Tim Tebow officially traded in pigskin for cowhide Thursday.
The former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner on Thursday agreed to a minor league deal with the Mets, making complete his transition from one sport to the other. Tebow reportedly received a $100,000 signing bonus as part of his deal with the club.
The decision by a team in one of baseball's biggest markets to sign one of the world's most visible athletes was widely panned as a publicity stunt -- as though a team in one of baseball's biggest markets, coming off a World Series appearance and in the hunt for another postseason berth, needs gimmicks to draw attention -- but Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on Thursday said it was anything but.
“This decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said. “This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort.”
Tebow will report to the Mets' instructional league in Port St. Lucie, Florida, next week.
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If the Mets' interest in Tebow was purely to gain attention, then the 27 other clubs that showed up to his workout in Los Angeles last week were guilty of the same. At that workout, Tebow reportedly flashed some power but displayed a below-average arm and struggled against live pitching. He showed enough that eight teams were said to have legitimate interest in signing the former Florida Gators quarterback before he settled on the Mets.
Like with the Mets, it's hard to imagine this is merely a ploy by Tebow to make himself more visible. He is already a television analyst for ESPN's SEC Network, and the 29-year-old is attractive and marketable enough that he wouldn't have a hard time getting almost any job he wanted.
The odds of Tebow becoming anything more than a sideshow are razor thin, but the reality is that it's a low-risk move for both sides. Moving on.
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Strasburg Receives Good News
On Wednesday, there was some fear that Stephen Strasburg could miss the 2017 season. On Thursday, that fear was replaced by hope that he could still pitch again in 2016.
Strasburg, who left his Wednesday start against the Braves with what Nationals manager Dusty Baker described as a "pinch in the back of his elbow," was diagnosed Thursday with a strained flexor mass in his right elbow. While the injury leaves his immediate outlook murky, Baker and company said it's a far cry from the worry Wednesday that Strasburg might have something more serious going on.
"Everybody’s pretty satisfied of where we are at this point, and it’s very good to know,” Baker said. “Exactly the timetable we don’t know, but it’s good to hear that it wasn’t what everybody was speculating that it was.”
“I know everyone was concerned that he re-injured that Tommy John ligament, and the answer is no,” Nationals trainer Paul Lessard said. “The ligament is good.”
Where things go from here is unclear. The Nationals have said the 28-year-old, who is 15-4 with a 3.60 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 183/44 K/BB ratio in 24 starts this year, is out indefinitely, and Lessard said it's "not a season-ending injury, but we still need to take time that he’s nice and strong because of his past."
With just a handful of weeks left to go in the regular season, time may not be on the side of the right-hander. But even if he doesn't throw another pitch in 2016, at least there's reason to believe his next pitch won't come too much later.
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National League Quick Hits: Maikel Franco (thumb) was out of the Phillies' starting lineup again on Thursday. Franco suffered a jammed right thumb over the weekend and might have made it worse by trying to play through it on Monday and Tuesday against the Marlins. Thursday was his second consecutive day of rest ... Starling Marte (back) remained out of the Pirates' starting lineup on Thursday night. This must be a serious case of back spasms, as Marte has now missed three straight starts ... Jameson Taillon will be skipped on his next turn through the Pirates' rotation. Taillon missed all of 2014 and 2015 with elbow and hernia troubles, so the Pirates are trying to be smart about his workload even as they cling to the hope of claiming a National League Wild Card spot. Drew Hutchison will start Saturday against the Reds in Taillon's place. Chad Kuhl is also going to be skipped on his next turn with Gerrit Cole returning from the disabled list Monday. ... Jose De Leon is scheduled to make his second MLB start next week at Yankee Stadium. He'll be filling in this time for Scott Kazmir, who had to leave a rehab appearance Wednesday at Triple-A Oklahoma City after experiencing renewed neck and rib pain in the middle of the first inning. De Leon earned a win in his MLB debut last Sunday despite allowing four runs -- three earned -- over six innings against the Padres. He struck out nine and walked none in that outing ... Ivan Nova allowed a run on six hits in a complete game, 4-1 victory over the Reds on Thursday. Nova struck out four without issuing a free pass, needing just 94 pitches to complete the deed. It's the second time in seven starts with the Bucs that Nova has gone the distance, and he's 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA in those seven starts. Another attractive matchup awaits the right-hander, with the Phillies on deck Tuesday. ... Hernan Perez finished 4-for-5 with three RBI, a stolen base and a run scored as the Brewers thumped the Cardinals 12-5 on Thursday. Perez contributed four of the Brewers' 17 hits in the lopsided win, including two doubles. It was the second time in three games that Perez enjoyed a four-hit outing. It's been a breakout year for the 25-year-old, who's hitting .278/.308/.462 with 13 homers, 54 RBI, 44 runs scored and 30 steals in 102 games overall ... Alec Asher held the Nationals scoreless over six innings in his 2016 debut Thursday, helping the Phillies to a 4-1 victory. Asher gave up just two hits and a walk over his six innings but didn't strike out a batter, enjoying some favor from the BABIP gods. Asher recently served an 80-game suspension for PED use but owned a 2.37 ERA in 12 minor league starts this year and could be an interesting NL-only flier over the final weeks of the season. His next start will come next week against the Pirates ... Braves shortstop prospect Ozzie Albies is being evaluated by Dr. James Andrews for a right elbow injury. Early indications are the injury to Albies' throwing arm does not involve ligament damage, but this visit with Dr. Andrews will obviously paint a clearer picture. Considered one of the top prospects in baseball, Albies batted .292/.358/.420 with six homers and 30 steals in 138 games this season between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett -- all at age 19. If his health cooperates, he'll debut for the Braves next year at age 20.
American League Quick Hits: Tyler Austin hit a game-winning, walk-off home run Thursday to give the Yankees a 5-4 win over the Rays. With two outs and two strikes, Austin put a charge into an Erasmo Ramirez pitch that cleared the right-center wall for the winning homer. It was his third homer in 17 games to date, and he's now strung together a modest five-game hitting streak. The 25-year-old is hitting .245/.273/.453 overall ... Kevin Kiermaier finished 4-for-5 with two home runs in a loss to the Yankees on Thursday. Kiermaier took Yankees starter CC Sabathia deep in the first inning and made a return visit in the third, mashing two of the Rays' four homers in the game. Kiermaier has quietly been red hot at the dish over the past few weeks, owning a 12-game hitting streak during which he's 20-for-50 (.400) with four homers, eight RBI and 10 runs scored. He's stolen four bases in that span for good measure. The 26-year-old possesses that tantalizing combination of speed and power, and his outfield defense alone will get him into the lineup on a regular basis, but he's yet to put it all together over a full season. Kiermaier is hitting .249/.329/.434 with 11 homers and 16 steals in 86 games overall ... Brian McCann homered twice and had three hits in Thursday's win over the Rays. McCann took Rays starter Alex Cobb deep twice in the contest, once in the second inning and again the fourth. He's got three homers in three games, a sign that his power stroke may be coming around after he went cold in July and August, hitting just four homers combined over the two months. The 32-year-old has 19 homers and 55 RBI overall, batting .240/.333/.420 in 111 games ... Rays signed SS Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez will give the Rays depth at shortstop over the final three weeks of the regular season with Matt Duffy facing an early shutdown due to lingering Achilles discomfort. Alexei was released by the Padres last week after batting just .240/.275/.330 across 444 plate appearances this season in San Diego. The soon-to-be 35-year-old is not fantasy relevant.