Some things to talk about while Canada finally gives the rest of North American something useful...
1) More pitchers sign
Boone Logan? Gone. Daniel Hudson? Gone.
Seems like no one will be left for the Astros to sign this winter. I still hold out hope that the Jose Veras deal will get done, but it seems like things are at an impasse now. I'm sure after time, things will crystalize and I wouldn't be surprised if trade talks continue over the next month on some of the rumors we heard this week.
For instance, remember last year, when the Jed Lowrie trade happened in February, but the groundwork was laid at the Meetings? What if the same thing happens with a Justin Smoak trade in two months, once the M's realize they have five first baseman and can only play two at most?
As for the signees, neither are huge losses. Yes, I wanted Logan pretty badly. But, he got three years at over $5 million per, which is a slightly insane price for any reliever. I also wouldn't have wanted the Astros to go three years on a reliever either.
With Hudson, the news that he'll likely miss the entire 2014 season is another reason why more teams didn't get involved with him. It's understandable. As much as there is to like about him, I'm sure he feels more comfortable rehabbing in the organization that's been his home the past few years.
So, what's next? Any more free agents to taunt us by signing somewhere else? No Jesse Crain news is good news, right? Did any of you get excited/depressed by those parting comments about Choo to the Astros?
2) Profile on Blaine Sims
Who doesn't like knuckleballers? No, seriously, point them out to me so I can either ignore them forever or badger them into liking knuckeballers like the rest of America.
Dallas Keuchel is the best
While I don't support it, Chris makes a great argument for why Dallas Keuchel was Houston's most effective pitcher in 2013.
If you are one of the 99.9 percent of 'Merica who loves a good, funky pitch, check out this profile on one of Houston's newest Rule 5 minor league selections, Blaine Sims. It has some good stuff about his career, how he came to throw the pitch, how he came to get signed in the first place, etc. But, the stuff where he talks about how the Braves developed the knucker is just incredible. For instance:
Sims flew up to Gwinnett to meet with Niekro and as he tells it, "I throw two knuckleballs, and he said ‘stop, that plays in the big leagues. Hands down,' he said, ‘you've got a big league knuckleball.'" Blaine was blown away by the instruction that Niekro gave him in just a few short days.
"Mr. Phil," as Blaine calls him, "showed me how to take speed off of it, and put speed on it." Niekro also helped Blaine develop a repertoire of knuckleballs. "I have a slow one, a medium one, and a hard one. I use the hard one for a strikeout," which he throws about 78 mph. "The medium one and the slow one really dance a lot," and the hard one just has one break in it before it reaches the plate.
That's right. The Braves flew up Phil Freakin' Niekro, who watched the kid throw the pitch twice and saw enough. I'm sold right there.
What's more, the stuff about throwing three different knucklers and even the story he later tells about using that to strike a guy out dovetails nicely with this week's discussion on speed differentials and sequencing pitches. Could Houston see potential to develop this guy because he's got a built-in changeup to his knuckler repertoire? That he can throw all three of his knucklers and still utilize that 6 MPH gap effectively?
All I know is that I'm pretty excited to see what Sims can do in the Astros organization now, which is rare for most Rule 5 picks, much less a minor league one.
3) Baseball agent slap-fest
Oh, this is an entertaining read. Remember that agent fight? It was pretty much the star of a boring Winter Meetings. Well, turns out one of SB Nation's own got to see the pre-game and it's pretty glorious. His story involves the Gator Chomp, T-Rex arms and slow-motion dove takeoffs. Pretty great:
You know the University of Florida Gator Chomp? Well, he sort of did that. He stuck his left arm out, palm upturned and rigid, and he started just slapping it with his right palm with almost Pete Townshend-esque levels of arm windmilling. Hard. If you'd told me this guy was the front half of a two-man horse costume and thought he was counting by clopping down his hooves, I would have believed you.
Take five minutes. Read the rest of it. You won't be disappointed.