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Report: LH reliever Thatcher to sign soon

Veteran left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, a free agent this offseason, is engaged in talks with at least 10 teams and likely will make a decision soon, according to Chris Cotillo of SBNation.com.

The Mets, Astros, A’s and Rangers are among the clubs reportedly interested.

Thatcher, 33, pitched 53 games for the D-backs and Angels last season, posting a 3.86 ERA, four walks and 27 strikeouts over 30 1/3 innings, while missing about a month with a sprained ankle. He fared significantly better with Arizona, which dealt him to Los Angeles in July.

An eight-year veteran, Thatcher has held left-handed batters to a .230 average and .640 OPS over his career, while righties have hit .275 with a .715 OPS.

If Thatcher doesn’t end up signing with the Rangers, Cotillo reports that the club is still likely to add a lefty to its bullpen. Fellow fee agent Phil Coke would be another option.

— Andrew Simon

Shields’ agent: There was no 5-year, $110 million offer

Soon after the calendar turned to 2015, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal passed along word from a pair of executives that free-agent right-hander James Shields had received a five-year, $110 million offer from an unnamed team but was continuing to look for something better.

On Wednesday, a day after the Padres finalized a four-year, $75 million deal with Shields, the veteran pitcher’s agent told Rosenthal that no such offer ever materialized.

“That was completely inaccurate and a fabrication,” Page Odle said.

According to Odle, there were discussions of contracts ranging from three to five years, but Shields never demanded a deal of five years or more. One club did make an offer early in the offseason, but an agreement couldn’t be struck, and Shields’ market didn’t begin to gain steam again until the new year. Eventually, Shields decided he wanted to pitch for the Padres, with Odle calling it, “a great fit for him and his family.”

— Andrew Simon

Report: Brewers still seeking relief

The Brewers have not been able to swing a deal for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon thus far, so the club is continuing to look at other bullpen options, including Francisco Rodriguez, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com.

Sources told Rosenthal that Rodriguez, one of the few big-name free agents remaining on the market, is aiming for a two-year contract. The 33-year-old right-hander saved 44 games for Milwaukee last season, posting 3.04 ERA in 68 innings, with 18 walks and 73 strikeouts while making $3.25 million. He has spent much of the past four seasons with the club, working both as a set-up man and closer.

The Brewers had tried to make a deal with the Phillies for Papelbon, who notched 39 saves with a 2.04 ERA last season and is due $13 million in ’15. He also has a $13 million option for ’16, which will vest if he finishes 48 games this year. Since the Brewers are one of the teams on Papelbon’s no-trade list, he probably would approve a deal only if Milwaukee picks up the option, Rosenthal reported.

That’s just one complication in the negotiations, with the Phillies reportedly willing to eat a significant portion of Papelbon’s remaining contract only if they receive a top prospect in return. Meanwhile, the Brewers offered current closer Jonathan Broxton in the deal as a different way to save money, but the Phillies weren’t interested.

— Andrew Simon

Report: Cuban INF Olivera impresses at showcase

When it comes to Cuban infielders, much of the attention has focused on 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, who is expected to sign with a team by the end of the month.

Another Cuban, Hector Olivera, can’t match Moncada’s young age or sky-high potential. But the 29-year-old second baseman is generating plenty of interest in his own right.

Olivera played a showcase game in front of hundreds of scouts in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, with Baseball America’s Ben Badler tweeting that the Dodgers, Giants, A’s and Padres were among the teams with a “notable presence” at the event. Olivera did not let them down, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances, including two doubles.

This was the third showcase for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Olivera, who has played second and third while displaying power and above-average speed, according to Badler. He has a strong track record in Cuba, where he hit .316/.412/.474 with seven homers in 73 games during the 2013-14 season, after missing the previous year. Olivera is expected to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball sometime soon and figures to have plenty of suitors when he does.

— Andrew Simon

Phillies holding Hamels despite ‘aggressive offer’

As Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently, left-hander Cole Hamels now is expected to be with the club for Opening Day, following an offseason full of trade rumors.

Perhaps the Phillies have been wise to exercise patience in looking for a return that could jumpstart their rebuilding process. On the other hand, it’s also possible the club has been too picky instead of simply taking the best package available now and moving forward.

Amaro has succeeded in trading shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielder Marlon Byrd this offseason but so far has not unloaded Hamels, fellow lefty Cliff Lee (coming off an elbow injury), closer Jonathan Papelbon or first baseman Ryan Howard. Of those, Hamels would command by far the best package, considering his track record, strong 2014 (a 2.46 ERA in 30 starts) and age (31).

