Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes homers, drives in another run in a spectacular spring training debut

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Yes, I know it’s spring training and that spring training doesn’t matter. But I believe in Yoenis Cespedes. I am, officially, a Cespedesphile.

Wait. That doesn’t sound quite right. We have time to work on it, though. It’s spring training for wannabe members of the not-yet-invented Yoenis Cespedes fan club, too.

Anyway, a full house — or close to it — here in Phoenix today saw A’s center fielder Yoeins Cespedes make his spring training debut in Oakland’s 6-3 win over Cincinnati. And it was a great one.

His first at bat was not, technically, an at bat. He walked on six pitches, never once taking the bat off his shoulder. I suppose you could say that was anti-climactic . But you could also say that it was good that he was willing to take pitches and look and see what a guy he’s never faced before — Johnny Cueto — had to offer.

And heck, I would too, as Cueto seems to have changed his delivery and now does the full-blown Luis Tiant thing, which is pretty cool. Lots of crazy looks from him these days. Love it.

Cespedes’ next plate appearance came in the second inning. One out, runners at the corners. This time he swung the bat twice. First to foul one off, the second time to knock a single up the middle, driving in the A’s third run of the game. Welcome to the majors, Yoeins.

The big at bat came in the fourth, leading off. He fell behind Jeff Francis 1-2, and then was way ahead on three straight sliders, fouling them hard past third. People in the press box made noises about him being set up for high heat (never mind the fact that Francis doesn’t have high heat). Nope: Cespedes waited and jacked the next pitch over the left field wall for a homer and his second RBI of the day. It was not a cheapie. Not by a long shot.

On the defensive side, he had his first defensive chance in the third inning, snagging a Brandon Phillips fly ball. It didn’t require any serious ranging or anything. Another fly ball from Daryl Jones in the fourth. I’m still wondering if he’s gonna stick at center field. Hard to justify it with Coco Crisp around unless — as Crisp says — he’s a demigod. As it was, there was nothing in today’s game to give us any indication. Which was frustrating because I want to know the answer to every conceivable question about the guy now, in one spring training game. DON’T MAKE ME WAIT FOR THE REGULAR SEASON.

Sorry. Got a little carried away there. I think the Arizona sun is getting to me. Or maybe it’s Cespedes Fever.  Because, guys, I have it.

Yankees in, Red Sox out on Edwin Encarnacion

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19:  Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on against the Cleveland Indians during game five of the American League Championship Series at Rogers Centre on October 19, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler AustinGreg Bird combo in 2017.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.

Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.

Report: The Nationals are still in on Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 05: Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on September 5, 2016 at U. S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
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The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.

In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.

According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.

McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.

The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.