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Melky denies issue with turf in Toronto

Free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera quickly shot down a report Friday that he would prefer to not re-sign with the Blue Jays because of the artificial turf at Rogers Centre, Toronto’s home ballpark.

ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted early Friday that the 30-year-old Cabrera’s “preference” is to sign elsewhere this offseason so he doesn’t have to play half his games on the unforgiving artificial turf. Olney then clarified his initial tweet, saying Cabrera would only factor in the grass-versus-turf preference if he received several equal offers.

Cabrera, coming off two seasons with the Blue Jays, took to Twitter on Friday to further deny the initial report by saying he’s open to playing on any surface.

After finishing third in the American League East last season, the Blue Jays already made one aggressive move this offseason by signing catcher Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million deal.

One of Toronto’s biggest holes at this point is in left field, where Cabrera played each of the past two years. (For what it’s worth, Cabrera is a career .291/.339/.424 hitter in 147 games at Rogers Centre, and he hit .304 with an .807 OPS in 68 games there last year.)

The Jays are reportedly interested in bringing back Cabrera, who hit .301/.351/.458 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs last year, but not at his current asking price.

There are several other options for Toronto to consider if Cabrera does in fact elect to sign somewhere else. Free agent Nick Markakis would fit the bill, though he’ll likely receive several offers. The Jays could also pursue free agents Torii Hunter, Nori Aoki and Alex Rios or look at someone like the Reds’ Jay Bruce in a trade.

-Adam Berry

Report: Ramirez finalizing deal with Red Sox

We wrote earlier in this space that the Red Sox are reportedly pursuing two big free-agent infielders, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. It appears they’ve already come to an agreement with one of them.

FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted late Sunday night that Ramirez will fly to Boston on Monday morning to finalize a deal with the Red Sox. Rosenthal, citing sources, also tweeted that Ramirez’s deal “will be in the range of” $90 million over five years.

What remains to be seen is what the Sox will do with Ramirez.

They have an offer out to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, but Ramirez could play there if Sandoval signs elsewhere. They have young shortstop Xander Bogaerts, but they could deal the former top prospect to acquire a starting pitcher. They have Yoenis Cespedes in left field, but with Ramirez reportedly willing to play anywhere, they could put Ramirez in left and either move around Cespedes or trade him.

Ramirez, who will turn 31 next month, began his career in Boston before he was traded to the Marlins in 2005. Arguably the best overall hitter on the free agent market this offseason, Ramirez batted .283/.369/.448 with 13 home runs and 71 RBIs in 128 games for the Dodgers last year.

Ramirez, a friend of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, has spent nearly his entire career at shortstop. He has started 1,069 games at short and only 97 at third base.

-Adam Berry

Padres, Braves, others interested in Tomas

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas continues to draw interest from a number of teams. As MLB.com has reported, the Padres were expected to meet with Tomas’ agent on Saturday and the Braves were also going to meet with the slugger this weekend.

It appears a few more teams are in the mix for Tomas.

According to a tweet from Peter Gammons, Tomas has received offers from the Padres, Braves and Giants. Gammons writes that the Phillies, D-backs and Mariners are “lurking” on Tomas as well.

The Braves and Padres are believed to be the favorites to land the 24-year-old slugger, while the Giants seem likely to ramp up their efforts to acquire Tomas if they can’t retain third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that the Braves likely would have to trade outfielder Justin Upton (and his $14.5 million salary) in order to acquire Tomas or lefty Jon Lester, and David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweeted on Sunday that Atlanta wouldn’t necessarily need to trade Upton or Evan Gattis before signing Tomas, as the market for either player should be strong enough throughout the winter.

MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez has reported that Tomas is looking for a five- to seven-year deal with an average annual salary near $15 million, or he could opt for a short-term, high-dollar deal that allows him to establish his value quickly before hitting the free agent market.

-Adam Berry

Red Sox looking at Sandoval and Ramirez?

The Red Sox have been frequently linked to free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval over the past few days, with Sandoval now reportedly choosing between Boston, San Diego and San Francisco.

But here’s a new wrinkle: The Red Sox are “trying hard” to sign both Sandoval and free agent Hanley Ramirez, according to CBSSports.com.

Boston has been in touch with Ramirez, who turns 31 in December, since the General Managers Meetings in Phoenix, according to the report.

Citing an industry source, WEEI reported on Sunday that the Red Sox are in “advanced conversations” with Ramirez, and a deal “could come together quickly.” However, there is not yet an agreement in place.

