Plus: Patrick Corbin signs with Washington, the Astros sign a catcher, and more
The reports of the White Sox’ interest in Bryce Harper have advanced beyond twitpics of Michael Jordan’s statue wearing his jersey.
Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reports that the White Sox tapped Jim Thome in hopes of crushing their pitch:
The White Sox, for example, enlisted the help of longtime star and Hall of Famer Jim Thome during their visit to Las Vegas, league sources told Yahoo Sports. They needed to pull out all the stops, with Phillies ownership admitting the potential to spend “stupid” amounts of money this offseason and others recognizing the impact of an in-his-prime power hitter.
This brought the usual snark, gripes and general doubt that ensues when a Jerry Reinsdorf team tries to lure a major free agent. My guess is that the White Sox just needed to show up, and other particulars will matter more from here. Whether it’s Thome or Frank Thomas or Bo Jackson or Jack Parkman, it’s going to come down to money and competence, be it in the form of chances of contending or the creativity of the contract.
* * * * * * * * *
Case in point: Patrick Corbin. Expected to sign with his hometown Yankees or the ready-for-action Phillies, the market’s top starter instead landed with the Washington Nationals for six years and $140 million. The Yankees were unwilling to go past five years and $100 million, according to the New York Times.
The Corbin signing, when paired with the acquisitions of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki, suggests that Mike Rizzo is going about executing his offseason plan without making Harper a priority. Chelsea Janes, the Nationals beat writer for the Washington Post, says that Rizzo doesn’t have the final say on Harper.
No one has said so, but stands to reason Rizzo and Co. plan is take care of business, leave the Harper decision up to ownership. Lerners were always going to have to make an unprecedented commitment to get. So get roster right without saving up for Harper, leave it up to them.
— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) December 4, 2018
It’s hard to count out the Nationals due to their experience with dealing out big contracts, working with Scott Boras, and finding terms even when they seem tapped out. The Yankees, Phillies and Cubs also have more experience swimming in these depths, and that to me is the biggest strike against the Sox. Even if they had a nine-figure albatross in their recent history, at least they’d have shown they can ramp it up and close it out.
Rick Hahn will tell you they’ve offered more guaranteed money than Jose Abreu’s record-setting $68 million — I’m guessing to Torii Hunter and Masahiro Tanaka — but close only counts when Tyler Flowers is catching.
* * * * * * * * *
I didn’t include Robinson Chirinos in my summary of available catchers because he seemed too similar to Omar Narvaez — above-average bat, bad glove. He’s now off the market anyway, as the Astros signed him for one year and $5.25 million.
Like the Nationals, the Astros seem to be going with two new catchers after running with the tandem of Brian McCann (Braves) and Martin Maldonado (free agent) last year. Max Stassi provides the receiving value that Chirinos doesn’t.
* * * * * * * * *
After watching Miles Mikolas go from pitching in Japan in 2017 to going 18-4 with a 2.83 ERA over 200 innings for the Cardinals in 2018, I wanted to see who else got the idea to plumb the international market for Gaikokojin or Waegukin made good.
The Diamondbacks went there first, signing Merrill Kelly for $5 million over two years. Kelly never made the majors before jumping to South Korea, but he posted a 3.80 ERA over three seasons and 91 starts in the Korean Baseball Organization, which is no small feat given the offensive environment.
I imagine it’s going to be hard to find another Mikolas, but it’s a smart play for a Diamondbacks team that needs to get creative to address the loss of Corbin. I wouldn’t have minded seeing the White Sox take this chance.