It’s that time of year again. Pitchers and catchers are reporting, which means the offseason is winding down. Which means, and say it with me: baseball is back. But before we begin, deals are still trickling in. Before we begin, rumors—however light they may appear—persist.
And we’re going to talk about a few of them.
Hanley is no Ortiz, but he Doesn’t Need to Be
Because guess what? Most Major League Baseball players aren’t ever going to have the season that Ortiz had at 40. In 2016, Boston’s DH led the league in doubles (48), slugging percentage (.620) and OPS (1.021). He posted a 162 OPS+, 163 wRC+ and was nearly a five-win player. At age 40.
Of course, Ramírez also isn’t the clubhouse leader or franchise player that Ortiz transformed into with Boston. But if he does what he did last season, that’s okay.
Ramírez, Boston’s prodigal son as it were, got himself healthy following a disastrous 2015 campaign. He also, thankfully if I may add, transitioned from left field to first base. Above all else, though, Ramírez got himself producing again. Appearing in the most games (147) since his 2012 season, he posted a 124 OPS+ 127 wRC+, and was nearly a three-win player. Throw in 28 doubles, 30 home runs and a .286/.361/.505/.866 slash line, you’ve got yourself suitable production in the middle of that order.
And for what it’s worth, Hanley and Big Papi couldn’t be closer—whether it was on the field or off.
So no, we shouldn’t expect Hanley Ramírez to be the second coming of David Ortiz. But he doesn’t need to be. Boston has two of the best pitchers in baseball in Chris Sale and David Price atop their rotation—and that’s before even getting to the reigning Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello. Additionally, if Boston’s offense picks up where it left off last season, Hanley won’t need to turn into anybody else.
Hanley will just need to be Hanley.
Will Matt Wieters Find a Home this Weekend?
Wait, did you expect some analysis here? Okay, okay—well, Wieters turns 31 in May. And after working his way back from Tommy John surgery, appears to still have that pop in his bat—evidenced by the 17 dingers he notched over 463 plate appearances in 2016. Everything else, however, doesn’t particularly scream great. Or good, for that matter. An 87 OPS+, 88 wRC+, atrocious pitch framing and an almost career-worst OBP (.302)—the list goes on.
Of course Wieters, and we feel the need to point this out every year, never quite lived up to the larger than life expectations we placed upon the fifth overall pick from 2007 as he ascended through the minor league ranks. A three-year stint in which he absolutely destroyed pitchers, slashing .342/.436/.574/1.010 along the way, was never replicated once he reached the show.
But one year removed from a season in which he took home the qualifying offer price of $15.8 million, Wieters finds himself unemployed midway through February. Apparently not even Scott Boras is that good. Kidding aside, multiple teams have surfaced as potential suitors in recent weeks. But reports indicate that the Tampa Bay Rays are the only club to step forward with an offer.
Wherever the former top prospect does end up, it won’t be for long. And presumably, it won’t be for much. Still, Wieters is a prime bounce-back candidate for any club who’s lacking at catcher. And the Rays, with Wilson Ramos currently recovering from a torn ACL, certainly fit the bill.
Does Sergio Romo Help LA all that Much?
Jeez you folks are picky. Look, the San Francisco Giants had a really bad bullpen last season. As it turns out, Sergio Romo was part of that bullpen. But he was actually good in limited action. 30.2 innings, 25 of which took place during the second half, saw Romo pitch to the tune of a 2.64 ERA, 3.04 DRA and a 9.7 K/9. But after nine years in the Bay Area, Romo is moving to their NL West arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A Dodgers club that re-signed Kenley Jansen but also lost Joe Blanton, the latter a key bullpen cog throughout the season in his own right. In Romo, they get a reliever three years Blanton’s junior. They get a reliever with a very consistently solid track record. And, they add to a bullpen that finished with a league-best 3.35 ERA last season.
So while Romo’s days of closing are long gone, don’t let San Francisco’s leaky bullpen from a year ago paint a poor picture of the hurler himself. Because currently, it’d be a fairly inaccurate one.
A Cy Young Prank; Plus, a New and Improved Kris Bryant?
Greg Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers of all time. Greg Maddux is also a four-time Cy Young winner, once with the reigning champion Cubbies and thrice with Atlanta. Oh, and all four of those awards came in consecutive seasons. So Maddux could do nothing for the rest of his life and still have accomplished more than a significant number of athletes.
Not satisfied, turns out he’s a pretty good prankster, too. Working as the “sound guy” during Kris Bryant’s Red Bull promotional shoot, he continued to pester the reigning NL MVP. He even chimed in with some advice for the already accomplished hitter, such as: “Try to hit it off the barrel… it’ll sound really good.”
For your entertainment, you can watch it unfold below:
Speaking of Kris Bryant, he vows to improve his plate approach this coming season:
“I want to get back to hitting the ball to right field… In the minor leagues that was where most of my power was, in right center. I did a lot of research this offseason seeing where I am pitched to. I have been pitched inside so often… to a point where I pulled the ball great this past season… They might start to pitch me on the other side of the plate. That is how they tried to work me in the minor leagues. A lot of the pitchers threw away from me. Now I want to do what I did so well in the minors.”
Kris Bryant is 25 years old. He was the Rookie of the Year in 2015 and the MVP last season. According to Fangraphs, Bryant was worth 6.6 fWAR in 2015. That rose to 8.4 fWAR one year later. Let’s say he rediscovers that wrinkle that made him even more dangerous in the minor leagues—could he rival Mike Trout in 2017?
I’ll bite my tongue for now, but the idea of an improved Kris Bryant—on this Cubs team—is a terrifying thought.