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1/23 Roundup

The theory went that once Masahiro Tanaka signed, the rest of the free-agent market would loosen up after weeks at a near standstill. Well, the Yankees won the bidding for the Japanese right-hander on Wednesday, and on Thursday — as if on cue — more action followed.

Although several significant free agents remain available — pitchers such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, for instance — the chips began to fall in Tanaka’s wake. With the Rays signing closer Grant Balfour and the Brewers drawing close to a deal with starter Matt Garza, Thursday was a signal that the Hot Stove could once again be sizzling.

Here’s a look at news from around the league:

  • Garza reportedly had agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Brewers on Thursday, but the club later announced that negotiations were “ongoing.” If the contract goes through, it will qualify as a strong move for Milwaukee, writes MLB.com columnist Mike Bauman.
  • Balfour had a deal with the Orioles fall through earlier in the offseason after issues arose with his physical, and that allowed the veteran to wind up back with Tampa Bay, on a two-year deal. Balfour was a setup man for the Rays from 2007-10 but returns as the club’s ninth-inning man after a successful stint in Oakland.
  • Tanaka held a press conference with the Japanese media in Tokyo and said the Yankees gave him the “highest evaluation,” and he is “going there to win the World Series.”
  • Tanaka’s new general manager, Brian Cashman, said his offseason “heavy lifting” likely is complete, although there still are areas for him to address. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network, the club is considering adding free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, now that it won’t be able to stay under the luxury tax threshhold. Drew could play second base or move back to short if Derek Jeter is injured.
  • With Clayton Kershaw’s massive extension with the Dodgers now about a week old, two other All-Star pitchers expressed their desire for long-term contracts that would allow them to stay put. Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer told reporters at the Tigers’ Winter Caravan that he hopes to get something done by this spring, or if not, after the season. Meanwhile, Red Sox lefty Jon Lester stated his desire to remain with the only organization he has known for the rest of his career.
  • On the topic of extensions, the Marlins have interest in signing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to one, now that they have avoided arbitration with a one-year contract for 2014.
  • This has been a much more patient type of offseason for the Angeles, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, who also takes a look at five free-agent starters whom the team could target.
  • Elsewhere in the AL West, the Mariners also are looking to add a starter, preferably a veteran who could fill the No. 3 slot in their rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
  • Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said he thought his club was going to be able to sign outfielder Grady Sizemore but that Sizemore, “changed his mind at the last minute,” before signing with the Red Sox on Wednesday.
  • Thursday also brought some Minor League deals for veteran players, with righties Jon Rauch and David Aardsma signing with the Royals and Indians, respectively, lefty Aaron Laffey going to the Orioles and outfielder Endy Chavez returning to the Mariners.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with infielder Joaquin Arias, signing him to a two-year deal.

– Andrew Simon

1/21 Roundup

Masahiro Tanaka has captivated Hot Stove followers for much of the offseason, and now that the deadline for the Japanese free agent to choose a Major League team is fast approaching, Tanaka Watch is only intensifying. Several interested teams, including the D-backs, are waiting intently for his decision.

As MLB.com’s Doug Miller writes, Tuesday was another day with much speculation but little actual news, starting with an innocuous Tanaka tweet that quickly was misinterpreted.

Regardless of where Tanaka ends up, the long process will leave him with huge expectations and several disppointed suitors, as MLB.com columnist Phil Rogers writes. Tanaka also is a shining reminder of baseball’s international growth, according to columnist Mike Bauman.

In other news from around the league on Tuesday:

  • The Indians have not taken part in an arbitration hearing since 1991, but as MLB.com Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian reports, the longest streak in the Majors seems likely to end this year. The club and All-Star righty Justin Masterson exchanged salary figures that stand nearly $4 million apart, a gap that could be too wide to cross without a hearing. Bastian also reports that the two sides remain far apart on a possible contract extension, with Masterson set for free agency after this season.
  • Astros owner Jim Crane confirmed that his club, underdogs in the Tanaka sweepstakes, nonetheless has participated in the bidding.
  • The White Sox have a Tanaka-or-bust mentality when it comes to adding to their rotation, reports beat writer Scott Merkin, who doesn’t believe the club will explore other free-agent options, such as Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez.
  • The Angels, on the other hand, have targeted Garza, as Alden Gonzalez writes in his latest inbox. Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm and Chris Capuano could be some of their other options as they try to bolster their rotation.
  • Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon addresses several issues in his inbox, including a potential signing of Grady Sizemore and the status of Homer Bailey.
  • The Phillies had a busy day, highlighted by signing Bobby Abreu to a Minor League deal. Abreu, a star with the club from 1998-2006, didn’t play in the Majors last season but parlayed a strong winter ball campaign in Venezuela into another chance. Philadelphia also avoided arbitration with lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo and signed veteran righty Chad Gaudin to a Minor League deal, getting a pitcher with the versatility to start or come out of the bullpen.
  • As part of this notebook, Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan reports that the Rangers are “cautiously optimistic” that starters Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis, both on the comeback trail from injuries, will be 100 percent for Spring Training. Lewis is one candidate for the No. 5 starter job, in a race that also includes second-year righty Nick Tepesch.
  • The Royals signed outfielder Justin Maxwell to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration and leaving them with two unsigned arbitration-eligible players.

