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We have a Hall of Fame class! We also take a look at the Royals' quest for closure, an all-time baseball story and Rhys Hoskins' new home. I'm Levi Weaver here with Ken Rosenthal – welcome to the Windup!
Beltré, Mauer, Helton elected to HOF
In the end, it went as expected: a doubter and a handful of guys lurking on the edge of the 75 percent threshold for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. When all the ballots were officially announced on Tuesday, three were there (Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton and Joe Mauer), and three others – Billy Wagner (73.8 percent), Gary Sheffield (63.9) and Andruw Jones (61, 6) – fell just short.
I had the privilege of following Beltré during his final 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 personalities in the game – practice his craft day in and day out. Spoiler: It was inspiring
Mauer was the big surprise of this year. Initially there was a feeling that he would eventually make it, but few imagined that he would be inaugurated in the first round of voting. With 76.1 percent, he prevailed by four votes, joining Johnny Bench and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as the only catchers elected in their first year on the ballot.
Helton had trailed Mauer in most of the early votes, but overtook him in the end, receiving 79.7 percent of the vote. Helton is the first rookie to play for the Rockies in his entire career, and as Tyler Kepner points out, “…only Stan Musial and Ted Williams can match him in all of these critical categories: batting average (.316), on-base percentage.” (. 414) and slugging percentage (.539).”
For Wagner and Jones, their chances of being there next year seem… somewhat hopeful? Jayson Stark has more context (and a whole lot more analysis) here, but 2025 will be Wagner's tenth and final year on the ballot. As was the case with Sheffield this year, if it does not receive the author votes it will require a vote by the Veterans Committee to include it. More Hall of Fame: Tyler Kepner takes a look at the World Series winners who didn't receive votes Are there any members in the hall? Grant Brisbee uses Mauer's election to make the case for Buster Posey, and why don't we look ahead to the 2025 election?
Ken's notebook: The Royals want to act closer
Devin Williams was a good financial fit for the Royals – until Aroldis Chapman signed with the Pirates. (Benny Sieu/USA Today)
The Royals spent $105 million on six free agents this offseason, led by right-handers Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha. But they remain open to adding another piece – a degree.
With the free agent market all but booked, the Royals favor a trade, according to a source briefed on their considerations. The problem? There are hardly any options in this market either.
It seems unlikely that the Brewers will trade Devin Williams, the 2020 and '23 National League reliever of the year. Given the slim chance that the Guardians would sign Emmanuel Clase, the major league leader in saves over the last two seasons, they probably wouldn't send him to an AL Central rival. And the Red Sox's Kenley Jansen, who is expected 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 deal with a $10.5 million club option for 2025, was a better fit financially. If the Brewers had signed Aroldis Chapman, a free agent in whom they had “serious interest” according to FanSided's Robert Murray, they might have felt comfortable using Williams' two years of club control for other purposes.
But when Chapman signed a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Pirates, a move away from Williams seemed less viable. The Brewers lack an obvious internal candidate to replace him at closer. And the subsequent signing of free agent first baseman Rhys Hoskins to a two-year, $34 million contract was the strongest indication yet that they want to compete.
Clase, who is guaranteed $13 million over the next three seasons with two $10 million club options for 2027 and 2028, is even cheaper than Williams. But while the Guardians' modus operandi is to listen to all players, they will almost certainly demand a high price for a cheap, accomplished conclusion that they control for five more seasons.
So for now, the Royals' top candidate for a deal remains Will Smith, whom the team signed to a one-year, $5 million free agent contract at the start of the offseason.
Smith, who turns 35 in July, has won three straight World Series titles with three different teams. He went 22-for-27 saves last season, with an expected ERA of 3.35 well below his actual 4.40. But the Rangers continued to plug late in the season with Chapman and Jose Leclerc and then Leclerc and Josh Sborz en route to their first World Series title.
By acquiring a closer, the Royals could move Smith into more of a setup role, strengthening the back of their bullpen. It will not be easy for them to take such a step. But they don't consider their offseason to be over just yet.
