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Blue Jays drawing interest in Navarro, not set on moving him

Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays are hearing from teams that are interested in Toronto catcher Dioner Navarro in the wake of the club signing Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million deal, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

The Jays could certainly consider moving Navarro in an attempt to upgrade at other areas, but they are far from intent on working out a trade. They could also hold on to Navarro to serve as Martin’s backup, as well as occasionally slot in as a designated hitter.

Navarro will be entering the final year of his current two-year deal in 2015, so it would certainly make sense for the Jays to listen to offers and pull the trigger if the right deal pops up. That said, the Jays will be in no hurry to unload the backstop, who is due just $5 million next season.

– Paul Casella

White Sox could be interested in Santos reunion

The White Sox are reportedly considering bringing back reliever Sergio Santos, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.

Santos is coming off a disastrous 2014 season with the Blue Jays in which he racked up an 8.57 ERA over 26 appearances, all while battling forearm issues. During his time with Toronto, Santos posted a 5.23 ERA overall, while being limited to just 61 appearances over three seasons.

The Jays acquired Santos from the White Sox following the 2011 season. A former first-round pick in 2002, Santos had an encouraging rookie campaign on the South Side of Chicago in 2010 before struggling off-and-on in the closer’s role in 2011.

Santos had a 2.96 ERA in 56 appearances during his first big league season then racked up 30 saves to go with a 3.55 ERA over 63 outings a year later. He finished his two seasons in Chicago with a 3.29 overall ERA — though that seems almost irrelevant now, given his injury problems over the past three years.

A healthy Santos could still be effective, as evidenced by his 1.75 ERA over 29 games in 2013, so the White Sox could be willing to take what figures to be a relatively cheap risk on the right-hander.

– Paul Casella

Royals looking into E. Santana, Liriano

The Royals are reportedly focusing on free agents Ervin Santana and Francisco Liriano to bolster their rotation, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

Kansas City is also expected to check in on Jon Lester and James Shields, though it is widely believed that both starters will likely end up out of the Royals’ price range. With that in mind, the Royals have set their sights on the likes of Santana or Liriano to help fill any void left by Shields’ potential departure.

Nothing seems to be close at this point and Heyman added that the Royals also have some degree of interest in Brandon McCarthy, Edinson Volquez and Jason Hammel. Acquiring a starter via trade could be even yet another option for a Royals club that is leaving no stone unturned at this point.

– Paul Casella

D-backs expressing interest in Shields

The Diamondbacks are reportedly interested in marquee free agent pitcher James Shields, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

The D-backs were initially interested in bringing Shields to Arizona via a trade with the Rays two years ago before Shields was ultimately dealt to Kansas City instead. Now a free agent, Shields is again creating some intrigue in the desert, though the D-backs would likely need to free up some payroll before making a serious push to sign him.

Arizona’s payroll for next season is currently projected to be approximately $90 million once all of its arbitration cases are settled. That already falls within the $80-110 million range that chief operating officer Tony La Russa said he expects the club’s final 2015 payroll to fall within.

Given the fact that Shields will likely garner a contract in the range of $100 million, his yearly salary would push the D-backs’ payroll right up to the high end of La Russa’s range.

The market for Shields is still very much developing, but the D-backs are one team that seems to at least be entertaining the idea of making a run for the veteran right-hander.

– Paul Casella

Marlins strongly pursuing LaRoche

Despite locking up Giancarlo Stanton with a record 13-year, $325 million deal, the Marlins seem to be far from done when it comes to spending money this offseason.

The club is reportedly showing a strong interest in free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Though the Marlins just inked Stanton to his record deal, the contract is heavily backloaded, giving the Marlins some financial flexibility for the immediate future. Stanton will make just $30 million over the first three seasons of the deal, a compromise he was willing to make if it meant increasing the team’s chances to win.

The Marlins certainly seem intent on doing that, setting their sights first on LaRoche, who racked up 26 home runs and 92 RBIs this past season for the Nationals.

LaRoche, 35, averaged 26.3 homers over the past three seasons for the Nats and would figure to provide an upgrade from the .254/.313/.402 batting line put up by Marlins first basemen Garrett Jones, Jeff Baker and Justin Bour this past season. LaRoche, meanwhile, put up a .259/.362/.455 line in Washington.

Aside from the Marlins, the White Sox and Padres have also checked in on LaRoche, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Other teams are reportedly keeping him in mind in the event that a potential trade creates a need at first base.

– Paul Casella

Mariners reportedly made a strong push for Martin

How adamant are the Mariners about finding some right-handed bats to augment their offense? Adamant enough that they might have been willing to shake up their seemingly secure catching spot.

According to a source, the Mariners, surprisingly, were among the finalists who pushed hard for Russell Martin, who eventually agreed to a five-year, $82 million contract with the Blue Jays on Monday.

On the surface, this makes little sense, as the M’s have a very highly regarded young catcher in 23-year-old Mike Zunino. That said, Zunino just finished up his first full Major League season, so he still has quite a bit of growth to accomplish as a Major League hitter (he had a .658 OPS this year). And the free-agent market is thin enough for offense that one could understand the M’s, who have long struggled to lure sluggers to Safeco Field, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for bats. Martin, after all, had an adjusted OPS+ 36 points better than league average in ‘14.

