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12/23 Roundup

The Dodgers already have a strong closer in Kenley Jansen, but that hasn’t stopped them from bolstering their bullpen during Hot Stove season, acquiring a pair of experienced ninth-inning men in the process.

Los Angeles, which already had re-signed Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell, took steps to further strengthen its relief corps on Sunday and Monday by reaching reported agreements with former Indians closer Chris Perez and veteran right-hander Jamey Wright. The club’s bullpen could be a force to be reckoned with this season, writes our Phil Rogers.

In other news around the league on Monday:

  • Our Doug Miller takes a look at the players who could be finding new homes during the holiday season in the latest edition of The Week Ahead.
  • Also in the holiday spirit, our Anthony Castrovince proposes the perfect gift for each National League club.
  • The Twins finalized their deals with catcher Kurt Suzuki and right-hander Mike Pelfrey.
  • At Sports on Earth, Jack Moore runs through the top six remaining free agents, with Kendrys Morales grabbing the top spot.
  • Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer that his club will account for the loss of Shin-Soo Choo by making speedy prospect Billy Hamilton its starting center fielder and leadoff hitter.
  • After backing out of a deal with Grant Balfour due to concerns over his physical, the Orioles are looking at Fernando Rodney to fill their closer vacancy but also are interested in re-signing Fernando Rodriguez, according to The Baltimore Sun.
  • Meanwhile, Balfour continues to draw interest from other teams, with the New York Post reporting that the Yankees are among those involved. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman also tweeted that the Giants have had “conversations” with Balfour.
  • The Cubs are one of the teams interested in veteran reliever Jesse Crain, according to Bruce Levine of Chicago’s WSCR-AM and 670thescore.com.

– Andrew Simon

Report: Dodgers sign Jamey Wright

The Dodgers have signed veteran right-hander Jamey Wright to a one-year deal, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

Wright, who turns 39 on Tuesday, pitched for the Dodgers in 2012 before spending last season with the Rays. He has made 192 appearances over the last three years, all but one out of the bullpen, and gone 9-8 with a 3.32 ERA, 167 strikeouts and 83 walks over 206 innings.

The 6-foot-6 former Rockies first-round pick owns a 4.82 career ERA for 10 teams across 18 big league seasons.

– Andrew Simon

12/22 Roundup

The free-agent market lost one of its biggest names on Saturday, when outfielder Shin-Soo Choo agreed to a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Rangers.

As the list of unsigned impact players continues to shrink, the big question hanging over the Hot Stove is whether Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will join the fray. The highly touted right-hander’s Nippon Professional Baseball club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, has yet to decide whether to make him available via NPB’s recently revised posting system with Major League Baseball.

But the situation appears to nearing a resolution, with Baseball America’s Ben Badler reporting that the Eagles are expected to inform Tanaka of their decision by Wednesday.

In other news from around the league on a quiet Sunday:

  • Former A’s closer Grant Balfour saw his two-year, $15 million deal with the Orioles fall through after issues arose with his physical, but as many as four teams — including the Rays — appear to have interest in the veteran righty.
  • Former All-Star left-hander Mark Mulder, who is making a comeback attempt, has worked out for the Giants, Padres, D-backs, Angels and Phillies, according to The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Mulder last pitched in the Majors in 2008 but is working with a new delivery after injuries derailed his career.
  • Cafardo also writes that free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew seems likely to return to the Red Sox, due in large part to a lack of other strong fits.
  • Agent Scott Boras is trying to get the Mets interested in two of his remaining free agents, Drew and slugger Kendrys Morales, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. However, Crasnick says Drew’s price could be too high for New York, which doesn’t appear to have much interest in Morales.

– Andrew Simon

12/17 Roundup

The pool of potential closers available on the free-agent market shrank on Tuesday, when the Hot Stove was focused on relief pitching.

The Orioles were on the hunt for a closer after trading Jim Johnson to the A’s earlier this offseason, and they now appear set to use some of the savings from that deal on Oakland’s former closer. Grant Balfour, who saved 38 games for the A’s in 2013, reportedly is in agreement on a two-year contract with Baltimore.

The Cubs also might have snatched up a new ninth-inning man after reaching a reported one-year pact with Jose Veras. That would leave Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, Rafael Betancourt and Chris Perez among a dwindling group of free agents with recent success as closers. The Padres appear to be targeting Benoit for an eighth-inning role in front of Huston Street.