– Andrew Simon

1/20 Roundup

When Clayton Kershaw signs a contract extension worth $215 million or Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka chooses which Major League team will enjoy his services, there is no question the consequences will be significant.

But on the Hot Stove, even small pieces of news can carry big ramifications.

Take the Braves’ inability to reach one-year deals with arbitration-eligible stars Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward last week. The club exchanged salary figures with each player on Friday and appears unlikely to work out any agreements prior the hearings that will come during the first three weeks of next month. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes, these cases could impact the franchise’s course for several years to come, with its crop of young standouts growingly rapidly more expensive — and possibly too expensive to keep in the long term.

In other news from around the league on Monday:

  • The Rays settled on a 2014 contract with ace left-hander David Price last week, avoiding arbitration and taking another step toward keeping the former American League Cy Young Award winner in Tampa Bay for another season. While the always creative Rays still could find an enticing trade for Price, it’s looking more and more like he will be the club’s Opening Day starter, as MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince writes.
  • The Mariners struck one of the big blows of the offseason by signing free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano, but as MLB.com columnist Tracy Ringolsby discusses, they continue to search for ways to improve following a 71-win season.
  • Rumors have swirled around Tanaka all offseason, through negotiations over a new posting system, the Rakuten Golden Eagles’ decision about whether to let him go, and then the current bidding war among MLB clubs. But the issue of the right-hander’s U.S. destination finally will be settled this week.
  • Minor League signings don’t tend to get much attention, but at Sports on Earth, Jack Moore discusses six who could make an impact this season, including the Rangers’ Colby Lewis and the Brewers’ Mark Reynolds.
  • Milwaukee added another veteran first baseman on a Minor League deal, bringing in Lyle Overbay for his second stint with the club.
  • Rangers lefty Matt Harrison, coming back from an injury-plagued ‘13, is on track to begin the season in the team’s starting rotation, which needs all the help it can get with Derek Holland likely sidelined for the first half. As T.R. Sullivan writes, Texas is mulling its fifth-starter options, which include internal candidates, as well as free agents.
  • With Kershaw’s signing done, the Dodgers could have Hanley Ramirez next on their agenda.
  • In his latest inbox, MLB.com Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian explains why the Tribe is unlikely to trade either shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera or pitcher Justin Masterson before the start of the season, despite both players being one year from free agency.
  • Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch tackles several topics in his own inbox, including the possibility of a Stephen Drew signing or an Ichiro Suzuki trade.

– Andrew Simon

1/17 Roundup

On a day when the Dodgers announced their seven-year, $215 million contract extension with ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, numerous smaller deals were completed across the Major Leagues.

Friday was the deadline for teams to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players, leading many to work out compromises, albeit none that carry the financial impact of Kershaw’s. For those who didn’t reach agreements, negotiations can continue until hearings take place from Feb. 1-21, at which point the decisions will be in the hands of three-judge arbitration panels.

Here is a look at some of Friday’s big arbitration-related news:

