Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

MLB announces pace of play initiatives for '18

MLB.com

Major League Baseball on Monday announced rule changes for the 2018 championship season designed to improve the pace of play. After receiving substantial input from the Major League Baseball Players Association and Club personnel, MLB's Competition and Playing Rules Committees recommended that Commissioner Rob Manfred proceed with a rule change limiting the number of mound visits in a game and a rule designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes. The Commissioner has decided to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.

Commissioner Manfred said: "I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players. My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

Major League Baseball on Monday announced rule changes for the 2018 championship season designed to improve the pace of play. After receiving substantial input from the Major League Baseball Players Association and Club personnel, MLB's Competition and Playing Rules Committees recommended that Commissioner Rob Manfred proceed with a rule change limiting the number of mound visits in a game and a rule designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes. The Commissioner has decided to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.

Commissioner Manfred said: "I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players. My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

The Commissioner's Office also is taking steps to expedite the replay review process and to deter sign-stealing through the use of electronic equipment. MLB and the MLBPA have agreed to meet during the 2018 championship season to continue to discuss pace of play. A full description of the 2018 changes is attached hereto.

Summary of 2018 Rule Changes

I) Mound Visits 
1. Number
A. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.  
B. OBR 5.10(l). Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning). 

2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.

3. Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a "cross-up"), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team's total number of allotted mound visits.

II) Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes
1. Time of Break. The timer will count down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised championship season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised championship season games, and from 2:55 for tie-breaker and postseason games as follows: 

Time Remaining | Required Action
25 seconds: 
Umpire signals pitcher to complete last warmup pitch.
20 seconds: Batter's announced and must leave on-deck circle, batter walk-up music shall begin, and pitcher shall complete last warmup pitch.
0 seconds: Pitcher must begin motion to deliver first pitch.

A. The pitcher may take as many warm-up pitches as he desires, but regardless of how many warm-up pitches he has thrown, he must deliver his final warm-up pitch at least 20 seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change. OBR 5:07 will be revised to reflect that pitcher is not guaranteed eight warm-up pitches. 
B. The umpire shall signal for the last warm-up pitch at 25 seconds, unless a special circumstance (as described below) applies. 
C. The batter must leave the on-deck circle and proceed directly to the batter's box when the pitcher throws his final warm-up pitch.  
D. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is alert to the pitcher; provided, however, the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break. 

2. Special Circumstances. A Player will be excused from following the time limits set forth above if the umpire determines that any of the following special circumstances are present:  
A. There is a delay in normal warm-up activities during the inning break due to no fault of the Players (e.g., injury or other medical emergency, equipment issues, playing field or grounds crew issues);
B. The umpire believes the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warm-up pitches; 
C. The umpire believes the batter is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter's box; 
D. Any other special circumstances which, in the umpire's judgment, warrant allowing the pitcher to throw after the deadline. 

3. Start of Timer for Inning Breaks
A. Last Out of Inning. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break.   
B. Close Plays/Replay Review. The Field Timing Coordinator shall delay the start of the timer if the final out of the inning is a close play that may be reviewed by instant replay. If the final out of the inning is determined in instant replay, the timer shall start as soon as the out is signaled by the umpire.  
C. Pitcher or Catcher On Base/On Deck. If a pitcher ends an inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer shall reset when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If a catcher ends the inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout (and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher). 
 
4. Start of Timer for Pitching Changes
A. Pitcher Crosses Warning Track. The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game. In the case of a pitching change that occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset if previously started as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).  
B. Relief Pitchers Must Promptly Leave Bullpen. Relief pitchers shall leave the bullpen promptly following an appropriate signal by their manager or coach. During the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event. 
 
5. Enforcement. Umpires shall direct players and enforce the inning break and pitching change time limits on the field. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline for just cause by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article XI(C) of the Basic Agreement.

III. Batter's Box Rule
The batter's box rule that was in effect during the 2017 season will remain in effect during the 2018 season.

IV. Video Replay Review
The following adjustments will be made to the video replay technology:
A. Install capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles for the 2018 championship season; 
B. Install new phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

How these 5 teams can still win the offseason

Cards, Brewers among clubs a move or two away from winter dominance
MLB.com @RichardJustice

It would seem the Astros have already won the offseason. When the World Series winner gets better, that has to be the automatic call. In a typical offseason, we would have already shipped the big shiny trophy to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.

Here's a preliminary ranking of the offseason winners:

It would seem the Astros have already won the offseason. When the World Series winner gets better, that has to be the automatic call. In a typical offseason, we would have already shipped the big shiny trophy to Astros GM Jeff Luhnow.

Here's a preliminary ranking of the offseason winners:

1. Astros
2. Yankees
3. Angels
4. Brewers
5. Cardinals

Honorable mention: Twins, Mets, Blue Jays, Padres, Athletics, Rockies

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

But wait, there's still time. Polls remain open. Even with Eric Hosmer (Padres) and Yu Darvish (Cubs) off the market, the list of unsigned free agents includes a bunch of difference-makers, including starters Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, outfielder J.D. Martinez, third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Logan Morrison and closer Greg Holland.

Hot Stove Tracker

Let's run down our list, offer a modest proposal or two and check out what the final standings could look like:

Cardinals

Modest proposal: Sign Holland and Moustakas.

Bottom line: Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has rebuilt his team since Opening Day 2017, and the offseason additions of left fielder Marcell Ozuna, starting pitcher Miles Mikolas and reliever Luke Gregerson have been nice finishing touches.

Even if they don't catch the Cubs in the NL Central, the Cardinals are positioned to return to the postseason. But they could make up more ground on the Cubs with another addition or two.

Brewers

Modest proposal: Sign Arrieta, trade for Rays right-hander Chris Archer.

Bottom line: The Brewers' solid offseason has included the additions of outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, but they still could use help in the rotation, and while signing Wade Miley to a Minor League contract could pay off, Arrieta and Archer could vault Milwaukee into the top spot.

Video: Brewers, Twins vying for sign free agent Jake Arrieta

Twins

Modest proposal: Sign Lynn.

Bottom line: The Twins have already had a great offseason with the trade for right-hander Jake Odorizzi to go with the earlier additions of relievers Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney and the signing of right-hander Anibal Sanchez. But with ace Ervin Santana sidelined until May or June because of a finger injury and with their young starters still figuring things out, the Twins could go a long way toward flat-out winning the offseason with one more starting pitcher.

Yankees

Modest proposal: Sign either Moustakas or one of the available starting pitchers.

Bottom line: The Yankees have been quiet since acquiring reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton in December, and that should worry the rest of baseball. GM Brian Cashman would like to trade center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to free up payroll, and don't discount his ability to make one more acquisition and push the Astros from the top spot.

Angels

Modest proposal: Sign a starting pitcher.

