Worried about their infield depth with Jed Lowrie absent, the Red Sox acquired utilityman Mike Aviles from the Royals for infielder Yamaico Navarro and right-hander Kendal Volz on Saturday.
Aviles, who opened the season as the Royals’ primary third baseman, has hit .286/.317/.417 in 1,148 at-bats over the last four seasons. He’s capable of playing shortstop in addition to second and third, though he’s not really an asset there. What he does do is pummel lefties: he’s hit .296/.343/.464 against them in his career.
To bring in the insurance policy, the Red Sox surrendered Navarro, a 23-year-old who took a big step forward last year to turn himself into a candidate to start in the majors. He had spent some time on Boston’s bench this year, hitting .216/.275/.351 in 37 at-bats. Much more encouraging is his .265/.356/.486 line in 181 Triple-A at-bats the last two seasons.
Still, Navarro wasn’t ever likely to crack Boston’s lineup as a starter. He may have more luck in Kansas City someday, though he will be behind Alcides Escobar at short and Mike Moustakas at third. Having picked up some outfield time this year, he may prove to be a great fit in a super-utility role.
Volz didn’t rank among Boston’s better pitching prospects. The 2009 ninth-round pick was moved to the pen at high-A Salem this year and had a 3.33 ERA and a 56/12 K/BB ratio in 51 1/3 innings.
Aviles will be arbitration eligible for the first time this winter. The Red Sox will control his rights through 2014, so not only can he help out this year, but he can step in for free-agent-to-be Marco Scutaro next year.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
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.