Now that their bullpen is sorted, the Braves have three things to sort out before spring training: leveraging their pitching surplus via a trade of a starter; filling their hole at first base; and adding an outfielder. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman — after first telling what have to rank as some of the lamest Tiger Woods jokes I’ve yet seen — gets to it:
- Frank Wren still thinks he can move Derek Lowe. I’m not convinced that Lowe doesn’t yet have a bounceback year or two left in him. If someone else agrees, great, a trade is made. If not, there are worse things than going into next season with Lowe in the rotation. If Boston showed us anything last season they showed us that there is no such thing as too much starting pitching;
- Marlon Byrd’s agent, Seth Levinson, is saying that the Braves have “strong interest” in Byrd. Maybe. But there are a lot of options for the Braves here: Josh Willingham, Mike Cameron, Jermaine Dye, Xavier Nady, Rick Ankiel, etc. Basically they need someone who can play right field at the beginning of the season and who can move to left once Jason Heyward has passed whatever the Braves imagine to be the Super Two barrier.
- “Some of the Braves players are lobbying for the club to bring Mark DeRosa back.” That’s cute. Why doesn’t he just say “Chipper Jones is lobbying to bring Mark DeRosa back?” Chipper is literally the only Brave who was on the team when DeRosa was last there in 2004.
Still no word on what they’re going to do about first base. Bring back LaRoche? Hank Blalock? Cheap wild card move: see if Matt Diaz can play there, call up Heyward now and start with an outfield of Heyward, McLouth and Free Agent X.
Of course, I’m irrational when it comes to the Braves. I just want to see Heyward, like, yesterday, so I’d be for just about anything that makes that happen.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.