December 2010

Roundup: Lee picks the O’s

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.

Sunil Joshi

Roundup: A’s out on Beltre?

The market for free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre continued to evolve on Wednesday amidst reports that another team was out of the mix.
The Athletics ended talks with Beltre this week to turn their focus toward other players, Fox Sports.com reported. 
Oakland entered the bidding for Beltre early on this offseason, reportedly offering him an initial five-year, $64 million deal. Until this week, the club continued to negotiate with Beltre.
While the Angels remain the front runners to land Beltre, the Rangers are still interested but aren’t comfortable with his price tag, the report suggested. For Texas, adding Beltre would meaning moving Michael Young to designated hitter or to another club, two unlikely concepts.
The Halos reportedly made a five-year, $70 million offer to Beltre earlier this month, a figure that the Rangers aren’t believed to be willing to approach. Scott Boras, Beltre’s agent, is reportedly seeking a deal in the neighborhood of five-years, $85 million. Angels owner Arte Moreno told the Los Angeles Times earlier this month that the club had made a “significant offer” to Beltre and it wouldn’t be increasing.
Oakland entered the bidding for Beltre early on this offseason, reportedly offering him an initial five-year, $64 million deal. Until this week, the club continued to negotiate with Beltre, according to the report.
There are several other unmentioned clubs who could be interested in Beltre, the report suggested, including the Orioles and Blue Jays.
The 31-year-old is coming off a very strong campaign in Boston, hitting .321 with 28 homers and 49 doubles. After missing out on free agent Carl Crawford, Beltre would add some of the desired power to the Angels lineup. 
Here’s a look Wednesday’s news from around the league: 
- The Orioles’ bullpen wish-list continues to take shape as the club has “definite interest” in free agent reliever Grant Balfour, MASNsports.com reported on Wednesday. Signing Balfour would mean the Orioles would have to forfeit a Draft pick, as the right-hander is a Type-A free agent. 
- Additional details on Octavio Dotel’s deal with the Blue Jays emerged on Wedesday as Fox Sports.com reported that the deal includes a favorable $3.75 million option for 2012, leaving the door open for a possible return. The deal also allows for the Jays to recoup Draft picks if Dotel departs as a Type-B free agent after next season. 
- The Yanks have checked in with free agent Rafael Soriano, SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported on Wednesday. Soriano would obviously have to move to a role outside the 9th inning to find in a fit in the Bronx. 
– Bailey Stephens

Roundup: Many teams interested in Fuentes?

Relief pitching remained at the forefront of the free agent arena on Tuesday as discussion of the market for left-hander Brian Fuentes occupied an otherwise slow news day.
There’s still a large contingent of teams that have at least some interest in Fuentes, including the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Rockies, Mariners, Twins, Pirates, Phillies, Brewers, Yankees and Mets, SI.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted Tuesday.
Many of those teams could have filled their need in recent days, however, including the Yankees (Pedro Feliciano), Brewers (Takashi Saito) and Rockies (Matt Lindstrom). In addition, the price tag for Fuentes could be prohibitive for some of those teams, if he indeed is seeking a deal comparable to Scott Downs’s three-year, $15 million pact with the Angels as Ken Rosenthal suggested last week.
Here’s a look at other happenings around the league on Tuesday: 
- After adding Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke to their rotation, the Brewers have ended negotiations with Chris Capuano, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Tuesday. Capuano reportedly wanted to stay in the starting rotation, a role the Brewers simply didn’t have open for next season. 
- Free Agent left-hander Jeff Francis acknowledged to the Vancouver Province that teams have shown interest in him, but suggested it hadn’t gone much farther than that. The Mets, Yankees, Nationals and Pirates have all been mentioned as possible fits for Francis so far. 
- Brandon Webb did get at least $3 million guaranteed and “at least that in incentives” in his pact with the Rangers, Heyman confirmed on Twitter.
– Bailey Stephens

Roundup: Phils, Crew lock up relievers

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. 

Left-hander J.C. Romero agreed to a one-year deal with the Phillies, while veteran right-hander Takashi Saito agreed to a one-year pact with the Brewers. 

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

Octavio Dotel to Toronto?

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.

