Taillon over Cole? And updating the Andrew Lambo project

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SOUTH HILLS – The Pirates paraded their front-of-the-rotation future before the good citizens of Dunedin, Fla. this afternoon, as Jameson Taillon followed Gerrit Cole on the mound. Spring training stats hold the value of Confederate currency, but Taillon did throw two clean innings.  He threw strikes. More interesting is what ESPN’s Jayson Stark passed along from one scout:

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Morning briefing: Game 3 at Blue Jays

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DUNEDIN, Fla. — Josh Harrison had a big ice pack strapped to his right shoulder in the clubhouse this morning. That’s not a routine procedure, especially at 7:30 a.m., but Harrison insisted he’s not injured. “I’m OK,” he told me, and moved his right arm up and down to drive the point home. “It’s a little chilly today. Gotta keep the arm moving.” I’ll take his word, for now, but let’s keep an eye on it.

>> Today marks a “homecoming” of sorts for infielder Brent Morel. He was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays in December, but never really had a chance to establish roots before being waived again. The Pirates claimed him Tuesday.

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A lifetime contract for the NL MVP?

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SOUTH HILLS – Andrew McCutchen‘s contract is perhaps the best in baseball. The reigning NL MVP enters his Age 27 season under club control over the next five seasons, assuming the Pirates pick up his $18.5 million option in 2018. The Pirates control McCutchen through his prime at rates that are far below market value. Club-friendly deals aren’t always friendly due to injury and performance regression, but when they are friendly, they give clubs tens of millions of dollars of surplus value.

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Morning report: Game 2 v. Yankees

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TAMPA — Don’t read too much into the batting order, especially early on in spring training. “There are a couple guys (for whom) I’ve got spots in mind,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “But for the rest, I’m going to run them out there and see what works.”
Gregory Polanco in center field today against the Stormtroopers of the Evil Empire? Yep. Hurdle already knows Polanco can handle any outfield position. The skipper wants to see as many guys as he can in games, which means the contenders for the right field job won’t be restricted to playing only right field.

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What to make of Starling Marte?

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SOUTH HILLS – It’s hard to label Starling Marte‘s first full season in the major leagues as anything other than a success. Despite missing 25 games with a hand injury, he finished 28th among position players in all of baseball with 4.6 Wins Above Replacement. He impacted the game at times with all five tools. He showed burgeoning power. He stole 41 bases. His bat was redhot to open the season and his defensive play in PNC Park’s deep left field was critical. But ….

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Monday Mop-Up Duty: A free-agent splash in June? And the new Oriole Way

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SOUTH HILLS – Ken Rosenthal reported this weekend that the remaining free agents tagged with qualifying offers might wait until after the June draft to sign when they would no longer be tied to draft pick compensation. Rosenthal also notes these players could also benefit by waiting until after Opening Day to sign. Players cannot be tagged with a qualifying offer if they have not spent an entire season with the club.

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Nine-figure neighborhood…Seven Pirates among BA’s top 100

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SOUTH HILLS – Homer Bailey is Exhibit A on why clubs should never give up on a talented arm. The former top 10 overall prospect took his time in finding his way at the major league level, but over the last two years he has become a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The Reds locked up Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal this week, which seems somewhat remarkable given he is the owner of a middling 49-45 career record and 4.25 ERA. But remember the Reds are paying what Bailey is now and what he could be in the future — and there’s a lot of cash in the game.

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