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Buzz: Latest from the MLB offseason

FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
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Tuesday's latest news and notes


Verlander next young star to get paid? — 2:42 p.m.

When the off-season began, three star pitchers were on track to enter free agency after the 2011 season: Josh Johnson, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander.

Then Johnson and the Marlins agreed to a four-year, $39 million deal. And now Felix Hernandez has agreed to a five-year, $78 million contract extension with the Mariners, according to multiple reports.

So is Verlander’s payday approaching, too?

We’ll see. Verlander earned a little less than Hernandez in 2009 -- $3.675 million, as compared to $3.8 million -- but the season ended with the two tied for the American League lead in wins (19).

For now, Verlander and the Tigers are engaged in arbitration proceedings. Verlander is asking for a $9.5 million salary in 2010; the Tigers filed at $6.9 million. By asking for $9.5 million, Verlander's agents at SFX Baseball have suggested their preparedness to argue that he should receive more than the reported $9.35 million of Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon; Verlander and Papelbon are in the same arbitration class.

Verlander also led the league in innings (240) and strikeouts (269). Hernandez finished second in the Cy Young Award balloting; Verlander came in third.

Their career numbers are quite similar, too. Verlander is 65-43 with a 3.92 ERA. Hernandez is 58-41 with a 3.45 ERA.

Verlander has more wins despite starting fewer games. Hernandez has the better ERA despite pitching for fewer contending teams.

Verlander has two All-Star appearances and one trip to the postseason. Hernandez has one and zero, respectively.

Long story short: They are very similar pitchers, and Verlander would be within his rights to ask for a similar contract to the one that Hernandez is about to sign.

But keep this in mind: What if Verlander turns down the sure thing and gambles that he will get an even bigger contract as a free agent in two years? Now that Johnson and Hernandez are off the market, more suitors -- and more dollars -- could be coming his way. -- Jon Paul Morosi


Source: Cubs, Dodgers, Cards monitoring Mulder — 12:12 p.m.

The Cubs, Dodgers and Cardinals are among the teams still monitoring the progress of left-hander Mark Mulder, one major league source said.

Mulder hasn’t remained healthy over a full season since 2005. He is 6-10 with a 7.73 ERA in only 23 games since then.

Milwaukee has been linked to Mulder throughout the offseason and has a built-in edge: Rick Peterson, the Brewers’ new pitching coach, worked with Mulder during his best years in Oakland.

MLB.com reported recently that Mulder hasn’t thrown off a mound yet this year. Teams will certainly wait until he does before offering a contract. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Could Giants make room for Tejada? — 1:04 a.m.

Aubrey Huff, a new San Francisco Giant, has played 237 games in right field, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Huff last spent time in the outfield with the Houston Astros in 2006, and that was on a limited basis. But would the Giants move him to the outfield if it meant they could add a potent bat -- like free agent Miguel Tejada?

One scout familiar with Huff downplayed that possibility, saying he wouldn't handle the outfield well at age 33. As a result, the scout believes a return to Oakland as the A's shortstop "might be the best fit" for Tejada.

The Giants haven’t confirmed that they remain in the running for Tejada, but he’s a natural match for a team that needs to score more runs. Tejada has indicated a willingness to play somewhere other than shortstop, sources have said, raising the possibility that he could play third base for the Giants, Twins or Cardinals.

If San Francisco were to sign Tejada, it’s likely that Pablo Sandoval would play first base, with Mark DeRosa and Huff in the outfield corners. But that scenario may be farfetched, given that the Giants are also looking for a catcher and additional pitching.

Meanwhile, one person with knowledge of Tejada’s market said he remains “on the radar” for the Twins but that he is not one of the team's top priorities.

Tejada traveled recently to Haiti to assist in relief efforts there following the catastrophic earthquake.

— Jon Paul Morosi

Monday's latest news and notes


Nady on track -- 12:22 p.m.

Scott Boras, the agent for Xavier Nady, said in an e-mail that the outfielder is “on schedule to be ready in spring training,” following the second Tommy John elbow surgery of his career.

