It’s almost closing time for MLB’s Hot Stove and folks are beginning to get desperate. We’re seeing minor league deals all over the place and players who once were seeking multi-year contracts are now settling for one-year deals. Many speculated that the Yankees would be in the market for a hitter after trading Jesus Montero to the Mariners in the Michael Pineda deal, but they’ve understandably played things pretty close to the vest in hopes of getting a bargain.
Well, it appears they are finally ready to strike.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Yankees are in “serious discussions” with free agent Raul Ibanez, who is willing to take less money to sign with them than he would make elsewhere.
Ibanez, who will turn 40 in June, batted .245/.289/.419 with 20 home runs, 84 RBI and a .707 OPS over 575 plate appearances with the Phillies last season. He had a .747 OPS against right-handed pitching.
This seems to jibe with a report by Buster Olney of ESPN.com earlier this afternoon in which he said the Yankees are considering adding a left-handed bat and could sign Ibanez, Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui within the week. Whoever they sign would likely share at-bats with the righty-hitting Andruw Jones out of the DH spot.
Fair enough, but don’t the Yankees already have enough veterans they could shuffle in and out of the DH spot along with Jones? Olney writes that the Yankees would likely look at alternatives prior to the trade deadline if they aren’t getting sufficient production out of the DH spot, so I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have options in the interim. Especially if they are on the cheap.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
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.