January 30, 2017
Don't Go Changing to Try and Please Me
Miller could move to second base
Logan Forsythe is out and Brad Miller, it appears, is in. Since the Rays dealt Forsythe to the Dodgers for right-hander Jose De Leon last week, they’ve been puzzling over how best to anchor their middle infield this season. They could net another second baseman via trade or free agency, but Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times suggests that an internal solution may play out better for the club.
Enter Miller, who shifted from shortstop to first base in 2016 after the Rays acquired Matt Duffy at the trade deadline. Miller wasn’t happy about the switch then, but a return to the middle infield might assuage those hurt feelings if the club can’t find a viable replacement before the start of the season. He has some experience at the keystone already—37 major-league starts, to be precise—after the Mariners experimented with him at second from 2013 through 2015. And while the team also has prospective backups in Nick Franklin, Tim Beckham, and Daniel Robertson, none of them have quite the pop at the plate that Miller provides.
More importantly, getting Miller to stick at second could free up the Rays to pursue some alternatives at first base. Topkin envisions the team going after Mike Napoli, Mark Reynolds, or Chris Carter, the latter of whom was linked to the Rays last week.
Astros, Rays, Brewers all in on Wieters
A week ago, the market for catcher Matt Wieters had dwindled to just a handful of teams, including the Angels, Rockies, and Reds. Now, Tommy Stokke of FanRag Sports and Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe report that the Astros, Rays, and Brewers have thrown their hat in the ring for the 30-year-old’s services.
The Brewers appear to have some depth at the position with Andrew Susac, Manny Pina, and the newly-acquired Jett Bandy lined up for 2017. Likewise, the Astros might be an awkward fit for Wieters, who would share duties behind the plate with starter Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, and would also be blocked at first base/DH by Yulieski Gurriel and Carlos Beltran. The Rays, on the other hand, have both the roster space and the playing time to accommodate Wieters with starting catcher Wilson Ramos sidelined until June or July.
One factor that could be driving the surge of interest in Wieters is his affordable price tag. Cafardo notes that the catcher was looking for a three-year deal when he hit free agency last fall, a demand no team was willing to meet. No specific contract stipulations were reported, but it seems likely that the veteran All-Star would be open to more team-friendly terms in order to net a deal by Opening Day.
Extension talks stall between Tillman, Orioles
Opening Day is just 62 days away, but the Orioles don’t look any closer to finalizing an extension with right-hander Chris Tillman. The 28-year-old said as much during Orioles FanFest last Saturday, and MASN Sports’ Roch Kubatko thinks it’s unlikely that the Orioles will be able to continue negotiations during the season, per Tillman’s request.
Extension talks have been in the works since the beginning of the offseason, but it makes sense that the club would be hesitant to offer the veteran righty a long-term deal after watching him sustain an underwhelming 4.58 DRA and 1.5 WARP in 2016. Even those marks were a step up for Tillman, who was coming off of a 5.22 DRA and -0.3 WARP in 2015 before he decided to restructure his four-pitch repertoire.
If the Orioles are serious about locking Tillman into a longer contract, they’ll have to move fast. While the team isn’t expected to make a move before the right-hander enters free agency at the end of the season, an 11th-hour decision wouldn’t be without precedent. The team pulled off a $40 million, three-year extension for shortstop J.J. Hardy during the 2014 postseason, though he appears to be the lone exception among those eligible for free agency in recent years. Should they decide to let Tillman go, the Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina points out that he’ll join a competitive free agent pool that includes starting pitchers Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb, among others.