Jeff Passan

  • Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is rolling toward stardom

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 43 mins ago

    FORT MYERS, Fla. – At the beginning of every game, when the batter’s box remains freshly manicured, Mookie Betts grabs his bat by the barrel. With the knob end, he traces into the dirt a cross and two letters: EC. It’s his ode to his family, his friend and the sport at which he might be even better than baseball, which is saying something, because evaluators across baseball agree Betts is really, really good at baseball.

    They throw around loaded words like “star” and don’t flinch. This is not the hype machine that churns into overdrive when a Boston Red Sox prospect arrives. It is the recognition that great baseball players come in all sizes, and Betts packing just 160 pounds onto his 5-foot-9 frame makes him no less worthy of the sobriquets generally reserved for Kris Bryant and other such leviathans.

    In the process, Betts went from a fifth-round pick out of suburban Nashville to a near-lock as the Red Sox’s center fielder and leadoff hitter opening day. He’s beating out the incumbent, Jackie Bradley Jr., and the Red Sox’s $72.5 million Cuban investment, Rusney Castillo, and he’s doing it after an offseason spent immersed in that other sport.

    Bowling.

  • Sources: MLB considering a draft combine to assess players' health

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports Commentary 2 days ago

    Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association expect to discuss the idea of a draft combine in upcoming collective-bargaining negotiations, hoping access to amateur players’ medical information will help avoid the complicated situation that unfolded with the No. 1 pick in 2014, major league sources told Yahoo Sports.

    The tortuous case of Brady Aiken – chosen by the Houston Astros first overall, unsigned after a dispute over his ulnar collateral ligament and ultimately another Tommy John casualty after surgery Wednesday – spurred both Major League Baseball and the players’ association to consider the benefits and detriments of a potential system.

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    While the latter is ideal for teams that want to avoid another Aiken-type scenario and consult with their own doctors, fear on the players’ side is palpable and understandable: Giving every team unfettered access to a player’s records invites scrutiny and could have significant effects on his future.

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  • The big gamble: How MLB's Pete Rose decision could reshape its thinking on betting

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 4 days ago

    Gambling is omnipresent in sports these days, the god that silently drives so much of its interest. It’s no longer the harmless NCAA office pool or the three-team teaser on a boys’ weekend in Vegas. It’s the NBA commissioner touting its legalization in The New York Times and the governor of New Jersey pushing for the same in his state and daily fantasy leagues raking in hundreds of millions of dollars from venture-capital speculators and the subculture that lives for the sort of gossip that percolated late Tuesday night.

    A Twitter account posted screenshots that were allegedly direct messages from Miami Marlins starter Jarred Cosart with allusions to gambling. Cosart’s account was then nuked. Another account purported to be from Cosart sprung up, said his original one was hacked, then disappeared itself. Major League Baseball said it was investigating.

    The god is everywhere, begging for him to kneel, knowing it takes a stronger man not to than one who does.

  • Why getting a nearly 30-year-old with a possible arm injury makes sense for Dodgers

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    Five months into the Andrew Friedman regime, it’s becoming clearer and clearer how his Los Angeles Dodgers are going to operate. They covet roster flexibility. They prioritize growing high-end talent internally. They’re in the midst of assembling a think tank of behind-the-scenes people to investigate every little area in which they can improve. And when it won’t have a deleterious effect on the aforementioned areas, they will flex their Venice-quality financial muscle.

    The former three make the latter so very scary to the other 29 teams in baseball, which have seen the New York Yankees spend, spend, spend their way to middling results because they hemmed themselves in with an aging and inflexible core, biffed on the farm and never built the analytics warehouse a team with such financial resources warrants. It’s why Tuesday, even as the Dodgers gave more years and dollars to Cuban infielder Hector Olivera than any other team was willing, it was difficult to fault them with profligacy.

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  • It's World Series or bust for the Mariners

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    PEORIA, Ariz. – Over three weeks this offseason, Felix Hernandez hopscotched around Europe, from Istanbul to Cappadocia to Prague to Salzburg. Amid the sights and shopping, he couldn’t stop thinking about Seattle and what was happening with the franchise to which he wedded himself when it looked so desperate and forlorn.

    Every few days, Hernandez would text Robinson Cano and ask if it was happening. It was Nelson Cruz, the major league home run leader, signing with the Mariners, like Cano had done the previous offseason. While in Prague, Hernandez got the message he’d been waiting for: Cruz was coming to Seattle, and between his arrival and the leftover core from last season’s team that missed October by one game, the Mariners, postseason-free since their 116-win juggernaut of 2001, won’t be satisfied with anything less.

    “Close is not good enough anymore,” Hernandez said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and win the whole thing. We’ve got the pieces now.”

