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New Mission baseball coach Moe Gomez needed all of one practice to realize he had a gem in shortstop Alex Fernandez.

The ball sounded differently off his bat. The defensive instincts at shortstop are things he hadn’t seen in his 20 years of coaching in the Boston City League.

“He just had it all,” Gomez said. “Everything he does on the field comes naturally to him. He’s got talents and instincts you can not teach. We put him in there as a freshman and he’s started for us all four years.”

Fernandez arrived in Boston from the baseball hotbed of Santo Domingo four years ago. A fan of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano growing up, Fernandez understood the reasons for leaving his native land.

“There was more opportunities for me here,” the soft-spoken Fernandez said. “It was tough coming here and not being able to speak any English, but the opportunity was too good to pass up.”

At 6-foot-1 and a compact 230 pounds, Fernandez figures to be a third baseman at the next level (UMass-Lowell), but Gomez has no qualms about playing him at shortstop.

“For us, he has to play shortstop,” said Gomez, whose team is 10-1 on the season. “He can make all the plays there because of his natural ability.”

One area where Fernandez has improved is his power. The batting average has always been there (Fernandez is hitting .475), but now he’s hitting with power. Fernandez has belted three home runs, one of them coming last week when his blast defeated Charlestown.

“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Fernandez said. “But as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going. It just felt good coming off the bat.”

Coaching with a heavy heart

Courtney Sigsbury has coached softball at Woburn for the past 17 seasons and enjoyed every minute of it.

That being said, Sigsbury was about to put it all aside when her father, legendary Woburn football Rocky Nelson, was first diagnosed with cancer last season. The disease took his life in December.

“I was all set to take a leave of absence to be there for him.” Sigsbury said. “But when we knew it was getting worse, he sat me down and told me that I had to coach because coaching was what I did.”

Sigsbury did follow her father’s advice, though she admitted it was very difficult heading to the softball field and not seeing her father there. Adding to the pain was the fact that she was dealing with an extremely young team, many of them she hadn’t coached before.

“It was really tough,” Sigsbury said. “But I fell head over heels in love with this group of kids, they’ve been great. All the kids have cleats with my dad’s name on them and before the first game, they came up to me and gave me flowers. Julia Taylor told me that they knew how difficult it was going to be without dad and that they would be there for me. I was blown away.”

Woburn has had its highs and lows, not surprising given the tough schedule. While the Tanners managed to get out of the first half with a 6-4 mark, Sigsbury has never judged her teams by wins and losses, something she learned from her father.

“Dad would always tell me that the wins and losses would take care of themselves,” Sigsbury said. “What I have always tried to do was treat the players like dad did. He treated every kid the same and developed so many great relationships with them and that’s something I’ve tried to emulate.”

Depth pays dividends

Dedham softball coach Mike Nosky would love to pencil in the same nine starters on a daily basis, but he has the luxury of dipping into reserves when needed. That approach has played a large part in his team’s 8-2 start to the season.

“This is the deepest team I’ve ever coached,” said Nosky, who has coached for the past nine seasons at Mount Alvernia and Dedham. “You’re going to have injuries and other things, so I have no issues about using anyone and there really isn’t much of a dropoff.”

That approach has worked well on the mound as senior Molly Egan and sophomore Kassidy Hickey have shared the pitching duties. The duo have played a key part in the team’s current six-game winning streak.

“We’ve basically rotated them by feel,” Nosky said. “We’ll look at how they pitched against a certain team last year, how they’ve pitched in practice and things like that. I think the competition has made both of them better.”

When Hickey doesn’t pitch, she plays first base and has been one of the team’s top hitters, batting .571 in the third spot in the lineup. Leadoff batter Gianna Sciarappa is hitting .517 with a pair of home runs, while Julia Salemy has rotated between the five and six spot in the lineup and crushed the ball at a .542 clip.

While Nosky is happy with his team’s progress, he knows that there is a lot of softball remaining. He points to the ever-competitive Tri-Valley League as a reason why his team can’t afford to be complacent.

“This is a really good league,” said Nosky, who came over to Dedham three years ago. “You look at this league and 10 of teams are solid, so it’s a very deep and solid league. Every game is a dogfight.”

Odds and ends

The annual High School Softball Rivalry Saturday will be contested next Saturday at UMass-Dartmouth. The doubleheader features four teams currently ranked in the Boston Herald Top 25.

The opener at 11 a.m. pits South Coast Conference rivals Fairhaven and Greater New Bedford. The second game features nonleague rivals Bridgewater-Raynham and Silver Lake, and first pitch is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Norwood baseball coach Kevin Igoe earned his 100th career win last Monday as the Mustangs defeated Medway, 4-3. Igoe, a former standout at Xaverian, has coached at Norwood since 2012 and led them to a Division 1 state title in 2015.

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. and STAMFORD, Conn. — Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) today announced it has selected Octagon, the leading international sports marketing and media agency, to develop a long-term content, media and distribution strategy for the organization.

