Get excited, Cubs fans. For once this year.
According to beat writer Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, “speculation is” that the Northsiders are preparing to promote 22-year-old first base prospect Anthony Rizzo from Triple-A Iowa in time for Tuesday night’s game against the Mets.
Rizzo has registered a sparkling .355/.416/.722 batting line with 23 home runs and 62 RBI in 67 games this season at Iowa. The Florida native was selected in the sixth round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft by the Red Sox, then traded to San Diego in 2010 as part of the Adrian Gonzalez blockbuster. The Cubs acquired him this past winter for flame-thrower Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na.
Rizzo struggled mightily in his first taste of the majors last season, hitting just .141 with a .523 OPS across 153 plate appearances for the Padres. He’ll hope for much better results in his second MLB experience.
“I don’t think I’ve really been around anyone who has had this much hype,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum told the Tribune on Saturday evening. “”The 30 days or so in spring training, he seemed to be a guy very ahead of the game, maturity-wise. He has all those leadership skills. We’ll all have to be a little bit patient and understand the game is a lot different here than it is in Triple-A. … He’s confident.”
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.