Bottom line: Angels GM Billy Eppler has had a huge offseason already with the additions of Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart and the re-signing of Justin Upton. If the Angels knew starters Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney could get through the season healthy, they'd be ready to roll. But all of those pitchers have had health issues in recent seasons, so a veteran addition to the rotation would help the Angels make up more ground on the Astros in the American League West and further position them for a postseason run.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels

Rizzo returns, reflects on somber trip home

On meeting with families of victims of Florida high school shooting: 'It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said it was important for him to go home to Parkland, Fla., to be with family and neighbors after the horrific shooting at his high school last week in which 17 people were killed.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Rizzo said Monday about meeting with families of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. "You don't know what to say, there's nothing you can say. When people get shot, you're grateful they're alive. When they pass away, you're grateful you knew them. Just to see how real it is, it's sad and it's why I'm so proud of what they're doing back in Parkland and how everyone is coming together. They're going to turn this tragedy into something positive."

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said it was important for him to go home to Parkland, Fla., to be with family and neighbors after the horrific shooting at his high school last week in which 17 people were killed.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Rizzo said Monday about meeting with families of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. "You don't know what to say, there's nothing you can say. When people get shot, you're grateful they're alive. When they pass away, you're grateful you knew them. Just to see how real it is, it's sad and it's why I'm so proud of what they're doing back in Parkland and how everyone is coming together. They're going to turn this tragedy into something positive."

Rizzo spoke at a prayer vigil at Pine Trails Park the day after the shooting. It's the same park where he's hosted a charity walk for six years. This was different. Rizzo knew football coach Aaron Feis, who was killed in the shooting. Rizzo's brother John played for Feis. Rizzo's agent also lost a family member in the shooting.

"It's gut-wrenching," Rizzo said about when he first heard the news. "You just go numb. ... There's so many different things going on. One of the teachers who is another hero ... I know very personally and she was in there saving people's lives and tying tourniquets on. You don't know what you're going to do in that situation."

Rizzo has yet to decide how he'll honor the victims. Monday was the Cubs' first full-squad workout day and the first time he could get back to some sort of normalcy.

"My first instinct was just kind of numb," Rizzo said about when he first heard the news. "The more I sat and thought about it, I felt helpless here. That's where I grew up in Parkland. I got in trouble there, I succeeded there, I learned how to be who I am because of Parkland, because of Stoneman Douglas. To be across the country and not be there and to find out some very close people have lost loved ones, to be there to help them and support them was very important to me."

He wanted to speak at the vigil because of that connection.

"Obviously, there needs to be change," Rizzo said. "I don't know what that is. ... You just hope that somewhere up the line of command, people are thinking the same things that a lot of innocent kids are thinking. Why am I scared to go to school? Why am I scared to say goodbye to my son or daughter? God forbid, someone was in an argument with someone they loved that day. It's a bad time right now in the country with what's going on with all these shootings.

"I said there needs to be change -- I don't know what the change needs to be," he said. "I'm just really proud of those kids and how they're coming together and becoming one in Parkland. It's really inspiring to see and it makes me proud."

While he was home, Rizzo met with the families of some of the victims and also went to the local hospital to visit those who were wounded.

"It was weird," he said. "It's such a proud community, such a tight-knit community. To see it happened at the field where I do my charity walk, good times there, and you see in the blink of an eye, everyone is upside down. I'm very proud of the community and what they're doing."

He got back to work Monday, talking to new infield coach Brian Butterfield and attending a team meeting. He'll try to get back to a normal routine, but he won't forget what happened in Parkland.

"They'll be in my hearts every day, they'll be in my thoughts every day," Rizzo said. "I didn't know most of the kids personally. They'll be in my thoughts and prayers every day. To experience that -- I go to sleep at night and things start spinning through my head. I can't imagine how it is for the people affected.

"It's crazy to see that happen at home. We all think we're invincible to it. It could happen to any one of us."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Anthony Rizzo

The wait is over: See Giancarlo don Pinstripes

In terms of offseason splashes, the Yankees made arguably the biggest when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins back in December. His new teammates were obviously excited about him joining the mix, as were Yankees fans -- while fans of other teams probably grew more fearful of the Yankees' powerful offensive attack than ever. 

Felix, Yadi lead select group in it for long haul

With Hosmer leaving KC, here's a look at players who have stuck with one club
MLB.com @williamfleitch

Over the weekend, Eric Hosmer agreed to a big honking eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres, a team eager to show it's ready to contend in the near future, for better or for worse. Hosmer is many things, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, a one-time All-Star, a World Series champion, but more than anything else, he has been a Royal.

Hosmer, along with Salvador Perez, is the physical avatar of one of the two most successful eras in Royals history. He started out as the superstar prospect who pointed to a better future, then became the slightly disappointing young player once he reached the Majors, to the leader of a team that won a World Series, to a legitimate top-shelf down-ballot MVP Award candidate, to ultimately the most Royal thing of all: A free agent who left town.

Over the weekend, Eric Hosmer agreed to a big honking eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres, a team eager to show it's ready to contend in the near future, for better or for worse. Hosmer is many things, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner, a one-time All-Star, a World Series champion, but more than anything else, he has been a Royal.

Hosmer, along with Salvador Perez, is the physical avatar of one of the two most successful eras in Royals history. He started out as the superstar prospect who pointed to a better future, then became the slightly disappointing young player once he reached the Majors, to the leader of a team that won a World Series, to a legitimate top-shelf down-ballot MVP Award candidate, to ultimately the most Royal thing of all: A free agent who left town.

Hosmer played seven years in Kansas City, and he is among the all-time franchise leaders in several categories, from homers (eighth) to RBIs (eighth) to hits (ninth) to games played (11th). (It is worth noting that he's not in the top 25 in all-time Royals bWAR, even though current and recent Royals like Alex Gordon, eighth, Lorenzo Cain, 13th, and Perez, 21st, all are).

Video: Butera, Duffy and Herrera react to Hosmer departure

Had Hosmer re-signed with the Royals, like many suspected he would, he likely would have moved into the top five, and maybe even the top two (he wasn't catching George Brett in anything) in almost every Royals career category. He would have been Mr. Royal, the representation of this era of Royals baseball in a way similar to the way Brett was in the '80s.

But he didn't, because players of course rarely do anymore. It has become an article of faith that the days of Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski and Cal Ripken, Hall of Famers staying with the same franchises their entire careers, are long in the past, though it is worth noting that Chipper Jones, Alan Trammell, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Ron Santo, Jim Rice, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken have all been inducted in the last decade. (And Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter are coming in the next few years.) But certainly finding guys who stay with one team their whole career are few and far between. You'd be surprised how few players have even made it deep into their second contract with one team.

