Report: Cuban INF Olivera impresses at showcase

When it comes to Cuban infielders, much of the attention has focused on 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, who is expected to sign with a team by the end of the month.

Another Cuban, Hector Olivera, can’t match Moncada’s young age or sky-high potential. But the 29-year-old second baseman is generating plenty of interest in his own right.

Olivera played a showcase game in front of hundreds of scouts in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, with Baseball America’s Ben Badler tweeting that the Dodgers, Giants, A’s and Padres were among the teams with a “notable presence” at the event. Olivera did not let them down, reaching base in all five of his plate appearances, including two doubles.

This was the third showcase for the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Olivera, who has played second and third while displaying power and above-average speed, according to Badler. He has a strong track record in Cuba, where he hit .316/.412/.474 with seven homers in 73 games during the 2013-14 season, after missing the previous year. Olivera is expected to be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball sometime soon and figures to have plenty of suitors when he does.

— Andrew Simon

Zito, Albers hold workouts in Houston

Barry Zito and Matt Albers are trying to make it back to the Majors in 2015 and each hosted a separate pitching workout session Tuesday in Houston for teams to watch.

The Astros attended Zito’s session but skipped Albers, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle.

Four or five teams have reportedly attended the workouts for the former American League Cy Young award winner, although it is unclear how many were in attendance Tuesday.

Zito, 36, finished with a 5.74 ERA in 2013, the final year of a disappointing seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants. He sat out the 2014 season.

Neither of his former teams, the A’s and Giants have expressed any interest.

Twelve teams were reportedly in attendance for Albers’ workout, where he reached 91 mph on the radar gun. He threw just 10 innings in 2014, before shoulder problems ended his season.

Albers, 32, would like to sign before Spring Training and had a MRI recently to prove he was healthy.

Teams rumored to still be searching for bullpen arms include: Minnesota, Toronto, Milwaukee and Miami.

— Jamal Collier

Phillies holding Hamels despite ‘aggressive offer’

As Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently, left-hander Cole Hamels now is expected to be with the club for Opening Day, following an offseason full of trade rumors.

Perhaps the Phillies have been wise to exercise patience in looking for a return that could jumpstart their rebuilding process. On the other hand, it’s also possible the club has been too picky instead of simply taking the best package available now and moving forward.

Amaro has succeeded in trading shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielder Marlon Byrd this offseason but so far has not unloaded Hamels, fellow lefty Cliff Lee (coming off an elbow injury), closer Jonathan Papelbon or first baseman Ryan Howard. Of those, Hamels would command by far the best package, considering his track record, strong 2014 (a 2.46 ERA in 30 starts) and age (31).

Yet the chances of a Hamels deal took a dive when the Padres agreed to a four-year contract with free agent James Shields over the weekend. San Diego, one of nine teams not on Hamels’ no-trade list, “wanted Hamels” and “made an aggressive offer” for him, according to’s Ken Rosenthal. But the Phillies, apparently looking for at least one “blue-chip prospect” in return, did not feel they were getting enough to move Hamels and the nearly $100 million left on his contract.

A source told Rosenthal that Philadelphia would prefer to trade with Boston, but the Red Sox are on Hamels’ no-trade list, and so far the club has not been willing to offer what the Phillies want. Therefore, unless something changes, they will go into the regular season with Hamels and take the risk of injury or underperformance hurting his value.

— Andrew Simon

Moncada hoping to sign with team soon

With James Shields off the board, there isn’t much impact talent left on the free-agent market. Yet one player continues to generate significant speculation, despite a lack of professional experience in the United States.

Yoan Moncada, the dynamic 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder from Cuba, recently was cleared to sign with a big league club. His agent, David Hastings, told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that the plan is for Moncada to take offers over the next two weeks. At that point, Hastings hopes he and his client will “have a much clearer picture” of Moncada’s destination.

The goal is for Moncada to sign soon after so he can report to Spring Training with that team and get started in its farm system.

The Dodgers, one of the clubs to hold a workout for Moncada, are believed to be a serious contender for his services, along with the Yankees, Red Sox and several others.

— Andrew Simon

Tigers may not need to seek sub for V-Mart

The Tigers got some good news on Tuesday, when designated hitter Victor Martinez underwent successful left knee surgery in Florida. He is expected to be able to resume full activity in four to six weeks, putting him on schedule to be ready for Opening Day on April 6.

“We are very happy the surgery went well and that Victor will be ready to compete for the start of the 2015 season,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement.

Barring any setbacks, Detroit won’t have to be without the veteran slugger for long, if at all. That probably means the club won’t be looking to the trade market for a temporary replacement, according to’s Jason Beck.

It obviously would have been difficult for the Tigers to find anyone who could replicate Martinez’s production, especially at this late stage. Martinez hit .335/.409/.565 with 32 homers and 103 RBIs last season, leading the league in OPS and finishing second in AL MVP voting. A free agent this offseason, he re-signed with Detroit for $68 million over four years in November.

— Andrew Simon

Reports: Cubs made late push for Shields

James Shields’ free agency saga finally came to an end over the weekend, when the veteran right-hander agreed to a four-year deal with the Padres, who will pay him about $75 million.

But who else was involved with Shields at the end? Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported Monday that the Cubs and Marlins fell into that category, with Chicago offering of about $60 million over three years.

