This Great Game Comebacker

The Month That Was in Baseball: January 2023

Great Scott! Cooperstown Welcomes Scott Rolen
Who Wants Trevor Bauer?    It’s the War of the Angelos in Baltimore

December 2022    Comebacker Index    February 2023

Monday, January 2

For the second time, Boston’s iconic Fenway Park hosts a hockey game as the National Hockey League stages one of its Winter Classic contests between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins. Both teams show up to the 110-year-old ballpark wearing throwback uniforms of their baseball brothers; while the Bruins jump off the bus sporting Red Sox road jerseys from 1935, we’re told that players from the Penguins are donning unis from the 1925 world champion Pirates—but someone doesn’t do their homework, as the Bucs didn’t adopt black and gold as their colors until 1948

One other nice touch has Bruins legend Bobby Orr doing a delicate slap shot ‘first pitch’ into the glove of former Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek; and there’s this wonderful drone footage of Fenway, inside and out, before the game—won by the Bruins, 2-1. 

Tuesday, January 3

Outfielder Dominic Smith, a rising star before injuries got in the way, has been picked up by the Washington Nationals on a one-year contract worth $2 million; he can earn double that if he meets all his incentives. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Smith had eye-opening numbers with a .316 batting average, 21 doubles, 10 homers and 42 RBIs in just 50 games. But his average sank to .244 with 11 homers in 145 games in 2021, and this past season dropped further to .194—with no homers—over 158 at-bats.  Smith is still just 27, so he has plenty of time to right the ship back in his favor. 

After 30 years with San Francisco, Brian Sabean is returning to his major league roots in New York with the Yankees as an advisor to general manager Brian Cashman. Well respected in both locales, Sabean spent 18 years as the Giants’ GM and built a roster that led to three world titles in the early 2010s; he stepped down into a lesser role after 2014, but the role was even less than he envisioned, precipitating his exit back to New York—where he helped build the great Yankee teams of the 1990s

Wednesday, January 4

The Red Sox, bleeding talent from a once-formidable roster that four years earlier won the World Series, secure the one batting star still left: Third baseman Rafael Devers. The two-time All-Star slugger, who was due to become a free agent following the 2023 season, is granted an 11-year extension worth $331 million. Barring injury, Devers will be well worth the contract; in six years at the major league level, he’s averaged 44 doubles, 33 homers and 107 RBIs per 162 games played. Devers’ deal is the biggest ever given to a third baseman, and the largest by both years and total guaranteed payout in Red Sox history. It also overrides the $17.5 million Devers had just agreed to via arbitration for the 2023 season. 

Boston fans will happily breathe a sigh of relief at Devers’ extended commitment with the Red Sox, especially after a painful offseason in which they watched the departures of shortstop Xander Bogaerts, slugger J.D. Martinez, and pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Rich Hill. 

The Brewers are bringing back Wade Miley to Milwaukee on a one-year deal worth $4.5 million—or $6 million, if he meets all his incentives. The 36-year-old southpaw played at Milwaukee in 2018, allowing two runs over 14.2 postseason innings in the Brewers’ playoff run which ended against the eventual NL champion Dodgers; this past season, Miley dealt with numerous injuries and made just eight starts for the Chicago Cubs, finishing with a 2-2 record and 3.16 ERA. 

Despite winning just twice in 27 starts in 2022, pitcher Zach Davies is returning to the Arizona Diamondbacks on a one-year, $5 million deal. It’s not that the 29-year-old Davies was awful this past season; like many pitchers these days, he was given less opportunity to get a decision as he pitched beyond five innings just 10 times. For the year, he finished with a 2-5 record and 4.09 ERA. 

The Cubs grab one of the offseason’s best bargains off the shelf, agreeing to a one-year deal with veteran first baseman Eric Hosmer. Though the 33-year-old Hosmer has seen better days, he still brings decent value with his bat and glove—and he comes positively cheap for the Cubs, who will pay him the minimum $720,000 salary. That’s because the majority of the money owed to Hosmer will come from the San Diego Padres, who still owe him $39 million through 2025. 

Thursday, January 5

Early San Diego slugging star Nate Colbert passes away at the age of 76. The Padres were awful during Colbert’s tenure in San Diego, but they would have been far, far worse had he not been there. Colbert wasn’t just the leader of the Padres’ offense; he was their offense. The 1972 season serves as a graphic example of this; in belting 38 homers for the second time with San Diego, his 111 RBIs represented a full quarter of the team total—the highest ever recorded by one player. That same year, he had a day for the ages when he tied Stan Musial’s record of five home runs in a doubleheader. 

