Despite reports that the Indians were done fishing in the free agent pool this offseason, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears that the club is still in conversation with several players, including “relievers, corner infielders and corner outfielders […] even Jose Bautista might not be out of the question.” There are a few caveats with this information, the most important of which is that the Indians are supposedly interested in Bautista only if his price tag drops to fit within the team’s budget.
Bautista, 36, remains one of the most viable hitters still on the market, even taking last year’s lackluster production rate into account. He batted .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and an .817 OPS for the Blue Jays in 2016, watching his overall value plummet from a respectable 4.4 fWAR in 2015 to just 1.4 in 2016. There’s no reason to believe that he can’t bounce back in 2017, however, and while the Indians’ outfield situation looks crowded as is, Rosenthal suggests that the veteran slugger could slot in at right field while Lonnie Chisenhall shifts to center.
With the addition of Bautista’s former teammate, designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, the Indians have already relinquished their first round draft pick heading into the 2017 season. To land Bautista, Rosenthal adds, they’ll have to give up their second-round selection, currently the No. 64 overall pick.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.