“The doctors have his throwing program ahead of schedule,” Boras said.

A separate source said that the Cubs are among the teams interested in Nady. The Cubs would like to add an experienced fourth outfielder to compliment Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome.

Nady, 31, has been a productive player when healthy, batting .305 with 25 home runs and 97 RBIs for the Pirates and Yankees in 2008. But he has appeared in more than 130 games during only one season of his major league career. -- Jon Paul Morosi


Jan. 15 latest news and notes


Tigers not seeking pricey outfield options — 6:39 p.m.

Apparently, the Tigers aren’t actively pursuing Johnny Damon — or any other expensive outfielder.

The team has effectively maxed out its payroll by agreeing to a two-year, $14 million contract with closer Jose Valverde, according to one source with knowledge of the Tigers' plans.

The only plausible avenue for the Tigers to sign Damon would be if team owner Mike Ilitch were to get heavily involved. Ilitch pressed for the signings of Pudge Rodriguez in 2004 and Magglio Ordonez in 2005. Like Damon, they were Scott Boras clients who remained on the open market deep into the offseason.

Barring that, Detroit will enter the season with its existing outfield options, including rookie Austin Jackson and holdovers Ryan Raburn and Clete Thomas. Team officials hope that Ordonez and Carlos Guillen remain healthy and productive enough to play the corner outfield spots on a regular basis.

But after trading Curtis Granderson and allowing Placido Polanco to leave through free agency, the Tigers aren’t certain who their Nos. 1 and 2 hitters will be. Raburn did have a 1.104 OPS in 19 games as a leadoff man in 2009.

— Jon Paul Morosi
 

Thursday's latest news and notes


Sources: Marlins, Johnson OK 4-year extension — 6:56 p.m.

Right-hander Josh Johnson has agreed to a four-year, $39 million contract extension with the Marlins, two sources confirmed to FOXSports.com. Full story

Source: Tigers, Valverde reach deal — 5:22 p.m.

The Tigers have agreed to a two-year, $14 million contract with closer Jose Valverde, one major league source confirmed to FOXSports.com.

The deal includes an option for a third year, worth $9 million. Full story


Sources: Rangers agree with Colby Lewis -- 3:15 p.m.

The Rangers have reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract with free agent starter Colby Lewis, two major league sources told FOXSports.com.

The deal is worth $5 million, one source said, with the possibility of earning up to $500,000 in performance bonuses each year.

Lewis hasn't pitched in the majors since 2007 but is coming off two strong seasons in Japan.

The Rangers have developed good rotation depth this offseason, adding Lewis and fellow right-hander Rich Harden to go along with holdovers Scott Feldman, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter and Brandon McCarthy.

The team is nearing its payroll limit and probably won’t make many more upgrades before Opening Day. But it’s possible that the Rangers will add a catcher. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Torrealba market clearing up -- 1:35 p.m.

If Bengie Molina signs with the Mets, as expected, the market for free agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba should become clearer soon afterward.

The Mets are also among the teams interested in Torrealba. One major-league source indicated the Giants and Padres are pursuing Torrealba, too.

Texas is keeping tabs on Torrealba, as well. The Rangers probably won’t make an aggressive offer to Torrealba unless they get bad news on the condition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, their starting catcher last year. Saltalamacchia is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Sources: D-backs agree to 1-year deal with LaRoche -- 12:22 p.m.

The Diamondbacks have agreed to a one-year contract with Adam LaRoche pending a physical examination, two major league sources confirmed to FOXSports.com.

One source indicated that the guaranteed amount will be between $5 million and $6 million.

LaRoche batted .278 with 24 home runs and 80 RBIs in 144 games for the Pirates, Red Sox and Braves last year.

The contract appears to be favorable to Arizona, since the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that LaRoche turned down a two-year, $17.5 million deal from San Francisco. That offer came close to the start of the offseason, one source said today.

The Giants ultimately signed first baseman Aubrey Huff instead of LaRoche. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Mets close to signing Molina — 12:13 a.m.


