Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Lindor lands on cover of R.B.I. Baseball 18

Indians star among the faces and ambassadors of the game
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- When the idea of playing baseball for a living began to take hold of Francisco Lindor's childhood dreams, he did not simply want to reach the Major Leagues. The shortstop is not shy about saying he always envisioned himself becoming one of the best players in the game, as well as an inspiration.

Over the past three seasons, Lindor has quickly established himself not only as one of the faces of Major League Baseball, but as an ambassador for the game. So it came as no surprise that Lindor -- now a household name among baseball fans -- was chosen to be featured on the cover of R.B.I. Baseball 18 on Saturday at Tribe Fest.

CLEVELAND -- When the idea of playing baseball for a living began to take hold of Francisco Lindor's childhood dreams, he did not simply want to reach the Major Leagues. The shortstop is not shy about saying he always envisioned himself becoming one of the best players in the game, as well as an inspiration.

Over the past three seasons, Lindor has quickly established himself not only as one of the faces of Major League Baseball, but as an ambassador for the game. So it came as no surprise that Lindor -- now a household name among baseball fans -- was chosen to be featured on the cover of R.B.I. Baseball 18 on Saturday at Tribe Fest.

It was just the latest part of the legacy that Lindor has dreamed of building.

R.B.I. Baseball 18

"It's a blessing," Lindor said on Friday, when asked about being an example for kids. "Whenever a kid comes up and says, 'I want to be like you,' or the mom or the grandma come up to you and says, 'I want my grandkid or my son to be like you,' it's a blessing. It's a humbling experience. It's something that you cherish. You grow from that and you continue to do your best, so you can inspire others."

Lindor follows in the footsteps of past R.B.I. Baseball cover selections Corey Seager (2017), Mookie Betts ('16) and Anthony Rizzo ('15). The classic video game, which was relaunched by Major League Baseball in conjunction with the MLB Players' Association in '14, will be available this March for PlayStation 4, the Xbox One family of devices, Nintendo Switch, iPhone, iPad and Android-supported phones and tablets.

It might just be a video-game cover, but it is another way for Lindor to extend his reach in the game.

Both on and off the field, Lindor has earned a reputation for his infectious enthusiasm. During Players' Weekend last August, for example, the Indians' shortstop went as far as wearing the nickname, "Mr. Smile," on the back of his jersey. Lindor describes himself as a big kid, and that has been on full display over his three seasons with the Tribe. After dynamic defensive plays or big hits, that smile quickly surfaces.

Behind the scenes, Lindor has strived since his rookie year to get involved in as much as possible -- especially if working with aspiring ballplayers is involved. He has participated in MLB Network's Play Ball series, started a charity program called "Lindor's Smile Squad" to host children and adult athletes with disabilities at select home games, and has donated his time on numerous occasions to Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs, not only in Cleveland, but around the country.

All of that said, Lindor's off-field achievements alone did not clinch his place on the R.B.I. cover.

Lindor has developed into one of baseball's brightest young stars and one of the top shortstops in the game. The switch-hitter was the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2015, an All-Star in '16 and '17, picked up both Gold and Platinum Glove Awards in '16 and added a Silver Slugger to his trophy case in '17. Two years ago, Lindor also helped lead the Indians to the World Series.

Cleveland won its second straight American League Central crown last season, as it racked up 102 victories and set an AL record with a 22-game winning streak. Along the way, Lindor set career highs in home runs (33), doubles (44), RBIs (89), slugging percentage (.505) and OPS (.842) in 159 games. He set the single-season club records for homers by a middle infielder and extra-base hits (81) for a shortstop. For his work, Lindor finished fifth in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award (two spots behind teammate Jose Ramirez).

Lindor was asked on Friday if he views himself as one of the leaders in the Indians' locker room now.

"I don't want to say ... I'm the leader of the team," Lindor said. "I want people to be in the same line. I don't want people to be behind me. I don't want people to be in front of me. I want people to be in the same line, because we're a team and we all can push each other and we all can work as hard as we can to achieve our goals."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor

A new species of wasps in Florida was named after Ichiro Suzuki

Although Ichiro Suzuki rose to fame in the United States with the Mariners, he's made many new fans recently in his forties with the Marlins. One of those fans is a research scientist named Jose Fernandez-Triana.

Fernandez-Triana works for the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes and in a recent study published by ZooKeys, he named a new species of wasps after Ichiro. This is Diolcogaster ichiroi.

Plenty of suitors still circling Darvish

Trade possibilities complicate market for free-agent right-hander
MLB.com @jonmorosi

One week ago, an American League general manager was asked to predict which high-profile free agent would be the next to sign.

His answer: Yu Darvish.

One week ago, an American League general manager was asked to predict which high-profile free agent would be the next to sign.

His answer: Yu Darvish.

The choice seemed especially logical after the Astros acquired Gerrit Cole, a move that should have propelled the Darvish sweepstakes toward a resolution. The Astros disappeared as a Darvish suitor, while clubs that had pursued Cole -- such as the Twins and Yankees -- were left with dwindling trade options, thus enhancing Darvish's appeal.

The atmosphere was ripe for a deal. Yet, Darvish remains unsigned.

The volume of interested teams is not the issue. The Yankees, Cubs, Twins, Rangers and Dodgers are involved in the Darvish pursuit, said sources, confirming a report by Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The Twins -- with only three healthy, established starters on their Major League roster -- are almost certain to add an impact starter between now and the start of Spring Training. They have interest in Darvish, who would improve their chances of a repeat playoff berth in the final season before Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier become free agents. And with less than $50 million committed for 2019, the Twins can accommodate the addition of a high-priced ace over the long term.  

The Brewers, who have been linked to the starting pitching market all offseason, are another team to watch. Milwaukee is expected to be without Jimmy Nelson for a portion of the 2018 season following shoulder surgery, although MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reported this week that Nelson is ahead of schedule in his recovery.

