January 2012

Yankees talking with Bill Hall

The Yankees have engaged in discussions with free agent Bill Hall about a possible utility role, the New York Daily News reported.

 Citing a person with knowledge of the situation, the newspaper reported that Hall is considering “a couple of teams.” The Yankees would likely only offer Hall a Minor League contract with a chance to make the club in Spring Training. 

Hall, 32, batted a combined .211 last season with the Astros and Giants. The Yankees currently have Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena in line as bench candidates who can play multiple infield positions and some outfield. 

Bryan Hoch

Angels bring back Rodriguez on Minors deal

The Angels previously inked reliever Francisco Rodriguez (not K-Rod) to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Rodriguez, the Mexico native who was signed as an amateur free agent by the Angels in 2005, will make $481,000 if he makes the big league club.

The 28-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment this offseason, then slipped through waivers and became a free agent. During his rookie season in 2010, Rodriguez put up a 4.37 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP in 43 appearances. Last season, though, shoulder woes limited him to 13 2/3 innings in the Majors and 10 innings in the Minors.

In seven seasons in the Minors, Rodriguez has gone 25-37 with a 5.27 ERA in 215 games (47 starts).

Alden Gonzalez, Spencer Fordin

Greinke, sans agent, open to extension

Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke, who is currently operating without an agent, told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy that he would still consider a contract extension.

Greinke is preparing to enter his second season with Milwaukee and the final year of his four-year, $38 million extension he signed in January 2009. He cut his ties with CAA Sports last year, after the Brewers acquired Greinke in a trade with the Royals.

“It’d be me in charge as of right now,” he said. “So, we’ll see how long that lasts.”

Greinke, who was 16-6 with a 3.83 ERA and 201 strikeouts last season with the Brewers, had this to say about a possible extension: “I’ll talk to them about it. I don’t really want to talk to anyone else about it. But I like the business of baseball. It’s exciting for me. It’s not like I plan on being my agent, but it is exciting being able to know what’s going on behind the scenes.”

— Joey Nowak

Rangers to meet with Oswalt Monday; What about Cardinals?

Roy Oswalt remains one of the biggest names on the free agent market this offseason, and it looks like the Rangers have some interest in adding him to their already-loaded pitching staff.

The club is planning to meet with Oswalt and his agent, Bob Garber, on Monday for a get-together that is “exploratory,” MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan reports. The addition of Oswalt could be costly, particular for a club that has three arbitration cases remaining and not much opportunity in the starting rotation.

“He’s somebody we’ve talked about, but we’re happy with our rotation and our pitching staff,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He’s intriguing, but I’m not sure exactly how it fits.”

Oswalt lives in Mississippi and has a long-standing relationship with Rangers club president Nolan Ryan. The Cardinals are also interested, and are high on Oswalt’s list, but St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak denied this weekend that a deal is in the works.

The Cardinals, who are also pretty well set in terms of starting pitching, are reportedly at least seriously in the running for Oswalt. MLB Network Radio reported Friday night that a deal was very close, and ESPNBoston.com reported that night that Oswalt has “elected to stay in the National League” and that he is “likely” to sign with the Cardinals “soon.”

But, as MLB.com’s Matthew Leach reported, Mozeliak wrote in an e-mail that reports were “not true.”

— Joey Nowak

Indians’ deal with Lugo is off

The Indians reached an agreement on a Minor League contract with veteran infielder Julio Lugo more than  a week ago, but MLB.com has learned that the proposed deal is no longer expected to come to fruition.

Lugo, 36, was going to receive an invitation to attend Spring Training with the big league club with a shot at competing for a bench job. His chances of making the Opening Day roster appeared thin, and now he will re-enter the free-agent pool.

In parts of 12 Major League seasons — including stops with the Astros, Rays, Dodgers, Red Sox, Cardinals, Orioles and Braves — Lugo has hit .269 over 1,352 career games. Last year, he signed a Minor League contract with Atlanta in May, but was ultimately released in September.

Lugo hit .231 (12-for-52) in 13 games for Triple-A Gwinnett and .136 (6-for-44) in 22 games with the Braves during the 2011 season. The  infielder hits right-handed and has experience at second base, shortstop, third base and in the outfield.