Colbert faded in the years to follow and wandered about the major league landscape from Detroit to Montreal to Oakland, unable to rekindle the spark; he was released barely after turning 30. To this day, Colbert remains the Padres’ all-time home run leader with 163. 

Friday, January 6

The future of pitcher Trevor Bauer in Los Angeles is summed up in the last sentence of a statement released by the Dodgers, which states that “he will no longer be part of our organization.” This is not a surprising move; it had been suspected that Bauer, recently freed from his suspension for (alleged) sexual assault, would be designated for assignment. In his own statement, Bauer claims that he sat down with Dodgers reps in Arizona on January 5 and was told they wanted him to return and be part of the team, and thus was “disappointed” in their decision to release him. Regardless of where he pitches this coming season—if he does pitch, that is—the Dodgers will be on the hook for the $22.5 million owed to him in this, the last year of his three-year contract with Los Angeles. Any other team taking a chance on Bauer—and breaking out the umbrella to shield it from the rain of anger that’s sure to pour down—will only have to pay him the MLB minimum salary of $720,000. 

A day later, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale will report via anonymous sources that the Dodgers were willing to give Bauer another chance in their Arizona meeting—but decided against it after the meeting because they didn’t hear any “remorse, apologies or anything in the slightest from Bauer to change their mind.” 

Bill Campbell, a workhorse reliever who in his 1970s prime put up numbers approaching those of Mike Marshall, passes away at the age of 74 following a bout with cancer. After his first three years in the majors, the Michigan-born right-hander exploded in 1976 by posting a 17-5 record, 3.01 ERA and 20 saves in an AL-high 78 games for Minnesota, collecting more victories than any Twins starter and accumulating enough innings (167.2) to qualify for the ERA title. As fortunate timing would have it, he was eligible for free agency a year after the reserve clause was shattered, and he signed on with the Red Sox—where he had another outstanding year, leading the league with 31 saves while producing a 13-9 record and 2.96 ERA. His arm tired from the overuse, Campbell saw less action over the next four seasons before rebounding in 1983 with the Cubs, appearing in an MLB-high 82 games with 122.1 innings. Over a 15-year career, Campbell was 83-68 with a 3.54 ERA and 126 career saves in 700 appearances—691 of those in relief. 

Saturday, January 7

Veteran outfielder A.J. Pollock agrees to a one-year, $7 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, putting him in a third MLB locale in three years after stints with the Dodgers and (last year) White Sox, for whom he batted .245 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. On a promising note, the 138 games played by Pollock in 2022 were the second most he’s racked up in his 11 years in the bigs. 

A five-player trade between Philadelphia and Detroit nets the Phillies last year’s Tigers closer Gregory Soto and infielder Koby Clemens, while the Tigers get outfielder Matt Vierling, utility guy Nick Maton and minor league catcher Donny Sands. The biggest piece in the trade is Soto, who despite a 2-11 record for Detroit last season compiled 30 saves and a decent 3.28 ERA. It’s figured that the hard-throwing lefty will complement Craig Kimbrel in the Phillies bullpen as part of a potential closer-by-committee set-up. 

Sunday, January 8

White Sox closer Liam Hendriks announces in a public statement that he has been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “Hearing the word ‘Cancer’ came as a shock to my wife and I, as it does to millions of families each year,” the statement says. “However, I am resolved to embrace the fight and overcome this new challenge with the same determination I have used when facing other obstacles in my life.” The 33-year-old Australian has been outstanding in two seasons for Chicago, compiling 75 saves with a 2.66 ERA and 0.87 WHIP (walks/hits allowed per inning). The White Sox, in a statement of their own, say they are not yet sure as to whether Hendriks’ treatment will delay his start to the upcoming regular season. 

Monday, January 9

After 12 years in San Francisco, free agent first baseman Brandon Belt is agreeing to a one-year, $9.3 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. It is assumed that Belt will split both first base and DH duties with Vladimir Guerrero Jr.—if he can stay healthy, which has been his problem over the last several years with the Giants. This past season, Belt hit only .213 in 78 games with eight homers, amid rumors that a troublesome knee would force him to retire. 