The three-phase partnership includes conducting in-depth digital fan research and current digital platform analysis, developing a media content strategy and leading a targeted media rights distribution strategy. With the first two phases complete, MiLB and Octagon are now focused on approaching the marketplace to identify, secure and enhance new media distribution opportunities.

“The media landscape is evolving quickly. Content rules the day and serves as the hook to current and next-generation fans,” said David Wright, chief marketing and commercial officer of Minor League Baseball. “We are committed to staying ahead of the content curve and investing in the necessary resources to best position MiLB to drive meaningful fan engagement and overall growth in a hyper-competitive space.”

En Español

“There is no U.S. sports property comparable to Minor League Baseball. With more than 6,700 games and 16,000 hours of live content annually available to fans, MiLB’s reach and live content breadth is in a league of its own,” said Daniel Cohen, Octagon SVP, Global Media Rights Consulting Division. “We look forward to engaging with new media and technologies, to push the envelope on distribution and consumption that connects the next generation of fans with the stars of tomorrow playing in Minor League Baseball.”

“Our fans are the lifeblood of our organization, and we must reach them both in and outside of the ballpark in ways that enrich their experience, amplify memorable moments and capture MiLB’s unique spirit,” said Katie Davison, MiLB’s senior vice president of digital strategy & business development. “Our vast network of teams, athletes and fans gives us immense storytelling potential, and we’re certain Octagon can help us bring these stories to life for fans and new audiences alike.”

With a focus on technology, diversity and inclusion, and community impact, MiLB has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years across key business areas, including digital consumption, licensed merchandise sales, ballpark attendance and strategic national partnerships.

A continued commitment to drive deeper engagement with next-generation fans, coupled with MiLB’s vast national footprint (covering 81% of the U.S. population) and compelling storylines, MiLB is uniquely positioned for growth as it considers the changing patterns of how fans consume media.

Some of Minor League Baseball’s areas of recent advancement include:

• Digital Technology

◦ Activating a network of 174 websites and 135+ online stores, and streaming nearly 6,700 games annually on MiLB.TV representing more than 16,000 hours of live content
◦ Relaunching a new e-commerce platform
◦ Building the largest in-venue digitally connected network in sports and entertainment with ISM Connect who is investing more than $10 million across 50 MiLB ballparks
◦ First sports property to provide fans with a bilingual chat bot via Satisfi Labs for Copa de la Diversión

• Ballpark Attendance and Licensed Merchandise Sales

◦ A nearly 3% increase in overall attendance in 2019 vs. 2018
◦ A record in overall licensed merchandise sales of nearly $74 million across all 160 teams in 2018

• Diversity and Inclusion

◦ Creating and maintaining the highly-successful Copa de la Diversión initiative to authentically engage with U.S. Hispanic fans and communities (92 teams in 2020)
◦ Building the largest LGBTQ+ initiative in sports and entertainment with MiLB Pride (71 teams in 2019)

• Strategic National Partnerships

◦ Launching a credit card partnership with Allegiant, the first of its kind between a sports property and airline
◦ Roster of prominent multi-year national partnerships including Allegiant, Applegate, BUSH’S Beans®, ECHO Incorporated, Guardian Protection and Tickets.com, among others

For more information about Minor League Baseball, visit MiLB.com.

About Minor League Baseball

Minor League Baseball is the governing body for all professional baseball teams in the United States, Canada, and the Dominican Republic that are affiliated with Major League Baseball® clubs through their farm systems. In 2019, Minor League Baseball attracted over 41.5 million fans to its ballparks to see baseball’s future stars and experience affordable family-friendly entertainment that has been a staple of Minor League Baseball since 1901. For more information, visit www.MiLB.com. Follow Minor League Baseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

About Octagon Media Rights Consulting

A division of Octagon Worldwide, Octagon’s media rights consulting and advisory services leverage the strength and size of Octagon’s proprietary data, research, analytics, and technology, to provide strategic consultation to major domestic and international rights holders, as well as teams, broadcasters, emerging distribution platforms, and the sports investment community. Octagon’s data-based, end-to-end solution, helps clients evaluate the ever-changing landscape of content opportunities, and optimize value across linear TV, digital and OTT platforms.

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Here we go again. At last year’s trade deadline, I authored a post “No deGrom, No Thor, No Mets”. During the current trade deadline, we hear about how the Yankees are interested once again in the Mets’ Noah “Thor” Syndergaard as well as Zack Wheeler (currently on the IL).

The Mets thought they had a very good offseason when they acquired Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners and signed Jacob deGrom to a long-term contract. But, alas, the Mets season turned into another disaster. So, the Thor rumors resurfaced and new rumors started for Wheeler and Diaz.

Which means that every digital, print, television, radio, and internet outlet is spinning different trade scenarios between the Mets and every contender, with an emphasis on the Yankees in the local media.

The same discussions from last year have been regurgitated like a Fenway frank. “Is it possible for the Yankees and Mets to make a deal to get one of the Mets’ two big guns?” With “never say never” in mind, there is no way the Mets are going to trade Thor to the Yankees. They would probably part with Wheeler, but there’s still that fear he could finally stay healthy and keep it all together and become a star.

