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Report: Padres sign IF Brooks Conrad

Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday morning that the Padres have signed 33-year-old infielder Brooks Conrad to a minor league deal, though it does not include an invite to Major League Spring Training.

Conrad, who played in Japan last season and last appeared in the big leagues with the Rays in 2012, split time between Milwaukee and Tampa Bay in his last major league season. He has five years of Major League experience after debuting with the A’s in 2008 and then signing with Atlanta, where he played three seasons.

Conrad spent last year with the Japan Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, batting .175 (10-for-57) over 24 games.

– Joey Nowak

1/3 Hot Stove Roundup

With cold weather and snow blanketing much of the country as the calendar turns over to 2014, baseball fans are growing more and more excited for Spring Training.

The Hot Stove quieted down over the holidays, but you can expect things to heat up again as teams make final pushes for the remaining free agents and cross the final items off their to-do lists before reporting to either Arizona or Florida. Here’s a recap of Friday’s Hot Stove action:

  • The biggest news of the day came out of St. Petersburg, where the Rays officially inked first baseman James Loney to a three-year deal. It’s the largest deal awarded to a free agent by the Rays under the current ownership and was a priority for the team coming into the winter, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.
  • The other deal of the day came out of Baltimore, where the Orioles signed speedster Quintin Berry to a minor league deal. The outfielder has been valuable in stints with the Tiger and Red Sox, with whom he’s demonstrated a prowess in stealing bases. Berry, 29, has played all three outfield spots and is a close friend of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. But, perhaps most importantly, he is 29-for-29 in career stolen base attempts.
  • The Reds, down an impact outfielder since losing Shin-Soo Choo to free agency, have reportedly explored adding Grady Sizemore, MLB.com‘s Mark Sheldon reported today. Sizemore hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2011 but has showed plenty of potential while healthy in his time with the Indians.
  • Shortstop Stephen Drew remains a free agent, which comes as a bit of a surprise now that he’s proven healthy and capable of helping a club, Marc Nordmandin writes for Sports on Earth. There’s been more chatter about who Drew will not be playing for, Normandin writes, than who he will be playing for.
  • CBS Sports‘ Jon Heyman reported the details of Houston’s one-year deal with reliever Jesse Crain on Friday, noting that the right-hander will receive $3.25 million in guaranteed money.
  • There figure to be plenty of teams in the running for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal reports the D-backs will most assuredly be one of them. He writes that the money the team had earmarked to potentially spend on Choo is now available for other uses — namely a top-tier starting pitcher.

– Joey Nowak

Mulder reportedly looking West

Veteran pitcher Mark Mulder, who’s looking to make a comeback after five seasons out of the big leagues, apparently has a few suitors and is considering teams on the West Coast and that train in Arizona. 

ESPN.com‘s Jerry Crasnick reports the Angels, D-backs and Giants were the first three teams to watch Mulder when he first worked off a mound in November. Crasnick says Mulder is “close” to finding a team. MLB.com‘s Alden Gonzalez has also reported the Angels are in the mix

The 36-year-old former first-round pick (of the A’s in 1998) pitched nine seasons in the big leagues (five with Oakland, four with St. Louis) and was an All-Star in 2003 and 2004.

– Joey Nowak

White Sox claim Surkamp; Blue Jays claim Morel

The White Sox have claimed left-hander Eric Surkamp off waivers from the Giants, while the Blue Jays have claimed Sox infielder Brent Morel.
Surkamp, 26, went 7-1 with a 2.80 ERA and 71 strikeouts over 16 starts between Class-A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno last season in the Giants system. He made one start with the Giants (July 23 against the Reds).
Surkamp began last season on the DL after missing the entire 2012 season following UCL replacement surgery on his left elbow in July 2012.
The 26-year-old Morel played in 12 games for the White Sox last year, hitting .200 (5-for-25). He hit .266 with six homers and 54 RBIs in 106 games for Triple-A Charlotte.
Morel has spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues, hitting .229 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs in 194 games.
– Joey Nowak

Jocketty to Enquirer: Hamilton will play CF

With the departure of Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds have an outfield hole to fill and it sounds like it will be speedster and top prospect Billy Hamilton lending a hand. 

Reds GM Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s John Fay that the plan is for Hamilton to play center field and lead off next season.