While the Giants lose Belt, they gain a much-needed reliever by signing Luke Jackson, who was last seen helping the Braves win the 2021 World Series before undergoing Tommy John surgery; he thus did not play in 2022. In that 2021 season, Jackson appeared in 71 games, posting a fine 1.98 ERA. 

Tuesday, January 10

Will the third time be the charm for Carlos Correa landing with a team for 2023? After generating cold feet with both Giants and Mets reps, the All-Star shortstop returns to Minnesota—where he opted out after just one year in 2022. Provided he passes a physical once and for all with the Twins, he’ll earn $200 million over six years, and an additional $70 million via a vesting option. That’s a far cry from the $300 million-plus offers Correa initially accepted with San Francisco and New York—but at this point, he’ll take it. 

Trevor Story, who didn’t have a particularly good first year at Boston, is off to a bad start even before his second season gets started. It’s revealed that the 30-year-old infielder will undergo elbow surgery and miss most, if not all, of the 2023 campaign. It’s another blow to a Red Sox club that’s suffered numerous free-agent defections this offseason; Story was set to take back his normal position at short, replacing the San Diego-bound Xander Bogaerts

The Miami Marlins add a veteran to a promising young rotation by agreeing to a one-year, $8.5 million deal with Johnny Cueto. The 36-year-old right-hander was 8-10 with a 3.35 ERA over 158.1 innings pitching last season for the White Sox. 

Wednesday, January 11

Nelson Cruz is returning for his 19th major league season, signing on with San Diego for one year and a relatively slim $1 million. After years of ageless output, the 42-year-old Cruz finally slowed down this past season with Washington—batting .234 with just 10 home runs over 448 at-bats; he’s hoping for a refresh in 2023 after corrective eye surgery. 

The Dodgers, looking to bulk their infield back up after losing Trea Turner and Justin Turner to free agency, acquire shortstop Miguel Rojas from Miami for minor league infielder Jacob Amaya. While Rojas is no revelation at the plate—he sports a career .672 OPS—he is known for his solid defense, and can be a difference maker at the bottom of the order. 

The fences at Detroit’s Comerica Park are being moved in—again. To help prod MLB’s worst offense of 2022, the Tigers are bringing in the center field fence 10 feet to 412 feet, and reducing the height of the walls all around the outfield—most noticeably in center, from 13 feet to seven. With these changes, Denver’s Coors Field will now have the longest distance to center field, at 415 feet.  

Thursday, January 12

The robotic umpire is inching ever so closer to the majors. Sources are telling ESPN that the electronic strike zone will be utilized in all 30 Triple-A ballparks this coming season, though it will be used in two different ways. Half of all games will be played with balls and strikes called per the electronic zone, while the other half will be called by traditional umpires—with teams being allowed three challenges per game, referring to the robotic zone to see if an ump’s call is correct or not. With teams retaining their challenge if they get the call overturned, it could lead to longer games—cutting into the gains made in the past year or so thanks to the pitch clock. 

The Cleveland Guardians reveal artist renderings of planned changes to Progressive Field, their home of the past 29 seasons. The two most visible alterations will include a shaving off of the upper-deck bleachers in right field to make room for an extensive series of lounges and bars, a la Denver’s Coors Field, and the removal of glass around the angled, cascading seats on the second deck down the left-field line, a section which was once part of a restaurant. Improvements will also include a redo of the clubhouses, which haven’t changed since the ballpark’s 1994 opening. The total cost of the update is budgeted at $202 million, and is targeted to be completed by Opening Day 2025.  

Friday, January 13

In baseball, you sometimes can go back home again—though would anyone want to go home to…Pittsburgh? Andrew McCutchen, who won the 2013 NL MVP with the Pirates, sure does. After five years playing for four other ballclubs, the 36-year-old McCutchen is returning to the Bucs on a one-year deal worth $5 million. Playing virtually every day with the NL champion Phillies in 2022, McCutchen batted .237 with 17 home runs and 69 RBIs; with the 2023 Pirates, he’s easily within sight of his 2,000th career hit, 300th homer and 1,000th walk. He’ll also get the chance to play with Bryan Reynolds, the guy he was traded to San Francisco for in 2018—that is, if Reynolds doesn’t get his wish and is traded in the next few months. 

