After a frantic week of offseason activity to begin December and the usual stream of rumors pouring out of the Winter Meetings last week, the Hot Stove cooled down considerably on Sunday.
Or as Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond tweeted Sunday night, the Hot Stove League is “not so hot lately.”
Stoves not so hot lately and I’m a little disappointed. Who’s the next big FA off the board?
- Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) December 16, 2013
But there still were a few notable deals done and hints that more could be coming soon. Let’s take a look at Sunday’s news from around the Majors:
• The Cardinals are going to finish their offseason shopping early, as they are nearing a one-year deal with second baseman Mark Ellis. The right-handed hitter should complement young Kolten Wong in St. Louis’ infield, providing a solution for the last area of need the club had identified. The Cardinals have not confirmed the agreement, as MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reported, and Ellis must pass a physical before the contract can be finalized.
• The Indians agreed to terms with reliever John Axford, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian confirmed Sunday night. The 30-year-old right-hander was traded to St. Louis in August, compiled a 1.74 ERA and pitched well in the postseason, but he had seven blown saves last season. Axford, a former closer with the Brewers, was non-tendered this offseason by the Cardinals. ESPN’s Buster Olney first reported that the Tribe was “on the verge” of signing Axford.
• That news prompted Fox Sports and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal to speculate on Twitter how the rest of the bullpen market might shake out. Rosenthal noted that with Axford heading to the Indians, the Orioles expressing interest in Grant Balfour and the Padres pushing for Joaquin Benoit, the Mariners and Yankees could be options for former Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
• Yankees president Randy Levine said during an ESPN Radio appearance that New York has “absolutely no intention” of trading Brett Gardner despite the speculation following the club’s signing of Jacoby Ellsbury. Levine reiterated what general manager Brian Cashman said at the Winter Meetings: The Yankees will listen to the interest in Gardner, but the plan is to have both Gardner and Ellsbury in the Opening Day outfield.
• MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes that the Braves are in the midst of “serious discussions” with starter Gavin Floyd, who’s only seven months removed from Tommy John surgery. Bowman reports that the two sides are nearing an agreement, but it’s not known whether it will be a Major League or Minor League deal.
• Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network tweeted that there’s still a strong market for starter Matt Garza, even if the Twins aren’t likely to pursue him anymore. Heyman pointed to Garza’s solid 2013 performance, his history of success in the American League East and the lack of Draft-pick compensation attached to Garza.
The Cardinals are nearing a one-year deal with second baseman Mark Ellis, according to multiple reports on Sunday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold first reported the deal was close.
According to reports, the deal is pending a physical.
The 36-year-old Ellis spent the last two seasons with the Dodgers, and has also spent time with the Rockies and A’s. He hit .270 with six homers and 48 RBIs in 126 games last season.
The veteran is expected to serve as a complement to rookie Kolten Wong at second base.
– Joey Nowak
Gavin Floyd is five years removed from his only 200-inning Major League season and seven months removed from elbow reconstruction surgery. But the Braves are targeting him to provide starting pitching depth and possibly serve as the veteran presence they have been aiming to add to their inexperienced rotation.
A source familiar with the situation said the Braves have had “serious discussions” with Floyd and that the two parties appear close to an agreement. It is not known whether it would be a Major League or Minor League deal.
Floyd made just five starts for the White Sox this past season before having to undergo Tommy John surgery on May 6. During the procedure, Dr. David Altchek reconstructed the 30-year-old hurler’s right elbow by repairing a torn ulnar collateral ligament and torn flexor tendon.
Because both the tendon and ligament were repaired, Floyd could need more than the 12-month rehab schedule starting pitchers often experience after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Multiple post-surgery reports indicated he could be sidelined 14-19 months. If this proves to be true, he could be sidelined until early July.
Floyd has gone 69-69 with a 4.38 ERA in the 186 Major League starts he has made since the Phillies selected him with the fourth overall selection in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft. The White Sox acquired Floyd and Gio Gonzalez in exchange for Freddy Garcia on Dec. 6, 2006.
After producing a 5.89 ERA in the 29 starts he made from 2004-07, Floyd produced some encouragement, going 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA in the 33 starts he made during the 2008 season. But he has compiled a 4.22 ERA in the 125 starts he has made over the five seasons that have followed.
– Mark Bowman
The Mariners have been one of the most aggressive teams this offseason, signing Robinson Cano to a massive contract, then adding two more power bats at this week’s Winter Meetings, in Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.
But there still could be more moves on the horizon, and one in particular makes a lot of sense, writes our Richard Justice. He believes Seattle should beef up its offense further by adding free-agent Nelson Cruz.
In other news from around the league on Saturday:
- The Dodgers have filled the most significant hole in their lineup, agreeing to a two-year deal with free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe.
- The Marlins also held some interest in Uribe, so his signing leaves them looking at other options at third base, writes our Joe Frisaro.