“He’s the guy,” Jocketty reportedly told Fay. “We feel confident he can be a good leadoff hitter. He’ll give us great defense. The only question is how often he can get on base. He’ll start working on his bunting again after the first of the year. If he can master that, it will really help him.”

The 23-year-old stole 13 bases in 14 attempts last September as a call-up after stealing 75 in the minors. He also swiped a record-155 bases in 2012. Hamilton is considered the Reds’ No. 1 prospect by MLB.com. 

– Joey Nowak

Orioles claim RHP Hendriks, Cubs claim RHP Marshall

The Orioles have claimed right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Cubs before he could throw a pitch in the Chicago organization. And in the meantime, the Cubs have claimed right-hander Brett Marshall from the Yankees.

Hendriks was claimed by the Cubs from the Twins on Dec. 13. The righty appeared in 10 games (eight starts) for the Twins last year, going 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA in 47 1/3 innings. He also made 16 starts for Triple-A Rochester.

Hendriks was signed by the Twins as an international free agent in 2007, and will be the third Australian-born Oriole in club history (John Stephens in 2002 and Damian Moss in 2003) when he makes his Major League debut. Over six seasons in the Twins minor league system, Hendriks went 42-28 with a 2.99 ERA in 100 games (98 starts).

Marshall, 23, made his MLB debut last season in three relief appearances over two stints with the Yankees, posting a 4.50 ERA (six earned runs in 12 innings). He spent most of last season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 7-10 with a 5.13 ERA in 25 starts. He struck out 120 and walked 68.

Marshall was designated for assignment by the Yankees on Dec. 19. After the season, he was considered the Yankees’ sixth-best prospect by Baseball America. 

– Joey Nowak

Decision on Tanaka may come soon

MLB teams may know sometime this week whether the Rakuten Golden Eagles will make prized right-hander Masahiro Tanaka available via the posting system.

Baseball America’s Ben Badler reported that a decision — which has drawn the attention of the baseball community the last few weeks — could come Tuesday or Wednesday.

Badler says Tanaka is currently away making appearances in Tokyo, but should hear from the Eagles in their next meeting when he will be posted. It’s expected to come by Christmas Day.

The deadline for the team to make the decision is Feb. 1.

–Joey Nowak

Report: White Sox nearing deal with Scott Downs

The White Sox are closing in on a deal with lefty reliever Scott Downs, the FOX Sports duo of Rosenthal-Morosi reported on Thursday.

Ken Rosenthal tweeted Thursday that the one-year deal is in the $4 million range with a vesting option that could bring it to somewhere in the neighborhood of two years, $8 miliion. He added that the option will vest if Downs pitches to around his normal workload. The deal is pending a physical.

Downs, 37, went 4-4 with a 2.49 ERA in 68 appearances between the Angels and Braves last season.

– Joey Nowak

Chien-Ming Wang to sign with Reds

The comeback continues for Chien-Ming Wang who continues to try to make it back in the big leagues to stay after a few failed attempts over the last couple years. He has reportedly signed with the Reds on a minor league contract that includes an invite to Spring Training. 

If he makes the Major League roster, Wang would earn $1.25 million, and he could make as much as $3 million if he reaches all the incentives in the deal. 

The 33-year-old won 19 games in both 2006 and 2007 for the Yankees, but hasn’t been the same since shoulder surgery in 2009. He missed the 2010 season, then appeared in 21 games (16 starts) for the Nationals from 2011-12 before becoming a free agent. 

He pitched well in last year’s World Baseball Classic, which likely earned him a contract with the Yankees, but he never reached the big leagues with New York. He signed with Toronto and turned in two strong outings mixed in with four dismal ones. He finished the 2013 season with a 7.67 ERA in 27 innings of work.

– Joey Nowak

Marlins sign IF McGehee

The Marlins have signed infielder Casey McGehee to a one-year deal. 

McGehee, who has played first, second and third base, has not played in the big leagues since 2012 with the Yankees. He appeared in 114 games combined between the Pirates and Yankees that season, batting .217 with nine home runs and 41 RBIs.

The 31-year-old played for Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball last season, leading the team to its first Japan Series championship. He He played in all 144 regular season games — batting .292 with 28 home runs and 93 RBIs — and hit .289 in 11 postseason games. 

His last strong year in the Majors was 2010, when he hit .285 with 23 home runs and 104 RBIs with the Brewers. 
– Joey Nowak
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