Right now, the Indians have 20 non-roster invitees in the fold for this spring.

–Jordan Bastian

Reds add Jeff Francis

Looking to supplement their rotation with extra depth, the Reds reached a Minor League deal late Wednesday with left-handed pitcher Jeff Francis according to of Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network

 Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told MLB.com last week that his club was interested in adding Francis, a free agent.

Francis, 30, was 6-16 with a 4.82 ERA in 31 starts last season with the Royals.  Most of his career had been spent with the Rockies from 2004-10. He was a 17-game winner in 2007.

Lifetime, Francis is 61-66 with a 4.78 ERA in 181 games (180 starts).

— Mark Sheldon



Betancourt contract with Rox goes official

Rockies reliever Rafael Betancourt passed his physical, which makes his new contract official. The Rockies picked up his 2013 option and added an option for 2014 for Betancourt, who became the Rockies’ closer late last season.

In addition, Betancourt and new Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez were boyhood friends and state all-star teammates in Venezuela. Hernandez’s history with young pitchers should help the Rockies’ staff.

— Thomas Harding

Angels have offer out to Ayala; nothing imminent

The Angels are one of “a handful of teams” that have tendered a formal offer to Luis Ayla, but a source familiar with the negotiations said the free-agent reliever is still weighing his options and a decision is not imminent.

It’s unclear at this point whether the Angels have offered a Major League or a Minor League contract, but they are believed to be in the mix along with the Orioles, Yankees, Astros and perhaps others. Considering he’s coming off a bounceback season with the Yankees, one that saw him post a 2.09 ERA and a 1.268 WHIP in 56 innings, the 34-year-old right-hander would likely command a Major League deal.

The Angels were among four teams interested in adding Francisco Cordero, but he wound up agreeing to terms on a one-year, $4.5 million contract with the Blue Jays on Tuesday. Cordero is reportedly headed to Toronto to serve as a setup man — a pretty clear indication that the Blue Jays’ offer trumped that of the Angels and other suitors.

— Alden Gonzalez 

Reds get Valdez, sign Masset

Bypassing the free agent market for backup infielders that can play shortstop, the Reds executed a trade Wednesday that brought utility infielder Wilson Valdez from the Phillies for left-handed reliever Jeremy Horst.

Valdez spent the last two seasons in Philadelphia and batted .249 with a .294 on-base percentage, one home run and 30 RBIs over 99 games in 2011. A lifetime .243 hitter, the 33-year-old Valdez has also spent time with the White Sox, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers and Mets

Out of Valdez’s 342 career big league games, 190 have been played at shortstop where he owns a .980 fielding percentage. Many might remember him doing the Reds in as the winning pitcher of the May 25, 2011 game that lasted 19 innings at Citizen Banks Park. With his team out of pitchers, Valdez moved from second base and pitched a scoreless top of the 19th inning.

Also — Nick Masset signed a two-year contract to avoid arbitration. Terms not immediately known.

— Mark Sheldon

Cespedes declared a free agent

Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent.

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball sent out a notice to the clubs advising them that Cespedes, as a resident of the Dominican Republic, is not subjected to the Amateur Draft and may now sign as a free agent.

On Tuesday, the outfield prospect established residency in the Dominican Republic. Cespedes’ representative must now unblock him pursuant to the OFAC regulations before he can enter into a contract.

Cespedes, who just finished a stint with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League, recently said the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers, and Indians have expressed the most interest in signing him. He is expected to command a contract greater than the one received by Cuban left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million deal with the Reds in January 2010.

The Marlins are on record saying they believe Cespedes’ best fit is in Miami, with its strong Cuban community. The club is prepared to make a substantial offer — between four and six years — for the power-hitting outfielder.
Reports that he is not interested in signing with the Marlins are not true, an industry source said.

Cespedes hit .333 with 33 home runs, 99 RBIs and 11 stolen bases over 90 games in Cuba during the 2010-11 season, and many believe he can be inserted into the 2012 Opening Day starting lineup for the team that signs him.

He hit .143 with one home run and 10 strikeouts in 35 at-bats for the Aguilas.

— Jesse Sanchez