Getty Images.

Braves officially announce deal with Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano

The Atlanta Braves have taken a chance on a new Cuban outfield prospect. You may have heard of Dian Toscano but it’s safe to assume you haven’t heard his name as many times as Yoan Moncada, Yasmany Tomas or even Hector Olivera or Yoan Lopez.

Another reason you may not have heard of Toscano is that he did not take part in Cuba’s national events last year and only recently defected from Cuba.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and some members of his staff personally evaluated Toscano in back in November but it took a couple of months for Toscano’s paperwork to go through so that he could be cleared to enter the United States and officially sign with Atlanta.

An agreement was made between the two parties back in December but the details of the contract were not officially announced until Wednesday.

For details about the deal between Toscano and the Braves use the link below read the rest of my post on Baseball Hot Corner:

Braves announce deal with Dian Toscano

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Casey Janssen. Getty Images.

Nats sign veteran Casey Janssen to bolster bullpen

The Washington Nationals have signed veteran reliever Casey Janssen to a one-year deal worth $5 million, including a mutual option for 2016.

Janssen, 33, has eight-years of big league experience, all with the Toronto Blue Jays. Between 2011-2013 he blew just seven total saves while collecting 58 and had an ERA of  2.46.

In 2014 Janssen went 3-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 50 games, saving 25 games in 30 chances.

He was used primarily in the closer role in Toronto last season but fought back and abdominal injuries early on and a food poisoning incident during the All-Star break, which may have been the reason for his elevated ERA and number of blown saves.

This is a great move for the Nationals whose bullpen no longer includes All-Star closer Rafael Soriano or All-Star set-up man Tyler Clippard. Soriano is still on the free agent market and Clippard was dealt to the Oakland Athletics for shortstop Yunel Escobar.

Casey Janssen. Brad White/Getty Images.

Casey Janssen. Brad White/Getty Images.

It’s unclear what role Janssen will play for the Nationals in 2015. They could envision him as a set-up man for their one-time closer Drew Storen who could retake his role after having a stellar 2014 season or as the closer in place of Soriano.

If Janssen is able to bounce back from his 2014 season he’s a good low-risk, high-reward candidate for the Nationals. He’s younger, and much cheaper, than Soriano who they had signed to a two-year, $28 million contract prior to the 2013 season, after Storen had struggled during the 2012 postseason.

Janssen has experience in both roles making him a great option for the Nats to poentially use as insurance for Storen in the ninth inning, if needed, or as an option for the closer role full-time.

Brandon Beachy. Getty Images.

Brandon Beachy has deal with mystery team

Yes, it’s odd. A deal is supposedly finalized for right-hander Brandon Beachy, and we know the player but not the team? It’s just not the way your average free agent signing is usually reported.

Apparently the news of the deal is true though. The deal was first reported by Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities on Saturday. The team involved, however, is not the Minnesota Twins.

The Texas Rangers, who are reportedly happy with their current rotation, dropped out of the running for Beachy earlier this month. So did the Atlanta Braves, who drafted Beachy as an amateur free agent in 2008, with whom he has played his entire four-year career and who did not extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the 2014 season, according to NBC Sports’ HardballTalk.

For more on this mystery follow the link below to Baseball Hot Corner.

Brandon Beachy had deal finalized with mystery team

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Devin Mesoraco. Getty Images.

Reds get a steal in signing Devin Mesoraco to 4-yr deal

The Cincinnati Reds have signed All-Star catcher Devin Mesoraco to a four-year contract extension, avoiding arbitration.

This was Mesoraco’s first year of arbitration eligibility. He filed for $3.6 million for 2015 and the Reds countered his offer with $2.45 million.

Mesoraco made just $525,000 in 2014 and was projected to make $2.8 million via arbitration in 2015. He will now make $7 million a year for the next four years, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

The Reds’ catcher is just 26 years old and will be just around the age of 30 at the end of his contract. The contract is beneficial for both sides, but the Reds are the ones getting a real steal! For details check out the rest of my post on Baseball Hot Corner.

Reds sign Devin Mesoraco to four-year extension

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Rob Manfred. Getty Images.