So, today, we look at the longest-tenured active careers with one team, for both pitchers and hitters. It can be a little tricky for pitchers, because, due to injuries, sometimes pitchers can play for one franchise for a decade without actually, you know, pitching all that much. So we'll look at the top 10 in career innings pitched for one team for pitchers (which eliminated some relievers, but not all), and total games played for hitters. Hosmer had a chance to top the latter list someday. But that opportunity ended this weekend. He'll have to buy his own beers in Kansas City from now on. (Thanks to Baseball Reference's Play Index for the research help.)

PITCHERS

10. Dallas Keuchel, Astros, 984 2/3 IP (debuted in 2012)
Keuchel had a 5.21 ERA in his first two seasons over 38 starts before turning it on in 2014 and then winning the Cy Young in '15. It feels like Keuchel just got here, another reason it's so amazing to see him in the top 10 already. (No. 11 on this list is Chris Archer, by the way.)

Video: Keuchel discusses pitching again in Spring Training

9. Julio Teheran, Braves, 1,009 2/3 IP (debuted in 2011)
Teheran first appeared in Atlanta when he was 20, which is why it feels like he's been around forever even though he only turned 27 a couple of weeks ago. For what it's worth, Greg Maddux didn't even get to Atlanta until he was 27.

8. Corey Kluber, Indians, 1,091 IP (debuted in 2011)
Kluber has now thrown more than 203 innings a season for four consecutive seasons, and that's not even counting the postseason. He didn't make his first start for Cleveland until he was Teheran's age. The Indians have him under contract through 2021, when he will be 34.

7. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals, 1,099 2/3 IP (debuted in 2010)
It's a little disconcerting seeing Strasburg on this list, isn't it? It seems like just yesterday that he was the phenom who was going to change the sport. Also: So much of his career has been about reducing his innings. But here he is. The Nationals will be paying him through 2030, by the way.

Video: Strasburg is the No. 5 starting pitcher right now

6. Chris Tillman, Orioles, 1,118 1/3 IP (debuted in 2009)
A free agent this offseason, news broke Monday that Tillman is returning to the O's on a one-year deal, according to multiple sources. Considering he had a 7.84 ERA last season, perhaps he should consider himself fortunate to be pitching in 2018 at all.

5. Homer Bailey, Reds, 1,124 IP (debuted in 2007)
There is a special slot on this list for Bailey, who is here because of the rarely used "they can't get rid of his contract so let's call it 'longevity'" principle. The Reds are hoping Bailey can "lead' their rotation, which might be asking a lot of a guy who hasn't had an ERA under 5.56 since 2014. They owe him $49 million over the next two seasons (counting a $5 million buyout after 2019), so, suffice it to say, Reds fans will still be seeing plenty of the Christian Bale doppleganger for a while.

4. Madison Bumgarner, Giants, 1,508 2/3 IP (debuted in 2009)
Now we're getting somewhere. The final four pitchers on this list are all staples, the faces of their franchises for a decade now. Bumgarner finally had the injury season in 2017 many had feared, but because of a bike crash rather than wear and tear. He is somehow still only 28.

Video: Bumgarner discusses his excitement for 2018 season

3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, 1,891 2/3 IP (debuted in 2005)
Wainwright has had the two worst seasons of his career the past two years, and there has been enough worry about him that he felt compelled to have a news conference last week saying he'd no longer be taking retirement questions. The Cardinals still want him to hold a spot in the rotation or, failing that, at least the chance to bow out gracefully. He'll remain beloved no matter what happens: Clinching a World Series your rookie season as a closer and then becoming an ace over the next few years will do that.

2. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, 1,935 IP (debuted in 2008)
He's about 400 innings behind Sandy Koufax, and he's now almost the same age Koufax was when he retired. (He'll turn 30 a month from today.) Whether he passes Koufax depends entirely on whether or not he re-signs with the Dodgers at the end of the year. He may have a few outside suitors.

1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners, 2,502 1/3 IP (debuted in 2005)
It was the worst year of King Felix's career, though his strikeouts crept up a tick, maybe a positive sign moving forward? The Mariners are not asking too much from him anymore; they'd just like him to have a smile on his face again.(Pssst: A playoff appearance might help that.)

HITTERS

10. Brett Gardner, Yankees, 1,218 games (debuted in 2008)
Usually you have to be a Hall of Famer for a Yankee to make this list, but Gardner has proven just handy enough to stick around for a decade now. It probably ends this season: He's a free agent after the World Series. (No. 11 on the list is Freddie Freeman, by the way.)

Video: Outlook: Gardner is productive but may not match 2017

9. Elvis Andrus, Rangers, 1,379 games (debuted in 2009)
How have we gotten so impossibly old that baby-faced Andrus is a grizzled veteran now? We're going to blink and Rougned Odor is going to be 53.

8. Gordon, Royals, 1,412 games (debuted in 2007)
Gordon holds the Bailey spot on this list, a guy who's going to remain here not because of his play, but because of his dreadful contract. It's possible the Royals had Gordon in mind when deciding not to give Hosmer that eighth year.

7. Joey Votto, Reds, 1,430 games (debuted in 2007)
Votto maybe had his best season in 2017 and would have been this scribe's choice for National League MVP. If the Reds haven't traded Votto already, they certainly aren't going to now. His contract could go all the way through 2024, when he'll be 40 and probably still getting on base in half his at-bats.

Video: Votto on gaining weight, creating winning culture

6. Ryan Braun, Brewers, 1,458 (debuted in 2007)
Braun was expected to be trade bait at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, but the Brewers ended up in a pennant chase, so they needed him. Braun could have been a Brewers legend if it hadn't been for, well, you know, but even with all the outside unpleasantness, the Brewers have gotten a great deal on his contract, and he's still cheap for the next three years. He may end up retiring a Brewer after all?

5. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox, 1,503 games (debuted in 2006)
A moment to remember players who dropped out of the top 12 last year: Andre Ethier (whom the Dodgers aren't bringing back), Evan Longoria (traded to San Francisco) and Andrew McCutchen (ditto). Laser Show is going to play second base for the Red Sox until he dies, and probably a little while after that.

4. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, 1,552 games (debuted in 2005)
It's funny to think that when Zimmerman was a prospect, we all referred to him as "a player in the Expos' organization." He never wore Montreal garb, sadly, but he did hit a career high in homers last year.

Video: Outlook: Zimmerman may have trouble repeating '17

3. David Wright, Mets, 1,583 games (debuted in 2004)
Included because he's under contact and wants to come back. He hasn't made it into a game since May 27, 2016. The Mets insurers are rooting for him to come back, and so should you.

2. Joe Mauer, Twins, 1,731 games (debuted in 2004)
Mauer's mammoth contract finally expires after this year, and while it might not have been the most efficient spending of cash, the guy is still productive and useful. Paul Molitor thinks he's "going to be a lifelong Twin," but that might be optimistic. Amazing stat: Mauer has played in 14 postseason games and lost 13 of them.

