MLBTR is holding live chats specific to each of the 30 teams as the offseason nears. In conjunction with the offseason outlook for the Tigers, Anthony Franco held a Tigers-centric chat. Click here to view the transcript.
Davies was a solid back-of-the-rotation starter for Arizona last year, making 27 starts with a 4.09 ERA. That hasn’t been the case this season, as he is pitching to a 7.00 ERA in 18 starts, interspersed between two separate stints on the injured list. Despite his poor performance, the D-backs have kept him around, since they have struggled to find reliable starters to pitch behind Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly all year. Now, however, with just five games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs right around the corner, Arizona no longer has much need for an innings eater on the roster.
This could be an indication the Diamondbacks are planning to make an addition to the 40-man roster ahead of the playoffs, or it could simply be a way of making room to add an extra relief arm for the final five games of the regular season.
Davies, who is making $4.7MM this season and has a $300K buyout for next year, is likely to go unclaimed on waivers, at which point the D-backs would be responsible for the guaranteed salary remaining on his contract. Still just 30 years old, he shouldn’t have trouble finding a new club in the offseason, although he might have to settle for a minor league deal.
Martinez, a right-handed reliever, is the team’s No. 24 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. He made his MLB debut earlier this season and has pitched to a ghastly 14.63 ERA in a few brief call-ups to the big league squad. His numbers at Triple-A are much more palatable; he has a 4.20 ERA in 47 games, although his 21.2% walk rate is still alarming. It’s unlikely he’ll play much of a role while the D-backs are fighting for a postseason berth, but he’ll provide manager Torey Lovullo with an extra arm out of the ’pen.
The Twins’ bullpen got a big boost last night, when flamethrowing righties Chris Paddack and Brock Stewart returned to the mound. Paddack has been out all season recovering from Tommy John surgery, while Stewart has been on the shelf with elbow discomfort for the past three months.
Paddack nearly made his return on Sunday, but a rain delay ended his outing before it began. Thus, it wasn’t until last night that he finally threw a pitch in a Major League Baseball game, his first since last May. While the results weren’t quite what he hoped for – he gave up three runs in two innings of work – the underlying numbers were encouraging. The 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out four, earning six called strikes and seven whiffs. His fastball was averaging 96 mph and touching 99; last season, his four-seam averaged just 93 mph and topped out at 96. To be fair, he was a starting pitcher last year, but even so, a 3-mph bump is a promising sign of good things to come. Paddack was never a power pitcher during his time as a starter, but he seems to have discovered a penchant for high heat.
Stewart, for his part, picked up right where he left off. The 31-year-old turned heads earlier this season, showing off a 97-mph fastball and striking out 35.4% of the batters he faced. His heater was back in full force on Tuesday, averaging just under 98 mph. He struck out two of three opposing hitters, inducing eight swings and four whiffs and lowering his season ERA to 0.68.
With Paddack and Stewart back in the fold, the Twins suddenly find themselves with an abundance of talented relievers, an asset every team longs for but few possess. Jhoan Duran, Emilio Pagán, and Caleb Thielbar lead the way, with capable arms like Griffin Jax and Kody Funderburk behind them. Paddack and Stewart provide further depth, as do recently converted starters Louie Varland and Kenta Maeda. That’s nine arms the Twins can count on in October, many of whom have dominant reliever upside.
Manager Rocco Baldelli will lean a little harder on his most trustworthy guys, as all managers do in the playoffs. Still, Duran and Pagán can’t throw every day. When Baldelli has to turn to another bullpen arm, there really isn’t a bad option in the bunch.
Suffice it to say, this hasn’t been the case all year. On the season, Twins relievers rank eighth in the AL with a 3.98 ERA, ninth with 3.2 FanGraphs WAR, and 11th with 36 saves. Things have only gotten worse in the second half, in which they have a 4.27 ERA and 10 blown saves in 28 chances.
