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Shoulder issues shut down J. Santana’s comeback bid

Johan Santana‘s latest comeback attempt has been halted by discomfort in his left shoulder, according to Nelson Medina Arnías of LVBP.com.

Santana, who will turn 36 in March, had been pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League as he attempts to work his way back to the Majors. He will now miss the league final due to the shoulder issue, though an MRI reportedly showed no structural damage.

The latest injury is a significnat blow for Santana, especially considering that he’s already had multiple shoulder surgeries in the past four years. Those shoulder problems forced him to miss all of both the 2011 and 2013 seasons, while he also missed the 2014 campaign after suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon during extended Spring Training with the Orioles last June.

The southpaw last pitched in the Majors in 2012, going 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and two complete game shutouts over 21 starts. A two-time Cy Young Award winner, Santana led his respective league in ERA three times from 2004-08 and had a strong 2010 campaign (11-9, 2.98 ERA, 1.176 WHIP) before injuries derailed his career over the past five years.

Prior to the injury news, at least six teams — including the Yankees, Blue Jays and Padres — had been rumored to have interest in signing Santana to what would presumably be an incentive-laden deal. It’s unclear at this point exactly what affect this shoulder soreness will have on Santana’s comeback bid, but the chances of him breaking camp with any Major League club have certainly taken a serious hit.

– Paul Casella

Astros, Braves discussing deal for Gattis

The Astros are reportedly close to acquiring Braves catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis in exchange for a trio of prospects, according to multiple sources — though the deal is not finalized just yet. Mark Bowman of MLB.com adds that the Rangers are also still in the mix, if a deal is not completed with the Astros.

The potential return package from Houston would reportedly include right-handers Michael Foltynewicz and Andrew Thurman, as well as third baseman Rio Ruiz, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Foltynewicz is ranked as the Astros’ No. 4 overall prospect according to MLB.com, while Ruiz checks in as the club’s No. 9-ranked prospect.

If a deal is completed, it would mean the Braves have traded away their top two home run hitters from 2014 in Gattis and Justin Upton, who was traded to the Padres last month.

Gattis, who could serve as a catcher, outfielder or designated hitter in Houston, is currently under contract through the 2018 season. The 28-year-old posted a .263/.317/.493 batting line this past season, while hitting 22 home runs in just 108 games. He hit 21 homers over 105 games during his rookie season in 2013.

As for the Astros, they currently have Jason Castro penciled in as their starting catcher. Castro is coming off a disappointing 2014 campaign in which he hit just .222/.286/.366 with 14 home runs, though he did rack up a .276/.350/.485 line with 18 homers — all career-bests — in 2013.

– Paul Casella

Braves still talking to clubs about Gattis

With the start of Spring Training a little less than a month away, the Braves are still talking to a few clubs that had shown interest in Evan Gattis during the early portion of this offseason.  But as of early Wednesday afternoon, it did not appear that a deal was imminent.

If Gattis is traded, his most likely destination would be to the American League, where he could be utilized as both a designated hitter and catcher.  The Astros, Rangers and Royals have been among the clubs that have shown interest this winter.

While the Royals now appear to be out of the mix, the Astros and Rangers might still have some interest in the right-handed power hitter, who has already tallied a pair of 20-homer seasons, despite not playing more than 108 games during either of his first two seasons at the Major League level.

There was a point when the Braves were hoping to land a Major League-ready starting pitcher or outfielder in exchange for Gattis.  But it appears their most recent discussions have provided reason to believe they would be more likely to gain a crop of prospects if they deal the 28-year-old slugger, who will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season.

Gattis is currently slated transition from the catcher’s position to starting left fielder in Atlanta.  While this would create the potential to compile approximately 150 additional plate appearances over the course of the season, it also creates some concern about his limitations with the glove.  He was credited with -10 Defensive Runs Saved while logging just 342 1/3 innings (approximately one-third of a full season) in left field during the 2013 season.

– Mark Bowman

J. Santana on comeback trail, Yanks interested?

Veteran left-hander Johan Santana is looking to make a comeback and the Yankees could be one of the teams interested in taking a gamble on the former two-time Cy Young Award winner, according to Dan Martin of the New York Post.

Santana, who turns 36 in March, tossed two scoreless innings Tuesday night in a Venezuelan Winter League appearance. The Yankees were among the clubs in attendance for that outing, though it’s unclear how many other teams, or which ones exactly, also attended Santana’s outing.

Santana has missed each of the last two seasons due to a pair of injuries. He missed the entire 2013 campaign while recovering from shoulder surgery — problems with that same shoulder also cost him the entire 2011 season — before suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon during extended Spring Training with the Orioles last June.

The southpaw last pitched in the Majors in 2012, going 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and two complete game shutouts over 21 starts. Santana led his respective league in ERA three times from 2004-08 and had a strong 2010 campaign (11-9, 2.98 ERA, 1.176 WHIP) before injuries derailed his career over the past five years.

If he stays healthy, Santana will likely be able to find a Major League club interested in taking a flier on him with an incentive-laden deal.

– Paul Casella

Dodgers miss out on Lopez, turn focus toward Moncada

The Dodgers are reportedly turning their sights toward pursuing Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada after missing out on right-hander Yoan Lopez, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Lopez elected to sign with the D-backs on Tuesday morning, despite being “aggressively pursued” by the Dodgers.