1. Yadier Molina, Cardinals, 1,747 games (debuted in 2004)
It really is remarkable that the top guy on this list is an everyday catcher. Carson Kelly is knocking on his door, but Yadi is signed through 2020 and remains the most beloved Cardinal since Ozzie Smith. He'll be allowed to play as long as he wants in one capacity or another. He's 18th in all-time games caught; if he catches 130 this year (and he's only been under that once in the last decade), he'll pass Lance Parrish for 12th.

Video: Outlook: Molina could continue power surge

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.

Clubs snoozing, not losing, in Spring Training

Several teams push back start times during camp to aid players' rest
MLB.com @castrovince

You snooze, you lose? Not in the modern Major League camp.

Only the sleep-deprived among us would fail to notice a brewing Spring Training trend in which multiple teams are beginning their morning workouts up to an hour later than they previously did. More teams are awakening to the idea that sleep impacts performance, and that rest is a key part of preparing for a long, grinding 162-game season.

You snooze, you lose? Not in the modern Major League camp.

Only the sleep-deprived among us would fail to notice a brewing Spring Training trend in which multiple teams are beginning their morning workouts up to an hour later than they previously did. More teams are awakening to the idea that sleep impacts performance, and that rest is a key part of preparing for a long, grinding 162-game season.

And so, they're hitting the snooze button in Yankees camp -- where this idea was first dreamed up a few years ago. They're doing it in the camps of the Rays, Cardinals, Mets, Phillies, Royals, Giants and Mariners, too.

"I'm all for it, dude," Royals left-hander Danny Duffy said. "I'm not what you [would] call a morning person anyway. I mean, 90 percent of our games are night games during the season, so who wants to get up early?"

That's a simply stated counter-argument to the old-school approach of the cracks of bats beginning shortly after the crack of dawn.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

For as long as anybody can remember, it has been typical for morning workouts to begin with a team stretch somewhere in the neighborhood of 9:30 a.m., with the full workout beginning by 10 a.m. These rituals are preceded by the anticipatory affair known as early work -- infielders taking ground balls in the 7 a.m. hour, batters hitting in the indoor cages, etc.

We in the media have long lionized those who are the first through the door and the last to leave. But, in recent years, teams in all major professional sports have been rethinking rest patterns -- in terms of in-game usage. It only stands to reason that the concept would extend to spring preparation, too.

Video: Boone addresses resting players, workout times

Back in 2016, the Yankees pushed their morning workout back to 11:30 a.m., as a result of a sleep study conducted by Stanford professor Scott Kutscher -- who posited the so-simple-it-ought-not-be-revolutionary idea that the spring schedule should more closely reflect the regular-season schedule.

"These are still young men whose primary job is a nighttime job," Kutscher told the Wall Street Journal that year. "So you want to get in line with how their bodies are going to respond, and how you want to perform."

Now, the alarm is sounding later for multiple clubs.

The Cardinals conducted a sleep-efficiency study on their players last spring and decided to push both the earliest optional and mandatory report times back an hour as a result. Players aren't allowed in the clubhouse before 7 a.m., and they can arrive as late as 10:30 a.m.

"As we went through our sleep trackers last year, we found our guys were getting less than seven good hours of sleep a night," Cards manager Mike Matheny said. "That's just not enough for what we're asking them. ... For us to get that information and not do something with it -- and not do something proactive -- I think is a misuse of the information."

There are other practical reasons to push things back, as articulated by Matt Klentak, general manager of a Phillies team that has pushed its workouts back an hour.

"If your workout's beginning at 9:30, that means your early work is getting done between 7:30 and 9:30," Klentak said. "You know what happens on a humid Florida night? The field gets really wet, and it's not optimal conditions to do early work."

But it's not just about sleep itself. Some teams are taking a closer look at the volume of work that occurs within their workouts.

Video: Callaway shortens Mets' workout times for Spring

The Mets, who are no strangers to the injury bug, recently hired a "high-performance director" to oversee medical and training issues. New manager Mickey Callaway has also pushed workouts back a half-hour and shortened them.

"Before, guys were sitting around for 15 minutes before their next station," Callaway told the New York Post. "They're sitting there talking, and guys were getting hurt. The next thing you know ... you're tight and you've got to go run. I want to get on and off the field. You can't have [players] standing around; that leads to injuries."

The Twins, with new pitching coach Garvin Alston, have adjusted the throwing programs of their pitchers to be more mindful of wear and tear. They are more careful about warmup patterns prior to bullpen sessions and taking better measure of the volume of throws on a given day.

"That's one area, as an industry, where we've been a little bit less attentive," Twins executive vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "We think about the amount of throwing a guy would do in July, coming back from an injury or whatever it is, and we're very attentive to it. But in Spring Training, it's just this huge volume of throwing. Catch, PFP [pitchers fielding practice], ground balls, long toss, bullpen. Day off, do it all over again. If you added that up in the regular season, people would be screaming about the abuse of how much throwing [a player has] had in the game. We just have to be careful about the volume, especially early in camp."

The Spring Training schedule, centered around day games, has long been the antithesis of the regular-season schedule. But while that fundamental flaw does not appear to be close to changing anytime soon, teams are pushing back against tradition for tradition's sake by pushing back workout times and increasing the efficiency of their prep work.

Video: Estrada on how fixing sleep issues saved his season

Maybe bankers can't afford to hit the snooze button for an extra hour. But baseball players? Sure.

"There's no real downside to pushing it back," said Klentak. "It's not cutting into anybody's day, and we feel we're getting pretty productive work out of it."

You snooze, you lose? In MLB, they're hoping quite the opposite.

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.

MLB.com reporters Jeffrey Flanagan and Joe Trezza contributed to this story.

Sources: Tillman agrees to deal with Orioles

MLB.com @Britt_Ghiroli

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Free agent Chris Tillman is returning to the Orioles. The right-hander, who had been working out in Sarasota of late, has agreed to a Major League contract according to multiple MLB.com sources. The club has not confirmed the deal.

Tillman's return should help bolster a rotation that also saw the Orioles sign free-agent Andrew Cashner to a two-year deal with an option last week. Tillman, a bounceback candidate, drew interest from several other clubs including the Twins, Jays and Tigers. He threw for the Tigers over the weekend though the main issue was 40-man roster space for other clubs including Detroit, which was interested in a Minor League deal with a big league camp invite for Tillman.

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Free agent Chris Tillman is returning to the Orioles. The right-hander, who had been working out in Sarasota of late, has agreed to a Major League contract according to multiple MLB.com sources. The club has not confirmed the deal.

Tillman's return should help bolster a rotation that also saw the Orioles sign free-agent Andrew Cashner to a two-year deal with an option last week. Tillman, a bounceback candidate, drew interest from several other clubs including the Twins, Jays and Tigers. He threw for the Tigers over the weekend though the main issue was 40-man roster space for other clubs including Detroit, which was interested in a Minor League deal with a big league camp invite for Tillman.