  • The Nationals signed five of their seven eligible players, including All-Star right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond. Washington bought out the final two years of arbitration for both players, locking them up for $24 million and $17.5 million, respectively.
  • Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer agreed to a $15.525 million contract with the Tigers, who still have a lot of work to do if they want to prevent him from reaching free agency next offseason.
  • Chris Davis headlined the Orioles’ five signings, getting a raise of roughly $7 million in his second year of arbitration after leading the Majors in home runs and RBIs. Catcher Matt Wieters, also two years from free agency, has yet to reach a deal.
  • Third baseman Chase Headley was among the players to settle with the Padres as he readies for his final season before free agency.
  • While the Braves were able to sign four arbitration-eligible players, they will have to exchange figures with closer Craig Kimbrel, first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Jason Heyward.
  • The Marlins put a stop to all three of their arbitration cases, handing $6.5 million to slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the process. Stanton’s salary will jump from $537,000 in his first year of arbitration.
  • The Yankees also locked up all of their arbitration-eligible players, as outfielder Brett Gardner led the way with a $5.6 million settlement.
  • Another club set to sit out the hearings is Toronto, which rewarded center fielder Colby Rasmus’ strong 2013 with a $7 million deal in his final year of club control.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who bounced back in a big way after going through a rough ‘12, settled on a $3.6 million contract in his first year of arbitration.
  • Josh Reddick is the only A’s player who remains unsigned after the club came to agreements with four more players on Friday, including offseason acquisitions Craig Gentry and Luke Gregerson.
  • Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker were among the players to come to terms with the Pirates, who closed all of their arbitration cases.
  • A day after settling with ace lefty David Price, the Rays avoided arbitration with each of their six remaining players, including righty Jeremy Hellickson.
  • The Reds have negotiating left to do with starter Homer Bailey and closer Aroldis Chapman and are hoping to ink Bailey to a long-term deal.

– Andrew Simon

1/16 Roundup

With Major League teams scheduled to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players on Friday, Thursday’s most popular Hot Stove activity was finding a way to prevent the awkwardness of continuing the arbitration process.

The Rays’ David Price was the most high-profile of several players who agreed to one-year deals, thereby avoiding arbitration. The 2012 American League Cy Young winner will make $14 million in his second-to-last season of club control.

Price, the subject of frequent trade rumors, told reporters during a conference call that he wants to remain with Tampa Bay, although the deal does not guarantee the club won’t trade him before or during this season.

In other news from around the league:

  • Others who avoided arbitration with one-year deals included Ike Davis with the Mets, Jim Johnson and John Jaso with the A’s, Chris Heisey with the Reds, Ross Detwiler with the Nationals, Wilton Lopez with the Rockies and Tim Collins with the Royals.
  • Even with Clayton Kershaw locked up with a massive contract extension, the Dodgers could be far from done making big moves, writes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Los Angeles remains a possible destination for Japanese free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez could be in line for his own extension heading into the last year of his contract.
  • Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million deal could have implications for the other defending Cy Young Award winner, the Tigers’ Max Scherzer. As MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes, Scherzer figures to benefit as he enters his third year of arbitration. The Tigers will have to pay up big if they want to keep him off next winter’s free-agent market.
  • Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he was part of a contingent that met recently with Tanaka in California. Many MLB owners apparently are convinced the Cubs will “blow away the field and sign Tanaka to a monster deal,” according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
  • The Orioles and free-agent righty Bronson Arroyo are engaged in “ongoing discussions,” according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, who adds that the Dodgers are also involved.
  • The Brewers have drawn close to signing first baseman Mark Reynolds to a Minor League contract. Reynolds would figure to compete for playing time at first base, a weak spot for Milwaukee.
  • The Indians announced their Minor League deal with outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who is bringing his Tony Plush persona back to the U.S. after spending 2013 in Japan.
  • The Mariners added to their catching depth by signing veteran John Buck to a one-year deal.
  • The Royals brought in a pair of veteran pitchers on Minor League contracts, signing righties Brad Penny and Guillermo Mota.
  • Other Minor League signings on Thursday included catcher Michael McKenry with the Rockies, infielder John McDonald with the Angels, pitcher Henry Rodriguez with the Marlins and infielder Chris Getz with the Blue Jays.

– Andrew Simon

Reports: Brewers close to signing Reynolds

The Brewers are close to signing free agent Mark Reynolds, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also tweeted that Milwaukee is “making a push” for the veteran slugger, who could fill the club’s hole at first base.

Reynolds split last season between the Indians and Yankees, hitting .220/.306/.393 with 21 home runs and 67 RBIs. The 30-year-old, who also has played for the Orioles and D-backs over seven seasons, is a career .233/.329/.464 hitter. He has hit as many as 44 homers in a season and also struck out as many as 223 times. Reynolds began his career as a third baseman but has spent significant time at first in recent years.

– Andrew Simon

Report: Retirement coming for Michael Young?

Veteran free-agent infielder Michael Young is “strongly considering retirement” despite receiving interest from four teams this offseason, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network. The 37-year-old, a 14-year veteran, wants to spend more time with his wife and three sons, according to Rosenthal.

Young spent last season with the Phillies and Dodgers, playing mostly third base and first base and hitting .279/.335/.395 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs in 147 games. The seven-time All-Star played his first 13 seasons with the Rangers and is a .300 career batter, with 2,375 hits to his credit.

– Andrew Simon

1/8 Roundup

The Hot Stove took a back seat to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas saw their tickets to Cooperstown punched.

