Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman are “two names high on Cleveland’s list”

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Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported yesterday that the Indians’ front office had approached ownership about expanding the payroll to sign Carlos Pena, but he might not be the only free agent first baseman on the team’s radar.

Jordan Bastian of MLB.com confirms the team’s interest in Pena, but adds that Casey Kotchman is also in the mix and says together they’re “two names high on Cleveland’s list.”

Bastian goes on to call Kotchman “the more realistic option” and that makes sense, because he’s also the less productive option. Kotchman had a .306 batting average last season while Pena hit just .225, yet Pena still posted the higher OPS with an .819 mark compared to .800 from Kotchman. And that was Kotchman’s best season since 2008, whereas Pena has topped an .800 OPS in four of the past five years and has a career OPS that’s 100 points higher than Kotchman’s.

If the Indians fail to sign Pena or Kotchman their fallback plan at first base involves Carlos Santana, Matt LaPorta, and Shelley Duncan, but it certainly sounds as though their adding a free agent is likely.

Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio

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In something of a surprising move, the Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach, Chris Bosio on Saturday. Bosio had held the job since the 2011-12 offseason.

The Cubs made the NLCS this year, but were nowhere as near the formidable as their 2016 World Series champion iteration. While there were several reasons for that, one was that the pitching staff, which featured multiple, better-than-expected performances in 2016, but took a step back in 2017. Some of that was personnel — Joe Maddon did not have Aroldis Chapman to call on in the postseason like he did last year — and a lot of that was mere regression from veterans like Jon Lester and John Lackey. A lot of it had to do with a much higher walk rate this year than in the past.

Still, there was no chatter during the season or at the time of the Cubs’ playoff exit the other day that Bosio might be a fall guy. The Chicago Tribune reports that it was Joe Maddon’s call and that he had grown displeased with Bosio. The Tribune report suggests that Cubs pitchers will be displeased with the move as they were devoted to Bosio. Coaches, of course, come and go, so I suspect they’ll get over it.

Whatever the case, Bosio likely won’t say unemployed for long. He is widely credited with helping Jake Arrieta transform from a project to an ace and for the considerable and the somewhat unexpectedly successful development of Kyle Hendricks. The Tribune suggests that he’d be a good fit in Minnesota, where his former teammate Paul Molitor is in search of a new pitching coach.

There are several intriguing coaches available at the moment, most notably Mike Maddux, who has been the Nationals pitching coach but whose status is now in flux given the firing of Dusty Baker. Maddux’s brother Greg, of course, is a spring training pitching instructor for the Cubs. The Tribune adds that Maddon may look to his old Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey or, possibly, even recently fired Red Sox manager John Farrell, who made his bones as a pitching coach.