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Roundup: Offseason’s first day brings action

With the Giants wrapping up their third World Series title in five years on Wednesday night in Kansas City, Major League Baseball’s offseason officially began on Thursday.

Though teams can’t begin to negotiate with others’ free agents until next Tuesday, they can work out deals with their own, and there are plenty of other decisions to be made. Thursday brought a flurry of moves, mostly involving clubs either picking up or declining options on players for 2015.

Here’s a look at all of the action that transpired around the league:

  • The Red Sox retained closer Koji Uehara with a two-year, $18 million extension. Though the 39-year-old slumped late in the season, Boston felt comfortable bringing him back to fill the ninth-inning role.
  • One reason the Cardinals dealt for John Lackey at the Trade Deadline was the knowledge that he would be in line to make the league minimum in 2015 due to a provision in his contract triggered when he missed ’12 due to injury. So it was just a formality for St. Louis to pick up the veteran right-hander’s option.
  • The Nationals exercised their $9 million option on center fielder Denard Span, keeping their leadoff man in the fold after he tied for the National League lead in hits in ’14. But, as expected, they declined expensive options on first baseman Adam LaRoche and former closer Rafael Soriano.
  • The Angels brought back veteran closer Huston Street, picking up his $7 million option after acquiring him in a July trade.
  • The Mariners made the easy decision to vest the $7 million option for right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who has posted a 3.07 ERA in his three seasons with Seattle.
  • The Orioles made four expected moves, picking up options on starter Wei-Yin Chen and reliever Darren O’Day but declining those of right fielder Nick Markakis and catcher Nick Hundley. Markakis gets a $2 million buyout, but still hopes to return to Baltimore on a new deal.
  • After posting a 4.02 ERA in his first year with the Dodgers, veteran righty Dan Haren exercised his $10 million option to return to Los Angeles for another season.
  • The Padres declined a $4 million option on righty Josh Johnson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April, ending his first season in San Diego before it began. The two sides could work out a smaller deal for ’15, though.
  • The Cubs turned down their option on righty Kyuji Fujikawa, who made just 27 relief appearances for the club in two seasons since coming over from Japan.
  • The Phillies parted ways with reliever Mike Adams, declining his $6 million option after two injury-plagued seasons.
  • The Blue Jays reacquired righty Liam Hendricks in a deal with the Royals after sending him to Kansas City before the Trade Deadline.

– Andrew Simon

Nats declined to exercise options on LaRoche, Soriano; Cabrera, Hairston, Schierholtz become free agents

WASHINGTON — Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera and outfielders Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz are now free agents.

The Nationals also declined to exercise their options on first baseman Adam LaRoche and right-hander Rafael Soriano. None of the players are expected to be back with the team in 2015.

LaRoche reached the 90-RBI plateau for the fourth time in his career, but he is not coming back because the Nationals plan to put Ryan Zimmerman at first base. Recently, LaRoche said Zimmerman will be a quality first baseman.

“I think he is going to be an outstanding first baseman. I said that last year,” LaRoche said about Zimmerman. “He has one of the best gloves I’ve ever seen. He is an athlete. When the time comes, whether it’s next year or the following year or this postseason, he can handle that bag for sure.”

Soriano had a 6.48 ERA after the All-Star break. Soriano simply couldn’t keep his slider down in the strike zone and lost his closer’s job to Drew Storen

General manager Mike Rizzo decided to acquire Cabrera from the Indians before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Cabrera provided steady defense at second, as Anthony Rendon shifted over to third base.

After coming from Cleveland, Cabrera expressed his desire to play shortstop, but after the Nationals were eliminated from the National League Division Series, he said he was willing to stay at second base. Going to the World Series is more important to him than playing shortstop. It is believed that the Nationals will not pay a lot of money to keep Cabrera.

Hairston and Schierholtz were part of the bench this past season. Hairston got off to a great start, but he tailed off dramatically starting in June and was taken off the roster during the NLDS.