The Brewers have shown interest in right-hander Jake Arrieta -- Darvish's foil in this offseason's free-agent market -- so it's not hard to envision Milwaukee pursuing Darvish, as well.

In a decision as consequential as signing Arrieta or Darvish, it's unclear how much general managers will consider the limited sample sizes of October baseball. Darvish is coming off a postseason in which he compiled a 6.14 ERA over four starts, including a loss in Game 7 of the World Series. Arrieta has a 3.08 ERA in nine career postseason starts.

Darvish confirmed via Twitter last week that the Yankees had made him an offer. The Yankees also are interested in adding a veteran third baseman, rather than start the season with young everyday players at both third and second base.

The Yankees may find it difficult to add Darvish and third baseman Todd Frazier through free agency, while remaining under the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold. The Yankees' current salary obligations for 2018 are roughly $163 million, according to the Cot's Baseball Contracts database.

Even after accounting for roughly $10 million in benefits and insurance -- as required in the CBT system -- the Yankees likely could add slightly more than $20 million to their current commitments and remain under the $197 million threshold. But the more they spend now, the less flexibility general manager Brian Cashman will have at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

One possible explanation for the lack of a Darvish deal is the availability of right-handers Chris Archer (Rays) and Michael Fulmer (Tigers) on the trade market. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last month that the Yankees had looked at both starting pitchers, and one source confirmed to MLB.com that the Tigers and Yankees have had trade discussions regarding Fulmer.

A separate source said the Rays have remained engaged in consistent trade talks regarding Archer in recent weeks. The Twins are viewed as a possible landing spot for Archer if they don't sign Darvish. The Cardinals also have spoken with the Rays about Archer, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

 

Yu Darvish

Papi, Pedro eager to play role with Red Sox

Boston legends ready to share experience, mentor young squad
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Two Red Sox legends from the recent past stood together on Friday night to help begin the team's annual Winter Weekend festivities, and made it clear they are passionate about trying to contribute to the team's success in 2018.

David Ortiz won't be taking any more clutch swings. Pedro Martinez won't be throwing any more devastating changeups.

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Two Red Sox legends from the recent past stood together on Friday night to help begin the team's annual Winter Weekend festivities, and made it clear they are passionate about trying to contribute to the team's success in 2018.

David Ortiz won't be taking any more clutch swings. Pedro Martinez won't be throwing any more devastating changeups.

But they can make contributions with their voices, their minds, their experience, their charisma and the respect they carry the minute they walk into a room or onto a practice field.

Ortiz elected to spend 2017 -- his first in retirement -- in the background. But he's ready to get back to work in the multifaceted role the Red Sox announced in September.

Video: Must C Classic: Fenway Faithful say goodbye to Papi

Martinez, who was hired as a special assistant by the Red Sox in 2013, has served as an example for Ortiz of how he can contribute to the organization he loves so much in his post-playing days.

"I mean, I'm always going to be open, just like this guy," Ortiz said of Martinez. "I pretty much try to approach the game like Pedro. There's a lot of kids out there on this team … I played with them and they have a good relationship, but this is teamwork. The experience we have is that we can somehow, someway share with all of them. But at the end of the day, it all depends on how much you want to get out of the experience and how good you want to get.

"I'm going to be around, just like my compadre, and sharing experience and trying to get this ballclub better."

Look for Ortiz to put his No. 34 back on at some point during Spring Training.

Will it be strange for him to put the uniform on in a non-playing capacity for the first time?

"I think that's going to be the cool side of it. I always used to love seeing [Martinez] coming in here with a fresh face, you know getting a little bit of a workout, sweat it out, and helping the guys," Ortiz said. "The guys always have questions, we're always going to have answers. It's all about sharing the experience, because that's what the game is all about."

While Martinez has been comfortable in his roving role in recent years, helping pitchers at different levels, he senses he could have more involvement at the Major League level in the coming year. In particular, Martinez will be there to help new pitching coach Dana LeVangie, who was a bullpen catcher when Martinez was a player for the Red Sox.

Video: Pedro discusses his influence in acquring Ortiz

"I'm so flexible in so many ways and I have always pretty much shared my time with the Red Sox according to what they need," Martinez said. "It's going to be pretty much the same, except I'll probably get busier this year given the fact that we have a brand-new manager and we have a brand-new pitching coach.

"It's something I never thought I would be so involved with, but I'm going to have to because not only is Dana an inexperienced pitching coach, but he's also my friend and I don't want to let him struggle. If I have to sacrifice a little bit more of my time to actually make sure that he's OK and that everything is going right for him, and that the guys can really trust what he's doing, I'm going to do that. I've always been loyal to the Red Sox."

Even if they can't contribute to wins in the direct fashion they used to, Ortiz and Martinez are eager to do what they can to play a role at this stage.

"We'll see how that plays out," Ortiz said. "We have a coaching staff that is the one in charge of dealing with the players. We only can do so much, but we're here to win, you know what I'm saying? Everybody knows that this gentleman right here and me, we breathe through this organization and we will do whatever it takes for this organization to win ballgames. So we definitely at some point are going to know what our roles are going to be like, and we're going to go from there."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

 

Boston Red Sox

Get ready for 50 of the greatest bat flips of all time

Ah yes, the bat flip. Throughout baseball's glorious history, we have witnessed some truly epic tosses of the lumber.

MLB Network will air "The Top 50 Bat Flips of All Time" on Sunday, at 10 pm E.T., and Cespedes Family BBQ will be live-tweeting it.

To get you ready for such an incredible event, we rounded up some of our favorite bat flips of all time.

Blue Jays land Grichuk from Cards for 2 arms

Right-hander Leone, pitching prospect Greene headed to St. Louis for outfielder
MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' potential Opening Day lineup received a little bit more clarity on Friday afternoon when Toronto acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk in a three-player trade with the Cardinals.

