Chicago continued their closer debate by re-signing Rod Graham today. Graham has been the closer for the Blues for the last three years, however, an extension was not negotiated during the season. Some have speculated his decrease in stats each year has been the cause for the hesitation but it is likely Graham wanted to test the market to gauge his value.
This right-hander has relied on his cutter for success, but has a imitating forkball as well. Over the four years spent with Chicago, he has pitched 324.1 IPs, 26 wins, 113 saves, 2.89 ERA, 429 Ks (11.9 K/9), and gained a total of 7.2 WAR.
Newly acquired Holden Smith, from Dallas, and the longtime Chicagoan, Rod Graham, appear to be the frontrunners for the closer role.
The Atlanta Generals added some depth to their pitching rotation by signing veteran starter, Haywood Wilhelm. Scouts have stated he has one of the best fastballs in the league and has the potential to make any batter miss.
This will be Wilhelm’s fourth team, as he has played with PIT, MIN, and had the most success with Philadelphia back in 2013-2014. His NBL totals in 122 games/775.1 IP are 42/48 win/loss ratio, 4.63 ERA, 920 Ks (10.7 K/9), and a total 12.3 WAR gained.
SP Eric Smith is the projected opening day starter, but veterans Wilhelm and Ramsey could overtake that role during spring training.
The four-year Baltimore bullpen veteran, Oliver White, has chosen to sign a one-year deal with Indianapolis Express for a little over $2 million. White has pitched 333.2 innings, 22-11 win/loss record, 2.86 ERA, 254 Ks, 3.4 total WAR). White provides the Express with a lefty from the bullpen, which was greatly needed, since Hiroaki Kobayashi was the only left-handed reliever available for use.
The Pittsburgh Bulldogs, who have had a quiet off-season, added SP Ciliberto to a one-year deal. Albin Ciliberto owns a lifetime ERA of 3.58 over 124 starts, with over 500 strikeouts. Ciliberto, coming off his worst season stats-wise, posted a 4.74 ERA, but denied any inclination of age being a factor at 32.
“(age) has nothing to do with it, in my mind. I lost focus while in Chicago and hope to regain that back in the (EC) central,” proclaimed Ciliberto during an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Indianapolis Express announced their signing of shortstop, Ben Richardson, for a one-year $5 million dollar deal. Richardson, who had a down year, played for Minnesota and hit 16 HRs, 71 RBIs, and a .238 batting average. Before that, Richardson has played three seasons with Indianapolis and saw a great deal of success hitting 80 HRs, 256 RBIs, and a .281 average over his tenure with Indianapolis.
“I love the area, fans, and ballpark,” exclaimed Richardson, after signing his new contract.
Ben Richardson turned down multiple deals, including a similar deal from Pittsburgh of $5 million, one-year.
Chicago cleared some cap space by sending SP David Jensen and $10 million in cash to Seattle for minor league shortstop Thurman Chavers. Jenson will receive $18 million this year in salary, and with the cash from Chicago, Seattle will only be responsible for the remaining $8 million, a modest price for a borderline-ace.
David Jensen, has spent his entire career with Chicago, and some fans will likely be upset with the news. Perhaps, Chicago can regain some relief with the extra $8 million in cap to continue scouring free agents available. Jensen was drafted in the 2nd round (46th overall) back in the 2013 inaugural NBL draft.
Chicago now has $110 million in cap hit this year, and will look to potentially sign SP Ray Atkins to an extension to avoid arbitration next year, who counts for $10 million of the $110 million cap hit.