With baseball’s hot stove at a full boil and the Winter Meetings a week away, free agent first baseman/outfielder Corey Hart finally got the good news on Tuesday that he had eagerly been anticipating.
“Cleared!” Hart wrote in a text message to MLB.com, indicating he had been medically cleared for full baseball activities by the surgeon who performed the second of Hart’s two knee surgeries this year.
Hart, 31, is a free agent for the first time after sitting out the entire 2013 season, having undergone right knee surgery in January and then left knee surgery in July. He had been rehabbing in recent weeks by running and participating in agility drills, but Hart’s formal foray into the open market was on hold while he awaited final medical clearance from Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The two met Tuesday in Los Angeles.
With his medical clearance in hand, Hart is ready to begin fielding offers from interested clubs. He said last month that a number of teams, including the Brewers, Rays, Red Sox and Rockies, had called to check in, but clubs were not willing to discuss contract parameters until Hart was fully functional.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hart had yet to receive any offers. Asked this week whether Hart would have an offer in hand from the Brewers before the start of next week’s Winter Meetings, Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin said, “There’s a possibility he will.”
Another potential suitor may have fallen off the board Tuesday, just as Hart was sharing his good news. The Rockies were reportedly moving toward a two-year deal with another first baseman, Justin Morneau.
– Adam McCalvy
The Astros on Tuesday acquired outfielder Dexter Fowler and a player to be named later from the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Brandon Barnes and right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles.
Fowler, 27, hit .263 with 18 doubles, 12 home runs, 42 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 65 walks and a .369 on-base percentage in 119 games with Colorado last season. The switch-hitting outfielder started 106 games in center field for the Rockies in 2013 and has been Colorado’s primary center fielder for the last five seasons (2009-13).
Barnes, 27, hit .240 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs in 136 games in what was his rookie season in 2013. He appeared in 179 Major League games over the last two seasons (2012-13) with the Astros. Barnes was originally a sixth-round pick by Houston in the 2005 draft.
Lyles, 23, went 7-9 with one save and a 5.59 ERA in 27 games (25 starts) with the Astros last season. He appeared in 72 games (65 starts) for the Astros since his MLB debut in 2011. Lyles was originally a supplemental first-round draft pick by Houston in the 2008 draft.
– Brian McTaggart
MIAMI — The process continues in the Marlins’ pursuit of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
Miami has strong interest, and has a multi-year offer is on the table. But as of late Tuesday afternoon, nothing was finalized. And nothing was imminent.
The Marlins and Twins are believed to be the two contenders after reports the Rangers were not interested.
The Red Sox have moved in another direction by signing A.J. Pierzynski.
Saltalamacchia, the 28-year-old catcher, is in the process of considering his options.
According to Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com, the Marlins have a two-year offer with a club option for a third year on the table.
Financial terms and years have not been confirmed.
The Denver Post reported Saltalamacchia will be heading to the Marlins. At some point, that may occur, but nothing was imminent as of late Tuesday.
The Marlins are not expected to be major players in free agency, and signing a player to a multiyear deal right now is something the team is sorting out.
Clearly, the Marlins are hopeful of landing Saltalamacchia.
As of now, the team isn’t seriously looking at fallback options. That would change if they don’t sign Saltalamachia.
– Joe Frisaro
Last month, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson dined with Robinson Cano’s agents, including Jay-Z at a posh Manhattan hotel. A few weeks later, Alderson continued his dinner circuit with what appears to be a more serious pursuit of outfielder Curtis Granderson.
Alderson dined with Granderson Sunday night in San Diego, touching base with a power-hitting outfielder who could fill one of the team’s most pressing needs.
“We ate a nice meal and it was great to enjoy some salmon,” Granderson said on a conference call Tuesday to announce Tony Clark’s appointment as executive director of the MLB Players’ Association. “Other than that, it was kind of what you would expect: a conversation, a Q and A, and continue the process moving forward.”
Asked if he had any additional meetings on his calendar, Granderson quipped that he had one scheduled with union executives later Tuesday afternoon. Neither Alderson nor Granderson’s agent, Matt Brown, returned messages seeking comment.
Seafood aside, a marriage between Granderson and the Mets would make sense on multiple levels. Granderson, 32, is accustomed to playing in New York, having spent the past four seasons with the Yankees. He took to the city, hitting 84 homers from 2011-12 before multiple injuries derailed his 2013 season.