And, the Yankees rotation is already full of inconsistent/injury prone Wheeler types.

And, there is no way the Yankees are going to deal Clint Frazier or top prospects like Deivi Garcia and Estevan Florial to the Mets. Can you imagine Florial winning a batting title or Garcia regularly striking out 200 hitters in a Mets’ uniform? Whichever pitcher the Yankees acquired from the Mets would have to go 25-4 every year with a 1.99 ERA for the Yankees fanbase not to be outraged.

Plus, Thor would have to cut his hair and become Thor Ragnorak. And, you all saw how badly that worked out for Asgardians. So this year it’s “No Thor, No Wheeler, No Mets”.
No Mets

Let me remind you again of the deals that the Yankees and Mets have made in the past. Trades involving players like David Justice, Robin Ventura, Rafael Santana, Felix Heredia, and Tucker Ashford. There’s no Thor in there.

Whereas Justice and Ventura had great Major League careers, they were on the decline when the two teams swapped the former All-Stars. Santana and Heredia were somewhat serviceable ballplayers that were also at the tail end of their time on the diamond, and Ashford made it to the bigs, but his career was short-lived.

Once again, here’s a look at all of the deals the Yankees and Mets have made with each other:

2018
Yankees receive: L.J. Mazzilli (Lee’s son)/Mets receive: Kendall Coleman
The 27-year old Mazzilli was selected in the 9th round of the 2012 draft by the Mets. He put up decent numbers in his first couple of season in the minors but his output been on the decline over the last four seasons. A call-up to the Majors is very unlikely.

Coleman was the Yankees 11th round draft choice in 2013. He owns a .610 career OPS in the minor leagues.

2014
Yankees receive: Gonzalez Germen /Mets receive: Cash considerations
Germen signed with the Mets as a 20-year-old free agent in 2007. Six years later, he made it to the Major Leagues and appeared in 54 games over two seasons. In December 2014, the Yankees acquired him for cash considerations. A month and a day later, the Yankees sold him to the Texas Rangers. Three days after that, the Chicago Cubs grabbed him off waivers.

Germen made six appearances for the Cubs before the Colorado Rockies picked him up off waivers in July. He made 69 appearances from 2015-2016 and was terrible. Germen went to Japan for the 2017 season and then signed with the Chicago White Sox in January 2018. He was released two months later.
The George Era

2004
Yankees receive: Mike Stanton/Mets receive: Felix Heredia
Stanton was a member of the 1998-2000 World Series champion Yankees. During his time in Pinstripes (1997-2002), he was one of the best lefty relievers in the game. But after pitching to an ERA over 7.00 in 28 games, the Yankees released him in July 2005. He played for four more organizations and played in 19 seasons before making his last Major League appearance in 2007.

Heredia was a journeyman reliever that the Yankees grabbed off waivers in August 2003 and kept him for the following season. But the left-hander recorded a 6.28 ERA with the Yankees in 2004 and they shipped him across town in December. He threw just three games for the Mets in 2005 and then was out of Major League Baseball.

Yankees receive: Armando Benitez /Mets receive: Jason Anderson, Anderson Garcia, Ryan Bicondoa
I don’t think you will find any Yankees fan that was happy about the acquisition of Benitez for three pitchers. For that matter, no one would have been happy had they gotten him for a nickel. Benitez made nine appearances, and though his numbers look good overall, he walked six hitters in nine-plus innings.

20 days after they acquired Benitez, the Yankees shipped him to Seattle and brought back Jeff Nelson. As for the players traded to the Mets, Anderson appeared in just six games for the Mets and 10 games for the rest of his Major League career (his last three games were back with the Yankees). Garcia made one relief appearance for the Phillies in 2007 and Bicondoa never made it to the Major Leagues. He started or relieved 224 games before calling it quits after the 2012 season.

2001
Yankees receive: Robin Ventura /Mets receive: David Justice
If this trade transpired in the mid-1990’s, it would have been considered a major deal. But, when the two teams swapped the two veterans, most fans yawned.

Ventura was an All-Star in his first season in the Bronx and finished 2002 with a .826 OPS, 27 HR, and 93 RBI. At the trade deadline one year later, they dealt him to the Dodgers for Scott Proctor and Bubba Crosby. He remained with the Dodgers for one more season and retired after the 2004 campaign.

Justice never played for the Mets. They traded him to Oakland (for Mark Guthrie and Tyler Yates) one week after the trade with the Yankees. He recorded a .785 OPS in 118 games for the A’s, and retired after the season.

1993
Yankees receive: Frank Tanana /Mets receive: Kenny Greer

Together, Tanana once packed an overpowering 1-2 punch along with Nolan Ryan when they were members of the California Angels. Injuries took away Tanana’s dynamite fastball, but he reinvented himself and carved out a 21-year career. The Yankees picked him up during the September 1993 waiver trading period. At the time of the trade, the Yankees trailed the first-place Blue Jays by three games. Tanana made three starts in what would turn out to be the final games of his career.

