SSG Baseball – Nine Innings with Clifton Markle

A regular SSG Baseball feature I hope to provide will be a series of quick hits that I will call Nine Innings.  In it, I will touch on 9 things that caught my attention this week.  While they primarily will be baseball related there may be some other SSG sports news that creeps in.  So without further ado, here are today’s Nine Innings.

1- It was a busy week for the Cleveland Spiders with a pair of free agent signings to go along with their trade to acquire catcher Max Pentecost from Miami. The Spiders bolstered their shaky bullpen with a pair of veteran arms, investing nearly $20 million in 3 seasons of Cody Allen and two of Adam Ottavino. The 31 year old Allen returns to the team he spent the first 7 years of his career with following a one year hiatus in Detroit. Allen pitched in 62 games for the Tigers a year ago, going 0-2 with 5 saves and a 4.68 era.  Ottavino, 34, joins his fourth major league organization. He was 0-2 with 5 saves in 73 appearances for Toronto in 2019.

2- Speaking of milestones, Felix Hernandez, who just re-upped with the Mariners for 4 years, is approaching a couple of big numbers.  Hernandez is 11 victories shy of the 200 mark and needs 123 K’s to become just the 17th member of the 3000 strikeout club.

3- The Pirates have been active over the winter.   Gone are Josh’s,  Bell and Harrison thru trade while Gregory Polanco and Jay Bruce left as free agents.  Yonas Cespedes brings his 22 homers and .265 batting average from Miami to replace Polanco in left, as Polanco signed with the Marlins and will take Cespedes old spot.  Pitching was a concern last year and the Bucs are banking on Matt Harvey (10-8, 5.14), Carlos Carrasco (7-16, 7.17) and Dallas Keuchel (2-12, 5.07) all proving their 2019 numbers were a fluke and not the start of a downward trend.  The biggest addition Pittsburgh could hope for on the mound is a healthy Jameson Taillon, who was limited to 4 starts last year and missed the tail end of 2018 as well.

4- The Pirates are gambling big time on Matt Harvey.  Pittsburgh committed close to $150 million to him over five years if the pitcher does not opt out of his contract after 2022.  That is a lot of money for a smaller market team to tie up in a 30 year old coming off the worst season of his career.  Of course, had the righthander not struggled last season it would be hard to imagine the Mets dealing him.  Will be interesting to see how this one turns out.

5- You have to like the Reds additions in free agency.  Salvador Perez is a huge pickup behind the plate and Anthony Gose is a big step up defensively in center field from Aaron Hicks.  Sonny Grey had a down year last season and a 6 year deal at close to $20 million per might haunt the Reds down the road but if the Reds get a circa 2016-2017 Gray it will be a bargain.

6- Where is Matt Kemp going?   The 35 year old, who hit 40 homers and was NLCS MVP for the Phillies, is asking for money that precludes most teams from getting involved in the bidding and even some of those that could afford him don’t want to give up the compensation pick signing him would cost.  As a result, Kemp’s choices appear to be limited.  The White Sox are the rumour of the day and putting Kemp in their lineup – likely as the DH – would make them look like a Murders Row type of batting order.   Imagine facing Alvisail Garcia (43 HR), Kemp (40), Wilmer Flores (25), Ben Verlander (31) and Jake Peter (21) in succession.

7- The Milwaukee Brewers have the best farm system in baseball.  Not a surprise as it should be easy to acquire that kind of talent when you are consistently losing 90+ games as the Brewers have done each of the last 3 seasons.  We saw some of that young talent briefly last year as pitchers Jeremiah McGregor and Artie McCall both made their big league debuts.  Centerfielder Alfredo Ramos and catcher Blake Anderson are likely next in line as Brewers fans hope their team bottomed out with a dismal 54 win season in 2019 and are finally ready to begin their ascent.

8- Speaking of bottoming out.  Has there ever been a worse time to be a New York baseball fan?  Pick your poison, whether it’s the Yankees or Mets you support, there has been little to cheer about of late.  The Yankees have endured 4 straight last place finishes in the AL East and went 246-402 over that span.  The Mets have certainly not been that bad, and did get a one and done wildcard berth in 2017 but New York finished an average of 22 games out of first place in the NL over the past 5 years and were under .500 in four of them.   There was a brief period in the early 1990s when both struggled but you really need to go back to the Mets infancy from 1964-68 to find a 5 year stretch when both were this bad.

9- Today’s final inning will just be a commercial if you will for this column.  To any of the league general manager’s if you see something worth mentioning about your organization, or a rumour you want to leak about trade talks or anything else in the league send me a quick note on the discord channel and I will make sure it gets mentioned.

That’s all for today, baseball fans.

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