Just one year removed from one of the most impressive seasons ever produced by a closer, Fernando Rodney has spent the past few months finding it difficult to gain employment. But recent reports have indicated the Mets and Orioles have at least some level of interest in signing Rodney.
ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin reported the Mets began speaking to Rodney after losing their bid to sign Grant Balfour, the veteran closer who signed a two-year deal with the Rays on Thursday.
The interest in Balfour and Rodney creates reason to believe the Mets are concerned about their projected closer Bobby Parnell, who missed the final two months of the 2013 season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.
After trading Jim Johnson to the A’s, the Orioles seemingly satisfied their need for a closer by agreeing to a deal with Balfour. Medical reports voided that potential deal soon after that agreement was reported.
While the Orioles could certainly use Rodney, who has combined for 85 saves over the past two seasons, MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli describes the club’s current interest in the closer as “lukewarm.”
– Mark Bowman
After missing out on Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka and possibly veteran right-hander Matt Garza — Garza remains in talks with the Brewers after a deal seemed imminent on Thursday — the Angels have reportedly turned their sights elsewhere for starting pitching help. On Thursday, after it seemed Garza had been taken off the market by Milwaukee, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweeted that he expects the Angels to either stand pat or strike a bargain-type deal with a pitcher such as Bronson Arroyo, Chris Capuano or Paul Maholm.
On Friday, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the Angels indeed have a “bit of interest” in Arroyo, but they would also feel comfortable entering spring training with their current options.
The Halos’ starting rotation, as of now, consists of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garret Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Joe Blanton, Mark Mulder, Wade LeBlanc and Matt Shoemaker could all also potentially enter the equation.
As far as any other options, Gonzalez reported Thursday that the club is unlikely to surrender its 15th overall Draft pick to sign Ubaldo Jimenez or reunite with Ervin Santana. Veteran A.J. Burnett is not considered to be an option either, as it is unlikely he would want to pitch on the West Coast, assuming he pitches at all, in 2014.
– Paul Casella
The theory went that once Masahiro Tanaka signed, the rest of the free-agent market would loosen up after weeks at a near standstill. Well, the Yankees won the bidding for the Japanese right-hander on Wednesday, and on Thursday — as if on cue — more action followed.
Although several significant free agents remain available — pitchers such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, for instance — the chips began to fall in Tanaka’s wake. With the Rays signing closer Grant Balfour and the Brewers drawing close to a deal with starter Matt Garza, Thursday was a signal that the Hot Stove could once again be sizzling.
Here’s a look at news from around the league:
- Garza reportedly had agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Brewers on Thursday, but the club later announced that negotiations were “ongoing.” If the contract goes through, it will qualify as a strong move for Milwaukee, writes MLB.com columnist Mike Bauman.
- Balfour had a deal with the Orioles fall through earlier in the offseason after issues arose with his physical, and that allowed the veteran to wind up back with Tampa Bay, on a two-year deal. Balfour was a setup man for the Rays from 2007-10 but returns as the club’s ninth-inning man after a successful stint in Oakland.
- Tanaka held a press conference with the Japanese media in Tokyo and said the Yankees gave him the “highest evaluation,” and he is “going there to win the World Series.”
- Tanaka’s new general manager, Brian Cashman, said his offseason “heavy lifting” likely is complete, although there still are areas for him to address. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network, the club is considering adding free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, now that it won’t be able to stay under the luxury tax threshhold. Drew could play second base or move back to short if Derek Jeter is injured.
- With Clayton Kershaw’s massive extension with the Dodgers now about a week old, two other All-Star pitchers expressed their desire for long-term contracts that would allow them to stay put. Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer told reporters at the Tigers’ Winter Caravan that he hopes to get something done by this spring, or if not, after the season. Meanwhile, Red Sox lefty Jon Lester stated his desire to remain with the only organization he has known for the rest of his career.
- On the topic of extensions, the Marlins have interest in signing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to one, now that they have avoided arbitration with a one-year contract for 2014.
- This has been a much more patient type of offseason for the Angeles, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez, who also takes a look at five free-agent starters whom the team could target.