Greer, a 26-year old right-hander made his Major League debut for the Mets in late September. He spent the 1994 season in the minor leagues before signing in the off-season with the Giants. He pitched in eight games for the 1995 Giants and then spent the last two years of his career in Triple-A and Double-A.

1993
Yankees receive: Tim Burke /Mets receive: Lee Guetterman

Prior to joining the Mets in mid-June 1991, Burke spent six-plus seasons as a serviceable reliever for the Montreal Expos. He pitched very well for the Mets in the second half of the season but wore out his welcome with an awful 1992 season.

Guetterman, a lefty, was picked up by the Yankees in a 1987 trade with the Mariners. He provided effective relief for four seasons, but then was as bad if not worse than Burke in ’92. The trade might have been labeled a “Sanford and Son junkyard deal”. Guetterman threw 43-1/3 innings for the Mets and produced pedestrian numbers. He finished out his career in 1996, having spent time in the Padres and Cardinals organizations before returning to the Mariners for two seasons.

1989
Yankees receive: Marcus Lawton /Mets receive: Scott Nielsen

Lawton made his Major League debut and played in the only 14 games of his Major League career after the transaction. He played with three other organizations after his short stint with the Yankees and was out of baseball after the 1992 season.

Nielsen was a “revolving door” pitcher. The Mariners traded him to the Yankees in 1984. In January 1987, the Yankees traded him to the White Sox, only to reacquire him in November. He never played a game in the Majors for the Mets or any other team after the deal was made.

1987
Yankees receive: Rafael Santana and Victor Garcia /Mets receive: Steve Frey, Phil Lombardi, and Darren Reed

Santana played 148 games at shortstop for the Yankees in 1988 and was terrible both with the bat and glove. He recorded a .583 OPS that included a .294 slugging percentage. His 22 errors, the second-worst total of his career, didn’t make him a fan favorite either. Santana, who spent the first six years of his career in the Yankees’ farm system, missed the 1989 season with an elbow injury. He played in seven games for the 1990 Indians but was released in April, ending his career.

Garcia never made it to the Major Leagues and only played five games above Double-A in the minors.

The Mets traded Frey to Montreal in 1989 and he spent eight seasons as a pretty good reliever for five organizations. Lombardi spent all of 1988 and most of the 1989 season in the minors. He appeared in 18 games for the Mets in 1989 and retired after the season.

Reed made his Major League debut with the Mets in 1990 but didn’t impress. In April 1981 the Mets traded him to the Expos but he missed the season due to an injury. He played 56 games for the Expos and Twins in 1992 but after playing in Mexico and for other organizations he retired at the end of 1996.

1983
Yankees receive: Steve Ray and Felix Perdomo/Mets receive: Tucker Ashford

Neither Ray nor Perdomo ever made it to the Majors.

Ashford had 178 Major League games under his belt when the trade was made. The utility infielder played 35 games, including one at catcher, in his only season with the Mets. His last trip to the Majors was for nine games with the Royals in 1984.

1980
Yankees receive: Marshall Brant/Mets receive: Cash considerations

The 6’5″ first baseman had two cups of coffee in the Majors: three games for the Yankees in 1980 and five games for the 1983 A’s.

1977
Yankees receive: Roy Staiger /Mets receive: Sergio Ferrer

Staiger played in 148 games for the Mets but only got into four games for the Yankees in 1979. He spent the 1980 season in the minors to round out his career.

Ferrer never played for the Yankees but played 56 games with the Twins. His 69 games played for the Mets over a two-year span finished his Major League playing career. He spent some time in the Reds’ farm system and one year in the Mexican League before retiring after the 1982 season.
Pre-Steinbrenner moves

A three-team trade took place in 1972 with the Expos involved in it, but it doesn’t appear the Yankees receiving anything outside of cash. And, that cannot be confirmed via research. The Yankees sent Tommie Sheppard to the Expos and Montreal sent Dave McDonald to the Mets.

1967
Yankees receive: Cash considerations/Mets receive: Hal Reniff

Reniff spent over six seasons as a solid reliever in the Bronx and participated in two World Series. After a June deal sent him to the Mets, Reniff made the last 29 relief appearances of his career.

1966
Yankees receive: Cash considerations/Mets receive: Bob Friend

Friend was nearing the end of a 15-year Major League career, the majority of which was with Pittsburgh. He was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates and once won 22 games. The Yankees traded for him prior to the 1966 season, but flipped him to the Mets in June. With the Mets, Friend made eight starts and came out of the bullpen four times in his final Major League stint.

There you have it. Outside of one very good year from Ventura, every single trade was underwhelming.

Hopefully, we don’t have to do this again next year, but for now, remember… “No Thor, No Wheeler, No Mets”.