Though Moncada is still yet to be cleared by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the 19-year-old has plans to hold seven private workouts this month with undisclosed teams. Sanchez expects the Dodgers to be one of those clubs, while Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel has also mentioned the Yankees and Red Sox as potential landing spots.

Moncada, a middle infielder who can also play third base, is widely considered one of the top international prospects in the game right now, with Sanchez ranking him atop his list of Cuban players to watch.

– Paul Casella

D-backs change course, not interested in adding another catcher

Though the Diamondbacks have been tied to rumors involving both the Blue Jays’ Dioner Navarro and the Cubs’ Welington Castillo, among others, the club is no longer looking to acquire another catcher, according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

D-backs general manager Dave Stewart confirmed that the team is content with its current catching situation, thanks primarily to the development of prospect Peter O’Brien, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Martin Prado deal this past summer. The 24-year-old O’Brien, who checks in as the D-backs’ No. 8-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, posted a .271/.316/.594 batting line with 34 home runs over just 106 games between Class A and Double-A this past season.

“I’ve decided that I’m not going to pursue another catcher,” Stewart said, according to the report. “I talked with my people and my coaching staff. They believe that O’Brien is going to be around sooner than later. If that does happen, there’s no need to go out and get another guy.”

With O’Brien not quite ready for the Majors, however, Arizona is set to enter the season with the catching duo of Tuffy Gosewisch and Oscar Hernandez, who was taken in last month’s Rule 5 Draft. Gosewich racked up a .225/.242/.310 batting line over 132 plate appearances in 41 games last season, while serving as Miguel Montero’s backup. Montero, of course, was traded to the Cubs last month.

Though the D-backs had been linked to a number of rumors involving catchers in the aftermath of trading away Montero, the team has instead decided to stand pat at the position for the time being. As for Navarro and Castillo, both players remain possible trade chips with each of their respective clubs having upgraded behind the plate earlier this offseason.

– Paul Casella

Moncada still not cleared, plans to hold workouts this month

Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada still has not been cleared by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to sign with a Major League team, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Sanchez adds that Moncada has plans to hold seven private workouts this month with undisclosed teams.

The Yankees and Red Sox were recently mentioned by Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel as the “heavy favorites” to ultimately sign the 19-year-old middle infielder, who can also play third base. Moncada is considered one of the most highly-touted international prospects in the game right now, with Sanchez listing him as the top Cuban player to keep an eye on.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Moncada is subject to international signing guidelines, due to the fact that he is under 23 and did not play in a Cuban professional league for at least five seasons. In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool based on the team’s 2013 record during the international signing period, which started on July 2. Both the Yankees and Red Sox are in the maximum penalty range for the 2014-15 international signing period, which prohibits them from signing any player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods.

Considering Moncada is expected to ultimately land a substantial contract, neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox would be able to sign Moncada if he does not become eligible to sign before June 15 — though there is nothing to suggest that will happen at this point.

– Paul Casella

Gee trade could be on the horizon

The Mets expect to trade right-hander Dillon Gee within the next “7-10 days,” according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, though free agent James Shields’ final decision could impact that timetable.

The Mets have been actively shopping Gee for much of the offseason, with the Rockies, Padres and Giants believed to be the current frontrunners. That said, the Giants have also been linked to Shields, meaning they may want to let that situation play out before making a substantial offer to the Mets.

Gee has been one of the more popular starting pitchers mentioned in trade talks this offseason, along with the Phillies’ Cole Hamels. Gee and Hamels have often been mentioned as potential fallback options for pitching-needy teams that ultimately miss out on Shields, especially with Jon Lester having already signed with the Cubs last month.

– Paul Casella

Albers expected to hold workout next month

Free agent reliever Matt Albers plans to hold a workout for teams early next month, according to FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, after missing the majority of last season due to shoulder issues.

Albers, who has been throwing since Dec. 1, was limited to just eight outings in 2014, the last of which came on April 21. His injury-riddled campaign came on the heels of posting a 3.14 ERA over 56 appearances with the Indians in 2013 and a career-best 2.39 ERA across 63 combined outings between the Red Sox and D-backs in 2012.

He was off to another strong start last season, allowing just one earned run over 10 innings (0.90 ERA) before shoulder problems derailed his season. The Astros ultimately declined his $3 million club option following the season.

– Paul Casella

Red Sox, Dodgers showing interest in Ogando

The Red Sox and Dodgers have been “aggressive” in their pursuit of free agent right-hander Alexi Ogando, according to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com.

Though Ogando’s injury history has presented a serious concern for some clubs, the righty reportedly impressed at least some scouts at his workout last week, attended by approximately two dozen teams. The Red Sox and Dodgers were both among the clubs represented at that showcase.

Ogando struggled to a 6.84 ERA over 27 injury-hampered appearances with the Rangers last season. He was 7-4 with a 3.11 ERA over 23 outings (18 starts) in 2013, while again being slowed by injuries.

Ogando, who can serve as either a back-end starter or a reliever, is expected to make a decision next week. It’s unclear what it’ll take to sign him, but he’ll likely settle for a contract loaded with performance-based incentives after being limited by shoulder and elbow injuries in each of the last two seasons.

– Paul Casella

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