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.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.