Not yet the time for Orioles to spend

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Thanks in large part to the flood of talent brought in though the Erik Bedard trade, things are certainly looking up for the Orioles. Matt Wieters is going to be a superstar behind the plate, the Nolan Reimold-Adam Jones-Nick Markakis outfield should be plenty productive and is under complete control through 2013 and Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are two of the game’s very best pitching prospects.
It isn’t yet, though, the time to try to surround the impressive young core with quality veterans. The Orioles needs simply don’t mesh with this year’s free-agent market. Matt Holliday and Jason Bay wouldn’t make nearly as much sense as Mark Teixeira did a year ago. Top talents such as John Lackey and Chone Figgins would have to be overpaid to come to Baltimore, and besides Aroldis Chapman, there isn’t much in the way of younger free agents with upside.
The Orioles aren’t one or two players away from toppling the Yankees and Red Sox, so biding their time will continue to be the right strategy. At the rate the team is developing talent, Baltimore could soon again become a preferred destination for free agents. With several top pitchers potentially available, the club might actually have a shot at Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb or John Beckett after next season.
In the meantime, the Orioles should look to go short term with a late-game reliever, a middle-of-the-rotation starter and a corner infielder. It’d be awfully nice if Adrian Beltre fell into their laps, but Carlos Delgado, Hank Blalock and Troy Glaus are interesting one-year options to help out at first or third. Try Jim Johnson as a starter and sign Kevin Gregg or J.J. Putz to battle Koji Uehara and the youngsters for the closer’s role. Look into Justin Duchscherer and Todd Wellemeyer as cheap rotation options.
It’s 2011 that the Orioles should be thinking about. Wieters will be established as one of the game’s top-five catchers, and with any luck, they’ll have come up with three effective starters from the group of Matusz, Tillman, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Johnson, David Hernandez, Jake Arrieta and Troy Patton. That’s a team that might be just one or two veterans away from threatening the AL East’s elite.

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.