It was inevitable. But it doesn’t make it any less sad. Gary Carter, the Hall of Fame catcher who put the Montreal Expos on the map and helped the New York Mets win a World Series died today at the age of 57.
Carter had been battling brain cancer for the past nine months. While there were some ups and downs during his battle, his prognosis had turned grave of late. He made his last public appearance two weeks ago at a Palm Beach Atlantic University baseball game, greeting the players he would have coached this season if not for the state of his health.
But for as tragic as the past year has been for Carter and his fans, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest catchers who ever lived. He posted a career line of .262/.335/.439 while hitting 324 homers and driving in 1225 runs. He was a three-time Gold Glove winner, but that probably underrates his defense, as being in the same league as Johnny Bench — who was probably the best ever — made many forget that Carter was fantastic himself.
He had his best years with the Expos, making the All-Star team as a right fielder/catcher at the age of 21 in 1975 and later leading them through their most productive era as a franchise. He then went on to New York and similarly led the Mets through theirs, culminating in a 1986 World championship. In 1992, after brief stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles, he returned to the Expos for one final season.
Good travels, Kid. Wherever they may take you.
See also: Carter by the numbers
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.