It’s possible the M’s envisioned a scenario in which they would have signed Martin and then taken advantage of a weak catching market to move Zunino, but that is purely speculation.

Anyway, in the end, Martin will be in Toronto, so it doesn’t matter. But this does give some insight into just how hard the Mariners — a team that ranked last in the Majors in weighted runs created and OPS from the right-hand side against both right-handers and lefties — are pushing to improve offensively. They have been linked to free agents Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez, and trade targets such as Matt Kemp and Justin Upton are also possibilities.

– Anthony Castrovince

Dodgers targeting A. Ramirez

The Dodgers are “aggressively pursuing” a trade for White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, according to a tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

The Dodgers are expected to let incumbent shortstop Hanley Ramirez depart via free agency and they are reportedly now setting their sights on A. Ramirez. The White Sox shortstop has a favorable remaining contract, as he’s owed $10 million next season and has a $10 million club option for 2016.

He’s coming off a strong all-around season in which he posted a .273/.305/.408 line with 15 home runs, 74 RBI and 21 steals. Alexei Ramirez also presents a much more durable option than the oft-injured Hanley Ramirez, as the White Sox shortstop has played at least 156 games in five straight seasons and never less than 136 over his seven years in the big leagues.

The trade rumors also seem to indicate that the Dodgers aren’t ready quite yet to hand over the shortstop reins to Erisbel Arruebarrena, the club’s current backup.

– Paul Casella

Orioles may listen to trade offers for Norris, Jimenez

The Orioles could consider trading away right-hander Bud Norris this offseason, according to a tweet from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Rosenthal mentions in the same tweet that the club is also reportedly drawing “moderate interest” on veteran starter Ubaldo Jimenez.

Norris is projected to make $7.8 million via arbitration this offseason, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, and the O’s could ultimately decide to move him and spend that money elsewhere. Norris is coming off a solid 2014 campaign in which he posted a 3.65 ERA, but he is scheduled to become a free agent following next season.

As for Jimenez, the O’s may be ready to bail after he notched an unsightly 4.81 ERA over 125 1/3 innings in the first year of a four-year, $50 million contract. Baltimore would certainly have to eat a substantial amount of Jimenez’s remaining contract in order to strike a deal, but the O’s may be more than willing to do that if they can find a trade partner.

– Paul Casella

Braves to meet with Lester, other moves still possible

The Braves may not be done retooling their rotation just yet, as they are reportedly expected to meet with free agent Jon Lester at some point this week, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.

At least six teams have expressed interest in Lester, who also has scheduled meetings with the Cubs and Red Sox — the two favorites to land the left-hander at this point. That said, the Braves could be prepared to make a serious run at Lester considering their rotation needs, though they would likely need to make additional moves to make it happen.

Along with acquiring a quality starter in Shelby Miller in Monday’s trade with the Cardinals, the move also freed up approximately $11 million on next year’s payroll. In addition, the Braves could still be willing to move other big-name players, such as Justin Upton and Evan Gattis, according to MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.

If the Braves indeed find a new home for one or both of those players, they could use some of that money they would save toward signing Lester.

Despite acquiring Miller on Monday, Atlanta is certainly still in the market for another starter. The Braves’ 2015 rotation currently consists of Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor and Miller. As for the fifth spot, the club as of right now would likely be choosing between Brandon Beachy or Kris Medlen — both coming off their second Tommy John surgeries. David Hale is another option, though he seems better suited for a long-relief role.

The Braves are by no means the favorite to land Lester at this point, but it certainly seems as if Monday’s trade could have been the beginning of a busy offseason in Atlanta.

– Paul Casella

Blue Jays interested in Lester, Miller

Despite signing top free agent catcher Russell Martin on Monday, the Blue Jays are apparently far from done this offseason. The Jays are reportedly still interested in Jon Lester, one of the top starting pitchers on the market, according to WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.

The club is also believed to be actively pursuing marquee reliever Andrew Miller, according to a tweet from Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair.

The Jays remain a bit of a darkhorse candidate to sign Lester, who is scheduled to meet with the Cubs on Tuesday. Lester’s also expected to meet with the Red Sox in the near future, making the Cubs and the Red Sox the current obvious favorites. That said, at least four other teams, including the Jays, have expressed interest.

Pursuing Lester certainly makes sense from Toronto’s standpoint. The Jays are more than familiar with Lester from his nine seasons with the AL East rival Red Sox and the three-time All-Star would give them another durable arm at the top of their rotation.

Toronto already has six starters — Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada — in the mix for 2015, but the Jays were likely planning to move at least one starter anyways in an attempt to shore up their other needs. Bringing Lester into the mix would likely just result in Toronto packaging two starters into the same trade or making two separate moves entirely.

As for Miller, the Jays’ interest doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given the fact that at least 22 teams have reportedly reached out to Miller’s agent already. Toronto could pursue Miller as its next closer, with last year’s closer Casey Janssen likely to depart via free agency.

The Jays are by no means the verge of signing either player at this point, but the move to already land Martin indicates they are certainly willing to be big players in the free-agent market this offseason.

– Paul Casella

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