As a pinch-hitter, Schierholtz ranks sixth among active players with at least 150 pinch-hit appearances. He started the season with the Cubs, but after getting released on Aug. 13, he signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals five days later. He made $5 million in 2014. It’s doubtful the Nationals will pay Schierholtz that kind of money in ’15, though he could be back on a Minor League deal.

– Bill Ladson

Span’s option picked up by Nats

WASHINGTON — To the surprise of no one, the Nationals picked up Denard Span’s $9 million option Thursday afternoon.

Span said general manager Mike Rizzo called to inform him that he would be back with the team in 2015. Had the Nationals declined the option, Span would have been given a buyout worth $500,000.

“I’ll be back,” Span said by telephone. “I’m very excited. I told Mike I’m excited to be coming back another year. I’m looking forward to working with the coaching staff and getting back with the guys and go on another run.”

Span is one of the reasons the Nationals won their second National League East title in three years. Besides being one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, Span is one of the best leadoff hitters in the game. He was among the NL leaders in multi-hit games, hits, doubles and stolen bases. Span is a finalist to win his first Gold Glove Award this year.

– Bill Ladson

Angels pick up option on closer Street

The Angels retained a big piece of their bullpen on Thursday, picking up their $7 million option on closer Huston Street.

The Halos acquired Street in a July 19 trade with the Padres, and he pitched 28 games for them down the stretch, converting 17 of 19 save chances. Overall, the 31-year-old right-hander posted career-bests with 41 saves and a 1.37 ERA in 59 1/3 innings, striking out 57 and walking 14.

Street has collected 275 saves over 10 big league seasons, putting him fifth on the active list. He’s saved at least 20 games for six straight years.

On the other hand, the Angels declined their $4.5 million option on lefty reliever Sean Burnett, who pitched only 10 1/3 innings for the club over the past two seasons due to injury.

2/13 Roundup

Several teams followed the lead of the Dodgers and D-backs and officially opened Spring Training for pitchers and catchers on Thursday. The rest will follow between Friday and Monday.

But that doesn’t mean the Hot Stove has been switched off, with a handful of free agents still available and some clubs continuing to look for ways to improve via trade. The Nationals, for instance, found a strong backup for catcher Wilson Ramos on Thursday, acquiring switch hitter Jose Lobaton and two prospects from the Rays for young right-hander Nathan Karns.

In other news from around the league:

  • The Indians announced their four-year, $25 million extension with outfielder Michael Brantley. The deal buys out his arbitration eligibility and includes a fifth-year option.
  • The Orioles have agreed to a three-year contract with South Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon, pending a physical, a source told MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli. However, physicals have led Baltimore to void two other deals this offseason. Yoon could fit as a starter or a reliever with the O’s.
  • Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said his team isn’t likely to spend more this offseason, meaning free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew won’t be coming to Queens.
  • Cuban free-agents Aledmys Diaz and Odrisamer Despaigne worked out for Major League scouts during a showcase in Arizona. Diaz, an infielder, and Despaigne, a right-handed pitcher, both hope to sign with a team by the end of the month.
  • The Mariners officially signed free-agent closer Fernando Rodney to a two-year contract and inked veteran lefty Randy Wolf to a Minor League deal. They also placed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez on the restricted list after he informed them that he will miss the season with a chronic gastrointestinal issue.
  • The Cubs officially reached deals with free-agent righties Jason Hammel and James McDonald, on the same day they revealed Jake Arrieta has been dealing with shoulder tightness that will push him behind schedule.
  • The Phillies released veteran righty Chad Gaudin after he failed a physical. The two sides had agreed to a Minor League contract in January.
  • The Rays are likely to sign free-agent lefty Erik Bedard, according to multiple reports. The 34-year-old went 4-12 with a 4.59 ERA in 32 games, including 26 starts, for the Astros last season.

