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Pirates, Dodgers, Blue Jays among Martin suitors

As expected, the list of clubs with interest in free agent catcher Russell Martin is substantial. It’s been reported that the Cubs have met with Martin, and the Pirates, Dodgers and Blue Jays are also expected to do so.

It’s worth noting that Martin played the first five years of his career — from 2006-10 — with the Dodgers, twice being named an All-Star and winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2007. He’s played the last two seasons with the Pirates, and is a Canada native, so all three landing spots would make sense for the 31-year-old.

Martin hit .290 with 11 homers and 67 RBIs for the Pirates last year. Without him, the Bucs are looking at a catching corps of veteran backup Chris Stewart and youngster Tony Sanchez.

A.J. Ellis was the Dodgers’ everyday catcher last year (93 games), but he hit just .191 with three homers and 25 RBIs. Veteran Dioner Navarro caught 139 games for the Jays last year, and had more comparable numbers (.264 average with 12 homers and 69 RBIs) to what Martin could provide . The Jays are set to pay him $5 million next season.

– Joey Nowak

Report: Sandoval rejects Giants’ QO

It comes as really no surprise, but Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval has reportedly turned down San Francisco’s qualifying offer that was made official yesterday.

FOXSports.com‘s Ken Rosenthal tweeted the news Tuesday morning, which means Sandoval will hit the free agent market this winter. The Giants will receive a compensatory draft pick in the 2015 Draft if Sandoval signs with another club.

Sandoval is the first of the 12 players who received $15.3 million qualifying offers to turn it down. Most are expected to do so. The deadline to come to that decision is 5 p.m. ET on November 10.

– Joey Nowak

12 players receive qualifying offers

With the Monday afternoon deadline coming and going, 12 top free agents have received a $15.3 million qualifying offer.

They are: James Shields (Royals)Michael Cuddyer (Rockies), Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez (Tigers)Ervin Santana (Braves)Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers), Pablo Sandoval (Giants), Melky Cabrera (Blue Jays)Francisco Liriano and Russell Martin (Pirates), David Robertson (Yankees) and Nelson Cruz (Orioles).

Thirteen players received $14.1 million qualifying offers —  determined by the average annual salary of baseball’s top 125 contracts — last year, and none of them accepted. Cruz and Santana were both a part of that group, and neither signed until late in the offseason (Cruz on February 24 and Santana on March 12). It is expected that most — if not all — will reject the one-year contract, though Cuddyer, Liriano and Robertson are most likely to accept.

The aforementioned 12 players now have until 5 p.m. ET on November 10 to accept or decline the qualifying offer. If they sign with another club, the team that offered them the qualifying offer will receive a compensatory draft pick in the 2015 Draft.

– Joey Nowak

Relievers Davis, Peralta have options picked up

Two of the best late-innings relievers in the game will not hit the free agent market this winter, as the Rays picked up the option on right-hander Joel Peralta‘s contract for next season and the Royals did the same with setup man Wade Davis.

It comes as no surprise that the Royals would pick up Davis’ $7 million option after his standout 2014 season. The right-hander was dominant in a team-high 71 appearances for Kansas City, going 9-2 with a 1.00  ERA in 72 innings ahead of closer Greg Holland.

Davis’ 1.00 ERA led all Major League relievers and was eighth-lowest all-time by an AL reliever. His 109 strikeouts were also a club record for a reliever.

Peralta, who ranked second on the Rays staff with 69 appearances last year, leads all Major League pitchers with 296 appearances since he joined the Rays in 2011.

“Joel has accomplished a lot in a Rays uniform, and we are excited to welcome him back for a fifth season,” Erik Neander, the Rays’ vice president of baseball operations, said in a statement. “He’s a fiery competitor, a model teammate and a leader in the clubhouse.”

Peralta’s option was for $2.5 million.

– Joey Nowak

Shields gets qualifying offer

Royals right-hander James Shields, as expected, is now among the Major Leaguers to be extended a qualifying offer.

Kansas City made the $15.3 million offer official on Monday. Shields now has until the 5 p.m. ET deadline on November 10 to decline or accept the offer. If he declines and opts to sign with another club, the Royals will receive a compensatory pick in the 2015 Draft.