However, Minnesota’s bullpen looks completely different today than it has the rest of the year. Indeed, over the last two weeks, they lead the AL with a 2.93 ERA, and that’s without much contribution from Paddack, Stewart, and Maeda. Simply put, the Twins have added by subtraction, replacing their least effective relievers with stronger arms. They cut ties with Jorge López (5.09 ERA) and Dylan Floro (5.29). They optioned Brent Headrick (6.31) and Jordan Balazovic (4.44). Several more relievers are on the 60-day IL, including Jovani Moran (5.31), Jorge Alcala (6.46), and José De León (5.28).
Those seven pitchers threw a total of 175 1/3 innings in relief for the Twins this season; that’s one-third of the team’s bullpen workload. In those innings, they combined for an unsightly 5.39 ERA. To put that in perspective, all other Twins relievers have a 3.29 ERA this year, more than two full runs lower. That’s wider than the gap between the Dodgers’ bullpen (3.41 ERA) and the Rockies’ bullpen (5.31). Meanwhile, the nine relievers who currently make up the Twins’ bullpen have combined for a 2.84 ERA in 276 innings of work.
This team will enter the postseason as an underdog. By winning their division, the Twins are guaranteed to be either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the American League, yet still, they are likely to finish with the worst record in the AL playoff field. On paper, they are the weaker party, whether they’re facing the Blue Jays, the Astros, the Rangers, or the Mariners. That being the case, the Twins must be better than their regular season record suggests if they hope to advance.
It will help if Minnesota gets Carlos Correa, and possibly Royce Lewis and Byron Buxton, back in time for the Wild Card series. The lineup could certainly use the star power. Ultimately, however, the relief corps will be this team’s secret weapon. The Twins have more depth and fewer liabilities in the bullpen than at any other point this season. Accordingly, they’ll be counting on their relievers to give them an edge come October.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
The latest episode of the MLB Trade Rumors Podcast is now live on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts! Make sure you subscribe as well! You can also use the player at this link to listen, if you don’t use Spotify or Apple for podcasts.
This week, pinch-hitting host Mark Polishuk is joined by Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors to discuss…
- MLBTR continues previewing the free agent class, with a focus on which starters and relievers might be flying a bit under the radar as quality signings for 2024 (0:50)
- The Padres are planning to reduce payroll next season, and could some broader front office changes also be coming? (11:00)
- After another losing season and with the possible departure of Shohei Ohtani, would the Angels explore rebuilding (and trading Mike Trout) to get the franchise back on track? (15:06)
Plus, we answer your questions, including…
- Will the Twins re-sign Sonny Gray or Tyler Mahle, and what kind of contracts could each pitcher land in free agency?(23:03)
- Could the Braves’ pitching injuries short-circuit their postseason chances? (28:48)
Check out our past episodes!
- Front Office Changes in Boston and New York, and the New Rays Stadium Agreement — listen here
- Free Agent Class Preview: Catcher and First Base, Germán Márquez Extension and the Dodgers’ Rotation — listen here
- Waiver Claim Fallout, September Call-Ups and the Biggest Strength of Each Playoff Contender — listen here
The Tigers showed signs of progress in the first season under their new front office regime. There’s still another corner to turn to make this a legitimate contender. They could try to close the gap this winter.
- Javier Báez, SS: $98MM through 2027 (can opt out after this season)
- Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP: $49MM through 2026 (can opt out after this season)
- Miguel Cabrera, DH: $30MM club option ($8MM buyout)
- Carson Kelly, C: $3.5MM club option (no buyout); would remain eligible for arbitration if team declines
2024 commitments (assuming Rodriguez opts out): $33MM
Total future commitments (assuming Rodriguez opts out): $106MM
Non-tender candidates: Kelly, Meadows, Turnbull
Towards the end of last season, the Tigers fired general manager Al Avila and hired Giants general manager Scott Harris away to serve as the new president of baseball operations in Detroit. Harris played things cautiously, taking the 2023 campaign as an evaluative year. Now heading into his second winter at the helm, he’ll face more urgency.
