Orioles

Padres to move in portion of Petco's fences

Padres to move in portion of Petco's fences

SAN DIEGO (AP) The vast outfield at Petco Park will no longer be a place where long fly balls go to die.

The San Diego Padres said Monday that work will begin this week to bring in the fences in right field and left-center, and to move the visitor's bullpen from right-field foul territory to behind the home bullpen beyond the fence in left-center.

After years of angst by their sluggers, the Padres said it was time to change the extreme nature of the downtown ballpark - which some people derisively called Petco National Park - to one that plays more fairly.

``We want the park to play the right away for players and for the fans,'' Padres president and CEO Tom Garfinkel said. ``That was driven first by baseball operations in terms of the right way to construct the dimensions to make it more fair for players. Players know what's fair and what's not. When they crush a ball that would be out in 29 other parks, and it's not out here, they know that it's not fair. We wanted to make it more fair from that standpoint.''

For the fans, the changes might result in fewer boring games.

From the right-field porch to the right-center gap, the fence will be moved in from 402 feet to 391 feet and lowered to match the rest of the outfield wall. The out-of-town scoreboard on the right-field wall will be relocated to a new spot above right field as part of seating modifications.

In left-center, the fence will be moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet to allow for the visiting team's bullpen to be relocated, mostly for safety issues.

The dimensions will remain the same down the left-field line (336 feet), right-field line (322) and straightaway center (396).

The changes are good news to sluggers like Chase Headley, and even pitcher Tim Stauffer said he's OK with them.

``Any way that they can make a ballpark play a bit more fair is a good thing,'' said Headley, who won the NL RBI title with 115 and set career bests with 31 homers, 173 hits and 95 runs scored. ``I definitely like a variation among the stadiums, but when you have a stadium that plays so drastic to one side, anything that you can improve the consistency of for both sides is a positive.''

``I'm not going to say I'm going to hit more home runs than I did this year, because I don't know what's going to happen,'' Headley said. ``I think more than anything, when you hit a ball that you know probably should be a home run, it will reward you. Having something at least less drastic, I think, is going to improve everybody's approach and confidence. You're not going to be walking back to the dugout after hitting one that's a home run in 29 other ballparks saying, `This is dumb.' It's not going to turn it into a hitters' park, but most of the balls you've really hit well, you'll be rewarded for.''

Headley hit 13 homers at Petco and 18 on the road.

When Petco Park opened in 2004, then-general manager Kevin Towers joked that the Padres had made it Barry Bonds-proof, since the San Francisco Giants slugger always tormented San Diego. Bonds later quipped that the Padres had made Petco Park ``baseball-proof.'' Bonds hit his 755th homer at Petco Park on Aug. 4, 2007, tying Hank Aaron with an opposite-field shot to left-center.

During the 2004 season, sluggers Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko groused about how they'd crush a ball that would be a homer in other parks, only to watch it go for a long out. Nevin once hit a double that he thought should have been a homer. After reaching second, he gestured angrily toward Towers' box. The two later had words in the clubhouse.

The Padres did modify the right-field gap one year, but avoided making major changes.

``Our goal is to move Petco Park away from being the most extreme run suppressing ballpark in major league baseball,'' said executive chairman Ron Fowler, part of the group that bought the Padres from John Moores in August. ``After an extensive study, it became clear to all of us that some change was needed. Petco will still be a pitchers' park; however, it will no longer be the outlier.''

Stauffer wasn't surprised to hear about the changes.

``It's more for the fans and scores, and it will be fair to both sides,'' he said. ``If it's going to get more fans to the game, I'm all for it. Obviously as a pitcher you don't want to give up cheapies, but I don't think that will be the case.''

``It's pretty well understood that a couple areas that played beyond deep were very unfair for hitters,'' Stauffer said. ``Overall, it's not a bad idea. The faces hitters made when they rounded first and saw a ball get caught after crushing it were pretty entertaining. Or when they'd flip their bat and then see that it doesn't even get to the warning track, especially early in the season at night. Obviously we like having it big, but we want guys playing there every day to have confidence that if they hit it good, it goes.''

The damp night air early in the season also affects fly balls.

General manager Josh Byrnes said moving in the fences is just one factor for a team that was fourth in the NL West at 76-86, 18 games behind San Francisco.

``Hopefully, like a lot of parks it's a little more fair, and we're just going to have to have a good team on the field to win,'' Byrnes said.

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.

As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21

It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.

Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental. 

Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.

His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.

Dean Kremer, RHP, 22

Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.

That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.

Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.

Rylan Bannon, IF, 22

Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.

Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.

Zach Pop, RHP, 21

Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th. 

Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.

Breyvic Valera, IF, 26

In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player. 

He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.

Overall

This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.

Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.

If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.

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Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals re-sign Madison Bowey leaving Tom Wilson the lone remaining RFA

Defenseman Madison Bowey re-signed with the Capitals on Thursday, inking a two-year extension that will carry an average of $1 million.

Bowey carried a cap charge of $703,333 last season.

The 23-year-old appeared in 51 games for the Caps in 2017-18, amassing 12 assists, 24 penalty minutes and a plus/minus rating of minus-3.

Bowey also suited up in nine contests for AHL Hershey, though he finished the season as one of the Black Aces during Washington's run to the Stanley Cup.

With Bowey back in the fold, the Caps now have six of seven defenseman from last season’s roster under contract. (Veteran Brooks Orpik remains an unrestricted free agent.)

Bowey had an uneven first year in the NHL—he didn’t play following the late-February addition of Michal Kempny—but the Caps expect that the 6-2, 198-pound right-shot blue liner will become reliable full-time player with more seasoning.

Bowey’s deal leaves Tom Wilson as the Caps' only remaining unsigned restricted free agent. The sides are in discussions on a multi-year extension.

Including Bowey’s extension, the Caps have roughly $7.3 million in salary cap space remaining, according to www.capfriendly.com.

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