2/15 Roundup

The Indians signed a free-agent starting pitcher on Saturday, but it wasn’t Ubaldo Jimenez. Instead of bringing back Jimenez, who rejected a qualifying offer from the club in November, Cleveland signed right-hander Aaron Harang to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The veteran is expected to compete for the fifth spot in the Indians’ rotation.

Cleveland also prevailed in its arbitration case against pitcher Josh Tomlin. The right-hander will earn $800,000 this season. The Indians have another arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday with starter Justin Masterson, but the sinkerballer says the pending
contract talks don’t bother him at all.

In other Hot Stove news:

• The Cubs added depth to their bench, signing veteran utility man Emilio Bonifacio. He was released by the Royals on Wednesday after being designated for assignment on Feb. 1.

• The Mariners and first baseman Justin Smoak avoided salary arbitration, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with a club option for 2015. Seattle has now signed all of its arbitration-eligible players.

• The A’s and outfielder Josh Reddick agreed to a one-year deal, clearing the club’s arbitration slate.

• The Red Sox won’t be going to any arbitration hearings either after coming to terms with left-handed reliever Andrew Miller on a one-year contract for 2014.

• The Orioles claimed utility man Jimmy Paredes off waivers from the Marlins. The switch hitter is expected to compete for a spot on Baltimore’s bench.

-Austin Laymance

Hot Stove Roundup 2/14

Several more teams reported to Spring Training on Friday. However, the Hot Stove was still as busy as ever.

Some of the biggest news of the day came out of Atlanta, where the Braves and Julio Teheran agreed to a six-year, $32.4 million extension that includes an option for the 2020 season.

“We are excited to sign Julio to a long-term contract,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “He is one of the best young pitchers in the National League and one of our core of players we expect to be together for a number of years.”

Here’s a look at some of the other top stories:

• The Rangers and designated hitter Mitch Moreland avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $2.65 million.

• Texas also signed free-agent pitcher Tommy Hanson to a one-year contract. The deal is worth $2 million plus incentives.

• The Cardinals confirmed that right-hander Jake Westbrook is retiring after 13 years in the Major Leagues. Westbrook, 36, was 7-8 with a 4.63 ERA in 21 games for St. Louis last season.

• Jeff Samardzija would not discuss the possibility of a long-term contract with the Cubs or his name being mentioned in trade rumors.

“We’re not really going to talk about that,” Samardzija said. “We’re worried about the season and getting ready to compete and win some ballgames. We don’t want any distractions, whether it’s with [contract talk] or with trade talks or this or that. For me, it’s a no comment.

“Like I’ve said before, [I want to] put no doubt in anyone’s minds about who I am and what I can be for this organization.”

• Angels owner Arte Moreno confirmed that the club is in talks with Mike Trout on a long-term contract. The team would like to sign the 22-year-old center fielder to a long-term deal shortly after Opening Day, so they don’t have to go through the complex arbitration process next year and his new contract doesn’t count against the team’s Collective Balance Tax payroll until 2015.

• The Nationals and right-hander Josh Roenicke agreed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Quinn Roberts

2/13 Roundup

Several teams followed the lead of the Dodgers and D-backs and officially opened Spring Training for pitchers and catchers on Thursday. The rest will follow between Friday and Monday.

But that doesn’t mean the Hot Stove has been switched off, with a handful of free agents still available and some clubs continuing to look for ways to improve via trade. The Nationals, for instance, found a strong backup for catcher Wilson Ramos on Thursday, acquiring switch hitter Jose Lobaton and two prospects from the Rays for young right-hander Nathan Karns.

In other news from around the league:

  • The Indians announced their four-year, $25 million extension with outfielder Michael Brantley. The deal buys out his arbitration eligibility and includes a fifth-year option.
  • The Orioles have agreed to a three-year contract with South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon, pending a physical, a source told MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli. However, physicals have led Baltimore to void two other deals this offseason. Yoon could fit as a starter or a reliever with the O’s.
  • Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said his team isn’t likely to spend more this offseason, meaning free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew won’t be coming to Queens.
  • Cuban free-agents Aledmys Diaz and Odrisamer Despaigne worked out for Major League scouts during a showcase in Arizona. Diaz, an infielder, and Despaigne, a right-handed pitcher, both hope to sign with a team by the end of the month.
  • The Mariners officially signed free-agent closer Fernando Rodney to a two-year contract and inked veteran lefty Randy Wolf to a Minor League deal. They also placed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez on the restricted list after he informed them that he will miss the season with a chronic gastrointestinal issue.
  • The Cubs officially reached deals with free-agent righties Jason Hammel and James McDonald, on the same day they revealed Jake Arrieta has been dealing with shoulder tightness that will push him behind schedule.
  • The Phillies released veteran righty Chad Gaudin after he failed a physical. The two sides had agreed to a Minor League contract in January.
  • The Rays are likely to sign free-agent lefty Erik Bedard, according to multiple reports. The 34-year-old went 4-12 with a 4.59 ERA in 32 games, including 26 starts, for the Astros last season.

