Three takeaways from Baseball America’s top 10 Orioles prospects

San Jose Mercury - 7 min 45 sec ago

In past years, Baseball America’s release of its top 10 Orioles prospects has been a time to look ahead to the players Baltimore might someday promote in hopes of improving its major league roster.

This year’s edition, which was released Tuesday, doubles in giving a look at which players the Orioles might have to part with to do the same. In all likelihood, executive vice president and general Mike Elias will have to include at least one of the players in the back half of the list to make legitimate improvements to the team’s lineup or rotation.

For the first time since 2018, the preseason list is topped by someone other than Adley Rutschman, but the system’s depth remains on display. Here are three takeaways from Baseball America’s list of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects.

Remade infield

The 2019 preseason list — the first with Elias leading Baltimore’s baseball operations department — included one infielder in the top 10: Ryan Mountcastle, caught at third base amid his fall down the defensive spectrum.

Six of the latest top 10 are infielders, with all but one playing at least one of the middle positions. Top overall prospect Gunnar Henderson (No. 1), Jackson Holliday (No. 3), Jordan Westburg (No. 6), Connor Norby (No. 7), Joey Ortiz (No. 8) and Coby Mayo (No. 10) show the work that’s been done to improve that area of the organization, particularly in terms of investment of draft capital. Holliday was the first overall pick last year; Henderson, Westburg and Norby were Baltimore’s second selections in Elias’ first three drafts; and Ortiz and Mayo were fourth-round picks in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Given the depth here, it’s a logical area for the Orioles to pull from for trade packages, with arguments to be made for and against each of the four who isn’t the sport’s No. 1 overall prospect or a former No. 1 overall draft pick. A third baseman who might wind up elsewhere, Mayo is the lowest on the defensive spectrum, but as a player who reached Double-A at 20 years old, he might have the highest upside. With varying skill sets, Westburg, Norby and Ortiz each reached Triple-A in 2022, and that proximity to the majors increases their value not only to the Orioles but also as potential trade centerpieces.

Two arms

In each edition of Baseball America’s list since 2019, Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall have been the Orioles’ top two pitching prospects. This year, they’re also the only ones in the top 10, coming in at No. 2 and No. 5, respectively.

Many talented position players have entered the system under Elias, but there haven’t been nearly as many premier pitching prospects. In Elias’ four drafts, the organization has used one pick earlier than the fifth round on a pitcher, then it failed to sign that player. With Rodriguez and Hall being the final first-round picks of the previous front office, the only pitcher Elias acquired who has appeared in a top 10 list was Kyle Bradish, part of the trade return from the Los Angeles Angels for Dylan Bundy. Ranked ninth entering last season, Bradish struggled with his initial taste of the majors, but adjustments after a stint on the injured list allowed him to take off.

There’s more pitching depth to the Orioles’ system than this list would imply. Mike Baumann, Seth Johnson, Drew Rom and Noah Denoyer will appear in the full top 30 and are already on Baltimore’s 40-man roster, and the lack of another pitcher in the top 10 beyond Rodriguez and Hall is also a product of the number of high-level hitters.

But with Rodriguez and Hall expected to graduate from prospect status this upcoming season, it’s not immediately clear who will replace them as the leading representatives of the Orioles’ pitching program.

Which left-handed outfielders?

There were arguably four left-handed-hitting outfielders who had a case to be in Baltimore’s top 10, with only one of them — 2021 fifth-overall pick Colton Cowser (No. 4) — assured a spot. For now, only one other made the cut.

After making his major league debut in 2022, Kyle Stowers landed at No. 9. Even with the Orioles’ primary outfield group positioned to return in 2023, Stowers is situated for increased major league time after strong performances down the stretch.

His expected graduation, as well as those of Henderson, Rodriguez and Hall, in the early part of the season figures to open space in the top 10 for Heston Kjerstad and Dylan Beavers, if a trade of some members of the list doesn’t prompt that first.

Unexpectedly selected second overall in 2020, Kjerstad was the Orioles’ No. 4 prospect entering the 2021 season, but he missed all of that campaign because of a heart condition and moved down to No. 8 on the 2022 preseason list. An up-and-down year — a left hamstring strain suffered in spring training, success in Low-A Delmarva, struggles in High-A Aberdeen, winning MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League — resulted in him being outside the top 10, but he certainly has the potential to play his way back into its top half.

The same could prove true of Beavers, who the Orioles took 33rd overall in the 2022 draft. Rises from Stowers, Norby and Ortiz — who is 20 spots higher than he was in Baseball America’s midseason list — bumped Beavers down, but he showed his tools across the low minors and could spend next season at three levels, just as many of the hitters who made the top 10 have in recent years.

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Categories: Local News

Chicago Bears at New York Jets: Everything you need to know about the Week 12 game

San Jose Mercury - 8 min 42 sec ago

It won’t be a battle of 2021 first-round quarterbacks Sunday when the 3-8 Chicago Bears take on the 6-4 New York Jets at MetLife Stadium (noon, Fox-32). Jets starter Zach Wilson? Benched for Mike White. Bears starter Justin Fields? Officially questionable with a left shoulder injury, with multiple reports stating backup Trevor Siemian is expected to start.

Here’s what to know as kickoff approaches.

Latest Bears news | Get Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts first | Sign up for our free Bears alerts | Follow us on Instagram

Change it up

Don’t worry, Cole Kmet said, Trevor Siemian will not take it as an insult if you say he is unlikely to keep the ball on a zone read and motor 60 yards through the Jets defense Sunday.

“Definitely more of a drop-back guy, get the ball out, timing,” Kmet said. “We’re not going to be running QB power with Trevor.”

The Bears offense figures to take on a different look if Siemian is called on to replace Justin Fields, who is questionable with a separated left shoulder suffered on a quarterback sweep near the end of Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Two sources told the Tribune that Siemian is likely to start. ESPN also reported late Saturday that the Bears are expected to start Siemian over Fields, while NFL Network said Fields would warm up Sunday but the Bears playing him is a “long shot.”