Right-hander Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene were sent to St. Louis as part of the deal. It marks the second move between these organizations this offseason, coming on the heels of a December trade that saw infielder Aledmys Diaz join Toronto.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' potential Opening Day lineup received a little bit more clarity on Friday afternoon when Toronto acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk in a three-player trade with the Cardinals.

Right-hander Dominic Leone and prospect Conner Greene were sent to St. Louis as part of the deal. It marks the second move between these organizations this offseason, coming on the heels of a December trade that saw infielder Aledmys Diaz join Toronto.

Grichuk immediately becomes the heavy favorite to replace free agent Jose Bautista as the Blue Jays' starting right fielder. The 26-year-old is coming off a season in which he hit 22 home runs over 412 at-bats for the Cards. While nothing is guaranteed, Toronto envisions using him as an everyday player.

"I think he'll have the best chance of our group to take that position over for us in right field," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "But the fact is, we have options and we'll have some balance. In today's game, asking someone to get 700 plate appearances is a lot. There are very few players who are doing it day in and day out. So where that number ends up, we'll see, but I think he has the best chance at the outset to be the regular for us."

Video: STL@BOS: Statcast™ measures Grichuk's five-star catch

Toronto's outfield appears somewhat set following the trade and the recent signing of Curtis Granderson. Grichuk is expected to start in right field with Kevin Pillar in center and a platoon of Granderson and Steve Pearce in left. That scenario would leave Ezequiel Carrera without a job and the prospect duo of Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez beginning the year at Triple-A Buffalo.

Carrera recently avoided arbitration by signing a one-year deal worth $1.9 million. He has spent the majority of the past two seasons as Toronto's fourth outfielder, but there's no longer a clear path to playing time now. He could be shopped to fill a hole elsewhere or it's possible Carrera will stick as additional insurance during Spring Training.

"We have to stay open about all of the players on our roster," Atkins said when asked about a possible move. "If there's any way to make our team better, more fluid, provide more versatility, we'll look to do that."

If Grichuk becomes the final piece of significance the Blue Jays add this offseason, the question will become whether Toronto did enough to improve its offense. The Blue Jays ranked last in the American League with 693 runs scored, and while the team undeniably has more depth following the additions of Grichuk, Diaz and Yangervis Solarte, most of the starters remain.

Video: PIT@STL: Statcast™ measures Grichuk's 478-foot homer

Instead of adding a big name this offseason, the Blue Jays are banking on a return to health as the primary way to improve. Full seasons from Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Devon Travis would certainly help, but if the injuries become a problem once again, at least Toronto is in a better position to handle them.

The Blue Jays still have some flexibility to make additional moves, but the focus now shifts to the pitching staff. Toronto remains in the market for a fifth starter, and following the departure of Leone, another piece in the bullpen could be needed as well.

"I think at this point [it's] pitching," Atkins said. "If there's a way to improve our position player roster, we'll look to do that. At this point that would mean subtraction, or other players being optioned. We have a little bit of uncertainty around playing time for some of our players so we have to build as much depth as possible."

Video: Zinkie on fantasy impact of Grichuk to Blue Jays

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Now set to hold a regular role on a team with a hitter-friendly home park, Grichuk has the power (lifetime 39.7 percent hard-hit rate, .239 ISO) to tally 30 long balls and 75 RBIs in spite of his poor plate discipline (career 0.2 BB/K ratio). While the 26-year-old gains late-round status in mixed leagues, the deal will have the opposite effect for Hernandez. Likely to open 2018 in Triple-A, Hernandez can go undrafted in all mixed formats. Meanwhile, Jose Martinez (career .903 OPS) becomes a sleeper in deep mixed leagues on the expectation that he will serve as a fourth outfielder and backup first baseman for the Cardinals.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, Randal Grichuk

5 keys that will be vital to Tribe's success

Francona expects 'good run of baseball' to continue in 2018
MLB.com @castrovince

CLEVELAND -- Because noise can influence narratives, the Tribe's media relations staff handed one-page printouts to all reporters attending manager Terry Francona's news conference on Friday, which preceded this weekend's Tribe Fest activities.

There in bold print were the selling points to serve as reminders -- for any observers distracted by the noise of a Giancarlo Stanton trade here or a Gerrit Cole swap there -- that the Indians, who have won more games than any American League club over the past five seasons, are still a pretty good ballclub.

CLEVELAND -- Because noise can influence narratives, the Tribe's media relations staff handed one-page printouts to all reporters attending manager Terry Francona's news conference on Friday, which preceded this weekend's Tribe Fest activities.

There in bold print were the selling points to serve as reminders -- for any observers distracted by the noise of a Giancarlo Stanton trade here or a Gerrit Cole swap there -- that the Indians, who have won more games than any American League club over the past five seasons, are still a pretty good ballclub.

"This has been a good run of baseball," Francona said, "and I don't see it going anywhere."

That's an important message to convey in a offseason where more of the local focus has been on what the Indians have lost than what they have. Gone are the formerly underrated and now well-compensated likes of Carlos Santana and Bryan Shaw and 2017 in-season trade acquisitions Jay Bruce and Joe Smith. Beyond the signing of Yonder Alonso to replace Santana at first base, the Indians will count on internal depth and budget-conscious additions to replace the impact of those players, and that, understandably, makes fans anxious at a time when this team needs to maximize its window to end the game's longest active championship drought.

Though the stakes have seemingly been raised in the AL by this offseason's work, there's still a lot to like in Cleveland. Here are five keys -- beyond the obvious likes of Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Andrew Miller, etc. -- for the Indians to maintain pace with baseball's elite and win a World Series crown 70 years in the making.

1. A healthy pitching staff
Well, duh. Show me a team that doesn't need this to contend. But for the Indians, it's a particularly pertinent topic.

Who used the fewest starters in baseball last season? The Indians, with seven. Who had the highest percentage of innings pitched by their starters? Cleveland, at 66 percent. Who lost a guy in free agency who averaged 72 relief innings a season over the past five years? The Indians, with Shaw's departure to Colorado. Whose World Series contention hopes would seemingly revolve in some measure around a reigning Cy Young Award winner who battled a back issue last year? The Tribe, with Kluber.

