Winter meetings notes from day two: Giants, Brewers, Astros

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– Giants GM Brian Sabean said there’s no way Bengie Molina would be returning to the team. “That ship has sailed,” he told the San Jose Mercury News.
The Giants don’t want to turn over the job to Buster Posey, so Molina would still make sense if he can’t get a multiyear deal elsewhere. However, the Giants appear to be focused on Yorvit Torrealba or, perhaps, Ryan Doumit.
– The Brewers are close to re-signing free agent right-hander Claudio Vargas, presumably to a one-year deal.
Vargas, a starter for the Brewers in 2007, did a great job in low-leverage situations after being reacquired from the Dodgers on July 31, amassing a 1.78 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. He’ll need to take on a bigger role in next year’s pen, particularly now that Mark DiFelice is expected to miss the season.
– The Nationals have brought back Jerry Owens on a minor league contract, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.
Owens was the Nationals’ second-round pick in 2003. He was traded to the White Sox for Alex Escobar a year and a half later and hit .262/.319/.305 in 393 at-bats over four seasons for Chicago. He should be Triple-A fodder for the Nats, but perhaps there’s the chance that he’ll make the team as a bench player if Willie Harris is traded.
The Astros have signed eight players to minor league deals with spring training invitations: RHP Roy Corcoran, RHP Ryan Sadowski, RHP Casey Daigle, RHP Gary Majewski, 1B Chris Shelton, INF Drew Meyer, INF Oswaldo Nararro and OF Alex Romero.
If you’re a pitcher and a minor league free agent, the Astros would seem to be a prime team to sign with. Corcoran had a 3.22 ERA in 722/3 innings for the Mariners in 2008 and would seem to be the player here with the best chance of making the Astros out of spring training. Shelton is also deserving of another opportunity, though he’s less likely to get it. He hit .314/.396/.509 for Triple-A Tacoma last season.

Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren will compete for No. 5 spot in Cubs’ rotation

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks throws during the first inning of Game 3 of the National League baseball championship series against the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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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.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson plans to limit David Wright to 130 or fewer games

David Wright
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Mets third baseman David Wright missed four months of the 2015 season due to spinal stenosis. In other words, Wright dealt with a narrowing of his spinal column. Going forward, the Mets plan to be cautious with Wright so as not to overuse him.

As ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports, Mets GM Sandy Alderson plans to have the 33-year-old Wright play in no more than 130 games. Alderson said, “We’re gonna make sure that he’s not overworked. So it’s important for us to find somebody who can play 30 games or so at third base when he’s not in there. But I think we have to be realistic, and not expect that he’s gonna be an absolute everyday [player] out there playing 150 or 155 games. That’s not gonna happen.”

Wilmer Flores played 26 games at third base in his rookie season in 2013, so he could back up Wright as needed. But Alderson mentioned that because Wright would mostly sit against right-handed pitchers, the switch-hitting Neil Walker or Asdrubal Cabrera could get the call at the hot corner.

When he was on the field last season, Wright hit a productive .289/.379/.434 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 174 plate appearances.

Marlins still searching for starting pitching depth

Aaron Harang
AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Marlins would like to add “another pitcher or two” before pitchers and catchers report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Among starting pitchers available, Kyle Lohse, Aaron Harang, and Alfredo Simon are candidates for the Marlins, but they may hold out for the possibility of inking a major league contract. Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee are other potential candidates, per Frisaro.

This offseason, the Marlins signed Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal and Edwin Jackson for the major league minimum. The back of the rotation, though, is still a question mark as Jarred Cosart, Adam Conley, and Justin Nicolino will compete with Jackson for two spots. David Phelps is dealing with an elbow injury and may or not be ready by Opening Day, but he could function in a swingman capacity as well.

Shocker: Bruce Bochy tabs Madison Bumgarner to start Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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You might want to sit down for this news. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has tabbed ace Madison Bumgarner to start on Opening Day in Milwaukee against the Brewers, CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reports. Shocking, I know.

The Giants had a busy offseason, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the starting rotation, but neither had a shot at getting the Opening Day nod considering what Bumgarner has done for the Giants over the last five seasons.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 26-year-old lefty compiled a 3.05 ERA with 1,034 strikeouts and 239 walks across 1,050 innings. Among starters who logged at least 800 innings in that span of time, only Clayton Kershaw, Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Felix Hernandez have posted lower ERAs.  And Bumgarner is the only one among them with a championship ring. In fact, he has three.