The Yankees are closing in on a one-year contract with free-agent second baseman Brian Roberts, according to multiple reports.
The deal will be worth about $2 million plus incentives and is pending a physical, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi.
The club has not confirmed the deal, which was first reported by Rosenthal on Twitter. Several reports have said the Yankees still aren’t done looking for infield help. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network also connected New York to free-agent infielders Michael Young and Mark Reynolds.
With the loss of Robinson Cano to the Mariners, the Bombers signed infielder/outfielder Kelly Johnson earlier this offseason but kept searching for other infield options. Barring any other big moves, Roberts could wind up being the Yankees’ primary second baseman in 2014 if he stays healthy.
Plagued by injuries the past few years, the 36-year-old Roberts has played only 192 games since 2010. He played in 77 games for the O’s last season, hitting .249 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs. A two-time All-Star who’s played his entire 13-year career in Baltimore, Roberts last played more than 100 games in a season in 2009, when he hit .283 over 159 games, scoring 103 runs with 16 homers while leading the Majors with 56 doubles.
After a frantic week of offseason activity to begin December and the usual stream of rumors pouring out of the Winter Meetings last week, the Hot Stove cooled down considerably on Sunday.
Or as Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond tweeted Sunday night, the Hot Stove League is “not so hot lately.”
Stoves not so hot lately and I’m a little disappointed. Who’s the next big FA off the board?
- Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) December 16, 2013
But there still were a few notable deals done and hints that more could be coming soon. Let’s take a look at Sunday’s news from around the Majors:
• The Cardinals are going to finish their offseason shopping early, as they are nearing a one-year deal with second baseman Mark Ellis. The right-handed hitter should complement young Kolten Wong in St. Louis’ infield, providing a solution for the last area of need the club had identified. The Cardinals have not confirmed the agreement, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reported, and Ellis must pass a physical before the contract can be finalized.
• The Indians agreed to terms with reliever John Axford, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian confirmed Sunday night. The 30-year-old right-hander was traded to St. Louis in August, compiled a 1.74 ERA and pitched well in the postseason, but he had seven blown saves last season. Axford, a former closer with the Brewers, was non-tendered this offseason by the Cardinals. ESPN’s Buster Olney first reported that the Tribe was “on the verge” of signing Axford.
• That news prompted Fox Sports and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal to speculate on Twitter how the rest of the bullpen market might shake out. Rosenthal noted that with Axford heading to the Indians, the Orioles expressing interest in Grant Balfour and the Padres pushing for Joaquin Benoit, the Mariners and Yankees could be options for former Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
• Yankees president Randy Levine said during an ESPN Radio appearance that New York has “absolutely no intention” of trading Brett Gardner despite the speculation following the club’s signing of Jacoby Ellsbury. Levine reiterated what general manager Brian Cashman said at the Winter Meetings: The Yankees will listen to the interest in Gardner, but the plan is to have both Gardner and Ellsbury in the Opening Day outfield.
• MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes that the Braves are in the midst of “serious discussions” with starter Gavin Floyd, who’s only seven months removed from Tommy John surgery. Bowman reports that the two sides are nearing an agreement, but it’s not known whether it will be a Major League or Minor League deal.
• Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network tweeted that there’s still a strong market for starter Matt Garza, even if the Twins aren’t likely to pursue him anymore. Heyman pointed to Garza’s solid 2013 performance, his history of success in the American League East and the lack of Draft-pick compensation attached to Garza.
