Justin Morneau

Pirates acquire Justin Morneau from the Twins

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The Pirates picked up Marlon Byrd and John Buck in a deal with the Mets earlier this week, but they aren’t done bolstering their offense. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Pirates have acquired first baseman Justin Morneau from the Twins for outfielder Alex Presley.

Morneau passed through waivers earlier this month, so he was eligible to be traded to any team. The 32-year-old is batting .259/.315/.426 with 17 home runs and 74 RBI in 127 games this season, though it’s worth noting that nine of those home runs have come this month. The alternatives at first base include Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez, so it’s worth a shot to attempt to catch some lightening in a bottle down the stretch. Morneau will be a free agent at season’s end.

The trade marks an unceremonious end to Morneau’s time in Minnesota. A third-round pick of the Twins in 1999, he compiled a .278/.347/.485 batting line over 11 seasons with the club and amassed 1,318 hits and 221 home runs (he moved into fourth place on the team’s all-time list by passing Tony Oliva last night). He won the American League MVP Award in 2006 and also made four All-Star appearances.

Presley, 28, owns a .261/.299/.419 batting line over 204 games in the majors. He’s likely a fourth or fifth outfielder on a good team, so it’s a modest price to pay for Pittsburgh.

UPDATE: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the Twins will also receive a player to be named later or cash considerations.

UPDATE II: Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the Pirates will cover Morneau’s salary for the rest of the season.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.