The Chicken (Craig Counsell) runs at midnight
You may have heard this story before – the magical moment occurred in 1997 – but I had forgotten that new Cubs manager Craig Counsell was “The Chicken.”
OK, maybe you haven't heard it yet, so let's recap. It begins with Pittsburgh Pirates third base coach Rich Donnelly having a conversation with his 18-year-old daughter Amy during the 1992 NLCS. She asked him what he said when he put his hands over his mouth to talk to the baserunners and joked that he must have been speaking in code – “The chicken runs at midnight,” she improvised.
I'm not surprised that the Donnelly family remembered the phrase. Amy was battling a brain tumor at the time and passed away the following January. Under such circumstances, these small moments of joy become precious. The Donnellys even had Amy's code message engraved on her gravestone.
In 1997, Donnelly was with the Marlins, who were one run away from winning the franchise's first World Series in the 11th inning of Game 7. The runner at third was Craig Counsell, who some called “The Chicken” because of his batting stance.
When Edgar Renteria got going, “The Chicken” was playing at midnight (technically 12:05 if the box score is to be believed, but we won't let that ruin this story).
Jon Greenberg has the details, and from a new angle: Radio host Danny Parkins, who works at 670 The Score (the Cubs' radio home), is the younger brother of the late Brad Parkins, Counsell's childhood best friend.
Hoskins signs with Brewers, leaves legacy in Philly
Rhys Hoskins often saw Stella Klotkowski, who was diagnosed with limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, and her brother Jack at Phillies games in Pittsburgh. They made an annual trip to PNC Park to see Hoskins. (Courtesy of the Klotkowski family)
Last spring, Rhys Hoskins was expected to become the Phillies' first baseman, entering the final year of his contract before entering free agency. Those plans fell through a week before Opening Day when he tore his ACL, which cost him all of last season with the team that drafted him in 2014.
He now goes to Milwaukee on a two-year contract worth $34 million. The signing gives the Brewers a right-handed hitter with serious pop; he has 148 home runs in 667 big league games. Yes, the swing-and-miss is real (689 strikeouts), but it's tempered by his good eye — he has 388 walks (119 of them in 2019, when he led the league in that category). His career on-base percentage of .353 is perfectly acceptable for a guy with a .492 slugging percentage.
That adds up to a career OPS of .846 (don't tell me because the two numbers don't add up – it has to do with rounding up the fourth digit), which should go a long way toward helping a team hit its home run Last year's leader was Willy Adames with 24. Hoskins has scored fewer than 27 only twice since his debut in 2017: in his rookie year, when he scored 18 goals in just 50 games, and in 2020, when he scored 18 goals in just 50 games scored 10 goals in 60 games This still feels more like a post-apocalyptic fever dream than reality.
While the Phillies might miss his offensive production, others in the Delaware Valley will miss Hoskins for an entirely different reason. Matt Gelb put together a nice story about Hoskins' work with children with muscular dystrophy.
Handshakes and high fives
If you're unsure about the direction of the Boston Red Sox, you're not alone. Britt Ghiroli lays it all out here, arguing that leadership in Boston needs to pick a message and stick with it.
When Josh Hader signed with the Astros, it was his second time joining the organization. Houston acquired him from Baltimore in the Bud Norris trade in 2013 and sent him to Milwaukee in 2015 as part of the package for Mike Fiers and Carlos Gómez.
Katie Woo takes an in-depth look at Oli Marmol's future as Cardinals manager and the challenges that await him in 2024.
On April 8th the moon will obscure the sun. It's the first total solar eclipse in Cleveland since 1809 and it's also the day of the Guardians' home opener. What is the plan?
A few other notable free agent signings: James Paxton to the Dodgers, Matt Moore (back) to the Angels and Joey Gallo to the Nationals.
Ryne Sandberg announced that he has been diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer.
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(Top photo by Adrián Beltré: Jennifer Buchanan / USA Today)