The Yankees have made a notable addition to their player development staff, hiring Rachel Balkovec to serve as a minor league hitting coach, reports Lindsay Berra of The New York Times. Balkovec, 32, played college softball with both Creighton and New Mexico and went on to earn two master’s degrees in kinesiology and the science of human movement. She broke into the industry as the Cardinals’ minor league strength and conditioning coordinator and landed a job with the Astros in Latin America after teaching herself Spanish. With Houston, she would meet Dillon Lawson, who now works as the Yankees’ hitting coordinator and recommended Balkovec for the job. She has also worked with Driveline Baseball, conducting research on hitters’ eye tracking and pitchers’ hip movement, which she hopes to apply in her work with the Yankees. As Berra writes, Balkovec is believed to be the first woman employed as a full-time hitting coach at any level of professional baseball. She’ll begin her work in earnest when spring training rolls around in February.
- Free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna could be in line for a five-year deal, according to J.P. Morosi of MLB Network (video via Twitter). Interestingly, Morosi also names a market of five teams that have expressed preliminary interest in the 29-year-old slugger—which includes a few teams that haven’t been mentioned as obvious suitors for Ozuna. It’ll come as no surprise that the Cardinals remain connected to Ozuna, but Morosi also lists the Rangers, Reds, Diamondbacks, and Braves as teams that could pursue him. Five years still feels a bit optimistic for a player who has yet to show that the career-best numbers he put up in 2017 are repeatable; MLBTR tabbed Ozuna for a three-year deal at the outset of the offseason. However, it’s hadly surprising that Ozuna is drawing his fair share of interest, given his age and raw skills.
- The Pirates are no longer considering Joey Cora for their unfilled manager post, Tweets Enrique Rojas of ESPN. That leaves Twins bench coach Derek Shelton and the Rays’ Matt Quatraro atop GM Ben Cherington’s wish list. Cora has worked as a coach within the Bucs organization for the last several years, first as the Double-A skipper and later as a base coach for the big league team. His ascent up the coaching ladder will be temporarily put on hold, with the Pirates apparently turning their focus to external candidates. The Pirates’ is the last remaining managerial vacancy, so it looks like they won’t have to compete with other clubs for Quatraro or Shelton—assuming they are willing to leave their current employers.
- Turning our attention to free agent pitchers, The Athletic’s Jayson Stark is hearing from Cole Hamels’s agent that the 35-year-old southpaw is a hot commodity, having drawn inquiries from as many as 14 teams. We’ll see just how much of this rumbling is a representative trying to drive up the price for his client, but it’s not hard to see why Hamels has a robust market. There’s no shortage of clubs vying for help in the starting rotation, and Hamels provides exactly that while coming at a considerably lower cost than consensus top options like Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, and Zack Wheeler: Hamels doesn’t come saddled with a qualifying offer, and, at age 35, won’t rival the market’s juggernauts in contract length or yearly value. For pitching-needy teams that have balked at the asking prices for Cole, Strasburg, and Wheeler, Hamels represents a short-term, reasonably-priced alternative who’s shown he can still hang.