January 2011

Royals sign LHP Francis to 1-year contract

The Royals and Jeff Francis have agreed to terms on a one-year contract, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported via Twitter on Friday. Francis, whose deal is reportedly pending a physical, is expected to join Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies, Vin Mazzaro and Sean O’Sullivan in Kansas City’s starting rotation.

The 30-year-old left-hander went 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) for the Rockies in 2010, before Colorado declined its $7 million 2011 option on him in November.

Francis led the Rockies to their only World Series appearance in 2007 by winning a then-franchise record-tying 17 games. He then missed the 2009 season because of shoulder surgery.

The Rockies’ No. 9 overall Draft choice in 2002 is 55-50 with a 4.77 ERA and a 2.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 150 games (149 starts) through his six-year career.

— Alden Gonzalez 

Roundup: Soriano to Yanks as market starts to thin

Spring Training sits firmly on the horizon with just about a month to go until that special day when pitchers and catchers report. It could be a busy month, though, for several teams who are still looking to add a key piece or two to their roster for 2011.
One of those teams is the Yankees, who pulled by far the biggest move of Thursday, agreeing to terms with reliever Rafael Soriano on a three-year deal, pending a possible Tuesday physical, that would have him set up closer Mariano Rivera — for now — and earn about $35 million. He has opt-out options after each of the first two years of the contract.
While pitching is always a valued commodity, some clubs are also looking for a role player; maybe a fourth outfielder or a back-up infielder that will provide a little extra insurance. 
Regardless of what they are shopping for, the Hot Stove market is definitely growing thinner at this stage in the game. However, there are still plenty of players out there who could prove to be a gem for one team. 
Here’s a look at the latest updates on the market from around the league: 
– The Padres are on the verge of adding some additional depth to their bullpen, in the form of right-hander Chad Qualls, according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Brock reported on Twitter on Thursday afternoon that the Padres are “very close” to a deal with Qualls. 
– Utility man Willie Bloomquist has agreed to a one-year deal, $1.05 million deal with the D-backs, SI.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted on Thursday. The deal also includes a mutual option for the 2012 season. 
– It’s not appearing that outfielder Willie Harris will return to the Nationals in 2011. Harris has two offers at this point, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson tweeted Thursday and neither of them are from the Nats. The two sides haven’t spoken in weeks, Ladson added. 
– Veteran Eric Chavez has worked out recently for the Blue Jays, ESPN.com reported Thursday. Chavez has been working out for teams in Arizona over the past few weeks. The Mariners and Dodgers have also been linked to Chavez at times this offseason.
— Bailey Stephens

Gibbons Downplays Eye Issue

Jay Gibbons, tentatively penciled in as the Dodgers left fielder, said the blurriness that brought him home from winter ball in Venezuela is no big deal.

“At the very worst, I just wear glasses again,” said Gibbons, who won a big-league roster spot for 2011 after slugging five homers in 37 games after an early August call-up last year. “It should be fine.”

Gibbons had laser surgery several years ago and another procedure before leaving for Venezuela. — Ken Gurnick

Marlins sign Wise, Thurston, 2 others

The Marlins have added some potential depth, signing outfielder Dewayne Wise, utility man Joe Thurston, catcher Clint Sammons and corner infielder Jamie D’Antona to Minor League contracts, MLB.com confirmed through a source on Wednesday. 
The role of lefty pinch-hitter for the Marlins has been in question heading into the 2011 season, but Wise and Thurston both hit from the left side, have Major League experience and could fill that role if they make the big league club. Catcher John Baker, recovering from Tommy John surgery, has also been considered an option for that role until he can start throwing again. 
Wise also has significant experience at center field and could potentially serve as insurance for Chris Coghlan, who’s expected to make the move to center field in 2011, following knee surgery. 
— Alden Gonzalez, Joe Frisaro  

Roundup: Arbitration looms for some clubs

Spring Training may be fast approaching, but some clubs still have some important business to take care of with pending arbitration cases in the pipeline.
Next Tuesday, clubs will exchange numbers with arbitration-eligible players leading up to the actual hearings next month. Since it’s fairly rare for clubs and players to go all the way through arbitration, there figures to be a good number of agreements in the coming days. 
A few teams avoided arbitration on Wednesday, as the Cubs inked Koyie Hill to a one-year deal and the Tigers signed left fielder Ryan Raburn to a two-year deal. Raburn, 29, has played a sort of super utility role for Detroit in recent years, but he appears in line to grab a lot of the playing time in left field this season, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck. 
The 31-year-old Hill agreed to a contract worth $850,000, MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reported on Wednesday. Hill started 60 games for the Cubs last season and batted .214 with 13 doubles. 