My thoughts on Bud Selig’s retirement: Part Two

Part Two: Rob Manfred & the questions that remain

“My dream is for this sport to really have an international flavor,”  Bud Selig said Saturday during his half-hour interview with the Associated Press. “Does it need teams in other countries? … If one uses a lot of vision it could.”

Here’s my problem with him potentially leaving Rob Manfred with this idea or this incredible task. How could it work? We can’t have teams and players that have play 162 games a season going overseas to play teams in other countries.

Having the season open in Japan, Australia and other forgien countries is tough enough on the players and so the only way I forsee this as even a possibility is having leagues in different countries whose winners would then play the winners of other leagues and with all that expansion how would that affect the continued lengthening  of the playoffs?

I would love to see baseball played year-round and these days it practically is. Yet continuing to add to the playoff layout will keep the players of the World Series without any time to rest at least by my basic mental calculations.

That’s not alright. These are professional athletes and there would be a rash of injuries simply from overuse that I do not want to see. Would the number of players per team be expanded too?

And really, isn’t that kind of expansion that the World Baseball Classic was put into place for? For other countries to compete for the title of the World’s best? And I should point out that it is something that the United States of America has never been able to win (or even finish higher than fourth place).

It’s almost like the pitch clocks being implemented in Double and Triple-A in 2015. Putting a clock into a timeless game?

If all these changes eventually take place (and I do understand that any of them would take a number of years to be put into place) those of us who relish the rich history and tradition of the game, will not recognize it anymore. The fundamentals that have made baseball “America’s Pastime” what it is will be long forgotten in future generations.

Is that really what we want? To lose what is a major part of American history? A game that outlived two World Wars only to be more prosperous and popular today than it’s ever been?

Still, as I said in part one of this random talk I am having with whoever reads this, overall Selig did a good job: labor peace, expansion (but when does it stop?), prosperity? Selig introduced revenue sharing and a luxury tax that has slowed spending by large-market teams, has allowed every club except Toronto has made playoffs this century.

Also, as Manfred has now taken control over the game he’s written a letter to the fans which, I found this morning after writing what you have read above.  You can read by following this link:

Commissioner Robert Manfred’s Letter to MLB Fans

In his letter he does talk about modernizing the game which I am obviously somewhat against – speeding up a literally timeless game by 10-15 min will not help the causal fan want to be there more often and similar to too much expansion it takes away from the essence of the game.

However, Manfred does mention that he wants to stick to tradition while modernizing. He mentions working with youth baseball which is a great things … and more which I will leave you to read.

All I can say is, let’s wait and see. He could end up being different from Selig although I doubt it, the same as Selig or go totally off the grid.The fact remains that baseball has both a new commissioner and a new baseball to play with …. it’s about that time of year so let’s play ball!! (Go A’s!! LOL!)

Vine courtesy of Cut4 and MLB.com 

Bud Selig. Getty Images.

My thoughts on Bud Selig’s retirement: Part 1

Part One: It just feels bizzare

Bud Selig is in his final hours of being the commissioner of Major League Baseball, something he’s been for 22 1/2 years. That’s quite a long time. It must feel bizzare to him but the strange thing is that it feels absolutely bizzare to me as well.

He’s the only commission I’ve ever really known. I was 11 years old when he took over for Fay Vincent in 1992. I’ve been a baseball fan since I was three or four but between four and 11 you are learning more about the game than the business behind it.

I knew more about Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson and the entire A’s team and had only heard the name Fay Vincent. So after spending my adolescence and all of my entire adult life, learning about as many aspects of the game as I could (and believe me there’s still more I need to learn!!) and having Selig as commissioner it’s only natural to feel strange about someone else taking over for him, isn’t it?

Not that I see Rob Manfred, who will succeed Selig as the new commissioner of baseball when the clock strikes midnight on the east coast (and it is about to), as being all that different from Selig, who he’s known and worked under for quite sometime. I don’t believe that there will be any huge diversion from Selig’s vision for the game.

Selig took over during a time of unprecedented labor unrest in the sport. He’s kept things of that nature under control ever since the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995.