You get the idea. It can be hard in this game to maintain the level of reliability the Indians received from a pitching staff that, per FanGraphs, had the highest total Wins Above Replacement mark (31.7) in history last season. Some regression would appear inevitable. But the Indians have to reign in that regression. They're still on the hunt for right-handed relief help to help ease the burden on Cody Allen and Miller (whose pending free agencies put all the more onus on 2018).

Video: Castrovince breaks down the Indians' rotation

2. A winnable division
The Indians are in a moment in which three division opponents (White Sox, Tigers and Royals) are in some stage of rebuild. That leaves the Twins as the team most likely to give the Indians a run for their money. And while there's no doubt in the industry that the Twins still have money to spend on pitching in the weeks leading up to Opening Day, the Tribe, as it stands, is projected by FanGraphs to win the Central by 12 games.

Lord knows the projections have been wrong before, but Cleveland appears to have the easiest road to October of any clear contender in baseball.

3. Yonder and Yandy
The Indians signed Alonso to a two-year deal on the strength of a fly-ball rate that jumped from a career mark of 34.3 percent to a sudden '17 spike to 43.2 percent. The league made some adjustment to Alonso in the second half (.254/.354/.420) last season, but Cleveland is hoping the swing changes he made in Oakland can stick and stabilize.

They're hoping for similar changes for Yandy Diaz, who is, as one Tribe fan tweeted me, "the strongest man to never hit an MLB homer."

Video: Alonso discusses strength of Tribe's lineup

Diaz's biceps are so large that they ought to each count toward a roster spot, and his average exit velocity of 91.5 mph last season was, according to Statcast™, the seventh-highest in the game among those with at least 100 batted balls, just behind Stanton's 91.9 mark. The problem is that Diaz's average launch angle was nonexistent, which is why he was the master of the scorching ground ball to second base. If Diaz can take a page from the Alonso book, he's a breakout candidate.

Tweet from @castrovince: It's taken me this long to realize/appreciate that the @Indians are going to have 2018 lineups featuring a Yan, a Yonder and a Yandy.

4. Jason Kipnis ... one way or another
Kipnis would have been a free agent this offseason had he not signed an extension with the Indians prior to 2014. What once looked to be good value for the club deteriorated with Kipnis' injury-plagued season a year ago, in which he (temporarily, at least) lost his position at second base.

The Indians have tried to trade Kipnis, to no avail. If they are able to move Kipnis and the entirety of his contract, that's $13.67 million off the 2018 books that the team can use to upgrade the outfield and bullpen in what is still a crowded free-agent market, and employ their preferred defensive alignment with Ramirez at second. But if they can't move Kip, he at least rates as a bounceback candidate amid all the talk about his statistical regression.

"The best responses," Kipnis said Friday, "are between the lines."

Video: NYY@CLE Gm1: Statcast™ measures Kipnis' diving catch

5. Pleasant surprises
The Indians' outfield is dominated by left-handed bats coming off injury-plagued seasons (Michael Brantley, Bradley Zimmer, Lonnie Chisenhall), with the only right-handedness exception being Brandon Guyer, who -- yep, you guessed it -- is coming off an injury. As much as Lorenzo Cain would be the perfect free-agent fit here, that's just not expected to happen on Cleveland's budget. And so attention turns to non-roster invitee (and right-handed hitter) Melvin Upton Jr. (remember him?), who the Indians think could be a surprise contributor in the vein of what Austin Jackson brought to the ballclub last year.

"It wouldn't shock me if he comes in and hits the ground running," Francona said.

Be it Upton or Diaz or top prospect Francisco Mejia (a catcher who could wind up helping at third base) or somebody or something I've failed to mention here, a title run would likely require impact from unexpected sources. But ain't that always the case?

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

 

Cleveland Indians

Steph Curry joined Hunter and Lexi Pence for a couple friendly rounds of Mario Kart

Friday night, Steph Curry visited Coral Sword -- a Houston coffee and game shop owned by Lexi and Hunter Pence -- for a friendly game of Mario Kart.

In terms of character selection -- which everyone knows is crucial to success -- Hunter revealed he is committed to Luigi in all Mario games. Curry went with Yoshi to start, but was more willing to experiment with different characters.

Manfred enshrined into Little League Hall

Commissioner has fostered youth-oriented initiatives during his tenure
Special to MLB.com

NEW ORLEANS -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred became the 56th person enshrined into the Little League Hall of Excellence on Friday at the 27th Little League International Congress.

Since he became Commissioner in 2015, Manfred has propelled youth-oriented initiatives throughout his tenure, including events such as Play Ball, MLB Pitch, Hit & Run, the Jr. Home Run Derby, All-Star Week events and Little League Days at Major League ballparks.

NEW ORLEANS -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred became the 56th person enshrined into the Little League Hall of Excellence on Friday at the 27th Little League International Congress.

Since he became Commissioner in 2015, Manfred has propelled youth-oriented initiatives throughout his tenure, including events such as Play Ball, MLB Pitch, Hit & Run, the Jr. Home Run Derby, All-Star Week events and Little League Days at Major League ballparks.

"It really is humbling for me," said Manfred, a native of Rome, N.Y., and MLB's first Commissioner to have previously played Little League baseball. "The idea of being honored like this by an organization like this is really amazing for me."

"We're honored to make [Manfred] a member of the Hall," Little League president and CEO Stephen D. Keener said.

"No, it's me that's honored," Manfred said.

Manfred, who visited New Orleans' Urban Youth Academy earlier on Friday, has committed to the growth of youth baseball and softball domestically and internationally, as best represented by his implementation of MLB's Little League Classic, when the Pirates played the Cardinals in August during the Little League World Series at Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pa., home of the LLWS.

