Long-awaited start to Spring Training on deck
Wednesday marks first day of pitchers and catchers reporting; free agents remain on market
For the players of Major League Baseball, the first real work week since October begins this week.
Wednesday marks the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers at their Arizona and Florida complexes for the next six weeks, and there will be enough coaching staffs, front-office members, eager position players and fans around to let them know that Spring Training really is here once again.
The World Series champion San Francisco Giants are back in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the runner-up Kansas City Royals are not too far away in Surprise, Ariz. The rest of the teams are setting up camp to get ready for the March schedules in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, all in preparation for Opening Day in April.
It's the annual rite of passage to the comforting warmth of the summer game, and it's finally here.
But there are pieces of business to attend to this week that go far beyond the rudimentary stuff such as pitchers' fielding practice and bullpen sessions that kick off the spring workout grind.
There are still players to be signed and brought into camp, and a few could be of serious impact.
One, in particular, is garnering the majority of the remaining headlines, and for good reason. He is 19-year-old Cuban switch-hitting infield sensation Yoan Moncada, and he reportedly is in very high demand.
MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez wrote that Moncada is "considered the best young prospect to leave Cuba since Jorge Soler and Yasiel Puig," which helps explain why Moncada, who will turn 20 in May, has been worked out privately by more than 10 Major League teams and could be viewed by more soon.
Sanchez wrote that Moncada has not yet received any formal offers but is expected to soon. The dollars figure to be eye-opening.
But Moncada is not the only Cuban player who could land in a big league organization this week while the teams of the American and National Leagues are getting acclimated to their spring clubhouses and training facilities.
Veteran infielder Hector Olivera, could become eligible to be signed by an MLB team soon, as could second baseman Andy Ibanez and right-handed pitcher Yadier Alvarez.
And while none of these players have any Major League track record from which to draw, there are a few proven free agents still out there, ready to come to camp in The Week Ahead.
Free-agent starters with good track records or the chance to bounce back from injuries include Brandon Beachy, Chris Young and Joe Saunders.
Two pitchers with tons of experience in the closer role, Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez, haven't signed with clubs as Spring Training is set to begin.
Other relievers who could be plucked off the open market include lefty Joe Beimel, who pitched to a 2.20 ERA in 56 games for the Mariners last year, plus Joba Chamberlain, Matt Guerrier, Phil Coke, Matt Lindstrom, Dustin McGowan, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Adams and Brian Wilson.
And veteran position players such as catcher Ryan Doumit, infielders Everth Cabrera, Mark Ellis and Rafael Furcal and outfielders Dayan Viciedo, Scott Hairston and Reed Johnson remain available at this late date.