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Spring Training Daily

ST Daily: Moose Still Loose

by D.J. Short
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

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The 2018 MLB regular season begins three weeks from today, but there are still some notable free agents in search of a home. Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, and Greg Holland highlight the pitcher side, but Mike Moustakas is the most prominent position player available. And while those pitchers could theoretically fit with any number of teams, the situation is more complicated with Moustakas.

It would have been unthinkable when Moustakas turned down a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Royals in November, but agent Scott Boras recently suggested to Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star that his client could potentially wait until after June’s MLB Draft in order to sign with a team. If Moustakas waits until then, he would no longer be tied to draft pick compensation, which has impacted his market. Boras previously used this approach with former client Kendrys Morales during the 2014 season.

If Moustakas was to follow the example of Morales, he would take a deal for the remainder of the 2018 season before testing the open market again next offseason. With Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson also due to hit free agency next winter, Moustakas wouldn’t be the top third baseman available, but the difference this time is that he wouldn’t be burdened by the qualifying offer.

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Many pegged the Angels as the most likely destination for Moustakas, a Southern California native, but the club went outside-the-box by signing Zack Cozart to a three-year, $39 million contract. There have been some whispers about the White Sox in recent days, but there’s nothing to indicate that anything is close. Obviously the goal would be to avoid the extreme measure of sitting out the first couple of months of the season before signing with a team, but the scenario is getting more realistic by the day.

Moustakas, 29, slugged a career-high 38 homers for the Royals last season while batting .272/.314/.521 over 148 games. His defense slipped a bit at third base, which was perhaps understandable in his first season back from knee surgery.

Melancon Not 100 Percent?  

Giants closer Mark Melancon returned to the mound Wednesday for the first time since undergoing surgery last September to release pressure on the pronator muscle in his right forearm. He did fine in his Cactus League debut, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth inning against the Padres, but he made some news after the game when he indicated that he’s still feeling some discomfort.

The question is whether this is normal discomfort or something worthy of concern. According to Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area, Melancon said “it’s part of having surgery” and “we’re still progressing with my arm.” Three weeks should be enough time to get a sense for where Melancon is in his recovery. As of now, the Giants expect him to begin the season as their closer. They could sing a different tune if Melancon has trouble bouncing back from his appearances.

If Melancon needs extra rest or recovery time to begin the year, Sam Dyson or free agent addition Tony Watson could be in the mix for early save chances. With Melancon sidelined, Dyson notched 14 saves last season. Watson has 30 career saves, though he was pulled from the role with the Pirates last year.  

Fresh off signing a four-year, $62 million deal with the Giants, Melancon went 11-for-16 in save chances in 2017 while posting a 4.50 ERA and 29/6 K/BB ratio over 30 innings. Much like the Giants as a team, he’s hoping to rebound this year.

De Leon Down

It hasn’t been a good few weeks for the Rays and their pitching prospects. After the highly-touted Brent Honeywell underwent Tommy John surgery last week, the news came down on Thursday that right-hander Jose De Leon will also require the season-ending elbow procedure.  

De Leon was once a consensus top-30 prospect in the game, but nothing has gone according to plan since the Rays acquired him from the Dodgers in the Logan Forsythe deal last offseason. The 25-year-old missed significant time in the minors in 2017 due to a flexor strain and elbow tendinitis. He gave up three runs on four hits and three walks over 2 2/3 innings in his lone appearance at the major league level.

The Rays traded Jake Odorizzi to the Twins last month and Alex Cobb is expected to depart via free agency, so suddenly the Rays’ starting pitching depth is a real concern. On a related note, the Rays are planning to go with an unconventional four-man rotation — Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jake Faria, and Nathan Eovaldi —  to begin the season. The club plans to use multi-inning relievers to fill the fifth spot.

Quick Hits: Ichiro Suzuki has officially returned to the Mariners with a one-year, $750,000 contract … Corey Seager (elbow) is scheduled to play five innings at shortstop in a minor league game next Monday … Buster Posey (ankle) is due to return to Cactus League action on Friday … J.D. Martinez went 0-for-2 in his spring debut Wednesday against the Twins … Jacob deGrom (back) is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday … Billy Hamilton (finger) expects to return to Cactus League action on Thursday … Marcus Stroman (shoulder) is expected to play catch on Thursday … Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario is in “no-throw status” due to mild triceps tendinitis in his right arm … Michael Brantley (ankle) faced live pitching during a workout Wednesday afternoon … Drew Pomeranz (forearm) played catch Wednesday in Red Sox camp … Luke Gregerson missed a scheduled appearance on Tuesday due to an oblique injury, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny downplayed the severity of the situation … Logan Morrison is day-to-day after leaving Wednesday’s Grapefruit League game with tightness in his glute … Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters Wednesday that he likes Starlin Castro in the No. 3 spot in the order …Zach Davies has been diagnosed with a left oblique strain, but the Brewers believe he’ll only have to miss one start …Joe Musgrove (shoulder) said Wednesday that he expects to be ready for the start of the season … Anthony Swarzak (calf) threw another bullpen session Wednesday and should be ready to return to game action soon … The Royals signed veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Brad Miller (toe) will be shut down for the next couple of days… Padres outfielder Alex Dickerson has been diagnosed with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow … The Blue Jays inked veteran reliever Tyler Clippard to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training …