San Juan Busy in Offseason

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Updated: March 15, 2017

A philosophy of defense and pitching is what General Manager Mike Best inherited upon taking over San Juan in midseason last year. And with PRTC Stadium appearing to live up to predictions of a pitcher’s park after its inaugural year, Best hasn’t strayed away from that approach in his first offseason.

Duane Higgins

Flint Butler

However with the anemic offense last year, he did open owner Luis Munoz Rivera‘s wallet in free agency in search of hitting. The first addition was 32-year old second basemen Duane Higgins. The three-time all star may have posted his lowest batting average (.265) since his rookie year but did slug a career high 18 home runs and his fielding at second base has always been solid. In 27-year old Flint Butler (.293,.354,.436), San Jose also added a productive hitter in his prime. Both were better offensively than anyone on the Coqui, which as a team hit .224 last year.

However, it was late in free agency that Best nabbed the biggest name – veteran starting pitcher Alfredo Valazquez, who grew up in neighboring Bayamon Bay. The 36-year old is 134-84 with a 3.13 e.r.a. in his career and Best believes the four-time all-star hasn’t shown any sign of declining yet. While the general manager says pitching wasn’t a main focus in free agency, he thought it a no-brainer when Valazquez was still available late in the offseason. That the ground baller could finish his final years close to home in a pitcher’s park with a good defense behind him made it an ideal fit for both sides.

Best also signed a veteran reliever, Shawn Marshall. The 32-year old righty isn’t the same pitcher who once collected 42 saves for Arlington three years ago but he did post a 2.34 e.r.a. out of the pen for Florida last year and he will mostly be a depth guy for the Coqui.

“Overall, I’m not a believer in using free agency to build a team,” said Best. “However, based on the way our team finished last year, we didn’t have a lot of chips to play and I feel we are close to competing for a title.”

In a trade, San Juan also added veteran Barton MacLugash to a crowded mix of San Juan outfielders who have yet to distinguish themselves. MacLugash hit just .237 last season for Shin Seiki but has a knack for getting on base (.330 OBP) and his 41 doubles in 2022 suggest he should do well hitting the ball into the gaps at PRTC.

The consensus feel, however, is that while the pitching should be good, the team is still short an elite hitter, that guy who can consistently knock in runs and carry a squad. New Manager Jesus GilbertSergio Manetti, who once managed the London Underground to four division titles, can turn them around is yet to be seen.