– – The Angels agreed to terms on a 2011 contract with catcher Jeff Mathis, thus avoiding arbitration.

Mathis, 27, spent his third full season with the Angels in 2010, batting .195 with 19 runs scored, six doubles, one triple, 3 home runs and 18 RBI in 68 games played. After missing 55 games because of broken wrist, Mathis put together a 13-game hit streak from April 5 – June 22, matching the longest streak by an Angel last season.
Mathis is the second Angel to agree to terms and avoid arbitration, leaving the Angels with six remaining arbitration-eligible players (Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli, Jered Weaver and Reggie Willits).
– The Rockies avoided salary arbitration with right-handed reliever Matt Belisle on $2.35 million, according to SI.com. After spending the first five years of his Major League career with the Reds, the 30-year-old Belisle had a career season in his second campaign with the Rockies in 2010. He posted a 2.93 ERA in a career-high relief 76 appearances, averaging 8.9 strikeouts ever nine innings, posting a 7-5 record.
– The Royals erased one potential salary arbitration case, signing right-hander Luke Hochevar to a one-year contract. Hochevar, who figures to be the staff ace, had his 2010 season interrupted by a strain in his right elbow, which restricted him to a 6-6 record and 4.81 ERA over 18 games (17 starts).

In addition the latest arbitration news, here’s a look around the rest of the league on Wednesday:

– Even after adding Cliff Lee, the Phillies could be looking for even more pitching insurance. The Phils have talked to starter John Maine about joining their already deep staff, ESPN New York.com reported on Wednesday, citing Maine’s agent, Rex Gary. 
– The Mets made their Minor League deal with left-handed reliever Taylor Tankersley official on Wednesday. Tankersley’s deal includes an invite to Spring Training. Tankersley, who will be 28 by Opening Day, could fill the Mets need for a lefty specialist.
– The Rays have agreed to terms with veteran right-hander Kyle Farnesworth, according to multiple media reports. A baseball source confirmed to MLB.com that a deal was “expected” at this point. The one-year deal will reportedly pay Farnesworth $3.25 million and includes a 2012 option.
– The Cubs also inked outfielder Reed Johnson to Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite on Wednesday. Johnson returns to the Cubs after a season with Dodgers and will battle for a roster spot this spring.
— Bailey Stephens

Roundup: Once-injured pitchers draw interest

The offseason is rolling on and that means there are fewer options in the free agent pool, especially for starting pitching. The Tigers, though, agreed to a deal with veteran Brad Penny on Tuesday, highlighting a trend of interest in talented pitchers coming off injury years. 
The biggest example in this category, Brandon Webb, signed with the Rangers just after the holidays, but there’s still a group of players who have battled injury and are looking to prove they are finally healthy. 
One such player, Justin Duchscherer, is drawing attention from the Yankees, ESPN.com reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed baseball source. Duchscherer missed several months in 2010 following a left-hip operation, after missing all of 2009 while rehabbing from right elbow surgery.
Free agents Chris Young, who is reportedly drawing interest from the Mets is in a similar boat, having missed a large chunk of 2010 with right shoulder issues.
Outside of the continual hunt for starting pitching, here’s a look at Tuesday’s happenings from around the league: 
– All-Time saves leader Trevor Hoffman told MLB.com’s Barry Bloom that he is calling it a career after 18 seasons in the big leagues. Hoffman, who became a free agent again earlier this offseason, will return to the Padres to serve in an unnamed free agent role, according to Bloom. 
– The Rays are still working to complete their roster for next season. They are looking for help in the bullpen and at designated hitter, SI.com’s Jon Heyman tweeted on Tuesday. Heyman highlighted Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch as possibilities for the closer role, while naming Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and possibly Manny Ramirez as possibilities for the designated hitter slot.
– Monday’s reports that the Rangers were trying to lure Thome to Texas gained more steam Tuesday as Heyman tweeted that outside executives see Texas as a real possibility for the veteran. CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler confirmed on Twitter that the Rangers want Thome, but suggested the team is concerned he’d rather return to the Twins.
– The Angels avoided arbitration with Alberto Callaspo on Tuesday, inking him to a one-year deal. The third baseman’s deal is worth $2 million, according to the AP.
– The Mets have their eye on free agent pitcher Dave Bush, ESPN.com reported on Tuesday. The right-hander went 8-13 last season with the Brewers, but did complete 18 quality starts on the year.
The organization also reached agreement on a deal with left-handed reliever Taylor Tankersley, according to Dave Gershman of the MLBlog SPANdemonium and confirmed by MLB.com. The Mets have been seeking left-handed bullpen helps since losing Hisanori Takahashi and Pedro Feliciano in free agency. Tankersley, who will turn 28 in March, missed all of the 2009 Major League season with an elbow injury. After seeing limited action as a lefty specialist in 2010, he rejected a Minor League assignment and was granted free agency in October.
– In addition to making Carlos Gonzalez’s seven-year, $80 million deal official on Tuesday, the Rockies also agreed to terms with right-hander Claudio Vargas on Tuesday, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Vargas will likely compete for a job in the Rockies’ bullpen. 
— Bailey Stephens

