Zach Buchanan of The Athletic recently took an interesting look at the Diamondbacks’ recently concluded experience with big-money starter Zack Greinke. While you’ll want to read the entire piece (subscription link), a few comments from team president Derrick Hall are worth highlighting here in particular. “If you’re going to make that kind of commitment, you have to be sure that it’s going to push you over the top,” said Hall of the Greinke signing. “That was clearly a lesson learned.” Though the contract didn’t exactly sink the club — Greinke generally performed to his pay grade and the Snakes were able to get some value out of the tail end — it did make it difficult for the organization to put together a complete roster that was truly competitive and surely shaped the team’s decisionmaking when it came to retaining (or not) core talent. Hall did not rule out any major future splashes, but did suggest a somewhat different strategy is likelier going forward. The Arizona org will “probably prefer spreading and balancing out those salaries more evenly,” he says, thus “making sure you have that flexibility so that, when the time comes, if you want to add more significantly, you can.”
Let’s catch up on a few notes from around the National League …
- The Pirates welcomed prized righty Mitch Keller back to the big leagues yesterday. It was a long-anticipated return after a rough showing in his initial promotion earlier this year. Keller was effective through five innings, allowing one earned run on five hits while recording four strikeouts and a pair of walks. He is now in line to get a full trial down the stretch. Before the game, the team created roster space by placing reliever Richard Rodriguez on the 10-day injured list. Rodriguez is said to be dealing with shoulder inflammation. The 29-year-old has certainly not been in top form this year, turning south after a breakout 2018 showing. While his velocity has held steady, his swinging-strike rate has plummeted from 13.8% to 9.6%. Though Rodriguez has maintained a solid 3.72 ERA, it has come in spite of his poor peripherals (7.6 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.9 HR/9).
- The Cardinals announced yesterday that they have relieved assistant hitting coach Mark Budaska of his duties. He’ll be replaced by Jobel Jimenez, who had served as the club’s Triple-A hitting coach prior to his promotion. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link) interprets the decision as one that “underscores [the] commitment to hitting coach Jeff Albert.” Indeed, the organization is working to spread Albert’s “comprehensive offensive strategy throughout [its] system.” Albert, who has spent time in the Cardinals and Astros organizations prior to taking on the current role in the fall of 2018, discussed his philosophies with David Laurila of Fangraphs not long after getting the gig. Goold had previously examined Budaska’s importance to the Cards’ developmental system before the hiring of Albert. As for Jimenez, he’s a well-known commodity to the St. Louis front office, having spent more than a decade working on the Cardinals farm.
- Finally, the Nationals appear optimistic on the health outlooks of two superstars. The club believes it has dodged a bullet with outfielder Juan Soto, as Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic was among those to cover (Twitter links). Soto was able to participate in baseball activities yesterday after initially fearing he had suffered a significant ankle injury in his latest contest. Meanwhile, ace Max Scherzer continues to make steady progress in his quest to move past a back issue. He remains slated for a sim game and is said to be feeling well, but the team still isn’t confident of a particular timeline. ***Update: Soto is in today’s lineup, while Scherzer threw his sim game as scheduled.