While Sandoval would obviously fit right in at third base in Boston, it’s less certain where Ramirez would play. If Sandoval signs elsewhere, Ramirez could be the answer at third base. If the Red Sox sign both players, Ramirez could wind up in left field or any number of positions.

Ramirez began his career in Boston. The Red Sox signed him as an amateur free agent in 2000, and he played two games for them in 2005 before he was traded to the Marlins. Playing shortstop for the Dodgers last year, Ramirez hit .283/.369/.448 with 13 home runs and 71 RBIs in 128 games.

As CBSSports.com notes, three of this offseason’s biggest free agents are possibly in play for the Red Sox in Sandoval, Ramirez and former Sox lefty Jon Lester. Boston already has extended an offer to Lester.

-Adam Berry

Pirates sign Burnett to one-year deal

A.J. Burnett is heading back to Pittsburgh.

The veteran right-hander has agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Pirates, the club announced Friday. The deal is reportedly worth $8.5 million.

Burnett, who will turn 38 in January, went 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA in 393 1/3 innings with the Pirates in 2012-13. He then signed a one-year deal worth $16 million to play with the Phillies last season but struggled to an 8-18 record and 4.59 ERA as Philadelphia went 73-89 on the year.

Burnett declined a $12.75 million player option with the Phillies in order to become a free agent. As MLB.com’s Tom Singer writes, Burnett “refocused himself on joining a team with a chance to win.”

Pittsburgh could lose starters Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez to free agency, making Burnett an appealing option to strengthen their rotation heading into next season. Their starting rotation had been down to Gerrit Cole, Vance Worley and Jeff Locke.

-Adam Berry

Tigers re-sign Victor Martinez to four-year deal

The deal had reportedly been agreed to several days ago, but the Tigers made it official Friday afternoon: Victor Martinez is coming back to Detroit.

The Tigers signed Martinez, who will turn 36 in December, to a four-year deal. CBS Sports reported the contract is worth $68 million. They will announce the deal at a 3 p.m. ET news conference that can be viewed live on MLB.com.

“Victor is one of the premier hitters in the league and we are thrilled that he will continue his career in a Tigers uniform,” Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. “His production in the middle of our lineup and veteran leadership are invaluable to our ballclub.”

It was hardly a secret that re-signing Martinez was the Tigers’ top priority this offseason, as he was one of the best available hitters on the free-agent market, fits a clear need and enjoyed a great deal of success with the Tigers. Likewise, Martinez made it clear at the end of the season that he wanted to remain.

So, a deal quickly came together early in the offseason.

If Martinez is indeed making $68 million over the course of his contract, he will be the highest-paid full-time designated hitter in Major League history at $17 million per year.

Detroit now has Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler and Anibal Sanchez signed to guaranteed contracts through at least 2017, with those five set to make $103.8 million in 2016 and $100.8 million in ’17. That’s a huge chunk of their payroll committed to aging players, but in the short-term, they’ve kept together most of a perennial postseason contender.

“Victor’s presence both on the field and in the clubhouse is an essential part of this club,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said in a statement. “I have never seen a hitter more focused in the batter’s box than Victor, and I couldn’t be more excited to welcome him back.”

Martinez is coming off the best season of his career at age 35, having hit .335/.409/.565 with 32 homers and 103 RBIs in 151 games. He recently finished second to Angels outfielder Mike Trout in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s American League MVP voting.

-Adam Berry

Rangers announce extensions for Daniels, Levine

The Rangers have locked up their top baseball decision-makers, as Texas announced Friday that president of baseball operations Jon Daniels and assistant general manager Thad Levine have agreed to terms on multi-year contract extensions.

The club did not disclose the terms of those deals, but Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that both executives signed three-year extensions. That would put them under contract through the 2018 season.

“Getting our baseball leadership secured for the foreseeable future was a top priority this offseason and very important for the continuity of the organization,” Rangers co-chairmen Ray Davis and Bob Simpson said in a statement released by the team. “Under Jon’s and Thad’s leadership, the Rangers have created a strong overall organization that has combined major league success with a productive scouting and player development operation over a number of years. Jon and Thad are skilled executives who are well respected around the game and completely committed to once again delivering a winning team for our fans.”

Daniels joined the Rangers in 2002 and was named the eighth GM in team history in 2005. He was promoted to his current position in March 2013. Daniels led Texas to its first American League pennant in franchise history in 2010 and was named the Baseball Executive of the Year by Baseball America following the season.

