Brewers, Marlins appear to be the favorites to snag K-Rod
Now that Joba Chamberlain, who re-signed with the Tigers yesterday, is off the board, the veteran relief market is essentially down to Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman wrote yesterday that K-Rod might soon leave Soriano as the last man standing.
Gopher-ball woes and a $10 million price tag have kept the 33-year-old Rodriguez unemployed well past teams’ reporting dates for pitchers and catchers, but Heyman’s sources recently indicated that “he is expected to have a deal soon.” More specifically, he’s heading toward a job with the Brewers—for whom he closed in 2014—or the Marlins, who are looking to upgrade their setup crew in front of closer Steve Cishek.
Milwaukee, which has also kicked the tires on Phillies’ closer Jonathan Papelbon in recent weeks, is the more likely destination if K-Rod prefers pitching in the ninth to the seventh and eighth. His competition for the closer role there consists primarily of Jonathan Broxton, and the Brewers’ pursuit of Papelbon might be viewed as a vote of no-confidence in the big righty’s ability to tackle the job.
Conversely, Miami has an entrenched closer in Cishek, who emerged from relative obscurity in 2011, promptly racked up 9.1 K/9, and has only improved since then, punching out 84 batters in 65 1/3 innings last year. Rodriguez would step ahead of A.J. Ramos, Bryan Morris, and Aaron Crow in the pecking order, but unseating Cishek would be a tall order sans an injury to the 28-year-old righty, who has never been placed on the major-league disabled list.
Since a one-year pact is the likeliest outcome here, K-Rod and his agent, Scott Boras, figure to consider both 2015 salary and future earnings potential when deciding on his next home. Save opportunities are just one side of the contextual tradeoff; the other might be the stadiums, with the cavernous Marlins Park appealing to a pitcher who served up 14 homers in 68 frames last year.
In related news (or non-news), the Dodgers, who lost Kenley Jansen to foot surgery that will sideline him for 8-12 weeks—and who could also offer a friendly home yard—have yet to show interest in either of the ex-closers still looking for work.
Carlos Quentin could see time at first base
First-year Padres general manager A.J. Preller spent the winter retooling his outfield. Now that Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp—all right-handed hitters with power—are in tow, holdover Carlos Quentin, who’s also cut from that mold, doesn’t have a clear job. That’s a relatively minor issue for the Friars, but since they’re paying Quentin $8 million this year, they might as well find a way to utilize him.
On Tuesday, Preller told reporters, including Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune, that the solution could be getting the Stanford product some time at first base. If it works out, the 32-year-old would push Yonder Alonso for playing time against left-handers and might earn an expanded role if Alonso scuffles at the plate. It might also be a way to keep healthy the notoriously fragile Quentin—who’s undergone multiple knee surgeries since 2012—without forcing him to patrol the vast Petco outfield.
The caveat to all of this, of course, is that Quentin has never played the infield professionally. That means it’s been at least a decade since he last donned a first baseman’s mitt, so it’s fair to assume that Quentin will need plenty of Cactus League action to get acclimated at his new spot.
To his credit, Quentin is “open to” the idea. Given that Alonso’s grasp on the first-base job might be somewhat tenuous, this is a situation that bears monitoring in the coming weeks for reasons other than the GIF-worthy moments it’s likely to yield.
Brewers want to see if Adam Lind can handle southpaws
First base has been a revolving door in Milwaukee since Prince Fielder bolted for the Tigers, but the offseason acquisition of Adam Lind from the Blue Jays stabilized the spot. The prevailing assumption going into spring training was that Lind would get the long end of a platoon, perhaps with the righty-hitting Jason Rogers picking up the southpaw scraps.
Manager Ron Roenicke has other ideas, though. He’s curious if Lind can do enough against left-handed pitchers to warrant a full-time gig, which might grant the skipper additional flexibility when he fills out his bench. Rogers is a nice depth piece with “big boy raw power,” which is fitting because he’s a 6-foot-2, 245-pounder who’s passable at first base but a liability anywhere else. Luis Jimenez, who was claimed off waivers from the Angels in late October, has a nice minor-league track record that has yet to translate to the majors and is no sure bet to justify short-end platoon duty. While the Brewers might opt to keep Rogers and/or Jimenez anyway, if Lind can play every day, Roenicke and GM Doug Melvin would have a wider array of roster options.
Lind clobbered right-handers in 2014, compiling a .354/.409/.533 slash line over 233 plate appearances that amounted to a .325 True Average. Lefties, on the other hand, flummoxed him to the tune of a 2-for-33 effort with 11 strikeouts and zero extra-base hits. That split is extreme, but the 31-year-old’s career numbers aren’t much narrower: .313 TAv versus righties, .182 against southpaws.
The problem isn’t limited to one pitch type; Lind’s performance tails off dramatically against lefties whether they’re chucking hard stuff, spin, or offspeed offerings. But he’s particularly inept when same-side hurlers throw him a breaking ball
exhibiting no plate discipline whatsoever below the zone and very little on pitches off the outside edge. If you’re wondering how a major-league hitter might strike out 115 times in 294 at-bats ending with curves, sliders, and the like, that pitch chart tells the story.
It’s also why even though Roenicke might want to watch Lind’s futile hacks versus lefties for himself, the odds are he won’t like what he sees. It can’t hurt the Brewers to give Lind a chance to sort those issues out in March, but his résumé suggests that the club will eventually succumb to reality and find him a platoon partner.