The Indians signed a free-agent starting pitcher on Saturday, but it wasn’t Ubaldo Jimenez. Instead of bringing back Jimenez, who rejected a qualifying offer from the club in November, Cleveland signed right-hander Aaron Harang to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The veteran is expected to compete for the fifth spot in the Indians’ rotation.
Cleveland also prevailed in its arbitration case against pitcher Josh Tomlin. The right-hander will earn $800,000 this season. The Indians have another arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday with starter Justin Masterson, but the sinkerballer says the pending
contract talks don’t bother him at all.
In other Hot Stove news:
• The Cubs added depth to their bench, signing veteran utility man Emilio Bonifacio. He was released by the Royals on Wednesday after being designated for assignment on Feb. 1.
• The Mariners and first baseman Justin Smoak avoided salary arbitration, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with a club option for 2015. Seattle has now signed all of its arbitration-eligible players.
• The A’s and outfielder Josh Reddick agreed to a one-year deal, clearing the club’s arbitration slate.
• The Red Sox won’t be going to any arbitration hearings either after coming to terms with left-handed reliever Andrew Miller on a one-year contract for 2014.
• The Orioles claimed utility man Jimmy Paredes off waivers from the Marlins. The switch hitter is expected to compete for a spot on Baltimore’s bench.
And then there were three. With free-agent right-hander Bronson Arroyo agreeing Friday to a two-year deal with the D-backs that includes a club option, the remaining big-name starters on the market are A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Like Arroyo, whichever club signs Burnett will not lose a first round pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft. Santana and Jimenez, on the other hand, don’t fall into that category. So where will Burnett land?
The Pirates could have the inside track, writes MLB.com’s Tom Singer, but the Orioles and Nationals are also in the running. Burnett and his camp have kept their thought process secret thus far, but with Spring Training on the horizon, something is likely to happen soon.
The Phillies appear to be out of the Burnett sweepstakes, and will instead turn their attention to former closer Ryan Madson, who has not pitched since 2011 because of Tommy John surgery and complications following the procedure.
In other Hot Stove news:
• Nelson Cruz remains on the market, and MLB.com’s Mike Bauman examined the potential risks and rewards for clubs looking to sign the outfielder. Cruz would significantly boost any lineup, however, the slugger has a history of injury, will turn 34 in July and served a 50-game PED suspension last year.
• Meanwhile, the A’s locked up outfielder Coco Crisp through at least 2016 with a two-year contract extension that includes a vesting option for 2017. Last year, Crisp became just the 10th player in Oakland history with at least 20 doubles and 20 home runs in a single season.
• The Brewers brought back reliever Francisco Rodriguez, this time on a one-year deal worth at least $3.25 million. In a corresponding roster move, pitcher Donovan Hand was designated for assignment.
• The White Sox also added to their bullpen mix, signing right-hander Mitchell Boggs to a one-year, $1.1 million contract.
• Outfielder Jimmy Paredes was designated for assignment by the Marlins to open a roster spot for infielder Jeff Baker, who agreed to a two-year deal this week.
• The Nationals agreed to terms with veteran reliever Luis Ayala on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Ayala, 36, is one of the few remaining players to have appeared with the Expos.
• The Pirates inked catcher Omir Santos to a Minor League deal that includes an invitation to big league camp.
• First baseman Matt LaPorta and the Orioles agreed to a Minor League contract. LaPorta has not appeared in a Major League game since 2012, when he played 22 games with the Indians.
• Royals pitcher Everett Teaford cleared waivers and remained in the organization with an assignment to Triple-A Omaha. The left-hander has been invited to Major League Spring Training.
The Hot Stove saw a flurry of activity involving relievers on Thursday, most notably closer Fernando Rodney reportedly agreeing to a two-year contract with the Mariners worth at least $14 million.
Rodney was the top bullpen arm on the market entering Thursday. Over the past two seasons with the Rays, he collected 85 saves and posted a 1.91 ERA. Seattle has not confirmed the deal, which won’t be official until he passes a physical.
Meanwhile, the Marlins and Carlos Marmol reached an agreement on a one-year contract worth $1.25 million. A former All-Star closer with the Cubs, Marmol transitioned to a middle relief role last season after being traded to the Dodgers. The veteran is expected to compete for a setup role this year. Miami added further depth to its bullpen in Chaz Roe, who agreed to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training.
