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After Tuesday’s explosion of deals, the Hot Stove returned to a light simmer on Wednesday, but there still was plenty of news.
One of the most significant topics was the posting system that governs how Japanese players get from Nippon Professional Baseball to the Major Leagues. The two sides have been working on a new agreement throughout the offseason, which has been holding up the bidding for one of the winter’s hottest commodities, pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
However, a deal appears to be near, with Japanese media outlet Sanspo reporting Wednesday that the NPB is expected to accept a proposal limiting posting fees to $20 million. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports later added that if multiple teams submit the maximum bid, the player then could negotiate with all of those clubs.
Elsewhere on the international front, our Jesse Sanchez writes about the next wave of Cuban players set to follow recent signings such as Jose Abreu and Alexander Guerrero to the Majors. One of those players, slick-fielding 23-year-old shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena, will audition for teams at a showcase this weekend at the Yankees’ facility in the Dominican Republic, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Martino writes that the Mets will be among those teams with scouts in attendance.
In other news from around the league:
- In the wake of the Yankees signing Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to contracts totalling $238 million, our Bryan Hoch looks at whether free agent Robinson Cano is still a fit in the Bronx. If Cano doesn’t return, the Yankees have an insurance policy in Kelly Johnson, with Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and MLB Network reporting that the two sides have agreed on a one-year deal for about $3 million.
- One other team rumored to be pursuing Cano is the Mariners, but general manager Jack Zduriencik wouldn’t confirm that interest.
- Seattle also is among the teams that could enter the fray to acquire Rays ace left-hander David Price. That market soon will intensify, according to Passan, who names the Mariners, Dodgers, Angels, Pirates, Rangers, D-backs and Blue Jays as likely contenders. While Tampa Bay doesn’t need to trade Price, doing so now probably would earn it the best possible return, given that Price has two seasons left before free agency. Several baseball officials who talked to Passan named the Mariners as a frontrunner to land Price, perhaps by offering a package headlined by highly touted pitching prospect Taijuan Walker.
- Max Scherzer is another Cy Young Award winner who has been the subject of trade rumors this offseason, but Detroit could be ready to pursue a contract extension instead. Our Jason Beck also addresses whether the Tigers could make a run at free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo.
- With Ellsbury gone, our Ian Browne discusses what the Red Sox will do to fill his spot in center field next season.
- The Mets are “deep in talks” with free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson, reports our Anthony DiComo.
- Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija has been discussed as a trade target this offseason, but Theo Epstein said the right-hander likely will be in the team’s Opening Day rotation, with a long-term deal a possibility.
- The Cubs also agreed to a one-year deal with left-handed reliever Wesley Wright, who was non-tendered by the Rays on Monday.
- Paul Konerko has decided to return to the White Sox for one more season, filling a part-time role in his 16th year with the club. He will make $1.5 million, plus $1 million deferred until 2021.
- The Rockies are getting close to a two-year deal with free-agent first baseman Justin Morneau, who is expected to platoon with the right-handed Wilin Rosario. Morneau likely will get $12.5 million, plus a mutual option for 2016.
- The Reds might not be as likely to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips as was reported earlier in the offseason, especially in light of comments general manager Walt Jocketty made on Wednesday.
- With A.J. Pierzynski among the catchers who have gone off the board recently, the Rangers continue to look for a backup to pair with Geovany Soto. Kurt Suzuki is one candidate.
– Andrew Simon
Three days after their initial offseason meeting in San Diego, the Mets and Curtis Granderson are deep in talks to bring the free agent outfielder to Flushing.
One person familiar with the situation said the two sides were “in the process” late Wednesday afternoon, confirming that talks began simmering not long after general manager Sandy Alderson met Granderson for an introductory dinner Sunday evening. But the source stopped short of calling anything imminent. With the Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs and Mariners all reportedly interested in him, Granderson may take his time making a decision.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and Granderson’s agent, Matt Brown, did not return messages seeking comment. The negotiations may be centering around the Mets’ willingness to give Granderson a four-year deal as opposed to three.
Granderson, 32, was limited to 61 games last season due to a broken right forearm and broken left pinkie, each the product of hit-by-pitches. He hit 84 homers with the Yankees from 2011-12.
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 number that Robinson Cano is seeking for his newest contract continues to drop in media reports, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he and the Yankees are any closer on a deal. Yahoo!‘s Jeff Passan reports that the Yankees “have no plans” to match the nine-year, $252-million deal that Cano is looking for.
“They are not going to go to $200 million,” one baseball executive told Passan. “Period.”
