White Sox set to make LaRoche signing official

The White Sox, who agreed to a deal with free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche on Friday, are likely to finalize the two-year pact on Monday, according to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers.

Chicago will pay the 35-year-old left-handed hitter a total of $25 million after he batted .259/.362/.455 with 26 homers and 92 RBIs for the Nationals in 2014. He is expected to share time with fellow slugger Jose Abreu at both first and designated hitter.

Rogers adds that the White Sox, who also have signed left-handed reliever Zach Duke this offseason, are “stockpiling” depth at shortstop. That could lead them to trade starter Alexei Ramirez, who is owed $10 million in the final year of his contract.

– Andrew Simon

Rangers interested in Justin Upton

With reports surfacing over the last few days that the Braves are shopping Justin Upton, the Rangers look to be one of the teams interested in acquiring the outfielder.

Ken Rosenthal of foxsports.com and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported on Sunday that the Rangers have spoken with the Braves regarding Upton. According to Rosenthal, this isn’t the first time the Rangers have shown interest in him.The Braves already traded away a piece of their outfield this off-season when they sent Jason Heyward to St. Louis in exchange for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

Upton will make $14.5 million in 2015 and then become a free agent. In 2014, he hit .270 with 29 home runs and 102 RBI.

– Quinn Roberts

Ruiz, Castro among group of available catchers

With the free-agent market very thin at catcher, especially after the Blue Jays signed Russell Martin, teams with a need behind the plate could try to make a trade instead. Toronto’s Dioner Navarro and Arizona’s Miguel Montero are two of the more significant options, but they’re not the only ones.

In his column Sunday, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe mentions the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz and the Astros’ Jason Castro as two other available catchers.

Philadelphia, of course, is in rebuilding mode. Ruiz is due $8.5 million in both of the next two seasons, when he’ll be 36 and 37, and his contract includes a $4.5 million team option for ‘17 that can be bought out for $500,000.

Those factors, plus some recent injury problems, could make it difficult to move Ruiz. On the other hand, he hit .252/.347/.370 last season, good for an above-average 102 OPS+.

Houston is known to be discussing deals for one of its catchers, with Castro currently joined on the roster by Carlos Corporan and Hank Conger. Castro is 27 and has two more years of arbitration eligibility — he made $2.45 million in ‘14 — and he hit .276/.350/.485 with 18 homers during a breakout ‘13 season.

On the other hand, that offensive performance currently looks like an outlier. This past year, Castro still produced 14 homers, but his line regressed to .222/.286/.366.

As for the Astros, Cafardo also reports that they are open to trading center fielder Dexter Fowler. Limited to 116 games in his first year for Houston, the 28-year-old hit .276/.375/.399 with eight homers and 11 stolen bases.

– Andrew Simon

How ambitious are the Yankees this winter?

The Yankees usually are big-time players in the free-agent market, and opponents don’t expect that to change after a season in which they missed the playoffs. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo talked to a dozen general managers at the recent GM Meetings in Phoenix, and each of them said he believed the Yankees will make a major signing this winter.

At the same time, Cafardo writes, New York is wary after many of its big-money acquisitions have not panned out. Last offseason, catcher Brian McCann disappointed with the bat, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was solid but unable to repeat his 2013 performance, and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was sensational but limited to 20 starts by an elbow injury. The club apparently remains interested in adding significant pieces but is trying to take things slow and stick to market value instead of overpaying.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman was tight-lipped while speaking to reporters Thursday about his plans, though he said the club is having “a lot of conversations.” MLB.com Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch wrote that their focus is on retaining players, such as summer trade acquisitions Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley. Cashman has been in touch with the agent for closer David Robertson and is looking for help in the bullpen and on the left side of the infield.

Then there’s the starting rotation. While the Yankees haven’t been linked to left-hander Jon Lester, one of the top few pitchers available, Cafardo writes that other interested clubs remain worried New York could swoop in and snag him. The same could happen with righties Max Scherzer or James Shields.

– Andrew Simon

Giants yet to make final offer for Sandoval

Don’t count out the Giants in the battle for free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

San Francisco has faced a stiff challenge in its quest to retain the 28-year-old, who has spent all of his seven big league seasons and won three World Series with the club. The Red Sox have made Sandoval a five-year, $95 million offer, according to The Boston Globe, and the Padres have entered the mix as a surprise contender. San Diego, normally not a player for expensive free agents, has made a “very competitive offer,” according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock.

But even if the Giants have not matched those bids yet, that still could change. Appearing on MLB Network radio on Sunday morning, assistant general manager Bobby Evans said his club has “not made a final offer.” The San Francisco Chronicle previously reported that Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, has asked the Giants to submit their best proposal next week. Sandoval is expected to make his decision then.

– Andrew Simon

Astros interested in Robertson

The Astros are looking to upgrade the bullpen this Winter and David Robertson may be their man.

According to the New York Post, the Astros have talked with Robertson’s agent, Scott Leventhal.

While Robertson is one of the top closers on the market, it remains to be seen how much the Astros would be willing to pay.

The right-hander is reportedly looking for a contract around four years and $13 million per year.

Robertson converted 39 of 44 saves in 2014 and posted a 3.08 ERA in 64 1/3 innings.

The Yankees did offer Robertson a one-year $15.3 million qualifying offer earlier this off-season so if the Astros did sign him they would have to relinquish a draft pick.

- William Boor

Could Scherzer wind up in Washington?

With Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, the Nationals have a starting rotation that few – if any – teams in baseball can match.

However, the Washington Post wonders if the Nationals could make a play for Max Scherzer and improve an already terrific rotation.

Scherzer, a 30-year old right hander won the 2013 American League Cy Young Award and was productive again in 2014 as he went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA.

If the Nationals were able to find a way to land Scherzer it would likely open the door for them to trade one of their current starters.

General Manager Mike Rizzo hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making a trade and if the Nationals do trade one of their young arms, they could likely get some pretty nice pieces in return.

[Zimmermann is] a key part of the team,” Rizzo said last week at the General Manager meetings. “I would never say definitely [about trading him]. He’s a key part of the team. It would be a tough guy to move. But again, never say never because stranger things have happened.”

- William Boor

Sandoval nearing decision; Red Sox, Giants, Padres in mix

Free agent Pablo Sandoval appears to be nearing a decision.

According to various reporters, the 28-year-old third baseman’s list of suitors is down to the Red Sox, Giants and Padres.

John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle reports the Kung Fu Panda is leaning toward signing with the Red Sox, while the Padres have extended the highest offer.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal also tweeted those three teams extended offers, quoting Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vasquez, as saying all offers were “close.”

Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe also reports all contract offers are close, with Boston’s at five years for $95 million

Sandoval is a .294/.346/.465 career hitter with 106 home runs in seven Major League seasons, all with the Giants.

- Cash Kruth

Henry Blanco joins Cubs staff

Henry Blanco is back with the Cubs, joining manager Joe Maddon’s staff as a quality assurance coach. It might not be the only change. Dave Martinez, who has been Maddon’s bench coach since 2008 with the Rays, was dropped on Friday from the list of candidates for the Tampa managerial opening. Martinez, 50, also is a former Cubs player — 1986-88 — and may be a valuable addition for Maddon in his switch to the National League. The addition of Blanco should help Cubs catcher Welington Castillo. Blanco, 43, played for the Cubs from 2005-08, and was a coach on the Diamondbacks staff.

– Carrie Muskat

Report: Twins closing in on deal for Korean lefty

The Twins have won the bidding for Korean pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang and are nearing a deal with the left-hander, according to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. The club has not confirmed.

Yang was posted earlier this month by his Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club, the Kia Tigers. He won league’s equivalent of a Cy Young Award this season, going 16-8 with a 4.25 ERA in 165 innings, producing a 1.40 WHIP, and 8.6 strikeouts and 4.0 walks per nine.

While those numbers don’t seem impressive in the context of Major League Baseball, the KBO is a hitter-friendly league whose overall ERA was 5.23 in 2014.

Yang, who will turn 27 in March, is listed at 6 feet tall and 172 pounds. He throws his fastball 92-95 mph and features a plus slider.

The Twins are searching for pitching help after finishing 29th in the Majors with a 4.57 ERA in ‘14, ahead of only the Rockies.

– Andrew Simon


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