Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Veteran major league reliever Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul ’09) stole the show for the American Association during baseball’s winter meetings by inking a new contract with the Washington Nationals that will net him between $10 and $15 million dollars over the next two seasons although two other hurlers out of the league also most likely are smiling broadly heading into the holiday season after being selected by new organizations out of the Rule 5 draft that highlighted the final day of the annual get-together in Orlando.
Converted outfielder Drew Muren continues to draw interest since his conversion to pitching, this time when Toronto picked up his contract from San Francisco in the Triple-A portion of the draft, and southpaw Carlos Diaz, who spent much of last season striking out hitters for Gary was moved from the sell-happy Miami Marlins to Oakland.
Muren was still playing center field when the onetime Houston draftee split 2014 between Sioux Falls and Gary and when he spent the next entire season at Fargo (.286/4/45), but pitching was on the hard-thrower’s mind, and he became a fulltime hurler after signing with Arizona two years ago.
The explosive fastball, frequently hitting 100 miles per hour, has helped the 29-year-old strike out 106 batters and allow only 63 hits in 79.1 innings in the two seasons of pitching, including Triple-A stints for both the Diamondbacks and Giants.
Diaz had not pitched above the rookie level when he reported to Gary at the start of last season, although he has the same type of strikeout credentials with 63 in 42.1 innings while mostly starting for the SouthShore RailCats. He only allowed 25 hits while going 2-1 with four saves and a 3.83 ERA, but that got the Marlins to pick up his contract for the last few weeks of the season, which he pitched at the youthful age of 25.
Kintzler One of American Association’s Best
Kintzler seemed to be in great demand this offseason after saving 29 games last season (28 for Minnesota, 1 for Washington), with the Chicago Cubs among the reported suitors along with the Twins and Nationals. He finalized a new contract in the wee hours of Thursday.
The 33-year-old has become one of the American Association’s best finds of its modern history with a deal that will pay him $5 million each of the next two years with another $5 million possible one year from now if he reaches certain milestones in ’18.
Fellow reliever Sean Doolittle and superstar outfielder Bryce Harper are two teammates who reportedly reached out to Kintzler, who made $2.9 million last season, to urge a return to Washington before he agreed to his current deal. Unlike many of today’s relief pitchers who power their way to success, the Las Vegas native primarily utilizes a biting sinker to get ground ball outs.
Kintzler’s career record in the majors is 14-14 with 46 saves and a 3.26 ERA for 298 appearances, every one of them in relief.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.