It’s hard to believe that almost the entire offseason has gone by, and the Cubs haven’t yet added a starting pitcher for the back of their rotation – or a clear set of guys for the 6-10 spots that follow.
Mike Montgomery may very well be a great starter, but I can’t say I expected him to be the only real fifth starter candidate heading into the season.
There’s still time left, of course, and the Cubs might yet add an upside project like Brett Anderson, but there was no big trade for a cost-controlled starter (yet) and the Cubs didn’t land Tyson Ross.
Of course, to that end, Ross may not have pitched until well into the season anyway …
- According to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, via Jeff Wilson (The Star-Telegram), “the goal [for Ross] is to be going strong during the stretch run.” In fact, the 2017 debut for Tyson Ross may not actually come until June, as the Rangers plan on taking a conservative approach to his recovery from surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome. Just the same, the Cubs could have used Mike Montgomery in the rotation in the first half before allowing Ross to take back over that role, but the point is that at the beginning of the season – at least – we were probably always going to see a lot of Montgomery. Hopefully, Montgomery comes out strong and continues to be a member of the rotation for years to come. While you’d like to see the Cubs with more quality depth, they will certainly have an opportunity to see what Montgomery can do. (And there are reasons to believe he could be very good!)
- As Brett mentioned earlier in the day, the Cubs and the Dodgers are probably not going to match up on swap of Javy Baez for a pitcher, but the Dodgers are still looking and they’re looking everywhere. According to Ken Rosenthal, the Dodgers have spoken with the Rangers about Jurickson Profar, and might also have interest in the Phillies’ Cesar Hernandez or the Nationals’ Wilmer Difo. Chase Utley remains on their radar, but the Dodgers are thought to be looking for a right-handed option (which likely means, according to Rosenthal, that free-agents Stephen Drew and Dustin Ackley are off the table as well).
- The Tigers’ Ian Kinsler and the Rays’ Logan Forsythe remain potential options, but at the end of the day, the Twins’ Brian Dozier still makes the most sense. Clearly, the Dodgers are very aware of their opening at second base and their struggles with left-handed pitching, and no deal has yet come together with the Twins.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Rockies are interested in signing right fielder and free-agent-to-be Carlos Gonzalez to an extension, the White Sox are in no rush to trade Jose Quintana, and the Nationals are still looking to add a reliever (possibly in the form of Greg Holland).
- The Angels are reportedly nearing a multi-year deal with former Cub and bat-flipper, Luis Valbuena. The details of the deal are not yet available, but word is that it’s a two-year deal with an option tacked onto the end. Valbuena, whose contributions to the Cubs never went unnoticed around here, has had a couple of solid back-to-back seasons. In 2015, he hit 25 homers and walked over 10% of the time, before breaking out even more last season. In 2016, Valbuena slashed .260/.357/.459 which is good for a 123 wRC+. His base-running and defense have always limited him in terms of WAR, but (especially on an AL squad) he should continue to add value with his bat for a few more years at least.
- The Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a one-year, $5.35 million deal with Neftali Feliz, prompting Travis Sawchik (FanGraphs) to jump on the the Brewers are clearly getting stronger bandwagon. Feliz, 28, struck batters out at 28% clip in 2016 while collecting a 3.52 ERA. It’s hard to determine just how good Feliz will be in 2017, however, because his peripherals are all over the place. He has a high strike out rate and was extremely unlucky on HR/FBs, but was helped by a .240 BABIP and an 85.4% strand rate. Overall, however, Sawchik makes a convincing, infield-pop-up-related argument that he will serve the Brewers well in 2017.
- And whenever we mention the Brewers as potential surprise-playoff team over the next few seasons, we also have to mention the Phillies. Like the Brewers, the Phillies have a nice collection of young players and top prospects, but unlike the Brewers, the Phillies have a lot more financial wherewithal. To that end, the Phillies have recently strengthened their lineup with a one-year, $9 million deal with Michael Saunders, that comes with an $11 million option for 2018. Saunders was an All-Star off the strength of his .298/.372/.551 in the first half last year, and is still just 30 years old. He may have slowed down (considerably) in the second half, and has some history of injuries, but this could turn out to be a really solid pick-up for an up-and-coming team.
- And finally:
Pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball at age 32. Great talent who could never overcome all the injuries.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 20, 2017
- After roughly 12 years in the Major Leagues, two-time All-Star Josh Johnson is reportedly hanging it up for good. When healthy, Johnson was one of the better pitchers in the game. And in 2010, he finished in the top five of Cy Young voting after posting a 2.30 ERA (2.41 FIP), 5.9 fWAR season with the Marlins. He’s only 32 years old, but the end of the line appears to be now.