Welcome to a Thursday morning that is snowy where I am, and perhaps where you are too! Just a few notable free agents remain, but the arbitration decision on Kris Bryant seems to be holding up the trade market. Still, plenty of note to unpack in baseball yesterday.
In Mariners news...
- In case you missed it, Baseball America dropped their Top-10 list for the Mariners, which we have covered for you here.
- Shed Long will be making a couple changes to his uniform this year, moving to No. 4 back from last year’s No. 39. He’ll also have “Jr.” on his uniform, inspired by veteran Tacoma teammate Eric Young Jr.
- Ben Clemens of FanGraphs used some of MLB’s “expected outcome” metrics to measure the best and worst (and luckiest/unluckiest) fastballs of 2019. Yusei Kikuchi, reader, was not lucky, nor were former Mariners Matt Wisler or Wade LeBlanc.
- Few Mariners farmhands are playing winter ball this year, but Eric Filia continues to do his thing in LIDOM, and had a lengthy interview on the mental side of the game.
Around the league...
- Let’s take it from the top - though Alex Cora has been dismissed as manager of the Red Sox, the organization remains under investigation and liable for discipline from the league office for their alleged 2018 infractions. Per Joel Sherman, Cora also is still expected to be suspended.
- It seems like the Astros’ cheating (and potentially similar behavior by several other clubs) was an open secret in many circles, but there was at least a degree of shock league-wide.
Over the last two months, some members of the Astros reached out to friends with other teams to assure them they didn't cheat to win. In wake of the Commissioner's Report, some of those friendships are fractured. Lots of anger.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 15, 2020
- Opinions are mixed on Mike Fiers, the Athletics pitcher who was willing to go on record on the cheating he witnessed by his teammates, coaches, and bosses. Former Astros manager Phil Garner called him a “rat” on local radio for his whistleblowing.
- ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcaster and New York Mets special advisor Jessica Mendoza also expressed consternation with Fiers pulling the curtain back on his former teammates.
- Jeff Passan of ESPN wrote a lengthy story, chock-full of anonymous quotes from execs, coaches, and current and retired players, coming down on multiple sides of the spectrum on Fiers and the scandal.
- Thanks to the full report from MLB, we know the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme relied on video feeds available in every dugout and replay room, so prior investigations expecting significant home/road splits were understandably inconclusive. Rob Arthur of Baseball Prospectus ($) looks once more at the extent and the changes of the cheating.
It turns out that the Astros continued cheating through the 2017 playoffs and well into the 2018 regular season (possibly using whistling). The effectiveness tailed off at the end of the 2017 playoffs, maybe because teams figured out what they were doing. https://t.co/L5ouB2CEDx pic.twitter.com/pIjyYZNsJe— Rob Arthur (@No_Little_Plans) January 15, 2020
- The Astros took the first steps towards replacing their staff, interviewing Buck Showalter.
- Meanwhile, the Mets are now “wavering” on whether to retain newly hired manager Carlos Beltrán, who received significant blame in Rob Manfred’s report for his role in setting up the sign-stealing operation. Beltrán is the lone major player to have retired since that season, making him an easier target for blame than union-protected players, muddling how culpable he is further.
- At the moment, the next steps are unclear.
As of last night #Mets weren’t reaching out to experienced managers such as Showalter or Dusty Baker. They were mulling whether to move forward with Beltran. Heard there was a lot of conflict in org about what the right way to go would be.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) January 16, 2020
- You can be the judge of veracity, but there’s a good chance a couple notable MLB names had their burner Twitter accounts uncovered yesterday by intrepid sleuths. Folks are positing this account was affiliated with Mets manager Carlos Beltran, thanks to a few interesting similarities. Similarly, this account is suspected to belong to Eric Hosmer, thanks to the content, subsequent deletion, initials, and 305 area code. Some good internet fun on a cold winter’s day.
- Meanwhile, Konstantin Koakes of MIT’s Technology Review pushes back on the idea anyone should be punished for sign-stealing.
- Sheryl Ring of Beyond the Box Score has a great breakdown for laypeople of the implications of the class-action lawsuit from former MiLBer Garrett Broshius being appealed to the Supreme Court. If MLB loses the case there, or has their current loss in court upheld by the Supreme Court not taking on the case, it could mean the end of sub-minimum wage pay for minor league players, which may have much to do with the league’s interest in cutting at least 42 minor league affiliates.
- Joey Votto would like it known that he can dunk, as he told The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans.
- C.C. Sabathia has been hired by the Yankees as a special advisor.
- Speaking of the Bronx Bombers, the ZiPS projections are out for them and they are terrifying.
- CKuno at Crawfish Boxes did some heartfelt introspection on how to grapple with lifelong fandom for an organization that’s shown time and time again to be a bad actor.
- In that same vein, here’s an honest look at the situation (and the consequences) of the Astros’ actions from William Metzger at Crawfish Boxes.
- If you like Magic: The Gathering spoilers, and Hunter Pence, I have something for your very particular niche.
- Jon Heyman posits Marcell Ozuna could fill the hole created by whiffing on Josh Donaldson, though Ozuna has stated the Rangers and Cardinals are his preferred spots.
Braves do like Marcell Ozuna. It’s believed they at least touched base with Castellanos too, but Ozuna seems more likely. They need middle of order bar to replace Donaldson. Might be easier to go the free agent OF route than fashion blockbuster for superstar 3B Arenado or Bryant.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 15, 2020
- A few minor league signings of recognizable names came through yesterday, starting with Travis Snider returning on an MiLB deal to the Diamondbacks.
- Yangervis Solarte also got a minor league contract, from the Braves.
- Two former Mariners got gigs yesterday, with Mac Williamson snagging a minors deal with the Nationals and Andrew Romine doing the same with the White Sox.
- The Red Sox and Rangers exchanged former prospects who’d worn out their welcome, giving Texas another potential 1B if they whiff on Nick Castellanos.
- The Yankees and Marlins once again made a deal, with Miami snagging a reliever with LOOGY risk for an underperforming low-minors infielder.
- Fingers crossed that this comes soon and sets some movement going at last.
A decision in the Kris Bryant case is expected by the end of the month, possibly next week. Bryant has 2 years to go before free agency but he is grieving that, claiming it should be 1 year based on service time. Ruling will affect his trade value.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 16, 2020
- The Ringer took a deep dive into the life story of one of the more universally beloved figures in sports broadcasting - the late Stuart Scott.