Harris recently made a notable off-field move, tabbing new GM Jeff Greenberg as #2 in the front office hierarchy. Greenberg had spent over a decade in the Cubs’ front office, where he overlapped with Harris, before a year in the NHL with the Blackhawks. He’s back in baseball to work under his old colleague and alongside fourth-year manager A.J. Hinch.
The Tigers weren’t facing any significant free agent departures last winter. That’s not the case this time around, as starter Eduardo Rodriguez could head back to the open market. The veteran southpaw has rebounded from a 2022 plagued by middling production and an extended stay away from the club for personal reasons. Rodriguez has turned in a 3.40 ERA across 25 starts, striking out a solid 23.2% of opposing hitters. While his production has tailed off since a late-May pulley rupture in the index finger of his throwing hand, there’s still a good chance he hits the market.
Rodriguez has three years and $49MM remaining on his five-year free agent contract. His camp can make a strong case that he’s a superior pitcher to Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker, each of whom secured four-year pacts ranging from $68MM to $72MM last winter. Rodriguez is clearly comfortable in Detroit and invoked his partial n0-trade clause to kill a deadline agreement that would’ve sent him to the Dodgers. He has been noncommittal when asked whether that decision would have any relation to his opt-out call.
From a strict financial perspective, it’d seem likely Rodriguez opts out. The Tigers would surely be happy to have him back in the fold if he plays out his current contract, though they’ll have to plan for the chance he heads elsewhere. There’s no suspense in two of the club’s other option decisions. Javier Báez is going to opt in for the final four years and $98MM on his contract. The team will pay an $8MM buyout to the retiring Miguel Cabrera.
Their final option call is on Carson Kelly. Detroit signed the veteran catcher after he was released by the Diamondbacks midseason. That deal gave the Tigers a $3.5MM option for what would be Kelly’s final year of arbitration. That’s less than Kelly would’ve made had he been tendered an arbitration contract.
Kelly hasn’t performed any better in Detroit than he did in Arizona. He’s hitting .182/.265/.295 in 16 games after running a .226/.283/.298 slash in the desert. Kelly’s production has cratered since he suffered a wrist injury midway through the 2021 season. Even at a $3.5MM price point, the Tigers could look elsewhere. Kelly would technically remain arb-eligible if the Tigers decline his option, though he’d surely be non-tendered at that point. It’d be illogical for the organization to tender him a contract at a higher value than the option price.
Even if they retain Kelly, he won’t be the starter. That falls to Jake Rogers, who has connected on 20 home runs in 353 trips to the plate. The 28-year-old pairs that power with highly-regarded defense. He’s a plus blocker, an above-average pitch framer and receives excellent reviews for his work with a pitching staff. If not Kelly, the Tigers would probably look to bring in another catcher but aren’t likely to seek out a new starter behind the dish.
On the other hand, they could look for upgrades at most spots on the infield. First base is the exception. Former #1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson has begun to look like an impact slugger after struggling through his first season and a half in the majors. He’s the only player locked into a spot on the dirt.
Detroit has given looks to multi-positional options Andy Ibáñez and Zach McKinstry. Ibáñez is hitting well in the second half; McKinstry had a solid start to the year but has tailed off significantly. They’re each viable MLB utility players. Neither has demonstrated they’re capable of holding down an everyday role for a full season. Ibáñez turns 31 next April, while McKinstry will be 29. It’s hard to count on either as regulars.
Things haven’t gone much better for the rest of Detroit’s infield. Nick Maton struggled on both sides of the ball after being acquired from Philadelphia in the Gregory Soto trade. Neither Zack Short nor Tyler Nevin has hit well. Late-season call Andre Lipcius is 25 and has never been viewed as a top prospect. Ryan Kreidler has spent the bulk of the year in Triple-A.
At least at third base, the Tigers can hope for better production in the near future. Colt Keith has mashed at a .306/.380/.552 clip between the top two minor levels at age 21. He’s now one of the sport’s top prospects and will surely get a look at some point in 2024, though the Tigers haven’t tipped their hand if he’s in consideration for the Opening Day third base job. Harris resisted calls throughout the season to promote Keith or Justyn-Henry Malloy, instead opting for a slow trajectory for the organization’s top prospects.
