The Opener: McCutchen, Guardians, Outrights

As Spring Training continues to draw closer, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:

1. Cutch’s homecoming today

After spending the last half decade with the Giants, Yankees, Phillies and Brewers, longtime Pirate Andrew McCutchen is set to officially return to Pittsburgh today. McCutchen’s one-year, $5MM deal with the Pirates was reported last week, but the Pirates confirmed yesterday evening that the deal would be made official sometime today. It’s a heartwarming occasion for both the 36-year-old McCutchen and Pirates fans. McCutchen is an all-time franchise great, with his 40 bWAR accumulated with the franchise ranking top 10 in franchise history. Over his nine previous years in Pittsburgh, McCutchen was a five time All-Star, four time Silver Slugger, one time Gold Glove winner, and finished among the top five in MVP voting in four consecutive years, including an MVP win in 2013.

2. Guards Fest tomorrow

Tomorrow, the Cleveland Guardians will host Guards Fest 2023 at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. It’ll be the ninth instance of Cleveland’s offseason fan fest event and the first time it’s been held in three years — as well as the first time it’s been held since the organization’s rebranding. Several current players (Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario, Triston McKenzie, Andres Gimenez among them) will be in attendance, as will a handful of prospects (including touted names like George Valera and Brayan Rocchio) and newcomer Josh Bell, who inked a two-year, $33MM deal earlier in the offseason. Among the more unique elements of this year’s event, Gimenez will team with local artist Jonathan Hrusovsky to host a cleat design competition, where fans can submit a sketch for a custom pair of cleats for Gimenez to wear during spring training. As we’ve seen with the Cubs, Brewers and other clubs in recent weeks, annual events like this are making a resurgence and providing fans with more to look forward to in the offseason.

3. Leiter Jr., Reynolds face outright decisions

Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr. and utilityman Matt Reynolds cleared waivers and were assigned outright to Triple-A yesterday by the Cubs and Reds, respectively. Leiter Jr. was designated for assignment last week to make room for Eric Hosmer on Chicago’s 40-man roster, while Reynolds was DFA’d to make room for Luke Weaver on Cincinnati’s 40-man. Both players have the right to reject an outright assignment and test free agency, though given they went unclaimed on waivers, they’ll likely have to compete for roster spots this spring whether they stay with their current organization or elect to explore the free agent market. Leiter Jr. had some success in 2022, pitching 67 2/3 innings of 3.99 ERA baseball, while Reynolds scuffled to a .246/.320/.332 (81 wRC+) line in 92 games 272 PA last season, though he showcased rare versatility by logging innings at each spot on the diamond except for catcher.

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