It's unclear if the O's were the only team that offered a Major League contract to Tillman, who will get a guaranteed $3 million and could earn up to $10 million in an incentive-laden contract that will allow him to re-establish his value before re-entering the free-agent market.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

With the O's, Tillman will get a chance to return to the organization he's called home since 2008. The 29-year-old was slowed last spring with an injury and never appeared quite right, going 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 24 games (19 starts) that included a demotion to the bullpen. He had a solid year in '16 for the O's, going 16-6 and posting a 3.77 ERA in 30 starts. Baltimore believes he can return to form and help the club rebound from a last-place finish in the American League East. In nine career big league seasons, all with the Orioles, Tillman is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in 203 games (198 starts).

Tillman will join a rotation that includes Cashner, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy with the fifth spot very much up for grabs this spring.

MLB Network insider Jon Heyman first reported the two sides had reached an agreement.

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast.

Baltimore Orioles, Chris Tillman

Beltre reports to camp, details urge to win

MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Third baseman Adrian Beltre went right to the point when asked about the Rangers' offseason moves on Monday.

"There are still a lot of free agents out there that haven't signed," Beltre said. "A lot of free agents out there … too many."

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Third baseman Adrian Beltre went right to the point when asked about the Rangers' offseason moves on Monday.

"There are still a lot of free agents out there that haven't signed," Beltre said. "A lot of free agents out there … too many."

Rangers Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule 

Pitcher Jake Arrieta and outfielder J.D. Martinez were two of the players Beltre mentioned specifically. The Rangers aren't likely to get involved with either one, but Beltre made it clear he wouldn't mind seeing his team do more.

"That's the idea," Beltre said. "If you are a player, you would like that. We would like to have the best team on paper and figure out how to do it on the field."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Beltre showed up at Spring Training on Monday morning, and what he says carries significant weight in the clubhouse. He is the undisputed team leader and a future Hall of Famer. Beltre has made it clear repeatedly that his goal is to win a World Series before his career is over. He has also made it clear he wants to feel his team is going to compete for a spot in the postseason and is not in a rebuilding mode.

He believes this team does have a chance to compete for the postseason, but thinks those chances could increase with a few more moves.

"Oh yeah, 100 percent," Beltre said. "I can't control what they add. Obviously, I want us to have the best team we can have. Whatever team we are going to have, we are going to compete. That's the idea.

"I am not unhappy. Obviously, we are going to go to war with what we have and we do have a really good team. Obviously, we can be better, especially with the free agents out there that are still unsigned. There is no doubt I would like to win and have the best chance to win. That being said, if it were my option, I would like to add more people and make the team stronger."

Video: Outlook: Beltre provides plenty of offense if healthy

General manager Jon Daniels said before Spring Training that if Beltre was the GM, he would have made some different moves. Beltre confirmed that was the case. The two have had multiple conversations since the end of the 2017 season.

"He has been honest with me," Beltre said. "Since the end of last year, we have talked and exchanged some ideas. He let me know kind of the way they were going this year. There was no promise this year we were going [to get] into the free-agent market and buy the top free agents.

"He let me know it was going to be a little different. Did I want to hear that? Probably not. I want to have the best team, but I don't have to pay those checks."

Beltre said he wasn't disappointed in what the Rangers did this offseason.

"I mean, I wouldn't call it disappointment, because I already knew what was going on," Beltre said. "I mean, I would like to be more satisfied, put it that way, in the sense of putting a better team. It's not that the team [isn't good], but we could add some other pieces. Again, especially knowing the free agents that are out there, there are a lot of free agents that we can add. Preferably, I would [like to] get some of those guys."

Video: Rangers looking to rebound after missing playoffs

Beltre is entering his 21st season and can also be a free agent after this one is over. He turns 39 on April 7. Beltre said he "assumes" he will play next year, but there are no guarantees.

"Things could change," Beltre said. "I don't want to tell you 100 percent yes or 100 percent no. It's going to be year by year -- after the year is over I will decide what is next."

In 2016, Beltre came into camp in the same contract situation. He was eligible for free agency after the season was over and it was a significant topic of conversation. Beltre ended up getting a contract extension through '18.

Another extension has not yet become a major topic of this spring.

"I don't even think about it," Beltre said. "This is Spring Training. I don't know. I came in with no expectations. I wasn't thinking about it until you brought it up. My situation doesn't matter for this team right now."

The contract situation may be on hold because of what happened last year. Beltre reached a significant milestone with his 3,000th hit, but injuries limited him to just 94 games, his lowest since his rookie season. Beltre's health is likely a bigger concern than his contract at this point.

"I'm good," Beltre said. "I'm scary good."

He altered his workouts with the intent to be lighter this year.

"When you age … it's better to be lighter," Beltre said. "There are some things I need to understand now that I am 38, almost 39. I want to make sure I'm 100 percent mentally and physically ready to go. This year was more understanding what to look for and not push it to be ready to go at the first [day] of Spring Training."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.

Texas Rangers, Adrian Beltre

Dawson excited by tournament bearing his name

Formerly known as Urban Invitational, event features HBCU teams
Special to MLB.com

Andre Dawson hadn't been to New Orleans in three years.

The 6-foot-3 Hall of Famer returned Sunday to see his name plastered on shirts, programs and signs. It was Dawson's name that Major League Baseball decided to use to rebrand what was formerly known as the Urban Invitational.

Andre Dawson hadn't been to New Orleans in three years.

The 6-foot-3 Hall of Famer returned Sunday to see his name plastered on shirts, programs and signs. It was Dawson's name that Major League Baseball decided to use to rebrand what was formerly known as the Urban Invitational.

The invitational, now known as the Andre Dawson Classic, is an annual round-robin tournament set up to showcase historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com. The idea to name the tournament after Dawson was fostered by MLB senior vice president of youth programs Tony Reagins and senior director of baseball development Del Matthews.

• Andre Dawson Classic coverage

The two felt it was important to put a face on the tournament, and they wanted someone with a strong connection to HBCUs and a name that people recognized to create a new buzz around it. Dawson fit the bill as an alumnus of Florida A&M and an eight-time All-Star who won Rookie of the Year in 1977 and MVP in 1987.

Dawson called the opportunity for the tournament to be named after him "exciting" and said he didn't know what to expect originally.

"For me, it's an honor to support an HBCU program," Dawson said. "And I look at this as an opportunity to be further involved and help these individuals be empowering and later on with this opportunity become community leaders."

There was no hesitation on Dawson's part to accept the offer, and he hopes with his name, he can help the under-the-radar players of HBCUs get exposure to Major League clubs.

"There are a million kids that have hopes and aspirations of trying to get to the professional level," Dawson said. "To be a source that they can look at and know, 'Hey, if it happened to this particular individual, there's hope.'"