Malloy is ostensibly an option at the hot corner himself, though scouting reports suggest he might be better suited for left field. Acquired in the Joe Jiménez trade last offseason, the 23-year-old Malloy owns a .277/.417/.474 line over a full season at Triple-A Toledo. As with Keith, he should be up early in the season, though the defensive home is still up in the air.
Detroit isn’t going to make a run at Matt Chapman or Jeimer Candelario, who has emerged as one of the better hitters in the upcoming free agent class after the Tigers non-tendered him a year ago. Players like McKinstry and Ibáñez could cover third base in the short term if Detroit wanted to give Keith a little more time in Triple-A. Yet they’d be well-served to add a regular up the middle.
The organization obviously hoped Báez would anchor the group when they signed him to a $140MM free agent deal two years ago. Instead, he has hit .230/.273/.360 in a little more than 1100 trips to the plate. Báez is still the starting shortstop for now, but Hinch began to curtail his playing time toward the end of the season. The contract alone isn’t a compelling justification for giving him everyday run.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, it’s an awful offseason to be on the hunt for middle infield help. Amed Rosario might be the best player in the free agent shortstop class. It’s barely better at second base, where Whit Merrifield and Adam Frazier lead the group. There’s not much clearer supply on the trade market, where teams like the Giants and Marlins could also be in the mix.
Perhaps the Brewers would move Willy Adames, but he’s not a great fit for a fringe contender like Detroit with only one season of arbitration control remaining. The Cardinals seem reluctant to part with Tommy Edman. Baltimore could move Jorge Mateo, but he’s coming off a dreadful offensive season in his own right. There are a few more options at the keystone, where Brandon Drury or Cavan Biggio could be available — potentially bridging the gap to former #12 overall pick Jace Jung, who performed well at Double-A in his first full pro season.
Given the dearth of middle infield solutions, the Tigers could try to float Báez as a change-of-scenery candidate themselves. Yet he’d be an equally questionable solution for a team like San Francisco or Miami as he is in Detroit. They’d likely have to pay down over three-quarters of the remaining money just to facilitate a deal for a meager return. At that point, it’s probably better to hold onto him and hope for some sort of rebound.
Harris and his staff can feel a lot more comfortable with the outfield. They moved Riley Greene from center to right field late in the season. Assuming he progresses as expected after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow, he’ll be back at one of those spots. Parker Meadows, who took over for Greene in center, hasn’t hit much in his first look at MLB pitching. He’s a good enough defender that Detroit could stick with him in hopes the offense improves. Matt Vierling and Akil Baddoo could see some time in the corners — Vierling might also pick up reps at second or third base — with Malloy potentially playing his way into the left field mix.
Kerry Carpenter has rated as a roughly average corner outfield defender. Regarded by many prospect evaluators as a DH-only type, he has impressed with a .288/.346/.492 clip and 20 homers in his first full season at the big league level. With Cabrera retiring, the Tigers could give Carpenter a few more DH at-bats, though his ability to play an adequate left field gives Hinch options.
With that group of young outfielders, it’s hard to envision the Tigers retaining Austin Meadows. Anxiety issues have kept Meadows on the injured list for the bulk of the past two seasons. His mental health is obviously the foremost concern, but there’s probably no longer a place for him on the MLB roster. Detroit could also entertain trade possibilities on Baddoo or Vierling, perhaps as a means of adding a depth starter or middle reliever.
Rodriguez’s potential departure leaves a question mark in the rotation, though there’s still a promising group of fairly young arms. Tarik Skubal is the headliner. He has returned from flexor surgery and picked up where he’d begun last season, working to a 2.95 ERA with a near-32% strikeout rate through 14 starts.
Former #1 overall pick Casey Mize should be back after last year’s Tommy John procedure. Matt Manning somehow was hit by a comebacker that broke his foot on two separate occasions this year. Around that brutal luck, he looked like a decent rotation piece (albeit with an ERA that outstripped his peripherals). Reese Olson has flashed mid-rotation potential in 98 innings as a rookie.
