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Snake Bytes, 12/19: Winter wonderland

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

We're getting ready to head out to El Oso Park to watch Clefo and the rest of the Tucson Saguaros take on a couple of Phoenix-area teams in some vintage baseball. Should be fun: I'll be wrapping up well though, I think, since this is not the Arizona for which I signed up. I'll be the guy in the long trenchcoat, yelling incoherently.

Team news

[Arizona Sports] D-backs manager Hale talks Greinke, raised expectations - The 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner and 2015 NL Cy Young Award runner-up takes a very analytical approach to the game, and it’s one Hale believes will rub off on his new teammates. “Our younger pitchers will have the ability to bounce things off of him and he’s not afraid to be honest with them,” Hale said. “Sometimes when you’re with a group of players, the coach can tell you something, your manager can tell you something, but until your fellow teammate is honest with you, you don’t want to change.

[] December deals bolster Diamondbacks' rotation and Nick Ahmed's outlook - A back injury near season's end took him out of the lineup. "My back is 100 percent now," he said. Altogether, he appeared in 134 games last season. He hit .226, but that was after a slow start. With nine homers, he also displayed power potential. "I had some ups and downs, but I gained a lot of experience," Ahmed said. "I think I made improvements in all parts of my game, but you always have to keep working at it."

[Baseball Essential] Arizona Diamondbacks Top 20 Prospects - [Their rotation] doesn’t leave much room for some of Arizona’s pitching prospects to burst onto the scene, but that could be a blessing in disguise as it allows those pitching prospects to mature in the minors. Arizona’s hitting prospects are a bit lite, especially when comparing them to teams such as The Cubs and Rockies who have a bevy of hitting prospects. However, they do have a few impact bats that might make an impact in the desert this upcoming season.

[FOX Sports] Giants' offer to Johnny Cueto actually was less than Diamondbacks' - Alan Pogroszewski provided a formula he calls the Jock Tax Index, which provides the structure to compare contracts between offering teams. The JTI corresponds to the percentage of income an athlete is able to retain, and in his piece, Pogroszewski notes that players under contract to the Giants actually retain the lowest percentage of their income (50.3%) compared to any team in baseball. Players on the Arizona Diamondbacks, meanwhile, retain 55.2% of their income.

[KTAR] Arizona Diamondbacks invite children to celebrate holidays - The Arizona Diamondbacks hosted hundreds of elementary school children from across the Valley to participate in their 18th Annual Winter Classic celebration at Chase Field. Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley even got the chance to participate in the party by playing wiffleball with the kids. He said he was honored to be a part of the special event. “It’s got to be a great day for them, it’s even better for me,” he said. “I’m just happy the D-Backs are holding this and glad I could be a part of it.”

And, elsewhere...

[WSJ] For Once, It’s the National League That’s Shelling Out Cash - NL teams have spent $852 million on free agents so far this offseason and $254 million more than AL teams. In the previous four offseasons, the AL accounted for $3.3 billion in free agent spending versus the NL’s $2.5 billion, or 30% more. NL teams have accounted for five of the seven signings with a total value of more than $50 million. Of those five, three left an AL team to join an NL team.

[LA Times] Dodgers' deal with Hisashi Iwakuma falls apart and pitcher re-signs with Mariners - Iwakuma is returning to the Seattle Mariners on a one-year contract, as the Dodgers retracted their three-year offer in the wake of the physical examination he underwent last week. The loss of Iwakuma marks the latest disappointment for the Dodgers in what has been a potentially devastating winter, which started with them losing Zack Greinke to the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers were set to acquire Aroldis Chapman last week from the Cincinnati Reds, only for that trade to be placed on hold.

[CSN Bay Area] How 'nimble' Giants moved quickly after losing Greinke - "There’s an alternate baseball world where Greinke is a Giant, and it’s hard to tell which situation is better for the Giants going forward. Greinke’s talent is undeniable, but for a similar price the Giants nabbed a pitcher they believe can be just as good (Cueto) and one (Samardzija) they believe can stand right with the Bumgarners and Cuetos of the world." O RLY?. In other news, the Giants have made offers to the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy to round out their rotation.

[FOX Sports] Could the baseball be responsible for the surge in HRs in 2015? - Before the All-Star break, there were 4.10 runs per nine innings, a fair match for the entire 2014 season. But in August, scoring jumped to nearly 4.5 per nine innings, and stayed there in September. In the second half of 2015, 4.1 percent of batted balls became home runs. That 4.1 percent is one of the five highest half-season percentages since the 2000 season ... and (here's the kicker!) three of the other four were in 2000 and 2001 (with the fourth in 2004).

[Chicago Tribune] A Castro offers hope for a U.S.-Cuba future - The infield and outfield grass at El Estadio Latinoamericano resembled so many neglected suburban lawns. Enough ruts existed in the dirt to worry about bad hops or sprained ankles. The stadium infrastructure itself needed updating. From a technology standpoint, the lack of cell-phone service and the reality of buying Internet access by the hour creates inherent challenges that don't exist in the worst American sports venues. Cuba is the land Wi-Fi forgot. The MLB visit made an indelible impression for many reasons, but it seems impractical to say the country is ready for more than an exhibition game.

[Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] Pirates release Allen Webster - Three weeks after acquiring right-hander Allen Webster from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations, the Pirates released him, further thinning their starting-pitching depth.Multiple sources independently confirmed today that Webster intends to sign with a team in the Korean Baseball Organization.

[Lookout Landing] Beyond The Box Office: The first baseball films - This brings us back to our "first" baseball film, up there before all this expository text. After the Lumière brothers took the camera out and filmed an "actuality" of workers leaving a factory at the end of the day (to go home and, undoubtedly, consume some form of entertainment), Edison spent the last couple years of the 19th century with his company doing much the same. It's no mistake that one of his subjects here was of an industry bringing in 2.5 million paying customers through its gates each year.