After signing lefty Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million pact in December, the Cubs are “reluctant” to make such a significant commitment to a free-agent starter again next offseason, according to’s Ken Rosenthal. So while Shields’ initial asking price, reported to be more than $100 million, was out of the team’s range, it became interested when that cost fell. The Cubs jumped into the bidding about a week ago, a source told Rosenthal, with a three-year deal that would have expired by the time the club’s current crop of young talent begins to grow expensive.

The question now is whether the late of pursuit of Shields provides any insight into Theo Epstein and company’s future plans. The 2016 free-agent pitching market currently is slated to include stars such as Johnny Cueto, David Price and Jordan Zimmermann, as well as Zack Greinke, if he opts out of his current deal. It’s obviously much too early to assume the Cubs won’t go after any of those players, if available. But as Rosenthal suggests, they might be more likely to chase less expensive options or trade for a talented young arm from their surplus of bats.

— Andrew Simon

Amaro expects Hamels to take the mound Opening Day

When the Phillies’ pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater, Fl. for Spring Training later this month, expect Cole Hamels to be among them.

Ruben Amaro Jr., the club’s general manger, reiterated a point earlier this month, telling ESPN’s Jayson Stark that he expects Hamels to be with the team during Spring Training and to take the mound as the Opening Day starter.

“I don’t know that for sure,” Amaro told Stark. “That could change in a phone call or two, just like with anyone else. But I would expect him to be in camp.”

Philadelphia has begun to overhaul its roster this offseason but dealing Hamels, its ace, would signal a full-scale rebuild. Amaro has been open about his willingness to listen to other teams offers for Hamels, but they “haven’t gotten to the finish line with these teams.”

Perhaps the reason has been the Phillies large asking price. Amaro is seeking a large overhaul of prospects and is not willing to pay much, if any, of the remaining $96 million on Hamels’ contract. Stark reports Amaro is telling teams that he needs to “win the deal” in order to complete the trade.

The Padres had been one of the teams linked to Hamels, but after reportedly agreeing to a deal with free agent James Shields, it is highly unlikely San Diego will also trade for Hamels.

Stark reports that the Rangers, Dodgers and Cardinals have stayed in close contact with the Phillies about Hamels as of late. St. Louis and Los Angeles have said they are content with their current rotation headed into camp and the Rangers traded for Yovani Gallardo recently.

-Jamal Collier

Moncada working out for Padres, mixed reports on interest

Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada is reportedly working out for the Padres on Monday, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

While Passan adds that San Diego “plans to be aggressive” in pursuing Moncada, a source tells’s Corey Brock that the Padres might be done with their offseason spending spree after signing James Shields to a four-year, $75 million deal on Monday.

As for Moncada, the five-tool infielder is also believed to be receiving serious interest from at least 10 other teams — a list that includes the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, A’s, Giants, Rangers, Cubs, Tigers, Phillies, and Cardinals. The Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers have all been mentioned as potential frontrunners to land Moncada at various times this offseason.

Though naturally a shortstop, the 19-year-old phenom can also play second or third base. Along with bolstering the rotation by signing Shields on Monday, the Padres have already added Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton to their outfield corps this offseason.

While Moncada would just be the latest blockbuster move for the Padres this offseason, it’s unclear at this point whether or not the club is willing to spend big on yet another player after signing Shields.

— Paul Casella

Padres win the Shields sweepstakes

The Padres have reportedly agreed to a four-year deal with James Shields, taking the top remaining free agent off the market. The club is yet to confirm the signing.

Shields, who was believed to originally be seeking a nine-figure contract, instead settled for a deal that is worth between $72 million and $75 million, a source told’s Corey Brock. The deal, which is pending a physical, also carries a club option for a fifth year.

It’s unclear who the Padres ultimately beat out to sign Shields, but the Cubs and Marlins were both among the teams still linked to Shields over the past week. Whether or not either of those teams — or another team entirely — extended an actual offer to the 33-year-old righty is unknown at this point.

As for the Padres, an argument can be made that they will enter the upcoming season with the most improved roster — on paper, at least. Along with a revamped offense that includes Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, the Padres now have a rotation that could help them compete in a division that features the defending World Series champion Giants, as well as the reigning division champion Dodgers.

Shields will slot into the top of a rotation that already included Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. The final spot figures to be filled by one of Brandon Morrow, Robbie Erlin or Odrisamer Despaigne.

— Paul Casella

Marlins interested in K-Rod?

The Marlins are showing interest in free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez, reports’s Joe Frisaro.

Miami has been in contact with Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, though nothing is imminent, according to Frisaro.

Rodriguez, 33, saved 44 games with the Brewers last season. He would add a quality and proven arm to the back of the Marlins’ bullpen. Steve Cishek remains the closer, but Rodriguez would be a strong fallback option.

The Marlins actually came into $1 million when they won their arbitration hearing with Mat Latos. The pitcher filed for $10.4 million, and Miami countered at $9.4 million. The ruling went in favor of the club.

Miami could use that extra money on Rodriguez. Rafael Soriano might be another option, Frisaro tweets.

Soriano, 35, had 32 saves with the Nationals last season. He’s totaled 117 saves over the last thee years with the Nats and Yankees. The right-hander has a lifetime 2.85 ERA over 13 seasons in the Majors.

–Austin Laymance