They’ll likely need at least one veteran arm to solidify the staff. Along with Rodriguez, the Tigers traded away Michael Lorenzen at the deadline and lost Matthew Boyd (an impending free agent) to Tommy John surgery. Neither Alex Faedo nor Joey Wentz has done enough to secure a rotation spot.
Detroit has ample short-term financial room. If Rodriguez opts out, they’d have just $33MM in guaranteed commitments entering the winter. The arbitration class is relatively modest. Detroit has opened recent seasons with a player payroll in the $120-130MM range and has spent upwards of $200MM in the past (although that was under the late Mike Ilitch, while his son Christopher Ilitich is now the primary owner).
There’s ostensibly a chance for the organization to make a run at the top of the pitching market. Harris was hired from a Giants front office that generally eschewed long-term investments in starting pitching, preferring reclamation and/or mid-tier acquisitions. Whether he’ll carry that philosophy to Detroit remains to be seen.
If the Tigers wanted to aim high, they’d have a number of possibilities. A deal in the $200MM range for Blake Snell might be rich, but the likes of Aaron Nola and Jordan Montgomery are consistent sources of above-average bulk innings. NPB star Yoshinobu Yamamoto just turned 25 in August, so his expected prime aligns well with a Detroit team emerging from a rebuild. If they prefer to emulate the Giants’ model, the likes of Seth Lugo, Jack Flaherty and Michael Wacha (if his club option is declined by San Diego) could be targets.
Detroit could also subtract a notable name from the rotation picture. Spencer Turnbull once looked like an innings-eating mid-rotation starter who’d be a key contributor. According to various reports, the relationship between player and team looks to have soured over the past six months. Turnbull reported a neck injury after the Tigers attempted to option him to the minors in May, leading Detroit to put him on the major league IL.
The Tigers sent him to the minors once he was healthy, meaning he’ll finish the year just shy of five years of service. Turnbull reported a toenail avulsion that kept him off the mound for a few weeks immediately thereafter, though he has pitched since having the injured nail removed two weeks ago.
Whether the team/player relationship has soured or not, Turnbull looks to have been squeezed out of the rotation. He’s a potential non-tender candidate as a result, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if Detroit finds a minor trade return from a club interested in giving Turnbull a fresh start.
The bullpen seems in good shape even after last winter’s Jiménez and Soto trades. They’ll likely let José Cisnero walk in free agency after a dismal second half. A quartet of Jason Foley, Alex Lange, Will Vest and Tyler Holton still gives Hinch a strong collection of options. Perhaps they’ll bring in a second left-hander behind Holton, but it’s a quality relief group.
Detroit erroneously thought the rebuild was over two years ago. They made the ill-fated trade of Isaac Paredes and a Competitive Balance draft pick for Meadows and pushed in for Báez. The internal core wasn’t ready to take the next step at that point. It might be now, with Torkelson, Greene and Carpenter emerging and Skubal reestablishing himself as a top-end starter. There are still holes; the middle infield will be particularly difficult to solve.
Still, there’s a solid MLB nucleus, a few more upper minors contributors looming, and a mostly clear payroll ledger now that the Cabrera contract is drawing to a close. The Tigers play in the sport’s least competitive division. After a year to familiarize himself with the organization, does Harris consider this the right time to make a real effort at ending a nine-year playoff drought?
In conjunction with this post, Anthony Franco held a Tigers-centric chat on 9-27-23. Click here to view the transcript.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson isn’t ruling out the possibility that Rhys Hoskins will play in the postseason. More specifically, the skipper told hosts on the WIP Morning Show that if Philadelphia makes it back to the World Series, Hoskins could be available to DH or pinch-hit.
The first baseman tore his ACL during spring training and has not played for the Phillies since last October. However, he’s taking batting practice and running the bases, and he appears to be progressing well. The possibility of his return remains a long shot – Philadelphia would have to make the World Series first, and even then, it’s no guarantee – but still, this is encouraging news for the club.