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There’s been a fair bit of discussion about national broadcasters who also happen to work for teams over the past few years, with Alex Rodriguez (ESPN/Fox/Yankees), Jessica Mendoza (ESPN/Mets), Al Leiter (MLB Network/Mets), and David Ross (ESPN/Cubs) all drawing some attention there. But with Rodriguez ending his role as a paid advisor with the Yankees last winter (although that wasn’t reported until this summer), with Ross leaving ESPN to take over as the Cubs’ manager, and with Leiter in a less prominent role than Mendoza’s Sunday Night Baseball work, that means much of the focus of this debate is currently on Mendoza. And a new article from Marc Carig of The Athletic has some further twists to the plot, including that the Dodgers barred Mendoza from some clubhouse access during this year’s National League Division Series. Carig’s article includes two prominent quotes that he tweeted out:

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The positions of both sides here are somewhat understandable. In the case of what specifically happened during the NLDS, Friedman told Carig that the Dodgers had had a policy in place barring broadcasters who also have roles with teams from their clubhouse all season, and that it had previously been applied with both Mendoza and Ross. Mendoza told Carig that she hadn’t been ejected from Dodgers’ clubhouse later in the year (when she walked through en route to talk to manager Dave Roberts), and so she thought the policy had changed. But the larger importance of the NLDS issue is in how it illustrates the divide between the sides.

From Friedman’s side, this doesn’t seem like unfounded paranoia. There’s obviously value to information in any sport, and that’s certainly true in a sport that’s still grappling with the ongoing investigation into the Houston Astros’ alleged electronically-aided sign-stealing. And Carig’s article illustrates that both Friedman and other executives have some worries about what information someone with broadcaster-level access (which tends to even go beyond traditional media access) might be able to get, and that Friedman thinks even little drabs of information might be helpful:

Privately, other executives within the game have expressed fears of broadcasters coming across sensitive information that could be used in their work for teams. It wouldn’t be difficult, for example, for players to reveal nuggets of information while being interviewed by a media member in the clubhouse, without realizing that the interviewer is also drawing a paycheck from a rival big-league team.

“I think there are a lot of questions,” Friedman said. “Players feel comfortable in that space to be able to answer questions about how they’re feeling, what they’re working on. I think there’s a lot that you can potentially get. Now, (not) every player would give you exactly what you’re looking for. But if it’s north of zero, then it really doesn’t make sense.”

It’s notable that Mets’ general manager Brodie Van Wagenen has repeatedly emphasized (including in Carig’s article) that Mendoza is involved in decisions across their organization, especially when it comes to decisions on acquiring talent through trades or free agency. So it doesn’t seem completely unreasonable to think that she would have the ability to use sensitive information for team purposes if she obtained it. But there are a couple of caveats to that.

For one, these clubhouse conversations are presumably about gathering material that can be used on the air (or in print or digitally for other reporters in the clubhouse). As soon as that information is mentioned on a broadcast or in an article, it’s now available to all other teams and is no longer insider information. If the issue’s with players revealing things to the media that the team doesn’t want revealed, that’s something that goes beyond Mendoza and other broadcasters who happen to work for teams, and that’s something that the team would have to address with its players. So if Mendoza (or Leiter) obtained all of this information fairly and then promptly revealed every last bit of it on the air, that wouldn’t give the Mets any advantage relative to MLB’s other teams.

The real inside information issue would be if a team-employed broadcaster was able to somehow get information that no one else got, then not mention it on the air and only pass it on to the team they work for. And that would become even a bigger problem if that broadcaster was asking questions not for the purposes of on-air comments, but for the purposes of finding what they could out about a particular player or situation that they could then pass to their own team. And while there’s no proof that Mendoza or any of these team-employed broadcasters have ever done that or would ever do that, it’s possible to see where the concerns from Friedman and the other executives come from; they’re being asked to provide media access (a theoretically-neutral role) for someone who’s specifically paid by an opposing team.

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Of course, Van Wagenen and Mendoza both downplay what the information in question is here. Van Wagenen told Carig “Frankly, I don’t think anyone really gives the media behind-the-scenes access and proprietary information anyway,” and both told Carig it was clear that the Mets’ hiring of her was not as a spy. And there’s some merit to that position, especially when it comes to general clubhouse interviews (rather than above-and-beyond broadcast team access); those usually aren’t about super-secret information, as the vast majority of them are intended for publication, and they’re conducted in a setting where there are plenty of media around (so it’s not a great place for an off-the-record conversation). And if players are revealing things that shouldn’t be made public, that’s on the players and the team more than the media.

It’s also understandable why Mendoza isn’t thrilled about restrictions on her access from certain teams, and why she wants there to be a national policy from MLB. Having that access curtailed is unfortunate for her, and it’s also unfortunate for ESPN and for ESPN’s viewers. The idea behind broadcaster access isn’t about just letting the broadcasters learn things; it’s about them getting information they can then share with the audience. And limiting that carries problems. But it’s also understandable why Friedman and others have some worries that access potentially could be used to gain extra insight for a competing team, especially when it comes to the above-and-beyond broadcast level of access.