- The Twins signed their third starting pitcher so far this offseason, agreeing to bring back righty Mike Pelfrey on a two-year deal. Minnesota, still looking to add another arm, is unlikely to sign Matt Garza but is open to Bronson Arroyo, according to a tweet from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network.
- The Mets announced their two-year deal with Bartolo Colon, officially adding the 40-year-old to their starting rotation.
- The Braves could be close to signing free-agent right-hander Gavin Floyd, according to a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Floyd, coming off Tommy John surgery, is expected to return to action in May.
- With free-agent second baseman Omar Infante set to sign with the Royals, the Yankees’ interest in a trade for the Cubs’ Darwin Barney “may pick up,” according to a tweet from Bruce Levine of Chicago’s WSRC-AM and 670thescore.com. The teams held earlier talks about Barney, Levine writes.
- The Royals signed three players, including reliever Cory Wade, to Minor League deals.
– Andrew Simon
A source confirmed to MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger on Saturday night that free-agent right-hander Mike Pelfrey has agreed on a deal to return to the Twins. The agreement was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network, who tweeted that Pelfrey will make a guaranteed $11 million, with another $3.5 million in performance bonuses.
Pelfrey, who turns 30 next month, went 5-13 with a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts for Minnesota last season, after undergoing Tommy John surgery the year before while with the Mets. He is the third starting pitcher to sign with the Twins this offseason, joining Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.
– Andrew Simon
Free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe will sign a two-year deal to return to the Dodgers, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com and MLB Network. No terms were reported, and the club has not confirmed the move, which would fill a major hole in its lineup.
After two down seasons with Los Angeles, Uribe bounced back in 2013, hitting .278/.331/.438 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs in 426 plate appearances. The 34-year-old also hit .375 with two homers in the National League Division Series against the Braves, including the go-ahead two-run shot in the eighth inning of the decisive Game 4.
– Andrew Simon
Baseball’s Winter Meetings ended on Thursday, but that doesn’t mean the Hot Stove came to a halt on Friday.
Even with general managers, agents and media members gone from Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the action continued, and the free-agent market continued to grow thinner. A pair of players reportedly agreed to new contracts, with first baseman James Loney set to return to the Rays on a three-year deal and second baseman Omar Infante heading to Kansas City on a four-year agreement.
In other news from around the league:
- The Yankees introduced new center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, making his seven-year, $153 million contract official.
- Former Yankee Robinson Cano saw two pieces of lineup protection added to his new club, as the Mariners held an introductory press conference for Corey Hart and Logan Morrison. Those additions do not signal the end of Seattle’s offseason shopping, however.
- The Rockies finalized their two-year agreement with first baseman Justin Morneau and also have reportedly signed lefty reliever Boone Logan to a three-year pact.
- The Red Sox made their two-year deal with Mike Napoli official. Teammate David Ortiz, whose contract with the Red Sox expires after the 2014 season, is looking for a one-year extension.
- The Pirates announced a pair of one-year contracts, re-signing shortstop Clint Barmes and adding right-hander Edinson Volquez.
- The Tigers announced their one-year agreement with reliever Joba Chamberlain.
- Our Paul Hagen runs down the top names still available after the Winter Meetings.
- With free-agent options dwindling, the Brewers could turn to the trade market to fill their need for a first baseman, our Adam McCalvy writes.
- Might the Braves really trade stud closer Craig Kimbrel? Our Mark Bowman tackles that question in his latest inbox article.
- Outfielder Jason Kubel, coming off a rough 2012 with the D-backs and Indians, is returning to the Twins after signing a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League Spring Training.
- The D-backs signed right-hander Daniel Hudson and catcher Henry Blanco to Minor League deals with Spring Training invites. Hudson, who hasn’t pitched since early ‘12 due to injury, was non-tendered earlier this month.
- The Marlins continue to have interest in free-agent third baseman Juan Uribe, writes our Joe Frisaro.
– Andrew Simon
Infante played 118 games for the Tigers last season and hit .318 with 10 home runs, 51 RBIs and a career-high .795 OPS. The 31-year-old also has spent time at shortstop, third base and the outfield over 12 big league seasons, hitting .279 with a .721 OPS.
– Andrew Simon
Free-agent first baseman James Loney is “on the verge” of signing a multi-year contract with the Rays, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. Loney will make $21 million over three years, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com and MLB Network, although the club has not confirmed a deal.
The 29-year-old signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay as a free agent last winter and had a bounceback season, hitting .299/.348/.430 with 13 home runs and 75 RBIs.
– Andrew Simon
The Cubs claimed right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Twins on Friday. The 24-year-old is 2-13 with a 6.06 ERA in 30 Major League appearances (28 starts) with the Twins over the last three seasons.
Hendriks originally signed with the Twins as a non-drafted free agent in February 2007 and made the Minnesota Opening Day roster for the first time in 2012, going 1-8 with a 5.59 ERA in 16 big league starts.
He became the 28th Australian-born player and 20th pitcher to ever play in the big leagues when he made his MLB debut with Minnesota in 2011.