It’s also likely to look different if Fields plays. The Bears surely don’t want to put him at risk of making the injury — which includes a partially torn ligament — worse. With either quarterback, the Bears likely will need to throw the ball more.

Read the full story here.

4 key questions

The Bears on Sunday will play at MetLife Stadium for the second time this season, facing the Jets in East Rutherford, N.J. They lost to the Giants 20-12 in Week 4.

The big question this week is the availability of quarterback Justin Fields — who suffered a separated left shoulder and torn ligament in Week 11 against the Falcons.

As the game approaches, our team of writers digs in to four key topics surrounding the 3-8 Bears.

Read the full story here.

Miss anything this week? Catch up before kickoff.

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Categories: Local News

Column: Joe Maddon is ‘humbled’ by Cubs fans in his return to Chicago to promote a new book

San Jose Mercury - 11 min 11 sec ago

Joe Maddon rode into town eight years ago with an audacious plan to turn around a franchise synonymous with losing.

He told reporters to get ready to embrace the “crazy” during a raucous, 40-minute news conference at the Cubby Bear, then offered to buy everyone a shot and a beer, “the Hazleton (Pa.) way.”

It was as memorable an introduction as we’ve seen in Chicago, and Maddon quickly delivered, helping to bring the Cubs their long-sought championship in his second season on the job. The only question back then was where the statue eventually would be located.

But Maddon was later cast off like yesterday’s recyclables when the Cubs couldn’t match their 2016 success, leading to the conscious uncoupling between him and team President Theo Epstein after the 2019 season. Maddon landed on his feet with a sweet gig managing the Los Angeles Angels, but instead of getting closure in his career he was fired in June during a 12-game losing streak.

Whether this is the end of the line for him is unknown, but a return to Chicago this week to promote his new book, “The Book of Joe: Trying Not to Suck at Baseball and Life,” left the normally verbose Maddon at a loss for words.

“To come back here and hear the sincere feelings of the people of Chicago, the Cubs fans, is really humbling,” Maddon said Thursday during a break in shopping on the Magnificent Mile. “Signed over 700 books (Wednesday) night at Anderson’s (Bookshop) in Downers Grove, and the way they’ve reacted to all this is sweet and tough at the same time.”

That’s Chicago. Sweet and tough — and wise enough to give credit for a job well done.

Maddon didn’t get a chance to return to Wrigleyville, so he didn’t see the latest addition to Wrigley Field, a three-story sportsbook annex that will keep the revenue streams rolling.

The success of Maddon’s teams helped pave the way for the Ricketts family to invest in money-making ventures such as the Marquee Sports Network, Gallagher Way and the DraftKings SportsBook. But the only one remaining from the ’16 champs is pitcher Kyle Hendricks and Maddon’s replacement, David Ross.

Maddon has no regrets. He said “divorce happens,” and though he didn’t think he needed to go, it obviously wasn’t his call. He said he still has a good relationship with Epstein, saying his former boss told him “the game is better with me in it” following his untimely dismissal in Anaheim, Calif. Though Maddon writes of their “philosophical differences” in the book and how it led to his Cubs exit, there was no personal attack on Epstein’s methods.

“Listen, I loved it and it was the best five (years) ever,” Maddon said. “Yes, I expected to stay longer. It didn’t work out that way. The guys that are still out there playing are doing well — Anthony (Rizzo), Kyle did well, Willson (Contreras) is going to do well somewhere else. (Kris Bryant) has been hurt, but he’ll be fine. Javy (Báez) will be fine too. He misses the band, I think, more than anything.

“It was such a dynamic and very charismatic group of individuals coming together at one time, and that was very cool.”

Maddon’s future remains up in the air, though he wasn’t a candidate for any of the managerial openings this fall. That’s OK, he said.

“I’m enjoying the freedom, no question about it,” he said. “I’d like to get back. I think there’s probably got to be a period right now to collect everything mentally and try to find the right match coming your way, because right now there was nothing available. So my process is that I would just wait until next year, which is fine.

“Everybody has advised me you’ve got to take a year off after all this stuff, which I can understand, and I’m not fighting it because I did enjoy this summer a lot. I hadn’t had one off since 1980 or so. It was different in a lot of good ways. But I want to do it again and with the right dance partner. I’m patient right now.”

Turning 69 in February, Maddon probably can’t wait too long, though Texas just brought Bruce Bochy out of retirement at 67, and 66-year-old Buck Showalter and 63-year-old Terry Francona won Manager of the Year awards. At 73, Dusty Baker finally guided the Houston Astros to his first title as a manager. It was a good year to be an old guy — unless you were managing on the South Side.

Maddon said he turned down a TV offer because he wasn’t interested in traveling — or dressing up — but has remained active in media with a podcast with Tom Verducci, who co-wrote the book, and made some guest appearances on MLB’s Sirius XM channel.

“I want to keep taking batting practice, keep doing things like this to stay sharp in the event something does pop up,” he said.

The juiciest parts of Maddon’s book, which he has spoken about at length during his tour, involves his battles with upper management over the intrusion of analytics into managing a game. Maddon maintains he’s not anti-analytics but believes the manager should be the decision-maker during games, not the front-office types waving spreadsheets.

Maddon said the book is about much more than analytics, but most of the reviews since its mid-October release focused on the “Joe vs. the Nerds” angle. In an era in which analytics is king, will Maddon’s blunt admissions work against him finding another job?

“I don’t know, but I wanted to be honest,” he said. “I do think maybe initially it may preclude me from some situations, but I want to believe in the long run it will flip back the other way. You’ve seen a lot of veteran managers be very successful this year. You’re giving Manager of the Year awards away to guys that have been doing it forever.

