The Pirates lineup of the moment

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Already having picked up Rod Barajas to catcher, the Pirates are reportedly in the process of adding a second OBP-challenged regular to their lineup in shortstop Clint Barmes. That gives them a lineup that could look something like this:

RF Jose Tabata
LF Alex Presley
CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Neil Walker
1B Garrett Jones
3B Pedro Alvarez
SS Clint Barmes
C Rod Barajas

Obviously, that’s not a very potent group. The Pirates still want to re-sign Derrek Lee to play first, and if they can do that, Jones would battle Presley for a starting job in the outfield.

Third base is another problem, as Alvarez scarcely resembled a major leaguer last year. In-house alternatives Pedro Ciriaco, Josh Harrison and Chase d’Arnaud aren’t very attractive, so a stopgap third baseman would be nice. Unfortunately, there’s very little available at the position. If Wilson Betemit is out of their price range, they’ll probably have to gamble on someone like Kevin Kouzmanoff or Jose Lopez.

On-base percentage seems likely to be a major issue regardless of what the Pirates do the rest of the winter. Just one player in their current lineup had a .350 OBP last year (McCutchen at .364) and only one more cleared .340 (Tabata). The team is certainly better now at catcher and shortstop than it was last season, but that’s simply not saying much.

Cubs place Ben Zobrist on 10-day disabled list with back soreness

Ben Zobrist
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Cubs infielder/outfielder Ben Zobrist has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with back soreness. The move is retroactive to April 14. While it doesn’t appear to be the precursor to any serious injury, Zobrist has already missed six straight days of activity after feeling his back tighten up last weekend. Should he see the minimum time on the DL, as expected, he’ll be eligible to return by the start of the Cubs’ series against the Indians on Tuesday.

Prior to his injury, the 36-year-old outfielder raked an impressive .326/.408/.465 with three extra-base hits in 49 plate appearances. He last appeared for the Cubs during their homestand last weekend and helped propel the team to a 14-10 win over the Braves with three hits, two walks and two RBI. Provided that he can remain healthy going forward, it’s a promising start for the veteran outfielder, who has yet to return to the All-Star-worthy numbers he posted with the club in 2016.

With Zobrist sidelined for the time being, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. have shared the leadoff spot and center field duties over the last week. Happ went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts in two games before passing the baton to Almora, who collected five hits and two RBI in 11 at-bats.