Video: Manfred enshrined in Little League Hall of Excellence

With Manfred's continued pursuit to expand and enhance youth programs, MLB and Little League's strategic partnership will host the MLB Little League Classic in 2018 with a game between the Phillies and Mets on Aug. 19.

"What you've done is, you've put renewed energy into what they're doing at the local level," Keener told Manfred.

On Friday, those efforts were celebrated in vibrant New Orleans fashion to affix the city's energy into the ceremony. Manfred's enshrinement featured a local gospel choir welcoming Manfred, Keener and ESPN's Karl Ravech -- the host of the network's flagship baseball show, "Baseball Tonight," who moderated a discussion among himself, Manfred and Keener -- and a marching band leading the convocation in a parade onto New Orleans' energized city streets.

"Since his election, one of Commissioner Manfred's primary focuses has been on the growth of baseball at the youth level," Ravech said.

Manfred's enshrinement, and the three-way discussion, followed an hour-long presentation of Little League's past four years since the Congress' last congregation in Minneapolis four years ago.

Christian Boutwell is a contributor to MLB.com.

 

Musing on slow-moving market for Moose

Several factors could be cooling pursuit of free-agent 3B
MLB.com @feinsand

Mike Moustakas finished last season with 38 home runs, setting a Royals franchise record. He entered the offseason with expectations of an exciting offseason filled with teams eagerly vying for his services.

Yet here we are in mid-January and the third baseman -- like many other prominent free agents -- remains unsigned. So where will Moustakas wind up?

Mike Moustakas finished last season with 38 home runs, setting a Royals franchise record. He entered the offseason with expectations of an exciting offseason filled with teams eagerly vying for his services.

Yet here we are in mid-January and the third baseman -- like many other prominent free agents -- remains unsigned. So where will Moustakas wind up?

There are a number of reasons why the market for the 29-year-old appears fairly limited: the trade market, the qualifying offer and the star-studded free-agent class expected to hit the market next offseason. Not to mention the game is currently loaded with elite third basemen.

Let's break down where things stand with Moose:

The trade market
The Giants were in the market for a third baseman this offseason, and while Moustakas was continually connected to San Francisco early in the offseason, general manager Bobby Evans opted instead to acquire Evan Longoria from the Rays.

The Cardinals have reportedly spent a lot of time trying to pry Josh Donaldson away from the Blue Jays, while several teams have been trying to deal for Orioles star Manny Machado. With names such as those floating around as possibilities (no matter how remote), it makes sense that teams would continue to exhaust those options before turning to free agents such as Moustakas or Todd Frazier.

The qualifying offer
Moustakas rejected the Royals' qualifying offer, which would have paid him $17.4 million in 2018 had he accepted. Given the industry-wide expectations for his contract -- many, including MLB.com's Jim Duquette, projected Moustakas to land a deal worth $80 million to $100 million over five or six years -- it was no surprise that he rejected the qualifying offer.

The new rule changes regarding Draft-pick compensation prevent any teams signing free agents from losing their first-round Draft pick, but for some teams, bringing in a player such as Moustakas still comes at a hefty price.

The Yankees, as a team that exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2017, would have to give up their second- and fifth-highest selections from the 2018 Draft as well as $1 million of their international bonus pool to sign Moustakas. So even if the third baseman decided to roll the dice and sign a one-year deal, it's extremely unlikely that the Yanks -- who don't have an established third baseman -- would give up two Draft picks and the bonus pool money to sign a player to a short-term contract.

Qualifying offer rules explained

Frazier and Eduardo Nunez, on the other hand, do not have Draft-pick compensation attached, making them far more attractive options for the Yankees if they can sign either to a short-term deal.

Wait 'til next year … or the year after that
For teams looking to add a big-money third baseman, next year's free-agent market looks to be quite appealing. Both Machado and Donaldson are set to become free agents next offseason, while Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon are slated to hit the open market after the 2019 season.

Locking up the third-base spot with a player such as Moustakas might not make sense for a club that is looking ahead at future free-agent classes, which could mean shorter-term offers for him.

One executive suggested that a team could get creative with an offer, giving Moustakas a deal similar to the one the Mets gave Jay Bruce ($39 million over three years) with an opt-out clause after either the first or second year. That would give Moustakas an opportunity to hit the market again at age 30 or 31, though he would then be competing for contracts with the four previously mentioned stars.

Video: Moustakas earns AL Comeback Player of Year Award

Great expectations
According to a source, teams expressed early interest in Moustakas but had second thoughts after hearing his asking price. The Angels had been frequently tagged as a potential destination for Moustakas, but Los Angeles moved quickly (well, quickly for this market, anyway) and signed Zack Cozart to a three-year, $38 million contract to fill its hole at third base.

"He's a solid player, but not a star," one general manager said. "When you see what Bruce got from the Mets, it's hard to see Moustakas getting more than that."

Despite Moustakas' power surge last year -- his 38 homers were 16 more than his previous career high -- he had an uninspiring .314 on-base percentage to raise his career OBP to .305. Although that .314 mark was the second highest of his career, his walk rate was down thanks to a .272 batting average that was 25 points higher than his lifetime average prior to 2017.

Bottom line
A return to Kansas City seems possible, especially if the Royals are unable to successfully bring back Eric Hosmer. Aside from Kansas City, the Braves and Mets are two other logical candidates, though it's unlikely that either will give Moustakas the type of deal he may have envisioned when the offseason began.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.

 

Mike Moustakas

In short, Santana makes for a curious Hall case

Lefty was game's dominant pitcher for six-season stretch
MLB.com @JPosnanski

Sandy Koufax has long been a touchstone for those short but great careers -- for obvious reasons. Koufax is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but he retired at 30 and stuffed almost all of his value into a glorious six-season period (1961-66). There's a temptation to say that anyone with a terrific but short career -- Ron Guidry, Bret Saberhagen, Wes Ferrell, Dave Stieb -- must, like Koufax, be a potential Hall of Famer.

