Melky Cabrera
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Report: Pirates sign Melky Cabrera

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The Pirates are reportedly in agreement with free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera, per Ken Rosenthal and Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. The team has yet to confirm the report, but it looks like a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that Cabrera can earn $2 million with incentives if he makes the major league roster this spring.

The 34-year-old outfielder is coming off of a fairly productive run with the Indians in 2018, one in which he slashed .280/.335/.420 with six home runs, a .755 OPS, and 0.4 fWAR across 278 plate appearances. While he’s been sapped of a bit of his power recently and has never earned high marks on defense, he could be a serviceable stand-in for right fielder Gregory Polanco, who’s expected to begin the 2019 season in the injured list as he recovers from labrum surgery.

Of course, he won’t be the only veteran outfielder under consideration for a backup role this spring. The Pirates will likely give preference to third-baseman-turned-right-fielder Lonnie Chisenhall after inking him to a one-year, $2.75 million contract last November. Chisenhall, 30, missed the bulk of the 2018 season with a left calf strain, but produced a dynamic .321/.394/.452 batting line when healthy and appears to be solid on defense as well. Other options include minor league signees JB Shuck, a sub-Mendoza Line hitter who made it through half a season with the Marlins last year, and Patrick Kivlehan, a corner outfielder who hasn’t logged more than 10 games at the major league level since 2017.

Phillies-Mets could get contentious tonight

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As the Mets were wrapping up a 9-0 shellacking of the Phillies on Tuesday night, reliever Jacob Rhame threw a pitch up and in to first baseman Rhys Hoskins with two outs in the ninth inning. The pitch sailed behind Hoskins’ back. The slugger wasn’t happy about the scare, understandably. Players began to trickle out of their respective dugouts, but a fracas was avoided.

Hoskins was skeptical that Rhame simply missed his spot. Per MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, Hoskins said, “He didn’t miss up and in the rest of the inning, so I’ll let you decide. I would assume teams are pitching me in because that’s where they think they can get me out, and that’s fine. That’s part of the game. Again, I think most guys are capable of pitching inside and not missing that bad.”

Teammate Bryce Harper said, “I don’t get it. I understand that two of their guys got hit yesterday. But, I mean, if it’s baseball and you’re going to drill somebody, at least hit him in the [butt]. Not in the head. You throw 98, it’s scary now. You could kill somebody. Lose your eyesight. That’s bigger than the game.”

Indeed, two Mets were hit by pitches on Monday night. José Álvarez hit Jeff McNeil in the seventh inning, which advanced a base runner. In the very next at-bat, Juan Nicasio hit Pete Alonso with a first-pitch fastball. It was obvious neither was intentional as the Phillies were only down two runs and hitting both batters advanced base runners and led to runs scoring. It is less obvious that Rhame’s pitch to Hoskins was unintentional, but he showed empathy in his post-game comments. Rhame said, “When you accidentally sail one, it’s probably pretty scary. I’d get [angry], too.”

Will Wednesday night’s series finale be contentious? Despite being “fairly upset,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said, “We do not retaliate, and we do not throw at anybody intentionally,” Jake Seiner of the Associated Press reports.

Mets manager Mickey Calloway didn’t give as straight an answer. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Calloway said, “I think at this point, you just go out there and beat people, and win. … For now, I don’t feel like anything has been intentional at us that has warranted anything from our side.” If that changes, however, Calloway said, “They’re going to have each other’s backs.”

Hopefully, neither side decides to take justice into their own hands. But, welcome to the NL East in 2019. The Mets lead the Phillies by one game, and the Braves and Nationals by 1.5 games. It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out division fight all year long.