Jesus Montero

Jesus Montero’s future in doubt with 50-game ban

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Two years ago, one could have looked at the group of the 14 suspensed Biogenesis players — Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Jordany Valdespin, Sergio Escalona, Fernando Martinez, Cesar Puello, Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto —  and concluded that, besides Braun, Montero had the most promising future of the group.

Now, the big Montero-for-Michael Pineda trade, which was shaping up as a winner for the Mariners a year ago, might be a dud all around. Pineda just had a setback in his return from shoulder surgery, and it doesn’t look like he’ll contribute for the Yankees this season. Montero showed some promise during his rookie season in 2012, hitting .260/.298/.386 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 515 at-bats, but he was a total bust in the majors this year, hitting .208/.264/.327 with three homers in 101 at-bats, and the Mariners have given up on him as a catcher.

MLB has yet to make it clear how minor leaguers will serve their Biogenesis suspensions; there aren’t 50 games left in the minor league seasons, so those could linger into next year. Montero, though, is on the 40-man roster and will be suspended as a major leaguer, so he should be able to finish his suspension in September and enter 2014 with a clean slate. Still, nothing he’s done this year suggests that he should be in Seattle’s plans for Opening Day. Justin Smoak has taken a step forward and is likely to remain the team’s first baseman next year. Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez are free agents, so the DH spot will be open. The Mariners, though, don’t seem likely to reserve it for him. One imagines they’ll make an attempt to re-sign Morales. Perhaps it’d be better for Montero if they re-signed Michael Morse as a DH instead, since Morse could always shift back to the outfield if Montero emerges. That’s not an option with Morales.

Montero, though, is going to have to prove himself all over again, and that’s probably going to require some Triple-A time. He’s only used up one option year, so that’s not a problem. Since Montero doesn’t have anything going for him except his bat now, he’ll need to mash to earn another chance. He’ll be 24 next year, and if he doesn’t find his stroke then, many will start writing him off.

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Update: A source told NBCSports.com’s Craig Calcaterra that Montero will, in fact, be able to finish out his suspension this year, since he is on the 40-man roster. Minor leaguers given 50-game bans will be forced to sit out the start of next year, since there are only 25-30 games left in the minor league seasons.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.