Carlos Santana and Jesus Montero were catchers once upon a time. Not particularly great catchers (in Montero’s case a pretty lousy one). But they could hit. Well, both hit in the minors and Santana has hit everywhere. Montero is something of a dumpster fire at the moment.
Either way, neither of them will be catching much going forward. Santana is slated to the Indians’ third baseman after playing third in winter ball. He’s doing that to make room for Yan Gomes, who wow’d ’em in 88 games last season. Terry Francona would love to get his bat in the lineup.
Montero is a different case. He’s moving to first base mostly to keep himself out of harm’s way. He’d likely be fourth on the depth chart at first base behind Justin Smoak, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, but it’s probably too early to give up on his bat just yet and he has to play someplace. Ultimately he’s a DH at best. Smart money has him washing out if he doesn’t hit this season.
But no matter where the two of these guys are going to end up, they’re going to start spring training wearing the tools of ignorance, reports Paul Hoynes and Greg Johns, respectively. Partially because their managers don’t want them to completely lose their catching chops, but also because in the first week or two of spring training you need all the catchers you can get.
I give Santana a good chance of sticking at third. I give Montero little chance of anything. But it’ll be interesting to see the conversions.
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.
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.