Veteran third baseman Brandon Inge, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder in mid-September, is on the verge of signing a Minor League deal with an invite to big-league camp, according to a baseball source.
The 35-year-old was choosing between a pair of teams, but his destination isn’t yet known.
Inge had a .218/.275/.383 line between Detroit and Oakland last season, with 12 home runs. Injuries held him to 82 games last season after he played 102 the year before. He became a leader on the A’s, but was forced to the disabled list on Aug. 14 with a sprained right shoulder. He was reinstated Sept. 1 before re-injuring the shoulder.
– Evan Drellich
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and assistant GM John Ricco flew to Houston last week to have dinner with free-agent outfielder Michael Bourn and his agent, Scott Boras, according to the New York Post. But the meal “was more a getting-to-know-you session than a dollars-and-cents negotiation,” according to the newspaper, “at a time when the dollars and cents remain among the most significant hurdles in doing a deal.”
Alderson has made it clear to MLB.com and other media outlets that he is not willing to give up the Mets’ 11th overall draft pick as compensation in order to sign Bourn. So barring some successful 11th-hour rules appeal, it’s difficult to envision a deal happening — secret dinner or not.
Right-hander Kip Wells wants to pitch again in 2013. A baseball source said the Mets are among three interested teams, logical because of ties the Mets’ braintrust and Wells both have to San Diego.
Wells turns 36 in April and went 2-4 with a 4.58 ERA in a seven-start reprise with the Padres last season. Next year would be his 13th in the big leagues.
Wells has been training all winter but of late has had to give special attention to his 3 1/2 year-old son, who’s set to undergo heart surgery.
– Evan Drellich
Both New York teams, as well as three other clubs, have contacted the representative for free agent outfielder Ben Francisco, according to Mark Hale of the New York Post.
Agent John Boggs tells Hale that he and his client are looking for the “best opportunity” for Francisco “and who will offer the most at-bats.” Francisco, 31, batted .240 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 82 games last season with the Blue Jays, Astros and Rays.
The Mets and Yankees have also both expressed interest in signing Scott Hairston as they seek a right-handed hitting outfielder, but Hairston is believed to want at least a two-year deal.
- Bryan Hoch
The Yankees fielded a call from agent Scott Boras last month asking if they’d be interested in re-signing reliever Rafael Soriano to a one-year deal, according to Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record.
According to Klapisch, the request was “flatly denied.”
Yankees GM Brian Cashman has said that he is not looking for any upgrades in the bullpen, with Mariano Rivera’s one-year, $10 million deal restoring the all-time saves leader to the closer role. New York also has Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Boone Logan and David Aardsma among those who will compete for setup slots this spring.
Soriano opted out of his contract with the Yankees following the season, forfeiting the remaining $14 million he was owed for 2013 in favor of a $1.5 million buyout. The Yankees made Soriano a qualifying offer of one year at $13.3 million, which he rejected.
Because of that qualifying offer, there is draft pick compensation attached to Soriano, which appears to have impacted his free agent market.
- Bryan Hoch
Lance Berkman told MLB.com on Saturday he had agreed to a one-year with deal with a vesting option for 2014 with the Texas Rangers, pending a physical. Berkman said he was mulling retirement and wouldn’t have played if the circumstances weren’t right.
The Rangers proved to be the perfect fit for several reasons, Berkman said.
“There is a lot of things,” he said. “One is the opportunity to DH. I think that’s going to be really good for me from a physical standpoint in terms of staying healthy for a full year and obviously geography – I’m a Texas guy all the way – so I could get back to the home state and being close to home is huge for me and my family. I think the Rangers have an excellent chance to win. I think they have a very solid team, so all those things kind of add up and it makes a lot of sense.”
Berkman, who turns 37 on Feb. 10, was considering retirement after an injury-plagued 2012 with the Cardinals. He underwent two surgeries on his right knee and played 32 games, hitting .259 with an .826 OPS, two home runs and seven RBIs. Berkman appeared in only six games and started two after July 29 and was left off St. Louis’ playoff roster.
– Brian McTaggart
MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton is a force in the middle of the Miami Marlins. But like any player in the organization, the 23-year-old slugger is not considered “untouchable.”
But that doesn’t mean the Marlins are actively looking to deal Stanton or that the club is planning on trading him anytime soon.
Still, Stanton speculation is running high.
On Sunday, the All-Star right fielder’s name surfaced once again after a Sirius/XM/MLB Network Radio report.
Marlins assistant GM, Dan Jennings, was a guest on the “Front Office” show, with hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette.
Jennings was asked if the Marlins would listen to offers for Stanton. Per company policy, the team does so on any player.
“Oh, I think that’s been our M.O. I know in the 10 years I’ve been here that’s our M.O.,” Jennings said during the radio segment. “We’ve never not listened to a deal on any player. Sometimes I chuckle when I hear people say, ‘This guy’s untouchable,’ and ‘That guy’s untouchable.’ You know what? They may be untouchable until someone either overwhelms you or you get a package back that makes such a significant improvement on your club going forward. So we’ve always been willing to listen.”