Overall, this seems like a thorny situation with no particular solution. MLB certainly could force all their teams to offer full access to team-employed broadcasters, but that’s not going to remove the worries from the executives who are concerned about this. Maybe there’s something where concerned teams could assign staffers to sit in on all interviews conducted with team-employed broadcasters to keep an eye on what’s being discussed, which could even lead to publicizing any information that’s gained but then not mentioned on air themselves (making it available to all the teams, not just the broadcaster’s team). But that’s a whole lot of effort to go to, and the teams don’t necessarily want that info out there at all.

Maybe this just leads to concerned teams imposing further restrictions on what information their players share with media, which then has a negative effect on the whole media landscape. Or maybe the status quo persists where team-employed broadcasters gain access to some teams, but not to others. At any rate, the debate’s likely to continue as long as we have broadcasters working for teams on the side. And with Rodriguez and Ross giving up their high-level dual roles, Mendoza will be even more at the center of it.

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NEW YORK (AP) – Milwaukee closer Josh Hader just made the cutoff for salary arbitration eligibility with 2 years, 115 days of major league service.

Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias also is on the list of 23 so-called Super 2s with 2 years, 117 days. The cutoff was down significantly from 2 years, 134 days last offseason.

Miami left-hander Jarlin Garcia just missed with 2 years, 114 days, and Arizona right-hander Luke Weaver had 2 years, 112 days.

The top 22% of players by service time with at least two years but less than three are eligible for arbitration as long as they had at least 86 days of service this year. They join the older group of 3- to 6-year players.

Players and teams are scheduled to exchange proposed salaries on Jan. 10, and hearings for those lacking agreements will be scheduled for Feb. 3 to 21 in Phoenix.

The New York Yankees have four Super 2s: right-handers Luis Cessa and Jonathan Holder, left-hander Jordan Montgomery and third baseman Gio Urshela.

Urias is joined by Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger and Hader by Brewers left-hander Brent Suter.

Other teams with two eligible Super 2 players include Colorado (left-hander Kyle Freeland and outfielder David Dahl), Tampa Bay (right-hander Tyler Glasnow and shortstop Daniel Robertson), the Los Angeles Angels (right-handers Kenyan Middleton and Noe Ramirez) and San Diego (outfielder Hunter Renfroe and right-hander Dinelson Lamet).

Also eligible are Atlanta infielder Johan Camargo, Oakland right-hander Jharel Cotton, Detroit outfielder Jacoby Jones, Toronto right-hander Derek Law, San Francisco left-hander Wandy Peralta, Miami outfielder JT Riddle and Chicago Cubs left-hander Kyle Ryan.

Milwaukee first baseman/outfielder Tyler Austin, Texas left-hander Jesse Biddle, Cleveland right-hander A.J. Cole and Yankees right-hander David Hale would have been eligible but were dropped from 40-man rosters.

St. Louis shortstop Paul DeJong would have been eligible but will earn $1.5 million as part of a $26 million, six-year contract.

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The Miami Marlins bullpen compiled a team ERA of 4.97 and a WHIP of 1.45 last season, and while those numbers are unappealing, the group still ranked as the 25th-best bullpen in baseball. The Marlins also ranked fourth-to-last in save opportunities while only converting on 55% of their 49 chances. No one on the current roster had more than eight saves and holds combined last season, so the team may look to bring in some cheap outside closing experience. There has been some buzz around a potential Sergio Romo reunion, but the market for him should be a lot stronger this offseason.

Once-hyped relievers Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero find themselves on the outside looking in heading into 2020, as both are potential non-tender candidates. The biggest impact on this bullpen may well come from a member of the starting rotation entering the late-inning mix, maybe someone like Elieser Hernandez, whose stuff would certainly play up as a short reliever. As far as who will be the team’s Opening Day closer, it seems like many options are on the table, but assuming the pieces stay the same, this is a bullpen to fade in most 2020 fantasy drafts.

Marlins Projected Bullpen
Closer Setup Setup Middle Middle Middle
Jose Urena Drew Steckenrider Ryne Stanek Jeff Brigham Jarlin Garcia Austin Brice

Closer – Jose Urena

The Marlins’ “incumbent” closer, Jose Urena could just as easily find himself in the rotation or with a new team by the start of next season, but with a lack of alternatives, it makes sense for the team to take a longer look at him in the bullpen. Urena came off a long IL stint in September, and while he didn’t exactly prove to be closer material in his short stint, his stuff makes him worthy of a longer look. In 10 relief innings over the season’s final month, Urena allowed 10 earned runs on 14 hits, blowing two out of five save opportunities in the process. Yet there were some positives, as he was able to get his fastball velocity to sit around 98 mph in the role, and his 16.4% swinging-strike rate in September is above-average as far as closers go.

Urena’s problems may lie in his consistent attacking of the strike zone despite having stuff that gets hitters to chase, as shown by his 41.7% O-swing in September, which ranked 13th-highest amongst 200 qualified relievers. No one will argue against his stuff, and with a little bit of tweaking to his approach, Urena could surprise us all as a Jordan Hicks-lite reliever. That would certainly be worth the arbitration cost, especially considering the potential trade value he could bring the team down the road.

