The Mets putting K-Rod on the disqualified list yesterday was a tough but defensible move. I think the union will fight it because, in essence, the Mets are punishing K-Rod twice for the same conduct, but it’s at least possible that it will stick.
The Mets declaration that K-Rod’s contract is non-guaranteed going forward, however, is basically without precedent and will cause the MLBPA to scorch the Earth in order to get it overturned. I mean, it’s one thing to discipline K-Rod for being a jackass, but it’s another thing altogether to threaten one of the most significant accomplishments in sports labor history (i.e. baseball’s guaranteed contracts).
If I had to guess, the move to make the deal non-guaranteed was a move designed to placate angry fans and tabloids. The Mets, having determined that they couldn’t void the deal, wanted to do the next toughest thing. The problem, though, is that they apparently have no right under the CBA to do it and they’ll ultimately be unsuccessful. And, since the union is fighting anyway, they’ll likely put more gusto into their attack on the decision to put K-Rod on the disqualified list than they may have otherwise done, which may lead to less of a punishment than he might have otherwise received.
The upshot: the Mets gave the union a reason to fight hard when it may have left well enough alone (even the MLBPA isn’t immune to the PR concerns here, and K-Rod is tough to defend right now), and their overreach may very well bite them in the ass.
Of course, this is the Mets, and they have an uncanny knack for taking a situation in which they have the high ground and frittering it away in the end.
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.
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.