No baseball job provides long-term job security like that of a clubhouse manager; almost every pre-expansion team has someone who has done the job for decades and decades. And few if any of them have served longer than Mike Murphy, who’s been employed with the San Francisco Giants since their move from New York in 1958. The well-loved “Murph” has announced that after 65 years with the organization, he will retire shy of his 81st birthday. Before the team’s move to California, Murphy served as a batboy for the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals from 1954-57; he initially assumed the same position with the Giants, was promoted to visiting clubhouse manager in 1960, then the Giants’ clubhouse guy in 1980

Saturday, January 14

After a year split between Baltimore and Houston, first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini agrees to a two-year deal worth $14 million; it includes an opt-out after the first season. Mancini, who turns 31 in March, batted .239 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs this past year—but hit just .161 in 186 at-bats (postseason included) for the Astros.

The Oakland A’s officially sign on relief pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, a 10-year veteran of Japanese baseball with a 57-54 record and 3.41 ERA at the top level for the Hanshin Tigers. This past year, the 28-year-old right-hander made 16 appearances with a 3-5 record and 3.38 ERA. The deal with the A’s is for one year and $3.25 million. 

Sunday, January 15

It’s a family affair in the first day of baseball’s international signing period, which essentially goes on for the full year—with most of the allotted pool money, ranging anywhere from $4.1 million to $6.5 million per MLB team, spent within the first month. True to recent form, the Padres make the biggest splash by signing 16-year-old Venezuelan catcher Ethan Salas, the pool’s top prospect, for $5.6 million. Salas is the younger brother of minor-league infielder Jose Salas, whom Baseball America lists as the #2 prospect in Miami’s farm system. Shortstops are high in demand; the most promising of them all, five-tooler Felnin Celesten from the Dominican Republic, agrees to a deal with Seattle. Among pitchers, Cuban southpaw and top prospect Luis Morales is nabbed by the Oakland A’s. Players eligible for this pool are those outside of the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico; they must be a minimum of 17 years of age on September 1, 2023.  

Also of note is Washington’s signing of Elian Soto, the younger brother of former Nationals/current Padres star slugger Juan Soto. An outfielder like Juan, Elian signs for a relatively low $225,000, with an additional $200k for “studies.” And among the 17 players signed by the Texas Rangers is Pablo Guerrero, the younger brother of Toronto star slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 

Monday, January 16

Frank Thomas, one of the game’s more powerful—and abrasive—major leaguers during his time, passes away at the age of 93. Obviously not to be confused with the Hall-of-Fame Frank Thomas who dominated in the 1990s, this Thomas held his own star fairly well—belting 286 home runs over a 16-year career riddled with frustration and controversy. The Pittsburgh native spent his first eight seasons (1951-58) with the Pirates, belting 163 homers—but only 61 of those were hit at Forbes Field, the Pirates’ spacious home. In his final year with the Bucs, only nine of his career-best 35 jacks were recorded at Forbes. For the next four seasons, Thomas bounced around the National League with stops in Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee and finally New York with the infamous 1962 Mets, for whom he hit 34 homers amid a 40-120 season. After another trade to the Phillies in 1964, Thomas a year later was involved in his most notorious episode, when he was said to racially taunt star outfielder Richie Allen (who was black), resulting in a pregame brawl between the two. Thomas was quickly dealt again (to Houston) while Allen remained, booed by Phillies fans who felt (or wished to think) he was at fault for the incident. 

It’s an interesting time in Baltimore right now with the Orioles, and it’s not necessarily because the team made an impressive leap over the .500 mark after a half-decade of pure baseball stench. Orioles CEO John Angelos engages in a five-minute spat with Athletic reporter Dan Connolly because the reporter dares to ask him a hard-hitting question about ownership that may be growing fractious. Angelos is upset that Connolly’s question is asked on Martin Luther King Jr. Day while he’s performing a goodwill appearance, touting a local foundation that helps city kids complete their college education. Connolly figured that since this is only the second time Angelos has appeared in public with the media over the last four years, the question is worth being asked. A cool but nevertheless agitated Angelos promises that he would let Connolly and other reporters into the Orioles’ office the following week and have a “look at the books.” 

In an article he writes the next day, Connolly points out that there’s a family feud taking place within the Orioles’ ownership, with Angelos’ brother Louis suing the rest of the family while the team faces a decision on their long-term, with its lease with Oriole Park at Camden Yards expiring after this season. 