Hope is what Matthews and Reagins are trying to instill in African-American youth players by bringing Dawson to the forefront and attempting to increase the popularity of MLB Youth Academies that serve cities as a site of free baseball instruction.

Reagins said it is important to not forget those who paved the way for black players in the game, and that Dawson's name and legacy is a good fit for what he and his team are trying to accomplish by creating exposure and awareness for HBCUs and players involved with those teams and youth academies.

"That's important because the kids that go to this academy, they need to see people that look like them playing at a higher level so one day they're thinking, 'I can be that guy that is on TV' or 'I'm that guy to be a part of an HBCU program or a college program in general,'" said Reagins, whose job is to help expand youth participation in baseball. "For us, getting kids to college is the big win. To get to pro ball, that's icing on the cake, but we want to get our kids in college, and this why we do this tournament."

From the responses Reagins has received from the participating coaches, this year's Classic has been a success. He said coaches have told him they would like to return year after year, and that is the type of response he wants to hear.

Now his goal is to expand the reach of the Classic and make it a premier event for college baseball with the help of Dawson and MLB Network.

"Being inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame, you kind of see your career come full circle and you're rewarded with those accolades accumulated over longevity," said Dawson, who complimented MLB on the job it's doing with youth programs. "To have this kind of honor bestowed upon you amongst people that are your contemporaries or people that run the game, to me that is a little bit more important.

"This is right up there [with being inducted into the Hall of Fame]. This is something that is national now. These kids get to get national exposure, and to have my name attached to it, I'm very excited to be associated with it."

Brandon Adam is a contributor to MLB.com.

Mets GM: 'I think' Tebow will play in MLB

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Those who consider Tim Tebow's baseball experiment a joke, a distraction, are officially on notice. Yes, Tebow's doubters may not disappear anytime soon. He knows that his Minor League statistics are what they are. But the Mets are no longer willing to discuss the former NFL quarterback as anything less than a legitimate prospect.

General manager Sandy Alderson on Sunday gave his most ringing endorsement yet of Tebow's status in the organization, saying: "I think he will play in the Major Leagues."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Those who consider Tim Tebow's baseball experiment a joke, a distraction, are officially on notice. Yes, Tebow's doubters may not disappear anytime soon. He knows that his Minor League statistics are what they are. But the Mets are no longer willing to discuss the former NFL quarterback as anything less than a legitimate prospect.

General manager Sandy Alderson on Sunday gave his most ringing endorsement yet of Tebow's status in the organization, saying: "I think he will play in the Major Leagues."

"That's my guess," Alderson continued. "That's my hope. And to some extent now after a year and a half, a modest expectation."

Tweet from @Mets: .@TimTebow has arrived in camp. #Mets pic.twitter.com/vLmXxk1VRN

What began 17 months ago as a curiosity at best, a publicity stunt at worst, has evolved into something far more legitimate. Tebow reported this weekend to his first big league camp, where the Mets plan to treat him no differently than Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce or any of the team's other outfielders. There is a chance that Tebow begins this year at Double-A Binghamton, just two steps from the Majors.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

So although Tebow stopped short of calling a big league promotion his expectation, he too is beginning to acknowledge its possibility.

"As an athlete, you always want to be the best you can, play at the highest level, win a championship, be the best," Tebow said. "If the best that I can be is in the bigs, that would be awesome. I believe in myself, and so I want to strive for that. But if that doesn't happen, then I won't look back and regret playing baseball, because I've already enjoyed it."

A former Heisman Trophy winner with the University of Florida and an NFL quarterback for the Broncos, Jets, Patriots and Eagles, Tebow began his Minor League journey when he signed with the Mets in September 2016. Competing in the Arizona Fall League that autumn, Tebow spent last spring in Minor League camp, though the Mets frequently borrowed him for Grapefruit League games.

Over the summer, Tebow advanced to Class A Columbia and Class A Advanced St. Lucie, hitting .226 with eight home runs in 126 games. While he never hit well enough to force his way up the Minor League ladder, Tebow showed enough marked improvement that the Mets felt comfortable pushing him to such heights.

Video: Tebow hits walk-off homer for St. Lucie Mets

That is why they invited Tebow to big league camp in Port St. Lucie, where he will compete against some of baseball's best players. Ever since the end of last season, Tebow has revamped his swing, despite spending much of his winter traveling to the Middle East and South America for foundation work.

"He benefits the Mets because of how he conducts himself," Alderson said. "He's a tremendous representative of the organization. We've been pushing him because there's a finite period of time for this to work. But his commitment to the game has been exceptional. So we're pushing him a little bit and he's here in camp not because he brings some notoriety. He's here because we want to push him a little bit. We think this is the best environment for him to get better."

Often defensive of the experiment, Alderson said Tebow was "phenomenal for Minor League Baseball last year," calling the notion that he shouldn't have a chance to compete "crazy."

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Here are Tim Tebow's own thoughts on playing in the Major Leagues: pic.twitter.com/187hygMPQT

"We're going to evaluate Tim Tebow just as we would anybody else," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "I think Tim Tebow is here because he can potentially help us at the Major League level at some point. He wouldn't be here otherwise."

If Tebow does make it to that stage, he said, his broadcasting commitments to the SEC Network will not interfere. Tebow's other employers understand that baseball is his top priority, even if a segment of the fan base doesn't quite believe it -- and perhaps never will.

"My goal isn't about what's going to happen one day. My goal is to focus on this day," Tebow said. "I can't worry about one day if I'm going to play in the bigs or not. I got into this because I love it."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Tim Tebow

The All-Non-Roster-Invitee team for 2018

MLB.com @castrovince

There were a few times in my 20s when friends of friends put me on their "invited to crash" wedding list. In other words, there was mutual agreement that I was not close enough with these particular people to be on their $75-a-plate list for the reception, but I was sort of a hired gun aimed at the open bar after, say, 8 p.m., when the formalities were over with and the fun was beginning.

This was not an uncommon practice among my circle of friends, with people on the periphery -- loose acquaintances from college, people you had just met only weeks earlier but hit it off with, etc. -- crashing parties with permission.

There were a few times in my 20s when friends of friends put me on their "invited to crash" wedding list. In other words, there was mutual agreement that I was not close enough with these particular people to be on their $75-a-plate list for the reception, but I was sort of a hired gun aimed at the open bar after, say, 8 p.m., when the formalities were over with and the fun was beginning.

This was not an uncommon practice among my circle of friends, with people on the periphery -- loose acquaintances from college, people you had just met only weeks earlier but hit it off with, etc. -- crashing parties with permission.

I'm sure reception-hall managers aren't in love with the concept, but the happy couple got to save a few bucks at a time when they were already forced to invite every aunt, uncle, cousin and neighbor under the sun, and the crasher wasn't on the hook for a gift. Mazel tov!

