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Manny Machado riles up Internet with now-deleted Instagram post with White Sox baby shoes

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Twitter/ @Cut4

Manny Machado riles up Internet with now-deleted Instagram post with White Sox baby shoes

The waiting game continues for the two biggest names on MLB's free agent market. 

And just like Bryce Harper trying to foreshadow his future team, Manny Machado sent the internet into a frenzy with a post to his Instagram story. 

The image was grabbed by @Cut4 before the photo was deleted less than two hours after posting. 

Why else would the highly valued free agent post these images of Chicago White Sox baby shoes, then delete?

The White Sox are a team that has consistently been linked to the infielder all offseason. Perhaps they finally struck a deal or Machado is just showing which way he's leaning.

Or it is just a pair of shoes that could be for his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso (who plays for the White Sox as No. 17) and Machado is toying with us all. 

This offseason is crazy and Twitter responded appropriately.

Harper of course alluded to a big reveal with MLB's The Show - nothing happened. He's still unsigned. 

At the end of the day this means absolutely nothing. Or it means everything. No one knows in this free agency. 

Oh, and pitchers and catchers report this week. 

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One player from each AL team that could benefit from MLB's shortened season

One player from each AL team that could benefit from MLB's shortened season

Major League Baseball's decision to implement a 60-game season will come with some interesting obstacles. Players will have very little time to prepare for the end of July start date, and some who use the 162-game marathon to slowly reach their best form could enter an early-season rut and never recover.

However, the shortened season will not be negative to all. Veterans with a lot of wear and tear can avoid another grueling season, while streaky players won't have to see their early success fall off in the second half of the season.

Looking at the American League, here is a player from every squad that could benefit from fewer games.

AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles: John Means

Means, who was an All-Star in 2019, was spectacular in his first 12 starts in the rotation. He had a 2.69 ERA throughout what would essentially be a full season in 2020. However, the lefty then showed signs that he was still adjusting to the full-time starting role, as he featured a 4.69 ERA in the next 12 starts.

While he looks to be part of the future starting pitching plan in Baltimore, adjusting to a 30-start slate can take time. The Orioles aren’t looking to win big in 2020, even if the season gives them a better chance, and so fewer starts will allow Means to still get in work while also keeping his arm ready for future seasons. 

Boston Red Sox - Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi was an essential part of the Red Sox World Series run in 2018. He was relied upon heavily both as a starter and out of the bullpen. In 2019, he found himself struggling to stay healthy as he consistently dealt with arm problems.

A shorter season in 2020 could be just what he needs to regain form. Less wear and tear on the arm in what could only be 12 starts during the regular season lessens the risk of him once again heading to the DL and increases the chances of success in the rotation.

New York Yankees - Gary Sanchez

Sanchez is one of the most dangerous bats in the game when he’s on the field and at full health. The problem is he’s struggled to do just that throughout his career. In the last two seasons, he’s only played in 195 games. Additionally, the long seasons behind the plate have also gotten to him, as his hustle and energy have noticeably decreased at times.

With only 60 games in 2020, that all changes. Sanchez has an easier chance of remaining healthy while also having to spend less time catching, which could give him an increase in energy and fresher legs that typically wouldn’t be there as the season winds down. That combination should help the power hitter continue to crush the ball.

Tampa Bay Rays - Bullpen

Despite having the likes of Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow in the rotation, the Rays used their relievers heavily in 2019. It worked, as the bullpen was dominant and made it possible to reach the postseason.

That formula for success probably wasn’t going to disappear in 2020. Now, the extended usage won’t be as grueling. In a season where bullpens could dictate success if starting pitchers struggle to get back into game shape and build stamina, the Rays seem in good hands.

Toronto Blue Jays - Ken Giles

Giles had a solid 2019 with the Blue Jays, finishing with a 1.87 ERA and 23 saves. The only problem was a nagging elbow issue that followed him throughout the season.

The shortened season and late start should both benefit his arm, as he’ll have fewer appearances to make. Heading into the final year of his deal, the ability to still perform at an elite level while not adding mileage or more pain to his throwing arm is the ideal situation for Giles.

RELATED: NL PLAYERS THAT COULD BENEFIT FROM SHORTENED SEASON

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox - Michael Kopech

It’s not a given that the highly-touted prospect will be a part of the White Sox plans in 2020, but as NBC Sports Chicago’s Vinnie Duber points out, this 60-game scenario could benefit Kopech.

Essentially, Kopech and his electric arm were being watched very cautiously in spring training due to injuries he’s dealt with in the past. With a 162-game season assumed, there was speculation that Kopech would first spend time in the minors before potentially joining the pro club later in the season, as a way to monitor his usage.

