Left-handed hitting first basemen/designated hitters certainly aren’t in popular demand at the moment, and there’s a good chance Brandon Allen will clear waivers after being designated for assignment by the A’s on Monday. Still, there are a few teams that might want to take a chance on him, including Oakland’s division rival in Texas.
The Rangers currently have just three left-handed hitters on their roster and failed Orioles prospect Brandon Snyder occupying a bench spot. Allen could come in as an occasional first baseman and DH against right-handers, and he might prove to be an upgrade on Mitch Moreland if given the chance.
Allen is a flyball hitter, so he was a pretty poor fit in Oakland from the start. Not only is the Coliseum outfield big, but the vast expanse of foul territory turns more infield pops into outs. He’d be a whole lot more likely to contribute in Texas. He still wouldn’t hit for a strong average, but he’d be a better bet to come in at .240-.250, and with his power and walk rate, that’d probably make him pretty valuable.
Philadelphia is another team I think Allen would help, but the Phillies aren’t going to cut any of their veteran part-timers to make room for him, even if he might be a better stopgap first baseman than anyone else on the roster.
If Texas passes, then I don’t see any obvious candidates to claim Allen. The Cubs are being pretty aggressive in trying to collect talent, but they’ll probably pass unless they think Allen is athletic enough to contribute as a part-time outfielder (he started 14 games in the left field for the Diamondbacks in 2010). I’d like to see Allen in Yankee Stadium, but the Bombers don’t have room on their bench. Allen is out of options, so if a team claims him and tries sending him to Triple-A, he’d have to go right back on waivers again.
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.