Oh, and that review of the books Angelos promises for next week? It never happens.  

Wednesday, January 18

‘The Associated Press reveals the final numbers on team payroll and taxes for the 2022 season. Not surprisingly, the Mets and Dodgers were essentially neck-and-neck at the top—with New York paying out $274.9 million and Los Angeles $270.6 million. Those two ballclubs were followed by the Yankees ($254.7 million), Phillies ($238.5 million), Padres ($221.8 million) and Red Sox ($217.1 million). All six of those teams will pay a luxury tax due Friday, with the Dodgers paying the most at $32.4 million—because, in part, this is the second straight year they’ve gone over the threshold. The Red Sox’ payroll was the highest by a team not making the playoffs; the Angels (11th highest, at $174.7 million) spent the most by a team finishing below .500. Conversely, the Orioles (second lowest, at $60.3 million) had the smallest payroll of any team finishing above .500, while the Guardians (fourth lowest, at $69 million) represented the postseason team with the lowest wages. No team in 2022—in fact, no team since the 2013 Astros—doled out less dollars than the Oakland A’s, whose payroll was $49 million. 

A trio of fringe players find new environs to try and become relevant again. The Mets, who always have money to burn (see above), bring on outfielder Tommy Pham for one year and $6 million. The Red Sox agree to a one-year, $7 million deal with hot-and-cold slugger Adam Duvall. And the Brewers say hello to Brian Anderson, third baseman for the past five years at Miami, for one year and $3.5 million. 

Thursday, January 19

The Kansas City Royals are going to find out how much Aroldis Chapman has left in him. The seven-time All-Star closer, who turns 35 next month, has agreed to a one-year, $3.75 million deal with the Royals—but it’s not known if Chapman, who had his worst year yet in 2022 with a 4.46 ERA and by season’s end was at odds with the Yankees, will be asked to challenge incumbent Royals closer Scott Barlow or settle for a set-up role. 

Friday, January 20

The Twins trade reigning AL batting champ Luis Arraez to Miami, receiving pitcher Pablo Lopez, hi-end shortstop prospect Jose Salas and 17-year-old minor leaguer Byron Chourio. While on the surface, the trade seems fairly equitable, consider that Arraez’s .316 bat average in 2022 was accommodated with little power (eight home runs) little speed (four steals) and a modest number of walks (50). The 25-year-old Venezuelan is a good contact hitter, but does he bring a positive domino effect to the rest of an otherwise dormant Miami lineup? We’ll find out. 

The last time a reigning batting champ was traded came in 1978 when another Twin—Hall of Famer Rod Carew—was sent to California. 

Slowly but surely, women continue to make strides in pro baseball. Following in the footsteps of Miami GM Kim Ng, minor league manager Rachel Balkovec and Giants coach Alyssa Nakken, Ronnie Gajownik is hired by the Diamondbacks to pilot the Class-A Hillsboro Hops. The 29-year-old Gajownik, who played college softball at South Florida, has been working with the Hops since 2021, and her knowledge of the game accrued since then made her an “easy choice” to take over as manager, according to DBacks farm director Josh Barfield

Saturday, January 21

Sal Bando, one of the more reliable and affable members of the tumultuous Oakland A’s of the early 1970s that won three straight world titles, dies at the age of 78 following a long battle with cancer. A product of Arizona State University, a virtual baseball factory during the 1960s, Bando played 11 years for the A’s, earning All-Star status four times while being ranked in the top four of AL MVP voting three times—including a #2 slot in 1971 behind pitching teammate Vida Blue. The third baseman didn’t hit for high averages (his career batting mark was .254), but he wielded good power, belting 20 or more homers six times, was awfully good in the clutch, and rarely missed a game—leading the AL in appearances four times. Escaping from Charles Finley’s post-free agent down-spiral in the late 1970s, Bando played his final five seasons with Milwaukee, and later became that team’s general manager, from 1991-99. 

Monday, January 23

It appears that now isn’t the time for Arte Moreno to get out of baseball, despite what he stated last summer. The 76-year-old Angels owner, who was exploring a sale of the team he’s owned for 20 years, releases a statement saying that he will stick around and remain owner. “…As discussions advanced and began to crystallize,” Moreno wrote, “we realized our hearts remain with the Angels, and we are not ready to part ways with the fans, players, and our employees.” 

