Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols will arrive at spring camp in Jupiter, Florida on Wednesday and has informed the club that he wants all talks regarding a contract extension to cease once he unpacks his things. The clock isn’t ticking, it’s screaming.
If you kept up with the story last week, it was all about doom and gloom. In fact, SI.com’s Jon Heyman said at one point that the Cardinals have “virtually no chance” of reaching a long-term contract extension by Pujols’ self-imposed deadline.
That might be the case, but at least one baseball executive believes that a deal will get done. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke Saturday with a “general manager in a larger market,” who had little doubt that the two sides would eventually reach an agreement, no matter if it makes business sense or not:
“What will happen is, they’ll get it done,” said the unnamed general manager.” The Cardinals aren’t a small-market team, so they’re in that area where they probably have to do it because not doing it would create chaos and possible loss of revenue. But once in a while, you do something bold and think outside the box.’’
Pujols’ representatives and the members of the Cardinals’ front office have done an admirable job of keeping information about the course of the negotiations out of the media, so no one can really say for sure whether it’s going to get done. Albert is thought to have a 10-year, $275 million contract on his mind. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are reportedly trying to keep the extension to six or seven years. There is not much time left for the two sides to find a middle ground.
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.