Hoskins has an .846 OPS and a 126 wRC+ in his career, both of which would rank second among qualified Phillies hitters this season. He was instrumental to the team’s postseason run last fall, clubbing six home runs and driving in 12 across 17 games.
In other National League injury news…
- J.D. Davis exited early on Tuesday night after a rough slide into third base. The Giants later informed reporters (including Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area) that the third baseman had suffered a shoulder strain, although the severity of the injury remains unclear. The 30-year-old has been San Francisco’s most durable player this season, leading the team in plate appearances and games played.
- Brewers rookie Garrett Mitchell was spotted on the field ahead of Tuesday night’s contest with the Cardinals. The outfield prospect has been on the injured list since mid-April, but he is hoping to return for the playoffs. The 25-year-old told reporters (including Adam McCalvy of MLB.com) that he could remain on the IL for the rest of the regular season but still make the postseason roster. He is awaiting one final medical appointment before he is fully cleared to return, and he seems optimistic about his chances to play some kind of role for the Brewers this October.
- Cubs manager David Ross spoke to reporters (including Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune) to provide an update on Jeimer Candelario. Chicago’s big addition at the trade deadline has been on the IL since September 11 with a lower back strain, but he could return as soon as this evening against the Braves. The Cubs could certainly use his switch-hitting bat in the lineup as they try to fend off their opponents in the Wild Card race over the final five days of the season. In other Cubs news, closer Adbert Alzolay is making progress in his attempt to return from a forearm strain. He is hoping to face live hitters in the next few days.
As the end of the regular season draws near, here are three things to keep an eye on around baseball:
1. Padres facing elimination
As the Padres shut out the Giants last night at Oracle Park, San Francisco was officially eliminated from postseason contention. Now, with one game remaining between the division rivals, the Giants have a chance to return the favor. The Padres are on their last legs, with an elimination number of one.
The Padres have certainly made things interesting in September, going 16-7 – the best record in baseball – to keep their playoff hopes alive. Unfortunately for San Diego, it’s looking like their efforts were too little too late. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Friars (and the rest of the NL Wild Card race) to see if they can pull off a miraculous comeback.
2. Greinke asks for the ball
As Zack Greinke walked off the field last night at Comerica Park, reporters (including Anne Rogers of MLB.com) noticed he asked for the ball. In doing so, the 20-year MLB veteran signaled he might finally be thinking about retirement. When he left the game, Greinke was in line for the win, having just completed what was arguably his best performance of the year. Presumably, he was thinking he might have just won the final game of his excellent career. (Unfortunately, the Royals went on to lose 6-3.)
The six-time All-Star hasn’t directly expressed any desire to hang up his hat, but Greinke is hardly the type to go on a long and drawn-out retirement tour. Indeed, as he comes to the end of an injury-plagued and difficult season, it wouldn’t be surprising if retirement was on his mind. His 5.18 ERA is the highest it’s been since 2005, and the soon-to-be 40-year-old has spent multiple stints on the IL nursing pain in his elbow and shoulder.
Greinke is in line to make one last start this year, as he closes out the Royals’ season on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. Perhaps he or the organization will further discuss his future in the coming days.
3. Seager, McCormick dealing with contusions
Two key players in the AL West race were hit by pitches last night: Corey Seager of the Rangers and Chas McCormick of the Astros. Both Seager and McCormick exited their respective games, but neither appears to be headed for a stint on the injured list.
Seager was hit in the wrist with a 93-mph fastball from Reid Detmers. He remained in the game and took his place at first base, but he was replaced the following inning. After the game, manager Bruce Bochy told reporters (including Jeff Wilson of Rangers Today) that the star shortstop’s x-rays were negative; thankfully, his wrist is not fractured. The team is calling his injury a right forearm contusion.