– Andrew Simon

Burnett signs with Phillies

Shortly after the news broke that Cole Hamels will not be available to start the season, the Phillies brought in some rotation help. The team has signed right-hander A.J. Burnett to a one-year deal, a source told MLB.com‘s Todd Zolecki. 

It’s a blow to the Pirates rotation that helped lead the club last season to its first postseason berth since 1992, with Burnett expected for much of the offseason to return to Pittsburgh if he did not retire. But in the last couple weeks he had reportedly re-opened his free agency, and now lands with a different NL club.

Because the Pirates did not make him a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer, they will not receive a compensatory draft pick. FOXSports.com‘s Ken Rosenthal reported the deal is worth $16 million.

– Joey Nowak

Mets sign Valverde to minor league deal

The Mets have signed former Tigers closer Jose Valverde to a minor league deal with an invite to Major League Spring Training. 

The 35-year-old right-hander has spent 11 seasons in the majors (with Arizona, Houston and Detroit) and was an All-Star in 2007, 2010 and 2011. He has 286 career saves and converted 49 in a row in 2011, becoming the third pitcher in MLB history to be perfect in all his save opportunities while closing 40 or more games. 

He appeared in 20 games for the Tigers last season and saved nine games after signing a minor league deal on April 4. He was released on August 7.

– Joey Nowak

2/10 Roundup

On a relatively quiet Monday, the Indians made news late in the day by reaching a long-term deal with Michael Brantley. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian confirmed the new contract is a four-year deal worth $25 million in guaranteed salary, with a club option valued at $11 million for 2018.

While the Indians locked up Brantley long-term, however, they apparently have not had any talks with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez’s agent in “weeks,” according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Jimenez remains one of the top arms available on the free-agent market, though it remains unclear where he will pitch in 2014.

Other news and notes:

  • The Rangers added another potential starter to the mix on Monday, agreeing to terms with right-hander Tommy Hanson on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, according to Major League sources. Hanson will enter Spring Training as a candidate to to be Texas’ fifth starter, while right-handers Nick Tepesch and Colby Lewis, and left-handers Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman will also look to earn a rotation spot this spring.
  • Elsewhere in the American League West, the Angels added some bullpen depth, signing veteran reliever Brandon Lyon to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. As of now, Lyon projects to start the season at Triple-A in the Halos organization.
  • The Nationals agreed to a one-year deal with Tyler Clippard, the last of the club’s 10 arbitration-eligible players. Though the terms of the deal were not disclosed, CBSSports.com reported that Clippard will earn $5.875 million this season. Clippard had requested $6.35 million and the Nationals had countered at $4.45 million, so the reported agreement checks in slightly higher than the $5.4 million midpoint.
  • Veteran free agent Johan Santana is progressing through his rehab program as he attempts to continue his Major League career, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. According to Santana’s agent, Peter Greenberg, the southpaw threw off a mound twice last week and plans to continue that work this week. Santana turns 35 next month.

– Paul Casella

The case against — and for — a Morales-Pirates union

One of the first players linked this offseason to the Pirates’ need for a lefty-hitting first baseman — Kendrys Morales — remains in play. However, the Bucs still view him as a back-burner option, for the same reason other National League clubs shy away — his reduced ability to play the field since the freakish high left-ankle injury that cost him a season-and-a-half.

In the two seasons since returning from that mid-2010 injury, Morales has played 59 games at first base — and 214 as the DH.

Morales, 30, also would be a poor candidate to platoon with Gaby Sanchez, a southpaw killer the Pirates fully expect to keep in the picture. Not only is Morales a switch-hitter, but his splits are relatively even (when adjusting for the fact he gets to swing far more from the left side against righties than the other way around).

Perhaps that is one way GM Neal Huntington could justify giving Morales a Garrett Jones-sized deal: He’d be kept busy enough; in 2013, the Pirates saw more than four times as many right-handed starters (131) as lefties (31).

