstars on the market.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Some notable baseball figures who died in 2018

Year in review articles often include a list of notable people who died in the past 12 months. When I read those, I often think, "Geez, I didn't know that guy was gone."

Here is an alphabetical list of some baseball figures we lost in 2018:

Tito Francona, 84: He played 15 years in the big leagues for nine teams, including a half-season with the White Sox in 1958. The career .272 hitter batted .363 for the Cleveland Indians in 1959. His son, Terry Francona, now is the manager for the Indians.
Oscar Gamble

Oscar Gamble, 68: Known for his ridiculous Afro, the left-handed hitter totaled 200 home runs in his 17-year career. He had two separate stints with the White Sox. He hit a career-high 31 homers for the Sox as a member of the 1977 South Side Hitmen. He also finished his career in Chicago in 1985.

Augie Garrido, 79: He made 15 College World Series appearances as a coach (eight of them at the University of Texas) and won an NCAA record 1,975 games.

Doug Harvey, 87: The Hall of Famer umpired for 31 seasons. His nickname was God. Seriously.

Bruce Kison, 68: He pitched 15 seasons for three teams and finished his career 115-88 in 380 games (246 starts). His best years were with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1970s. He pitched 11 scoreless innings in the playoffs for the 1971 world champion Pirates.

Willie McCovey, 80: The Hall of Fame first baseman played all 22 of his seasons (1959 to 1980) with the San Francisco Giants. He totaled 521 home runs and won the National League MVP award in 1969, when he hit .320 with 45 home runs and 126 RBIs. That season, he led the NL in both on-base percentage (.453) and slugging percentage (.656).

Red Schoendienst, 95: He was a 10-time All-Star as a second baseman with the St. Louis Cardinals and spent 67 seasons as a player, manager and coach with the St. Louis organization. He totaled 1,041 wins as a manager.

Rusty Staub, 73: The six-time All-Star totaled 2,716 hits over a 23-year career, and he was the first star player for the Montreal Expos. Staub was an original member of the Expos, who joined the National League as an expansion team in 1969. Staub hit .302 that year, despite playing for a 52-110 team.

Luis Valbuena, 33: The utility infielder played 11 years with five teams, including the Cubs. He died in a car crash in Venezuela, along with former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Jose Castillo.