As for McCormick, he was hit in the left side with a 99-mph fastball from Andrés Muñoz. He was unable to remain in the game, and manager Dusty Baker told reporters (including Matt Kawahara of the Houston Chronicle) that he isn’t sure if the young outfielder will be able to play in today’s series finale with the Mariners. The Astros have labeled his injury a left side/lower back contusion.
The Rangers are trying to put away the AL West, while the Astros are fighting off the Mariners for the final postseason berth in the American League. Amid the playoff race, both Seager and McCormick are enjoying the best seasons of their careers.
Orioles icon and Baseball Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson passed away at the age of 86, according to an announcement from the team and Robinson’s family — “An integral part of our Orioles Family since 1955, he will continue to leave a lasting impact on our club, our community, and the sport of baseball.”
Tributes have poured in from all around the baseball world, including from fellow Baltimore legend Jim Palmer. Speaking with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, Palmer described his former teammate as a “great player, great guy on the field, great guy off. Respectful, kind. And you don’t meet too many guys like that. Brooks was a genuine person. There was no acting….Just salt of the earth and one of the great guys. And everywhere I’d go, they would say, ’Yeah, we had Brooks here a couple years ago.’ And he’s a tough act to follow because he was so good and so nice and so warm. You never forget his smile.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred cited both Robinson’s outstanding work on and off the field, calling the former third baseman “a model of excellence, durability, loyalty and winning baseball for the Orioles. After his playing career, he continued to make contributions to the game by working with the MLB Players Alumni Association. I will always remember Brooks as a true gentleman who represented our game extraordinarily well on and off the field all his life. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to Brooks’ family, his many friends across our game, and Orioles fans everywhere.”
MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark likewise highlighted how Robinson’s “impact transcended the field — as a prominent voice in the early days of the MLBPA and a relentless advocate for his fellow players and through his work with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. His humanity, kindness, integrity, and commitment will long endure.”
Robinson signed with the Orioles on a $4K guaranteed contract in 1955, just one year after the club has moved to Baltimore after previously playing as the St. Louis Browns. In essence, signing Robinson was the symbolic beginning of this new era of Baltimore baseball, as he became the face of the franchise over 23 seasons.
It took a few years for Robinson to really establish himself as an everyday player, in part because of injuries and because the O’s already had a prominent name in George Kell (himself a Hall of Famer) playing third base. Finally getting healthy and moving into a regular role at third base in 1960, Robinson immediately became not just an Orioles fixture but one of the league’s best players, finishing third in AL MVP voting.
The 1960 season started two prominent streaks for Robinson, as he was both elected to the All-Star Games (MLB played two Midsummer Classics per season from 1959-1962) and won the AL Gold Glove at third base. Robinson proceeded to get elected to the All-Star team every season until 1974, and won the Gold Glove every season from 1960-75.
The 16 Gold Gloves won by Robinson are the most of any position player in baseball history, with pitchers Greg Maddux (18) and Jim Kaat (16) the only players anywhere on the diamond to match Robinson in defensive recognition. Widely regarded as the best defensive third baseman and perhaps the best defensive player at any position in baseball history, Robinson wowed peers and fans with his glovework, to the point of being known as the “Human Vacuum Cleaner” for his ability to scoop up grounders anywhere within his wide range.
Robinson’s defensive prowess was obviously a known commodity by 1970, but that year’s World Series was perhaps the biggest showcase possible for the star third baseman. He was an all-around wrecking crew for the Orioles, hitting .429/.429/.810 in 21 plate appearances during the Series and robbing the Reds of multiple hits in the field. Most famously, Robinson made an incredible play to throw out Lee May during Game 1 that still stands as one of the best defensive efforts in Series history. Unsurprisingly, Robinson was named World Series MVP as the Orioles defeated the Reds in five games.
With such stars as Robinson, Palmer, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally, and many others, the Orioles were regular contenders for most of the star third baseman’s career. Robinson had a career .303/.323/.462 slash line in postseason play, playing on four AL pennant winners and two World Series championship teams (1966, 1970).
