Dan's Dugout: Late Signs Show Few Signs of Life • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Late Signs Show Few Signs of Life

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Tis better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.

Branch Rickey, depicted by Harrison Ford in the film ’42,’ had his own theories on trading

Were he alive today, Branch Rickey’s sage words might be slightly changed:

Tis better to sign a player a month too early than a month too late.

Nearly a dozen players plucked out of free agent limbo have been proving the point ever since the winter of their discontent.

The free-agent freeze extended well past Opening Day and, for some, curtailed careers that seemed to have considerable mileage left. Think John Lackey, the pitcher, and Brandon Phillips, the infielder.

For others, maybe they should have seen the handwriting on the wall and stayed retired. Or at least accepted lower dollar offers sooner, thereby showing up on time for spring training.

Athletes often complain about the drudgery of the exhibition season, especially because of long bus rides in Florida, but apparently need the time to round into shape. Baseball history proves it.

With the notable exceptions of Jake Arrieta, who signed with the Phillies March 12, and Mike Moustakas, who returned to the Royals one day earlier, many big-ticket players have personified the Titanic since joining their new clubs.

Mike Moustakas is one of few late signs who’s playing well

Neil Walker can play first, second, or third and hit with some power. At least that was his resume last year, when he was in the National League. Since the Yankees secured his signature for $4 million March 12, he’s been a bigger bust than Stormy Daniels.

Lucas Duda, formerly Walker’s teammate with the Mets, did produce a three-homer game since signing with the Royals Feb. 28 but was the weakest hitter in the Kansas City lineup before finding a safe place to hide on the disabled list.

The Minnesota Twins thought Logan Morrison would at least resemble the slugger who slammed 38 homers last year. So they gave him $6.5 million on Feb. 28 and watched him produce the worst batting average of any American League position player. This is the same guy, by the way, who bitched when Gary Sanchez beat him out for a berth on the AL’s Home Run Derby squad at the 2017 All-Star Game.

Will Jose Bautista pull out of his early slump?

Jose Bautista has hit a couple of home runs for Atlanta, where general manager Alex Anthopoulos remembers his 54-homer season of 2010. But hey, that was eight years ago, when Joey Bats was comfortable in the outfield instead of battling hot smashes at third base. At least he’s only costing Atlanta about $800,000.

Jonathan Lucroy, whom the Oakland A’s had thought would provide power behind the plate, got $3.5 million that he needs to return. Every penny.

The same goes for Lance Lynn, who got the ridiculous total of $12 million from Minnesota, the same team that thought Logan Morrison was such a bargain. When he’s not walking the world, he’s getting hit hard in his first encounter with American League hitters.

The Baltimore Orioles, not to be outdone, opened their moneybags for erstwhile Tampa Bay starter Alex Cobb on March 21. He got a four-year contract – are you sitting down? – for $57 million, then started 0-3 with a 9.68 earned run average and 37 hits allowed in 17 1/3 innings.
Such savvy signings sink ballclubs, so it’s hardly surprising that the Orioles are dead last in the American League East – and further from the top than any of the six divisional cellar-dwellers.

And let’s not forget Greg Holland, whose 41 saves for the 2017 Colorado Rockies led the National League. His $14 million deal with St. Louis has been a heist – but only for the pitcher. After posting a 7.36 ERA over the first two months, he lost his job as closer for the Cardinals.
Only a real cardinal can salvage his season now.

Two outfielders named Carlos also hoodwinked their new employers. Carlos Gonzalez has been abysmal for the Colorado Rockies, who brought him back for $5 million but waited til March 12, while Carlos Gomez ($4 million from Tampa Bay on March 3) has been a mere shadow of his former self – and not much help in replacing departed Rays Evan Longoria and Corey Dickerson.

Did Carlos Gonzalez sign too late to help the 2018 Rockies?

With so many name players fizzling in the wake of the free-agent freeze, maybe both labor and management will make quickier decisions next winter.

You hear that, Scott Boras?

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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