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has long stated the same points.
“I think Larry, he’s never said, ‘No.’ But what we’re not going to do is move a player for less than what we value their ability,” Jennings said. “In Giancarlo Stanton you’ve got a [23-year-old] guy that we think going forward has got a chance to be a .300 hitter and [hit] 50 home runs and be a guy that is a big-time run producer. So while we’re not shopping him, certainly not looking to move him, yeah, if someone knocked on our door and said, ‘Hey, would you guys consider this and this and this,’ you have to listen.”
Basically, Jennings repeated the team policy, and there isn’t anything new here, other than a team official publicly addressing Stanton by name.
Yes, the Marlins would move Stanton, but only for a tremendous haul, which means, he would essentially clean out the top prospects of any organization. It would basically take four or maybe five players to complete a deal for Stanton.
Stanton will not be arbitration eligible until 2014, and he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. So the Marlins are in no rush to trade Stanton. Yet, it remains highly unlikely he will agree to a long-term contract.
It is appearing more inevitable that sometime before he reaches free agency that Stanton will be moved, because the Marlins are reloading their roster, and will look to add as many quality pieces in the next few years.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Two touted Cuban prospects will work out for MLB scouts on Jan. 5. Don’t expect the Marlins to pursue either one of them.
According to a source, Miami has zero interest in either Dariel Alvarez or Aledmys Diaz, two Cuban natives who were declared free agents earlier this month.
Alvarez is a 24-year-old outfielder, and Diaz, 22, is a shortstop.
The Marlins are not expected to attend their workout.
A year ago, the Marlins aggressively pursued Cuban-born outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who ended up signing with the A’s. The organization was in a different situation then, looking for a big year with an expensive roster that has since been broken up.
At this point, the Marlins are not willing to spend multi-million dollars on unproven international players.
While the Marlins don’t like to use the word “rebuilding,” there is little pretense about what the franchise is looking to accomplish right now. Although it is unpopular to part with proven players like Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, Miami is in the process of restocking the organization from the bottom up.
At the big league level, they may be bracing to take their lumps for a couple of years, but the hope is they will develop the necessary foundation to come out of the stretch stronger in the future.
And there are some solid prospects like Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick who aren’t that far away from being big league ready.
Development is about to take on a greater importance, since the club isn’t expected to be a serious player on the free agent market for at least a year or two.
To turn things around as quickly as possible, the Marlins will be looking to find impact players in their First-Year Player Draft, as well as making sure they receive value in return on any trades that may be made in the near future.
So don’t look for any quick-fix, high-cost signings, or for Miami to be in the mix for Alvarez or Diaz.
– Joe Frisaro
When we last heard from first baseman Adam LaRoche and the Nationals, there had been “a little bit of progress” toward a new contract. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still trying to finalize a deal with free agent Mike Napoli, with Boston GM Ben Cherington noting that he’s “got to keep active” looking for a Plan B at first base if Napoli doesn’t work out.
Perhaps LaRoche could be Plan B for the Red Sox. Ken Rosenthal of FOX and MLB Network reported on Thursday morning that the two sides are talking about two- and three-year deals.
It’s well established at this point that LaRoche wants a three-year contract, but the Nationals have been firm in their desire to stick to a two-year deal. Back on Dec. 1, LaRoche told MLB.com that he’s “made it as clear as I can that I want to come back” to the Nationals. LaRoche posted a .271/.343/.510 batting line with 33 homers and 100 RBIs in 2012, winning a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger while leading Washington to a first-place finish in the NL East.
There is still plenty of uncertainty regarding Napoli’s status in Boston. It’s been more than three weeks since his three-year, $39 million deal was first reported, but the contract has not yet been made official. According to Rosenthal’s report, Boston’s doctors found a problem with one of Napoli’s hips during a team physical, and the Red Sox are attempting a “major renegotiation” with him.
While LaRoche could very well be Boston’s preferred Plan B to Napoli, Rosenthal acknowledges that this development could also be an attempt to create leverage for both sides. If Boston lands LaRoche, Napoli would be left without a contract, so he could feel pressured into accepting the renegotiated deal. And while the Nationals have an ideal replacement at first base in Michael Morse, they might feel pressured to take LaRoche’s desire for a three-year deal more seriously if the Red Sox are indeed considering signing him.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a text Saturday the team is not in “active discussions at this time with free agents.” The text came after Luhnow was asked about Jose Lopez telling reporters at a press conference in Venezuela he was closing to signing with the Astros. Lopez said he was flying to Houston on Wednesday, presumably for a physical.
Lopez, 29, hit .246 with four homers in 248 plate appearances with the Indians and White Sox last year. He played first base, second base, third base and right field. He best year was in 2009, when he hit 25 homers with 96 RBIs for Seattle.
-- Brian McTaggart