On a day that’s known for fireworks, the Orioles created the loudest bang, inking free-agent first baseman Derrek Lee to a one-year contract. But they weren’t the only team that was active on the final day of 2010, as three clubs rang in the new year by improving their rosters.
Lee, 35, is expected to add pop to the middle of Baltimore’s order. He hit .260 with 19 home runs and 80 RBIs last season while playing for the Cubs and Braves. Lee has 312 home runs in his career, spanning 14 seasons. He would be joining his fifth club, pending a physical examination.
The Red Sox re-signed left-hander Hideki Okajima to a one-year contract, according to the Boston Globe. Okajima turned 35 on Christmas Day. His batting average allowed to left-handed hitters ballooned last season to .284, which was well above the .214 clip he’s posted during his four-year Major League career.
The Royals made a quiet move that could pay dividends in the future, signing right-hander Zach Miner to a Minor League deal. Miner has started and relieved at the Major League level; he is coming off surgery to his right elbow that he underwent in May.
Relievers continue to be a valuable commodity on the Hot Stove market, as two more free agents found a home on Monday to highlight an otherwise quiet day.
Saito’s deal, expected to be announced next week, gives the Crew another established arm in the back end of the ‘pen and continues their offseason pitching staff overhaul.
Saito, who will be 41 on Opening Day, carried a 2.83 ERA while serving as Atlanta’s primary set-up man to closer Billy Wager. The Japanese-born hurler did suffer shoulder injuries as the season wore on, but he proved mostly effective when healthy.
Elsewhere in the National League, the Phillies elected to bring back Romero after declining his $4.5 million option earlier this offseason. After a potential deal with Romero’s would-be replacement, left-hander Dennys Reyes, fell through, the club looked back to a familiar face.
After injuries limited Romero to just 21 games in 2009, Romero registered a 3.68 ERA last season while struggling at times with his control.
Here’s a look at Monday’s other happenings around the league:
– The Blue Jays continue to “move closer” to an agreement with Octavio Dotel, Fox Sports.com’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted on Monday. In agreement with earlier reports, Rosenthal concurred that the deal will be in the $3.5 million range.
– Brandon Webb, who agreed to a one-year deal with the Rangers on Sunday, will earn $3 million plus incentives, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweeted Monday. Jerry Crasnick, also of ESPN.com, added that with incentives, Webb could earn between $8-10 million when all is said and done.
— Bailey Stephens
Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes reported Sunday night that the Blue Jays were close to signing veteran right-hander Octavio Dotel to a one-year deal, but the Blue Jays have not confirmed the report.
All fall and winter, it seemed like the Reds retaining LHP Arthur Rhodes was a formality. He wanted to return and the club wanted him back.
But on Thursday night, Rhodes had agreed to a one-year contract with the Rangers — according to a pair of baseball sources. Terms were not immediately known. The deal has yet to be announced by Texas.
The 41-year-old Rhodes was a key late-inning set-up man for the Reds the past two seasons. In 2010, he posted a 2.29 ERA in 69 games – his most appearances since 2001. That included a stretch where he tied a Major League record with 33-straight scoreless appearances – over 30 innings. He was also an All-Star for the first time in his 19-season career.
Complicating matters for the Reds was that other lefty relievers were getting larger deals than Cincinnati was willing to offer Rhodes. For instance, Scott Downs got three years and $15 million from the Angels while Pedro Feliciano received a two-year, $8 million deal from the Yankees. Rhodes had better seasons than both of those guys.
During the Winter Meetings, GM Walt Jocketty mentioned Rhodes was seeking a multi-year deal — which with him at 41, the Reds weren’t willing to do. AOL Fanhouse reported that Rhodes’ deal includes a vesting option for 2012.
Without Rhodes, the Reds still have lefties Aroldis Chapman and Bill Bray in the fold. As for Dontrelle Willis, who signed a minor league contract last month to reboot his career as a reliever, his chances to make the team just got a whole lot better.
— Mark Sheldon
Relief pitching was the theme of the day once again Thursday as the Hot Stove season rolled toward Christmas, with clubs making their lists, checking them twice, and not letting the impending holiday weekend interrupt the chance to improve their 2011 rosters.
The active Rockies continued their winter makeover, adding another hard-throwing right-hander to their bullpen mix by acquiring Matt Lindstrom in a swap with the Houston Astros for two Minor League pitchers.
Lindstrom, who turns 31 on Feb. 11, went 2-5 with a 4.39 ERA for the Astros last season, and Colorado had already tried to trade for him in November, when they swung a deal with Houston and landed righty Felipe Paulino for infielder Clint Barmes. Now Lindstrom will join Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle as manager Jim Tracy‘s primary right-handed setup men.
Meanwhile, the Rangers plucked a coveted left-handed bullpen specialist from the free-agent pool by signing Arthur Rhodes to a one-year deal. Rhodes, 41, had a 2.29 ERA for the Reds in 2010, earning the lone All-Star appearance of his 19-year career.
Also on the reliever front, the Nationals locked up one of their bullpen men, signing Sean Burnett to a two-year extension for $3.7 million, according to MLB.com’s Bill Ladson.
And that wasn’t all that simmered on the Stove on Thursday. Here’s the rest of the rumblings:
– Free agent outfielder Johnny Damon has been talking about a potential return to the Bronx, but it’s not likely in the cards, according to multiple media reports. The 37-year-old probably doesn’t fit with the Yanks because they only seem to have a part-time role available. Damon told the New York Daily News that multiple teams have expressed interest in him as an everyday player.
– The D-backs have officially sold utility man Rusty Ryal to Japan’s Yomiuri Giants. Ryal, who served as a backup last season for Arizona, was released earlier this month amidst rumors that he was headed to Japan next season.
– The Pirates continued their busy winter, signing infielder Garrett Atkins to a Minor League deal, claiming left-hander Aaron Thompson off waivers from the Nats and completing a minor trade with the Athletics. The Bucs acquired Minor League infielder Corey Wimberly in exchange for Minor League right-hander Ryan Kelly.
– According to SI.com, the Padres are considering signing free agent outfielder Brad Hawpe, who might slot nicely into a part-time first base role now that Adrian Gonzalez has moved on to Boston. Meanwhile, ESPN.com also reported that the Padres are thinking about signing Russell Branyan, a left-handed-hitting first baseman and former Padre.
– And speaking of Adrian Gonzalez, his name was in the news again Thursday, when the slugger told ESPNBoston.com that he promised the Red Sox that he would negotiate future contract extensions and not hold out for a monster free-agency deal on par with that of upcoming free agent Albert Pujols. “We just want market value,” was what he told Boston, according to the site.
— Doug Miller
The Yankees have expressed some interest in a return engagement with Johnny Damon, according to a report by Newsday’s Ken Davidoff.