The Pirates acquired Chris Stewart from the Yankees to serve as Russell Martin’s backup, but now the 31-year-old catcher is likely headed for surgery after injuring his knee in a game last week.
Stewart didn’t figure to play much for the Pirates considering he’s a career .214 hitter and Martin started 117 games last year. In his place 25-year-old former first-round draft pick Tony Sanchez will make the Opening Day roster and may end up seeing more action than Stewart would have if the Pirates don’t want to let him rot on the bench.
Sanchez’s prospect stock dipped a ton in 2011 and 2012, but the former No. 4 overall pick hit .288 with 10 homers, 26 doubles, and an .872 OPS in 76 games at Triple-A last season. Martin is an impending free agent, so the Pirates may try to groom Sanchez to take over behind the plate full time in 2015.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.