According to Passan, the Yankees are sticking to their seven-year, $160-million offer with a give-or-take of about $15 million. Passan says New York remains in contention for Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Omar Infante and Joe Nathan, among others.
Other teams mentioned as possibly suitors for Cano: Mets, Tigers, Dodgers, Angels, Nationals and Mariners.
– Joey Nowak
The Nationals, looking to bounce back from last season’s disappointing finish, had been quiet this offseason — until Monday. That’s when general manager Mike Rizzo announced his entry into the Hot Stove conversation by pulling off a big trade with the Tigers.
Rizzo bolstered his rotation and replaced Dan Haren by acquiring another veteran right-hander, Doug Fister, in exchange for reserve infielder Steve Lombardozzi and young left-handers Ian Krol and Robbie Ray.
Monday also was the last day for teams to tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players, with the deadline looming at midnight ET. Any non-tendered player immediately becomes a free agent and can sign with any club.
Among the players reportedly cut loose were pitchers John Axford of the Cardinals, Andrew Bailey of the Red Sox, Daniel Hudson of the D-backs, Jerome Williams and Tommy Hanson of the Angels, Jeremy Hefner of the Mets and Mitchell Boggs of the Rockies; catcher J.P. Arencibia of the Blue Jays; infielders Mat Gamel of the Cubs, Justin Turner of the Mets, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish of the Braves, Jayson Nix of the Yankees and Chris Getz of the Royals; and outfielders Sam Fuld of the Rays and Ryan Kalish of the Red Sox.
In other news from around the league:
- The A’s have added to their rotation by agreeing to a two-year deal with left-hander Scott Kazmir, who resurrected his career with the Indians this season.
- The A’s also picked up a closer, with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network reporting that they sent second baseman Jemile Weeks to the Orioles for Jim Johnson.
- The Blue Jays found a new starting catcher, agreeing to a two-year contract with free agent Dioner Navarro, who is coming off a strong offensive year with the Cubs.
- Speaking of catchers, the Pirates swapped backups for starter Russell Martin, acquiring defensive specialist Chris Stewart from the Yankees and designating Michael McKenry for assignment.
- The Yankees, meanwhile, announced their signing of slick-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan to a two-year deal.
- New York also has made a one-year offer to right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, according to ESPN New York. Kuroda is deciding between retirement or playing another season in the Majors or in his native Japan.
- Free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson could be an option for the Mets.
- Sources told The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham that free-agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is unlikely to return to the Red Sox, with Rosenthal and others mentioning the Marlins among those currently in pursuit.
- Veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist is heading back to Seattle after three years with Arizona.
– Andrew Simon
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson met Sunday with free agent outfielder Curtis Granderson, according to FOX Sports.
Granderson would fill the Mets’ obvious hole at one of their corner outfield spots, even if Citi Field’s spacious dimensions would strip him of the 40-homer power he displayed for years at Yankee Stadium. He could be out of the Mets’ price range if he is seeking a lucrative multi-year deal, but would likely come cheaper than top-of-the-line free agent outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo.
Granderson, 32, hit .229 with seven home runs in 61 games last season, missing much of the campaign with a broken finger. He hit 84 homers combined over his previous two seasons in New York.
Rumors surfaced on Tuesday that said the Mets had recently inquired about Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. Though the Mets insist that “inquiry” was nothing more than a four-word exchange at the General Manager Meetings earlier this month, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the team remains in the market for a power-hitting corner outfielder.
With Braun seemingly not a viable option, the Mets are putting their focus on the likes of Curtis Granderson and Nelson Cruz, among others. Cruz is reportedly seeking a four-year, $75 million deal after missing the final 50 games of the 2013 regular season while serving a 50-game PED-related suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis scandal. Cardinals Jhonny Peralta, who served the same suspension for his Biogenesis connections, recently netted a $53 million deal with the Cardinals.
A number of other rumors were circulating Tuesday, including:
- The Rockies reportedly asked the Angels about slugger Mark Trumbo, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Though considering Colorado’s main trade piece is center fielder Dexter Fowler and the Angels are in the market for pitching help, the Rockies seem more likely to reach a deal with the Royals. Colorado has already missed out in its pursuit of Jose Abreu, Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz, but the Rockies would still like to add a power hitter and bullpen help — and that’s where the Royals come in. The Royals are reportedly willing to move relievers Aaron Crow and Tim Collins, as well as right-hander Wade Davis, who the Rockies tried to acquire from Tampa Bay last offseason before the Rays shipped him to Kansas City.