– Andrew Simon

Reports: Mariners sign Fernando Rodney

The Mariners might have found a new closer on Thursday, signing free-agent right-hander Fernando Rodney, according to multiple reports.

Grantland’s Jonah Keri was the first to break the deal, which reportedly will be worth $14 million over two years, with another $1 million available through incentives. The club has not confirmed the signing.

Rodney, who turns 37 in March, saved 48 games for the Rays in 2012 and 37 last year, when he posted a 3.38 ERA in 68 games.

Danny Farquhar finished last season as Seattle’s closer, racking up 16 saves.

– Andrew Simon

2/4 Roundup

Arbitration hearings are never the most enjoyable part of Hot Stove season. And now, two high-profile young players won’t have to worry about them anymore.

The Braves made Tuesday’s biggest splash, avoiding arbitration with two of their three remaining eligible players. While closer Craig Kimbrel still is headed toward a hearing, the club signed outfielder Jason Heyward to a deal that buys out his final two arbitration years, while inking first baseman Freddie Freeman to a franchise-record eight-year, $135 million extension.

In other news from around the league:

  • The Mariners could be on their way to adding another power source to a lineup that already has gained the services of Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison this offseason. Reports surfaced on Tuesday that Seattle is discussing a multiyear deal with free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, who clubbed 27 home runs in 109 games for the Rangers last year.
  • Seattle also avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal with Morrison.
  • The Rangers are among several teams interested in Korean pitcher Suk-Min Yoon, who worked out for the club in Arizona.
  • The Orioles are interested in Yoon, too, and in fact have made the righty an offer. But they also are pursuing a more established arm, such as A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo.
  • The Marlins added a veteran right-handed bat, bringing in Jeff Baker on a two-year deal. Baker could platoon with Garrett Jones at first base and also could see time at third and second.
  • The A’s signed former Rays outfielder Sam Fuld to a Minor League deal that includes two opt-out dates if he has not been added to the active roster.

– Andrew Simon

2/3 Roundup

Here’s a Hot Stove riddle: Two starting pitchers who posted ERAs of 3.30 or below last season, two hitters who combined for 50 home runs, and a shortstop with a strong all-around game — what do they have in common?

The answer is that they all remain free agents, with Spring Training lurking on the horizon. Sure, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz, Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew all have their flaws. But there is something else at work, too.

All five players are tied to Draft pick compensation, a situation MLB.com’s Phil Rogers outlines in his latest column. The Frozen Five, as Rogers calls them, still figure to find multiyear deals, but the clock is ticking, and their options are dwindling.

In other news from around the league:

  • MLB.com’s Doug Miller takes stock of what remains on the market this offseason in The Week Ahead.
  • The D-backs have come up empty so far in their search for a starting pitcher, watching Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza sign elsewhere, but team president and CEO Derrick Hall said the club will continue looking. Bronson Arroyo is one potential target for Arizona.
  • The D-backs also reached a one-year deal with outfielder Gerardo Parra, avoiding arbitration.
  • Will the Yankees sign Drew or reliever Fernando Rodney? MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tackles that question and more in his latest inbox.
  • In his inbox, Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian examines the situation involving Justin Masterson, who is headed toward an arbitration hearing and is set to become a free agent after this coming season.
  • Agent Scott Boras told FOXSports.com’s Jon Morosi that he is “very close” to getting deals for relievers Oliver Perez and Francisco Rodriguez, utility man Jeff Baker and Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon. Several teams reportedly have interest in Yoon, with the Orioles one of those making an offer, according to The Baltimore Sun.
  • The Astros added another veteran arm to their staff, agreeing to a one-year deal with right-hander Jerome Williams.
  • Monday’s Minor League deals included a trio of relievers, with Kyle Farnsworth going to the Mets, and Armando Galarraga and Daniel Bard to the Rangers.

