December 2010

Roundup: Marlins reportedly pursuing Choate

While the baseball world is anxiously awaiting Cliff Lee’s decision, there are plenty of other gems still on the market. Pitching has remained at a premium as the market has evolved, with relief pitchers playing a key role.

To fill their bullpen needs, the Marlins are looking to sign left-hander Randy Choate, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted on Sunday. The 35-year-old Type B free agent declined arbitration from the Rays earlier this offseason after two solid years in Tampa Bay’s ‘pen. 

Here’s a look at other news from around the league on Sunday: 

? The Mariners acquired shortstop Brendan Ryan from the Cardinals on Sunday, in exchange for right-hander Maikel Cleto. The 28-year-old Ryan, who is known more for his stellar defense than his work at the plate, played in a career-high 139 games last year. In return, the Cardinals added Cleto, who pitched at Class A Advanced High Desert last year before earning an invite to the Arizona Fall League. 

“In acquiring Brendan Ryan we have added a player who is athletic, has played multiple positions, has been an everyday Major League shortstop, and is playoff tested,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said in the announcement. “We look forward to Brendan’s contributions as well as him competing for a starting position.”

- The sweepstakes for Lee’s services didn’t have many new developments over the weekend, but the Yankees have decided they aren’t going to increase their offer to Lee beyond their current offer, the New York Post reported Sunday. The longest of the Yankees’ offers is believed to be in the neighborhood of seven years, $160 million. 

? Although their American League East counterparts have made some big moves this offseason, the Rays aren’t going to change their approach, the St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday. Moving forward, the team is targeting “under-the-radar type guys that we feel fit us well and have a lot of upside,” executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the Times. 

? After Lee, Carl Pavano figures to be one of the key pitchers left on the market. For that reason, The Boston Globe predicted Sunday that Pavano will wait until Lee signs to pick his destination. While the Twins have been seen as a likely spot for Pavano, Texas could make a play for the veteran if it misses out on Lee, the Globe added. 

– Bailey Stephens

Dodgers Add Castro Again

The Dodgers signed infielder Juan Castro to a Minor League contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training. It will be Castro’s fourth stint in the organization. Castro, 38, will receive $500,000 if he makes the club, according to ESPNLos Angeles.com. Castro opened the 2010 season with Philadelphia, was released and signed by the Dodgers and spent 10 days with them in the Major Leagues. He’s viewed as defensive insurance. – Ken Gurnick

Lee offers partially come to light

According to a tweet from Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, the Yankees have offered one more guaranteed year to Cliff Lee than the Rangers. That means the Rangers have gone as far as six years, but won’t go to the seventh the Yankees added into the mix after Carl Crawford signed with Boston on a seven-year deal.

Heyman also reported there’s a third team in the mix.
It had been previously reported that the Yankees had gone to seven years, but it wasn’t clear if the Rangers had as well.
– Evan Drellich

Roundup: Reds locking up their players

The Reds haven’t brought in much outside help this offseason, but they’ve still been among the busiest teams in baseball. Their mission is keeping guys in-house. The club had already inked starter Bronson Arroyo to a three-year, $35 million extension. Then, late Thursday night, the club agreed on a six-year, $51 million contract with Jay Bruce, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon.

Now, they’re apparently turning their attention to Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto.

The Reds have been wanting to sign Votto, the reigning National League MVP, to some sort of extension, but ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick believes it won’t be for the six years that Bruce got. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Reds have also had preliminary discussions with Cueto about a long-term deal.

Here’s more from around the league on Friday …

* All was quiet on the Cliff Lee front as of Friday afternoon. The Rangers on Thursday presented Lee with a wide array of complex offers, and now, they wait. The Yankees had recently upped their proposal to seven years, but good friend CC Sabathia will give Lee his space, too. Is the ballyhooed left-hander agonizing over his decision right now? C.J. Wilson doesn’t think so. He thinks Lee is deer hunting.

* Young, non-tendered catcher Russell Martin could be close to making his decision. The Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays have been reported to have serious interest, with New York taking “an aggressive approach,” ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote via Twitter. He is said to be deciding between those three American League East teams.

* The Orioles made potential closer Kevin Gregg a two-year offer worth $8 to $10 million, according to the Baltimore Sun. Gregg seems to be negotiating with several teams right now. The question is whether the O’s would give him a chance to be their ninth-inning man.

* A few signings made today: The Royals got Melky Cabrera to be their center fielder; the Orioles resigned veteran infielder Cesar Izturis; the Brewers picked up catcher Wil Nieves; and the Braves officially signed lefty reliever George Sherrill.

* According to Olney, Jorge Cantu is one of the first basemen “seriously being considered” by the Diamondbacks. Cantu was a solid run-producer in the middle of the Marlins’ lineup the last two-plus years, but struggled while playing sparingly with the Rangers towards the end of the 2010 season.

– Alden Gonzalez 

Orioles reportedly made Gregg an offer

The Orioles, according to The Baltimore Sun, made free-agent reliever Kevin Gregg a two-year offer worth $8 to$10 million during the Winter Meetings.

Gregg, who served as the Blue Jays’ closer last year, also has interest from the Nationals, Pirates, Mariners and Red Sox, FOXSports.com reported recently.

The 32-year-old right-hander posted a 3.51 ERA, 1.390 WHIP and went 37-for-43 in save chances through 59 innings with Toronto in 2010. The Sun said Gregg is still negotiating with the O’s, who “still think they have a shot.”