“You know, the game tends to replicate itself in different areas, so we’ll see. Buck was out of it for a couple years. Boch was out of it. Dusty was out of it. I really don’t know, but it’s important I stay contemporary and active mentally, stay up with things. And if I do that through podcasts, I’m actually good with that.”

Like Epstein said, baseball really is better with Maddon in it. Hopefully he’s back for one more shot.

But even if he never gets another chance, his legacy is secure. Maddon said the particulars of the bad ending in Chicago are irrelevant and the important thing to remember is “the impact that group made on this city and the fan base.”

Six years ago they made history. Now almost all of the members of the 2016 Cubs are history. Life goes on, but every trip back reminds them of how special that feeling was.

“I feel like I’m tied to this city and this group of people,” Maddon said. “And I feel like they feel the same way about me.”

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Categories: Local News

Chicago White Sox decline to tender contracts to infielder Danny Mendick and outfielders Adam Engel and Mark Payton

San Jose Mercury - 12 min 16 sec ago

The Chicago White Sox often utilized outfielder Adam Engel as a defensive replacement.

Danny Mendick aided the team in a number of spots throughout the infield.

The Sox on Friday declined to tender contracts to Engel, Mendick and outfielder Mark Payton, the team announced.

“We appreciate all that Adam and Danny did for our organization in 2022 and during prior seasons,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. “As we have said at other times, a lot of consideration and analysis goes into the club deciding to forego the arbitration process and instead engage with players and their representatives as free agents.

“Our plan is to stay in contact with all three players and evaluate their ongoing fit with our club as we move forward through this offseason.”

The Sox tendered contracts to all remaining unsigned players for 2023, including arbitration-eligible pitchers Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Michael Kopech and José Ruiz.

Engel has a career .255/.280/.350 slash line with 30 homers and 123 RBIs during parts of six seasons (523 games) with the Sox. He played in 119 games (60 starts) in 2022, slashing .224/.269/.310 with two homers, 17 RBIs, 32 runs and 12 stolen bases. He was on the injured list from June 23-July 4 with a right hamstring strain.

Engel, 30, hit a career-high seven home runs in 2021, a season in which he was limited to 39 games because of injuries.

Mendick’s 2022 season came to an end after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee on June 22 against the Toronto Blue Jays. He slashed .289/.343/.443 with three homers, 15 RBIs and 22 runs in 31 games, playing shortstop, second base, third base and left field.

Mendick, 29, has a career .251/.309/.366 slash line with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in parts of four seasons (151 games) with the Sox. He was a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award at second base in 2020.

Payton, 30, was 3-for-21 (.143) with one RBI in eight games during two stints with the Sox last season. Payton was born in Orland Park and attended St. Rita.

The Sox have some openings in the outfield with veteran AJ Pollock declining a player option last week and becoming a free agent. They also likely will have a new opening-day second baseman after declining a $5.5 million club option on Josh Harrison on Nov. 7.

With Friday’s moves, the Sox 40-man roster is at 35.

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Mets DFA two players, including Dominic Smith

San Jose Mercury - 13 min 1 sec ago

The Mets did not tender a contract to first baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith, a former top prospect of the organization, and right-hander Sean Reid-Foley. The club announced Friday night they would tender contracts to all other players signed for the 2023 season and beyond.

Smith, a 27-year-old Los Angeles native, was drafted by the Mets with the 11th overall pick in 2013. He was promoted to the Major Leagues in 2017 and slashed .246/.308/.424 with a .733 OPS and 46 home runs over six seasons.

Smith was once ranked as high as No. 29 overall on Keith Law’s top-100 prospects list and was the second-best prospect for the Mets entering the 2017 season. The club saw a power-hitting first baseman who needed refining. They asked him to lose weight and he dropped 24 pounds working with former strength consultant Mike Barwis before the 2017 season, but his left-handed power bat never truly came to be. He battled foot and ankle injuries and the emergence of Pete Alonso created a traffic jam at first base.

His best season came in 2020 when he hit .316 with 10 home runs during the COVID-shortened campaign. Smith spent much of the 2022 season with Triple-A Syracuse and seemed to sense an exit from Queens in September when the club brought him to Atlanta as part of the taxi squad.

Smith was active in the Mets’ various charitable endeavors throughout his time in New York. He gave an emotional press conference in 2020 in the wake of the death of Jacob Blake. But long before he knelt for the national anthem, Smith was helping inner-city youth find baseball in his native South Central Los Angeles.

Reid-Foley came to the Mets from the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2021 season as part of the trade for left-hander Steven Matz. In two seasons with the Mets, he went 5-1 with a 5.28 ERA in 19 games. He struggled with elbow injuries and missed time last season with a partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament.

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Yankees’ best available options this winter are their own free agents and prospects

San Jose Mercury - 13 min 37 sec ago

Yankees fans are angry. Hal Steinbrenner admitted that himself. However, for those looking for drastic changes to be made to this current lineup, there are not many places to go up from what Brian Cashman already had.

The Bombers have a flawed roster with aging players and lineup inconsistency after their stack of Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. Realistically, a bottom-up retooling of the entire lineup is not a project that can be accomplished in a single offseason. Instead, the Yankees will need to focus on holding things together long enough for backup to arrive through the farm system.

In many cases, the Yankees’ best bets are their own free agents or are already under contract. Rizzo has already been re-signed to man first base and was indisputably the best first basemen on the market. Andrew Benintendi and Judge both remain free agents and sit as easy fits for the Bombers.

In Benintendi’s case, the other available options to play left field for Aaron Boone’s club are Brandon Nimmo — who appears to command a larger payday than originally anticipated — and Japanese star Masataka Yoshida who is an unknown which is something the Yanks don’t need.

Benintendi flashed the lefty-contact bat that the Bombers had so desperately needed during their “Baby Bombers” era. The 27-year-old slashed .304/.373/.399 as a first-time All-Star in 2022.