– Andrew Simon

1/29 Roundup

In a free-agent market light on shortstops, Stephen Drew would figure to be a hot commodity, coming off a year in which he played solid defense at the position and produced a .777 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for the Red Sox. Yet the 30-year-old seems to be running out of options, with Spring Training rapidly approaching.

On Tuesday night, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo that it is “unlikely” his club will sign Drew. On Wednesday, our Bryan Hoch reported that the Yankees are not considering bringing in Drew, while Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com and MLB Network wrote that the A’s also are not interested.

All of those factors could make a return to Boston more likely for Drew, who is tied to Draft pick compensation after receiving a qualifying offer.

In other news from around the league:

  • The Phillies could be a team to watch in the competition for veteran right-hander A.J. Burnett, a free agent who recently decided to pitch this season. Signing Burnett would be a great move for Philadelphia, one that just might get it back to the postseason, writes MLB.com columnist Richard Justice. Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Tom Singer offers an idea for how the Pirates could manage to bring back Burnett.
  • Bronson Arroyo told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark that while 12 teams have contacted his agent this offseason, he has not come close to a deal with any of them. Arroyo and Burnett are drawing some interest from the Blue Jays, but Toronto appears more focused on fellow free-agent right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, according to Rosenthal.
  • After a 15-year career that included six All-Star teams, a World Series title and 366 home runs, Lance Berkman told MLB.com that he has decided to retire. Berkman spent an injury-plagued 2013 with the Rangers.
  • Right-hander Scott Baker, who returned from Tommy John surgery at the end of last season, signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners and figures to compete for a spot in their starting rotation.
  • Former Phillies closer Ryan Madson, who has missed the past two seasons due to injury, held a private workout for an unknown team on Tuesday and is planning a public audition for more clubs on Feb.7 in Phoenix, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
  • The Cardinals and infielder Daniel Descalso agreed to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration, while the Cubs did the same with outfielder Justin Ruggiano.
  • The Reds bolstered their infield depth by signing veteran Ramon Santiago to a Minor League contract.
  • For the third time this offseason, the Twins signed a former member of the organization to a Minor League deal, this time bringing back reliever Matt Guerrier.
  • The Angels added Chad Tracy to the mix in their crowded competition for bench spots.
  • The Royals acquired outfielder Carlos Peguero from the Mariners for a player to be named later and designated left-hander Everett Teaford for assignment.

– Andrew Simon

1/27 Roundup

This Hot Stove season is still going strong, but some already are looking ahead to the next one.

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is among those, saying in a Sunday night TV interview that “it might be time to move on,” if Boston doesn’t give him a multiyear extension. The 38-year-old slugger is heading into the final season of his current deal, but MLB.com’s Ian Browne writes that it “seems more likely than not” that Ortiz will remain with the Red Sox for the remainder of his career.

In other news from around the league on Monday:

  • MLB.com’s Doug Miller looks at the offseason’s unfinished business in The Week Ahead.
  • One of the few impact bats remaining on the market belongs to outfielder Nelson Cruz. As MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez writes, Cruz has been linked to the Orioles and Mariners, although it’s not impossible that he could return to the Rangers on a one-year deal.
  • Veteran infielder Michael Young, currently a free agent after finishing 2013 with the Dodgers, likely will retire or return to Los Angeles for another season.
  • As part of his latest inbox, Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch throws some cold water on the idea of free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew coming to the Bronx.
  • Left-hander David Huff could make a run at the No. 5 spot in the Giants’ starting rotation or fill a long relief role after the club acquired him from the Yankees last week.
  • Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is still looking for a center fielder to back up Ben Revere but might have to turn to the trade market for a solution.
  • The Indians and right-hander Justin Masterson have halted negotiations on a long-term extension while they try to compromise on a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
  • A handful of utility infielders signed Minor League contracts on Monday. The Indians picked up Elliot Johnson, the Brewers landed Pete Orr, and the Reds acquired Chris Nelson, while CBSSports.com reported that the Rockies agreed to a deal with Paul Janish.

– Andrew Simon

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