Fifteen days before the season opener, Tony Sipp has found a new team, the Washington Nationals. The veteran left-hander out of Moss Point High and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $1.25 million contract with a mutual option for 2020. The 35-year-old Sipp had a strong bounce-back year in 2018, putting up a 1.86 ERA in 54 appearances for Houston. He made $6M last year. Sipp has a career 3.67 ERA in 580 games, working exclusively as a reliever. He had a 0.90 ERA against left-handers in 2018, and a Washington Post reporter is already predicting a special role for him: “Expect to see a lot of Sipp versus (Bryce) Harper in the coming season.” The former Nationals left-handed slugger is now with division rival Philadelphia. Sipp joins Southern Miss alum Brian Dozier on what shapes up as a strong Nationals club. Dozier also signed a one-year deal as a free agent.
Other contract offers for more money and years reportedly were on the table when Brian Dozier chose a 1-year, $9 million deal with Washington last week. The Southern Miss product from Fulton is betting on himself to rebound from a tough 2018 season that may have caused his stock to drop. “Going into this year, personally, you kind of have a chip on your shoulder,” Dozier said in an mlb.com story. Dozier, 31, hit .215 last year with 21 homers playing for Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He admitted that a knee injury hampered him but says he is fully recovered now. The former All-Star also said he feels he is a good fit with the Nationals – who needed a second baseman — and likes the club’s prospects of contending for the postseason in 2019. He’ll be back on the market in 2020. … In an under-the-radar move over the weekend, the Chicago White Sox signed Biloxi native Jacob Lindgren to a minor league deal. The former St. Stanislaus High and Mississippi State star has missed the last two seasons with injuries. He had Tommy John surgery last spring. The 25-year-old left-hander was in Atlanta’s system in 2018 but was cut loose in October. A former second-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2014, he had a cup of coffee in the big leagues in 2015. … The Philadelphia Phillies signed Laurel’s Bobby Dickerson, formerly of Buck Showalter’s Baltimore staff, as their new first-base coach last week. Dickerson, coincidentally, has been a longtime mentor to free agent Manny Machado, whom the Phillies have been hotly pursuing. … What has 199 big league wins, 22 saves, 148 professional home runs, 1,417 minor league managerial victories and a World Series ring? The four featured guests – Roy Oswalt, Jay Powell, Hunter Renfroe and Chris Maloney, all Mississippi natives with impressive baseball pedigrees – at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame’s Hot Stove Hall of Fame Evening, set for Jan. 24 at the museum in Jackson. Tickets are on sale at the museum or online at www.msfame.com.
Brian Dozier, the former Southern Miss star, has agreed to a 1-year, $9 million deal with the Washington Nationals, published reports say. Dozier, 31, batted .215 with 21 homers and 72 RBIs last season, which the second baseman split between Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The former All-Star looks like a good fit in a Nationals lineup that includes – at the moment – Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner and Ryan Zimmerman and on a team that likely will contend in the strong National League East. P.S. Petal High product DeMarcus Evans was named Texas’ minor league reliever of the year and will be honored at the Dr Pepper Texas Rangers Winter Warmup on Jan. 25 in Arlington, Texas. Evans, a 25th-round pick in 2015, was 4-1 with nine saves, a 1.77 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 56 innings at Low Class A Hickory. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound right-hander also pitched in the Arizona Fall League. … Former William Carey star Tyler James was rated the fastest prospect in Kansas City’s system in a recent mlb.com article. A 25th-round selection in 2017, James led the rookie Arizona League with 31 steals in 2017 and the rookie Pioneer League with 38 last summer, when he also batted .312.
