The outfield market could start unfolding quickly now with the news that Josh Willingham is about to become a Minnesota Twin.
– Michael Cuddyer, who had been the Twins’ preference, appears likely to join the Rockies. Minnesota offered their veteran the three-year deal he desired, but it seems that last season’s experience was bad enough to give him doubts about re-signing. Cuddyer will probably put up better numbers than Willingham next year, but that will be all about the ballparks: Minnesota is getting the superior hitter out of this deal.
– The Rockies are also in on Carlos Beltran, but they’ve been much more aggressive in their pursuit of Cuddyer. Beltran has slipped through the cracks, even though he offers a much better glove than either Cuddyer or Willingham and greater offensive upside as well. Of course, the issue there is his history of knee problems. He’ll still probably get a higher annual salary than Cuddyer or Willingham, but he may have to choose between a one-year deal with a contender or a two-year deal from a lesser team. St. Louis, Boston, Texas and Detroit are candidates to get involved.
– Only once that trio is off the board will names like Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick start to become attractive. The A’s and Mariners will rifle through the bargain bin looking for a starting outfielder. The Red Sox might as well.
– Of course, there is still one prize out there in the form of Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. Complicating things there is that he’s not yet officially a free agent and eligible to sign. Detroit and Miami look like the early favorites to land the 26-year-old, who would slide right into a major league outfield in either center or right.
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.
Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.
The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.
Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.