This is especially true for Johan Santana because, as the argument goes, he was similarly dominant from 2002-10. I am actually bullish on Santana's Hall of Fame case. He was down to the final two for my last Hall of Fame vote. I will get into all that in just a minute.

Sandy Koufax has long been a touchstone for those short but great careers -- for obvious reasons. Koufax is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, but he retired at 30 and stuffed almost all of his value into a glorious six-season period (1961-66). There's a temptation to say that anyone with a terrific but short career -- Ron Guidry, Bret Saberhagen, Wes Ferrell, Dave Stieb -- must, like Koufax, be a potential Hall of Famer.

This is especially true for Johan Santana because, as the argument goes, he was similarly dominant from 2002-10. I am actually bullish on Santana's Hall of Fame case. He was down to the final two for my last Hall of Fame vote. I will get into all that in just a minute.

But first I have to say this: I think the Koufax-Santana comparison is terrible and does absolutely no favors for Santana.

I've written about this some before, but here is the problem with Hall of Fame comparisons: We have a bad habit of only comparing the stuff that makes our own case look better. That's why the "If this guy is in, then this guy has to be in," reasoning is so often shallow and even ridiculous. The most famous example of this came from the "Committee to Elect Ken Keltner," who in their efforts to put in the former Cleveland third baseman, bragged that "he had a higher average than Eddie Mathews, more RBIs than Jackie Robinson and more hits than Ralph Kiner."

Complete Hall of Fame coverage

You obviously see right through this absurdness. If not, well: I have countered that my hero Duane Kuiper has to go to the Hall of Fame because he had more stolen bases than Ted Williams, more triples than Johnny Bench and more home runs than Pedro Martinez. I mean, how do you not put Kuip in the Hall of Fame?

Tweet from @HotStoveStats: 7 WAR seasons:Johan Santana - 4Bob Gibson - 4Sandy Koufax - 4Bob Feller - 4Eddie Plank - 3Warren Spahn - 3Carl Hubbell - 3Nolan Ryan - 2Steve Carlton - 2John Smoltz - 1 pic.twitter.com/V9RlZBJVY7

These are obviously extreme examples -- but the point remains. No two players are entirely alike no matter what their career statistics say. Comparisons are useful, of course. They are one of the fun parts of any Hall of Fame discussion. But they are a guide, nothing more. And the reason is they are biased. They punctuate the part of the argument you want to punctuate and ignore the part that you want ignored.

Keltner had 350 fewer home runs than Mathews. He led the league in home runs seven fewer times than Kiner (which is to say, he never led the league in homers or anything else except games played in 1939). He integrated one fewer league than Robinson. These are fairly easy points to miss, if you want to miss them.

The Santana vs. Koufax argument is a perfect example of this.

Video: Twins nabbed Santana in 1999 Winter Meetings

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Santana was, at his best, as good a pitcher as Koufax. It's a difficult argument to prove. They pitched in entirely different times and in entirely different ways.

Koufax in his four best seasons averaged 298 innings per season. He pitched when great starters were expected to finish games. In those four great years, he finished almost 60 percent of the games he started.

Tweet from @MLBRandomStats: This is Sandy Koufax (A) vs Johan Santana (B). Nearly 50/50, which is pretty crazy. https://t.co/AYhFIlsNei

Santana in his four best seasons averaged 239 innings per season. He pitched in a time for closers, he was almost never allowed to finish games. In those four great years, he finished 6 percent of his the games he started.

Koufax pitched in an era when pitching reigned. Plus, he pitched on a ludicrously high mound in maybe the greatest pitchers ballpark since World War II. As such, his ERA for his five best seasons is an extraordinary 1.95.

Santana pitched in a good offensive time in a home ballpark that slightly leaned toward hitters. In his five best seasons, his ERA was almost a full run higher -- 2.82 -- but in context it was pretty close. (Koufax had a 167 ERA+; Santana a 157 ERA+).

And finally, Koufax pitched in a time when one team in each league made the playoffs. The National League had 10 teams; one got in, there were no consolation prizes. You had the best record in the league or you went home. Koufax played a major role -- the major role -- in leading his team to three World Series in four years.

Tweet from @CamdenDepot: Have we discussed yet that Johan Santana is Sandy Koufax. With Koufax being a first ballot entry and Santana likely a first ballot exit?

Santana pitched in the Wild Card era, when four of the 14 teams in the American League made the postseason. Santana played a major role -- the major role -- in getting Minnesota into the postseason by winning the American League Central.

All this makes it awfully hard to know how Santana would have pitched in the 1960s, or Koufax in the 2000s. But we do have some very good statistics that allow us to compare each to their league and time -- as you can see in the tweets throughout this story -- and these do make the case that Santana at his best was similar to Koufax at his best.

You don't need advanced stats to make this case. Koufax won three Cy Youngs and an MVP in a four-year period. In Santana's heyday, he won two Cy Youngs and should absolutely have won in 2005. He did not win an MVP award but certainly had a case in 2006, when his teammate Justin Morneau won it.

Sounds pretty similar. So what's the problem? Why does comparing Koufax and Santana hurt Santana's case?

Well, all this ignores one kind of important thing: Koufax is a legend because of how he pitched in five World Series. This wasn't a sidenote to his story. This was at the heart of his story. If Koufax had the exact same career but his team never made the World Series, sure, he'd still be considered a terrific pitcher. We might still talk about his perfect game (in large part because of Vin Scully's incomparable call) and his 382 strikeouts in 1965 ahd how sad it was his career ended when it did.

But would he be Sandy Koufax, name in the brightest of lights, the guy who sparks goosebumps every time you see him at Dodger Stadium?

Of course not. It would be like talking about, say, Joe Montana's career without the Super Bowls.

Do we need to remind how good Koufax was in the World Series? In 1963, he pitched Game 1 against the Yankees, struck out 15 (he got Mickey Mantle twice) and won. He pitched on three days' rest, came back for Game 4, and threw another complete game, outdueled Whitey Ford and clinched the series.