Something else worth bearing in mind: Unless the Cardinals’ Jamie Garcia recovers from a sprained shoulder or Tony Cingrani  comes out of the Reds’ bullpen to join their rotation, neither of the Bucs’ NL Central competitors will have a left-handed starter.

Morales would also set up the Pirates better for their 10 Interleague Games in AL parks: The six players rotated in the DH spot last season hit a combined .171 — without a home run and ONE RBI in 41 at-bats.

– Tom Singer

2/8 roundup

A handful of players and clubs avoided arbitration on Saturday, while the Dodgers added a pitcher on the same day their pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch in Arizona.

Los Angeles agreed to a one-year, $1.5-million contract, plus incentives, with left-hander Paul Maholm.

The official announcement came eight hours after Maholm appeared in the Dodgers clubhouse in Spring Training.

Other news and notes from Saturday:

AL East

  • Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka is expected to meet with the media Tuesday in New York.
  • The Rays held a youth clinic on Saturday.

AL Central

  • The Indians won their arbitration case with reliever Vinnie Pestano. He’ll make make $975,000 this season.

AL West

NL East

  • Mets right-hander Matt Harvey, who had surgery last October, hopes to begin throwing this month.

NL Central

  • The Cubs and right-hander Jeff Samardzija agreed to a one-year, $5.345-million deal, avoiding arbitration.

NL West

  • Padres starter Andrew Cashner will make $2.4 million this season after winning his arbitration case.
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly discussed an array of topics, including outfielder Matt Kemp, on the first day of Spring Training.
  • Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley feels like he has a new arm.
  • Arizona players say they’re happy with the right-hander Bronson Arroyo, within this notebook.
  • Padres right-hander Josh Johnson says he received some positive feedback from a college coach, within this notebook.
  • The D-backs donated $700,000 to local youth and Little League ballplayers.

 

- Cash Kruth

Maholm with the Dodgers?

Lefty Paul Maholm has apparently landed with the Dodgers as multiple reports out of the team’s Spring Training camp — including from MLB.com‘s Ken Gurnick — have him spotted there, and with a locker in the clubhouse. 

Maholm, 31, was a free agent this winter after going 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA in Atlanta last season. The majority of his nine-year career came in Pittsburgh, along with stints with the Cubs and Braves.

He is 76-95 in his career with a 4.28 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.

– Joey Nowak

2/7 Roundup

And then there were three. With free-agent right-hander Bronson Arroyo agreeing Friday to a two-year deal with the D-backs that includes a club option, the remaining big-name starters on the market are A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Like Arroyo, whichever club signs Burnett will not lose a first round pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft. Santana and Jimenez, on the other hand, don’t fall into that category. So where will Burnett land?

The Pirates could have the inside track, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer, but the Orioles and Nationals are also in the running. Burnett and his camp have kept their thought process secret thus far, but with Spring Training on the horizon, something is likely to happen soon.

The Phillies appear to be out of the Burnett sweepstakes, and will instead turn their attention to former closer Ryan Madson, who has not pitched since 2011 because of Tommy John surgery and complications following the procedure.

In other Hot Stove news:

• Nelson Cruz remains on the market, and MLB.com’s Mike Bauman examined the potential risks and rewards for clubs looking to sign the outfielder. Cruz would significantly boost any lineup, however, the slugger has a history of injury, will turn 34 in July and served a 50-game PED suspension last year.

• Meanwhile, the A’s locked up outfielder Coco Crisp through at least 2016 with a two-year contract extension that includes a vesting option for 2017. Last year, Crisp became just the 10th player in Oakland history with at least 20 doubles and 20 home runs in a single season.

• The Brewers brought back reliever Francisco Rodriguez, this time on a one-year deal worth at least $3.25 million. In a corresponding roster move, pitcher Donovan Hand was designated for assignment.

• The White Sox also added to their bullpen mix, signing right-hander Mitchell Boggs to a one-year, $1.1 million contract.

• Outfielder Jimmy Paredes was designated for assignment by the Marlins to open a roster spot for infielder Jeff Baker, who agreed to a two-year deal this week.

• The Nationals agreed to terms with veteran reliever Luis Ayala on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Ayala, 36, is one of the few remaining players to have appeared with the Expos.

• The Pirates inked catcher Omir Santos to a Minor League deal that includes an invitation to big league camp.

• First baseman Matt LaPorta and the Orioles agreed to a Minor League contract. LaPorta has not appeared in a Major League game since 2012, when he played 22 games with the Indians.

• Royals pitcher Everett Teaford cleared waivers and remained in the organization with an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. The left-hander has been invited to Major League Spring Training.

-Austin Laymance

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