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Phillies backing off Tomas

The Phillies, once considered favorites to land free agent outfielder Yasmany Tomas, have cooled on the idea of signing the 23-year-old Cuban defector, according to Major League sources.

While the Phils, who had a private workout with Tomas, still like his bat there are concerns about his defense. They now view him as more of a designated hitter-type player, the sources added.

Of course, that thinking could change if the price for Tomas, once estimated to be as high as $100 million, begins to come down. The Phillies are trying to trade right fielder Marlon Byrd with an eye toward moving Domonic Brown from left to right. That would mean they would need to fill the vacancy in left internally (Grady Sizemore, Darin Ruf, Aaron Altherr) or from outside the organization.

Meanwhile, the primary offseason goal is to add at least two starting pitchers to a rotation that currently features left-handers Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee – their 2014 Opening Day starter who is a question after missing the final two months of the season with a flexor pronator strain.

– Paul Hagen

Tomas to meet with teams at Winter Meetings

Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents of the offseason, and CBSSports.com‘s Jon Heyman is reporting that the slugger will be meeting with MLB clubs at the upcoming Winter Meetings in San Diego.

Tomas is also expected to command a deal bigger than the six-year, $72.5-million contract that Rusney Castillo received from the Red Sox.

Heyman says the Phillies, Giants and Padres have long been considered the front-runners, but the Royals — perhaps because of the loss of Billy Butler and the hole in right field — and “several other surprise teams” have recently joined the fray.

Heyman also suggests that there is some disagreement on where Tomas could play in the big leagues, with evaluators saying everything from corner outfield spots to third base.

– Joey Nowak

Young reportedly looking for two-year deal

Veteran outfielder/designated hitter Delmon Young is looking for a club willing to sign him to a two-year contract, according to MASN‘s Roch Kubatko.

It appears the Orioles would be willing to bring Young back, but just not on those terms. The 29-year-old was a very serviceable bench piece last year in Baltimore, appearing in just 83 games but hitting .302 with seven homers and 30 RBIs.

Young has shown that he can still hit with some average and for power, and that he can still produce for a contender down the stretch and in the postseason. Those factors will all make him a valuable commodity if someone is willing to meet his terms.

– Joey Nowak

Reports: Red Sox have made Lester an offer; Braves visit next

If free agent pitcher Jon Lester is interested in returning to Boston, those wheels have reportedly already been set in motion.

ESPN.com‘s Gordon Edes reported that the Red Sox have already made an offer to Lester, though they do not expect him to make a decision on it immediately.

Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman says that Lester’s next meeting will be with the Braves, who play just a short distance from Lester’s home in Peachtree City, Ga.

This free agency tour — the Cubs are also in the mix — is likely the reason why the Red Sox don’t expect to hear an answer from Lester any time soon.

Bowman writes that there’s “a chance this meeting will simply enhance the demand” for Lester, though the Braves’ proximity to Lester’s home and their new ballpark set to open in 2017 could be enticing. He also writes that Atlanta could be in the position to make more deals like the Jason Heyward trade to create financial flexibility in order to boost the team’s pitching.

– Joey Nowak

Cubs planning conservative approach

The Cubs missed out on one of the top-tier free agents – catcher Russell Martin, who signed a five-year, $82 million contract with the Blue Jays — on Monday, and they’re prepared for that process to repeat itself with other players, as well.

While many people – fans and media included – are pinning high hopes on the Cubs to make a big splash this winter, the inter-organizational thinking is quite a bit more conservative. The Cubs will certainly do their due diligence at the top of the starting pitching market, for example (they were reportedly meeting with Jon Lester on Tuesday), but, according to a Major League source, they are generally leery of the top-of-the-market prices and more inclined to abstain.

The Cubs do plan to make meaningful additions (a reunion with Jason Hammel, for instance, remains possible), but they know that their young position players are going to need time to develop at the big-league level, particularly in a division as deep as the NL Central (a division that became even more difficult Monday, when the Cardinals acquired Jason Heyward). They also know that next winter’s free-agent pitching class (which could include David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and old friend Jeff Samardzija, among others) could be even deeper than this year’s, so there could be value to patience.

