The Opener: Extensions, Middle Infield, Player Chat


With two months left until Opening Day, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Could more extensions be on the way?

With Spring Training just a couple of weeks away and arbitration hearings quickly approaching for players and clubs who were unable to reach an agreement before the filing deadline earlier this month, it’s a natural time for teams to discuss possible extensions with their players. This weekend saw a flurry of activity on that front, with the Rays extending three players (Jeffrey Springs, Pete Fairbanks, and Yandy Diaz) while the Mets agreed to terms with Jeff McNeil on a four-year contract. The Rays have already announced the deals with Springs and Fairbanks, and announcements regarding Diaz and McNeil should be expected in the coming days.

It’s possible that more extensions could be hammered out in the run-up to Spring Training. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Rays continue their attempts to lock up the remaining unsigned players in their arbitration class, and the Cubs are known to have interest in signing Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ to long-term extensions this offseason following their one-year arbitration agreements earlier this month.

2. Middle Infield Market Update

The White Sox and Red Sox could yet look into the middle infield market. Although Chicago seems to be considering going into Spring Training with only internal options at second base (e.g. Romy Gonzalez, Lenyn Sosa, Leury Garcia), they’ve also shown trade interest in Royals infielder Nicky Lopez. Boston recently acquired Adalberto Mondesi from Kansas City to shore up their own situation, but Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said his team is still interested in adding more talent to their middle infield mix. As always, it’s possible that other clubs without clear-cut needs could still look to improve their bench depth, as the Phillies did by signing Josh Harrison yesterday.

Elvis Andrus stands atop of the market for teams interested in making an addition the middle. In trade, the Athletics would surely listen on second baseman Tony Kemp after trading Cole Irvin and Sean Murphy, while the Yankees have a glut of infielders at their disposal including Gleyber Torres and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. The Cubs don’t appear to have much room for former top prospect Nick Madrigal in the lineup following the addition of Dansby Swanson, which pushed Hoerner to second base. The Cardinals would likely welcome the opportunity to get out from some of the $11MM still owed to displaced shortstop Paul DeJong.

3. MLBTR Player Chat Today

Later today, MLBTR will be kicking off this week’s group of Player Chats. Last week, we welcomed pitcher Cory Wade, catcher Michael McKenry, pitcher Jacob Turner, and knuckleballer Mickey Jannis. Today, we’re excited to have former MLB pitcher Collin Balester chat with readers. Balester pitched for the Nationals, Tigers, and Reds across six seasons in the big leagues, tallying 200 2/3 innings for his career across 88 appearances (22 starts). His best season came with the Nationals in 2010, when he posted a 2.57 ERA (159 ERA+) with a 3.51 FIP in 21 innings in his first season as a reliever. Be sure to tune in at 3pm CST today for Balester’s live chat with readers.

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