For some fascinating reading this Saturday morning, check out Jonah Keri of Grantland's in-depth base-stealing discussion with Coco Crisp. I found the portion involving southpaw tells to be particularly interesting (look for the clip of Crisp stealing off of Brian Matus). Back to the transactional side of the game, here are a few assorted links:
- Former Mariners and Reds outfielder Wladimir Balentien has turned into a star in Japan, where he is currently sitting three long balls back of the single-season record of 55 first reached by the legendary Sadaharu Oh back in 1964. With a slugging percentage north of .800, the 29-year-old might have drawn big league interest. Balentien, however, is in the first year of a three-year, $7.5MM deal with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows that does not contain an opt-out clause, according to a recent report from Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca.
- High-priced Mets reliever Frank Francisco is moving through the minor leagues on a rehab assignment, but may nevertheless be released upon his activation, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rather than attempting to salvage some value from Francisco's cringe-worthy two-year, $12MM contract, the Mets — who obviously will not secure a post-season berth regardless — seem determined not to allow Francisco to put on a free agency showcase in a Mets uniform.
- Addressing a reader question, MLB.com's Scott Merkin took a look at the futures of shortstop Alexei Ramirez and outfielder Alejandro De Aza with the club. Merkin says that Ramirez — whose contract includes $19.5MM for the next two years and a $10MM ($1MM buyout) club option for 2016 — would bring a "solid return" in a trade but figures to stick in Chicago. With his home run tallies dwindling to a trickle, Ramirez's deal does not seem to be any kind of bargain, though perhaps positional scarcity around the league increases its value.
- As for De Aza, Merkin argues that poor baserunning and defense make him more likely to find himself out of the team's plans, especially as he is set to earn a raise on his $2.075MM salary as he enters his second year of arbitration eligibility. While De Aza looks at first glance to be a solid regular at low cost, there seems to be an interesting split on the value of his contribution this year. Fangraphs credits De Aza with 2.2 WAR on the season, while Baseball-Reference pegs him at just .1 WAR based on an exceedingly poor defensive rating. In 2011 and 2012, both sites viewed him as an approximately 2.5 win player. Whatever his actual value, the Sox would presumably be able to get a reasonable return if they made De Aza available via trade.
- The Angels are working towards a long-term deal with the city of Anaheim, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The current proposal would allow the team to drop the appendage "of Anaheim" from its name, and and would see the Angels pay to renovate Angels Stadium in exchange for beneficial land lease and development rights surrounding the ballpark.