38-year-old former Tigers starter Andy Van Hekken is attempting to earn a job with an MLB club, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press writes. Anyone calling it a comeback attempt should note this bit of context: Van Hekken hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2002 and only has five career starts at that level. Still, the Holland native is reportedly training back in his home county, and a late-thirties push for MLB has been in his plans for a while. “I’ve been thinking about it over the last few years,” he said. “I always wanted to come back and give it another try to get back to the big leagues and see if I could do it. I would love an opportunity and hopefully there will be one.” As Fenech aptly points out, Van Hekken’s timing couldn’t be worse… there are well over a hundred free agents who have yet to sign during what has been a phenomenally slow hot stove season. The left-hander is best known for throwing a complete game shutout against the Indians in his major league debut. He’s mixed a high-80’s fastball with a forkball to great success in Korea during the past half-decade or so, posting solid ground ball and strikeout rates.
Some other items from around the league as we inch closer to spring training…
- Have fans been conditioned to accept half-hearted attempts at contention? Travis Sawchik attempts to answer this question in a piece for Fangraphs. Sawchik writes that while it’s typically for business owners to take great care in running their businesses efficiently and at a profit, baseball is not a typical business. Fans invest in ballclubs both emotionally and fiscally (with their taxes), so owners have a civic duty to put a competitive product on the field. He references former Tigers owner Mike Illitch, who at times spent irrationally on his club. He even kept a General Motors advertisement above the center field batter’s eye when the company could no longer afford it, in similar spirit of upholding the city’s identity. Sawchik then turns his focus to Nutting, who has gutted the club’s core to slash payroll by $20MM this season without paying for a single free agent. Sawchik suspects that the club could cover its current payroll without selling a single ticket, and points out its $50MM BAMtech payment from Disney (that also hasn’t been reinvested in the team). He posits that fans have been trained to accept the “small-market” excuse for not spending as a reality, when in fact it may not entirely explain a given club’s low payroll.
- The Rockies have built a contending club in part by betting on its youthful rotation, Daniel Cramer of MLB.com writes. Back in spring training of 2016, GM Jeff Bridich apparently told young right-hander Jeff Hoffman that the club wasn’t seeking any veteran upgrades. Fast forward to today, and the organization hopes to build on a “blossoming pitching culture with the potential for sustained success”. Cramer describes Colorado’s blueprint for pitchers as “a power arm supplemented with a mental confidence to pitch at Coors Field.” For their part, a group consisting of German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Tyler Chatwood, Jon Gray, Jeff Hoffman, Antonio Senzatela, Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis combined for 11.8 fWAR last season (good for 11th in the majors), and that entire group minus Chatwood is set to return for 2018.