OK, it sounds like the Rockies’ baseball operation department isn’t as dysfunctional as it may have been. Just getting along better won’t necessarily improve the performance on the field, though. It may but it may not.
Gray, out of the University of Oklahoma, was the Rockies’ first-round pick in 2013; Butler, out of Radford, was the 46th player selected overall in 2012. The pair is ranked 1-2 on MLB.com’s organization prospect list, and Butler made three big-league starts last season.
They both opened eyes this spring, and not with their “stuff.” There was never any question about that. Rather it was their maturity and focus that has caught the attention not only of the Rockies but of scouts from other organizations.
“It is,” said one scout, “the difference maker for so many young players. It’s realizing that talent is one thing, but making sure you maximize that talent ... is the key to success.”
The team held a “Name the Team” contest that drew close to 6,000 submissions. Two weeks ago, the team announced a list of 10 options that was cut to five a week later.
After much chatter both locally and nationally, the team’s naming committee — owner Josh Solomon, general manager Tim Restall, consultant Chuck Domino and a California sports branding and marketing company — picked the name that ignited the most buzz, much of it mocking.
So the franchise once known as the Bristol Red Sox is now … the Hartford Yard Goats.
People in the YMCA gymnasium saw two live goats, hedgehogs, toy helicopters and a rain of confetti after the announcement. The goats were brought onto the stage, but they nervously strayed to the side.
Get used to seeing goats. Although the name Yard Goats is technically an old railroad slang term for an engine that switches a train to get it ready for another locomotive, the animal angle lends itself to logos and merchandise. Hartford’s stadium could have a petting zoo, at least on some nights.
“When you think of a name, it’s about what you can market and what appeals to kids,” Restall said. “We can do a lot with this name.”
Still, through his Minor League career that stretched across six seasons and four Major League Baseball franchises, Burch kept to that mantra: No one asked, no need to tell. During a game for the BaySox in 2008, a rare opportunity presented itself. Sitting in the bullpen, one of his teammates, a pitcher from Latin America, asked him if he had a girlfriend with whom to spend their upcoming break. The door opened and Burch strode right through it.
“I’m not interested in girls. I’m gay. And I don’t have a boyfriend.”..
That wasn’t the only time he shared his sexual orientation with teammates. He opened up to people he trusted, men he had known for a while and people he considered true friends. That list of trusted teammates simply wasn’t very long, as the life of a Minor League player is full of change. He played for five different A+ and AA teams, and two Major League spring trainings, in just his final two seasons in baseball. Players are traded, moved up, dropped down and sent to other teams all season long. Opportunities to build deep, trusting relationships with teammates are few and far between.
On Monday, the 44-year-old Giambi took the final step in a storied career, announcing his retirement from the game of baseball. The former designated hitter and first baseman had stints with the A’s, Yankees, Rockies and Indians, evolving from an MVP-caliber slugger in his prime to a clubhouse leader and bench player in his final two seasons in Cleveland.
2. Blue Jays: Were Dalton Pompey more established, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak more reliable and second base not such a worry, I’d strongly consider the Blue Jays for the top spot on this list. Alas, those are, of course, all big questions.
Still, there is a lot to like about a lineup that begins with Jose Reyes, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion. Those are five steady on-base presences and a middle of the order that can straight-up mash.
There are big questions to be answered in Toronto, but you’d be hard-pressed to find (on paper, at least) a lineup with a better top five.
Due for a better year: Domonic Brown gets what is maybe his final chance to prove himself as a big league regular. An All-Star in 2013 when he hit 27 home runs, he fell apart in 2014 with a .235/.285/.349 line. There’s still some talent here, but how much?
Due for a worse year: Ruben Amaro Jr.
I’m just the messenger: Everyone has been predicting the decline of the Phillies for a few years and Amaro finally admitted that a rebuilding was in order. He’s been asking for a ransom for Hamels, understandably so because he’s really the only valuable commodity he has, unless Chase Utley agrees to a trade or Cliff Lee comes back and proves he’s healthy. The past two seasons were painful for Phillies fans, but 2015 could be their worst season since losing 97 games in 2000.
The final word: Hey, on the bright side the Phillies outperformed my prediction last year by seven wins .. and still won just 73 games. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the bullpen, led by closer-in-waiting Ken Giles (1.18 ERA as a rookie), which should be solid even if Papelbon is traded.
“We obviously all know that Coors Field is a tough place to pitch,” Kendrick said Wednesday after signing a one-year, $5.5 million contract. “But I’m happy to be here and I’m not scared to pitch at Coors Field at all.”
Wiln Rosario doesn’t look particularly athletic to me.
General manager Jeff Bridich tells me that the team is confident that catcher Wilin Rosario can make the transition from catcher to first base, and possibly even right field.
Rosario spent a full week at the team’s training complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., earlier this month, working at first base and the outfield. He will also spend time at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic before reporting for spring training around Feb. 20.
