New York Mets v Cincinnati Reds

Juan Lagares may be the odd man out in the Mets’ outfield

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The Mets made a splash this off-season, signing Curtis Granderson to a four-year, $60 million contract. They also picked up Chris Young on the cheap, and manager Terry Collins views him as a starter. That leaves one spot in the outfield between Juan Lagares and Eric Young, Jr.

According to Mike Vorkunov of the Star-Ledger, it sounds like Young is in the lead and Lagares may be relegated to a bench role or sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.

“As we sit here today Eric Young is the guy you’d like to see at the top of the order,” Collins said.

Collins also said: “Juan had a nice winter but when he gets in here we’ve got to see what our best options are. We’ve got three guys that can play centerfield that we know of and by gosh the best one is going to be out there because it’s a big position. Especially in our park…So we’ve got some jobs out there and if we need one of those guys to get nights off we know we’ll have a quality player to put in there. So we’ll make decisions farther in spring training.”

Lagares was quietly one of the more productive outfielders in baseball last season despite leaving a lot to be desired offensively. Both Baseball Reference (using DRS) and FanGraphs (using UZR) rated Lagares as a significantly above-average defender. Between center field (819 2/3 innings) and right field (84 1/3 innings), DRS credited him with 30 runs saved while UZR credited him with 24. By WAR, Baseball Reference lists Lagares as the 67th most valuable position player in baseball in 2013. FanGraphs ranked him 85th among those with at least 400 plate appearances.

The Mets, however, lack a “true” leadoff hitter, which is why they like Young. Young was even less impressive with the bat than Lagares last season, but he got on base three percent more often and stole a league-leading 46 bases in 57 attempts. Young also offers flexibility, having played all three spots in the outfield as well as second base.

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.