The weakest link all of last season for the Bombers and the most obvious areas in need of an upgrade was the left side of the infield — in other words, the Minnesota Twins trade.

Josh Donaldson never found his stroke in pinstripes as he slashed .222/.308/.374 with 15 homers and 62 RBI. The 36-year-old’s .682 OPS was the lowest of his 12-year career.

Peeking at the available third basemen for a potential upgrade, 38-year-old Justin Turner figures to be the top free agent. The Yankees don’t need any more retirement-home-eligible players with the belief that they can squeeze the last ounce of baseball they have in them.

The best option to play third base for the Yanks next season seems to be DJ LeMahieu. The 34-year-old’s once-stellar season has become somewhat forgotten. LeMahieu was posting a slash line of .292/.394/.431 with 11 homers through 95 games on Aug. 2.

Then, the utility man slashed .167/.238/.211 over the final 30 games with a toe injury that ended his season — and led to an inescapable position of running out Donaldson at the hot corner and in the middle of the lineup on a nightly basis.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the other part of that Twins trade and was the subject of shortstop controversy all of last season. The 27-year-old posted a line of .261/.314/.327 and was benched periodically in the postseason for his defensive struggles. The Yanks were reluctant to shy away from Kiner-Falefa all year citing his ‘league-best defense’ only to put him on the pine because of his defense in the most important games of the season.

There are plenty of star free-agent shortstops to go around this offseason. Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts are on the market and are due for huge paydays.

However, that check will likely not be coming from the Yankees. The Bombers punted on last year’s free-agent shortstop class because two of their top prospects played the same position. Kiner-Falefa was acquired to be a stopgap and that’s exactly what was provided.

Anthony Volpe (MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 overall prospect) and Oswald Peraza are one step closer to being everyday MLB players. Peraza —.306/.404/.429 in 18 games in the big leagues last season — even got a start in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Astros.

Oswaldo Cabrera also played shortstop in the postseason — most notably in Game 5 of the ALDS against the Cleveland Guardians — however, he figures to be more of someone who will play everywhere as opposed to just one set position as he manned left field in Benintendi and Aaron Hicks’ absence against the Astros.

Steinbrenner and Cashman both reiterated it is their intent to see one of Peraza or Volpe next season at shortstop. This brings us back to the point of how much further can the Yanks go up from what they already have.

All of the best available plans of attack point directly back to what they already have internally and virtually the same planned lineup from last season. While we did not get to see the intended roster Cashman put together mainly due to two impactful injuries with LeMahieu and Benintendi missing the entire postseason, it’s looking like we will get to see it in 2023 as the Bombers do not have many options.

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Chicago Cubs non-tender former top prospect Brailyn Marquez and 2 others while avoiding arbitration with Adrian Sampson and Rowan Wick

San Jose Mercury - 13 min 52 sec ago

The Chicago Cubs are moving on from their former top prospect.

Pitcher Brailyn Marquez’s career has been marred by injuries and setbacks. The Cubs on Friday non-tendered the left-hander, who has not thrown a competitive pitch since his major-league debut in 2020. Although the 23-year-old Marquez was not arbitration-eligible, the Cubs opted not to give him a contract for 2023 before Friday’s tender deadline.

A consensus top-100 prospect the previous two years, Marquez entered 2022 aiming to get on track after contracting COVID-19 in 2021 and subsequently developing myocarditis, which hindered him as he was unable to build up shoulder strength. His arrival to spring training in March was delayed by another bout with COVID. Then, before he was healthy enough to join an affiliate, Marquez underwent a surgical debridement on his left shoulder June 17, ending his season.

The 40-man roster spot represented more value to the organization than the uncertainty surrounding Marquez and the potentially limited upside of a pitcher who heads into next season with only two-thirds innings since the end of the 2019 minor-league season. Marquez could come back on a minor-league deal, but it would make sense for both sides to part ways and for the lefty to get a fresh start. In his one big-league appearance, Marquez surrendered five runs and walked three batters in two-thirds of an inning against the White Sox on Sept. 27, 2020.

Right-hander Alexander Vizcaíno, who also was not yet arbitration-eligible, and outfielder Rafael Ortega were non-tendered too. Vizcaíno, acquired with Kevin Alcantara from the New York Yankees in July for Anthony Rizzo, was placed on the restricted list in the spring when he stayed in the Dominican Republic and did not report to camp. Ortega’s breakout 2021 season, which included hitting three home runs at Nationals Park, failed to carry over to this year. He hit .241 with a .331 on-base percentage and 95 OPS+ before he suffered a season-ending left ring finger fracture in September.

The Cubs claimed infielder Rylan Bannon off waivers from the Atlanta Braves to put their 40-man roster at 37 players. Bannon, 26, debuted last season but spent most of the year at Triple A for the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves, combining to hit .249/.367/.421 and playing second and third base.

Right-handers Adrian Sampson and Rowan Wick agreed to contracts for 2023 to avoid arbitration. Sampson provided valuable starting pitching depth as injuries piled up. He finished with a 3.11 ERA over 104⅓ innings in 21 games (19 starts). Wick’s inconsistencies prevented the Cubs from using him in the type of higher-leverage situations they envisioned after the trade deadline. But his experience made it worth bringing him back to see if he can recapture his 2019-20 form.

Four arbitration-eligible players have been tendered 2023 contracts: outfielder Ian Happ, right-hander Codi Heuer and infielders Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal. It would make sense for the Cubs to explore contract extensions before spring training for Happ, who will be a free agent after 2023, and Hoerner, who is coming off his best big-league season.

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3 questions for the offseason about the Chicago White Sox infield, including what’s ahead at 1st and 2nd base

San Jose Mercury - 15 min 16 sec ago

José Abreu, the Chicago White Sox first baseman since 2014, is a free agent.

Second baseman Josh Harrison is also a free agent after the Sox declined a team option for 2023.