The Cardinals were also in on the action, signing veteran Pat Neshek to a Minor League deal with an invitation to big league camp.
In other news from around the league:
• Despite interest from at least a dozen teams, the Nationals are in no rush to trade second baseman Danny Espinosa, writes MLB.com’s Bill Ladson. Although he’s coming off a down year, Washington still has faith in Espinosa and will give him every chance to make the club this season.
• The D-backs inked outfielder Mark Trumbo to a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration.
• The Cubs and second baseman Darwin Barney won’t be going to arbitration after agreeing to a one-year contract. The deal leaves right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija as Chicago’s only arbitration eligible player.
• Catcher Matt Wieters and the Orioles also avoided arbitration by coming to terms on a one-year deal.
• Infielder Brett Wallace was designated for assignment by the Astros in a move to open a roster spot for pitcher Jerome Williams, who agreed to a one-year pact earlier this week. Houston has 10 days to trade Wallace, outright him to the Minor Leagues or release him.
• Tampa Bay signed five players to Minor League contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training: infielder Wilson Betemit, outfielders Justin Christian and Jeremy Moore, catcher Eddy Rodriguez and right-hander Juan Sandoval.
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Spring Training in less than two weeks, time is running out for free-agent starters A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo to find work. However, the Orioles are rumored to be in talks with those big-name arms, writes MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli.
Baltimore executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said Saturday his club has “some more work to do this offseason.” In addition to talking to several free-agent starters, Duquette and the Orioles would also like to avoid an arbitration hearing with catcher Matt Wieters. For his part, Wieters said he’s staying out of the contract negotiations.
Perhaps once Burnett, Santana, Jimenez or Arroyo reaches a deal with a club, the rest will follow suit. Although that quartet remains on the market, there was still movement on the Hot Stove on Saturday:
• The Nationals and right-handed starter Doug Fister agreed to a one-year deal, avoiding arbitration. With Fister under contract for 2014, reliever Tyler Clippard is the only player expected to take Washington to arbitration this month. Clippard seeks $6.35 million, while the Nationals have offered $4.45 million.
• In a similar development, the Dodgers and catcher A.J. Ellis avoided arbitration by coming to terms on a 2014 contract worth $3.55 million plus incentives. That leaves closer Kenley Jansen as the only remaining Dodgers player eligible for arbitration. Jansen is looking for $5.05 million and the club has offered $3.5 million.
• Veteran utility man Emilio Bonifacio was designated for assignment by the Royals in a move to clear roster space for left-handed starter Bruce Chen, who recently inked a new contract. Kansas City has 10 days to place Bonifacio on waivers, release him or trade him.
• Giants head of baseball operations Brian Sabean said the organization would still consider signing a veteran reliever, though “it would have to be at a minimal price.”
An already thin third-base market got a little slimmer on Thursday, with veteran Michael Young choosing to retire rather than pursue offers from a few teams. With Young off the market, Placido Polanco and Cody Ransom are the top third basemen available.
As MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes, Young was adored by teammates, coaches and fans over a 14-year Major League career. During his 13 seasons with the Rangers, Young not only established himself as the face of the franchise, he was a perennial Gold Glove candidate and an offensive threat.
Although Young’s retirement dominated the headlines on Thursday, the Hot Stove did see some more action:
* With Spring Training right around the corner, MLB.com’s Phil Rogers examined the remaining free agent crop and put together an interesting team of available players. A.J. Burnett, Ervin Santana, Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jimenez and Tommy Hanson are among the top starting pitchers still on the market, not to mention Jason Hammel and Paul Maholm. Several talented relievers are also available, most notably closer Fernando Rodney.
As for position players, such big names as shortstop Stephen Drew, slugger Kendrys Morales and outfielder Nelson Cruz are all looking for work. The Hot Stove will surely heat up as these players move closer to signing deals.
* Meanwhile, left-hander Bruce Chen and the Royals are close to completing a one-year contract; Chen needs to undergo a physical before the deal becomes official.
Chen’s almost certain return to Kansas City’s rotation is likely to have an impact on Santana, who posted a 3.24 ERA with the Royals last year. MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel predicts Santana is “not likely to follow Chen back through the Royals clubhouse door.”
- Austin Laymance