Given the dearth of quality starting pitchers set to hit free agency during the offseason, it might make sense for the Pirates to use their money on bullpen upgrades if they’re unable to re-sign Ivan Nova, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates and Nova have engaged in extension talks, but the 29-year-old’s late-season breakout could price him out of the team’s range. If so, Sawchik suggests a reunion with soon-to-be free agent closer Mark Melancon, whom the Bucs traded to the Nationals at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline. As a 31-year-old who lacks eye-popping strikeout numbers, Melancon is likely to garner the cheapest contract among fellow impending free agent bullpen aces Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. Melancon made his return to Pittsburgh on Friday as a visitor and received an ovation from its fans, though he suffered his first blown save as a National in a 6-5 loss.
More from the National League:
- The blister on Rich Hill’s left index finger continues to pose a problem, so the Dodgers will scratch him from his Sunday start against the Rockies in favor of the returning Brandon McCarthy, who has been on the disabled list with right hip stiffness since Aug. 14. Hill’s next start is set for Oct. 1, the Dodgers’ penultimate regular-season game of the year, in San Francisco. “We’ve put ourselves in the position that we have the flexibility, or luxury, to do this,” said manager Dave Roberts (via Jack Baer of MLB.com). “With the blister and how we’ve had to manage it since the trade, I think this gives him the best chance going forward to go deeper in a game.” The 88-66 Dodgers hold a seven-game lead in the NL West over the Giants and are on the verge of clinching the division. That affords them the opportunity to take it easy with Hill, who figures to serve as a key member of their playoff rotation.
- Another Dodgers starter, southpaw Scott Kazmir, might not make a start again this year, Roberts revealed Saturday. Kazmir returned Friday from a bout with thoracic spine inflammation to make his first start since Aug. 22, but he exited after one inning because of right intercostal spasms. The current campaign hasn’t gone according to plan for Kazmir, who’s in the first season of a three-year, $48MM deal he inked with Los Angeles as a free agent last winter. While Kazmir can opt out of his contract after the season, his disappointing results and injury troubles might prevent him from taking that route. In 136 1/3 innings, Kazmir has posted a 4.56 ERA, 8.85 K/9 and 3.43 BB/9.
- After Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday’s injured right thumb swelled up last week, there was concern that the 36-year-old’s season was over. In the latest update, the Cardinals cancelled the live batting practice they had scheduled for Holliday on Sunday because of further discomfort, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The next step for Holliday is a previously scheduled appointment with a hand specialist Monday. If that goes well, Holliday could return during the upcoming week. He has been out of action since Aug. 11.