Mets interested in RHP Bush?

In addition to potential reclamation projects Jeff Francis and Chris
Young, right-hander Dave Bush is “on the Mets’ radar,” according to
ESPN.com. Bush, who was teammates with recent Mets acquisition Chris
Capuano from 2006-10 in Milwaukee, knows Mets special assistant to the
GM J.P. Ricciardi from their days in Toronto.

Bush finished 8-13 with a 4.54 ERA for the Brewers last season, making $4.2 million.

–Anthony DiComo

Yankees pursuing Justin Duchscherer

The Yankees are stepping up their pursuit of free agent right-hander Justin Duchscherer, according to a report on ESPN.com, which cited a baseball source.

With the pitching market thin and improving the rotation a priority, the Yankees have been looking to options that might offer rewards with little risk. Duchscherer has a career record of 33-25 and a 3.13 ERA in eight seasons, but the two-time American League All-Star has pitched only 28 innings over the last two seasons due to injuries. 
The report said it was unclear if the Yankees were looking at Duchscherer, 33, as a starter or a reliever, but general manager Brian Cashman has said he would prefer to add a starter. 
The Yankees have also recently been linked to Jeremy Bonderman and Jeff Francis on the pitching front. 
— Bryan Hoch

Tigers, Penny agree to terms on one-year deal

The Tigers and Brad Penny have agreed to terms on a one-year contract, MLB.com has learned. The deal is pending a physical.
Foxsports.com reported early Tuesday morning that the one-year deal should be worth $3 million in base salary plus incentives. The Tigers have a policy of not confirming an agreement until a physical is completed.
Penny tweeted on his official account Monday night that he was “getting closer to finding my new home. Should know by the end of the day.” He did not tweet which team, but indications later confirmed he has decided on the Tigers. 
That possibility seemed dim Monday, when the team released its list of non-roster invitees that was expected to would finalize its Spring Training roster. Their chances at adding a starting pitcher abruptly improved Monday evening, when Penny closed in on a decision.
The Tigers’ interest in Penny has been known since last month. They also had been linked to free agent starters Jeremy Bonderman — who pitched for Detroit the past eight years — and Freddy Garcia, but always appeared more focused on Penny. Talks never progressed far on Garcia or Bonderman.
The deal with Penny is expected to finish out the Tigers’ offseason dealings. Detroit is believed to be set with its position players, including invites, barring an unforeseen development. They briefly had interest in Fred Lewis earlier this offseason as a reserve outfielder, but talks didn’t progress far.
— Jason Beck

Lewis, Renteria signed by Reds

A busy January continued for the Reds Monday as they checked off another item off of the wish list by signing Fred Lewis to a one-year big league contract worth $900,000, plus incentives.

Cincinnati was in search of a left-handed hitting outfielder for the bench and a potential leadoff hitter and the club gets both with the 30-year-old Lewis.

The club also announced the official signing of SS Edgar Renteria. Both players completed their physicals today. Renteria will earn $2.1 million in base salary with $900,000 in incentives based on plate appearances.


— Mark Sheldon