Theo Epstein on Cardinals’ competitive balance pick: “Last organization that needs an annual gift”

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As we covered earlier, St. Louis got a bonus pick for the 2015 First-Year Player Draft (just after the first round) in Wednesday’s Competitive Balance Lottery. Yes, a team that has made the playoffs 10 times since 2000 and advanced to the NLCS or further in three straight seasons got a handout. And it’s not sitting too well with an executive of the Cardinals’ traditional rival — Cubs president Theo Epstein.

Here’s Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com

The president of baseball operations fired a shot in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry after St. Louis won an extra draft pick in Wednesday’s competitive-balance lottery.

“I could talk all day about the Cardinals and how much we hold them in high regard,” Epstein said. “That’s a fantastic franchise. They have been for the better part of a century. They do extremely well from a baseball standpoint, and from a revenue standpoint. That’s probably the last organization in baseball that needs that kind of (an) annual gift.”

“Because it’s not necessarily the type of thing that they need, given their performance on the field and off the field,” Theo continued. “They do a fantastic job. It just doesn’t seem like something they need at this point.”

The Cardinals were eligible for the Competitive Balance Lottery because they play in one of the 10 smallest markets (by population) in Major League Baseball. But with a century-old history of success and a fanbase that extends over several surrounding states, they don’t exactly function like a small-market franchise.

A high-ranking executive predicted to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that the Cardinals will use their competitive balance pick to land Rays ace David Price. Yes, unlike most draft picks, these can be traded.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.