Holliday wants to play for the New York Yankees

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SI’s Jon Heyman hears from one of Matt Holliday’s friends that Holliday has the Yankees at the top of his list.

Which is interesting.  On the one hand, Holliday thrived in (a) the N.L.; and (b) in small markets, and there is this sense out there, justified or not, that he’s not the sort of player you could just plug into New York and expect him to shine.  On the other hand, the Yankees (a) will have an opening in left field if they let Damon walk and Holliday would fit it well; and (b) they almost always always always go after the top free agent in a given year.  As Heyman himself notes, the last time they didn’t do that was when Carlos Beltran was dangling in the winter of 2004-05.

Heyman handicaps the Holliday field as well, and I more or less agree with his comments on all of the contenders.  Not sure if it’s a ranking or just a listing, but if it’s a ranking he has the Dodgers way too high at number 2, because I really can’t see Manny not exercising his option.  The Braves at number 8 are an intriguing option, simply because they fit what seems like the Holliday mold (N.L., less-intense market) and because they have a glaring need and the ability to spend a little money, assuming they don’t sign Hudson or if they manage to somehow trade off Derek Lowe.

While all of that is interesting, I’m trying to figure out how that sourcing for this story works from a practical angle.  Does Heyman stalk Holliday, figure out who his friends are and then secretly get quotes from them without Holliday’s knowledge, or does Holliday and/or his agent orchestrate this, putting a “friend” with Heyman so it doesn’t look like Holliday is out lobbying the Yankees directly?  Probably doesn’t matter, but I’m going to assume that this is Holliday and his people planting this in an effort to dispel the notion that Holliday is an N.L. only, small market-only kind of guy, and to make the Yankees a credible bargaining tool as he enters the market.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.