With Matt Harvey working his way back from Tommy John surgery and Jon Niese likely to be held back for the second series of the regular season due to elbow inflammation, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reported this morning that Dillon Gee will start for the Mets on Opening Day against the Nationals on March 31.
Mets manager Terry Collins isn’t ready to make the assignment official, but based on his comments after today’s Grapefruit League game against the Braves, it would be surprising if he goes with anybody else.
“He’s probably the lead guy because of his success against the Nationals,” Collins said about Gee. “And, to be honest, no disrespect to Bartolo [Colon] or anybody else, but this guy has won more games, I think, for us in three years than anybody on the staff. We’re kind of leaning that way.”
There was some speculation that offseason addition Bartolo Colon or perhaps young right-hander Zack Wheeler would get the nod, but Gee has more seniority with the team than either of them. The 27-year-old is also coming off a very solid season where he posted a 3.62 ERA over a career-high 32 starts. He was at risk of losing his rotation spot in late May, but he rattled off a 2.71 ERA over his final 22 outings.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”