Having left his original MLB organization in 2017, David Goforth got a second chance with Washington last season. The former Ole Miss star from Meridian is now looking for a third shot. Goforth, who spent all of the past season in Triple-A, became a minor league free agent earlier this month while playing winter ball. The 30-year-old right-hander went 2-2 with a 2.40 ERA and a save in 14 games for Culiacan in the Mexican Pacific League; he is currently on the team’s reserve list. Goforth spent seven years in the Milwaukee system – he was a seventh-round pick out of UM in 2011 – and appeared in 31 big league games (with a 3.91 ERA) over three different seasons. He was designated for assignment by the Brewers in April of 2017 and was sent to the minors for the rest of that season. He signed with Washington as a free agent last fall. P.S. Also on the minor league market is former Rebels star and erstwhile big leaguer Chris Coghlan, who spent most of 2018 in Triple-A with the Chicago Cubs. Coghlan, 33, last played in the majors in 2017 with Toronto. … Another ex-UM standout, J.B. Woodman, is also a free agent, having been released out of A-ball by St. Louis in August. Woodman was a second-round pick by Toronto in 2016 and was traded last year for major league infielder Aledmys Diaz.
Aaron Barrett has been knocked down. Not once, but twice. In 2015, in the midst of his second big league season with Washington, the ex-Ole Miss star suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. About a year later, while throwing as part of his rehab program, he suffered a broken humerus, the bone in the upper arm. More surgery. More rehab. Two long years later, in June of this year, Barrett finally made it back to the mound in a professional game. Doctors have told him it’s a minor miracle that he can pitch at all. The Nationals, to their credit, have stayed with him. He has made four appearances over the last three weeks for Auburn in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League. It’s a long way from the big leagues, but the 30-year-old Barrett – who has a 3.47 ERA in 90 MLB games — says he is determined to get back. “I keep telling myself that when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be one hell of a comeback story,” he told milb.com.
One of the great quotes in one of the great baseball movies, “Moneyball,” goes something like this: “We’re all told at some point that we can no longer play the children’s game. Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40. But we’re all told.” It’s the harsh reality for anyone who loves to play — and they will fight it ‘til the bitter end. Take the case of Cody Satterwhite, the former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss standout. Drafted in the second round by Detroit 10 long years ago, the big right-hander hasn’t yet been “told,” but he’s surely heard whispers. A career minor leaguer, the 31-year-old Satterwhite has been released three times and become a free agent twice. He missed two full seasons because of injury. He pitched in independent ball and did a tour in Japan. He pitched in Triple-A in Washington’s system last year and posted a 4.35 ERA in 24 games for Syracuse. The Nationals recently re-signed Satterwhite for 2018. Another chance at the children’s game and the big league dream. Good for him.
Ex-Ole Miss star Zack Cozart, one of several Mississippians on the free agent market, has a serious suitor in San Diego, according to reports. The Padres are looking for a shortstop, and Cozart is the best one out there looking for a team. Cozart batted .297 with 24 homers and 63 RBIs and made his first All-Star Game with Cincinnati in 2017. … There hasn’t been much news of late on other free agent Mississippians, a list that includes Lance Lynn, Mitch Moreland, Seth Smith, Jarrod Dyson, Tyler Moore and Alex Presley. … David Goforth, the former UM standout from Meridian, has signed a minor league deal with Washington. The onetime big leaguer spent most of last season with Milwaukee’s Triple-A club. He has pitched well in winter ball in the Mexican Pacific League, posting a 2.45 ERA and three saves in 29 games for Culiacan. … Taylorsville High product Billy Hamilton reportedly is drawing interest from several clubs wanting to trade with Cincinnati for the center fielder. Interested teams include San Francisco, Texas and Baltimore. Hamilton, a defensive whiz, hit .247 (.299 on-base average) with 59 steals this past season.
