There are all sorts of ramifications to today’s Mat Latos deal, but one of the more under-the-radar aspects is that the Reds now have some extra cash to use in the free agent market. While they remain interested in re-signing closer Francisco Cordero, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that they have also spoken with free agent outfielders Jason Kubel and Cody Ross.
Kubel, 29, has a .271/.335/.459 batting line over parts of seven seasons in the majors. He was limited to just 99 games this season due a sprained left foot. The Twins are interested in bringing him back, even after signing Josh Willingham this week, though Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reported today that it’s unlikely to happen unless his asking price comes down.
Ross is seeking a three-year deal this winter, but that’s a pretty unrealistic scenario following a season in which he batted just .240/.325/.405 with a .730 OPS. Still, he’s a right-handed bat and offers more flexibility defensively than Kubel. For what it’s worth, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty called Ross “an interesting name” earlier this month.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.