The Mets were “close” to signing catcher Bengie Molina on Wednesday, two major league sources told FOXSports.com, although it is unclear if the news of Carlos Beltran’s knee surgery could affect the completion of those talks.

The team issued a news release Wednesday night, explaining that Beltran elected to undergo an “arthroscopic clean out” of the arthritic area in his right knee. Beltran isn’t expected to resume baseball activities for roughly three months, raising the possibility that the Mets must allocate additional dollars toward adding an outfielder.

Still, Beltran’s injury doesn’t change the fact that the Mets want to add offense behind the plate and have long coveted Molina.

If anything, Beltran’s unavailability for Opening Day places a greater emphasis on adding a player who can hit in the middle of the order. And Molina batted cleanup for the Giants through most of the 2009 season.

— Jon Paul Morosi

Wednesday's latest news and notes



Free-agent LHP Davis draws interest from Twins and Brewers — 9:03 p.m.

The Twins and Brewers are among the teams that have been linked to Jarrod Washburn since the off-season began.

And one major-league source said Wednesday that the same two teams remain interested in another free agent left-hander: Doug Davis, who spent the last three seasons with the Diamondbacks.

Davis is also drawing interest from the Mets and Nationals, the source indicated.

The Mets are believed to prefer Joel Pineiro among the available free agent starters. The Nationals, who signed Jason Marquis earlier this off-season, remain interested in adding experience to their rotation.

Davis is 62-68 with a 4.12 ERA over the past six seasons — while averaging 196 innings per year.

— Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi


Mariners interested in Tatis — 7:52 p.m.

The Mariners, still looking for bench help, have interest in free agent utility man Fernando Tatis, two major league sources said Wednesday.

Tatis played six positions for the Mets last year: all four infield spots, along with left and right field.

Tatis appeared in 125 games for New York in 2009, his highest total since serving as the Cardinals’ everyday third baseman in 1999. He batted .282 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs.

— Jon Paul Morosi



Dodgers could bring back Padilla — 7:18 p.m.

If the Dodgers don’t sign free agent starter Joel Pineiro, they are open to bringing back right-hander Vicente Padilla, one major league source said Wednesday.

The Dodgers and Mets are currently pursuing Pineiro, multiple sources have confirmed. The Mets are believed to have more cash at their disposal, due to issues pertaining to the divorce of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

Padilla was unpopular in Texas but effective in Los Angeles last year, going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in eight regular season outings. He also made two effective starts in the postseason.

Padilla, 32, has had a peculiar off-season. He was accidentally shot in the leg by a shooting instructor in his native Nicaragua.

— Jon Paul Morosi


Tigers in lead for Valverde? — 1:18 p.m.

The Tigers are believed to have the biggest current offer out to free-agent closer Jose Valverde, multiple sources said today, but the sides aren’t yet close to an agreement.

And while the Cubs aren’t interested, one source indicated that the National League Central rival Cardinals could emerge as a suitor. It’s not clear what role Valverde would have in St. Louis, given that Ryan Franklin is coming off an All-Star season in which he saved 38 games.

Valverde led the National League in saves in 2007 and 2008; he recorded 25 for the Astros last year, while going 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 52 outings.

Valverde earned an $8 million base salary last season in Houston. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Padres could make room for Dye — 11:33 a.m.

The Padres are showing interest in free agent outfielder Jermaine Dye, a major league source said, but it appears that they would need to trade a veteran player in order to afford him.

The most likely candidates to be moved would be closer Heath Bell or third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

Starting pitcher Chris Young would be another appealing trade chip, but he is coming off an injury-shortened season; teams will probably want to see that he’s healthy in spring training before taking on his $6.25 million salary for 2010.

The Cardinals were one potential suitor for Dye when the off-season began, but the re-signing of Matt Holliday satisfied their need for a run-producing outfield bat. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Market slow to develop for Calero — 11:14 a.m.

So, how much have you heard this off-season about reliever Kiko Calero?

Calero, 35, is a free agent after putting together a very good 2009 season with the Florida Marlins. He went 2-2 with a 1.95 ERA in 67 appearances.