For his career as a whole, Robinson hit .267/.322/.401 over 11782 plate appearances and 2896 career games, all with the Orioles. His long tenure with the O’s has naturally put him near the top of the franchise’s all-time leaderboard in most categories, with Robinson often ranking second to another long-time infield staple in Cal Ripken Jr.
As noted as Manfred and Clark, Robinson was a force in the founding of the MLB Players Alumni Association, which became one of Robinson’s key focuses after his retirement. Robinson briefly worked as an Orioles broadcaster after stepping away from the game, and he received a first-ballot induction into Cooperstown in 1983.
We at MLB Trade Rumors share our condolences with the rest of baseball in mourning the loss of one of the sport’s greats, and we pass on our best wishes to Robinson’s family, friends, and many fans.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
Félix Bautista is inching closer to his return, but his status for the postseason remains up in the air. Manager Brandon Hyde recently spoke to reporters (including Nathan Ruiz of The Baltimore Sun) about his star closer, suggesting that the right-hander is running out of time to get back on the mound. It’s not that Bautista has suffered a setback, but he just hasn’t progressed quickly enough to give Hyde much confidence that he can return for the playoffs.
It’s a disappointing development for the Orioles, who are set to embark on their first postseason run since 2016. The 28-year-old has emerged as one of the most dominant relief arms in the game, with a 1.85 ERA across his first two seasons in the majors.
In happier news, Ryan Mountcastle is nearing his return to Baltimore’s lineup. As Ruiz reports, the first baseman took batting practice before this evening’s game against the Nationals. Hyde suggested he could be reinstated tomorrow; if not, he should be back on the field sometime this week.
Here’s some more news from around the American League…
- The Twins expect Carlos Correa will be ready to play in the AL Wild Card series, and indeed, it’s possible he could be back by the final series of the regular season. Manager Rocco Baldelli told reporters (including Bobby Nightengale of the Star Tribune) that the star shortstop could rejoin the team this weekend in Colorado. Correa has been playing through plantar fasciitis for most of the year, and the question is not whether his injury has healed, but simply if he has rested enough to be able to manage the pain throughout the playoffs. The Gold Glove winner has been taking groundballs in recent days, and he claims to be feeling better.
- Red Sox catcher Reese McGuire left tonight’s game against the Rays with a left thumb contusion. It’s not a particularly serious diagnosis, but still, it’s not impossible this marks the end of McGuire’s season. The lefty batter hit .271/.314/.365 in 69 games as a backup catcher for Boston. He will be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter.
- The Angels have placed starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval on the 15-day IL. To replace him on the active roster, they have recalled Kolton Ingram from Triple-A Salt Lake. Sandoval exited his start last night against the Rangers with tightness in his right oblique, and the injury has proven to be serious enough to end his season six days early. This marks Ingram’s third fleeting call-up of the 2023 season; in 4 1/3 innings for the big league club, he has given up five runs on seven hits. However, his numbers are much better in the minors, where the 26-year-old boasts a 2.95 ERA in 61 innings pitched.
Junis has not pitched since Saturday, when he exited the Giants’ game against the Dodgers with pain in his neck. The injury has now been diagnosed as a cervical strain, and it will keep him on the shelf for the remainder of the regular season. The veteran right-hander has pitched well for San Francisco in a multi-inning role, tossing 86 innings in 40 games with a 3.87 ERA. Currently 4.5 games back in the Wild Card race, the Giants are still holding out hope for a postseason berth. If they manage to pull off a miraculous comeback, it’s possible Junis could rejoin the team in the playoffs.
Bart, once the Giants’ catcher of the future, is now the third-string backstop on the roster. Rookie sensation Patrick Bailey has become the everyday catcher, while his fellow first-year player Blake Sabol has been a capable backup. Meanwhile, Bart has faced numerous injury setbacks this year, and even when he’s been able to take the field, the 26-year-old has struggled to hit at both the major and minor league levels. Thus, it’s hard to guess what kind of role he’ll play over the final two series of the season. Presumably, the Giants will lean heavily on Bailey and Sabol behind the dish, at least until they are mathematically eliminated from contention.