UPDATE: That was fast. Dionisio Soldevila of the Associated Press was told by Cespedes’ representative, Edgar Mercedes, that not only has the Cuban outfielder established residency in the Dominican Republic, he has also officially been granted free agency by MLB. In fact, Cespedes stopped playing in the Dominican Winter League playoffs at the urging of MLB teams.
We haven’t heard any clarification from MLB on the matter, so it’s possible Mercedes may have jumped the gun, but it’s safe to say things are about to heat up.
6:26 PM: While the Prince Fielder sweepstakes has finally reached a resolution, the bidding for Yoenis Cespedes is just about to begin.
Cespedes’ representative, Edgar Mercedes, told Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com that the Cuban outfielder has finally established residency in the Dominican Republic. He is now waiting on approval from MLB to become a free agent.
Cespedes recently told Dionisio Soldevila of the Associated Press that the Cubs, Marlins, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers and Indians have shown the most interest in him. However, it’s possible the Tigers will be less willing to pony up after agreeing to a nine-year, $214 million contract with Fielder earlier today. Still, most expect the 26-year-old outfielder will end up with a contract richer than the $30.25 million deal Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman signed with the Reds two years ago.
Cespedes, 26, recently went 5-for-35 (.143) with one home run and a 10/0 K/BB ratio during a stint with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League playoffs. While it’s unlikely the poor performance will have a significant impact on his asking price, it wouldn’t be surprising if he needs some seasoning in the minor leagues.
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.