Third baseman Yoán Moncada had a down 2022 season affected by injuries. And a finger injury prematurely ended shortstop Tim Anderson’s season.

What’s ahead for the Sox infield? Here are three questions to monitor this offseason.

1. What’s the plan at first base?

Andrew Vaughn spent most of his first two seasons in the outfield. His future is at first base.

Whether the future means 2023 remains to be seen.

“Vaughn is a first baseman; that’s how he was drafted,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said this month at the GM meetings in Las Vegas when asked where he ideally envisions Vaughn. “Doesn’t mean he’s going to be our first baseman next year, not necessarily.

“But in the end, his best defensive position is first base and … whenever the time comes when he settles into that position, you’re asking a lot less of him and perhaps that even increases his offensive production as a result.”

Vaughn slashed .271/.321/.429 in 2022, leading the Sox with 17 homers and 76 RBIs in 134 games. He played 45 games in right field, 44 in left, 29 at designated hitter, 23 at first base and two at second base.

After hitting .301 in the first half, Vaughn batted .234 after the All-Star break.

“I think he was worn down,” Hahn said. “Obviously greater physical toll on you playing the outfield. He was a guy over the course of the year who played through some leg issues, probably somewhat exacerbated by having him out there in the outfield. But nothing that should linger into 2023.

“And we’ll see come March or April what the roster looks like in the end. But we’ve asked a lot of that kid in the last couple years and he’s performed quite well all things considered — his lack of experience, his age (24) and the fact we were playing him out of position.”

As far as what it means for Abreu, Hahn said: “It’s nice to have a guy you believe in as an alternative (in Vaughn), but it doesn’t take away from what José has accomplished for us over the years and his importance in the clubhouse. And if he’s not with us next year, he’ll be missed.

“It’s good that we’re insulated from a production standpoint against that departure. But certainly never would disrespect the importance he’s meant to this organization, and even if he winds up elsewhere, the fondness that we should look back on his time with us by saying, ‘Oh, it’s good we got this guy in his place.’”

2. What’s next for Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson after a disjointed 2022 season?

Moncada suffered a right oblique strain on the last day of spring training and began the season on the injured list.

It was the start of a challenging season for the third baseman, who slashed .212/.273/.353 with 12 homers and 51 RBIs in 104 games.

Moncada also missed time in late June with a right hamstring strain and in late August because of a left hamstring strain. He never got into a rhythm offensively.

“I think Yoán would describe (2022) as disappointing,” Hahn said. “He didn’t quite achieve, at least offensively, at the level that we’ve grown accustomed to with him.

“Defensively, he was pretty much a stalwart over there and continues to show himself to be one of the better defensive third basemen in the league. But it’s a matter of getting back on track offensively.”

After setting a career high with 84 walks in 2021, Moncada had just 32 in 2022.

“(Manager) Pedro (Grifol) made reference of getting him back to being an 80-walk guy would certainly serve him well,” Hahn said. “There’s certain things within his swing and setup, etc., that we have identified and hopefully be able to implement some changes to unlock that or get him back to who he was.”

Anderson had the production, hitting .301 and being named an All-Star starter. But his 79 games were the fewest in his career — except for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season — since arriving in the big leagues in 2016.

He suffered a sagittal band tear in his left middle finger in early August and missed the remainder of the season.

“It’s unfortunate we missed him for as long as we did,” Hahn said. “Certainly the finger thing was a freak occurrence which, knock on wood, something like that we don’t have to worry about going forward.

“He’s such an integral part to what we do offensively. You see it when he’s not around. You notice the lower level of energy and activity on the bases.”

The Sox signed Elvis Andrus soon after Anderson’s injury, and the veteran hit .271 in 43 games while filling in.

“Elvis came in and was an absolute pro, traditionally described as a ‘baseball player,’” Hahn said. “It was fun to have that element around and it’s one that would serve us well to have more guys replicating that.

“But Tim’s an integral part when we’re winning. He sets the tone at the top of the lineup, and when he’s not there, he’s missed.”

3. What are some options at second base?

After a slow start, Harrison finished with a .256 average. Hahn said the team’s decision to decline the club option on the veteran “comes down to resource allocation, and we do have some internal options (at second base) and perhaps there’s a way to balance the lineup a little better at that spot. We’ll see.”

Internally, the Sox have Romy Gonzalez, Leury García and Lenyn Sosa. Gonzalez, 26, slashed .238/.257/.352 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 32 games. Sosa, 22, was 4-for-35 (.114) with three runs in 11 games. García slashed .210/.233/.267 in 97 games.

“Leury’s best role was in that super-utility role, where he moves around and fills in from time to time as needed,” Hahn said. “Obviously over time last year, the hip, back issue became a little too much and he was compromised offensively.

“Having him in the right role has value. Obviously he needs to be healthy in order to do it. But it’s a matter of getting him back to where he was a few years back when he was known as a super-utility, fill-in guy.”

Speaking generally, not tied to a certain position or potential need, Hahn said the Sox are likely to be more active via trade than free agency this offseason. In any case, utilizing FanGraphs WAR across 2021-22, MLB.com listed Jean Segura (5.1) and Adam Frazier (4.7) as the top two free-agent second basemen.

“(Second base) is an area we feel we’ll spend some time this offseason if there is a way to get better,” Hahn said.

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Categories: Local News

How would Kodai Senga fit into the Mets pitching plans?

San Jose Mercury - 16 min 31 sec ago

At this point in the offseason, you’ve probably heard about Kodai Senga, the Nippon Professional Baseball star who has been meeting with MLB teams. The right-handed fireballer has met with the Mets, which makes sense considering his reported interest in exploring a role with a big market team, the team’s need for starting pitching and Billy Eppler’s experience in scouting in Japan.

As an assistant general manager with the Yankees, Eppler was influential in bringing Masahiro Tanaka to New York. He had scouted Tanaka extensively and developed a strong relationship with him. As the GM of the Los Angeles Angels, he signed Shohei Ohtani.

