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January 16, 2014

Rumor Roundup

Yes, Paul Maholm Still Exists

by Daniel Rathman

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Rangers reached out to Paul Maholm
Several days ago, we learned that Rangers starter Derek Holland had suffered a knee injury in a fall at his home, and details later surfaced that it had happened when he tripped over his dog. The left-hander needed microfracture surgery on his left knee, so the Rangers must prepare to do without Holland at least through the All-Star break and possibly deeper into the summer.

Right-hander Nick Tepesch is the most likely candidate from within the organization, but it appears that general manager Jon Daniels is at least exploring the possibility of adding a veteran free agent starter. That news comes straight from one of the still-unemployed hurlers: former Braves southpaw Paul Maholm, who told ESPN and SiriusXM’s Jim Bowden that the Rangers are among the clubs that have phoned his agent.

The 31-year-old Maholm would be hard pressed to replace Holland’s production. He hasn’t been worth more than 1.0 WARP in a season since the 2010 campaign, his penultimate year with the Pirates, and he’s developing an injury history of his own. Maholm missed two weeks last September with elbow inflammation and spent the last 42 days of the 2011 season on the shelf with a shoulder strain.

Nonetheless, the Rangers are low on experienced starters and could use reinforcements, if only because another injury would force Daniels to dig even deeper into the pipeline. The Athletics are expected to contend again, and the Angels and Mariners should be better than they were in 2013, so any further damage to the rotation could dash the Rangers’ hopes of returning to the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the market for Maholm has been quieter than you might expect for a pitcher who is a year removed from consecutive seasons in which he posted a sub-4.00 ERA. Maholm pitched well for the bulk of last year but was done in by a brutal July, when he was knocked around for 23 hits and a 10.13 ERA and worked only 13 1/3 innings over three starts. That rut preceded a month-long stay on the disabled list with a sprained wrist, which Maholm suffered while batting on July 10 and which may have contributed to his plunge.

Maholm bounced back after returning to the mound and posted a 3.99 ERA over his last five starts, even though opponents logged an .815 combined OPS against him. Right-handed hitters were Maholm’s undoing throughout the season, teeing off at a .299/.367/.845 clip, an issue that plagued him before 2011 and 2012, when he largely kept them in check.

Breaking and off-speed pitches were the key to Maholm’s success versus glove-side batters two years ago, when he used his deep arsenal—which includes a changeup, curveball, cutter, and slider—to overcome his mediocre fastball. Only the slider remained effective in 2013. The curve was an unmitigated disaster.

If the Rangers, or another team, can help him to regain the effectiveness of those two pitches, Maholm could be a nice back-of-the-rotation bargain. The Mets kicked the tires on Maholm around the Winter Meetings, but they moved on and have since signed Bartolo Colon. His agent, Bo McKinnis, might have more success drumming up interest once the bigger names are off the market.

The Mets re-signed Daisuke Matsuzaka…and then they didn’t
Sports Hochi reporter Osaki Makkura tweeted on Tuesday that the Mets were bringing back Daisuke Matsuzaka on a minor-league deal and giving him a chance to compete for a roster spot this spring. It seemed plausible enough—after all, Matsuzaka held his own with the Mets at the end of last season, posting a 4.42 ERA and 4.29 FIP over seven starts. But plausible and real are two different things, and ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin was told that the report is “not true at all.”

Perhaps the most meaningful takeaway from this has nothing to do with Matsuzaka or the Mets. Rather, it is that Japanese sports media reports aren’t always trustworthy. And that’s worth keeping in mind over the next week, as there are sure to be many more of them before Tanaka decides on his new home.

Just how much weight has Pablo Sandoval lost this offseason?
On Tuesday, MLB.com’s Rafael Rojas tweeted that Pablo Sandoval was telling people that he had dropped 42 pounds since the end of the 2013 campaign. Less than 24 hours later, the Kung Fu Panda himself refuted that report.

Sandoval, who is entering a contract year, did not directly contradict Rojas’ tweet, but he shot down the idea that he has publicly revealed his current weight. It appears we’ll have to wait until spring training to find out whether the 27-year-old is actually in the best shape of his life, though this photo looks promising.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

1 comment has been left for this article.

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