But now with a shortened season, Chicago could opt to let him start in the majors and get some work in, whether it be starting or in the bullpen. With fewer innings to get through overall, Kopech could get more action than was expected.

Cleveland Indians - Adam Cimber

Cimber had his name called upon 68 times in 2019, and the first 37 of those appearances went rather well (3.06 ERA). However, the final 31 did not (6.29 ERA).

Part of that struggle could most likely be attributed to fatigue. 2020 realistically only gives Cimber enough time to put together the body of work he had in his first 37 appearances, if that. A sample size of that nature bodes well for him and the Indians. 

Detroit Tigers - Miguel Cabrera

The veteran showed in Spring Training that he still has plenty of pop in his bat, even taking Gerrit Cole deep twice in one game. However, even in the DH role, a 162-game grind isn’t ideal.

With extended rest and a shortened season on the horizon, the right-hander could ride a hot start right into another solid year of production.

Kansas City Royals - Jorge Soler

Soler can swing with the best of them, especially when he gets rolling. That became evident during a 60-game stretch from July 24 to the end of the season when he hit .292 and had 21 home runs, as stated by MLB.com's Jeffrey Flanagan. 

Yes, that was in the middle-end of the season after seeing a lot of pitches throughout the season, but should Soler come anywhere near that during the 2020 season, he’ll have an incredible season.

Minnesota Twins - Rich Hill

Many pitchers will benefit from a shortened season, and Rich Hill is most definitely one of them. Hill entering his age-40 season, meaning his arm has been through quite a lot in 15 years of MLB action.

Additionally, the new Twin is coming off surgery that was expected to delay his debut until June. With baseball not starting until the end of July, he won’t just be ready, but he’ll be well-rested in a season in which fewer innings will be asked of him.

The Twins were looking to get value out of Hill by signing the veteran, and the shortened season may make that decision all the more plausible.

AL WEST

Houston Astros - Justin Verlander

Since joining Houston in 2017, Verlander has been an absolute workhorse and innings-eater. Not only that, but he’s been dominant throughout. In 2019, he led all of baseball in innings pitched, and that didn’t include his postseason work. 

There’s no reason to expect a steep drop-off in 2020, but a 60-game season may make it even easier for him to continue his reign as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Houston will not only expect him to go deep in games in the regular season but to do the same if they make the playoffs. Last season, Verlander shows signs of being human and dealing with fatigue in the World Series, where he had a 5.73 ERA in two games. 

Limiting his starts through 60 games should keep the arm fresh and the velocity sharp for as long as he is needed, limiting the chances of any decline when the games mean the most.

Los Angeles Angels - Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani can throw a top-end fastball and hit balls 400 feet. However, injuries have prevented him from doing both at the same time consistently in the major leagues. New manager Joe Maddon wants to see it be done, and there may be no better time to try it out then during a short season. 

If 162 games were to be played, it may be a lot to ask Ohtani to start a game and then hit the four others. It still may be a lot, but it’s much more realistic for him to contribute on the mound and at the plate in 2020.

Oakland Athletics - Sean Manaea

Manaea has been a talented starter for the Athletics over the past few years when he’s on the field. A no-hitter in 2018 showed just how dominant he could be. However, he has dealt with arm problems in the past and is coming off a season where he didn’t take the field until September.

Though he performed well upon his return (4-0, 1.21 ERA), a 60-game season will make it easier for him to remain healthy and effective.

Texas Rangers - Corey Kluber

A familiar face in a new place you may have forgotten about, Kluber was acquired by Texas in hopes that he will be its ace for the next few seasons. His past body of work shows he’s up for the challenge, but 2019 was a year filled with injuries.

Now, the 2017 Cy Young winner is back to full health, but after appearing in just seven games last year, there could have been some concerns about how his arm would fare over 162 games. That’s no longer a concern, and the Rangers should be able to rely on Kluber in a year where every team has a better chance at the postseason.

Seattle Mariners - Daniel Vogelbach

Vogelbach was an All-Star in 2019, and that was largely due to his performance in the first half of the season. During his first 70 games, Vogelbach hit an average .249 but had 20 homer runs and 48 RBI. Following that, he batted just .162 in the second half and the power numbers decreased as well (nine home runs).

For a player with a ton of power who has the ability to get off to a hot start before pitchers tend to figure him out, a 60-game season is a dream come true. Though he may never hit for an insane average (he did hit .310 through the first month of 2019), he has the ability to produce runs at a fast rate in a short timeframe.

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How Heston Kjerstad's relationship with an Orioles area scout came full circle

How Heston Kjerstad's relationship with an Orioles area scout came full circle

Ken Guthrie’s first memories of Heston Kjerstad aren’t on the baseball field.

Rather, the Orioles scout saw Kjerstad in the stands.

