Jays and Uggla seem an unlikely match

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Not to say it couldn’t work out.   But Buster Olney’s report that the Jays, according to rival executives, have emerged as the favorites to acquire Dan Uggla strikes an odd chord.

The Jays not only led the majors in homers last season, but they did it with a total nearly 20 percent greater than any other team’s.  They hit 257, while the Red Sox came in second with 211.  The Yankees were the only other team to reach 190, finishing with 201.

And, of course, the Jays have a second baseman who ranked as one of the AL’s better players in 2009.   Aaron Hill slumped terribly last season, finishing at .205/.271/.394 in 528 at-bats, but he’s a far better defender than Uggla there’s little to suggest that he’s going to be shipped off this winter.

Now the Jays have weighed shifting Hill to third base, more to give themselves greater flexibility than because of any concerns about his defense.  However, if they did trade for Uggla, one would hope he’d be the one to switch positions.

There’s also the matter of what the Jays would give up.   In theory, the team has a lot of pitching depth.  In practice, Jays pitchers tend to get hurt a lot.  They had 11 pitchers make at least three starts last year and nine in 2010. 

Two names quickly spring to mind as potential key pieces in an Uggla: J.P. Arencibia and Brett Cecil.

Arencibia, the Jays’ first-round pick in 2007, broke through with a big year in Triple-A last season, hitting .301/.359/.626.  He’s lacking in plate discipline and he’s average at best defensively, but he still qualifies as one of the game’s top catching prospects and the Marlins have a big need behind the plate.

Cecil, 24, quietly won 15 games for the Jays last season.  His 4.22 ERA and 117/54 K/BB ratio in 172 2/3 innings were unremarkable, but he was pitching in baseball’s toughest division and he made 13 of his 28 starts against the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees.  Despite his success, the Jays probably value him behind Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum and Brandon Morrow, making him somewhat expendable.

I can’t imagine the Marlins would get both in an Uggla deal, but they’d likely want one of the two and then some additional talent.   Second basemen with 30-homer ability don’t come cheap.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.