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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

Hanley Ramirez reportedly willing to change positions

Hanley Ramirez might be the best free agent position player available this offseason. The question is, at which position?

Analysts have suggested that Ramirez might not find much of a market at shortstop given his defensive deficiencies and the unlikelihood that he’ll stick at the position through the length of whatever contract he signs.

That could change, however, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that Ramirez is telling his suitors he’s open to playing “wherever there’s a need.” That could mean a corner-outfield position — though he’s never played the outfield professionally — or more likely third base, a position of need for several big-market teams.

Ramirez, who turns 31 in December, hit .283/.369/.448 with 13 homers and 71 RBIs in 128 games last season for the Dodgers. He led all qualified big-league shortstops in on-base percentage and slugging percentage — he was the only player at the position with an OPS above .779 — and ranked fourth in average.

Ramirez’s defensive numbers at shortstop were not as impressive, however. His Defensive Runs Saved total was -9, and his Ultimate Zone Rating was -10.3. The advanced defensive metrics have never been particularly kind to Ramirez.

At third base, however, Ramirez would still be an above-average hitter given his offensive talent, and there’s a chance it could help keep him on the field. Ramirez was a dependable option from 2006-12, but he’s only averaged 107 games over the last two seasons.

Depending on what happens with Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley, the Giants, Red Sox and Yankees figure to be among the teams looking for a third baseman this winter.

Report: Cubs meet with Russell Martin

Cubs president Theo Epstein said it when they signed manager Joe Maddon to a five-year contract: Their first free agent acquisition (Maddon) might help them recruit others in their quest to contend next year.

MLB.com’s Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat quoted Epstein on that topic in Chicago’s Hot Stove preview, and a few paragraphs later mentioned veteran catcher Russell Martin as a potential target.

It appears the Cubs are getting to work quickly.

Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reported Friday morning that the Cubs “rolled out the red carpet” as they met with Martin on Thursday.

Martin would obviously be a huge acquisition for the Cubs, but Levine writes that he and his agent will also meet with the Pirates, Martin’s former team, as well as the Dodgers (another one of his former employers) and Blue Jays.

Martin hit .290/.402/.430 with 11 homers and 67 RBIs in 111 games for Pittsburgh last season. The 31-year-old backstop also provides a valuable presence behind the plate, as the advanced defensive metrics suggest he saved 28 runs over the past two seasons.

Martin likely will come with a high price tag. Catcher Brian McCann signed a five-year, $85 million deal with the Yankees entering his age-30 season, if you’re looking for a potential comparison.

The Cubs are definitely in the market for another starting pitcher this offseason, and they’ll be connected to high-profile names like Jon Lester and Max Scherzer. Will that pitcher take the mound at Wrigley Field with Martin behind the plate?

-Adam Berry

Giants focused on Sandoval as offseason begins

Now that the celebration of the Giants’ third World Series championship in five years is dying down, it’s time for general manager Brian Sabean and his staff to turn their attention toward making another postseason run.

For starters, that means deciding whether they will — or can — hang on to third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

MLB.com Giants beat reporter Chris Haft has a great rundown of the situation after speaking to Sabean, manager Bruce Bochy and team president Larry Baer at San Francisco’s annual end-of-season news conference.

It’s telling that Haft writes the majority of the questions Thursday had to do with Sandoval and his future with the Giants. It’s an extremely important issue for the Giants this winter, one that will need to be dealt with before San Francisco can continue down its to-do list.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Sandoval’s agent said the third baseman is looking for a six-year deal, and CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman has reported Sandoval wants a nine-figure contract. So, you do the math and you figure the Panda is looking for six years and at least $17 million per year, if not more.

An important disclaimer: Players rarely wind up getting what they enter the offseason hoping for. Teams fill their holes, demand calms down and the prices tend to drop a bit with them. Most of the time, anyway.

But as this story notes, Sandoval is one of just five third basemen to produce at least two Wins Above Replacement in five of the past six seasons. For all the concerns about his weight and conditioning, he’s 28 years old and coming off a three-season run in which he hit .280/.335/.424 with an average of 14 homers and 72 RBIs per year. (We can probably consider Sandoval’s 2011 season — .315/.357/.552 with 23 homers — a very impressive outlier at this point.)

Yes, Sandoval will be in demand. Among the teams reportedly in need of a third baseman are the Red Sox (most often linked to Sandoval in various reports), White Sox, Marlins and Yankees (more likely to first pursue Chase Headley). He could also ease into a designated hitter role in the latter years of his deal with any American League team.

But keep in mind, as Haft’s story notes, the Giants don’t have an in-house alternative if Sandoval leaves San Francisco. And the Giants are also famously loyal to their players, particularly those who have led them to postseason success in each of their last three World Series runs.

Sandoval turned down a three-year, $40 million offer from the Giants this spring. Will they be able to work out something this offseason?

- Adam Berry

White Sox reportedly drawing interest in Ramirez

The White Sox are receiving plenty of interest regarding shortstop Alexei Ramirez, according to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago, with three big-market teams in need of a shortstop — the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers — chief among them.

The Mets and White Sox would line up particularly well in a deal involving Ramirez, as Levine writes. The White Sox need right-handed starting pitching, and the Mets have young right-handed starters in abundance, including Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.

In MLB.com’s Hot Stove preview, Mets beat writer Anthony DiComo mentioned that the Mets might give Wilmer Flores the job as everyday shortstop next season and seem hesitant to part with young pitchers like Syndergaard, Montero, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom.

Ramirez, 33, is an intriguing target for all three of those teams, including the Mets, in part because of his affordable contract. He’s owed $10 million in 2015 with a $10 million option (or $1 million buyout) for 2016.

Ramirez has played exactly 158 games in each of the past four seasons. He hit .273/.305/.408 with 15 homers, 74 RBIs and 21 steals while making the AL All-Star team last year. He’s a career .277/.314/.405 hitter in seven years with the White Sox.

Of course, there are potential alternatives on the trade market (Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro, possibly) and a couple free agents, Hanley Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera, with questions about whether they can continue to man the position.

Ramirez likely would bring back a good package of talent for the White Sox, but they don’t necessarily have an in-house replacement in line until 2013 Draft pick Tim Anderson is ready.

MLB.com’s Scott Merkin ran through Chicago’s options with Ramirez at length last month.

-Adam Berry

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