A few quick items from around the game…
- Astros outfielder Josh Reddick underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder AC joint on Friday, according to a tweet from Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (link). Despite the apparently ailing shoulder, Reddick managed to appear in 151 games last season, his seventh full go-around in the majors. Reddick is expected to be ready for Spring Training, on the heels of a rather tepid 2019 that saw him hit .275/.319/.409 (94 wRC+) while grading out as a below-average regular on the whole (1.1 fWAR). After falling short in this year’s Fall Classic, it will be interesting to see what the club does with regard to Reddick. The 32-year-old is due one more season of $13MM salary before hitting free agency next offseason, so it’s not as if a trade is a likely scenario. Still, Reddick’s spot in the outfield, along with the club’s current vacancy at catcher, strikes this writer as an area of potential improvement for club president of baseball ops Jeff Luhnow to explore this winter. At the least, it will be interesting to see how Reddick’s 2020 playing time is impacted by promising in-house youngster Kyle Tucker.
- Earlier today we brought news of the Yankees’ hire of Rachel Balkovec, 32, to a minor league hitting coach role. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, it appears the Cubs have also hired a 32-year-old Rachel with an impressive resume to their player development corps, with Bastian relaying that Marshall alum Rachel Folden will now serve as the lead hitting lab tech and fourth coach for Chicago’s Rookie League Mesa affiliate (link). Folden comes to the Cubs with experience instructing baseball and softball players “based on biomechanics, science, technology and data” via her own fastpitch instructional enterprise. Folden’s primary connection to the Cubs comes through Justin Stone, Chicago’s new director of hitting, who previously deployed Folden as a hitting consultant at his own Elite Baseball Training academy. Stone, commenting on her hire, described Folden as the “perfect person” to cross the implicit barriers that have long sidelined professionals like Balkovec and Folden.
- Earlier this winter, Red Sox team president and CEO Sam Kennedy said his club would “continue to engage” with the representatives of outfielder Mookie Betts in regard to extension talks, but Kennedy allowed on Friday that those talks have yet to begin, as noted in an article from Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com (link). While new chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and GM Brian O’Halloran met with Betts’ reps from VC Sports during the GM Meetings last week, those talks are said to have been of a mostly informal nature. Kennedy had reiterated his desire to keep Betts in a Red Sox uniform several times this offseason, and it’s hardly unexpected that Bloom may still be getting a handle on the broadest aspects of his new role. Betts is projected to make $27.7MM this offseason in his final pass through arbitration and has long proclaimed a desire to test free agency.
- MLB attendance slipped 1.5 percent in 2019, adding to a cumulative 8.5 percent drop dating back to 2012. Joe Sheehan of Baseball America places much of the blame for this attendance swoon at the doorstep of the “rebuilding processes that are leading to unwatchable baseball”. As Sheehan notes, the Phillies, Twins, Reds, and Padres all saw attendance increases after making a few impact additions last offseason, while even winning teams like the Indians saw fewer passes through the turnstiles after largely standing pat in the winter of 2018-2019. Of course, it’s also worth noting, by my own addition, that several of the teams flagging in the attendance category also operate in some of the smallest and least economically flourishing metropolitan markets (although aspects of revenue sharing, of course, help to mitigate those factors).