Senga’s situation is interesting. He’ll be 30 in January and has accrued enough service time to be considered a free agent, he has no posting date. The numbers jump off the page: In 11 seasons with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks he posted a 2.59 ERA and last season went 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA. He throws in the high 90s and some reports say he’s even hit triple-digits. He threw 144 innings, his largest workload since 2019.

His forkball, which is his version of a splitter, gets the bats swinging. This breakdown from Pitching Ninja goes into more detail and shows the grip he uses to throw this devastating breaking pitch.

But he doesn’t seem to have an extensive repertoire. He’s mostly working with a fastball and the forkball. Frontline starters in North America need a three or four-pitch mix.

Some talent evaluators have questioned his fastball command as well. The NPB strike zone is significantly smaller than the Major League zone and the hitters are not as elite in Japan. At 6-0 with a 3/4 delivery, the plane is lowered to about 5-9. Senga will have to learn to elevate his fastball.

There are also some mechanical concerns when it comes to pitchers in Japan and Senga has not been immune to injuries. His status heading into the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games was questionable because of an ankle injury, and he’s dealt with shoulder and elbow issues as well.

However, these are typical concerns for pitchers coming from overseas. The bigger question is whether or not he makes sense for the Mets, or more sense than someone like Carlos Rodon, who would require sacrificing two draft picks and international bonus pool money. The projections for Senga’s contract are somewhere in the four-year, $60-75 million range. Much of this is going to be dependent on Jacob deGrom, but let’s say, hypothetically, deGrom chooses to sign elsewhere. If the Mets could get Senga on the lower end of that salary range and get someone like Rodon or Verlander, the rotation would look like this:

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Justin Verlander
  3. Carlos Carrasco
  4. Kodai Senga
  5. Joey Lucchesi (L) or David Peterson (L)

That’s not bad. That’s a pretty strong rotation, but there are a lot of questions in that lineup. But then again, there are just as many questions about deGrom these days too. It’s always a gamble.

Eppler’s scouting experience and his understanding of Japanese pitchers are beneficial in this situation whether or not the Mets sign him. Maybe he sees something others don’t that convinces him the club needs to look elsewhere to fill the holes in the rotation, or maybe he sees him as the next Yu Darvish.

For now, the Mets are doing their due diligence by meeting with one of the most intriguing players available this offseason.

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Categories: Local News

Aaron Judge wins AL MVP award in landslide over two-way star Shohei Ohtani

San Jose Mercury - 16 min 34 sec ago

From June to October almost every time he came to the plate, Aaron Judge heard the chants; ‘MVP, MVP, MVP.’ Thursday night, that became a reality. Judge’s remarkable 2022 season was capped with baseball’s highest award Thursday night. The 30-year-old free agent outfielder who led the Yankees this season was tabbed the American League Most Valuable Player by voting members of the Baseball Writers of American Association. Judge got 28 first-place votes, beating Shohei Ohtani’s two first-place votes.

He is the 14th Yankee to win the MVP, the first since Alex Rodriguez won it in 2007. A Bronx Bomber has won the award 34 times in history and Judge joins the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gherig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, whose AL and Yankee single-season home run record he broke this year.

Judge’s name now seems normal among those iconic Yankees and the biggest question is if he will continue to build his legacy in free agency. Thursday night after winning the award, Judge said he’s had positive conversations with managing partner Hal Steinbrenner.

“So far, so good. I had some positive talks with Hal. I’m looking forward to getting this free agency process started,” Judge said.

Judge knows what he has in the Bronx.

“For me, I want to win. I’ve come pretty close with the Yankees,” Judge said on a conference call with reporters. “My ultimate, most important thing is I want to be on a team with a winning culture and a commitment to winning. First and foremost, it’s a winning culture and a winning future.”

While the most intriguing question about Judge this winter is where he will wind up in free agency, there still was some curiosity about this MVP award. There was a very loud faction that campaigned for Angels pitcher/outfielder Shohei Ohtani, the 2021 unanimous winner.

The Angels star had another tremendous season as baseball’s only two-way player. In fact, Ohtani had an even better year than in 2021. He hit 34 home runs with a .875 OPS. On the mound, Ohtani struck out 219 in 166 innings and pitched to a 2.33 ERA over 28 starts.

Ohtani finished with a 9.6 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference, a statistic developed to eliminate the factors that contribute to the voting, like that the Angels were effectively out of the playoff race by May, while Judge was playing meaningful games into late September. His WAR was 9.5 according to FanGraphs. Judge finished with an 11.6 WAR according to Baseball Reference and a 10.6 on FanGraphs.

Not only did Judge set the American League home run record, held for 61 years by former Yankee Roger Maris, but he challenged for the AL Triple Crown. He finished second in batting average (.311), first in homers (62) and first in RBI (131). He also led baseball with a 1.111 OPS in 157 games played.

Posting in all but five games of the regular season, a career high, was not only to show that despite his earlier struggles with injuries, Judge has been durable the last two years, but also to accommodate the national interest in his home run chase of Maris’ title.

Both facts will contribute to what will likely be a contract that will be north of $300 million. Judge turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension offer before his self-imposed negotiation deadline on Opening Day.

“You kind of have a chip on your shoulder going into the season, but once the season started it was time to go to work,” Judge said Thursday night on the MLB Network. “I saw what type of team we had and the tasks in front of us and you know, I tried to wipe everything that happens you know in the offseason away and you know, focus on analysts go out there, win our division and then go out there and try to win a World Series this year because we’ve got the group that can do it.”

The Yankees fell short of the World Series for the 13th straight year, losing to the Astros in the AL Championship Series. Judge, however, went out and made that Yankee offer irrelevant with his play this season.