One big factor in the negotiations could be whether Gregg would have the opportunity to close. Baltimore may choose to go with Koji Uehara in that spot.

– Alden Gonzalez 

Martin catching several AL East offers

Russell Martin has received interest from the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays, according to a report Friday in the New York Post.

Agent Matt Colleran named the three American League East teams among those having “serious discussions” about the backstop. The newspaper reported that the Yankees have extended a contract offer to make Martin their starting catcher, according to Colleran. 
The Yankees tried to trade for Martin before he was non-tendered by the Dodgers, dangling Francisco Cervelli, before pulling away due to health concerns. Rookie Jesus Montero is currently envisioned as the Yankees’ starting catcher, with Jorge Posada transitioning to the designated hitter role.
– Bryan Hoch

Cabrera signs with Royals

It’s official – Melky Cabrera is part of the Royals’ outfield.

The Royals confirmed the signing of the free agent from the Atlanta Braves to a one-year contract on Friday morning, pending a physical examination. A report the two sides were close emerged on Thursday, the last day of the Winter Meetings.

This development comes two days after the Royals signed right-handed-hitting Jeff Francoeur, who started his career with the Braves. Francoeur will play right field.

Cabrera last season hit .255 with four homers and 42 RBIs in 147 games. That was his only season with the Braves who released him on Oct. 18.

A switch-hitter who could play center field or left, he previously had some productive years with the New York Yankees, batting .269 in five seasons with 36 homers and 228 RBIs. He was traded to the Braves after the 2009 season.

Cabrera could figure as the right-handed half of a platoon arrangement in left field with Alex Gordon. In his career, Cabrera has hit .251 from the right side in his career but has done better from the left side at .273.

Cabrera also might be in the battle for center field with Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Maier and Gregor Blanco.

–Dick Kaegel

Bruce and Reds agree on deal

In a deal that secures one of the pieces of their long-term future, the Reds have agreed to terms late Thursday night with right fielder Jay Bruce on a six-year, $51 million contract, a baseball source confirmed to MLB.com.

The agreement, which avoids arbitration, comes with an option for a seventh year that could push the total earnings to $63 million. The option has a $1 million buyout. ESPN.com first reported the story.

It will be a while until the deal is made official and the Reds have yet to make an announcement. Bruce is scheduled to fly to Cincinnati for his physical on Monday and the signing could be completed by Tuesday.
 
Bruce earned $440,000 in 2010 and was awarded “Super 2″ status after last season, which allowed him first-time arbitration eligible earlier than normal. The contract would wipe out any arbitration issues for all four years, plus two years of potential free agency.

– Mark Sheldon

Roundup: All eyes on Little Rock

The Winter Meetings almost entirely concluded in Florida on Thursday, aside from one last convening in Arkansas. There, in Little Rock, the Rangers braintrust were to meet with Cliff Lee, the biggest name left on the free-agent market.

MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reported that the Yankees on Thursday ratcheted up their offer to seven years and an unknown number of dollars — presumably $160 million or more — leaving the Rangers left to try and match. MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reported that the Texas camp isn’t all too optimistic they can do that.
From around the league:
  • The Mariners have signed catcher Miguel Olivo, The Associated Press reported. The deal is believed to be for two years and more than $7 million. According to a tweet from John Hickey of AOL Fanhouse, Seattle also has offered a contract to outfielder Laynce Nix.
  • ESPN reports that the Red Sox have made an offer to non-tendered Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who is also being sought by American League East rivals Toronto and New York.
  • The Twins traded shortstop J.J. Hardy and infielder Brendan Harris to the Orioles for a pair of Minor League arms, Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey, MLB.com’s Kelly Thesier reported.
  • The Cubs are in talks to try to land Matt Garza for the Rays, but it’s not an easy task, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reported.
  • Houston reached a one-year deal with left-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith, according to MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Rowland-Smith, 27, spent the previous four seasons with the Mariners, going 12-17 with a 4.57 ERA.
  • The Royals are close to landing Melky Cabrera, the former Braves outfielder, MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel reported. Cabrera would be reunited with another ex-Atlanta outfielder, Jeff Francoeur, who just signed with the club as well.
– Evan Drellich

12/9 Cubs talk to Rays re: Garza

It’s going to be tough to pry right-hander Matt Garza from the Rays. The
Cubs have talked to the team about a possible trade but Tampa manager
Joe Maddon says his starter isn’t going anywhere. If the Cubs are intent
on adding Garza, they’d have to be willing to part with some of their
young talent.

“Our farm system is very highly regarded with other
teams and any discussions we’ve had, it’s always been made very clear
that we have plenty of talent to get a deal done,” assistant GM Randy
Bush said Thursday. “It’s just a matter of what part of that talent we’d
be willing to let go.”

Carlos Pena, who signed a one-year deal with the Cubs on Wednesday, wouldn’t mind seeing his Tampa teammate join him in Chicago.

“Matt
Garza is one of those pitchers that wherever he goes, he’ll be an
incredible asset,” Pena said. “I think he’s got Cy Young potential, to
be honest with you. He’s a great kid. He leaves the window open for
great things to happen. Who knows? I think any team would love to have a
guy like Matt.

“It’s a lot of fun to play with Matt — he’s so
intense, I think you feel the heat radiating from him when you go to the
mound,” Pena said.

– Carrie Muskat

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