It can be said with certainty that few available relievers are coming off a better year. His 60 innings were a career high, even though he missed roughly three weeks with inflammation in his right (throwing) shoulder.

More than anything, that shoulder probably explains why Calero hasn’t been signed already. He was also sidelined by a torn rotator cuff in 2008, when he made only five big-league appearances with Oakland.

The Cubs are among the teams that have checked on Calero, two major league sources said Tuesday. But their interest is probably contingent on how confident their medical officials are in the health of Calero’s shoulder.

While the Cubs are committed to Carlos Marmol as their closer, they would like to add another late-inning reliever, the sources said. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Tuesday's latest news and notes

Source: White Sox re-sign Castro — 3:10 p.m.

The White Sox have re-signed free-agent catcher Ramon Castro, awarding him a one-year, $1 million contract with a club option for 2011, according to a major-league source.

Castro has played 11 major league seasons with the Marlins, Mets and White Sox. He is a career .233 hitter with 55 home runs and 186 RBIs.

Sources: Bengie Molina has lowered asking price -- 12:32 p.m.

Free agent catcher Bengie Molina has lowered his asking price, multiple sources said Tuesday, raising the likelihood of a long-expected union with the New York Mets.

Molina had been asking for a three-year contract, but one source believes he is now willing to sign for two years.

Molina is thought to be the key to the remaining marketplace for free agent catchers. Rod Barajas, Yorvit Torrealba and Molina’s brother, Jose, are among those still available.

It’s been assumed for weeks that Bengie Molina won’t return to San Francisco. He batted .265 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs for the Giants last year. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Nationals looking at Hudson? -- 11:52 a.m.

In looking for another middle infielder, the Nationals are prioritizing defense. That’s why they remain interested in second baseman Orlando Hudson, two major-league sources said Tuesday.

One person with knowledge of Hudson’s market believes Washington would be willing to make him a two-year offer at the right price.

If they stick with current personnel, the Nationals could move Cristian Guzman to second base and play young Ian Desmond at shortstop.

Hudson made the National League All-Star team last year but lost his starting job to Ronnie Belliard late in the season. Yet, he still won his fourth Gold Glove.

Hudson has a history of injuries to his left wrist, which could make the physical examination a crucial step in an agreement with any club. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Royals still shopping for outfield help — 8:37 a.m.

Less than a week after signing Scott Podsednik, the Royals haven’t stopped looking for outfield help.

Kansas City is currently looking for a power-hitting right fielder or designated hitter, according to a major league source.

The player’s role would probably depend upon whether Jose Guillen is healthy enough to play in the outfield on a regular basis, after his disappointing and injury-shortened 2009 season. The Royals probably won’t have a good gauge of Guillen’s capabilities until they see him on the field in spring training.

The Royals don’t have much payroll flexibility but have some degree of interest in free agents Jonny Gomes and Marcus Thames, the source indicated. Kansas City is the type of club that could give one of them enough at-bats to produce more than 20 home runs.

The Mariners have also considered Gomes this offseason, although their acquisition of Milton Bradley reduced the likelihood of that possibility.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, both Gomes and Thames had an OPS-plus rating of 108 during their past four seasons with American League clubs. That would suggest that they are similar players with above-average power.

But because Guillen and Billy Butler are right-handed, it might make more sense for the Royals to instead add a left-handed hitter such as free agent Rick Ankiel.

If Ankiel were to join Podsednik and David DeJesus in the outfield, however, the Royals would be short on power at the traditional run-producing positions. Ankiel, Podsednik and DeJesus combined for 31 home runs last year.

— Jon Paul Morosi


Monday's latest news and notes

Dodgers sign Nick Green to minor league contract — 2:37 p.m.

The Dodgers have signed shortstop Nick Green to a minor league contract.

Green is coming off back surgery but is behind schedule in his recovery. When he's healthy, he'll be the primary backup for Rafael Furcal.

Infielder Jamey Carroll, who signed with Dodgers last month, does not play shortstop.

