Drew Silva

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Cubs, White Sox “appear to be the two teams with the most interest” in Dexter Fowler


Dexter Fowler posted a cool .757 OPS with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 156 games last season for the Cubs, but he got lost in the initial shuffle of big-name free agent outfielders earlier this winter and a market still hasn’t quite materialized for the 29-year-old center fielder here in late January.

That should soon start changing with Yoenis Cespedes now off the board, and Bruce Levine of 670 The Score hears that the two Chicago teams will likely be the primary suitors …

Both Chicago teams are monitoring the Fowler’s free-agent market daily, according to sources.

“The Cubs are still the most likely landing spot for Fowler,” one baseball executive whose club has also followed the Fowler free-agent process said. “He should have taken the Cubs’ qualifying offer and moved into the free agent class of 2017.”

Fowler did not accept that one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Northsiders back in early November and so his free agency became tied to draft pick compensation. That has really been the biggest thing holding him back from landing with a new team.

Levine says the Cubs could trade Jorge Soler for pitching help to make room for Fowler, who would likely return to center field with newcomer Jason Heyward taking over in right and Kyle Schwarber handling left. On the south side of Chicago, center fielder Adam Eaton could make the switch to right field with disappointing youngster Avisail Garcia sliding into a sort of left-field platoon with Melky Cabrera.

Francisco Cervelli open to extension with Pirates; at three years, $39 million?

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Francisco Cervelli had a nice debut season with the Pirates in 2015, batting .295 with a .370 on-base percentage in 130 games while contributing steady defense behind the plate. But the 29-year-old catcher is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2016 season, and the Pittsburgh front office will have to buck up — slight pun intended — to keep him around for any longer than that.

Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has the latest …

Even though Cervelli is only nine months away from free agency and is expected to rival Baltimore’s Matt Wieters as the top catcher available next winter, Cervelli would consider foregoing the open market if the Pirates offered a three-year extension offer worth roughly $13 million per season, according to a source.

That’s not a ton of money for a reliable catcher, but the Pirates operate on a tight budget compared to other MLB teams. They’re paying Cervelli just $3.5 million for the 2016 season.

“We do not discuss negotiations — potential or active — publicly,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the Tribune-Review when asked about a possible extension. “We like Cervelli a lot and would welcome the chance to have him remain a Pirate in the event we are able to find a contract that makes sense for both the player and club. We are also fortunate to have two quality catching prospects that are near major league ready in case we are not able to reach common financial ground.”

Those prospects are Elias Diaz and Reese McGuire, both top-10 guys at the position.

Another thing to ponder as we move toward the start of spring training.

Devin Mesoraco cleared for all catching drills following last year’s hip surgery

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Devin Mesoraco was limited to 23 total games in 2015 and he did not appear at the catcher position beyond April 12 due to a hip impingement that eventually required major surgery.

But the 27-year-old slugger is looking like a good bet for a big bounceback in 2016.

Mesoraco told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer on Wednesday evening that he has been performing “all catching drills” and the surgically-repaired hip has given him zero issues thus far.

Mesoraco was a stud for the Reds in 2014, delivering an .893 OPS (147 OPS+) with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 114 games. He’ll try to provide some much-needed excitement for the rebuilding club this year.

Mesoraco is under contract with Cincinnati through the 2018 season at some fairly reasonable rates. He may get traded eventually as the Reds shake out their aggressive organizational rebuild, but it probably won’t happen this summer even if he fully rehabilitates his trade stock with a massive first half.

Actually, don’t hold us to that.