Shields is expected to decline the offer and become one of the most sought-after free agent pitchers on the market this winter, though it does not necessarily rule out a return to Kansas City.

The 32-year-old righty helped pace the Royals to the postseason for the first time in 29 years this season. He went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA in the regular season, but went just 1-2 with a 6.12 ERA in five playoff starts.

In two years with the Royals, Shields has won 27 games in 68 starts, with a 3.18 ERA. He’s thrown at least 227 innings in both seasons.

– Joey Nowak

Brewers’ Ramirez exercises his half of mutual option

Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez exercised his half of his mutual option on Monday, and will remain with the club at least one more year.

The Brewers exercised their half on Friday. Ramirez will make $14 million in 2015.

The 36-year-old veteran hit .285 with 15 home runs and 66 RBIs in 133 games this year. He was named an NL All-Star for the third time in his career and the first time during his Milwaukee tenure.

– Joey Nowak

Rays exercise option to keep Zobrist

The Rays announced Friday they have picked up the $7.5 million club option on utility man Ben Zobrist‘s contract for 2015.

This year, Zobrist will become the first player in club history to play 10 seasons with the Rays. He is the franchise career leader in doubles (229) and walks (542) and is second to Carl Crawford in games played (1,064), hits (1,016), runs scored (565) and triples (32).

“Ben has been integral to the success that the Rays have enjoyed throughout his career here,” Rays VP of baseball operations Chaim Bloom said in a statement. “His skill and versatility on the field, combined with his character and selflessness, make him the ultimate team player. We are excited to continue forward with him.”

Zobrist’s current deal was finalized in 2010. He hit .272 with 10 home runs, 52 RBIs, 34 doubles, 10 stolen bases, 83 runs, 75 walks and a .354 on-base percentage in 146 games this year, and was selected by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the BBWAA as the Don Zimmer Most Valuable Player.
Zobrist will join teammates Evan Longoria and Jeff Beliveau in Japan this month for a five-game All-Star Series against the Japanese national team.
– Joey Nowak

Tigers expected to pick up Soria’s option

The Tigers made a high-profile midseason trade for Joakim Soria last year that did not pan out, but they’re hoping to see better results from him in 2015.

The team is reportedly set to pick up Soria’s $7 million option, MLB.com‘s Jason Beck reported on Friday. The Detroit Free Press‘ Anthony Fenech first reported the news.

Soria, who previously closed for the Royals and the Rangers, was acquired by the Tigers from Texas on July 23 but appeared in only 13 games largely due to injury, as well as an unclear role in the Detroit bullpen.

He had a 2.70 ERA in 35 games (17 saves) with Texas before posting a 4.91 ERA with Detroit (one save). Soria was twice an All-Star with Kansas City, saving 160 games in five years.

Beck tweeted Friday that Soria is expected to handle the 8th inning duties with free agent Joba Chamberlain gone and Bruce Rondon hopefully back from Tommy John surgery. Joe Nathan will be back, and expected to close.

– Joey Nowak

Brewers pick up Gallardo’s option, decline Weeks’

According to MLB.com‘s Adam McCalvy, the Brewers have exercised the 2015 club option on starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo‘s contract.

Gallardo will make $13 million during the 2015 season and be a free agent thereafter.

The 28-year-old right-hander made 32 starts for the Brewers this season, going 8-11 with a 3.51 ERA. He threw 192 1/3 innings, and has thrown at least 180 in every season for Milwaukee since 2009.

Also as expected, team has declined the club option on longtime second baseman Rickie Weeks. The 2003 first-round draft pick, who hit .274 with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 121 games this season, also had a contract option based on plate appearances that he did not reach.

– Joey Nowak

Yankees trade for Prado

The Yankees have landed another piece at the Trade Deadline, acquiring Martin Prado from the D-backs.

The utility man was an All-Star in 2010 with the Braves before he was dealt in January 2013 in the deal that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta. Over two seasons with the D-backs, Prado has hit .278 with 19 homers and 124 RBIs.

The D-backs will receive power-hitting catching prospect Peter O’Brien, along with a player to be named later or cash considerations, in the deal. O’Brien is considered by MLB.com’s Prospect Watch to be the team’s No. 9 overall prospect, and has spent this season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.

MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert also reported Arizona will not be including any cash in the deal for Prado’s contract.

– Joey Nowak

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