Levine was named the Rangers’ assistant GM in October 2005 after six seasons with the Rockies.

-Adam Berry

Report: Tigers to re-sign Hanrahan

The Tigers are reportedly bringing back right-handed reliever Joel Hanrahan to help bolster their bullpen next season.

Hanrahan has agreed to a Minor League deal worth $1 million if he makes Detroit’s Major League roster, with an additional $2.5 million available in incentives, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Hanrahan signed a similar deal with the Tigers in May but did not pitch as he rehabbed from Tommy John surgery.

When the Tigers signed Hanrahan earlier this year, he was just less than a year removed from the surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. They hoped to have him fully recovered and ready to pitch in two months, but the rehab process dragged on and Hanrahan never pitched in the Majors or Minors.

But Hanrahan, who just turned 33, pitched at a high level before the injury. He posted a 2.73 ERA with 82 saves and 228 strikeouts in 198 innings with the Pirates from 2010-12. He was named to the National League All-Star team in 2011 and ’12.

With Hanrahan, 39-year-old closer Joe Nathan and 30-year-old setup man Joakim Soria, the Tigers will have three former All-Star relievers in their bullpen.

Nathan is due $10 million next year, Soria is set to make $7 million and the Tigers have already agreed this offseason to a four-year deal with Victor Martinez worth a reported $68 million. Hanrahan, by comparison, is a low-risk move with plenty of potential upside.

-Adam Berry

Latest Giancarlo Stanton rumors: 12 years, $325 million?

Thursday night, MLB.com confirmed that the Marlins and slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton have been discussing a contract extension with a framework of 10 years and $300 million, the biggest contract in baseball history.

On Friday, rumors swirled that both of those numbers may be — believe it or not — on the lower end of a potential offer.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that Stanton and the Marlins are actually discussing a 12-year, $320 million deal. ESPN’s Buster Olney added that the two sides have been discussing a 12-year, $325 million contract as one of their possibilities.

As our own Joe Frisaro pointed out on Twitter, a 12-year, $320 million deal would yield an average annual value of about $26.7 million. For the sake of context, the Marlins’ Opening Day payroll last season was about $45.8 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Stanton, the National League MVP runner-up, only just turned 25 years old. A 10-year deal would run through Stanton’s age-34 season, a 12-year deal through Stanton’s age-36 season.

In recent comments, the Marlins have struck an optimistic tone about their negotiations with Stanton. Earlier this week, president of baseball operations Michael Hill described the talks as “positive.” And Marlins manager Mike Redmond sounded just as confident during an MLB Network appearance Thursday.

“I think there’s no doubt that this guy’s a huge part of our future and a huge piece for us going forward. He’s our No. 1 priority, and I think we’ve had great discussions,” Redmond said. “I’m very hopeful of the fact that he’s going to be a Marlin for a long time and hit in the middle of that order for a long time.

“I think this guy’s only going to continue to get better. I don’t even think we’ve seen how good he can be, which is probably a little scary after what he’s been able to accomplish after his short time in the big leagues.”

-Adam Berry

Report: Red Sox to meet with Pablo Sandoval

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is sure to be in demand this offseason, starting first and foremost with the Giants’ interest in retaining their postseason-hero, crowd-favorite “Kung-Fu Panda.”

But it appears the Red Sox are going to make a strong push for Sandoval as well.

According to The Boston Globe, Sandoval and his representatives will meet with the Red Sox next week at the General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Sandoval rejected a qualifying offer from the Giants and is reportedly looking for a six-year, nine-figure contract. He’s only 28, an appealing angle for any team looking to lock him up long-term, but there obviously have always been questions about Sandoval’s weight and conditioning and therefore how he’ll hold up into his mid-30s.

Along with the Giants and Red Sox, Cafardo notes that the Blue Jays and White Sox are pursuing Sandoval.

Boston could use Sandoval at third base immediately, pairing him up with David Ortiz for a potent middle-of-the-order combo, but the Sox could also slide Sandoval over to designated hitter in the future — or, at the very least, use the switch-hitter at DH to get him off his feet some days.

Of course, it’s early in the offseason. The Giants likely will make a run at Sandoval, as they don’t have an in-house alternative at third base. And he’s been popular there, with fans sporting panda hats throughout AT&T Park, with an outstanding track record in the postseason.

-Adam Berry

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