 –Anthony Castrovince

Report: Tigers’ interest in Melky “very, very real”

The Tigers need to bring in at least one outfielder — especially with the loss of Andy Dirks on waivers — and the highly sought-after Melky Cabrera appears to be on their radar.

Greg Brady, from CJCL AM-590 in Toronto, tweeted that the Tigers would consider moving J.D. Martinez to right field, keeping Rajai Davis in center and signing Cabrera to play left field. That would also assume the Tigers do not re-sign Torii Hunter, who is a free agent but has also said he’s contemplating retirement.

Cabrera turned down the Blue Jays’ one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer in hopes of landing a long-term deal.

– Joey Nowak

Reports: Red Sox have serious interest in Sandoval

It has reportedly come down to a two-team race for Pablo Sandoval, with the Giant and Red Sox most squarely in the mix to land the free agent third baseman.

Sandoval has spent his entire career in San Francisco, and the Giants have made it clear since winning the World Series that bringing him back is a priority (they made him a qualifying offer, which he rejected).

But the Red Sox have also emerged as a strong candidate to get Sandoval, who could play third base and transition into the designated hitter role in Boston if/when David Ortiz retires.

According to FOXSports.com‘s Ken Rosenthal, the White Sox and Blue Jays have also had “limited” interest in Sandoval. He also says the Sox are weighing other options.

– Joey Nowak

Reports: Robertson rejects Yanks’ QO

With the 5 p.m. ET deadline rapidly approaching, there have been multiple reports that Yankees reliever David Robertson has turned down New York’s one-year, $15.3-million qualifying offer.

Robertson, along with Francisco Liriano and Michael Cuddyer (who just signed a two-year deal with the Mets), were considered the most likely to accept their teams’ deal. No player has ever done so.

YES Network‘s Jack Curry first reported the news. Curry says the Yankees and Robertson will continue to work toward a more long-term deal.

–  Joey Nowak

Mets sign Cuddyer to 2-year deal

Just ahead of the 5 p.m. ET deadline for free agents to make a decision on their qualifying offer, Michael Cuddyer rejected the Rockies’ and agreed to a two-year deal with the Mets.

Cuddyer had been considered one of the 12 players who received an offer that could accept it. He would have been the first since the system began two years ago.

Now the Rockies will receive a compensation pick in the 2015 Draft and the Mets will lose the 15th pick in the Draft. New York will also lose the draft bonus money associated with the slot.

“Michael is a tremendous addition to the middle of our lineup,” Mets GM Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “He is a proven offensive threat who also brings versatility in the field with the ability to play multiple positions.”

Cuddyer won the NL batting title in 2013 with the Rockies after hitting a career-best .331 in 130 games. He played just 49 games last year because of a left shoulder strain and left hamstring strain, but still hit .332 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs.

– Joey Nowak

Royals: Out on Shields, in on Santana and outfielders?

If the Royals lose out on James Shields — which is expected to be the case — there’s a possibility they could turn to a different former starter to help fill the void in the rotation.

Ervin Santana, who also received a qualifying offer this month (from the Braves), may be a better fit for Kansas City, who is likely to be priced out of a deal with Shields. Santana, 31, spent one season in KC, going 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 2013.

He received a qualifying offer after that season and turned it down, opting for free agency and held out until March 12 before signing on with the Braves. Despite all that waiting and deliberation last season, Santana is still expected to reject Atlanta’s qualifying offer before Monday’s deadline.

Regardless of whether they land Shields or Santana (or neither) the Royals are still likely to make a play for an outfielder, with Nori Aoki becoming a free agent. He could re-sign with Kansas City, and there’s a prevailing thought that the Royals may go after veteran Torii Hunter. Jon Heyman reports that Melky Cabrera (another former Royal, who received a QO from the Blue Jays) may also be a possibility.

– Joey Nowak

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