The Mets, meanwhile, are searching for a corner outfielder to pair with Chris Young and Juan Lagares, potentially pushing Eric Young, Jr. into a utility role. Granderson’s left-handed power would also make it easier for the team to part with first basemen Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, perhaps in a deal for starting pitching.
But no marriage is perfect. There are significant questions regarding Granderson’s ability to transition from Yankee Stadium — arguably the most left-handed power-friendly ballpark in the Majors — to more neutral Citi Field. Granderson will also be 33 on Opening Day and is coming off an injury-plagued season.
Then there is the matter of money. The Mets have openly balked at the prospect of handing out nine-figure deals to top free agents Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo, and are not expected to pursue marquee free agents at any position. While Granderson would certainly come cheaper than Ellsbury or Choo, the industry assumption is that he can land a four-year deal in the neighborhood of $60 million.
A popular clubhouse presence in New York, Granderson has already been linked to the Yankees, Cubs and White Sox, among others.
“The free agent market has been enjoyable,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited about what the next step and chapter is in my baseball career.”
Last month, Alderson, assistant GM John Ricco and COO Jeff Wilpon met with Cano’s representatives at a Manhattan hotel. The GM later defined the meeting as more of an introduction to Jay-Z, who recently founded the talent agency Roc Nation Sports, than a negotiation session.
The A’s are pulling off yet another deal on Tuesday afternoon, with outfielder Seth Smith heading to San Diego in exchange for reliever Luke Gregerson. Chris Kusiolek reported it first, and the teams made it official around 4:45 p.m. ET.
This move certainly strengthens the A’s already-sturdy bullpen ahead of newly-acquired closer Jim Johnson. Gregerson has held an ERA under 3.00 each of the last three seasons with the Padres. Smith hit .246 with 22 homers and 92 RBIs over the last two seasons (242 games) with the A’s. The Oakland outfield was becoming crowded after the acquisition of Craig Gentry from Texas today.
– Joey Nowak
The three-team deal that was alluded to when Ryan Hanigan was first reportedly sent to Tampa Bay has been completed, and reliever Heath Bell will join Hanigan on the Rays.
While Tampa Bay acquired those two players — from the Reds and D-backs, respectively — the D-back have acquired right-hander Justin Choate and a player to be named later from the Rays. Cincinnati acquires left-handed David Holmberg from the D-backs.
The Rays and Hanigan agreed to a three-year contract extension covering the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, with a club option for 2017, worth a guaranteed $10.75 million.
“Devin Mesoraco will have the opportunity to become a front-line catcher for us,” Reds GM Walt Jocketty said in a statement. “Holmberg provides us with the quality pitching depth that every team needs.”
– Joey Nowak
The Rangers and A’s put together an intra-divison trade on Tuesday, sending outfielder Craig Gentry and right-handed pitcher Josh Lindblom to Oakland, while the A’s sent minor leaguers Michael Choice and Chris Bostick to Texas.
After they recently re-upped with Jose Molina, the Rays have made a move to acquire catcher Ryan Hanigan from the Reds, multiple news outlets have reported. FOXSports.com‘s Ken Rosenthal had it first, noting that it may be a three-team trade.
This presumably means Hanigan will be the Rays’ primary catcher, Molina will back him up and Jose Lobaton will be dealt. And it likely means the starting catching job in Cincinnati belongs to Devin Mesoraco.
Hanigan hit just .198 in 75 games this season but has a career. 359 on-base percentage.
– Joey Nowak
Two sought-after free agent closers appear to suddenly be off the market.
Just a short while after it was reported the Tigers were nearing a deal with Joe Nathan, Yahoo!’s Tim Brown has reported the Dodgers are close to bringing back Brian Wilson.
The right-hander made a comeback late last season, allowing just one run in 13 2/3 innings over 18 games with Los Angeles. The three-time All-Star saved 36-plus games from 2008-11 with the Giants.
– Joey Nowak
The most active team this winter appears to be at it again.
Ken Rosenthal tweeted that he and colleague Jon Morosi have learned the Tigers are close to a deal with free agent closer Joe Nathan.
Detroit on Monday traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Nationals, and has already acquired Ian Kinsler this winter for Prince Fielder. Clearly, trading away two big pieces has freed up some salary space to sign Nathan.
The 39-year-old Nathan, who was an All-Star with the Rangers the last two seasons, has 341 career saves.
– Joey Nowak