It’s that time again — and with Spring Training inching closer and closer, you can almost feel the news stream picking up steam. Okay, maybe it’s nothing earth-shattering. But rosters are shaping up, and expectations are developing. And that, of course, means plenty of baseball conversations to be had! Here’s the latest chatter (and a few new deals) from our adopted teams this week.
Another pair of position players will head to Spring Training on Minor League deals for the Halos. Jorge Cantu and Doug Deeds agreed to deals that will hopefully provide some depth and flexibility for the club. Cantu has spent time at first, second, and third base in since his first full season in 2005 (with the Rays), but has struggled to regain his mojo in recent years. Deeds, too, has experience. Ten years, to be exact, but all in the minors. Primarily a right fielder, Deeds has played in center, left, and even first base.
Good news from the Kendrys Morales camp this week:
The tests Kendrys Morales underwent in Colorado last week came back positively, clearing the Angels’ recovering first baseman to begin running on his own power and ramping up his baseball activities, general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed Monday.
The former Angels first baseman (now superseded by one Albert Pujols, of course) has been recovering from a broken ankle that kept him out of the entire 2011 season. Morales has had two surgeries on the injured ankle. If healthy in 2012, some believe he could be the “game changer” in Anaheim.
And how about a little more good news for the hopeful first baseman? He successfully avoided arbitration by signing a one-year $2.975 million deal. Not a bad week.
Also inking a new contract, despite the temptations of a potentially lucrative free agency field next winter was second baseman Howie Kendrick, who, according to the LA Times, says staying with the organization was priority number one.
“It’s special to be around this organization where I grew up, to stay home,” Kendrick said Tuesday in a news conference at an Anaheim restaurant to formally announce the four-year, $33.5-million contract extension he signed with the team. “I can’t explain how happy I am to stay in Anaheim.”
And that, friends, may be all she wrote. At least as far as off-season acquisitions go. After making the winter’s biggest splash in the moves they have made, I’d say they have plenty to work with as they begin to get organized for their highly-touted 2012 campaign.
Continuing their Minor League signings, the Tribe picked up two more this week. Left-hander Chris Seddon and right-hander Chris Ray will both have their chances come Spring Training. With an already-solid bullpen in place, and the starting rotation all but set, the competition will be stiff. But, there’s nothing like having to work hard to earn your spot in the bigs!
Outside the Minor League contract realm, the Indians have been fairly quiet … so far. But, word is they’re quite interested in veteran first baseman Carlos Pena. Interested enough that they have submitted a request to the ownership for an increase in payroll in order to work a deal with 33-year-old power hitter.
Cleveland’s own Hall of Fame mascot (yes, seriously!) is up for an award of his own. Slider — “ a fuzzy fuchsia creature with a big yellow nose and bushy yellow eyebrows” — is in the running to be named Cartoon Network’s Hall of Game Awards “Most Awesome Mascot.”
Also in non-baseball news, Progressive Field is good to go for Sunday’s Frozen Diamond Faceoff — Ohio’s first outdoor college hockey game ever. It’s the Buckeyes against Wolverines, at 5:05 ET as the premier event in the “Snow Days” lineup.
On Wednesday, it appeared former Diamondbacks CEO Jeff Moorad would be the new, full owner of the San Diego Padres by week’s end. MLB.com reported it, as did the Padres’ official website. The deal was as good as done. It just needed to pass the vote from the other owners.
But remember watching Lucy play holder for Charlie Brown and at the last second snatch the football away, leaving the poor guy flat on his back? That’s how CBS Sports’ Scott Miller described Thursday’s developments. The purchase is a no-go, at least for now. Citing significant financial concerns, the owners did not even get to the voting stage. The deal is now in a holding pattern as the executive committee digs a little deeper into the possible economic repercussions of the sale.
In happier news, Padres outfilder Cameron Maybin will be honored by the San Diego Hall of Champions at their annual Salute to the Champions banquet in February. Maybin will be joined by 15 other professional and amateur San Diego athletes as Stars of the Year.
It’s been a quiet week for the Bucs, as they try to sort out what to do with seven arbitration-eligible players remaining on the roster.
That said, they have reportedly added potential lefty specialist Doug Slaten on a Minor League deal. The 31-year-old pitcher spent nearly half of the 2011 season on the disabled list. However, if healthy, he provides some interesting match-up options for the Pirates, as his numbers against lefties are significantly better than righties: Vs. lefties — .241 opponent average, 73 strike outs, 23 walks / VS. righties — .297 opponent average, 31 strike outs, 36 walks.
Oh, the decisions a talented, athletic, sought-after kid has to make! In this case, it’s Colorado prospect Russell Wilson whose name may sound familiar, if you pay attention to college football. Wilson successfully quarterbacked the University of Wisconsin Badgers to a Rose Bowl victory earlier this month. Then, he was scheduled to report to Spring Training. Only, the NFL sounded more appealing. Wilson informed the Rockies this week that he would be pursuing football over baseball. Wilson — a second baseman — was drafted by the Rockies in the fourth round two years ago.
Groundskeeper George Toma made history this week, becoming one of the inagural members of the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers Hall of Fame. Toma started in the business at age 13, and became head groundskeeper for the Wilkes-Barre baseball team at age 16. And he’s been managing fields — from MLB to NFL — ever since. That makes 70 years of work in the groundskeeping business. And that is plenty worthy of a Hall of Fame nod!
Okay, so there was a significant amount of news that wasn’t entirely focused on baseball. But, it’s news! Things are happening, and pitchers and catchers report in less than 36 days. And that’s good enough for me, until next week.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.