MLB…Chess Pieces.

Do any of you play chess? It is a fairly cerebral game that is best left to people who are smarter than I am. I tried to learn it when I was a kid, but it just didn’t hold my interest. I was an outdoor kid who played ball all day. Board games are just not my thing. One thing that I think I know about chess is that some pieces are more expendable than others. A pawn is nowhere near as important as the king, and a rook isn’t going to give marching orders to the queen, right?
My point about this is that in baseball (or any other sport) is that there are some moves made by teams that have more resonance than others. In professional baseball, there are many, many pawns, and they exist at all levels of the game. It is truly a pyramid if you think about it. In the hierarchy of players, the ‘kings’ are guys like Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout. You get the idea. We tend to write about the higher-tier moves, and do not devote a lot of space to trades involving two ‘Low A’ utility infelders. I am guilty of this as well, but I do not see myself changing anytime soon, although I do try to report on a few of these moves from time to time. With that said…
The Atlanta Braves have traded C Evan Gattis and a minor leaguer to the Houston Astros for a young pitching prospect named Michael Fultynewicz and two other minor leaguers. A few things jumped out at me when I heard this. First is that I thought that the Braves loved Evan Gattis. He is a great story, and the Braves must have really been enamored of these minor leaguers to trade away a potent bat like his. Secondly, as soon as I saw the word ‘pitching prospect’ I was reminded of a baseball expression that has come in to fashion, and that is TINSTAAPP. That means ‘There Is No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect’. The Houston Astros now have five catchers on the roster to include Hank Conger, Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, and Max Stassi. Castro was the starter but has lost his way offensively, and his batting average dropped precipitously from 2013 to 2014 (.276 down to .222).
From the ‘he was here for a cup of coffee’ file, the Oakland A’s have shipped newly acquired IF Yuniel Escobar to the Washington Nationals for All-Star relief pitcher Tyler Clippard. The A’s already have one All-Star closer in left-hander Sean Doolittle. Adding Clippard to the bullpen gives them a potent combination, and fills the hole left in the bullpen when Luke Gregerson set sail for Houston.
The Cardinals agreed to terms with P Lance Lynn and avoided salary arbitration. At 3 years / $22M, this is a great signing for the Redbirds, as Lynn is one of the winningest pitchers in baseball over the past three seasons. Since 2012, Lynn has won 48 games, which is good for third in the National League. At 27, Lynn is still young, and he will continue to pay dividends for St. Louis.
The Texas Rangers agrees to terms with P Neftali Feliz, and avoided arbitration with the right-handed pitcher. The deal is for 1 year / $4.125M. Feliz posted a 2-1 record with 13 saves and a 1.99ERA in 30 relief appearances in 2014.
The Chicago Cubs have agreed to a one-year contract with P Felix Doubront on a 1 year contract worth $1.925M and avoided arbitration. The 27-year-old left-hander was 4-5 with a 5.54 ERA in 14 starts and seven relief appearances last year for Boston and Chicago, which acquired him July.
The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Cuban pitcher Yoan Lopez to a contract that includes an $8.27M signing bonus. Lopez is still very young at 21 years-old, but he throws very hard. He can expect to start off in the minors while he grows and develops. Interesting to note that back in December of 2014, Arizona also signed another highly-regarded Cuban in Yasmany Tomas to a 6-year / $68.5M deal. As a sidebar, does it seem that more and more Cuban players are making their way to America over the past few years?
The Baltimore Orioles have avoided arbitration with relief pitcher Tommy Hunter, and signed him to a one year / $4.65M contract. Hunter had been the closer, but he had issues and was replaced by Zach Britton. Hunter was able to put it back together late in the season, and he played a role in Baltimore’s playoff run.
Lastly, from the files that contain a list of players who I hope can make a comeback, SP Johan Santana retired six batters in a row in an start for the Magallanes Navigators in the Venezuelan league. Santana threw 17-pitches in the appearance and reported no discomfort in his surgically-repaired throwing shoulder. If you remember, it was Santana who finally broke the New York Mets streak of not having a pitcher toss a no-hitter. That left the San Diego Padres as the only major league team without a no-no, a streak that started 45 years ago when they were born in 1969.


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