The Winter Meetings, virtual style, are ongoing. There have been a couple of moves, but like most year, it’s mostly been about rumors and healthy updates on players looking for big roles in the coming season or about guys trying to wrangle some cash from teams.
If they A’s had to choose a closer right now the 9th inning man would be Jake Diekman. The 33 year old lefty turns 34 in January. He has seven career saves in a career that became back in 2012. He was dynamite last year allowing one earned run in 21.1 innings, and he has 44 holds the last two years, but he’s never had five saves in a season and owns a 1.38 WHIP for his career. He dominating with the K-ball, 10 or more punchouts per nine the last seven years including a career best 13.08 last season, but he’s also walked more than five batters per nine innings for his career with a three years best of 5.06 per nine last season. Recipe for disaster there.
Cole Hamels is healthy enough to pitch, and he wants to do so in 2021. Hamels, who turns 37 in a couple of weeks, was an abject failure last season throwing a total of 3.1 innings for the Braves. He was mildly effective in 2019 over 27 starts, though he threw just 141.2 innings with a 1.39 WHIP as his walk rate crept up to a career worst at 3.56.
Felix Hernandez intends to pitch in 2021. The 34 year old didn’t throw a pitch that mattered last season, and some have argued that he didn’t in 2019 either (he went 1-8 with a 6.40 ERA over 15 starts). Ya never know, but his stuff looks shot which is too bad cause he was damn effective for a decade. Just a name at this point though.
Are you gonna watch the seduction?
Jordan Hicks, who had Tommy John surgery and then ultimately opted out of the 2020 season because of diabetes, is set to be on a normal schedule at the start of spring training. This great news for a kid who literally can throw 100 mph. It’s surprising that he’s only struck out 8.55 batters per nine in two seasons given the velocity, but if healthy he could emerge at the closer for the Cardinals.
Carlos Martinez could start for the Cardinals in 2021, but he will have to earn the job. While the big story has been him breaking Covid rules while looking like Eazy-E, there are all kinds of questions about what role Martinez will fill in 2021, and if he will even be on the Cardinals by the time the season starts. Martinez, a starter for years, split his duty in 2018 making 18 starts with 15 relief outings. He then pitched out of the bullpen 48 times in 2019 gaining 24 saves. Last season he made just five starts, lasting 20 innings. He wants to start. He believes he should be starting. Problem is, last time he was an effective starter was 2018. To this scribe, it seems like the best thing for Martinez might be a trade to a new organization for a fresh start.
A.J. Puk, in my estimation, is laughably being considered for the rotation according to GM David Frost. They can consider it, but can it happen? If the recent past is any indication, the answer to him starting is a big, fat nothing burger. Puk, who had shoulder surgery recently, has also had Tommy John surgery in the recent past. As I’ve written and said before, there is nothing here to build on for Puk. Even if he is healthy, how many bullets will he have this season? He didn’t throw a pitch in 2018, threw 35.2 innings in 2019 and zero innings in 2020. How could the A’s possibly plan on him being part of the rotation when he’s thrown less than 40-innings in three years?
Alex Reyes is the Cardinals version of Puk. He’s an elite talent who has had a wobbly as hell start to his professional career. Apparently, his team wants him to be ready to start this season as well. Reyes didn’t pitch in 2017. In 2018 it was about 27 innings. In 2019 it was 60 innings. Last year, obviously zero. The last four years he’s thrown just about 90 innings. Sounds like a guy who is ready to throw 150-innings to me.
Should Johan Santana be a HOFamer?
Matt Wisler signed a 1-year, $1.15 million deal to join the Giants’ bullpen. He allowed three runs over 25.1 innings last season with a 1.14 WHIP and 35 punchouts in 25.1 innings. He’s actually punched out 98 batters over 76.2 innings the last two years which his nice, but… (1) He walked 4.97 batters per nine last year. (2) His career 1.45 HR/9 rate was only 0.71, so half of normal, despite him adding 15 percentage points to his career fly ball rate with an absurd mark of 64 percent. (3) He was extremely fortunate last year with a 99 percent left on base rate. #DangerWillRobinson
Adam Eaton signed a 1-year deal for $7 million to return to the White Sox (the deal has a club option at $8.5 million). Will he hit 1-2 or 8-9? That is his most pressing fantasy question, and one whose answer will kill or elevate his value (keep an eye on how that may or may not affect the outlook of Nick Madrigal). Eaton is a nice ballplayer, but he has no power and last season he only ran three times. He’s also had a habit of missing game action with injuries, and at 32 years of age it’s not a trend that will likely reverse itself. If he hits at the top of the order, sure. If he’s at the bottom, he’s just a guy in mixed leagues.
Yadier Molina did not like the offer he received from the Cardinals. The veteran free agent has said he wants to play two more years. It would be a shame if he wasn’t wearing a Cardinals uniform.
Mel Rojas will play in Japan after signing a 2-year deal for $5 million. There was a lot of media driven hype the last week about how the former big leaguer might return to the States after going straight ballistic the last three years in the KBO, including last years monumental effort of .349-47-135-116 with a 1.097 OPS over 142 games. Alas, he took a deal that he simply wasn’t going to get to return to Major League Baseball in the current climate.
Carlos Santana is a Royal after agreeing to a 2-year, $17 million deal. He hit .199 last year, and that’s a huge part of the story. Still, Carlos did go .281-34-93-110 just a year earlier, his best season overall, and even last year he still walked more than he struck out and posted a .349 OBP. He is what he is, and the Royals paid appropriately for that guy. His .349 OBP was the lowest mark of his career, thanks in no small part to that .212 BABIP that tanked his batting average.
Preston Tucker will play in Korea for $1.05 million this coming season. A failed full-time player in North America, Tucker went bonkers last season becoming the first Kia Tigers player to ever go 30-100-100 in a season (he also had a .306/.398/.557 slash line over 142 games). With the way that teams are treating veterans this offseason, fringe big leaguers might very well join Tucker playing overseas.