Selig will go down in history thus far as the best commissioner baseball’s ever had according to many, including former commission Peter Ueberroth who said,

“Bud will go down in history as the No. 1 commissioner that has served baseball, and without question,”

There are things he has done that I haven’t agreed with which will be explained in Part Two of this post. Exspansion is one thing but the addition of the Wild Card and even worse the second Wild Card are things I don’t really agree with.

Regardless of my own personal disdain for the Wild Card system, expansion has worked wonders for the game and Selig leaves baseball much more prosperous than it has ever been. 

And for if nothing but that we owe Selig a vote of gratitude and a congratulations on his retirement. So here it is – 

Congrats Mr. Selig on your successful 22 1/2 year run as the Commission of Major League Baseball! 

Ted Lilly. Getty Images.

Retired MLB pitcher Ted Lilly charged with 3 counts felony insurance fraud

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Ted Lilly has been charged with three counts of felony insurance fraud in San Luis Obispo County, California.

The story was first reported by KSBY.com. Lilly was arrested, charged and pleaded not guilty on all counts on Tuesday.

The charges all involve vehicle insurance fraud dating back to March of 2014. Assistant District Attorney of San Luis Obispo County Lee Cunningham explained the charges to KSBY on Saturday,

“I can tell you that he’s charged with three different felony counts. The first is filing a false insurance claim. The second one is a false statement in support of a claim and the third one has to do with failing to disclose a material fact in connection with an insurance claim.”

Apparently, Lilly bought an RV worth approximately $200,000 last year, purchased insurance and filed a claim after damaging the vehicle. It seems simple and innocent enough until what the dates and order he did this in don’t add up.

Nick Wilson of the San Luis Obispo Tribune had more specific information on what Lilly is accused of doing via Department of Insurance spokesperson Nancy Kincaid.

“The (California Department of Insurance)’s investigation showed Lilly sustained damage in a collision while backing up the vehicle and sought an estimate from a body shop on March 19. The estimate was $4,600. Then Lilly bought insurance from Progressive on March 24 and claimed the damage on March 28.”

Kincaid went on to explain to Wilson,

“What a lot of people may not realize is that body shops often enter estimates into a database that insurance companies can check to verify claims. They can see what the damage was and whether a false claim may have been filed.”

He was arrested as part of an agency sting that targeted the uninsured, under-insured and, in Lilly’s case, those that bought insurance after damage to the vehicle had already occured.

It appears Lily does, in fact, belong in the third category. He bought the Progressive Insurance approximately a week after the incident with his RV and getting the estimate from the body shop. Which also means he was uninsured at the time of the incident, putting him in the first category as well.

Ted Lilly. Getty Images.

Ted Lilly. Getty Images.

The 39-year-old spent 15 seasons in the Major Leagues, beginning his career with the Montreal Expos and spending the majority of it with the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. Lilly also spent time with the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Oakland Athletics.

Lilly, who retired after the 2013 season, was 130-113 with a 4.14 ERA in his career. A two-time All-Star (2004 with Toronto and 2009 with Chicago), Lilly’s best season came in 2009 with the Cubs. Lilly finished 2009 having gone 12-10 with a 3.10 ERA.

If convicted of the charges Lilly faces up to five years in prison.

*On a personal note, this seems crazy! He was a really nice guy who I met on multiple occasions, while he was with the A’s and I was an intern for KICU, during the 2003 season.

 

Fernando Abad. Getty Images.

A’s, Fernando Abad avoid arbitration

The Oakland Athletics and reliever Fernando Abad have come to an agreement on a one-year deal thereby avoiding arbitration. 

The 29-year-old left hander will make $1,087,500 in 2015. Abad had initially asked for 0$1.225 million when he filed for arbitration and the A’s countered at $850,000, meaning Abad got approximately $50,000 over the mid-point between the two offers. 

That’s a substantial raise for the reliever who is coming off of a career year which is definitely not a bad thing in your first year of arbitration eligibilty.

Fernando Abad, Sean Doolittle & Derek Norris. Getty Images.

Fernando Abad, Sean Doolittle & Derek Norris. Getty Images.

In 2014 Abad posted a 1.57 ERA in 57.1 innings pitched collecting 51 strikeouts. He was 2-4 in 69 total appearances in his first season with the Athletics.