Setup – Drew Steckenrider

2019 was a lost year for Drew Steckenrider, who this past winter was considered the favorite for the closer role before losing out to Romo. Steckenrider was only able to manage 14.1 innings this past season due to an elbow injury, seeing a career-low K% (24.1%) and a career-high ERA (6.28) to go with an ugly 7.96 FIP. Despite this, Steckenrider’s still worthy of a bullpen spot to start 2020, assuming he’s healthy.

Although the small sample size may be a bit deceiving, it was interesting to see Steckenrider’s fastball usage drop 14 percentage points from 2018, and he also completely scrapped his cutter, which he threw just under 16% of the time that season. The extra 30+ percentage points were added to his slider usage, which at 38% was far and away a career high and may be related to his elbow issues. That pitch, however, was very effective for Steckenrider in 2019, as he had a 50% K rate with it and just a .357 OPS against over 90 sliders thrown. Steckenrider will be 29 to start next season, and it’s fair to wonder if he will ever hint at his 2017 upside ever again. But given the alternatives in Miami, look for him to begin the year in a high-leverage role.

Setup – Ryne Stanek

After being dealt to Miami at the trade deadline along with Jesus Sanchez for Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards, Ryne Stanek was believed to be the Marlins’ answer to their closer opening, but things just didn’t quite go as planned. Stanek possesses the best pure stuff of anyone in that bullpen, but command issues, potentially related to lingering injuries, plagued him mightily over the second half of last season. Stanek’s K:BB ratio was 54:19 over 49.2 first-half innings, which dropped drastically to 35:20 over his 27.1 second-half innings.

With a full offseason to focus on working late in games, not just the first inning, Stanek and his strong three-pitch mix—a 98+ mph fastball, 50+% K-rate splitter, and 40+% whiff-rate slider—could very well find themselves in the ninth inning of games, or at the very least, setting up whomever closes.

Middle – Jeff Brigham

Despite cruising to the tune of a 1.50 ERA and 0.71 WHIP through 24 innings at Triple-A, Jeff Brigham pitched 38.1 MLB innings that looked pedestrian, at least on paper. While Brigham’s 4.46 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 15.5 K-BB% aren’t anything to get excited about, he was able to add some velocity this season, as his fastball sat around 97 mph and his slider was nearly unhittable with a .173 wOBA against over 430 thrown. Overall, 2019 was a step forward for the soon-to-be 28-year-old, and following his great September (1.69 ERA), I’d expect Brigham not only to be a lock for the Marlins bullpen but also a candidate for saves early in the season.

Middle – Jarlin Garcia

Entering 2019, I doubt anyone would have pegged Jarlin Garcia as the man to lead the Marlins in ERA and WHIP for the season, but here we are. Garcia’s 3.02 ERA and 1.11 WHIP came with very little strikeout support, as the lefty finished with just an 18.9 K% and 8.8% swinging-strike rate. Typically called upon to get lefties out, Garcia happened to have slightly better splits against right-handed hitters, due to an above-average changeup, making him more than just a lefty specialist. While there’s not a lot to get excited about here, Garcia should be back in the Marlins bullpen to start 2020, and if all things break right, he may end up being a solid holds option.

Middle – Austin Brice

Austin Brice, who along with Luis Castillo was part of the Marlins’ trade package to land Dan Straily in 2017 (insert facepalm emoji here), found himself back in the Miami organization this past season and seemed to be turning a corner until a forearm strain derailed his second half. So let’s focus on the first half then, where Brice was able to post a 1.93 ERA over his first 37.1 innings after finishing the 2017 and 2018 seasons with 4.97 and 5.79 ERAs, respectively.

A big contributor to his success in 2019 was the use of his slider (or curveball, depending on who you ask), which saw a usage increase of 15 percentage points. Before his forearm injury, the spin rate on this pitch ranked 14th in all of baseball, right between stud SPs Walker Buehler and Gerrit Cole, and was in the top 4 percent in baseball. This sounds like the making of a potential closer, but his fastball/curveball combination was much more effective against right-handed hitters, as lefties were able to post a .786 OPS against him across 82 batters faced. There’s still a lot to like about Brice, especially as a right-handed specialist, but if he’s able to improve upon his fastball command and/or maybe he adds some more velocity, he may be the answer to the Marlins’ search for a closer.

Watch List

Kyle Keller, Jose Quijada, Jorge Guzman, Jordan Holloway

Kyle Keller only saw 10 games last year at the MLB level, the first of his career, but he has shown an ability to strike people out at the minor league level, having K rates of over 30% since 2016. He, along with lefty Jose Quijada, figures to see some action in the Marlins bullpen early on in 2020. Quijada needs to work on improving his breaking stuff to be more productive against left-handed hitters, but a 14.4% swinging-strike rate over his first 29.1 MLB innings makes the 23-year-old worth monitoring.