Green played for Torre and Bowa with the Yankees in 2006. 

— Ken Rosenthal

Royals get more options for bullpen — 2:28 p.m.


The Royals have signed reliever Matt Herges to a minor league contract, a major league source told FOXSports.com.

Herges went 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 30 appearances last year with the Indians and Rockies.

Kansas City is returning several veterans to its bullpen, including closer Joakim Soria and setup men Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz. Herges should have a chance to make the team out of spring training as a middle reliever. - Jon Paul Morosi

Options dwindling for Valverde — 12:46 p.m.

The Diamondbacks’ interest in Jose Valverde has waned, one major league source said today, leaving Detroit as perhaps the most likely destination for the free agent closer.

The Tigers have made an offer to Valverde, two sources confirmed, and have the greatest need for a closer among the possible suitors.

Valverde led the National League in saves in 2007 and 2008; he recorded 25 for the Astros last year, while going 4-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 52 outings.

Valverde earned an $8 million base salary last season in Houston, but it’s doubtful that the Tigers would offer even that much on a one-year deal for 2010.

The Pirates are looking for a closer, but they reportedly prefer Octavio Dotel. And while the Cubs pursued Matt Capps as a free agent before he signed with Washington, the North Siders are currently committed to starting the season with Carlos Marmol as their closer, two sources said.

If the Cubs add pitching, one source said, it would more likely be in the form of a starter to help minimize the impact of Ted Lilly’s early-season absence while recovering from surgery.

— Jon Paul Morosi

Indians not in talks to trade Peralta — 8:23 a.m.

The Cardinals and Twins are among the teams still in the market for a third baseman.

But it doesn’t look like either of them will trade for Cleveland’s Jhonny Peralta.

The Indians aren’t involved in any active trade talks for Peralta, one major league source told FOXSports.com on Monday morning.

Peralta was an everyday shortstop for the Indians until last year, when he made 102 starts at third base. He batted .254 with decent power numbers: 11 home runs, 83 RBIs.

Peralta has only one guaranteed year left on his contract, which could make him an attractive trade commodity during the season.

He will earn $4.6 million this year. His deal also includes a $7 million club option for 2011, with a $250,000 buyout. - Jon Paul Morosi

Source: Tigers sign minor leaguer  Gonzalez — 7:28 a.m.

The Tigers have signed right-hander Enrique Gonzalez to a minor league contract and invited him to their major league camp, one source told FOXSports.com.

Gonzalez has spent most of the past three seasons as a starter at Class AAA in the Arizona, San Diego and Boston organizations. He went 8-11 with a 5.12 ERA in 26 games at Pawtucket last year and made two relief appearances in the majors.

The vast majority of his big league experience came with the Diamondbacks in 2006. For his major league career, he has a 4-7 record and 5.93 ERA in roughly 115 innings.

Gonzalez spent this off-season with La Guaira of the Venezuelan Winter League, where the opposition batted .320 against him. - Jon Paul Morosi


Sunday's latest news and notes

Sources: Dodgers avoid arbitration with Repko — 9:33 a.m.

The Dodgers have avoided salary arbitration with Jason Repko, multiple sources said, agreeing to terms with the outfielder on a one-year, $500,000 contract.

Repko, 29, spent most of last season at Class AAA Albuquerque. He was a September call-up for the Dodgers, appearing in 10 games and going hitless in five at-bats.

Repko has had only 27 plate appearances with the Dodgers since 2007, largely because of injuries. He last played regularly in the majors in 2006.

With the departure of Juan Pierre, however, Repko should compete with Xavier Paul this year to become the Dodgers’ fourth outfielder. - Jon Paul Morosi


Saturday's latest news and notes

Sources: Cubs sign LaHair to minor-league deal — 11:17 a.m.

The Cubs have signed first baseman Bryan LaHair to a minor league contract, two major league sources told FOXSports.com.

LaHair will be invited to Chicago’s major league spring training, the sources said. With a strong camp, it's possible that he could make the team as a power bat off the bench.

