The Marlins aggressively pursued Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes last offseason before he landed a four-year, $36 million deal from the Athletics, but the club has taken a decidedly different approach this winter, shedding big names while putting a focus on stockpiling prospects and fielding a team on the cheap. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Joe Frisaro of MLB.com hears that the Marlins have “zero interest” in Cuban free agents Dariel Alvarez and Aledmys Diaz.
Alvarez, a 24-year-old outfielder, and Diaz, a 22-year-old shortstop, were both declared free agents earlier this month and are slated to work out for MLB scouts on January 5. Here’s a snippet from a profile by MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez:
Known for his ability to hit for power and average, Diaz is considered an average runner with an above-average arm. He is closer to Major League-ready of the two prospects.
Alvarez, a right-handed hitter who played for Camaguey in Serie Nacional, defected from Cuba last summer and has been playing professionally in Vera Cruz, Mexico, since October. The 6-foot-2, 190 pound Alvarez can play all three outfield positions and has impressed Major League scouts with his above-average arm during league-play in Mexico.
According to the new collective bargaining agreement, Cuban players who are at least 23 years old and have played at least three seasons in a Cuban professional league are not subject to the international spending cap. Diaz turns 23 on January 8 and isn’t expected to sign before then, so teams will be free to pursue either player as they would any other free agent.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.