At Bat Flips and Nerds we appreciate that not all baseball fans salivate over every minute scrap of news on a daily [hourly?] basis. So for more normal baseball fans, here are a few of the main January storylines.
Although it happened in broad daylight, no one called the police when the New York Mets mugged the Cleveland Indians. The Mets acquired their future face of the franchise, Francisco Lindor, in an audacious win-now move. Spluttering infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario, plus a couple of prospects went in the opposite direction. Not content with that, the New York bullies got Cleveland to throw in a free cookie – that’s the last time I use that line, honest – with ace pitcher Carlos Carrasco being sent to the Big Apple in the same deal.
In the spirit of throwing in a little something extra to sweeten the deal, the St Louis Cardinals managed to get the Colorado Rockies to add $50 million to oil the cogs of the Nolan Arenado deal. So as it stands, the Rockies send one of the best hitters of the last five years plus $50 million, and in return the Rockies get to continue their spiral into oblivion.
The Phillies re-signed J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius while adding Matt Moore, Ivan Nova and Archie Bradley. The lack of ambition refusing to strengthen the 2020 roster suggests they will not improve on last season’s finish of three games behind the Miami Marlins.
In the most unsurprising move of the month, the New York Yankees agreed to a six-year, $90 million deal with DJ LeMahieu. It wasn’t the $100 million I thought he deserved, but at least it was an improvement on the predicted $68 million.
After being the runner up in the bidding for several players, the Blue Jays finally landed a superstar. Outfielder George Springer signed a six-year deal and helped ensure Toronto will remain one of the neutrals’ favoured teams to watch.
For a short while, it appeared that Springer was to be joined by his former Astros teammate Michael Brantley. However, the intel was wrong and the Astros re-signed Dr Smooth to a two-year deal.
I missed the announcement, but it seems that the NL Central is just a two-team division now. To boost their chances over the Minnesota Twins, the Chicago White Sox secured the services of the best relief pitcher on the market, by signing Liam Hendriks for the next four years.
I like pitcher Steven Brault (see below), but not enough to be happy seeing him spearhead a Major League rotation, but that is the situation in Pittsburgh after the Pirates traded Jameson Taillon to the Yankees and Joe Musgrove to the Padres.
Good news for Pirates fans is that their roster payroll is now below $10 million [verification needed].
In an A’s/Rays-style move, the Cubs opted against signing Kyle Schwarber and instead signed a Kyle Schwarber-copy, Joc Pederson to save around $1 million in salary. Every little helps … when you’re a franchise worth over $3 billion.
Considering he hasn’t pitched properly since 2018, it was a pleasant surprise to see the Yankees sign Corey Kluber for an $11 million, one-year deal. I like Kluber, but it will feel unclean cheering on the Evil Empire in his starts.
Many of the prospects lists came out this month and Wander Franco was the unanimous No.1. It’s possible the last Rays player to be ranked No.1 was Matt Moore (mentioned above signing a deal with the Phillies).
Say what you will about MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, but the guy made two fantastic, and I mean fantastic, signings this month.
Ken Griffey Jr. is now a special adviser with “a special emphasis on baseball operations and youth baseball development, particularly regarding improving diversity at amateur levels of the game.”
You will have to search hard to find a legitimate opinion against an expanded role for “the Kid.”
The second high-profile name to join Manfred’s dream team is former Red Sox and Cubs saviour, Theo Epstein. He will act as a consultant for Manfred working with “baseball analytics experts … to determine the likely effects of various contemplated rules changes.”
Disgraced, former Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is looking to buy a Mexican football team. Apparently, Mexican teams often concede goals direct from free kicks … because they won’t build a wall.
Talking of disgraced General Managers, the Mets sacked Jared Porter. His position was untenable after the revelation of unsolicited attention towards a female reporter culminating with a picture of an erect naked penis [I’m pretty sure that is the first I have ever typed those words]. Despite their protestations of ignorance, it seems improbable that the most senior Mets didn’t know about his background before the appointment.
With the exception of the Addison Russell situation, I’ve always had time for Joe Maddon. I like the Los Angeles Angels’ manager just a little bit more after hearing him on Halfway around the Halo, the podcast by British-based Angels fans Nick and Dave. Great work by the guys to secure such a high-profile guest.
In the first day of international free agent signing, the Chicago White Sox added probably the best player: Yoelqui Cespedes, half-brother of Yoenis. Something good is definitely brewing on the South Side of Chicago.
In a rare occurrence, no-one was elected into the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens had HOF-worthy careers, but the PED-stigma lingers. Curt Schilling received the most votes but was still 16 short. If you value your sanity, don’t scroll through his Twitter timeline like I did. What a strange, strange chap.
With the now-common furore over the Hall of Fame and attention-seeking voters submitting blank ballots or declining from participating, it’s easy to forget the importance of the institution when attached to certain players’ names and reputations.Embed from Getty Images
This month we lost legendary Hall of Famer, Henry “Hank” Aaron. His 755 home runs is an iconic number in baseball, and a record that stood until Barry Bonds surpassed it as a HGH/testosterone-boosted 43-year-old in 2007. Aaron’s record of 2297 RBI remains, although Albert Pujols is only 197 behind. After 21 seasons with the Braves (12 with the Milwaukee Braves and nine with the Atlanta Braves), Aaron is undoubtedly one of the greatest baseball players of all time.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali once called Aaron “The only man I idolise more than myself. ”
I encourage you to read Joe Polanski’s article in The Athletic, although it was shocking to see the hatred-riddled letters Aaron received while closing in on the home run record of White American Icon, Babe Ruth.