- Elsewhere in the AL West, the Mariners also are looking to add a starter, preferably a veteran who could fill the No. 3 slot in their rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
- Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said he thought his club was going to be able to sign outfielder Grady Sizemore but that Sizemore, “changed his mind at the last minute,” before signing with the Red Sox on Wednesday.
- Thursday also brought some Minor League deals for veteran players, with righties Jon Rauch and David Aardsma signing with the Royals and Indians, respectively, lefty Aaron Laffey going to the Orioles and outfielder Endy Chavez returning to the Mariners.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with infielder Joaquin Arias, signing him to a two-year deal.
– Andrew Simon
The chips are starting to fall after the Masahiro Tanaka deal.
Many predicted free agent starting pitchers would start hammering out deals once the Japanese ace found an MLB team, and Matt Garza appears to be the first. FOXSports.com‘s Ken Rosenthal tweeted Thursday that Garza and the Brewers have agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal, pending a physical.
Garza pitched for the Cubs and Rangers last season, combining to go 10-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 24 starts.
– Joey Nowak
The Rays sent out a notice on Thursday morning that the club would be making a major announcement this afternoon, and multiple reports have surfaced now that it will be to announce newly-signed reliever Grant Balfour.
The former A’s closer was close to reaching an agreement with the Orioles earlier this offseason, but the deal fell through because of issues with his physical. Andrew Rickli first reported this bit of news on Thursday, and FOXSports.com‘s Ken Rosenthal tweeted the agreement is for two years.
Balfour, 36, has spent 10 seasons in the Majors but has become a real force the last two seasons with Oakland, when he has combined for 62 saves.
– Joey Nowak
The Red Sox and former Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore have agreed to a one-year deal worth $750,000 with the potential for that contract to increase to $6 million after incentives.
Sizemore, 31, hasn’t played since 2011 because of a slew of injuries, and from 2009-11, he played in just 70 games per year. But before he was bitten by the injury bug (both knees, sports hernia, lower back, left elbow), Sizemore was a three-time All-Star, who averaged 27 home runs in his four full seasons.
Boston manager John Farrell served as the Indians’ farm director from 2001-06 — the same time Sizemore was making his rise through the club’s ranks.
Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka signed a seven-year contract worth $155 million with the New York Yankees on Wednesday. Add in the $20 million posting fee, and the Bronx Bombers committed $175 million to the Japanese right-hander.
The contract includes an opt-out clause that can be exercised after the 2017 season. Tanaka was also given a full no-trade clause.
Winner of the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award the past two seasons, Tanaka posted a 1.27 ERA and a 24-0 record with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2013.
The total value of Tanaka’s contract ranks as the fifth-highest for a pitcher in Major League history — behind Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia.
The free-agent market’s most coveted arm, Tanaka also received serious interest from the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Astros and D-backs.
Masahiro Tanaka has captivated Hot Stove followers for much of the offseason, and now that the deadline for the Japanese free agent to choose a Major League team is fast approaching, Tanaka Watch is only intensifying. Several interested teams, including the D-backs, are waiting intently for his decision.
As MLB.com’s Doug Miller writes, Tuesday was another day with much speculation but little actual news, starting with an innocuous Tanaka tweet that quickly was misinterpreted.
Regardless of where Tanaka ends up, the long process will leave him with huge expectations and several disppointed suitors, as MLB.com columnist Phil Rogers writes. Tanaka also is a shining reminder of baseball’s international growth, according to columnist Mike Bauman.
In other news from around the league on Tuesday:
- The Indians have not taken part in an arbitration hearing since 1991, but as MLB.com Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian reports, the longest streak in the Majors seems likely to end this year. The club and All-Star righty Justin Masterson exchanged salary figures that stand nearly $4 million apart, a gap that could be too wide to cross without a hearing. Bastian also reports that the two sides remain far apart on a possible contract extension, with Masterson set for free agency after this season.
- Astros owner Jim Crane confirmed that his club, underdogs in the Tanaka sweepstakes, nonetheless has participated in the bidding.
- The White Sox have a Tanaka-or-bust mentality when it comes to adding to their rotation, reports beat writer Scott Merkin, who doesn’t believe the club will explore other free-agent options, such as Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez.