Why wait for the Winter Meetings?That seemed to be the message across Major League Baseball on Tuesday, by far the busiest day of the offseason thus far. The Red Sox agreed to terms with A.J. Pierzynski to start the day, and Jacoby Ellsbury‘s pending deal with the Yankees served as the other major bookend. Meanwhile, the Rays traded for a catcher and a potential closer they’d been interested in for years. The Tigers found a closer. The A’s bolstered their bullpen — twice, actually — and added to their outfield mix. The Astros made their first big move. The Marlins zeroed in on a big-name catcher. And that’s just the start of it. Seriously, given the way Tuesday played out, what’s left to do next week at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort? Hang out with Mickey and Minnie? There’s a lot left to be settled, of course. Robinson Cano and Shin-Soo Choo are among the high-profile free agents available, and there’s still an expectation that Rays ace David Price will be traded. But before we look too far forward, let’s recap the busy stretch that left baseball’s Hot Stove completely ablaze, as MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes. AL East The Yankees paid up for Ellsbury amid a spending spree reminiscent of their 2008-09 offseason, raising some questions about their pursuit of Cano, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes. Ellsbury’s deal is for seven years and $153 million, with an eighth-year option. While they were at it, the Bombers officially announced their five-year, $85 million deal with catcher Brian McCann. He’ll be introduced in the Bronx on Thursday. According to the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, New York also is close to signing Kelly Johnson, who could play some second base if Cano signs elsewhere. The Red Sox made their first big move of the offseason, as MLB.com’s Ian Browne reports the World Series champs have agreed to a one-year contract with Pierzynski, reportedly worth $8.25 million. The Rays pulled off a three-team trade with the Reds and D-backs, reeling in catcher Ryan Hanigan and reliever Heath Bell. Tampa Bay also agreed to a three-year extension with Hanigan, as MLB.com’s Bill Chastain reported. With Jose Molina and Jose Lobaton already on board, Andrew Friedman might have an extra catcher to deal. He also has the game’s hottest commodity in Price. AL Central The Tigers reportedly found their closer in veteran Joe Nathan, as MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes. Could Carlos Beltran return to Kansas City? MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel wrote about the free agent’s meeting with the Royals. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, opposing clubs are convinced that Beltran is bound for a KC reunion. The Twins officially announced the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco on a four-year, $48 million deal, the largest free-agent signing in club history. AL West The A’s had another busy day, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports, trading for outfielder Craig Gentry and right-hander Josh Lindblom before acquiring setup man Luke Gregerson. They could stay busy at the Winter Meetings, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that Oakland is likely to trade starter Brett Anderson. On the other side of that deal with Oakland, Texas acquired its leading left-field candidate in Michael Choice, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Also, the Rangers are looking at Kurt Suzuki to pair with Geovany Soto behind the plate. The Astros checked a big item off their offseason to-do list by trading for Dexter Fowler, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart writes. The former Rockies catalyst should hit atop their order and start in center field. MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes that the Mariners could make some noise at the Winter Meetings. Meanwhile, ESPNNewYork.com reported that Seattle has emerged as a major player in the bidding for Cano. NL East The Marlins made a big splash, agreeing to terms on a three-year, $21 million deal with former Boston catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Curtis Granderson met with Sandy Alderson on Sunday, and MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo took a look at how the power-hitting outfielder would fit with the Mets. The Phillies added a reliever in Brad Lincoln and a backup catcher in Wil Nieves, reports MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. NL Central Free-agent first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy that he’s been medically cleared for full baseball activities. Hart previously said he’s heard from several interested teams, including the Brewers, Rays, Red Sox and Rockies. Despite plenty of speculation, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports and MLB Network tweeted that the Reds are unlikely to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips. NL West The Dodgers are making progress toward retaining free-agent reliever Brian Wilson, reports MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Colorado has reportedly agreed to terms with a new first baseman in Justin Morneau, as MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. The Rockies also picked up right-hander Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes by parting with Fowler. The Padres bolstered their offense, particularly against right-handed pitching, by acquiring outfielder Seth Smith from the A’s.
Saturday was a relatively quiet day around the Majors, as the Hot Stove merely simmered with rumors and speculation. But it should start to heat up soon, as the General Managers Meetings will begin Monday in Orlando, Fla., and the Winter Meetings are only a month away.
So now is the time to look ahead, to try to play free-agent matchmaker and to ponder what major trades may shake up the league’s landscape before pitchers and catchers report.
MLB.com’s Richard Justice took a look at some stars who might be on the move this winter. The potentially busy trade market includes Rays lefty David Price, Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer, Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp and Angels slugger Mark Trumbo.
Meanwhile, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com broke down the “perfect storm” brewing for free-agent catcher Brian McCann. Heyman reports that the 29-year-old backstop could be in line to receive a $100 million contract, or at least something in that range. It helps McCann’s cause, Heyman writes, that four interested teams — the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Rangers — have the ability to offer big money on the open market.
• Count CC Sabathia among those trying to get Robinson Cano to stay with the Yankees. Sabathia believes signing Cano should be New York’s top priority this offseason and made a sales pitch that can be summed up in two words: “Stay here.”
Also, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch writes, Sabathia said he is recovering well from the left hamstring strain that ended his season early and he is “working out 100 percent.”
• Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported on Twitter that the Red Sox will wait for Mike Napoli to accept or decline their $14.1 million qualifying offer before looking elsewhere. Passan noted that Napoli still could be brought back if he declines the one-year offer, but Boston won’t limit its options.
• Who else might the defending World Series champions pursue? Fox Sports and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal wrote “it would be a surprise” to see them land outfielder Carlos Beltran, but perhaps more realistic for them to pursue right-hander Tim Hudson, catcher Carlos Ruiz and some “buy-low” relievers to bolster their bullpen.
• MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan previously reported that the Rangers are willing to talk about trading one of their middle infielders: Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar or Ian Kinsler. Rosenthal writes that such a deal is “starting to look inevitable,” but it doesn’t appear likely that Texas will package Profar with other pieces as part of a mega-trade for someone like Price or Giancarlo Stanton.
• Heyman reports that the Nationals “appear willing to listen to trade inquiries” involving Denard Span, the center fielder and leadoff man they traded for last offseason. Heyman speculates that Washington’s interest in moving Span “could be related” to another potential move, like signing free agent Jacoby Ellsbury.
• Heyman also writes that the Mets consider Shin-Soo Choo to be a “top target,” but they might not have the necessary funds to acquire the free agent outfielder. Heyman writes that agent Scott Boras has made it obvious he’s looking to get Choo a contract equal to or greater than Jayson Werth‘s seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals.
• Pirates GM Neal Huntingon went on the radio to explain why Pittsburgh didn’t make a qualifying offer to starter A.J. Burnett, and MLB.com’s Tom Singer broke down how the Bucs might have to “get creative” to bring back Burnett.
• MLB.com’s Corey Brock took a look at how starting pitching factors into the Padres’ offseason needs. Brock writes that San Diego “hasn’t placed pitching atop their offseason wish list” and would be more likely to acquire only top-of-the-rotation types or long-term options via trade, not in free agency.
-The Rangers signed left-hander Martin Perez to a four-year contract through 2017 with club options for 2018, 2019 and 2020. The Rangers’ Rookie of the Year, who will turn 23 in April, was already under team control through the 2018 season, so his long-term extension essentially just buys out his arbitration-eligible years and, if all three options are picked up, delays him from entering free agency another two years.
-The Cubs officially announced the hiring of new manager Rick Renteria, the former Padres bench coach. Renteria and the Cubs agreed to a three-year deal with club options for 2017 and 2018.
-The Dodgers have talked with manager Don Mattingly about a contract extension, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick, but no deal is imminent. Mattingly is under contract for next season because a club option vested when Los Angeles advanced to the National League Championship Series.
-Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote that it would make sense for outfielder Curtis Granderson to decline the Yankees’ $14.1 million qualifying offer and explore the free agent market, drawing a comparison to Nick Swisher, who cashed in on the open market last winter. Rosenthal also noted on Twitter that the Yankees might have to pay more than $14.1 million to retain right-hander Hiroki Kuroda considering the threat that he could return to pitch in Japan.
-Agent Scott Boras appeared on ESPN writer Keith Law’s “Behind the Dish” podcast on Thursday to discuss several of his free agent clients. Boras described center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury as a “game-changer for a lot of franchises” and said Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo “have the ability to bat third in the lineup and they have the ability to lead off.”
-Boras said shortstop Stephen Drew “could really change the dynamic of the production” of seven or eight teams’ infield “by having that kind of power and that kind of defense on their team.” Boras also argued that switch-hitting first baseman/designated hitter Kendrys Morales has “a resume that, frankly, few hitters have in this market — the only one other than Cano who you can say has the ability to be a run producer in the middle of the lineup” due to his power from both sides of the plate.
Outfielder Alfonso Soriano revealed Wednesday that he would waive his no-trade clause in order to join the Yankees, and it appears that deal is on the verge of taking place.
Soriano was a late scratch from the Cubs’ lineup Thursday night. According to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein asked manager Dale Sveum to sit Soriano because a trade with the Yankees is “close to being done.”
Sveum told reporters that Soriano’s return to the Bronx, where he broke into the Majors in 1999, is “something he felt comfortable with.”
Soriano played for the Yankees from 1999-2003 before being traded to the Rangers in February 2004 for Alex Rodriguez. The 37-year-old left fielder has been with the Cubs since 2007, when he was signed to an eight-year, $136 million contract.
This year, Soriano is batting .254/.287/.467 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs in 93 games. Soriano’s contract runs through the end of next season, when he is scheduled to earn $18 million. It has been speculated that the Cubs likely will have to cover part of Soriano’s remaining salary in any trade.
According to a Twitter post from ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Cubs are set to receive a “lower-tier pitching prospect” from the Yankees.
In an effort to bolster their bullpen, the Orioles acquired veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers on Tuesday in exchange for infield prospect Nick Delmonico.
Rodriguez, 31, has put up impressive numbers for Milwaukee this season, going 1-1 with 10 saves and a 1.09 ERA. With 26 strikeouts and only nine walks in 24 2/3 innings over 25 appearances for the Brewers this year, Rodriguez should provide Baltimore with another solid late-inning relief option.