LaHair, 27, had spent his entire professional career with Seattle. He didn’t appear in the majors last year, and the Mariners removed him from their 40-man roster in October.

But he has experience in the majors: 45 games in 2008, during which he batted .250 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. LaHair, a left-handed hitter, posted a .289/.354/.530 line at Class AAA Tacoma in 2009. -Jon Paul Morosi

Friday's latest news and notes

Hairston's return to Yanks no sure thing — 9:17 p.m.

The Yankees are facing competition as they seek to retain free-agent utility man Jerry Hairston Jr.

Four other teams are interested in Hairston, according to major-league sources: the A’s, the Padres and two unidentified National League clubs.

Hairston, 33, could help fill the Yankees’ left-field vacancy, possibly in a platoon with Brett Gardner. He also can play center and right, as well as second base, shortstop and third.

His salary on a one-year deal likely would fall between $2 million and
$3 million. Hairston also has received multi-year offers, the sources said.

Craig Counsell returned to the Brewers for $2.1 million, Alex Cora to the Mets for $2 million. Jamey Carroll signed a two-year deal with the Dodgers with an average salary of $1.925 million.

Hairston spent last season with the Reds and Yankees, batting .251-.315-.394 and hitting 10 home runs in 383 at-bats. He scored the winning run for the Yankees in the 13th inning of Game 2 in the American League Championship Series, and started in right field in Game 2 of the World Series.

- Ken Rosenthal

Thursday's latest news and notes


Will Pirates land Ankiel? — 1:22 p.m.

The Pirates want to sign free-agent outfielder Rick Ankiel, but their
chances of completing a deal are in question.

While one major-league source says he expects the Pirates to “win out”
for Ankiel, a second source is more pessimistic.

The Pirates’ interest in Ankiel is “real,” the second source said, but
the team might fill its need with another player rather than continue
waiting on Ankiel and his agent, Scott Boras.

Ankiel, 30, would play right field for the Pirates, enabling the team
to use Garrett Jones at first base. The Pirates also could add a
different outfielder, or find a first baseman and play Jones in right.

-- Ken Rosenthal

Did Boras bluff Cards? — 12:58 p.m.

Would Scott Boras have pulled an Adrian Beltre with Matt Holliday,
taking a one-year deal in search of a better free-agent market next
off-season?

The Cardinals believed the answer was yes, and their fear of losing
Holliday prompted them to award him a seven-year contract, according
to a source with knowledge of the club’s thinking.

One rival executive, however, says that the Cardinals' reasoning was
flawed, contending that Holliday would not have accepted a one-year
deal.

“That’s not the type of person Matt is,” the exec says, “and where
would he go for a year to build his value beyond where it was?”

Holliday, who turns 30 next month, has spoken of his desire to settle
his family long-term. He was traded twice in an eight-month period in
2008-09, and might not have wanted to experience another season of
uncertainty.

Boras, though, has a history of taking short-term deals with the goal
of re-entering the market at more opportune moments.

He did it with Beltre. He did it with Manny Ramirez. He did it with
Andruw Jones.

Some team — most likely the Yankees or Red Sox — might have signed
Holliday for say, one year and $20 million. At that point, the
Cardinals would have been left without Holliday, whom they consider to
be a franchise player.

The Cardinals do not have the next Holliday in their farm system. They
do not have the pieces to trade for a comparable offensive player. So,
in their minds, they had a choice: Bend on the length of contract or
risk losing Holliday.

They were not willing to take that risk.

- Ken Rosenthal

Rockies shouldn't have to overpay for help — 8:09 a.m.


Right now, the Rockies are considering free agents such as Robb Quinlan and Fernando Tatis as they seek to improve their bench.

Their list of targets, however, could expand if the market crashes for several more prominent infielders, creating an opening to grab a regular at a discounted price.

Miguel Tejada, Orlando Hudson, Orlando Cabrera, Feliple Lopez, Adam Kennedy and Melvin Mora all remain available. Not all are likely to find jobs they desire.

Hudson lingered on the market last off-season, only to sign with the Dodgers on Feb. 20 for $3.38 million. He wound up earning a total of  $7.9 million, including incentive bonuses.