Two prospects, both of whom are already on the Marlins’ 40-man roster, could also find themselves working out of the bullpen next season. Jorge Guzman has an electric fastball (80-grade by MLB.com), but concerns about his command and secondary offerings have some scouts believing a move to the bullpen may be for the best. Drafted in 2014, Jordan Holloway has suffered injuries that have prevented him from reaching Double-A to this point, but the big right-hander has two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. But like Guzman, Holloway has had trouble commanding them for prolonged periods. With plenty of depth in the rotation, don’t be surprised to see Holloway and Guzman get a chance to crack the Marlins bullpen this spring.

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Over 1,600 players reached 50 innings pitched during the 2019 Minor League Baseball season, from Triple-A all the way down to the various Rookie ball circuits. Out of all of those pitchers, a Marlins prospect ranked sixth overall in terms of strikeout percentage—sixth—and you may not even know his name. That prospect is reliever Alex Vesia, a 2018 17th-round draft pick from NCAA Divison II Cal State East Bay.

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You will not find Vesia on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Marlins prospects list, but you will find him in the bullpen during the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Saturday.

The distinction is the latest chapter in a dominant 2019 for the left-hander. Vesia started the year at Single-A Clinton after getting his feet wet with the GCL Marlins and Batavia Muckdogs the previous summer. In 19 appearances, the 23-year-old went 1-2 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 51:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those stats earned him a promotion to High-A Jupiter on June 20, but that would actually turn out to be his worst “slump” all season.

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With the Hammerheads Vesia pitched 18 2⁄3 innings, allowing only one walk compared to 24 punch-outs. He picked up one save in two attempts, and finished with a 4-0 record and a 1.93 ERA. Going from strength to strength, Vesia was promoted again on August 1, and did not allow a single run for the rest of the season. Over 16 1⁄3 frames at Double-A Jacksonville he struck out 25 batters and produced a WHIP of 0.55. Overall, Vesia posted a 1.76 ERA over 66 2⁄3 innings across three levels during the regular season, along with a 38.2 K% and 13.50 K/9. Just in case that did not impress, he has struck out 11 batters over 7 1⁄3 scoreless innings in the AFL thus far.

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The Miami Marlins need to solidify who’s going to be their backup catcher in 2020.
Jorge Alfaro is the undisputed starter for the 2020 Miami Marlins at backstop, but being a catcher in the majors is physically demanding. A backup catcher is important in that they can step in when the starter goes down, or give the starter an off day now and then.

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For two seasons now, Bryan Holaday has been a very solid backup to Alfaro and J.T. Realmuto before him. Holaday was weak at the plate in 2018, with a .205/.261/.258 slashline, but more than made up for it by leading the National League with a 45 percent kill-rate on runners trying to steal.

This past season, Holaday only nabbed 20 percent, but his hitting was much improved over 43 games, to the tune of a .278/.344/.435 line. In 668 1/3 innings combined between the two seasons, he was guilty of one error and two passed balls. That’s incredible, if you didn’t know already.

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Also logging time at catcher for the 2019 Miami Marlins were Chad Wallach, Tyler Heineman, and Wilkin Castillo. Will one of these four fill the coveted number two catcher roster spot for the Marlins? Will they dig deeper into the existing system? Will they look outside for help through free agency? How about a trade? We’ll have to wait and see how things develop in Spring Training, but in the meantime, we can make a few guesses.

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In System
I went on about this at some length in an article a few days ago, here. The Crib notes version is this – J.D. Osborne is likely the best hitting catcher in the system, outside of Alfaro and the 2019 version of Holaday. Nick Fortes, Dustin Skelton, and Will Banfield all wait in the wings, with Banfield as the heir apparent to Alfaro in a few years. Down at the rookie level, Casey Combs and Cameron Barstad lurk, if one of the others don’t work out.

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As I’ve previously stated, I believe that Banfield is the answer to the long-term question behind the dish, and I think Skelton will shape into a fine backup in time. They won’t be ready for the 2020 season, so what about looking outside?

Livin life with no complaints pic.twitter.com/CfRPWbRycH

— Alex Vesia (@Alex_Vesia) September 28, 2019
Vesia may just be growing into a dominant closer on a currently closer-less team. While he was not often used in such a role in 2019, he displays all of the tools of a lock-down, late-inning specialist. He possesses a mid-90s fastball, has great control of the strike zone, and definitely owns a strikeout pitch. Only one of those things can be said about José Ureña, who posted a 9.00 ERA after being moved to the bullpen this year.

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All in all, the Marlins ‘pen is arguably the worst in MLB, the only one in the league that performed below replacement level in 2019, according to FanGraphs. The current talent level may be even lower than that suggests, moving forward without the services of Sergio Romo and Nick Anderson.

Continuing on this trajectory, Vesia is a potential major league call-up as early as next season. Easier said than done, though—fellow prospect Tommy Eveld looked to have similar promise after being acquired by trade from the Diamondbacks, but seemed to hit a wall (7.71 ERA) when he reached Triple-A and still hasn’t debuted at the highest level.

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In short, Alex Vesia is very, very good and could end up being one of the steals of the 2018 draft. The lefty should start to appear across the industry’s top prospect lists during the offseason. Look for Vesia to be seriously considered for a non-roster invite to 2020 Spring Training.