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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Baseball Notes for March 31, 2013

Major League Baseball’s 2013 Opening Day is finally here! With another season comes the return of Baseball Notes. Without a single regular season game having yet been played, there is already plenty to talk about.

***One of the worst-kept secrets in baseball has been revealed to the public. Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was added to the team’s 25-man roster to start the season. The initial test for the 22-year-old left-handed hitter will come in his very first game, which will be against C.C. Sabathia and the New York Yankees in the Bronx.

There was quite a bit of hand-wringing before the decision to add Bradley to the roster, because of him having only 138 minor league games of experience.  But, he was a three-year starter at the University of South Carolina, which is one of the best college baseball programs in the country, and hit over .400 this spring while playing sparkling defense.

There is also concern that the team will lose a full year of player control if he doesn’t spend at least 20 consecutive days in the minors this year. He is a Scott Boras client, but it’s not like the Red Sox are the Tampa Bay Rays. Boston has some of the deepest pockets in baseball and has the luxury of not having to agonize over service time issues like a lot of other teams.

Needless to say, Boras is confident that no matter what happens, Bradley will get paid.

***A transaction that won’t garner nearly the same amount of attention as Bradley, but is in a similar vein, is the Miami Marlins’ decision to add 20-year-old Jose Fernandez, their top pitching prospect, to their Opening Day roster.

Fernandez’s promotion is a lot more suspect than Bradley’s. The right-hander was 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 25 starts last year, but has never pitched above advanced Single-A (only 11 games) or thrown more than 134 innings in a season. Despite his obvious talent, his lack of college experience or playing in the upper levels of the minors will make this season a huge leap for the right-hander. The Marlins will struggle to avoid losing 100 games as a team in 2013, let alone contend, so the decision to potentially rush their 2011 first-round draft choice is a head scratcher.

***New York Mets’ left-handed pitcher Johan Santana will miss the entire 2013 season and possibly be at the end of his career because of impending surgery to repair a tear in his throwing shoulder; the second procedure of that type he has had in less than three years.

Once widely considered the best starting pitcher in baseball, Santana has won just 46 games since joining the Mets with a $137.5 million contract prior to the 2008 season.

Barring an utter surprise, the 34-year-old has pitched his final game for the Mets. He is owed $25.5 million this season and the team must pay him either $25 million to play next year or a $5.5 million buyout. The surgery and the diminished returns thus far on the deal make it a near certainty that he will be gone. The major question for him moving forward is whether he will be able to pitch again one day for another team.

***There was a run of players getting big extensions this past week.

The San Francisco Giants gave catcher Buster Posey a nine-year, $167 million deal, with a club option for 2022 that could bring the total amount up to $186 million. He will almost certainly not be a full-time catcher by the end of the contract, but his athleticism should allow him to play first or third when the time comes.

The Detroit Tigers gave ace Justin Verlander a record-setting seven-year, $180 million extension. There is a team option for an eighth year that could push the final total of the deal to $202 million. Having won a total of 78 games, a Cy Young and an MVP over the past four seasons, the monster deal hardly came as a surprise for the 30-year-old right-hander.

A more modest deal was the five-year, $32 million extension that third-year player Paul Goldschmidt received from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The first baseman was a pleasant surprise last year, his first as a major league starter. He appeared in 145 games and hit .286 with 20 home runs, 82 RBI and 18 stolen bases. The deal includes a $14 million team option for 2018, which would be the 25 year-old’s first year of being eligible for free agency.

***The hands of time have frozen, at least temporarily, for Kansas City Royals’ infielder Miguel Tejada, who made their Opening Day roster out of spring training as a utility man. The soon-to-be 39-year-old veteran of 15 major league seasons was a somewhat surprising addition after missing all of the 2012 season.

He is a career .285 hitter with 304 home runs and 1,282 RBI but hasn’t been a regular player since 2010. His job in Kansas City will be providing veteran leadership and hopefully a little pop off the bench.

***In honor of Opening Day, here is my favorite scene from the legendary movie Field of Dreams. Any baseball fan who doesn’t have to clear their throat a few times or brush that pesky mosquito out of their eyes when watching it might want to rush to the nearest hospital for a quick check of their vital signs


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