Giants rule out return of Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross

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After picking up Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan in trades, Giants GM Brian Sabean shut the door Wednesday on the possibility of free agents Carlos Beltran and Cody Ross returning next year.

The market for Beltran has been surprisingly light, with his name rarely coming up at the winter meetings. While the focus has rightfully been on Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle, seemingly lesser outfielders like Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham are still getting more attention than Beltran.

Beltran, who cost the Giants their top pitching prospect in Zack Wheeler at the trade deadline, hit .323/.369/.551 in 167 at-bats for San Francisco. Overall, he hit .300/.385/.525 in 520 at-bats last season, giving him a .910 OPS. Cuddyer finished at .805, while Willingham came in at .810. Beltran is also better than either defensively.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.