The Rockies probably could afford that type of contract if they restricted it only to the base salary. At the moment, such deals are not available. Tejada, for example, is seeking a two-year, $16 million  package, according to a major-league source.

The Cardinals and A's, both in need of third basemen, also might wait for prices to drop. The Cubs could look to add a second baseman and the Reds a shortstop if bargains start to emerge.

— Ken Rosenthal

Padres in no rush to move Bell — 8:01 a.m.

The Padres’ Heath Bell remains attractive to teams in need of late-inning relievers, particularly now that most of the free-agent closer are signed.

Whether the Padres will trade Bell is another story.

Three or four teams are interested in Bell, but the Padres “are not really looking to do anything with him at this point,” according to a major-league source.

Bell, 32, remains affordable to the Padres, even though his salary will jump from $1.255 million to the $3 million to $4 million range in his second year of arbitration.

The Padres likely will find even greater interest in Bell at the July 31 non-waiver deadline – provided, of course, that Bell remains healthy and effective for a fourth straight season.

— Ken Rosenthal

Wednesday's latest news and notes


Angels close to deal with Cuban lefty Chapman — 11:40 p.m.

Amid reports that Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman is close to a decision, the Angels are “trying like crazy” to sign him, according to a major-league source.

Chapman, a free agent, continues to negotiate with multiple clubs, and the “Angels are part of the process,” a second source said.

The Angels could appeal to Chapman because of the success of their Cuban first baseman, Kendry Morales.

Chapman and Morales share the same agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks.

— Ken Rosenthal


What's the deal with LaRoche? — 8:46 a.m.

If free-agent first baseman Adam LaRoche rejected a two-year, $17 million offer from the Giants, as reported by Buster Olney of ESPN.com, then I would like to know the following:

* Which club will give LaRoche a better deal?

Many fans probably are unaware that LaRoche, 30, has averaged 25 homers, 85 RBIs and an .836 OPS over the past five seasons. But he almost always starts slowly, and the Braves were not willing to pay him big money, then endure another of his sluggish first halves.

The Orioles still want to add a first baseman, and LaRoche, a left- handed hitter, would be well-suited for Camden Yards. But in a buyer’s market, the Orioles need not give LaRoche say, a three-year, $24 million contract. They could sign another first baseman or even add a third baseman and play Garrett Atkins at first.

* Why don’t the Giants just sign outfielder Johnny Damon?

Olney did not report when the Giants made their offer; Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury-News wrote that it was last month. The Giants since have signed free agents Mark DeRosa and Juan Uribe, who will earn a combined $9.25 million next season. Perhaps the LaRoche money
is still available; perhaps not.

If the Giants indeed have that much money to spend, they should be within range of Damon’s asking price. Damon’s final request to the Yankees was for two years, $20 million; the team offered two years, $14 million. The reported offer to LaRoche falls right in between.

The Braves, thought to be another possible suitor for Damon, will not make another major move, according to a source with knowledge of the club’s thinking.

If that is indeed the case, the approximately $9 million the Braves saved in the Javier Vazquez trade will result only in the additions of free-agent first baseman Troy Glaus and infielder/outfielder Eric
Hinske; the team also acquired outfielder Melky Cabrera, lefty Michael Dunn and a top pitching prospect in the deal.

  — Ken Rosenthal

Tuesday's latest news and notes



Kotchman about to be traded to Mariners — 5:46 p.m.


Red Sox first baseman Casey Kotchman is on the verge of being traded to the Mariners, according to a major-league source.

The deal, first reported by ESPN.com, will bring the Red Sox a minor leaguer and possibly another player.

Kotchman became expendable when the Red Sox reached agreement with free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, ensuring that Kevin Youkilis will remain at first base.

Beltre's deal will become official once he passes a physical. The Red Sox also are expected to trade third baseman Mike Lowell.

The addition of Kotchman should ensure that Jose Lopez remains at second base for the Mariners and could reduce the chances of the team re-signing free-agent first baseman Russell Branyan.