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  • Why major league-ready Kris Bryant should start the season in the minors

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 12 days ago

    MESA, Ariz. – At this juncture of spring training, when everybody in uniform wants the interminable days to end and the real games to begin, when the beat writers have exhausted their trove of story ideas, when the fans latch on to anything new or novel as a beacon shining toward opening day, a debate like the one over Kris Bryant’s immediate future gets pumped full of bluster and narrative that simply doesn’t match reality.

    In a world of gray issues, this is the rare black-and-white dispute, one with a truth as evident as it is disheartening. Of course the Chicago Cubs should start Bryant at Triple-A Iowa to start the season, even if he is their best option at third base right now. Do not blame Theo Epstein for it. Do not blame Cubs ownership for it. Blame the system to which players and owners agreed that incentivizes this sort of behavior.

    Is nine games in 2015 greater than 162 games in 2021?

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  • Aroldis Chapman survived toughest challenge of his career, so now what?

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Baseball’s version of the Cuban revolution began July 1, 2009, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, of all places. Aroldis Chapman walked out of a hotel where he was staying for an international tournament, jumped into a car, fled to freedom and birthed a half-billion-dollar industry.

    Long before Chapman, of course, Cuban baseball players defected to the United States with occasional success. His arrival was different. He possessed a left arm that eventually would throw a baseball harder than any human being ever had been clocked. His finest years weren’t behind him, either. Chapman was the young potential superstar whose $30 million contract alerted a generation of tremendous players that riches awaited them.

    Teams have guaranteed $500.5 million to the 13 highest-paid Cuban players since Chapman arrived. From Jose Abreu to Yoan Moncada, Yasiel Puig to Yasmany Tomas, Yoenis Cespedes to Jorge Soler, the influx of Cubans has changed baseball. None thanks him, exactly, because, Chapman said, “You don’t talk about what you did or what you left behind.” Which, it was pointed out to Chapman, is rather sad.

    “No,” he said, “that’s Cuban.”

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  • The 2014 Ultimate Free-Agent Tracker

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    Here is the free-agent class of 2014-15, ranked from Nos. 1 to 165. The rankings are based on a number of variables, including each player's history, age and potential, and are as much about predicted performance as market value, providing a general outline as free agency unfolds between now and spring training.

    Bookmark this page in your browser or favorite it on Twitter – and return frequently. As the offseason progresses, Yahoo Sports will update it with news of signings and their impact on the other free agents.

    1. Max Scherzer, SP: SIGNED To turn down a guaranteed $144 million contract, as Scherzer did last spring, takes an enormous amount of faith in self and elbow. And while Scherzer’s luck on balls in play waned a bit from his 2013 Cy Young season, his strikeout, walk and home run rates were practically identical over the last two seasons. Scherzer, 30, agreed to a seven-year deal with the Nationals.

    50. Ryan Vogelsong, SP: SIGNED At that point in the list where consistent 180-inning guys become eminently valuable. The Giants retained him on a one-year deal.

  • Inside the new system that wants to revolutionize how we look at pitches

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    On Aug. 4, 2010, with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Boston Red Sox sent veteran utilityman Bill Hall to the plate as a pinch hitter. Hall quickly faced a 0-2 count, and on the fourth pitch of the at-bat, he grounded the ball weakly to second base to end the inning. This looked like just another dog-days plate appearance, that final pitch every bit as ordinary as the name of the man who threw it: Joe Smith.

    At the time, Smith’s career wasn’t terribly distinguished, either. He was 26 years old, a sidearming right-handed reliever who overwhelmed right-handed batters like Hall but struggled enough that his ERA going into that game was 5.24. Of all the players to throw the single finest pitch of the last seven years, Smith was far from the likeliest candidate. And to the naked eye, it looked like little more than a regular 93-mph fastball in the upper-right quadrant of the strike zone.

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  • Sources: Padres looming as favorite to sign Cuban infielder Hector Olivera

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    The San Diego Padres are positioning themselves as a favorite to land Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, showing a willingness to spend significant money after strong-but-failed attempts to sign Cubans Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Moncada earlier this offseason, sources told Yahoo Sports.

    The market for Olivera heated up Tuesday, with the Padres considering an offer upwards of $50 million, according to sources. The Atlanta Braves, Oakland A's and Los Angeles Dodgers remain in the mix, with the former two balking at the potential price tag and the latter still weighing whether to enter the foray aggressively.

    San Diego's salvo is another assertive move from first-year general manager A.J. Preller, who has remade the team this offseason with an un-Padres-like spending spree. While he increased San Diego's star power and profile by adding starter James Shields, along with sluggers Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Derek Norris, the Padres' infield remains its weakest spot.

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