Abad had not had such luck in his first four big league seasons, three with the Houston Astros and one with the Washington Nationals. During that time he was 1-14 with a 4.56 ERA in 127 games and 122.1 innings pitched. 

His move to the A’s and the American League (the Astros were still in the National League between 2010 and 2012, moving to the A.L. West in 2013) proved to be a great one for Abad.

Abad made $525,900 with Oakland in 2014, The southpaw currently has 3.073 years of MLB service time and will first be eligible for free agency in 2018.

Oakland still has to agree to terms with pitchers Jarrod Parker and Tyler Clippard in order to avoid arbitration hearings this year, something that the team has managed to do all but twice under Billy Beane‘s tenure as general manager of the club.

Sean Doolittle. Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI.

All-Star closer Sean Doolittle will not be ready to start the season

The Oakland Athletics will not have their All-Star closer on Opening Day 2015. Sean Doolittle has a shoulder injury that will keep him out of at least the early part of the season. As of Friday, the A’s did not know when he will be able to return to the team.

“At this point, we have no time frame for Sean’s return,” assistant general manager David Forst wrote in an email to MLB.com beat writer Jane Lee, “but we do not expect him to be ready to start the 2015 season.”

The left-hander experienced soreness in his throwing shoulder when he began his offseason throwing program about a month ago, according to Forst.

Little Doo and Big Doo! #FaceOfMLB

Little Doo and Big Doo! #FaceOfMLB

The soreness led to a visit with the team’s orthopedist Dr. Doug Freedberg in Arizona. Freedberg ordered an MRI. Upon seeing the results of the MRI Freedberg consulted with the A’s team doctor in Oakland, Dr. Will Workman.

The two doctors agreed that Doolittle has a small tear in his rotator cuff and ordered the southpaw to get a platelet-rich plasma injection to reduce the irritaton in his shoulder. He recieved the injection last week.

To read the remainder of my post and find out about Doolittle’s prognosis and the A’s hella stacked bullpen use the link below to go to Baseball Hot Corner.

A’s lose Sean Doolittle for the start of the season

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@OakAsSocksGrl. @bbst_mlb.

*He may be injured but he can still be the #FaceOfMLB! Vote for #SeanDoolittle!!

Eric Sogard. Getty Images.

A’s avoid arbitration with Eric Sogard #NerdPower

Well there will still be #NerdPower at O.Co Coliseum in 2015. The Oakland Athletics have avoided arbitration with second baseman and last year’s MLB Network #FaceOfMLB runner up (actually winner – that last surge of votes for David Wright out of Asia was an obvious fix by MLB & MLB Network … just saying!) second baseman Eric Sogard.

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Eric Sogard. Getty Images.

 Sogard who is likely to be used sparingly as a utility infielder, since the trade for #Zorilla aka Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays as well as the acquisition of shortstop Marcus Semien in the trade with the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jeff Samardzija, and the A’s agreed on a one-year, $1.075 million contract on Friday.

Sogard originally requested $1.425 million and the A’s offered $900,000. The two sides were able to settle on a fair number that is slightly below the midpoint.

Sogard, 28, was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the second round of the 2007 amatuer draft. He made his big league debut with Oakland in September 2010.

In five seasons with the Athletics, Sogard has a career slashline of .235/.296/.317 with a .613 OPS. 

Eric Sogard. Oakland Athletics.

Eric Sogard. Oakland Athletics.

He played in a limited number of games during his first three seasons in Oakland but in 2013 played in 130 games and batted a career-high .266 with 10 home runs, 35 RBI and 10 stolen bases.

In 2014 the infielder played in 117 games but batted just .223. He hit 11 homers last season, drove in 22 runs and stole 11 bases.

A fan favorite in Oakland, known for his signature #NerdPower glasses, I know A’s fans will be happy to have Eric, his wife Kaycee and daughter Saydee back as part of the Athletics family (because they are simply AmAzing people!)

Go #NerdPower!! :-)

*And don’t forget to vote this year for A’s closer #Sean Doolittle in MLB Network’s #FaceOfMLB 2015 competition!!