- The Angels, on the other hand, have targeted Garza, as Alden Gonzalez writes in his latest inbox. Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm and Chris Capuano could be some of their other options as they try to bolster their rotation.
- Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon addresses several issues in his inbox, including a potential signing of Grady Sizemore and the status of Homer Bailey.
- The Phillies had a busy day, highlighted by signing Bobby Abreu to a Minor League deal. Abreu, a star with the club from 1998-2006, didn’t play in the Majors last season but parlayed a strong winter ball campaign in Venezuela into another chance. Philadelphia also avoided arbitration with lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo and signed veteran righty Chad Gaudin to a Minor League deal, getting a pitcher with the versatility to start or come out of the bullpen.
- As part of this notebook, Rangers beat writer T.R. Sullivan reports that the Rangers are “cautiously optimistic” that starters Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis, both on the comeback trail from injuries, will be 100 percent for Spring Training. Lewis is one candidate for the No. 5 starter job, in a race that also includes second-year righty Nick Tepesch.
- The Royals signed outfielder Justin Maxwell to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration and leaving them with two unsigned arbitration-eligible players.
– Andrew Simon
Philadelphia has signed veteran right-hander Chad Gaudin to a minor league deal with an invite to major league Spring Training.
The 30-year-old righty appeared in 30 games (12 starts) for the Giants last season, going 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .227 average.
After beginning the year with 18 consecutive relief appearances (posting a 2.05 ERA), he was moved to the starting rotation in June and stayed there. His season ended in mid-August due to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Gaudin has bounced around the Majors over 11 seasons, spending the most time (four years) with the A’s. He’s 45-44 in his career with a 4.44 ERA. Of his 344 career appearances, 87 have been starts.
– Joey Nowak
When Clayton Kershaw signs a contract extension worth $215 million or Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka chooses which Major League team will enjoy his services, there is no question the consequences will be significant.
But on the Hot Stove, even small pieces of news can carry big ramifications.
Take the Braves’ inability to reach one-year deals with arbitration-eligible stars Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward last week. The club exchanged salary figures with each player on Friday and appears unlikely to work out any agreements prior the hearings that will come during the first three weeks of next month. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman writes, these cases could impact the franchise’s course for several years to come, with its crop of young standouts growingly rapidly more expensive — and possibly too expensive to keep in the long term.
In other news from around the league on Monday:
- The Rays settled on a 2014 contract with ace left-hander David Price last week, avoiding arbitration and taking another step toward keeping the former American League Cy Young Award winner in Tampa Bay for another season. While the always creative Rays still could find an enticing trade for Price, it’s looking more and more like he will be the club’s Opening Day starter, as MLB.com columnist Anthony Castrovince writes.
- The Mariners struck one of the big blows of the offseason by signing free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano, but as MLB.com columnist Tracy Ringolsby discusses, they continue to search for ways to improve following a 71-win season.
- Rumors have swirled around Tanaka all offseason, through negotiations over a new posting system, the Rakuten Golden Eagles’ decision about whether to let him go, and then the current bidding war among MLB clubs. But the issue of the right-hander’s U.S. destination finally will be settled this week.
- Minor League signings don’t tend to get much attention, but at Sports on Earth, Jack Moore discusses six who could make an impact this season, including the Rangers’ Colby Lewis and the Brewers’ Mark Reynolds.
- Milwaukee added another veteran first baseman on a Minor League deal, bringing in Lyle Overbay for his second stint with the club.
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison, coming back from an injury-plagued ‘13, is on track to begin the season in the team’s starting rotation, which needs all the help it can get with Derek Holland likely sidelined for the first half. As T.R. Sullivan writes, Texas is mulling its fifth-starter options, which include internal candidates, as well as free agents.
- With Kershaw’s signing done, the Dodgers could have Hanley Ramirez next on their agenda.
- In his latest inbox, MLB.com Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian explains why the Tribe is unlikely to trade either shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera or pitcher Justin Masterson before the start of the season, despite both players being one year from free agency.
- Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch tackles several topics in his own inbox, including the possibility of a Stephen Drew signing or an Ichiro Suzuki trade.
– Andrew Simon