The Twins continue to be a source of late activity in the hot stove season, sending two minor leaguers to Kansas City in exchange for outfielder Michael A. Taylor. Last season, Taylor batted .254 with nine homers and 43 RBIs for the Royals over 124 games, but he’s better known for his above-average defense which garnered him a Gold Glove in 2021

Tuesday, January 24

Scott Rolen must have really played some great baseball over the last six years. The 17-year third baseman and seven-time All-Star, who received only 10.2% of the vote in his first Hall-of-Fame ballot in 2018, gets 76.3% on his sixth and is named the only electee of this year’s Cooperstown general vote. Getting close without a cigar is Todd Helton (72.2%) and Billy Wagner (68.1%). Jeff Kent, with his 10th and final ballot, finishes well short with 46.5%. Steroid-tainted megastar Alex Rodriguez does not see much upward movement on his second ballot, checking in at 35.7%—up a small bit from 34.3% last year. Only two first-year candidates, Carlos Beltran (46.5%) and Francisco Rodriguez (10.8%), receive enough checks to earn a spot on next year’s ballot. Twelve others fail to get anywhere near the 5% needed to return, including John Lackey, Matt Cain, Jered Weaver and Jayson Werth (the latter three not getting a single vote). 

Rolen is another one of those recent inductees who just doesn’t strike us as the immortal type. Yes, he had a very good career, but a great one? His career offensive numbers include a .281 batting average, 2,077 hits and 316 home runs—again, very good numbers, but not OMG. What may have tipped Rolen over the 75% threshold was his defense at third, which garnered him eight Gold Gloves. 

No previous Hall of Famer had made it to Cooperstown with a lower first-year ballot approval than Rolen—at least, not since the voting went back to an annual event in 1968, per Sarah Langs. 

If Helton, Wagner and other returning candidates are hoping for a further bump next year, they should note that next year’s field will get crowded with first-year names such as Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright and Jose Bautista. 

Anyone thinking that the trend among HOF voters is to put more checks next to candidates’ names might be surprised to learn that the opposite is occurring. According to the Baseball Writers Association of America—the members for which cast the votes—the average ballot has 5.86 names checked, down from 7.11 a year before, while 13.9% of all ballots has the maximum 10 candidates selected—a big drop from last year’s 33.8%. Curiously, of the 405 ballots sent out, 16 of them were not returned. Ill health aside, the question for these people is: Why not? 

The Oakland A’s add a little sock to their roster by agreeing to a one-year, $3 million contract with slugger Jesus Aguilar. The 32-year-old outfielder performed most of the year for Miami before late play with Baltimore, collecting 16 home runs and 51 RBIs along the way. 

Wednesday, January 25

The Rays reward pitcher Jeffrey Springs for a fine 2022 season, handing the 30-year-old southpaw a four-year, $31 million extension. In his fifth major league season, Springs emerged from the bullpen and became an effective starter for Tampa Bay, finishing the year with a 9-5 record and 2.46 ERA over 135.1 innings. 

Thursday, January 26

The Astros hire Dana Brown as their new general manager, replacing the unceremoniously dumped James Click after last year’s World Series-winning campaign. Brown, who’s spent the past four years as VP of Scouting for the Atlanta Braves—coming up with some nice nuggets such as Michael Harris II, Spencer Strider and Vaughn Grissom—becomes the only current black GM in MLB; the Astros are just the second team ever to have both a black GM and manager, after the 2000-03 White Sox (Ken Williams, Jerry Manuel). 

The Oakland A’s trade arguably their best remaining pitcher—and the only one who qualified for the ERA title last year—as southpaw Cole Irvin goes to Baltimore in exchange for 21-year-old minor-league infielder Darell Hernaiz. In 181 innings last season, the 28-year-old Irvin produced a 9-13 record and 3.98 ERA. 

Gary Peters, a two-time AL ERA champ who currently ranks #6 on our list of the White Sox’ 10 best pitchers, passes at the age of 85. The 1963 AL Rookie of the Year, Peters took his first ERA crown that season with a 2.33 figure; he did it again in 1966, registering a 1.98 mark despite a 12-10 record as the White Sox were going through another one of their ‘Hitless Wonder’ phases. Actually, Peters was arguably one of Chicago’s better hitters; over 807 career at-bats, he belted 19 home runs and knocked in 102 runs. Overall, Peters was 124-103 through 14 years, posting a 3.25 ERA. 

