MLB Notebook: Minor rule changes, Andrew McCutchen re-signs with Pirates, Mets-Brewers trade, Phillies’ offer to Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and more!

Photo credit:Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
5 months ago
These days, uncovering news surrounding Major League Baseball is about as tough as trying to find a last-minute holiday gift for a Taylor Swift fan.
The belief was that the floodgates would crack open after Shohei Ohtani signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. But instead, here we are nearly two weeks later, with free agency still in a holding pattern, at least for the most part, as several clubs – including the Toronto Blue Jays – await Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s final decision.
If you listen to some experts, they believe the Japanese ace likely won’t make a formal announcement until January, while others sense he could sign as early as this week. Knowing who to trust has become even more daunting in times like this, especially considering recent events.
Whatever the case is, baseball fans might have to wait until the new year for significant transactions to arrive. Until then, we’ll have to settle for these, albeit less exciting, info nuggets that have travelled down the pipeline.

MLB announces rule modifications for 2024

Another off-season, another chance for Major League Baseball to shake up the rule book.
On Thursday, MLB’s competition committee announced an approval involving four sets of rule changes ahead of next season, including modifications to the one-season-old pitch clock, number of mound visits, pitchers warming up before an inning and the runner’s lane down the first-base foul line.
Starting in 2024, pitchers will have just 18 seconds – down from 20 – to begin their delivery with a runner(s) on base, teams will have one fewer mound visit per game (from five to four), a reliever must face at least one batter if he begins throwing in the bullpen prior to an inning and the runner’s lane is extending to the infield grass.
The majority of these adjustments are designed to further improve the sport’s pace of play, which enjoyed a dramatic shift last season, with the average length of nine-inning regular season games slashed to 2 hours and 40 minutes – a decrease of more than 20 minutes from the previous campaign (3:04).
The MLB Players Association voted against these rule changes, issuing a strongly-worded statement shortly after, describing them as “unnecessary” and saying they “offer no meaningful benefits to fans, players, or the competition on the field.”
Rather than immediately implementing them, the MLBPA hoped next season would be used to “gather additional data and examine the health, safety and injury aspects of reduced recovery time” regarding the 2023 pace-of-play rules.
The competition committee features six MLB owners, four players and one umpire, affording the league any final say involving rule changes.

Andrew McCutchen is staying in Pittsburgh

“Cutch” is back for another season with the Pirates.
The 37-year-old agreed to a one-year, $5-million contract with the franchise on Wednesday, ensuring his second stint in “Steel Town” lasts longer than just a single season.
McCutchen returned to the Pirates organization last winter, hitting .256/.378/.397 with 12 home runs, 43 RBIs and a 115 wRC+ over 112 games before a partial tear in his left Achilles ended his 2023 season prematurely. He played just 64.2 innings in the outfield, primarily operating as a DH.
Despite playing elsewhere for five seasons from 2018-22, the 2013 National League MVP has racked up 1,563 hits, 311 doubles, 215 home runs, 768 RBIs and 760 walks across 1,458 career games with Pittsburgh. He earned all five of his All-Star selections and four Silver Sluggers with the franchise that selected him 11th overall in 2005.
McCutchen’s next home run will be the 300th of his career, a milestone he’s slated to cross just one season after joining the 2,000-hit club in 2023.

Mets acquire RHP Adrian Houser, OF Tyrone Taylor from Brewers in salary-dump trade

Amid the Milwaukee Brewers’ salary crunch, they sent a pair of players, right-handed pitcher Adrian Houser and outfielder Tyrone Taylor, to the New York Mets in exchange for minor-league arm Coleman Crow.
The deal will save the Brewers an estimated $7.3 million, with Houser due a projected $5.6 million in his final arbitration year and Taylor owed a projected $1.7 million in his first of three.
Houser, a free agent after next season, figures to compete for a back-end rotation spot with the Mets in 2024. If unsuccessful or the club acquires additional starters – like Yamamoto, for example – he could provide multiple innings of relief out of the bullpen.
Taylor profiles as a typical fourth outfielder and will likely end up in that role in Queens. But as currently constructed, the veteran righty is positioned alongside Brandon Nimmo and Starling Marte as part of their starting outfield trio.
The bigger takeaway, however, is the Brewers likely aren’t finished moving out money this off-season. If that’s the case, teams from around the sport will continue to call about a few more prominent names: starter Corbin Burnes and shortstop Willy Adames.

Phillies reportedly make offer to Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Add the Phillies to the long list of clubs making a run at Yamamoto, as the franchise has reportedly submitted an offer to the marquee free agent, according to The Athletic’s Matt Gelb.
The details of their proposal are unknown, but Philadelphia is believed to be working aggressively to add another superstar to an already stacked roster with World Series aspirations.
The Phillies haven’t shied away from inking lucrative free-agent deals under managing partner John Middleton, who has afforded president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and his staff the ability to ink the two richest contracts in franchise history – Trea Turner’s 11-year, $300-million last winter and Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330-million in 2019 – under his watch.
Signing a player like Yamamoto – who’s expected to command a contract worth $250-$300 million, if not more – would place them in luxury tax hell for at least the next few seasons. But they appear comfortable with that potential outcome.
Nevertheless, it’s still far more likely that the prized free-agent starter ends up in New York, with either the Yankees or Mets, Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Blue Jays among four clubs in the running for Yariel Rodríguez

It might not be a transaction, but this tiny rumour might be enough to tide Blue Jays fans over for another few days.
Rodríguez, considered one of the more underrated arms in free agency, has reportedly narrowed his search to four interested suitors, per MLB reporter Francys Romero: the Blue Jays, Pirates, Astros and Yankees.
Romero adds that the 26-year-old righty isn’t expected to sign until after Yamamoto.
The 6-foot-1 Cuban pitcher spent the last three seasons (2020-22) with the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball, pitching to a 3.03 ERA with 188 strikeouts across 175.1 innings in 79 appearances. He didn’t pitch in 2023 and was released from his contract last October, becoming a free agent and not subject to MLB’s posting system.
Rodríguez’s arsenal includes a mid-90s fastball, mid-80s slider, mid-70s curveball, high-80s splitter and mid-80s changeup.
Most experts are split on whether he’s better served as a starter or reliever in North America. In last March’s World Baseball Classic, he fanned 10 batters over 7.1 innings as a starter for Team Cuba, surrendering two earned runs, six walks and two hit-by-pitches.


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