Guthrie, an Orioles area scout who covers Oklahoma, Arkansas and North Texas, once coached Kjerstad’s brother, Dexter, before he became a scout with the Orioles. Heston roamed the stands during those games.

Just a few years later, when Guthrie saw Kjerstad before his senior year of high school, he recognized his talents as a legitimate major league prospect. 

So, in early June, Guthrie patiently waited for the player he’d known for years to hear his name called. The Orioles did so at second overall.

“It’s pretty nerve wracking, kind of like this interview — area scouts are not in the limelight,” Guthrie said with a grin on a call with reporters Wednesday. “First and foremost, this is not just my kid or my player. I’m elated to be associated with Heston, but this is from (general manager) Mike (Elias), Sig (Mejdal), Brad (Ciolek), to our midwest cross-checker in Jim Richardson, Hank Hendrik, our analytics department and our entire amateur scouting staff. It’s a group effort to get a player like this and certainly we’re all excited.”

RELATED: WHAT A 60-GAME REGULAR SEASON MEANS FOR THE ORIOLES’ PROSPECTS

Over the last few weeks, the Orioles have raved about Kjerstad’s ability to hit the ball with power to all parts of the field. Elias called Kjerstad the best left-handed hitter in the draft.

“As far as what attracted me to Heston initially was just his ability and his knack for squaring up the baseball routinely,” Guthrie said of the Arkansas standout. “He can do damage with pitcher’s pitches, he shows power to all fields, he has natural hitter’s instincts, he profiles well in right field, and the best part is he’ll maximize his potential and his tools with his hard work and ethic and his genuine love for the game.”

The relationship between Guthre and Kjerstad, however, isn’t one that’s particularly unique to those two. In fact, there are a handful of major leaguers who have unique or close relationships with their area scouts — notably Joey Votto and Howie Kendrick. Last season, Kendrick was the Nationals NLCS MVP en route to a World Series title.

Guthrie, in addition to knowing Kjerstad for a few years before he entered high school, has seen him play back when Kjerstad was a switch-hitting high schooler at Randall High School in Amarillo, Texas. But it wasn’t until Kjerstad’s time in college where he truly grew into his 6-foot-3, 205 pound frame.

“I knew right then and there I probably underestimated what his power tool was going to be,” Guthrie said. “Immediately going into the spring of his freshman year, he proved my notion right that day. Sometimes the scouts, we do the best we can to project, but players do get bigger, they get better, and certainly Heston showed the advancements that he made strictly physically coming out of high school.”

Kjerstad slashed .332/.553/.972 in his first season as a Razorback and had 14 home runs. For his career, he batted .343 and never posted an on-base percentage below .400. 

In his shortened junior season this year, he had six home runs in 16 games and batted .448 with an OPS of 1.304. While he showed a tendency to strikeout a lot in college — he did so 129 times in his career — his 2020 season showed a brief sample of improvement. He tallied seven walks and struck out nine times, far better than the ratio he’d typically posted at Arkansas.

“What we saw that led us to select Heston with this pick was a rare combination of power and the ability to hit for average, and what we feel is a swing and an approach that will convert that production to the professional game and ultimately the major leagues,” Elias said. 

Elias added he views Kjerstad as the headliner of a class that he thinks can be impactful to the organization. One day, he expects Kjerstad to be a power bat in the middle of Baltimore’s lineup. 

What stands out about Kjerstad’s approach, though, is his swing — something he mastered through years of batting practice with pitches thrown by his father.

“I take all the credit for it, I was the one who mastered it,” Kjerstad said of the swing. “It’s kind of like playing the guitar, it’s my form of art. You kind of have your own unique rhythm or whatever you want with it.”

But even with his powerful swing, he might not have anywhere to show it off in 2020. Minor league baseball was cancelled this week, meaning the options for Kjerstad this season are still to be decided.

“It’s definitely tough not being able to go out and play games,” Kjerstad said. “Personally, I think that’s the best way to improve as a player. To be playing every day and facing high-level competition. Every minor leaguer is struggling with the same thing, nobody is going to face competition, so you’re going to need to be a little creative with your training and also making sure you’re getting live at-bats wherever you’re at, or getting a lot of machine work to simulate live at-bats.”

No matter when Kjerstad joins the organization in some way, though, he’ll be another addition to a franchise that needs younger talent in the worst way. 

And if Kjerstad develops the way he and the Orioles hope it won’t be long before he patrols a corner outfield position at Camden Yards. Then, it will be Guthrie’s turn to watch Kjerstad from the stands.

“Honestly, it’s a great fit for me with the people and everything,” Kjerstad said. “They take care of everyone well. They definitely have a lot of talent coming up in the minor league system. I think it’s going to be a great place for me to develop and reach my full potential.”

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