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Mashup: Kapler, Blanton, Galarraga, Jones, Heilman

January 18, 2011

Let’s take a quick look at what’s been going on today in the baseball world:

  • Gabe Kapler signed a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training earlier today with the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times (via MLBTR). The 35 year old keeps on playing despite a brief retirement a few years ago. For those that may not remember, Kapler spent the 2007 season managing one of Boston’s low level minor league teams after abruptly announcing his retirement following the 2006 season. A year away from the game made him realize he still had the desire to play and he returned in 2008 with Milwaukee, followed by two seasons in Tampa Bay. The Dodgers will be the 7th organization for which he has played.
  • Despite a widespread assumption that the Phillies would trade Joe Blanton before the start of the season – an assumption I was sure would happen – it now seems as though the organization plans to do just the opposite and will hold onto their 5th starter. According to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro has said the team is going to go into the season expecting Blanton to fill out the back end of their rotation and he envisions him remaining there for the entire season. Blanton, who is schedule to make $8.5 Million each of the next two years, was expected to be traded in an effort to alleviate some payroll after the team made a splash in early December to bring Cliff Lee back in the fold. While I’m not a big fan of Blanton, he certainly does provide a more reliable option at the back of their rotation than Kyle Kendrick would, as Kendrick would be the logical choice to replace him.
  • In an unusual series of moves, the Tigers announced that they avoided arbitration with right-handed pitcher Armando Galarraga, only to turn around and designate him for assignment to make room for Brad Penny. Penny missed the bulk of last season with a shoulder strain but appears to be healthy by all accounts and will likely fill the final spot in Detroit’s reworked rotation going into 2011. Galarraga, however, seems to be a man without an island at this point but the Tigers sound confident in their ability to trade him. According to MLBTR, GM Dave Dombrowski was quoted as saying that “he’s heard from numerous teams with varying levels of interest so he’s confident a deal will materialize”. There have not yet been any reports on which teams might be involved but there certainly are a number who could be potential fits. Recently I’ve heard speculation from Nationals fans on Twitter expressing their interest and a number of the commenters of the post at MLBTR seem certain the Yankees will get involved. I presume we’ll see Galarraga end up with a National League team, I think that could be the best fit for him. New York just doesn’t make sense, in my opinion.
  • Speaking of the Yankees, the team is apparently close to signing Andruw Jones to a contract to serve as the team’s 4th outfielder. Jones may not be the athletically gifted and perennial Gold Glove winning center fielder that he was for the first nine years of his career in Atlanta, but he can still handle all three outfield positions and showed some decent power at the plate in 2010. Unless he completely falls apart like he did when he first arrived in Los Angeles a few years ago the deal could be a good one for both sides. I’d certainly rather see Jones signed rather than another go-around with Johnny Damon in New York – which allegedly had been discussed as an alternative option.
  • The Diamondbacks resigned pitcher Aaron Heilman to a one year deal and will reportedly give him a chance to win a spot in the team’s rotation. Heilman was originally brought up as a starter with the Mets when he debuted in 2003 but since midway through the 2005 season has solely been pitching out of the bullpen. He has been remarkably durable, having made 70+ appearances each of the past 5 seasons, but he has long been asking teams to consider using him as a starter once again. Keeping in mind the drastic differences in sample sizes (133.2 innings pitched as a starter, 461.0 as a reliever) his career splits certainly do favor his work coming out of the bullpen. His ERA, WHIP, K/9, BABIP, and opponent’s OPS are all significantly lower in a relief role. Give him some credit, he’s been persistent about his request but has never given a team an ultimatum about it. This Spring we’ll see if he has enough to crack the D’back’s rotation ahead of the five starters that are likely in place. Worse case scenario, he gives the team a decent option out of the bullpen who could start in an emergency.
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