In other news from around the league:

  • Highly touted Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka has informed his Nippon Professional Baseball club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, that he wants to be made available to Major League teams. But even with NPB and MLB having a new posting agreement in place, the Eagles do not have to post Tanaka, and it appears they might be reluctant to do so.
  • One club that figures to pursue Tanaka if he becomes available is Arizona, which is looking to add more starting pitching this offseason.
  • The Yankees are close to signing a pair of veteran players, reportedly reaching an agreement on a one-year deal with second baseman Brian Roberts and a two-year contract with left-handed reliever Matt Thornton. Meanwhile, New York still would like to add free agent Mark Reynolds but is facing competition from the Angels and Twins, among others, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network. Jeff Baker is another veteran bat drawing interest from the club, per the New York Post’s Joel Sherman.
  • The Braves’ search for additional starting pitching likely concluded with Monday’s signing of Gavin Floyd to a one-year contract, despite the fact that the righty won’t be ready until May as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. Atlanta had explored trades for the likes of the Rays’ David Price and the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija but found the asking prices too steep.
  • Our Tom Singer checks in on free-agent righty A.J. Burnett, who has yet to make a decision about whether to retire, return to the Pirates or perhaps pitch for another team. It’s a delay that is making things difficult for Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington.
  • After losing out on Juan Uribe, the Marlins continue to search for a third baseman. The club is looking at both free agents and trade possibilities.
  • The Mets’ top priority is to trade one of its first basemen, Ike Davis or Lucas Duda. The Brewers and Pirates are the two remaining clubs that seem like obvious trade partners for such a deal. Pittsburgh is interested in both Davis and the Rangers’ Mitch Moreland, according to Heyman.
  • The Cardinals’ recent signing of free-agent second baseman Mark Ellis likely will turn out to be their last significant move of the offseason, as GM John Mozeliak acknowledged on Tuesday.
  • On the other hand, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said his club still is looking hard at free agents, with the bullpen one area to address. Houston already has signed relievers Chad Qualls and Matt Albers.

– Andrew Simon

Cubs sign reliever Veras

The Cubs have agreed to a contract with free-agent reliever Jose Veras, with the righty set to take a physical on Wednesday morning to make it official. The club has not confirmed the move.

Veras will serve as Chicago’s closer, reports ESPN Deportes’ Enrique Rojas, who adds that the one-year deal is worth $4 million plus incentives, with a $5.5 million option for 2015.

The 33-year-old notched 19 saves and a 2.93 ERA in 42 appearances for the Astros last season before being traded to Detroit, where he served mostly in a setup role. In 62 2/3 innings overall, Veras had a 3.02 ERA, with 60 strikeouts and 22 walks.

– Andrew Simon

12/16 Roundup

The most significant Hot Stove news to break on Monday likely wasn’t a trade or a signing. Instead, it might have been Major League Baseball’s announcement that it had agreed with Nippon Professional Baseball on revised protocols for the leagues’ posting system.

The agreement allows NPB’s Rakuten Golden Eagles to post right-hander Masahiro Tanaka this offseason, a move that likely would make him the most sought-after pitcher on the market. While Rakuten would not have to let Tanaka go, owner Hiroshi Mikitani will allow him to leave, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez, relaying the news from the Japanese website Sanspo.

In other news from around the league:

  • The D-backs, one of many teams that could go after Tanaka, made a move for another pitcher, trading third-base prospect Matt Davidson to the White Sox for closer Addison Reed. While Davidson was ranked as Arizona’s No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, Reed saved 40 games for Chicago last season. Meanwhile, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers is hoping to work out a contract with veteran third baseman Eric Chavez, tweets our Steve Gilbert.
  • The Dodgers are closing in on a two-year deal to re-sign left-handed reliever J.P. Howell, a source tells our Ken Gurnick. Howell would make $11.25 million, with a $6.25 million vesting option for 2016.
  • The Braves signed free-agent right-hander Gavin Floyd to a one-year contract, taking a chance on a pitcher still recovering from Tommy John surgery.
  • The Indians also will give a shot to a veteran pitcher coming off injury, after agreeing to a Minor League deal with righty Shaun Marcum.
  • The Astros added another piece to their bullpen, signing Matt Albers to a one-year contract.
  • The Yankees are considering veteran free-agent infielders Mark Reynolds, Michael Young and Brian Roberts, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network.
  • The Phillies have let other teams know they are “very willing” to trade shortstop Jimmy Rollins, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, but Rollins has a no-trade clause and will make $11 million this season, with an $11 million vesting option for 2015.

