Report: Dodgers now turning attention to Hanley

Since the Dodgers have locked up one franchise cornerstone — ace Clayton Kershaw — the team can turn its attention to infielder Hanley Ramirez. And, according to Yahoo!‘s Tim Brown, it already has.

Brown reported on Monday that the team is in “early stages” of negotiations with Ramirez, who finished eighth in the NL MVP voting this year despite appearing in only 86 games. He hit .345 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs in the limited playing time.

Ramirez will be a free agent after next season.

– Joey Nowak

Hot Stove Roundup 1/19

It appears one of the most high-profile relief arms still on the free-agent market could end up in the Beltway, after all.

After his deal with the Orioles fell through because of issues with his physical, Grant Balfour is reportedly on the Nationals’ radar. Washington has no shortage of reliable late-innings arms — Rafael Soriano, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, for starters — but FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal wrote on Sunday that Balfour is a viable option for Washington. MLB.com’s Bill Ladson confirmed the Nationals’ interest in Balfour and notes that Storen would become available in that scenario.

It makes sense, Rosenthal says, in order for the Nationals to keep Soriano from vesting his option, Clippard in the setup role and Storen on the trading block.

That’s just one bit of news in baseball’s Hot Stove on Sunday. Here are a few more items as teams continue to prepare for pitchers and catchers to report to Spring Training:

• Ladson also writes that Washington would like to acquire a backup catcher behind Wilson Ramos and will look to do so via the trade market. The Nats were linked to Jose Molina and John Buck, but both signed elsewhere.

• The Reds are “still working” to sign former Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore, according to general manager Walt Jocketty. Rosenthal reported Sunday that Cincinnati has had “advanced talks” with the 31-year-old’s agent. MLB.com first reported the Reds’ interest in Sizemore, who hasn’t played in the Majors since 2011.

• Rafael Betancourt hasn’t pitched since Aug. 22 and will miss the early part of the 2014 season because of Tommy John surgery, but he’s reportedly still active in talks with the Rockies for a contract.

Betancourt, a free agent, earlier told the Denver Post’s Troy Renck he “can’t see [himself] anywhere else at this point in his career,” and Chris Cotillo has also reported the two sides are “in talks” for a new deal. The 38-year-old has spent the last five seasons in Colorado as a reliable late-innings reliever.

• Speaking of the Rockies, former Colorado starter Aaron Cook is looking to land on his feet in the big leagues after missing most of last season with a tired arm.

Cook did not pitch in the big leagues in 2013, and he ran up an 8.15 ERA in eight games (all starts) with Colorado’s Triple-A Colorado Springs affiliate. His last big league appearance came with the Red Sox in 2012, and the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reports, “Cook is fine now and looking for another chance.”

• The Marlins took care of slugger Giancarlo Stanton’s short-term future with a one-year, $6.5 million contract, but it didn’t do a whole lot to solidify his long-term future.

MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro wrote this weekend the two sides have been focused on the one-year deal to avoid arbitration and, for now, the two sides’ partnership is “on a year-to-year basis.”

“From the outset, I think it was in everyone’s interest to try [to] reach a fair and amicable settlement on a one-year contract,” Stanton’s agent, Joel Wolfe, told MLB.com. “We accomplished that. Now, Giancarlo can focus exclusively on getting ready for the season. He is pleased with the result and [is] looking forward to Spring Training.”

• Teams are “staying away” from free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz, Cafardo reports, because his asking salary has not come down enough. Cafardo cites a National League general manager as saying Cruz “may have to settle for a pillow contract of one year to re-establish his value.”

• The Yankees, D-backs, Cubs, Dodgers and White Sox have submitted a formal contract offer for free-agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, according to Nikkan Sports. Tanaka was posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles in December and has until Friday to reach a deal with a big league club.

Hot Stove Roundup 1/18

While plenty of news came out of the Hot Stove on Friday thanks to the arbitration deadline, Saturday was much quieter in comparison. However, a few interesting tidbits did pop up.

Here’s a look at some of the day’s news and notes from around the league:

* Five teams have reportedly submitted formal offers for Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who is expected to make his decision by next Friday. The teams include the Cubs, White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and D-backs. All of the bids were believed to be more than $100 million and over six years.

* The Rangers signed left-hander Rafael Perez to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. He last appeared in the Majors with the Indians in 2012. Pitching for Minnesota and Boston minor league affiliates last season, Perez combined to go 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA and six saves in 29 relief appearances for Triple-A Rochester and Double-A Portland.

* The Mets inked New York native John Lannan to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. The left-hander is expected to compete with Jenrry Mejia and prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom for the fifth starter role. The team also agreed to terms with shortstop Omar Quintanilla on a Minor League deal.

* The Mariners and Indians are the apparent frontrunners to land starting pitcher Scott Baker, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish. Between five and seven teams are interested in the right-hander.

* According to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, left-handed reliever Joe Beimel has agreed to a Minor League contract with the Mariners with an invitation to Major League camp. Beimel hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2011 and had Tommy John surgery in ’12.

* The Phillies, Red Sox and Royals are among the teams interested in reliever Ryan Madson, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. However, it is unlikely that he will sign with anyone until after teams watch him pitch in February.

Quinn Roberts

Report: Mets re-sign Quintanilla

After seeing a good amount of playing time last year because of the injury to shortstop Ruben Tejada, the Mets have brought back Omar Quintanilla on a minor league deal, ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin reported Saturday

At this point, the Mets are expected to go with Tejada as their starter — unless they sign another shortstop, like Stephen Drew — but Quintanilla can provide insurance at the premium position. 

In 95 games last year, Quintanilla hit .222 with a .306 on-base percentage.

– Joey Nowak

Cubs are definitely in on Tanaka

Two of the teams considered to be key players in the Masahiro Tanaka bidding are from the Windy City, and Bruce Levine confirmed the Cubs have made a serious play to land the Japanese ace.

The Cubs brass met with fans on Saturday at the annual Cubs Convention in Chicago and said now it’s just a wait-and-see situation with many clubs seeking Tanaka’s services. Jayson Stark wrote this week many suspect the Cubs will be his new team.

Levine reported on Saturday morning the Cubs “made Tanaka a real offer to be [their] ace and grow with their other talented young players.”

MLB.com‘s Carrie Muskat tweeted there’s not much of an update to the situation other than to “waiting to see how it plays out.”

– Joey Nowak

1/17 Roundup

On a day when the Dodgers announced their seven-year, $215 million contract extension with ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, numerous smaller deals were completed across the Major Leagues.

Friday was the deadline for teams to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players, leading many to work out compromises, albeit none that carry the financial impact of Kershaw’s. For those who didn’t reach agreements, negotiations can continue until hearings take place from Feb. 1-21, at which point the decisions will be in the hands of three-judge arbitration panels.

Here is a look at some of Friday’s big arbitration-related news:

  • The Nationals signed five of their seven eligible players, including All-Star right-hander Jordan Zimmermann and shortstop Ian Desmond. Washington bought out the final two years of arbitration for both players, locking them up for $24 million and $17.5 million, respectively.
  • Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer agreed to a $15.525 million contract with the Tigers, who still have a lot of work to do if they want to prevent him from reaching free agency next offseason.
  • Chris Davis headlined the Orioles’ five signings, getting a raise of roughly $7 million in his second year of arbitration after leading the Majors in home runs and RBIs. Catcher Matt Wieters, also two years from free agency, has yet to reach a deal.
  • Third baseman Chase Headley was among the players to settle with the Padres as he readies for his final season before free agency.
  • While the Braves were able to sign four arbitration-eligible players, they will have to exchange figures with closer Craig Kimbrel, first baseman Freddie Freeman and outfielder Jason Heyward.
  • The Marlins put a stop to all three of their arbitration cases, handing $6.5 million to slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the process. Stanton’s salary will jump from $537,000 in his first year of arbitration.
  • The Yankees also locked up all of their arbitration-eligible players, as outfielder Brett Gardner led the way with a $5.6 million settlement.
  • Another club set to sit out the hearings is Toronto, which rewarded center fielder Colby Rasmus’ strong 2013 with a $7 million deal in his final year of club control.
  • Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who bounced back in a big way after going through a rough ‘12, settled on a $3.6 million contract in his first year of arbitration.
  • Josh Reddick is the only A’s player who remains unsigned after the club came to agreements with four more players on Friday, including offseason acquisitions Craig Gentry and Luke Gregerson.
  • Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker were among the players to come to terms with the Pirates, who closed all of their arbitration cases.
  • A day after settling with ace lefty David Price, the Rays avoided arbitration with each of their six remaining players, including righty Jeremy Hellickson.
  • The Reds have negotiating left to do with starter Homer Bailey and closer Aroldis Chapman and are hoping to ink Bailey to a long-term deal.

– Andrew Simon

Three Reds avoid arbitration

Lots of signings around baseball Friday ahead of the 1 p.m. ET deadline for clubs and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures.

The Reds have three players who agreed to terms on contracts to avoid arbitration.

Reliever Sam LeCure: Two-year contract worth $3.05 million
Starting pitcher Mike Leake: One-year contract worth $5.925 million
Reliever Alfredo Simon: One-year contract worth $1.25 million (according to Rosenthal)

Leake’s deal was announced on Twitter by his agency, the Beverly Hills Sports Council, but the Reds have yet to verify.

Cincinnati still has two cases pending in RHP Homer Bailey and LHP Aroldis Chapman.

– Mark Sheldon

1/16 Roundup

With Major League teams scheduled to exchange salary figures with arbitration-eligible players on Friday, Thursday’s most popular Hot Stove activity was finding a way to prevent the awkwardness of continuing the arbitration process.

The Rays’ David Price was the most high-profile of several players who agreed to one-year deals, thereby avoiding arbitration. The 2012 American League Cy Young winner will make $14 million in his second-to-last season of club control.

Price, the subject of frequent trade rumors, told reporters during a conference call that he wants to remain with Tampa Bay, although the deal does not guarantee the club won’t trade him before or during this season.

In other news from around the league:

  • Others who avoided arbitration with one-year deals included Ike Davis with the Mets, Jim Johnson and John Jaso with the A’s, Chris Heisey with the Reds, Ross Detwiler with the Nationals, Wilton Lopez with the Rockies and Tim Collins with the Royals.
  • Even with Clayton Kershaw locked up with a massive contract extension, the Dodgers could be far from done making big moves, writes MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Los Angeles remains a possible destination for Japanese free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez could be in line for his own extension heading into the last year of his contract.
  • Kershaw’s seven-year, $215 million deal could have implications for the other defending Cy Young Award winner, the Tigers’ Max Scherzer. As MLB.com’s Jason Beck writes, Scherzer figures to benefit as he enters his third year of arbitration. The Tigers will have to pay up big if they want to keep him off next winter’s free-agent market.
  • Cubs manager Rick Renteria said he was part of a contingent that met recently with Tanaka in California. Many MLB owners apparently are convinced the Cubs will “blow away the field and sign Tanaka to a monster deal,” according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
  • The Orioles and free-agent righty Bronson Arroyo are engaged in “ongoing discussions,” according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, who adds that the Dodgers are also involved.
  • The Brewers have drawn close to signing first baseman Mark Reynolds to a Minor League contract. Reynolds would figure to compete for playing time at first base, a weak spot for Milwaukee.
  • The Indians announced their Minor League deal with outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who is bringing his Tony Plush persona back to the U.S. after spending 2013 in Japan.
  • The Mariners added to their catching depth by signing veteran John Buck to a one-year deal.
  • The Royals brought in a pair of veteran pitchers on Minor League contracts, signing righties Brad Penny and Guillermo Mota.
  • Other Minor League signings on Thursday included catcher Michael McKenry with the Rockies, infielder John McDonald with the Angels, pitcher Henry Rodriguez with the Marlins and infielder Chris Getz with the Blue Jays.

– Andrew Simon

Reports: Brewers close to signing Reynolds

The Brewers are close to signing free agent Mark Reynolds, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports also tweeted that Milwaukee is “making a push” for the veteran slugger, who could fill the club’s hole at first base.

Reynolds split last season between the Indians and Yankees, hitting .220/.306/.393 with 21 home runs and 67 RBIs. The 30-year-old, who also has played for the Orioles and D-backs over seven seasons, is a career .233/.329/.464 hitter. He has hit as many as 44 homers in a season and also struck out as many as 223 times. Reynolds began his career as a third baseman but has spent significant time at first in recent years.

– Andrew Simon

Heisey, Reds avoid arbitration

The Reds and outfielder Chris Heisey avoided arbitration on Thursday by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.76 million, MLB.com confirmed. It was first reported by ESPN. com’s Jerry Crasnick.

Arbitration eligible for the second time, Heisey received a raise from the $1.325 million he made last season. He batted .237/.279/.415 in 2013 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs over 87 games as he also missed time with a hamstring injury.

The deal with the 29-year-old Heisey comes ahead of Friday’s deadline for clubs and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures.

Cincinnati now has five players that remain eligible for arbitration in Aroldis Chapman, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Sam LeCure and Alfredo Simon.

– Mark Sheldon

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