It’s been a strange first day of the Winter Meetings for me. The Hilton Anatole here in Dallas is larger than some European countries, and getting from place to another is a major undertaking. There’s also stuff like this all over the place:
There’s a matching elephant just out of the frame on the left. I don’t know either. It goes with the giant atrium. Everything is bigger in Texas.
Also, this morning was on a panel for the Sports Management World Wide Career Conference. Joining me was ESPN’s Jayson Stark and Biz of Baseball’s Maury Brown. Here’s us. We’re cute. The topic: the new collective bargaining agreement and its implications.
Stark noted a couple of times that this or that issue wasn’t totally settled yet even though the agreement is done. It sort of dawned on me as he was talking that there are many, many such things and that in a lot of ways this CBA is literally half-baked. It’s almost as if the union and the league are so comfortable with each other and have such a clear mandate from their constituencies (i.e. the owners and players) that they sort of took a “don’t worry, we’ll figure it out” approach. It’s just worrisome.
There haven’t been any signings or deals since the Reyes thing last night, but much continues to go on down here. Several managers are going to walk in here in a little while and let us ask them questions. As per tradition, I plan on asking them if they would like Hideki Matsui in their lineup.
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.