Santana elected to Twins Hall of Fame

That was nothing compared to 1965. He pitched Game 2 -- you will remember that was the year he did not pitch Game 1 because of Yom Kippur -- and was not at his best. He lasted only six innings; he gave up just two runs, but Minnesota's Jim Kaat was better. The Twins took a commanding 2-0 lead in the Series.

Koufax came back on three days' rest to pitch Game 5 -- he threw a shutout and struck out 10. The Dodgers were on the brink of taking out the Twins. But the Twins won Game 6. And so Koufax came back on two days' rest and threw another shutout with 10 more strikeouts, and the Dodgers won the Series again.

The next year, with Koufax's arm seemingly connected by nothing but a string, he lasted only six innings and gave up one earned run. Jim Palmer beat him. Koufax led the Dodgers to the World Series with amazing seasons, he started eight World Series games, several of them on short rest, finished with an 0.95 ERA, won two World Series MVPs and created a Yom Kippur legend that will be talked about every Yom Kippur forever.

We can talk all we want about Johan Santana's ERA+ and Wins Above Average. He was not Sandy Koufax. Nobody was. Koufax was a man of his own time, his own place. He achieved his own greatness.

Santana's Hall of Fame case must stand on its own. To me, that comes down to the basic question: How long does someone have to be truly great to merit entry into the Hall of Fame?

Santana's case is that from 2003-08, he was absolutely the best pitcher in baseball, and nobody was all that close.

Wins Above Average 2003-08

1. Johan Santana, 27.4

2. Brandon Webb, 23.3

3. Carlos Zambrano, 20.8

4. Roy Oswalt, 19.4

5. Roy Halladay, 19.2

For those six seasons, he was the best in everything. He had the most wins. He had the lowest ERA. He had the lowest ERA+, the lowest WHIP, the lowest batting average against, he was the best pitcher, absolutely and without question. If you are the best pitcher or player in baseball for six seasons, should you be in the Hall of Fame?

Yes. I think you should.

Well, I don't know if six years is the right number. Maybe it should be five. Maybe it should be eight. These things are worth arguing about. I know this: There will be four players elected this year, I think. I would not have traded Santana in his prime for any of them.

Despite this, Santana looks like he will fall off the ballot after just one year, and that's sad. If there is one part of the Koufax comparison I like, it is that Koufax reminds us all of how large a shadow a great player can cast in a short period of time. Santana was not Koufax. But he was the best of his time.

And for that he deserves more love than he's getting.

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Best Machado fit might be Cleveland

Tribe has depth in rotation to send Baltimore a much-needed starter
MLB.com @jonmorosi

The Manny Machado trade market has been relatively quiet in recent days, but a number of intriguing destinations remain -- including Cleveland, where his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, signed a two-year contract in December.

The Indians and Orioles were in contact last month regarding a possible Machado trade, although sources said Friday that the sides aren't actively discussing him now.

The Manny Machado trade market has been relatively quiet in recent days, but a number of intriguing destinations remain -- including Cleveland, where his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, signed a two-year contract in December.

The Indians and Orioles were in contact last month regarding a possible Machado trade, although sources said Friday that the sides aren't actively discussing him now.

The O's signaled early in the offseason that they are willing to entertain trade offers for Machado. The D-backs have shown the "most persistent" interest in trading for the three-time All-Star, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal.

• Hot Stove Tracker

On the surface, the Indians and Orioles match up well on a Machado trade. Baltimore has only two proven Major League starting pitchers on its roster -- Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman -- and Cleveland has a surplus of starters.

Video: NYY@CLE: Salazar K's 12 over seven frames vs. Yankees

Many in the industry believe the Indians are open to trading right-hander Danny Salazar, a talented yet inconsistent starter who has averaged roughly 120 innings pitched over the past two seasons. A trade of Salazar would signal that the Tribe is confident in Mike Clevinger as a full-time starter in 2018; Clevinger compiled a 3.11 ERA in 121 2/3 innings for the Indians during the '17 regular season, mostly as a starter, but pitched out of the bullpen during the Tribe's American League Division Series loss to the Yankees.

If Machado were traded to the Indians, he'd likely become Cleveland's everyday third baseman, with Jose Ramirez at second base. That would leave Jason Kipnis without an everyday position on the infield, unless he was included in the trade to Baltimore or dealt elsewhere.

The Mets nearly acquired Kipnis in a trade earlier this offseason before the deal fell apart, "very likely" for financial reasons, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Machado and the O's avoided salary arbitration last week by agreeing to a one-year, $16 million contract. Machado is on track to become a free agent after the 2018 season; based on recent trades involving J.D. Martinez and Andrew McCutchen, teams are reluctant to pay a high acquisition cost for one year (or less) of control on even the most accomplished position players.

Thus far, the Orioles have not made major moves in advance of what's likely to be a pivotal year for the franchise. Machado, center fielder Adam Jones, manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette all are unsigned beyond 2018. If the O's trade Machado now, they could find his long-term replacement in a slow-moving free-agent market that still includes third basemen Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier.

Jon Paul Morosi is a reporter for MLB.com and MLB Network.

 

Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Manny Machado

Q&A: Beltre talks accomplishments, goals

MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

Next week, Vladimir Guerrero could become the third native of the Dominican Republic to be elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez. Chipper Jones seems a virtual lock to become the 17th third baseman honored in Cooperstown.

Adrian Beltre, meanwhile, is getting ready for the start of his 21st big league season as he heads into the final year of his contract with the Rangers, putting the finishing touches on a career that would seem to eventually add him to the list of Dominicans and third basemen in the Hall of Fame.

Next week, Vladimir Guerrero could become the third native of the Dominican Republic to be elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez. Chipper Jones seems a virtual lock to become the 17th third baseman honored in Cooperstown.