Throughout Spring Training camps in Florida and Arizona, there are similar arrangements every year. Non-roster invitees crash clubhouses with non-guaranteed contracts and the opportunity to win a job. So we thought it would be fun to build a roster of non-rosters.

Note that with so many free agents still lingering in the open market, this could be a year with unprecedented NRI activity in the coming weeks, so this roster is definitely subject to change. Note, too, that this roster targets guys with past big league experience who are looking to land a job, not promising youngsters who have not yet been added to their club's 40-man roster, but will be in Spring Training camp (sorry, Shohei Ohtani).

Here are 2018's most interesting party-crashers:

Catchers (3): Miguel Montero, Nationals; Chris Gimenez, Cubs; Christian Bethancourt, Brewers

Montero, the former two-time All-Star who was ousted from the Cubs after publicly complaining about Jake Arrieta being slow to the plate, gets a chance to push young Pedro Severino for the backup job with the Nats. Gimenez will quite likely make the Cubs' Opening Day roster and be Yu Darvish's preferred backstop (despite Darvish's jokes to the contrary this week). Gimenez discussed their relationship after Darvish signed.

Video: Darvish playfully explains relationship with Gimenez

Why are we carrying three catchers? On the off chance Bethancourt hits the mound again after that failed experiment in San Diego aimed at turning him into the game's first catching-pitching hybrid. If the Brewers give him and his mid-90s fastball another crack at it, he can deepen our bullpen.

Infielders (6): Allen Craig, Padres; Danny Espinosa, Yankees; Darwin Barney, Rangers; Ryan Goins, Royals; Will Middlebrooks, Phillies; Trevor Plouffe, Rangers

Back in 2012, Craig and Middlebrooks looked like rising stars, but that feels like ages ago. Craig, affectionately known here as "The Wrench," injured his foot late in a strong 2013 season, and he's never been the same since. The '17 season was the last of a five-year, $31 million extension signed with the Cardinals, and it ended with him released from the Red Sox's Triple-A club. He'll be reporting to the Padres, for whom Middlebrooks never panned out after a 2014 trade from Boston.

Video: Padres ink Craig to Minors pact, invite him to ST

None of Espinosa, Barney or Goins provided much, if any, value to their clubs in 2017, but all three of them are not far removed from seasons in which they were worth multiple Wins Above Replacement. They can divvy up the time at second base and short.

Plouffe, who was one of the Twins' more consistent offensive contributors from 2012-15 and will be vying for a bench role with the Rangers, is our backup on the infield corners. And though he didn't make this team, Christian Colon, a former No. 4 overall Draft pick trying to make it with the Marlins, can be a non-roster invitee to our camp of non-roster invitees, if only because he delivered the game-winning RBI in the 2015 Royals' World Series clincher.

Outfielders (5): Tim Tebow, Mets; Melvin Upton Jr., Indians; Daniel Nava, Pirates; Peter Bourjos, Cubs; Eric Young Jr., Angels

Well, of course, we've got to include Tebow here. If nothing else, he can DH for us and get some butts in the stands.

But as far as guys who might actually make an impact in the big leagues this year, Upton is an interesting add for the Indians, who feel he's in a good place physically, and mentally, to perhaps fill their need for a right-handed-hitting outfielder. Young will fight for a return to the Halos after a terrific turn filling in for the injured Mike Trout last year. He had one of the most emotional moments of the 2017 season.

With Upton in right and Young in center, Nava is our left fielder after a bounceback season in Philadelphia earned him a 2018 opportunity across the state. It will be interesting to see if Bourjos, our fourth outfielder, can nail down a job with the Cubs, because his speed and defense are attractive.

Video: TB@NYY: Bourjos hits a two-run triple to left-center

Though he didn't make this roster focused on vets, Rusney Castillo, who has logged just 99 games in the big leagues, is an interesting invitee to Red Sox camp. He's owed $35.5 million over the next three years whether he makes the team or not, but Boston is likely hoping he performs well enough this spring to attract trade interest.

Starting pitchers (5): Bartolo Colon, Rangers; Derek Holland, Giants; Tyson Ross, Padres; Chris Young, Padres; Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners

If this column serves no other purpose, making Colon the ace of a ballclub -- even a fake one -- was worthwhile. He's 44 and three wins shy of Juan Marichal's mark for the most career wins (243) by a Dominican Republic-born pitcher.

Video: Colon, Banister on competition within the rotation

A former World Series star with the Rangers, Holland is a depth add to a Giants club with some uncertainty in its rotation. He pitched to a 2.37 ERA in his first 60 2/3 innings with the White Sox in 2017 before his year imploded.

I don't know if it's good or bad that the Padres provide two-fifths of our starting rotation; I just know it was funny to see them bring back both their '07 All-Star Young and their '14 All-Star Ross. Maybe this is the year Ross, a year-plus removed from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, puts it back together.

And we'll round out the rotation with Iwakuma, who is trying to pitch his way back onto the Mariners after last year's shoulder woes.

Because the starting-pitching market has moved at a glacial pace this offseason -- and only recently got some traction with the Darvish signing -- I would not be surprised if we start to see a lot more non-roster activity here in the coming days, or weeks. For now, Jonathon Niese (Rangers), Kris Medlen (D-backs) and Hector Santiago and TJ House (White Sox) are some other interesting names here.

Relievers (7): Francisco Rodriguez, Phillies; Jonny Venters, Rays; Ernesto Frieri, Brewers; Pat Venditte, Dodgers; Tom Wilhelmsen, Padres; Jeanmar Gomez, White Sox; Neftali Feliz, D-backs

This is always the most loaded/interesting section of the non-roster invitee realm, because it's the area where clubs basically load up on bodies and see what sticks. I'm giving my closer job to K-Rod, a guy who has consistently made the tweaks and reinventions necessary to prolong his career and has an opportunity to do so again with the Phillies.

On the "great stories" front, Venters, last seen in the big leagues in 2012, is one of the more interesting guys in any camp this year, trying to do the seemingly impossible in working his way back from a third Tommy John surgery. And wherever the switch-pitching Venditte lands, you've got to give him a hand (either one).

Frieri is five years removed from his 37-save season with the Angels, but he struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings in Triple-A last year. Gomez is just two years removed from his 37-save season with the Phillies.

I picked prospect-turned-bartender-turned-closer-turned-bounceback-candidate Wilhelmsen and former-Rookie-of-the-Year-turned-World-Series-goat Feliz to round out my 'pen, but there are plenty of other NRI names that jump off the page here, including Jacob Turner (Marlins), Vance Worley (Reds), Dustin McGowan (Rays), John Axford and Craig Breslow (Blue Jays), Bruce Rondon (White Sox), Travis Wood (Tigers) and Alexi Ogando (Indians), to name a few.