He not only played a career-high in games, but set a career high with a .425 on-base percentage and a .688 slugging percentage. Judge was not just putting up big personal numbers, but he was the engine in the Yankees’ offense. Of the 802 runs the team scored this season, Judge drove in 131 of them.

So it is hard to imagine a Yankees’ lineup without him in it, but Thursday night, Judge was a free agent.

“So far so good. So far, so good. It’s a different process, but we are hoping to get the job done here soon. And we’ll see what happens,” Judge said.

Steinbrenner made it clear after the owners meetings in New York on Tuesday that money will not get in the way of trying to keep Judge, who has been the face of the franchise since he won Rookie of the Year in 2017. Steinbrenner has had multiple conversations with Judge since the season ended, reinforcing his desire to keep the four-time All-Star a Yankee. Other front office and team personnel have also been in contact with the slugger to remind him how beloved he is by the organization.

But the Yankees are not going to get the “hometown,” discount here. Judge’s true hometown team, the Giants have made it clear they intend to go after Judge. Considered the top free agent on the market, he will likely have his choice of several teams offering him over $300 million.

Judge finished second in MVP voting back in 2017, when he lost to Jose Altuve.

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Categories: Local News

ASK IRA: Should Heat not turn their back on youthful energy even when whole?

San Jose Mercury - 1 hour 10 min ago

Q: Ira, you mentioned that if Nikola Jovic remains in the rotation that Duncan Robinson might be the odd man out. But what about Haywood Highsmith or Jamal Cain? Both have played well lately. Aren’t they deserving of playing time? – Guy.

A: But you can’t play everyone. That said, there is something to be said about having an energizer off the bench, an aspect that both Haywood Highsmith and Jamal Cain provide, as opposed, say, to what Duncan Robinson, Max Strus or Dewayne Dedmon bring. For now, the Heat’s absences have provided a forum. And perhaps you are correct, that such energy needs to be considered, as well.

Q: It was interesting to see Erik Spolestra admit fans want to see Bam Adebayo score 40 points a game. So the coach does hear the noise. Fans know you need offense to win the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals. Spoelstra did go on to mention he has never coached a player, who has so much responsibility on a team – defense, setting picks, making reads and covering spots on the floor. Are the Heat better off trying to find someone who can be Bam (light) on defense and get Bam into more open-court positions, where he can showcase his offense? If Spoelstra wants this team to go all the way, does he have to pick offense over defense for Bam, assuming he has a player who can replace Bam on defense? – Stuart.

A: First, no such defensive option exists, perhaps this side of Giannis Antetokounmpo or Draymond Green (for different reasons). So, no, the idea of the Heat finding a Bam Lite probably ended when they realized Precious Achiuwa wasn’t that player. But to your greater point, I do agree that Bam might have so much on his plate that mustering the energy to also be a leading man on offense could be asking too much. Then again, by having Bam play more in drop coverage on defense could be the first concession toward conserving that energy. He certainly did it all on Friday night against the Wizards.

Q: Ira, I realize that Dewayne Dedmon is back, but why waive Orlando Robinson, a 22-year-old 7-footer who has played well in his limited opportunities? – Bill, Palm Beach Gardens.

A: This all goes back to the Heat’s disinclination to pay into the luxury tax. Remember, a 15th spot on the standard roster remains available, but would put the Heat into the tax. With either Orlando Robinson or Dru Smith, the Heat had the option of extending a contract that would not become guaranteed until Jan. 10. But, again it is a matter of the value of such a 15th man. In the Heat’s current injury state, perhaps it should have been considered, considering Udonis Haslem is not playing.

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Categories: Local News

Horoscopes Nov. 27, 2022: Bill Nye, set up a healthy lifestyle

San Jose Mercury - 1 hour 36 min ago

CELEBRITIES BORN ON THIS DAY: Alison Pill, 37; Jaleel White, 46; Fisher Stevens, 59; Bill Nye, 67.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - AUGUST 09: Actor Alison Pill of 'American Horror Story: Cult' speaks onstage during the FX portion of the 2017 Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 9, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)Alison Pill (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images) 

Happy Birthday: Pay attention to your assets and liabilities. Don’t let anything lapse. Efficiency is your ticket to a better life and less stress. Don’t let what others do cause anger and frustration. Distance yourself from those who don’t play fair. Set up a healthy lifestyle that is easy to maintain and keeps you looking and feeling your best. Make personal improvement your priority. Your numbers are 5, 14, 22, 24, 31, 38, 43.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): Put your head down and take care of unfinished business. The less time allowed to engage in conflict or controversy, the better. What you accomplish will make a difference that motivates you to take the path that brings the highest return. 2 stars

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): You’ve got plenty happening. If you don’t like what you are doing, make a move. Take control of your life and set your priorities straight. Put pressure on those who try to get in your way. Do what feels most comfortable. 5 stars

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Plan and map out your course. The preparation you put in place and the follow-through you enforce will keep you moving in a direction that encourages you to use your knowledge and talent to achieve a happy and helpful future. 3 stars

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Give yourself a break and enjoy your day. Try your hand at something that brings you joy or opens your eyes to a host of opportunities. Trust your intuition and make a change that allows you the freedom to chase your dreams. 3 stars

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Move forward, but don’t make unnecessary detours that restrict you. Planning a fun day with people who make you laugh or want to walk down memory lane with you will bring back dreams you have yet to conquer. 3 stars

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Be careful who you trust or share sensitive information with, and avoid getting caught in someone’s drama. Look inward and do something geared toward personal gain, self-improvement and a better lifestyle. Don’t put up with negativity or poor behavior. 2 stars

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): A short trip will be entertaining and knowledgeable. Don’t scrimp when it comes to learning, being assertive and taking responsibility for your life and happiness. Attend a reunion and engage in talks with someone you deem special. Romance is encouraged. 2 stars

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): If you collaborate with someone who brings out your best, it will lift your spirits and give you hope. Talk shop, and discuss skills, knowledge and what you enjoy doing most. The input you receive will point you in the right direction. 4 stars