Adrian Beltre, meanwhile, is getting ready for the start of his 21st big league season as he heads into the final year of his contract with the Rangers, putting the finishing touches on a career that would seem to eventually add him to the list of Dominicans and third basemen in the Hall of Fame.

A four-time All-Star, Beltre has earned four Silver Slugger Awards and five Gold Glove Awards. He talked about the impact of his accomplishments in this week's chat:

MLB.com: When you reached 3,000 hits, Hall of Famer Wade Boggs said, "That means Cooperstown." Did you think about that?

Beltre: It is a big accomplishment, and I am very proud of what I have done. But I don't want to get caught up in the Hall of Fame. We will see when I get to that point.

MLB.com: Baseball seems to be a part of the nation's fabric in the Dominican Republic.

Beltre: It is the No. 1 sport in the Dominican. Dominican people have breaks -- lunch and dinner -- and talk baseball. They are very supportive of our players. We have a bunch of great players and soon-to-be Hall of Famers. Vladdy is probably going to get in. Big Papi's going to be in soon. For me to be one of those guys who [others] can look up to and be proud of would be very special. You would like to think you have played the game and lived in a way that your country can be proud of you because you represent them.

MLB.com: I remember talking to Nolan Ryan when you were a potential free agent and he was the president of the Rangers. He said it was imperative to re-sign you because you were such a factor in the success of the team.

Beltre: That is nice coming from Nolan, who I have so much respect for. I'm honored that he felt that way, and I am glad he did, because [Texas] was the right place for me. We accomplished a lot.

MLB.com: You are considered a leader. Is that something you try to be?

Beltre: It's not a conscious effort. You want to be sure your team is doing the right things and doing what needs to be done to be prepared for the game. It is a feeling that nobody is better than anybody else. We are all working together.

MLB.com: Your accomplishments seem to be so complete. Anything missing?

Beltre: A World Series. To me, I have had a decent career, accomplished a couple things. I have made good money. I enjoy this game. But I want to be a champion. That's what drives me every day. I want to win the World Series. It's not easy to get there. I have been there, but I haven't come out on top.

MLB.com: The Rangers did come close in 2011 when you lost to St. Louis in Game 7.

Beltre: Really close, but it's a sour situation whenever you think about it. I tell the young guys, "You might be OK to make the World Series, but to me, that's not enough." My window is closing. If I win a World Series, it would make it a lot easier for me to hang it up and go home and be with my kids. For me, it's difficult to go home, because I haven't earned that ring. If you like the game and you are good enough to compete and contribute to the ballclub, why go home? I understand if your body is not well enough or you're not producing and helping the team, but if you are contributing and feel good, why go home?

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

 

Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre

Werner 'hopeful' deal with J.D. will get done

'We're going to make some more moves this offseason,' Red Sox chairman says
MLB.com @IanMBrowne

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, speaking at the club's Winter Weekend event on Friday, said he is hopeful about discussions with free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez.

"I don't want to get too into the free-agent discussions. We're hopeful to make a deal, but as I've said, it takes two people to make that deal," Werner said. "I'm hopeful. [President of baseball operations] Dave Dombrowski has been talking to a lot of other general managers. We had a very good team last year. We won 93 games. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We expect to improve and I would hope we'd improve with a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but there are also other ways to improve."

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, speaking at the club's Winter Weekend event on Friday, said he is hopeful about discussions with free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez.

"I don't want to get too into the free-agent discussions. We're hopeful to make a deal, but as I've said, it takes two people to make that deal," Werner said. "I'm hopeful. [President of baseball operations] Dave Dombrowski has been talking to a lot of other general managers. We had a very good team last year. We won 93 games. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We expect to improve and I would hope we'd improve with a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but there are also other ways to improve."

Red Sox fans are no doubt eager for a splash after the rival Yankees added slugger Giancarlo Stanton earlier this offseason.

Hot Stove Tracker

"It's important for us to be competitive with them, but we're not trying to play chess with them," Werner said. "We're going to make some more moves this offseason. Again, I'm not worried so much about where we are on January 17 as I am about where we are on April 1."

The Red Sox have a five-year offer on the table to Martinez, reportedly in the range of $100 million to $125 million. Per club policy, the Red Sox didn't comment on the amount of their offer.

Video: 2018 Winter Weekend officially begins

Werner is holding out hope that Martinez, who bashed 45 homers in 432 at-bats last season, ultimately will choose Boston.

"You know, I can only talk about the Red Sox," Werner said. "We are in active negotiations with J.D. Martinez. People know about that. It takes two to make a deal. I can only speak for the Red Sox. ... We will most definitely have the highest payroll that we've ever had and you know other teams have to make their own decisions, but we expect to be competitive and we expect to improve our team from last year."

The length of Martinez's contract is the current sticking point. Agent Scott Boras would like to get seven years for the 30-year-old Martinez.

"At a certain point we have to exercise discipline," Werner said. "A lot has been written about players in their late 30s not performing as well as in their sweet spot, which we know is in their late 20s and early 30s. But Opening Day isn't here yet."

Or, as Dombrowski said during Friday's Town Hall event of the slow free-agent market: "At some point, the ice is going to melt, and when it happens, it's going to melt very fast."

Video: Red Sox have stability but still seek helpful bat

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

 

Boston Red Sox, J.D. Martinez

Giants officially introduce Longo to Bay Area

Three-time All-Star adds to strong presence in clubhouse
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Though being one of the Giants' premier acquisitions will bring Evan Longoria considerable attention, his primary objective is to avoid it.

Longoria was in the spotlight on Friday, when the Giants introduced him to local reporters during a news conference. This was Longoria's first official visit to AT&T Park since the Giants acquired him in a five-player deal with the Rays on Dec. 20.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Though being one of the Giants' premier acquisitions will bring Evan Longoria considerable attention, his primary objective is to avoid it.

Longoria was in the spotlight on Friday, when the Giants introduced him to local reporters during a news conference. This was Longoria's first official visit to AT&am