Three of the six biggest contracts in baseball history have been signed within the last two weeks, as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and (in an extension) Nolan Arenado all inked major deals. This flurry of spending comes on the heels of a second straight winter of closed free agent activity, however, leaving the players’ union still more concerned with the scads of non-superstars who have yet to find work, Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller writes. “Ultimately, it is about more than [a few players]; it’s the big picture,” Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller said. “And even guys getting deals that they’re happy with, the timing of it, in the past it used to be maybe a couple of guys played the long game [in negotiations], but now it seems like guys have no choice. The stories we hear when guys show up to camp is that they had no offers. Teams said they’d check in, but they’re really not getting a firm offer or numbers exchanged until camp opens, and that’s a problem. Or, it’s at least new to us.”
Some more from around baseball as we kick off a new week…
- Miguel Andujar’s huge rookie season was one reason the Yankees didn’t ardently pursue Machado, though now that Andujar has third base to himself, the New York Times’ James Wagner writes that the young slugger has been working to prove his defensive worth at the position. Andujar has been taking fielding training all winter, with particular focus on his footwork and throwing. There’s obviously quite a bit of room for improvement, as Andujar had far and away the worst UZR/150 (-24.5) and Defensive Runs Saved (-25) of any qualified third baseman in the sport last season. If Andujar can go from being a liability in the field to even just mediocre, it will give the Yankees all the more reason to keep his potent bat in the lineup as often as possible.
- A move to the bullpen in 2018 got Adam Conley’s career back on track after he struggled as a starter the previous season, and as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes, the new role has unlocked Conley’s velocity. Never considered a hard thrower as a starter, MLB.com’s Statcast credited the Marlins southpaw with an 89.7mph average velocity on his four-seam fastball in 2017. Last season, however, that same pitch clocked in at 95.2mph. Beyond just the natural velocity bump that comes with tossing shorter outings as a reliever, Conley also straightened out his mechanics. This led to some solid numbers (4.09 ERA, 2.78 K/BB rate, 8.9 K/9) over 50 2/3 IP out of Miami’s bullpen, though still with room for improvement, as Conley allowed a lot of hard contact. Still, it certainly seems like Conley could play a big role in a wide-open Marlins bullpen, perhaps even getting some looks in save situations.
- Ryan Brasier has begun throwing from 90 feet, Red Sox manager Alex Cora told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith and other reporters, as Brasier continues to recover from a toe infection. The issue has slowed Brasier’s spring work, though the right-hander and potential closer candidate is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
- The Cubs bullpen doesn’t have a ton of questions as it relates to personnel, though there is still quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the relief corps, as MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian explores five unanswered questions heading into the season. Brandon Kintzler and Brian Duensing, for instance, seem to have jobs locked up, though are looking to rebound after subpar 2018 seasons. It also still isn’t clear who will win the eighth bullpen spot, as Tyler Chatwood (another pitcher who struggled last year) could still end up in a relief role if the rotation doesn’t suffer any injuries.