Yet the chances of a Hamels deal took a dive when the Padres agreed to a four-year contract with free agent James Shields over the weekend. San Diego, one of nine teams not on Hamels’ no-trade list, “wanted Hamels” and “made an aggressive offer” for him, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. But the Phillies, apparently looking for at least one “blue-chip prospect” in return, did not feel they were getting enough to move Hamels and the nearly $100 million left on his contract.

A source told Rosenthal that Philadelphia would prefer to trade with Boston, but the Red Sox are on Hamels’ no-trade list, and so far the club has not been willing to offer what the Phillies want. Therefore, unless something changes, they will go into the regular season with Hamels and take the risk of injury or underperformance hurting his value.

— Andrew Simon

Moncada hoping to sign with team soon

With James Shields off the board, there isn’t much impact talent left on the free-agent market. Yet one player continues to generate significant speculation, despite a lack of professional experience in the United States.

Yoan Moncada, the dynamic 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder from Cuba, recently was cleared to sign with a big league club. His agent, David Hastings, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the plan is for Moncada to take offers over the next two weeks. At that point, Hastings hopes he and his client will “have a much clearer picture” of Moncada’s destination.

The goal is for Moncada to sign soon after so he can report to Spring Training with that team and get started in its farm system.

The Dodgers, one of the clubs to hold a workout for Moncada, are believed to be a serious contender for his services, along with the Yankees, Red Sox and several others.

— Andrew Simon

Tigers may not need to seek sub for V-Mart

The Tigers got some good news on Tuesday, when designated hitter Victor Martinez underwent successful left knee surgery in Florida. He is expected to be able to resume full activity in four to six weeks, putting him on schedule to be ready for Opening Day on April 6.

“We are very happy the surgery went well and that Victor will be ready to compete for the start of the 2015 season,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement.

Barring any setbacks, Detroit won’t have to be without the veteran slugger for long, if at all. That probably means the club won’t be looking to the trade market for a temporary replacement, according to MLB.com’s Jason Beck.

It obviously would have been difficult for the Tigers to find anyone who could replicate Martinez’s production, especially at this late stage. Martinez hit .335/.409/.565 with 32 homers and 103 RBIs last season, leading the league in OPS and finishing second in AL MVP voting. A free agent this offseason, he re-signed with Detroit for $68 million over four years in November.

— Andrew Simon

Reports: Cubs made late push for Shields

James Shields’ free agency saga finally came to an end over the weekend, when the veteran right-hander agreed to a four-year deal with the Padres, who will pay him about $75 million.

But who else was involved with Shields at the end? Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Monday that the Cubs and Marlins fell into that category, with Chicago offering of about $60 million over three years.

After signing lefty Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million pact in December, the Cubs are “reluctant” to make such a significant commitment to a free-agent starter again next offseason, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. So while Shields’ initial asking price, reported to be more than $100 million, was out of the team’s range, it became interested when that cost fell. The Cubs jumped into the bidding about a week ago, a source told Rosenthal, with a three-year deal that would have expired by the time the club’s current crop of young talent begins to grow expensive.

The question now is whether the late of pursuit of Shields provides any insight into Theo Epstein and company’s future plans. The 2016 free-agent pitching market currently is slated to include stars such as Johnny Cueto, David Price and Jordan Zimmermann, as well as Zack Greinke, if he opts out of his current deal. It’s obviously much too early to assume the Cubs won’t go after any of those players, if available. But as Rosenthal suggests, they might be more likely to chase less expensive options or trade for a talented young arm from their surplus of bats.

— Andrew Simon

Report: Money in last 3 years of Scherzer deal deferred

Max Scherzer’s seven-year, $210 million contract with the Nationals became official on Wednesday, and a day later, more details emerged about the biggest deal ever awarded to a free-agent pitcher.

It had been reported previously that half of the money in the contract would be deferred until after the seven years is up, following the 2021 season. ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported on Thursday that Scherzer will make $10 million this season, then $15 million per year from ’16-’18. For the final three years of the deal, his salary will jump to $35 million annually, except that all of that money will be deferred, without interest.

Scherzer, who won’t receive a no-trade clause, also gets a $50 million signing bonus, spread out over the course of the seven years. In addition, he will receive bonuses for various accomplishments, including $250,000 for a Cy Young, MVP or World Series MVP award.

— Andrew Simon

Report: Phillies, Wandy agree to Minors deal

The Phillies have agreed to a Minor League deal with veteran left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, CSNPhilly.com reported Saturday. The deal, which the club hasn’t confirmed, is pending a physical.

Rodriguez, who will be 36 this season, made only 12 starts in 2013 and six last year for the Pirates due to injuries. But he was a dependable performer from 2008-12 with Houston and Pittsburgh, going 57-55 with a 3.48 ERA and 2.7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The Dominican Republic native, a 10-year veteran, is expected to compete for a rotation spot this spring. He’s coming back from a right knee injury that led to surgery last June.

— Andrew Simon

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