– Andrew Simon

12/14 Roundup

The Mariners have been one of the most aggressive teams this offseason, signing Robinson Cano to a massive contract, then adding two more power bats at this week’s Winter Meetings, in Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.

But there still could be more moves on the horizon, and one in particular makes a lot of sense, writes our Richard Justice. He believes Seattle should beef up its offense further by adding free-agent Nelson Cruz.

In other news from around the league on Saturday:

  • The Dodgers have filled the most significant hole in their lineup, agreeing to a two-year deal with free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe.
  • The Marlins also held some interest in Uribe, so his signing leaves them looking at other options at third base, writes our Joe Frisaro.
  • The Twins signed their third starting pitcher so far this offseason, agreeing to bring back righty Mike Pelfrey on a two-year deal. Minnesota, still looking to add another arm, is unlikely to sign Matt Garza but is open to Bronson Arroyo, according to a tweet from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network.
  • The Mets announced their two-year deal with Bartolo Colon, officially adding the 40-year-old to their starting rotation.
  • The Braves could be close to signing free-agent right-hander Gavin Floyd, according to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Floyd, coming off Tommy John surgery, is expected to return to action in May.
  • With free-agent second baseman Omar Infante set to sign with the Royals, the Yankees’ interest in a trade for the Cubs’ Darwin Barney “may pick up,” according to a tweet from Bruce Levine of Chicago’s WSRC-AM and 670thescore.com. The teams held earlier talks about Barney, Levine writes.
  • The Royals signed three players, including reliever Cory Wade, to Minor League deals.

– Andrew Simon

Twins to re-sign Pelfrey

A source confirmed to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger on Saturday night that free-agent right-hander Mike Pelfrey has agreed on a deal to return to the Twins. The agreement was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network, who tweeted that Pelfrey will make a guaranteed $11 million, with another $3.5 million in performance bonuses.

Pelfrey, who turns 30 next month, went 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts for Minnesota last season, after undergoing Tommy John surgery the year before while with the Mets. He is the third starting pitcher to sign with the Twins this offseason, joining Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.

– Andrew Simon

Report: Uribe returning to Dodgers

Free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe will sign a two-year deal to return to the Dodgers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com and MLB Network. No terms were reported, and the club has not confirmed the move, which would fill a major hole in its lineup.

After two down seasons with Los Angeles, Uribe bounced back in 2013, hitting .278/.331/.438 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 426 plate appearances. The 34-year-old also hit .375 with two homers in the National League Division Series against the Braves, including the go-ahead two-run shot in the eighth inning of the decisive Game 4.

– Andrew Simon

12/13 Roundup

Baseball’s Winter Meetings ended on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean the Hot Stove came to a halt on Friday.

Even with general managers, agents and media members gone from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the action continued, and the free-agent market continued to grow thinner. A pair of players reportedly agreed to new contracts, with first baseman James Loney set to return to the Rays on a three-year deal and second baseman Omar Infante heading to Kansas City on a four-year agreement.

In other news from around the league:

  • The Yankees introduced new center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, making his seven-year, $153 million contract official.
  • Former Yankee Robinson Cano saw two pieces of lineup protection added to his new club, as the Mariners held an introductory press conference for Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Those additions do not signal the end of Seattle’s offseason shopping, however.
  • The Rockies finalized their two-year agreement with first baseman Justin Morneau and also have reportedly signed lefty reliever Boone Logan to a three-year pact.
  • The Red Sox made their two-year deal with Mike Napoli official. Teammate David Ortiz, whose contract with  the Red Sox expires after the 2014 season, is looking for a one-year extension.
  • The Pirates announced a pair of one-year contracts, re-signing shortstop Clint Barmes and adding right-hander Edinson Volquez.
  • The Tigers announced their one-year agreement with reliever Joba Chamberlain.
  • Our Paul Hagen runs down the top names still available after the Winter Meetings.
  • With free-agent options dwindling, the Brewers could turn to the trade market to fill their need for a first baseman, our Adam McCalvy writes.
  • Might the Braves really trade stud closer Craig Kimbrel? Our Mark Bowman tackles that question in his latest inbox article.
  • Outfielder Jason Kubel, coming off a rough 2012 with the D-backs and Indians, is returning to the Twins after signing a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training.
  • The D-backs signed right-hander Daniel Hudson and catcher Henry Blanco to Minor League deals with Spring Training invites. Hudson, who hasn’t pitched since early ‘12 due to injury, was non-tendered earlier this month.
  • The Marlins continue to have interest in free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe, writes our Joe Frisaro.

– Andrew Simon

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