Lance Lynn appears to be making strides on his comeback trail. The Ole Miss product, who missed 2016 after Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings for St. Louis against Atlanta on Sunday, reducing his ERA this spring to 1.29 in 14 innings over four starts. He wasn’t razor sharp vs. the Braves, but the big right-hander did what he does: He battled. Lynn, who won 60 games for the Cardinals from 2012-15, made at least 29 starts and threw at least 175 innings in each of those seasons. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he expects nothing less in 2017. “If you set yourself below that,” he said, “why take the ball?” The Cardinals in general should be angry birds. They missed the postseason last year, snapping a streak going back to 2010, and then watched the rival Chicago Cubs win it all. Lynn, who’ll turn 30 in May, may also be motivated by the fact he is eligible for free agency after this season. P.S. Joey Butler – remember him? – got a hit in his lone at-bat on Sunday for Washington, which had summoned the Pascagoula native from minor league camp. Butler, 31 and now with his fifth organization, batted .276 with eight homers for Tampa Bay in 2015 but spent all of 2016 in Triple-A with Cleveland. He might get stuck there again with the Nationals.
There likely will be a lot of eyes on Tony Sipp as he goes to work in West Palm Beach, Fla., over the next few weeks. The Pascagoula native and former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College standout is coming off a rough year and is the only seasoned left-hander in Houston’s bullpen. Sipp’s ERA jumped to 4.95 over 60 appearances in 2016. He had a 1.99 in 2015, and his career ERA over eight MLB seasons is 3.65. Batters hit .297 against Sipp in 2016, and he yielded 12 homers in 43 2/3 innings. The beefed-up Astros, picked by some as the favorite in the American League West, surely want a reliable lefty in their pen. If Sipp, 33, doesn’t look sharp, they may have to go shopping. Astros pitchers and catchers formally reported to camp today and will work out at their new spring facility on Wednesday. P.S. Joey Butler, another Pascagoula native and MGCCC alumnus, signed a minor league contract last week with Washington. Butler, a right-handed hitting outfielder, spent all of 2016 in the minors with Cleveland’s Triple-A Columbus club. He batted .276 with eight homers in 88 games for Tampa Bay in 2015 and is a career .282 hitter with 104 homers over nine pro seasons, including a stint in Japan. … Ole Miss product Aaron Barrett may be close to re-signing with Washington as a minor league free agent. He missed the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. While rehabbing last season, Barrett suffered a fractured right elbow and had another surgery. He ultimately was waived by the Nationals and elected free agency in the off-season. As a rookie in 2014, Barrett had a 2.66 ERA in 50 games for the Nats. In 2015, his ERA jumped to 4.60 in 40 games before he was injured late in the season.
For the second straight year, ex-Ole Miss standout Zack Cozart saw a strong season curtailed by physical woes. Cozart, Cincinnati’s shortstop, missed the last 3 1/2 months of 2015 after a knee injury that required surgery, then went down again this year in early September because of recurring pain in that knee. Cozart, who last played on Sept. 10, hit .252 with 16 home runs and 50 RBIs in 120 games. He played only 53 games last year, batting .258 with nine homers. He looked better than ever this April, hitting .361 at month’s end, and was at .303 on June 8 before starting to fade. He had 15 homers on July 18, one thereafter. Cozart, eligible for arbitration again this year, was the subject of trade rumors before and during the season. He might have played his final game for the Reds. … Aaron Barrett, another Ole Miss product, also had a rough year. Barrett, a Washington Nationals reliever, had Tommy John surgery last September and was making progress toward a possible return in late July when he suffered a fractured elbow. “It was traumatizing. It was like someone hit me in the gut, like, a million times,” Barrett told mlb.com in August. “But … I have a bionic arm now, and I’m literally going to come back stronger than ever.” … Former Itawamba Community College star Desmond Jennings battled injuries – again – in 2016 with Tampa Bay and wound up being released on Aug. 26. The toolsy Jennings was batting .200 with seven homers. A Tampa Tribune writer called Jennings’ potential “fool’s gold.” He remains unsigned, as does Jonathan Papelbon, who was released, per mutual agreement, by Washington on Aug. 13. Mississippi State product Papelbon had a 4.37 ERA at the time and had lost his closer’s job after a series of shaky outings. P.S. Jackson’s Seth Smith went 0-for-2 with a run in a wild and crazy game in Seattle on Saturday that the Mariners lost to Oakland 9-8 in 10 innings. The defeat eliminated Seattle from postseason contention, extending their drought to 15 years.