But even with the spotlight on former players, news continued to trickle in about some who still are in uniform, including a few who are looking for a new one.

  • Free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz carries one of the most powerful bats on the market, and his name has been tied to several teams. But the veteran remains unsigned as the offseason drags on, an issue MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby explores in his latest column.
  • Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti addressed several topics, revealing that he has talked with the agent for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, while also engaging in extension talks with Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez. Colletti also is looking to add an infielder.
  • The D-backs have a “plan of attack” in their pursuit of Tanaka, but they’re not offering up much in the way of details.
  • With Tanaka set to meet with Major League clubs in the coming days, the Japanese media is reporting that he flew to the U.S. on Wednesday, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. David Waldstein of The New York Times reported that Tanaka is currently in Chicago.
  • As part of a Q&A with MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond addresses the possibility of a contract extension and says it isn’t a distraction for him. Desmond and teammate Jordan Zimmermann are potential candidates for extensions, as both have two seasons remaining before free agency.
  • The Tigers and shortstop Jose Iglesias agreed on a new one-year contract.
  • The Marlins re-signed veteran righty Kevin Slowey to a Minor League deal, with an invitation to Spring Training.

– Andrew Simon

1/7 Roundup

The Dodgers have transformed into the financial powerhouse of the West, and up the Pacific Coast, the Mariners have flexed their muscles this offseason. Both figure to be serious players in the bidding for coveted Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but could a couple of other clubs from the region also emerge as serious challengers?

The Angels will get involved, as MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez writes, and they could use the rotation upgrade. But with long-term deals for the likes of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton already in place, another large contract could push them past the luxury-tax threshold before even considering a potential extension for Mike Trout.

The D-backs would love to add Tanaka as they seek to unseat the Dodgers in the National League West. They intend to be serious players for his services, writes MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert, but like with the Angels, such a deal could prove to be “a financial stretch” in Arizona.

In other news from around the league on Tuesday:

  • Braves president John Schuerholz told Jim Bowden of Sirius/XM radio that his club is not a contender for Tanaka. Meanwhile, Tanaka will meet with the Cubs and White Sox this week, reports Luke Stuckmeyer of Comcast SportsNet. However, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin tweets that the Sox aren’t currently “major players” in the bidding.
  • Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. discussed his team’s offseason, addressing potential interest in Tanaka and former closer Ryan Madson, as well as a recently signed television deal worth a reported $2.5 billion.
  • The representatives for free-agent righty Ubaldo Jimenez are telling clubs that he expects a multiyear deal with an annual salary of at least $14 million, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network.
  • Reds righty Homer Bailey addressed his involvement in offseason trade rumors during an interview on MLB Network Radio on Sirius/XM.
  • Tuesday’s Minor League signings brought catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Royals, infielder Robert Andino to the Pirates and outfielder Xavier Nady to the Padres.

– Andrew Simon

1/6 Roundup

Like fellow pitcher David Price, Homer Bailey has seen his name come up in trade rumors this offseason because of his climbing salary and upcoming free agency.

The Reds would like to sign the right-hander to a long-term extension before he hits the open market next winter, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon writes, but general manager Walt Jocketty acknowledged that Bailey’s asking price will make that difficult.

In other news from around the league on Monday:

  • Sheldon also examines the remaining group of free-agent center fielders and reports that the Reds have not reached out to Nyjer Morgan, who played in Japan last season.
  • MLB.com Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch tackles several fan questions in his latest inbox column, including the club’s options at third base and closer.
  • Veteran left-hander Johan Santana, who is coming off shoulder surgery, could be headed toward a reunion with the Twins.
  • Brewers general manager Doug Melvin offered an explanation as to why his team is having one of the more quiet offseasons in the Majors.
  • MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo takes a look at the Mets’ biggest areas of need with Spring Training approaching quickly.
  • The Orioles have interest in free-agent righty Bronson Arroyo, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.
  • Olney also reports that free-agent lefty Chris Capuano is willing to be patient as he looks for a two-year contract.
  • The Mariners are considering making more additions this offseason, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network. But the front office will need to persuade ownership in order to snag the likes of Price, Masahiro Tanaka or Nelson Cruz.
  • The Indians added depth to their roster, signing veterans Scott Atchison and Jeff Francoeur to Minor League deals that will allow them to compete for spots in the bullpen and on the bench, respectively.
  • Two catchers signed Minor League deals, with Taylor Teagarden going to the Mets and Humberto Quintero going to the Mariners. Also, outfielder Chris Dickerson signed a Minor League deal with the Pirates.

– Andrew Simon

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