The Week Ahead: Spring action set to heat up
Cactus, Grapefruit League action will get underway Wednesday with six games
Spring Training is in full swing, and the month-long schedules of the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues are set to begin later this week.
In other words, baseball is always moving forward, and as we take a peek at the week ahead, we can see a bit of the game's present, future and even its past.
In the here and now, the Baltimore Orioles might have waited a while to sew up their winter plans, but now their spring plans seem to be designed with the fall in mind. Baltimore snapped up starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Suk-Min Yoon recently, and now the Orioles are putting the finishing touches on a one-year, $8 million deal with slugger Nelson Cruz as they prepare to make a bold run at the American League East after winning 85 games in 2013.
Baltimore executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was patient until whipping out his club's wallet in a big way in the last few weeks. The Angels might be doing the same for star outfielder Mike Trout in the coming days as they prepare for the future by addressing the present.
A Yahoo! Sports report late last week indicated that a six-year contract extension is being discussed between the Angels and Trout, and Trout didn't want to get into the details.
"No comment. I'm not going to comment on it," Trout said. "I like how a lot of people are writing it. It's pretty funny."
Elsewhere around baseball, the future was being thought about while the teams prepare for the present.
The Dodgers, for example, continue to leave no stone unturned as they try to improve upon the team that won the National League West in 2013 and came within two victories of the World Series. On Saturday, the team officially signed Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena to a five-year deal, and Los Angeles has high hopes for the slick fielder.
"We think it definitely wouldn't be a surprise if he could affect our club this year," Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said. "We'll get him here as soon as we can get him here. We need to see him on an everyday basis, watch him play and adapt to a new country and culture."
Meanwhile, quite a few players are still free agents and are looking for new teams. Starting pitcher Chris Capuano fell off the list last week and agreed to terms with the Boston Red Sox on a one-year deal, while reliever Andrew Bailey, who's trying to come back from injury, signed a Minor League deal with the Yankees.
But starter Ervin Santana, first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales and shortstop Stephen Drew are still out there as games are about to be played. This week would be the best time for them to sign, too, because any more time not in a spring camp would have them playing serious catch-up as Opening Day looms.
Where might Santana wind up? Seattle has been mentioned as a possibility, and Baltimore was being bandied around before Jimenez was signed. Colorado might be a possibility now that one of the Rockies' premier pitchers, Jhoulys Chacin, was shut down with shoulder inflammation.
It's been all quiet on the Morales and Drew fronts of late, possibly because of the Draft-pick compensation tied to their potential signing, a situation shared by Santana.
In the past department, it's still time for guest instructors at spring camps, also known as a chance for franchise legends to share knowledge with the current crop of players while entertaining fans. The Angels had Tim Salmon and Chuck Finley on hand, among others. The Giants brought back Jeff Kent, Will Clark and Rich Aurilia, and Barry Bonds will be heading to Scottsdale next month.
"I think [Bonds] can be another [set of] eyes, ears and brains for players to bounce ideas off," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Otherwise this week, at least we know one thing for sure: Real live Major League Baseball games are going to be played, and it'll start Wednesday with Tigers-Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET, the same time that Yankees-Pirates get going in Bradenton, Fla., and the Blue Jays visit the Phillies in Clearwater.
Also that day in Arizona, we'll see the Reds and Indians in their shared ballpark in Goodyear, the A's and Giants playing in Scottsdale and the Dodgers meeting the D-backs at Salt River Fields as Spring Training schedules kick into gear and people pack ballparks and start keeping score.
The Yankees and Tigers will actually be the first Major League clubs to get game action going, but their games Tuesday against college teams don't count in the Grapefruit League standings. New York will play host to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and No. 3-ranked Florida State in Tampa, Fla., at 1:05 p.m. ET, while Detroit will play host to the Florida Southern Mocs in Lakeland, Fla., at the same time.