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21): Don’t start something you cannot finish. Look for opportunities and exciting ways to make your home and relationships more dynamic without taking on debt. Don’t argue; keep the peace and make romance a priority. Romance is in the stars. 3 stars

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Share your feelings and intentions with someone close to you to find out where you stand. You’ll need to convince others to meet you halfway by offering something unique to ensure you get your way. An unusual opportunity looks promising. 3 stars

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Keep your plans a secret until you are ready. A change at home will impact the entertainment and lifestyle you choose. Stretch your imagination, and you’ll devise a way to counter a change you don’t condone. 3 stars

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): Sign up for something you believe in and do your part, but don’t allow anyone to take you for granted. Maneuver yourself into a leadership position by offering something familiar and easy for you to generate. Keep the peace. 4 stars

Birthday Baby: You are charismatic, active and ambitious. You are dedicated and persistent.

1 star: Avoid conflicts; work behind the scenes. 2 stars: You can accomplish, but don’t rely on others. 3 stars: Focus and you’ll reach your goals. 4 stars: Aim high; start new projects. 5 stars: Nothing can stop you; go for gold.

Visit Eugenialast.com, or join Eugenia on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn.

Want a link to your daily horoscope delivered directly to your inbox each weekday morning? Sign up for our free Coffee Break newsletter at mercurynews.com/newsletters or eastbaytimes.com/newsletters

Categories: Local News

Word Game: Nov. 27, 2022

San Jose Mercury - 1 hour 36 min ago

TODAY’S WORD — PROROGUES (PROROGUES: pro-ROGES: Discontinues or postpones.)

Average mark 50 words

Time limit 60 minutes

Can you find 64 or more words in PROROGUES?

TODAY’S WORD — PROROGUES peso poor poorer pore porous pose poser poseur pour pourer prose pure purer purge purr purse purser regroup repro roger rogue rope roper rose roue rouge rouse rouser rugose ruse ogre oops opus ours goes goop goose gore gorp gorse grope groper group grouper grouse urge user epos ergo euro sore sorer soup sour sourer spoor spore spur spurge suer super sure surer surge

To purchase the Word Game book, visit WordGameBooks.com. Order it now for just $5 while supplies last!

RULES OF THE GAME:

1. Words must be of four or more letters.

2. Words that acquire four letters by the addition of “s,” such as “bats” or “dies,” are not allowed.

3. Additional words made by adding a “d” or an “s” may not be used. For example, if “bake” is used, “baked” or “bakes” are not allowed, but “bake” and “baking” are admissible.

4. Proper nouns, slang words, or vulgar or sexually explicit words are not allowed.

Contact Word Game creator Kathleen Saxe at kzsaxe@gmail.com.

Categories: Local News

Is Responsible Travel to Hawaii Fun?

N.Y. Times - 1 hour 37 min ago
It turns out that farm stays and eco-friendly snorkeling trips really are more entertaining than sitting on a beach with a mai tai. Here’s one approach to thoughtful travel in an overtouristed place.
Categories: Local News

7 New Escapes in the Caribbean

N.Y. Times - 1 hour 37 min ago
From an off-the-grid tropical hideaway to a reefside diving resort, these new hotels will take you far from anything that resembles snow and cold.
Categories: Local News

The Key to Vacationing with a Toddler? A Wave-Free Beach.

N.Y. Times - 1 hour 37 min ago
A good solution for calmer waters when traveling with a small child is looking for just that. Here’s a guide to destinations that are basically bathtubs — even in the winter.
Categories: Local News

Bridge: Nov. 27, 2022

San Jose Mercury - 1 hour 37 min ago

In the club lounge, a player asked me if I could guess who the best male and female bridge players were in her family.

“Obviously, my husband is the best male player,” she said. “He’s a Gold Life Master and proud of it. But the best female player is the dog. I know, because every time I go down in a contract, my husband tells me our dog could have made it.”

My friend was today’s South in a matchpoint duplicate event.

“I thought my jump to four hearts was clear,” she told me, “but even though the dummy hit with an ace, four trumps and a singleton, the contract was no laydown. West led a spade, and I took the ace and cashed the A-K of trumps. When East discarded, I took the A-K of diamonds, ruffed a diamond in dummy, ruffed a spade and ruffed my last diamond.

“I ruffed another spade for my ninth trick, but that was all I took. When I led a club next, West won and cashed the queen of trumps, and East won the last two tricks with the A-K of clubs.

“My husband said our dog would have made short work of the contract, but I don’t see how even Fifi could have avoided four losers.”

South indeed had four losers. To make the contract, she can assemble 10 winners. At Trick Two, South must make the essential play of ruffing a spade. She takes the high trumps and proceeds thus: A-K of diamonds, diamond ruff, spade ruff, diamond ruff. Declarer then ruffs dummy’s last spade, to which West must follow, and has won 10 tricks: The defenders’ three club tricks and West’s trump trick are compressed into the last three tricks.

South dealer

Both sides vulnerable

NORTH

S A 10 5 3

H J 7 4 2

D 5

C J 6 5 2

WEST

S Q 9 7 6 2

H Q 8 3

D J 7 2

C Q 4

EAST

S K 8 4

H 6

D Q 9 8 4 3

C A K 9 8

SOUTH

S J

H A K 10 9 5

D A K 10 6

C 10 7 3

South West North East
1 H Pass 2 H Pass
4 H All Pass
Opening lead — S 6

©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Categories: Local News

Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and the Reality of Imperfection

N.Y. Times - 1 hour 37 min ago
A new documentary on Selena Gomez is the latest to lift the veil.
Categories: Local News

How to Talk to a Widow

N.Y. Times - 1 hour 37 min ago
Please, don’t email a widow with sympathy and then just disappear. There is no timetable for us moving on.
Categories: Local News

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