First baseman Anthony Rizzo and outfielder Brett Jackson are off to strong starts at Triple-A, but team president Theo Epstein said yesterday that the Cubs have no immediate plans to call them up to the big leagues.
Epstein explained to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times that “it’s a little bit early to be thinking about those kind of moves, specifically with your better prospects” and “those guys are continuing their development at Triple-A and things that they’re working on they need to continue to improve.”
Epstein is right, of course, because there’s no good reason to dramatically change the team’s plans 13 games into the season. And while Rizzo is hitting .393 at Triple-A it’s worth noting that he had similarly gaudy numbers there last season before struggling mightily in the majors and the guy he’d be replacing, Bryan LaHair, is hitting .357 with a 1.113 OPS. So first base production isn’t exactly the Cubs’ problem.
Jackson is a different story in that not everyone in the Cubs’ outfield is thriving, but he’s also hitting just .254 with 20 strikeouts in 14 games at Triple-A. So while his overall production is strong with an .871 OPS, it’s not hard to see where Jackson has to make improvements before a call-up is a must.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.