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.
Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.
Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”
Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.
Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.
Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.
Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?
Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?
Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …
That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …
Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.
The 2016-18 All-Star Games are spoken for, but the Cubs could play host not long thereafter according to commissioner Rob Manfred, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports.
The Padres are hosting at Petco Park this year, the Marlins will host at Marlins Park next season, and the Nationals will host in 2018 at Nationals Park. That will make four consecutive National League hosts and five if the Cubs get it in 2019. In the past, the National and American Leagues have alternated hosting privileges. That is sort of important now since the league that wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series.
The Cubs last hosted the All-Star Game in 1990 and have hosted a total of three times (1962 and 1947 being the other years) since its inception in 1933.
Wrigley Field has been undergoing renovations which are expected to be completed by the 2019 season. Manfred said that the Cubs hosting the All-Star Game “will provide the Cubs and Ricketts family a chance to showcase the unbelievable renovation they are in the midst of doing for Wrigley field.”
Update: Here’s a table showing the last time each team hosted the All-Star Game.
||Olympic Stadium (Expos)
||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
||Jack Murphy Stadium
||Oriole Park at Camden Yards
||The Ballpark in Arlington
||U.S. Cellular Field
||Minute Maid Park
||Angels Stadium of Anaheim
||Great American Ball Park
Expect Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation this spring, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Clayton Richard could serve as a fallback option as well.
Hendricks, 26, pitched well in his first full season in 2015. He finished with a 3.95 ERA and a 167/43 K/BB ratio over 180 innings. That was a solid follow-up to his rookie campaign in 2014, when he posted a 2.46 ERA over 13 starts.
The Cubs acquired Warren, 28, from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade. He contributed both out of the rotation and the bullpen in the Bronx this past season, pitching 131 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 104/39 K/BB ratio.
One through four, the Cubs’ rotation is solid with defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel.