1/16 Cubs and Tanaka

Could Masahiro Tanaka pick the Cubs? According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are “pushing hard” for the Japanese pitcher. Rosenthal also reports the Angels, Yankees and Dodgers are involved with the right-hander. The White Sox have confirmed that they met with Tanaka and his agent in Los Angeles. Tanaka, 25, was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who posted the right-hander for a $20 million fee. The bidding for Tanaka will end at 4 p.m. CT on Jan. 24.

– Carrie Muskat

1/15 Hot Stove roundup

Wednesday was a landmark day in Major League Baseball, as the Dodgers and left-hander Clayton Kershaw agreed to the largest contract in the game’s history for a pitcher, according to a baseball source.

The deal for Kershaw, a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, is for seven years and $215 million with an opt-out clause after five years.

MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes the contract shows that, along with signing free agents and taking on big contracts via trades, the Dodgers also take care of their own.

In a sign that Spring Training and Opening Day is near, MLB released game times for the 2014 season.

Other news and notes from Wednesday:

AL East

  • The Red Sox reached a one-year deal with reliever Burke Badenhop.
  • The Orioles agreed to a contract with outfielder Tyler Colvin and also signed righty Alfredo Aceves to a Minor League deal.
  • MLB.com’s Barry Bloom sat down with Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner.
  • Despite being indefinitely suspended, Rays prospect Josh Sale is grateful for Tampa Bay’s support.
  • Toronto’s Aaron Sanchez, MLB.com’s No. 9 right-handed pitching prospect, is taking things one step at a time as he tries to ascend to the Majors.

AL Central

  • Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu impressed on the first day of the White Sox hitters minicamp. Left-hander Chris Sale is ready to lead.
  • The Royals and right-hander Brad Penny reportedly agreed to a Minor League deal.
  • Minnesota’s Ryan Pressly will pitch in honor of his father, who died of cancer on Nov. 1.

AL West

  • Seattle and outfielder Michael Saunders agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
  • The Rangers did the same with reliever Neal Cotts.
  • Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker is prepping for a Major League rotation spot.
  • MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes that Derek Holland’s loss is a major setback for the Rangers.
  • The Astros are looking for a new Spring Training facility. Houston also announced its Minor League managers will remain the same.

NL East

  • Former manager Charlie Manuel is reportedly returning to the Phillies as a senior adviser to the general manager.
  • The Mets and shortstop Ruben Tejada agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
  • Philadelphia reliever Mike Adams might not be ready for Opening Day.
  • Braves reporter Mark Bowman answers fan questions in his inbox. Nationals reporter Bill Ladson does the same here.
  • Marlins prospect Nick Wittgren has closer potential.
  • The Nationals extended their contract with Double-A Harrisburg for four years.

NL Central

  • The Cubs signed Chris Coughlan to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training.
  • Milwaukee signed veteran lefty Zach Duke to a Minor League deal with a Spring Training invite. Brewers pitching prospect David Goforth is returning to the bullpen and could get his own spring invite.
  • The Pirates can’t overlook their hole at first base, writes MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
  • The Reds announced five more Spring Training invites, including Robert Stephenson — MLB.com’s seventh-best right-handed pitching prospect.
  • Cardinals reporter Jenifer Langosch answers questions in this inbox.
  • Cubs prospects are taking part in a week-long development program.

NL West

  • The D-backs and righty Josh Collmenter agreed to a two-year deal to avoid arbitration.
  • The Rockies agreed to a one-year deal with lefty Franklin Morales to avoid arbitration.
  • Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, reportedly 42 pounds lighter, is joining Magallanes in the Venezuelan Winter League playoffs.
  • Colorado’s Jon Gray, MLB.com’s No. 4 right-handed pitching prospect, is determined.
  • Arizona’s Archie Bradley was named MLB.com’s top right-handed pitching prospect. Fellow D-backs prospect outfielder Keon Broxton is working hard in Australia.

- Cash Kruth

Kershaw nearing lucrative extension?

The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw may be making progress on a lucrative contract extension that would keep the left-hander with Los Angeles for the next decade. MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reported that Kershaw, the two-time National League Cy Young Award-winner, could reach an extension that pays him as much as $30 million per season for 10 seasons.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports also reported that the two sides are making progress, and Rosenthal said that the Dodgers want the deal to be done by Friday, which is the date that teams and players eligible for arbitration must exchange contract proposals.

Kershaw, who is eligible for free agency for the first time following the 2014 season, is coming off a campaign in which he led the league in ERA (1.83) and set career bests in innings pitched (236) and walks per nine innings (2.0). Kershaw, who will turn 26 years old in March, was drafted seventh overall by the Dodgers in 2006 and has spent his entire career with Los Angeles.

– Spencer Fordin

1/14 Hot Stove roundup

The Hot Stove was quiet on Tuesday, with the biggest news that 146 players filed for salary arbitration — a process that begins Friday when players and teams exchange numbers.

Among those who filed were a trio of aces: Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, Detroit’s Max Scherzer and Tampa Bay’s David Price.

Here’s the full list of all 146.

While those 146 players likely will play in 2014, seven-time All-Star Michael Young might not as he is reportedly considering retirement.

There’s still no news regarding Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who has until Jan. 24 to sign. Sports on Earth’s Jonathan Bernhardt opines who needs Tanaka the most.

In the spirit of the upcoming NFL conference championship games, three of the quarterbacks remaining in the playoffs — Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady — were selected in the MLB Draft.

Other news and notes from around the league:

AL East

  • The Yankees officially signed second baseman Brian Roberts.
  • The Orioles signed pitcher Luis Vizcaino and infielder Brock Bond to Minor League contracts with invites to Spring Training.
  • Red Sox reporter Ian Browne answers questions in this inbox. Rays reporter Bill Chastain does the same here.
  • MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes that Baltimore’s playoff chances hinge on its defense.
  • Blue Jays infielder Ryan Goins is working with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer to improve his approach.

AL Central

  • Twins lefty Brian Duensing is ready to be a leader in the clubhouse.
  • White Sox reporter Scott Merkin fields questions in this inbox.
  • Detroit’s Robbie Ray is among the game’s best left-handed pitching prospects.

AL West

  • The Mariners have reportedly reached an agreement with catcher John Buck.
  • Former A’s left-hander Dallas Braden is retiring.
  • The Angels extended Spring Training invites to Mark Mulder and a host of prospects.
  • Seattle invited 15 prospects to Spring Training.
  • The Astros are moving signs in Minute Maid Park’s left field. 

NL East

NL Central

  • Top prospect Jameson Taillon is among four non-roster Spring Training invitees for the Pirates.
  • Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay is hosting a bowling tournament to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade.

NL West

  • The Padres and outfielder Seth Smith agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
  • Colorado’s Jordan Pacheco is excited to return to catching.
  • Dodgers second baseman Miguel Rojas has drawn comparisons to former Major Leaguer Omar Vizquel for his defense.
  • San Diego’s Max Fried was named the third-best left-handed pitching prospect by MLB.com.
  • The Padres announced their Minor League coaching staffs.

- Cash Kruth

 

Report: Retirement coming for Michael Young?

Veteran free-agent infielder Michael Young is “strongly considering retirement” despite receiving interest from four teams this offseason, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network. The 37-year-old, a 14-year veteran, wants to spend more time with his wife and three sons, according to Rosenthal.

Young spent last season with the Phillies and Dodgers, playing mostly third base and first base and hitting .279/.335/.395 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs in 147 games. The seven-time All-Star played his first 13 seasons with the Rangers and is a .300 career batter, with 2,375 hits to his credit.

– Andrew Simon

Report: Mariners close to signing Buck

The Mariners and veteran catcher John Buck are close to striking a one-year deal, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi has reported. Buck would serve as a backup behind young starter Mike Zunino.

Buck, 33, split time last year between the Mets and the Pirates. He had a strong start to the season in New York, where he hit 15 homers and drove in 60 runs in 101 games.

The 10-year veteran has spent time in Kansas City, Miami, New York, Pittsburgh and Toronto. He was an All-Star in 2010.

– Joey Nowak

1/13 Hot Stove roundup

Only a few Minor League deals were signed on Monday, a relatively quiet day on the Hot Stove.

Among those who found homes were veteran infielder Cesar Izturis, who signed with the Astros, and left-hander Jeff Francis, who signed with the Reds.

The White Sox and outfielder Dayan Viciedo also avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal.

One day after Alex Rodriguez’s suspension was reduced to 162 games, he sued Major League Baseball.

Other news and notes from Monday:

AL East

  • Baltimore is interested in outfielders Delmon Young and Jack Cust.
  • MLB.com’s Richard Justice writes that the Yankees need to land Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
  • Toronto’s Adam Lind tries to remain even keel.
  • Infield is a concern for the Yankees, writes Anthony Castrovince.
  • Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy are among those rehabbing at the Orioles’ minicamp.
  • MLB.com ranked Boston’s Xander Bogaerts as the game’s best shortstop prospect.

 

AL Central

  • The Royals and right-hander Jeremy Guthrie restructured his contract to save the Royals $3 million in 2014.
  • Right-hander Rick Porcello should benefit from the Tigers’ improved infield defense.
  • Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is preparing for his new job as a Twins’ coach.
  • Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor is among the game’s top shortstop prospects.
  • Indians reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions in his inbox.
  • Former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks is trying to get back into baseball.

AL West

  • The Angels are said to be among Tanaka’s favorites.
  • A’s reporter Jane Lee answers fans’ questions in this inbox.
  • The A’s named Steve Connelly pitching coach for their short-season Class A affiliate.

NL East

  • The Braves handed out 22 non-roster invites to Spring Training.
  • Miami’s young pitchers are getting ready for Spring Training.
  • Second baseman Chase Utley is upbeat about the Phillies’ chances this season.
  • Mets reporter Anthony DiComo fields questions in this inbox
  • Braves outfielder B.J. Upton is a big Florida State fan.

NL Central

  • Cubs prospect Javier Baez, ranked as MLB.com’s No. 2 shortstop prospect, is hoping to arrive in the Majors sooner rather than later.
  • Reds reporter Mark Sheldon answers fans’ question in this inbox.
  • The Brewers announced their Minor League coaching staffs. So did the Pirates.
  • The Cubs unveiled their new mascot, Clark. 

 

NL West

  • DJ LeMahieu studied hard to earn the Rockies’ second base job.
  • Giants prospect Derek Law could be a key member of San Francisco’s bullpen.

- Cash Kruth

 

Reds add Jeff Francis

I have confirmed that former Rockies LHP Jeff Francis has signed a Minor League contract with the Reds and will be invited to big league camp next month. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported the deal.

If Francis’ name sounds familiar to fans in Cincinnati, he also signed a similar contract with the Reds on Jan. 25, 2012, but never reached the Majors that season after not landing a job on the staff at Spring Training. For Triple-A Louisville, Francis went 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts. He opted for his release from Cincinnati on June 4 of that year and returned to his longtime team, the Rockies.

Now 33, Francis was 3-5 with a 6.27 ERA in 23 games, including 12 starts, for Colorado in 2013. Over 70 2/3 innings, the British Columbia native gave up 89 hits and 24 walks with 63 strikes.

The Reds have not announced a transaction regarding Francis, yet.

Without Bronson Arroyo returning, the Reds have been adding some depth behind their expected five-man rotation. Tony Cingrani is expected to replace Arroyo. The club has also traded for LHP David Holmberg from the D-backs last month and signed free agent RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a Minor League deal in December.

– Mark Sheldon

Astros reportedly sign IF Izturis

The Astros have signed veteran infielder Cesar Izturis to a minor league contract, CBSSports.com‘s Jon Heyman has reported, with the possibility of Izturis joining the club as a utility man. 

MLB.com‘s Anthony DiComo tweeted that the Mets also had interest in Izturis, who appeared in 63 games for the Reds last season. 

Izturis, 33, has spent 13 years in the Major Leagues. He won a Gold Glove with the Dodgers in 2004 and was an All-Star in 2005.

– Joey Nowak

Report: Orioles looking for starter, backup catcher — not closer

One of the Orioles’ most high-profile moves this winter was one that never actually came to fruition, and now it appears the club is prepared to move in an entirely different direction.

Baltimore was close to signing free agent closer Grant Balfour but the deal fell through because of last-minute issues with his physical. Now, the Baltimore Sun‘s Dan Connolly reports, the team is moving on from looking for an outside candidate to close and is more focused on securing starting pitching and/or a backup catcher.

According to his report, the Orioles “have made it known that they are comfortable with in-house options at closer.” NBC Sports‘ Aaron Gleeman suggests the top candidate, then, would be Tommy Hunter, who filled the setup role last season.

As for the team’s prominent needs, Connolly said the team is not in the running for Masahiro Tanaka but Dan Duquette says the club is talking with a number of other starters. Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bronson Arroyo remain viable options.

Connolly points to Mike McKenry as a possible backup for Matt Wieters (Baltimore currently has  Steve Clevenger, Johnny Monell and Michael Ohlman on the 40-man). John Buck and Miguel Olivo are other possible free agent options.

– Joey Nowak

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