One of the most coveted bullpen arms on this year’s trade market, the right-hander has recorded double-digit saves in nine of the last 10 seasons, including a Major League record 62 in 2008 with the Angels. His 304 career saves rank third among active players and 21st all-time.
Delmonico, the Orioles’ No. 5 prospect, posted a .244/.351/.471 batting line in 60 games with Class A Frederick this season, spending most of his time at third base but also appearing at first and as the designated hitter. The 21-year-old was a sixth-round Draft pick by the Orioles in 2011 and hit .249/.351/.411 in 95 games for Class A Delmarva last year.
To make room for Rodriguez on their 40-man roster, the Orioles transferred outfielder Nolan Reimold — out for the season after undergoing corrective neck surgery — to the 60-day disabled list.
When we last heard from first baseman Adam LaRoche and the Nationals, there had been “a little bit of progress” toward a new contract. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still trying to finalize a deal with free agent Mike Napoli, with Boston GM Ben Cherington noting that he’s “got to keep active” looking for a Plan B at first base if Napoli doesn’t work out.
Perhaps LaRoche could be Plan B for the Red Sox. Ken Rosenthal of FOX and MLB Network reported on Thursday morning that the two sides are talking about two- and three-year deals.
It’s well established at this point that LaRoche wants a three-year contract, but the Nationals have been firm in their desire to stick to a two-year deal. Back on Dec. 1, LaRoche told MLB.com that he’s “made it as clear as I can that I want to come back” to the Nationals. LaRoche posted a .271/.343/.510 batting line with 33 homers and 100 RBIs in 2012, winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger while leading Washington to a first-place finish in the NL East.
There is still plenty of uncertainty regarding Napoli’s status in Boston. It’s been more than three weeks since his three-year, $39 million deal was first reported, but the contract has not yet been made official. According to Rosenthal’s report, Boston’s doctors found a problem with one of Napoli’s hips during a team physical, and the Red Sox are attempting a “major renegotiation” with him.
While LaRoche could very well be Boston’s preferred Plan B to Napoli, Rosenthal acknowledges that this development could also be an attempt to create leverage for both sides. If Boston lands LaRoche, Napoli would be left without a contract, so he could feel pressured into accepting the renegotiated deal. And while the Nationals have an ideal replacement at first base in Michael Morse, they might feel pressured to take LaRoche’s desire for a three-year deal more seriously if the Red Sox are indeed considering signing him.
It’s no secret that the Padres have a great deal of interest in free-agent starter Edwin Jackson. MLB.com’s Corey Brock wrote a piece Friday detailing San Diego’s desire to bolster its rotation, and Jackson is on the club’s short list.
Indeed, Jackson’s name continues to be linked to the Padres in rumors and reports. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal tweeted last week that the Padres are “strongly pursuing” Jackson. Jim Bowden of ESPN and Sirius XM tweeted that the two sides “continue to negotiate” on a three-year contract. And CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman said the Padres, Rangers and other clubs have been “in touch” with Jackson.
Scott Miller of CBSSports.com threw some cold water on the fire, noting that while the Padres are trying to lock up Jackson with a multi-year deal, those negotiations are “just chatter” at the moment.
Jackson, a 29-year-old right-hander, makes a lot of sense for the Padres, as he’s a durable veteran who pitched for San Diego GM Josh Byrnes and assistant GM A.J. Hinch in Arizona. You might even recall Jackson tossing an unusual no-hitter for the D-backs against another one of his former teams, the Rays, while Hinch was at the helm.
The free-agent market for pitchers has proven to be quite expensive this winter, however, and the Padres would prefer to keep their deals to three years or shorter, which means San Diego might have to fill its rotation needs through trades.
Less than a week ago, it was reported that free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher was drawing interest from several teams, including the Red Sox, Phillies, Mariners, Rangers, Orioles and Indians, and planned to meet with a few of them in person soon. Now, it appears Cleveland is zeroing in on the former Yankees slugger.
ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted Monday that the Indians are “making a push” to sign Swisher. Adding to that, Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 in Cleveland tweets that Swisher is expected to have dinner with Indians president Mark Shapiro on Monday night.
On Thursday, CBSSports’ Scott Miller posted that three or four clubs were seriously interested in Swisher, but he was “not even close” to choosing where he’ll play in 2013.
The 32-year-old OF/1B posted a .272/.364/.473 batting line with 36 doubles, 24 homers and 93 RBIs last year for the Yankees.