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

Padres' deal with Hosmer risky but defensible

San Diego first basemen were 22nd-best in baseball last year
MLB.com @mike_petriello

The Padres lost 91 games last year, their seventh straight losing season, and the major projection systems at FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus have them losing 89 and 88 games this year, respectively. Adding Eric Hosmer, as they have reportedly done, won't by itself make them a contender. It won't make anyone think they have more than the fifth-best roster in the five-team National League West. It probably won't even make them a .500 club.

You already know where this is going: Why bother spending more than $140 million to add a good-but-not-great player to a roster who is not ready to win? "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you," legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey was once quoted as saying to future Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner. The same idea, depending on your perspective, could apply here.

The Padres lost 91 games last year, their seventh straight losing season, and the major projection systems at FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus have them losing 89 and 88 games this year, respectively. Adding Eric Hosmer, as they have reportedly done, won't by itself make them a contender. It won't make anyone think they have more than the fifth-best roster in the five-team National League West. It probably won't even make them a .500 club.

You already know where this is going: Why bother spending more than $140 million to add a good-but-not-great player to a roster who is not ready to win? "We finished last with you, we can finish last without you," legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey was once quoted as saying to future Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner. The same idea, depending on your perspective, could apply here.

Hot Stove Tracker

The arguments against this deal aren't hard to find. By the advanced metrics, Hosmer was only as valuable as Marcus Semien or Corey Dickerson over the last two years, and Dickerson just got designated for assignment by the Rays. If you value All-Star Games, Hosmer's made only one. He's never hit 30 homers. He's never finished in the Top 10 in MVP Award voting. Contrary to his Gold Glove Awards, the advanced metrics see a well below-average fielder, and now Wil Myers has to move to the outfield. Hosmer's the opposite of consistent; in his six full seasons, he's had three strong ones and three weak ones. Even his postseason heroics have been overstated; he hit just .224/.273/.286 in 12 World Series games.

We mention all that because it's important, and valid; if you're not wild about the move the Padres just made, you're perfectly justified in feeling that way. But there's a larger perspective to be had here, one that's oddly unique in this ice-cold Hot Stove season.

The Padres just made their team better, all it cost was money -- money they can afford -- and you can't wait for the time to be right to add every part you'll need at once.

In a baseball world where not every team is trying to win right now, the Padres -- the Padres! -- just handed out the largest contract of the offseason to add a useful player. Even with Hosmer, they still have a bottom-10 payroll. They haven't broken the bank, they got better, and isn't that what it's all about?

Video: Eric Hosmer's enjoyed hitting at Petco Park

For all of the things to worry about with Hosmer, it's important to remember that there's obviously positives here, too. He did just have his best season, after all, hitting .318/.385/.498 (135 wRC+), which made him the 25th-best qualified hitter, between Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rizzo. That was even better if you set aside his horrific April; he hit .335/.402/.533 (149 wRC+) from May 1 on. (You can account for his unquantifiable clubhouse reputation here if you like.)

If you knew you were getting production like that each year, then this contract would be perfectly reasonable, if not a bargain. But if he does hit like that, then it's not actually an eight-year deal at all. With an opt-out after the fifth year, this is essentially a five-year deal for $105 million (including the $5 million signing bonus) that allows Hosmer to opt-in for the final three years and $39 million if he chooses to.

Hosmer deal accelerates Padres' rebuild

If he's performing well, he'll certainly take that opt-out. If he's not, well, then the Padres are probably sunk anyway; three years for $39 million isn't that much right now (it's what Jay Bruce just got) and it will be less in five years. If Hosmer's taking that, then things have gone really, truly poorly -- almost unreasonably so, barring major injury.

Over the first five years of the deal, that's an average of $21 million per year, which is admittedly a lot for a player who comes with some questions about consistency. Then again, that's not in the Top 25 of average salaries, either. It's less than Johnny Cueto, Hanley Ramirez or Jason Heyward.

Hosmer isn't being paid to be a superstar, because he's not. He's being paid to be above-average, and to make the Padres better. That's a reasonable expectation. No, that doesn't mean they'll get Manny Machado or Bryce Harper next winter; they won't. It means that they used available cash to add talent to what was already a very interesting young roster.

Video: Zinkie on the fantasy impact of Hosmer to Padres

Now, could the Padres have done something else with the money this offseason? Perhaps. In terms of the other big-ticket free agents, there were few fits. Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Lorenzo Cain are all entering their age-32 seasons, which makes little sense for a building team. For Hosmer, at just 28, you're paying for what you might expect to be his "prime" seasons. That's not the normal course of free agency, where players reach the market into their 30s and then expect to be paid into their decline years for what they did in the years leading up to them.

You wouldn't gamble on a veteran reliever that far into the future, and if you assume no other first baseman was going to displace Myers, then the other free-agent options for San Diego were to basically ... do nothing. There are few benefits to that course of action.

Though the fit is imperfect -- Myers wasn't a strong outfielder when he was there before, and now an interesting young player like Hunter Renfroe or Franchy Cordero or Jose Pirela loses playing time -- there's also something to be said about taking the player willing to take your money, too. There's a reason this is by far the largest free-agent contract the Padres have ever signed; for all the stories about the great weather and ballpark, San Diego has rarely been a preferred free-agent destination, though it might work out well for Hosmer.

Tweet from @mike_petriello: A while back I looked at Hosmer in other parks and decided that the "he'd crush Fenway" thing was a myth but that SD was kind of good:https://t.co/HnsO1lXn0r pic.twitter.com/FLdViTMaGe

At the start of the offseason, it didn't seem like it would be a fit for Hosmer, either. It seemed like the Red Sox would be all over him, or that he'd go back to Kansas City. It didn't work out that way, and the Padres had a chance to get in the bidding for a high price, but not an inflated one. For all the ways the timing is wrong, in that sense, the timing was very right.

The Padres aren't going to be great in 2018, but that's not the point. Though the Dodgers aren't going away, the aging Giants are geared up for one last run, the Rockies have Charlie Blackmon and then Nolan Arenado nearing free agency and the D-backs have to deal with the same for A.J. Pollock and then Paul Goldschmidt. You can see a window opening in the NL West. You can see a consensus Top 3 farm system, led by No. 8 overall prospect Fernando Tatis Jr.

You can see the point here, anyway. Hosmer is a polarizing player, and this is a polarizing deal. It might very well not work out, just like it didn't work out when the Padres went overboard to add Craig Kimbrel, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and James Shields prior to 2015. But he makes them better in '18, given that their '17 first basemen were the 22nd-best group in baseball, and he's only 28, and he's arriving just before a window where they think they can contend.

Sure, it's a risk. Small-market teams have to take risks. It's better for the sport, the city, and the franchise that they do. After all, another year of doing nothing hardly seems appealing.

Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast.

San Diego Padres, Eric Hosmer