- Despite the Rangers’ recent acquisition of Prince Fielder, the club is still considering keeping Mitch Moreland, according to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Texas is said to be tossing around the idea of using Moreland, who made all 129 of his starts this past season at first base, at multiple positions — including designated hitter, first base and the outfield — against right-handed pitching.
- After going back-and-forth on the Mariners’ supposed interest in first baseman Mike Napoli, Rosenthal is reporting that the Mariners are indeed interested in the free agent slugger. It remains up in the air just how serious of a push Seattle will make for Napoli, but the Mariners are said to also be interested, on various levels, in a number of other marquee free agents, including Cruz, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo.
The Mets began addressing their outfield vacancies on Friday morning, signing Chris Young to a one-year contract pending a physical, according to two sources with knowledge of the negotiations. The Mets have not commented on the signing because it is not yet official.
Young, 30, hit .200 with 12 home runs and 10 stolen bases last season, his first in Oakland after seven years with the D-backs. His best year came in 2010, when he hit .257 with 27 home runs and 28 steals, making his only All-Star appearance.
Though Young has played mostly center field throughout his career, he also played 26 games in right field last season and 24 games in left. If the Mets choose to keep Juan Lagares in center in 2014, they could plug Young into either corner.
The Royals made the biggest move of the day on Thursday, bolstering their starting rotation by signing free-agent left-hander Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract. Vargas, who will turn 31 in February, went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA last season for the Angels, who now have another hole to fill on their staff.
Meanwhile, Wednesday night’s big trade between the Rangers and Tigers continued to hold the baseball world’s attention. The swap of Ian Kinsler and Prince Fielder could have far-reaching implications. Among them:
- The trade gives the Tigers additional financial flexibility they could use to pursue contract extensions for Max Scherzer and/or Miguel Cabrera, writes our Jason Beck. There also is the issue of how Detroit will adjust defensively, with Cabrera likely shifting to first and opening up a spot at third that could be filled by top prospect Nick Castellanos.
- The ripple effects from the deal could surface in Cincinnati, says our Mark Sheldon, impacting the Reds’ potential plans to move second baseman Brandon Phillips.
- Kinsler’s departure from Texas likely eliminates the possibility of the Rangers parting with Elvis Andrus. That gives the Cardinals one fewer option in their pursuit of a shortstop, as our Jenifer Langosch explains.
In other news from around the league on Thursday:
- The Tigers moved quickly to their next order of business, re-signing lefty Phil Coke to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
- The Giants have agreed to a deal to keep left-handed specialist Javier Lopez in San Francisco, with multiple reports indicating he will receive a three-year contract.
- The Angels and Cardinals have discussed a swap that would send third baseman David Freese to Anaheim in exchange for an outfielder, such as Peter Bourjos.
- After adding Josh Johnson to their starting rotation, the Padres will return their focus to acquiring a left-handed hitter, tweets our Corey Brock.
- Our Adam McCalvy writes that the Brewers aren’t likely to trade Ryan Braun but could move him from left field to right.
- Ike Davis tells our Anthony DiComo that while he would like to stay with the Mets, he understands that there is a significant chance the club could deal him this offseason.
- Lance Berkman’s agent told Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that his client is leaning toward retirement. The 15-year veteran, who turns 38 in February, posted a .700 OPS for the Rangers last season, and injuries have limited him to 105 games over the past two years.
- The agent for free-agent catcher Brian McCann told Alex Speier of Boston’s WEEI that his client is willing to spend some time at first base and designated hitter with a new team.
- The Rays are working toward a two-year deal to retain the services of catcher Jose Molina, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.
- The Dodgers and Giants have free-agent right-hander Dan Haren among their targets as they look to add pitching, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and MLB Network.
- Although outfielder Curtis Granderson became a free agent when he rejected the Yankees’ qualifying offer, the club remains interested in bringing him back, reports the New York Post.
– Andrew Simon
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has been scouring the free agent market in recent weeks, trying to acquire a shortstop, at least one outfielder, at least one starting pitching and some bullpen help.
So far, he is horrified by what he sees. According to the New York Post, the Mets are being afflicted by a severe case of “sticker shock” in the early days of free agency. The Post in particular reported that the Mets hoped to acquire shortstop Jhonny Peralta for two years and $20-25 million, but Peralta’s camp is seeking a three-year deal worth $45 million.
Alderson has somewhat backed himself into a corner, saying publicly on multiple occasions that he expects to spend freely this winter. He also said this week that the team’s payroll will increase from last season.
For that to happen, the Mets will either need to pay premiums for free agent players, or hope that their prices quickly begin to start falling.