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Our Hall of Fame class! We also take a look at the Royals' search for a baseball story closer to history and Rhys Hoskins' new home. I'm Levi Weaver here with Ken Rosenthal – welcome to Windup!
Beltre, Mauer and Hilton were elected to the HOF
In the end, things went as expected: one undoubted guy and a handful of guys hanging around the margins of the 75 percent threshold for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. When all the ballots were officially revealed on Tuesday, three participated (Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, and Joe Mauer), and three others — Billy Wagner (73.8 percent), Gary Sheffield (63.9 percent), and Andrew Jones (61.6 percent) — participated. They failed by a small margin.
I had the privilege of covering Beltre during his last three seasons with the Rangers. I've done my best to describe what it was like to watch one of the all-time greats – and one of the most unique characters in the game – practice his craft day in and day out. Spoiler: It was inspiring
Mauer was the biggest surprise of the year. There were some early feelings that he would eventually win, but few expected that he would be a first-ballot recruit. He cleared the margin by four votes, 76.1 percent, joining Johnny Bench and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as the only winners elected in their first year on the ballot.
Hilton trailed Mauer in most of the early tracking, but eventually jumped him, receiving 79.7 percent of the vote. Hilton is the first draftee to play for the Rockies his entire career, and as Tyler Kepner points out, “… Only Stan Musial and Ted Williams can match him in all of those important categories: batting average (.316), on-base percentage (.414), and slugging percentage (.539).“
As for Wagner and Jones, their chances next year look…rather hopeful? Jason Stark has more context here (and more analysis), but 2025 will be Wagner's 10th and final year on the ballot. As was the case with Sheffield this year, if he does not receive writers' votes, it will require a Veterans Committee vote to insert him. MORE HALL OF FAME: Tyler Kepner looks at World Series winners who don't have With all the members in the Hall, Grant Brisby uses Mauer's election to defend Buster Posey, and why not take a look at the 2025 ballot?
Ken's notebook: The Royals are looking to trade closer
The Royals spent $105 million on six free agents this offseason, most notably right-handers Seth Lugo and right-hander Michael Wacha. But they remain open to adding another piece — a closer.
With the free-agent market nearly optioned, the Royals would prefer to make a trade, according to a source familiar with their thinking. the problem? This market is also weak in terms of potential.
It seems unlikely that the Brewers will trade Devin Williams, the National League MVP of 2020 and '23. With the slim chance that the Guardians move Emmanuel Clase, the major league leader in saves the past two seasons, they probably won't send him to an AL Central contender. And Red Sox outfielder Kenley Jansen, who is set to make $16 million in 2024, is almost certainly too expensive for the Royals' tastes.
Williams, who recently agreed to a one-year, $7 million contract with a $10.5 million club option for 2025, has been better off financially. If the Brewers had signed Aroldis Chapman, a free agent they had “serious interest in.” According to Robert Murray of FanSidedPerhaps they would have felt comfortable leveraging Williams' two-year control of the club to meet other needs.
But when Chapman signed a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Buccaneers, a Williams deal appeared to become less viable. The Brewers lack a clear internal candidate to replace him as soon as possible. Their subsequent signing of free agent first baseman Rhys Hoskins to a two-year, $34 million contract was the strongest indication yet that they plan to contend.
Clase, who is guaranteed $13 million over the next three seasons with two $10 million club options for 2027 and '28, is less expensive than Williams. But while the Guardians' modus operandi is to listen to all players, they certainly place a high price on inexpensive, refined control over five more seasons.
So, for now, the Royals' main candidate to lock down remains Will Smith, who the team signed to a one-year, $5 million free agent contract early in the offseason.
Smith, who turns 35 in July, has won three straight World Series titles with three different teams. He went 22-for-27 in save chances last season, with a 3.35 ERA projected to be well below his actual number of 4.40. But the Rangers closed more with Chapman and Jose Leclerc at the end of the season and then Leclerc and Josh Spurs on the march to their first World Series title.
By acquiring the closer, the Royals could shift Smith into a more setup role, strengthening the back end of their bullpen. It will not be easy for them to take such a step. But they don't look at their offseason as over yet.
Chicken (Craig Counsell) works at midnight
You've probably heard this story before — the magic moment happened in 1997 — but I forgot that new Cubs manager Craig Counsell was “the chicken.”
Well, you probably haven't heard it yet, so let's recap it. It starts with Rich Donnelly, who was the third base coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, having a conversation with his 18-year-old daughter Amy during the 1992 NLCS. I asked him what he was saying when he put his hands around his mouth to talk to base runners, and he joked that he didn't He must have been speaking in code. “The chicken runs in the middle of the night“, she improvised.
I'm not surprised the Donnelly family remembered this phrase. Amy was suffering from a brain tumor at the time and died the following January. In such circumstances, those small moments of joy become precious. The Donnellys even had Amy's symbol engraved on her tombstone.
In 1997, Donnelly was with the Marlins, who in the 11th inning of Game 7 were one short of winning the franchise's first World Series. The runner on third was Craig Counsell, whom some called “Chicken” because of his batting stance.
When Edgar Renteria exited the show, “The Chicken” was shown at midnight (technically 12:05, if the score is to be believed, but we won't let that spoil this story).
John Greenberg has the details and a new angle: Radio host Danny Parkins, of 670 The Score (the home of Cubs radio) is the younger brother of the late Brad Parkins, Counsell's best friend since childhood.
Hoskins signs with Brewers, leaves legacy in Philadelphia
Last spring, Rhys Hoskins was slated to be the Phillies' first baseman, entering the final year of his contract before hitting free agency. Those plans collapsed a week before Opening Day when he tore his ACL, costing him his entire final season with the team that drafted him in 2014.
He is now headed to Milwaukee on a two-year, $34 million deal. The signing gives the Brewers a right-handed bat with serious pop; He has 148 home runs in 667 big league games. Yes, the swings and misses are real (689 strikeouts), but they're mitigated by his good eye — he has 388 walks (119 of which came in 2019 when he led the league in that category). His career on-base percentage of .353 is quite acceptable for a guy with a slugging percentage of .492.
That adds up to a career OPS of .846 (don't ignore me that the two numbers don't match — it's a matter of rounding the fourth number up), which should go a long way toward helping a team that had Willie Adams leading the way last year with 24 home runs. Hoskins has only scored fewer than 27 goals twice since his debut in 2017: during his rookie year when he scored 18 goals in just 50 games, and in 2020 when he scored 10 goals in a 60-game season. This still sounds more like a post-apocalyptic fever dream than reality.
While the Phillies may miss his offensive production, others in the Delaware Valley will miss Hoskins for a completely different reason. Matt Gelb has put together a beautiful story about Hoskins' work with children with muscular dystrophy.
Handshakes and high fives
If you're confused about the direction of the Boston Red Sox, you're not alone. Brett Giroli lays it all out here, explaining that leadership in Boston needs to choose a message and stick to it.
When Josh Hader signed with the Astros, it was his second Time to join the organization. Houston acquired him from Baltimore in the Bud Norris trade in 2013, then sent him to Milwaukee as part of the Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez trade in 2015.
Katie Waugh takes a detailed look at Ollie Marmol's future as Cardinals manager and the challenges that lie ahead in 2024.
On April 8, the moon will block the sun. It is the first total solar eclipse in Cleveland since 1809, and it is also the Guardian's home opening day. What's the plan?
A few notable free agent signings: James Paxton to the Dodgers, Matt Moore (back) to the Angels and Joey Gallo To the patriots.
Ryne Sandberg has revealed that he has been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer.
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(Top photo by Adrian Beltre: Jennifer Buchanan/USA Today)
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