“I think Wilin has the athletic ability to do this, and he certainly has the work ethic,” Bridich said..
“It would be easy for somebody in my shoes, a brand-new GM, a young GM, to want to come in and make a splash, do something sexy,” Bridich said this winter. “I fought that urge, but I’m not going to say it wasn’t there.
“We’ve been close-ish to a few things. But it hasn’t happened, hasn’t worked out. We’re not going to panic. ... We have to remember the type of talent that we have here.”
Free agent catcher Nick Hundley and the Rockies have agreed to a two-year contract worth around $6 million, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.
Connolly reports that the Orioles made Hundley a two-year offer to remain in Baltimore after acquiring him from the Padres in May, but he opted for more money and the promise of more playing time in Colorado.
Hundley hit .243 with six homers and a .631 OPS in 83 games overall and has a .680 OPS for his career.
In the Mets’ most recent conversations with the Rockies, during last week’s Winter Meetings, the Rockies wanted three or four top players — some current major leaguers, some prospects still in the minors — and also wanted the Mets to assume the entire $118 million that Tulowitzki has guaranteed through 2020.
The Halos traded relief pitcher Jairo Diaz to the Colorado Rockies for infielder Josh Rutledge and announced the trade about a half-hour after the Kendrick for Andrew Heaney deal with the Dodgers went public.
Whether Cuddyer is overpaid by a little or a lot is debatable. Suggesting that the 15th pick of the first round isn’t valuable because that particular pick hasn’t produced a plethora of all stars isn’t convincing.
That back-of-the-envelope math is without considering the cost of the lost draft pick. In signing a qualifying offer free agent, the Mets will forfeit the 15th pick of the 2015 draft. While that would seem to be a bad thing for a team on a rebuilding path, the reality is that the slot hasn’t yielded much of value in the past two decades aside from Chase Utley (61.5 WAR since being taken there in 2000). Breaking down the past 21 picks at number 15 dating back to 1994:
• 10 have never played in the majors, including the last five, on whom the jury should quite rightly remain out.
• Six have generated no more than 0.3 WAR for their entire careers, with five of them in the red.
• Two have produced between 4.0 and 5.0 WAR, namely Gabe Gross (2001) and the still-active Devin Mesoraco (2007).
• Two have been worth between 15 and 20 WAR, namely Scott Kazmir (2002, by the Mets) and Stephen Drew (2004).
Apparently Cuddyer wasn’t too nuts about Colorado… and is confident he’ll be awful in 2015!
The Mets announced that they have signed free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract.
Cuddyer, a client of Excel Sports Management’s Casey Close, was the surprise recipient of a qualifying offer last week that caused many to believe that he would be the first to accept the offer. However, Colorado’s decision to extend the QO appears to have been a wise one, as they’ll now net a draft pick at the end of next year’s first round for their loss. The Mets, on the other hand, will forfeit the 15th pick in next year’s draft in order to bring Cuddyer to Queens…
Cuddyer’s contract is a two-year, $21MM pact, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he’ll earn $8.5MM in 2015 and $12.5MM in 2016. Essentially, by turning down the qualifying offer, Cuddyer guaranteed himself an additional $5.7MM and a second year.
I love Tulowitzki. With his contract, though, he’s a tough pickup for any GM. GMs get fired for being wrong on trades like this.
Tulowitzki, in particular, creates difficulty. He is homegrown. He is the most popular player in Rockies history. When right, he is arguably among the five best position players in the game. But here is how many games he has started at shortstop in the past five years: 122, 140, 47, 119 and 88. Those are 516 starts in his age 25-to-29 seasons, barely more than 100 a year on average (Derek Jeter, as a comparison, averaged 135 games starting at short from age 25-to-29).
Now, Tulowitzki is coming back from his worst injury yet – a torn labrum in his hip. This is what Alex Rodriguez has had in both hips. Maybe Tulowitzki can overcome that. But Tulowitzki turned 30 last month. Do you think he is about to go through his healthiest phase?
Tulowitzki, meanwhile, is one of the best players in baseball when he’s healthy. He proved that once again this year, posting an absurd .340/.432/.603 batting line with 21 homers and 52 RBIs in 91 games. Ah, but it’s that last part that matters most with Tulo. Is he healthy enough to depend on?
Since 2010, Tulowitzki has averaged 106 games per year. In other words, he’s missed roughly a third of the Rockies’ games over the past five years. But injuries might not even be the biggest obstacle to a team interested in acquiring the All-Star shortstop. That would be his contract.
Tulowitzki, who just turned 30, is owed $20 million per year until 2019. He’s on the books for $14 million in 2020 with either a $15 million option for $4 million buyout in 2021, when he will be 36 years old. So that’s $118 million for six years or $129 million for seven years. Either way you slice it, it’s expensive.