Another top AL pitcher of the 1960s also passes away, as Ray Herbert, a 20-game winner and AL All-Star in 1962, dies at the age of 93. The Detroit native began his major league career with the Tigers in 1950, but didn’t really become a rotation regular until the late 1950s with the Kansas City A’s. His best years came in the early 1960s with the White Sox; he finished the 1962 campaign with a 20-9 record and 3.27 ERA, and despite slipping to a 13-10 mark the following year led the AL with seven shutouts. Between both of those seasons, he ran up a streak of 54 consecutive scoreless innings at home, setting an MLB mark. Herbert finished his career with the 1966 Phillies, having won 104 games, losing 107 and posting a 4.01 ERA over 14 big-league seasons. 

Friday, January 27

Atlanta manager Brian Snitker is given a contract extension that will take him through the 2025 season and close to his 70th birthday. In seven years as the Braves’ pilot, Snitker has accumulated 542 wins, 451 losses and a World Series ring from 2021; with 38 wins in 2023, he’ll move into #2 on the modern-era (post-1900) list of Braves managers. 

Reigning NL batting champ Jeff McNeil, two years away from free agency, is extended by the Mets for four years and $50 million. A fifth-year team option could sweeten the deal by another $13.75 million. Of course, this is all pending a physical. 

Tampa Bay reliever Pete Fairbanks is given a three-year extension for $12 million, basically covering his remaining arbitration seasons; he’s not expecting to become a free agent until 2026. The 29-year-old righty authored a fine 1.13 ERA over 24 appearances in 2022, after missing the first half of the season with a torn lat muscle. 

Sunday, January 29

Two-time All-Star Josh Harrison has agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies. The 35-year-old infielder played 119 games for the White Sox last season, batting .256 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs while scoring 50 runs. 

Monday, January 30

The umpteenth announcement of a new ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays to replace Tropicana Field is announced, an enclosed facility to be built right next door as part of an 86-acre project to revitalize the area west of downtown St. Petersburg. Yes, you’ve probably heard this song before; hopefully like the others, this promise of a new yard won’t fade like the ending of Hey Jude, without a shovel ever being plunged into the ground. There’s still a long way to go on this one—like, for instance, the financing for the whole thing. The planned opening date, for now, is 2028. 

The problem with Tropicana Field isn’t necessarily Tropicana Field; it’s the location. As we mention in our write-up of the Rays’ current venue, getting to St. Petersburg requires quite a drive for the majority of Tampa Bay residents. Anything new right next to the Trop is not likely to encourage many more fans to show up. 

Zack Greinke is staying at Kansas City for at least one more season. The veteran right-hander, who turns 40 in October, agrees to be back with the Royals for what’s thought to be a deal worth $8-10 million with performance bonuses, according to MLB Network’s Mark Feinsand. In his return to Kansas City last year, Greinke was 4-9 with a 3.68 ERA over 26 starts; his 223 career wins trail only Justin Verlander (244) for the most among active pitchers. 

It’s all that Jazz for this year’s edition of MLB The Show, which will feature Miami’s Jazz Chisholm Jr. on its cover. It’s a bit of an upset, given that the flashy Chisholm batted .254 in 60 games before succumbing to a season-ending injury last year. Yet he still flashes potential to be a big-time star, so the video game makers are banking on a rebound to help sell copies. 

Chisholm will have a new teammate in Miami as the Marlins pick up reliever Matt Barnes, recently DFA’d by the Red Sox. Barnes was 0-4 with a 4.31 ERA in 44 appearances for Boston last year. 

One of Cleveland baseball’s most beloved supporters has passed, as John Adams—known for banging on a big drum in the bleachers at both Cleveland Stadium and Progressive Field for nearly 50 years—dies at the age of 71. Adams had not been attending recent games due to declining health; his drum is immortalized in bronze at Heritage Plaza behind Progressive Field’s outfield. 

Tuesday, January 31

The Rays continue to nail down their players for the somewhat short term, giving infielder Yandy Diaz a three-year extension for $24 million; there’s a $12 million team option for a fourth year (2026) with no buyout. Diaz, who otherwise would have become a free agent in 2025, has been one of the more reliable components of the Tampa Bay roster; in 2022, he batted .296 with 33 doubles, nine home runs, 57 RBIs and more walks (78) than strikeouts (60).

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