Blue Jays, Nationals in talks with Burke Badenhop
After padding their lineup, most notably with the additions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin, the Blue Jays could still use a little bullpen depth to replace the departed Casey Janssen. So could the Nats, who’ve been busy in recent days, exporting Tyler Clippard to get Yunel Escobar, and then breaking the bank for Max Scherzer. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi says those two clubs are eyeing a fellow right-hander whose mediocre strikeout rates belie his middle- and late-inning utility.
Burke Badenhop—who debuted with the Marlins in 2008 after arriving in the Miguel Cabrera blockbuster—has worn four different uniforms in the last four years, going from Miami to Tampa Bay to Milwaukee to Boston. He’s packed a ground-ball rate higher than 50 percent on each leg of the trip, peaking at 61 percent with the Red Sox last year. The flipside of that worm-killing consistency is that Badenhop’s strikeout percentage eroded from 16.5 percent in 2013 to 13.8 percent in 2014 while his walk clip rose from 4.7 percent to 6.6 percent. Keeping the ball on the ground can minimize the damage from otherwise-poor peripherals, but no one will ever mistake Badenhop for a scary setup man in the Wade Davis mold.
What Badenhop does do exceedingly well, though, is prevent right-handed opponents from collecting extra-base hits. They notched only nine—all of them doubles—in 162 at-bats last year and only eight in 148 at-bats the year before that. With a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-mph sinker and a slider and changeup used mainly to keep hitters off-balance,
Badenhop doesn’t often make hitters look foolish. On the other hand, hitters seldom make him crane his neck and watch one fly. The Bowling Green product who turns 32 on February 8th entertains more with self-deprecating humor than with his work on the mound, where he generally does the job in boring fashion, missing barrels and coaxing hitters into pounding the ball downward.
That style would fit well in the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, and the Blue Jays’ interest in Badenhop might stem in part from his success in other perilous environs like Miller Park and Fenway. They have company in the bidding, at least from the Nats, and possibly from other clubs, if talks haven’t died down since Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors tweeted three weeks ago that “several teams” were involved.
Jonny Gomes could land with Braves
The Braves outfield will look very different on Opening Day than it did at the end of last season, with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Evan Gattis all gone. B.J. Upton is still the center fielder, but largely because his contract renders him immovable. Free-agent pickup Nick Markakis will take over in right field. But the pecking order in left field is still to be determined.
Colby Rasmus, a Georgia native in whom the Braves were rumored to have some interest, signed with the Astros yesterday, leaving the market essentially bereft of everyday outfielders. That’s good news for Zoilo Almonte, a switch-hitter who currently sits at the top of the depth chart by default, though his role could become narrower if the Braves find a platoon partner.
That’s where Jonny Gomes might come in, per MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. After splitting the 2014 campaign between the Red Sox and A’s, Gomes drew mild interest from the Cubs, but he is likely to land elsewhere now that Dexter Fowler has been traded to Chicago. Atlanta appears a logical fit.
The 34-year-old Gomes won’t ever be mistaken for a Gold Glover, but if he can punish left-handed pitching, the rebuilding Braves will live with the considerable fielding downgrade from the younger Upton. They could also limit Gomes’ adverse impact by carrying a late-inning defensive caddy.
But all of that becomes moot if Gomes has lost the one skill that’s ensured his employment in recent years: hitting against southpaws, particularly for power. Gomes whacked 10 doubles and 11 homers in 196 plate appearances versus southpaws in 2012, but those numbers dipped in 2013 and plummeted to four and four, respectively, in 204 trips in 2014. The thump virtually disappeared when the A’s obtained Gomes in the Yoenis Cespedes-Jon Lester blockbuster.
If the Braves were to invest guaranteed money into Gomes, they’d have to be convinced that there’s juice left in his bat. If it’s gone, Gomes would hover around replacement level, struggling to justify even the short end of a platoon with Almonte, whose big-league credentials include a .211/.242/.282 slash line in 149 trips over two years with the Yankees.
There’s no question that left field threatens to be a gaping hole in Atlanta’s lineup, enough so that the John Hart-led front office might feel compelled to add a veteran to the mix. But there’s reason to wonder, after 75 fruitless plate appearances with the A’s, how much signing Gomes would do to plug it. A glove-first player with modest offensive upside might fit better than Gomes with this Braves club.