Padres continue busy offseason by signing James Shields

“When it came down to it, I had to think about my family, being close to home. And my No. 1 reason is winning. The teams I was looking at, I knew they were going to win and win now. That's what I loved about San Diego and what ownership's doing right now. They had that win-now mentality. They want not only to win now but win the next four, five years.”
—Padres starting pitcher James Shields, who agreed with the club on a four-year, $75 million deal last week. The deal includes a fifth-year club option for $16 million but also has an opt-out clause after 2016. (Dennis Lin, U-T San Diego)

“In all reality, it came down to the Cubs and the Padres — two great managers. I think I made the right decision here. I'm really happy about it. I'm really happy to be a Padre.”
—Shields, in an interview on 1090-AM. The Cubs reportedly offered Shields a three-year, $60 million contract.

“From our standpoint, you have a level that you want to get to and you try to do a deal with him," Preller said. "You get outside that level and you're going to move on and let somebody else sign the player. But also in these deals, when you get close, sometimes you have some wiggle room and a gut check for if you really want the player.”
—Padres general manager A.J. Preller, on acquiring Shields.

“Do they say I’m crazy? Oh, yeah, all the time. “It’s, ‘Are you serious?’ I want truthful comments. Part of making moves is gathering the staff every day and throwing stuff off the wall and then sitting back and listening. They can come up with a lot of stuff. We do a lot behind the scenes, background work, and sometimes it pays off, sometimes earlier, sometimes later.”
—Preller, on constantly meeting with his scouts, advisors, and other members of the front office. (Nick Canepa, U-T San Diego)

“Barely. This job takes up a lot of time. I’ve never been a huge sleeper. I’m always looking ahead to the next three or four days.”
—Preller, on whether he gets any sleep.

MLB still considering different options to counteract declining offense

“What we’ve done is eliminate one variable, which is the varying application of the strike zone among umpires. Now, as a result, one can decide how the strike zone should be defined with some confidence that the umpires will call it that way. There’s a lot less slippage between the policy reflected in a rules change and the actual outcome.”
—Mets general manager and current chair of the Playing Rules Committee, on the umpire-to-umpire consistency in balls and strikes being called. MLB is reportedly considering altering the strike zone in response to the recent decline in offense. (Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports)

“I started quite a stir with the defensive shift comment. This is a topic that we’ve had some internal conversation about. We have not made any decision. …. We’re still looking at the data, trying to decide whether we’re going to make any change in order to increase the offense and whether this change makes sense. It’s way down the road.”
—MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, on considering banning defensive shifts. (Evan Drellich, Houston Chronicle)

“We really haven’t been to the clubs on this (shifts) issue. It’s really been a topic of internal discussion to date. I think the best way to think about is baseball wants to be proactive in making sure it’s thinking about issues that may be emerging in the game, and this is one of the issues.”

Chris Davis more willing to adjust to the shift this season

"I think there are definitely situations where I need to bunt, and I know there was some frustration last year obviously with my batting average being as low as it was — not only on my part but the fan base and maybe even on some of my teammates' part — as far as me hitting into the shift."
—Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, on the "Hot Stove Show" on 105.7 The Fan, on recognizing situations last season when he might have been better off bunting to beat the shift (like he did here). (Roch Kubatko,

"First of all, when you're not swinging the bat well and you're kind of trying to find it, for me, I want to go up there and have an at-bat. I don't want to just lay a bunt down. There were times last year when I did lay a bunt down, but for me it's really a comfort thing. It's different going out there and working off a machine or even a BP arm and laying balls down the third base line and going into a game and doing it. For me, it was just a comfort thing and I have worked on it this offseason. I've probably worked on it more this offseason than I have in the past. If it's a one-run game, I'm probably not going to lay one down, but there are situations where unselfishly it's probably the best thing to do. It's definitely a weapon I can use against other teams.”
—Davis, on the extra work he’s done this offseason to be comfortable bunting against the shift.

"I think the biggest thing for me last year was just seeing how drastic the shift was. I remember when Texas came in, I hit something like three or four balls on a line in the four hole, which is right over the first baseman's right shoulder. These are balls that most of the time are going to be singles, if not doubles, and the second baseman caught them at his chest on a line, and I was just thinking, 'Man, that's not even fair. Those are good hits right there that are being taken away.'"
—Davis, on the frustrations of hitting into the shift last season.

Metrics convinced Adam Ottavino to pitch up in the zone

“I started pitching a little up [in the strike zone] more in the second half, especially above the zone with two strikes, and I felt like it paid off well for me.”
Colorado Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino, on adjustments he made in his approach last season. (Thomas Harding,

“My fastball was just getting hit too much and I felt like I've always been a pitcher that succeeds actually with my fastball up in the zone. First I researched online. I think I read an article on Fangraphs about [the Athletics'] Sean Doolittle utilizing the high fastball, saw some quotes from some hitters saying they just couldn't get on top of it. I tried to implement that into my game. I also paid attention to guys like Lance Lynn or Jordan Zimmermann. They're doing similar things. That area, that's like a strike, but just a little bit too high. It yields a lot of weak popups and swings and misses.”

"Those to me really dictate how you're pitching and how the league is responding to your pitches.”
—Ottavino, on using strikeout percentage, walk percentage and line drive percentage to evaluate his own performance.

Mark Prior looking ahead as Padres mino- league pitching coordinator

“I’m in charge of knowing what everybody up through Triple-A is doing, what their innings are, when they pitch, their parameters through the season, what their goals are. Whatever Bud (Black) and Bals (pitching coach Darren Balsley) want, it’s up to myself and our staff to implement it, so they’re ready and able to do what (the Padres) want them to do. You can’t have a guy go up there and not be able to execute how they want him to attack guys.”
—Former Cubs pitcher Mark Prior, who was announced earlier this month as the Padres minor league pitching coordinator. (Chris Jenkins, U-T San Diego)

“I can relate to being the top prospect. But I can also relate to the other side of it. Maybe the negatives of my career can become positives.”
—Prior, on using past experiences as a player to help handle the young pitchers in the Padres system.

“I didn't always listen. When I was younger, I could be like, “I know what I'm doing. Leave me alone. But whether through injuries or hitting rock bottom or whatever, sometimes you have to look at yourself. That’s a hard thing for players, coming to that accountability, self-evaluating before it’s too late. That’s huge in this game.”


The Rest

“Our pitchers' offense continues to be a very sore spot for us. To be able to bunt the ball (and) swing the bat — to be able to do something — is an area we're continuing to explore and (look for) improvement. I don't think there is any doubt that our pitchers swinging the bat better could win us two more games in a season.”
—Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on the team putting more emphasis during the spring on pitcher’s hitting and bunting. (Rob Biertempfel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

“We couldn't contact him. He wouldn't return calls. We couldn't find him. With all the maintenance, we didn't feel like he was a major-league prospect. So, the work wasn't worth it. It was too much to deal with. There was a lot going on there.”
—Brewers farm director Reid Nichols, on why the organization decided to release minor-league third baseman Nick Delmonico. The 22-year-old is still under a 50-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines in July. (Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

“I have heard from (Rose's) lawyer, and I do anticipate having a conversation about that. I've been very careful not to say anything about the merits of it because ultimately I'm going to have to make a decision there. But it's a conversation I'm willing to have.”
—Commissioner Rob Manfred, on the future of Pete Rose’s lifetime ban. (David Clark,

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