Dotel’s agent Dan Horwits told MLB.com that the Blue Jays were one club the 37-year-old was speaking with, but that nothing was done. According to Sports Illustrated, the Rays, Pirates and others remain in the running.
If Dotel joined Toronto, he would be pitching for his 11th team in 13 seasons. He went 3-4 with a 4.08 ERA in 64 innings between three clubs last season: the Pirates, Dodgers and Rockies.
Dotel last pitched in the American League in 2009, his second year with the White Sox.
– Evan Drellich

Roundup: Webb to Texas

He’s not Cliff Lee, but he’s a late Christmas gift for the Rangers nonetheless.
Right-hander Brandon Webb and the Rangers have reached on a one-year, incentive-heavy deal, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan confirmed on Sunday.
Webb narrowed his choice to Texas and a National League Central mystery team according to an ESPN.com report from earlier the day. The Cubs and Nationals were thought to be in the running.
The Rangers hadn’t made their interest in the right-hander a secret after losing out on Cliff Lee. Among the NL Central teams, the Reds were likely the principal challenger to Texas, FoxSports.com reported.
Webb won the 2006 NL Cy Young but hasn’t pitched in a regular season game since 2009 because of injury. A successful stint on a one-year deal this season would allow him to re-establish his value and set himself up for a larger multiyear deal next year.
For Texas, Webb could fill a spot in a starting rotation that already includes C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter.
Here’s a look at some of the post-Christmas odds and ends from around the league on Sunday:
- While the Yankees had internal talks about adding Manny Ramirez earlier this offseason, they currently have no interest in signing him, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted on Sunday. With three starting outfielders and Jorge Posada set to serve as the designated hitter, there’s currently no place for Ramirez’s bat in the Bronx. 
- Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma has re-signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles for next season, Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times tweeted on Sunday. Iwakuma seemingly doesn’t want to discuss a move to MLB any further until he qualifies for international free agency after the 2011 season, Coskrey added. Earlier this offseason, Iwakuma could not reach an agreement with the Athletics after Oakland won the right to negotiate with him.
- Free agent Carl Pavano will continue to hold out for a three-year deal, the Boston Globe reported on Sunday. The Twins, Rangers, Nats and Mariners are among the teams who continue to have interest, the paper reported with the stipulation that Seattle would have to free up some money first. Pavano could be nearing a decision as MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported on Friday that he would decide after Christmas.
– Bailey Stephens

Reds lose Rhodes to Rangers

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

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Roundup: Lindstrom, Rhodes keep Stove simmering

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

Johnny Damon back in pinstripes?

The Yankees have expressed some interest in a return engagement with Johnny Damon, according to a report by Newsday’s Ken Davidoff. 

Citing four sources, the report said that Damon and the Yankees have been discussing a role where Damon would get some at-bats as a designated hitter and fill in at left field. The Yankees have already committed to making Jorge Posada their full-time DH next year.
It is uncertain if Damon would accept a role with limited playing time, and a deal was said to be “not close and far from guaranteed.” But Damon loved his time in New York, coming over from the Red Sox and spending four seasons in pinstripes. The report said that Damon has communicated with Alex Rodriguez about the possibility of coming back to the Yankees.
 
Damon and the Yankees parted ways after the ’09 World Series victory over a difference in dollars, and the 37-year-old outfielder eventually landed with the Tigers for one year at $8 million – compared to the two-year, $14 million offer the Yankees had made at one point.
But New York had already moved on by the time Damon decided, signing Nick Johnson in what would turn out to be an ill-fated move to replace him in the lineup.
– Bryan Hoch

Roundup: Relievers generating buzz

While it’s likely any bigger Hot Stove developments will be on hiatus until after the holiday weekend, Wednesday still brought a fresh round of buzz surrounding several established relievers.
One such pitcher is right-handed reliever Grant Balfour. While it’s still very likely that the Type-A free agent will find a multiyear deal on the open market, there is still a possibility he could return to the Rays, Fox Sports.com reported Wednesday. While noting this is especially unlikely given that the Rays would have to forfeit a Draft pick for a right-handed reliever, the report noted that much of the Rays bullpen has been depleted and it was still a possibility.
Free agent right-hander Octavio Dotel also has several teams interest, including the Blue Jays, Pirates and Rays, according to a Fox Sports.com report on Wednesday. Dotel would seemingly be more interested in clubs that could make a closer job available to him, which those three teams likely could.
In addition to the relievers market, here’s a look at activity around the rest of the league on Wednesday:
- Left-handed free agent Jeff Francis continues to draw attention from multiple teams. The Yanks, Mets, Nationals, Pirates and Rangers all have different levels of interest in Francis, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted on Wednesday. 
- Amidst Tuesday’s speculation that a “mystery” National League Central team might be in on starter Brandon Webb, the Reds are not it, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted on Wednesday. According to Fay, the Reds “haven’t had any discussions about Webb recently.”
- After Joaquin Arias and Lance Zawadzki cleared waivers, the Royals officially outrighted the two infielders to Triple-A Omaha on Wednesday. Both were designated for assignment earlier this offseason likely in an effort to clear roster space for acquisitions.
- To make room for starter Kevin Correia on their 40-man roster, the Pirates designated right-hander Joe Martinez for assignment on Wednesday. The Bucs also extended Spring Training invites to four non-roster players: Tyler Yates, Jeff Clement, Rudy Owens and Justin Wilson. 
–Bailey Stephens
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