Jay Bruce’s agent Matt Sosnick told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com earlier today that his client is open to signing a multi-year contract extension with the Reds. The talented young outfielder is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, as he qualifies as a “Super Two.”
“If Jay can get compensated fairly over his arbitration years and into his free agency years, we’re open to it,” Sosnick said. “If it makes financial sense, we’ll look at it. There is no hesitation on Jay’s part to stay in Cincinnati for as long as possible. He loves it there.”
Bruce, who doesn’t even turn 24 until next April, batted .281/.353/.493 with 25 homers, 70 RBI and an 846 OPS in 509 at-bats with the Reds this past season. He went on a ridiculous tear to close out the regular season, slugging 14 home runs over his final 107 plate appearances, including a division-clinching walk off shot against the Astros on September 14. If that isn’t enough, Ultimate Zone Rating (or UZR) ranked Bruce as the best defensive right fielder in all of baseball for 2010.
It appears that Bruce is finally getting comfortable against left-handed pitching, something he struggled with in his first two seasons in the big leagues. If he can sustain this sort of success over the long haul, the Reds may have one of the most complete players in baseball on their hands. It would be wise to at least secure him through his arbitration years and his first year of free agency before he becomes an even bigger offensive force.
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.