The team had considered a number of scenarios in which Lopez might move to first, including playing Bill Hall at third and Chone Figgins at second.

But when asked about that possible alignment Tuesday, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said, "I don't think that's going to happen. As of right now, 'Lopey' is our second baseman."

Zduriencik left open the possibility that his plans could change.


  — Ken Rosenthal




Gutierrez close to four-year extension with Mariners — 4:56 p.m.


Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is on the verge of signing a four-year, $20.5 million contract extension with the Mariners, according to a major-league source.

The deal will buy out all three of Gutierrez’s arbitration years and his first year of free agency. It also could include a club option for a fifth year.

Gutierrez, 27, emerged as one of the game’s top defensive center fielders last season and batted .283 with a career-high 18 home runs and 70 RBIs.

— Ken Rosenthal



Big Unit to retire tonight — 4:41 p.m.


Free-agent left-hander Randy Johnson will hold a conference call with reporters on Tuesday night.

While no one in Johnson's camp offered immediate confirmation, a source confirmed that the pitcher would retire.

Johnson's agents originally announced that he would hold his conference call Wednesday at noon ET, but changed the time to avoid a conflict with the Hall of Fame announcement Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.

Johnson, 46, has nothing left to accomplish. He would retire with five Cy Young awards, 303 wins, 4,785 strikeouts and a 3.29 ERA.

Johnson and Curt Schilling shared the World Series MVP Award in 2001 when the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees.

He is second on the all-time strikeout list behind Nolan Ryan.

 — Ken Rosenthal


Lowell for Castillo? Wouldn't make sense -- 1:06 p.m.


At first glance, an exchange of Mets second baseman Luis Castillo for Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell seems a reasonable match in dollars: Castillo is owed $12 million for two seasons, Lowell $12 million for one.

Problem is, such a deal would make no sense for either club.

The Mets would take on an additional $6 million by adding an injured Lowell in 2010. They would need to sign a second baseman, probably free agent Orlando Hudson, to replace Castillo. And they still would need to add a starting pitcher (Joel Pineiro?) and regular catcher (Bengie Molina?).

They do not have that much money.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, would save $6 million in 2010 –- a positive development, considering that they would have saved only $3 million in their aborted trade of Lowell to the Rangers. But what the heck would they do with Castillo?

The Sox would not pay Castillo $6 million in each of the next two seasons to be a barely-used backup to Dustin Pedroia. They would seek to trade him, and even general manager Theo Epstein at his most creative probably could not pull off such a deal.

Rather than take Castillo, a team in need of an infielder could sign a free agent, most likely at a reduced price. Among the infielders still on the open market: Hudson, Miguel Tejada, Felipe Lopez, Adam Kennedy, Ron Belliard, Orlando Cabrera.

Castillo remains highly unlikely to be traded, for Lowell or anyone else. -Ken Rosenthal

Are Angels done making moves? -- 12:06 p.m.

Are the Angels finished making offseason moves?

General manager Tony Reagins will not go that far. But he does not sound terribly motivated to act, either.

“We like our club as it stands right now,” Reagins said Monday. “There might be some opportunities out there to improve our situation, but there’s no urgency to make any particular move.”

So, Brandon Wood at third base?

“The position will not be handed over to him. It’s something he has to earn,” Reagins said.

“He deserves the chance to have an opportunity to play there. Maicer Izturis can play there as well. We’re confident in (Wood’s) ability. He will get an opportunity to compete for that job.”

What about adding a starting pitcher to go with left-handers Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir and righties Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana?

The Angels, after losing free-agent right-hander John Lackey to the Red Sox, would seem a prime candidate to jump in one of the remaining free-agent starters.

Righty Joel Pineiro and lefty Doug Davis are still available. So are two former Angels, lefty Jarrod Washburn and righty Jon Garland. A high-risk, high-reward proposition such as righty Ben Sheets or lefty Erik Bedard also could make sense.

“We have some internal candidates, whether it’s Matt Palmer, Sean O’Sullivan, Trevor Bell, Anthony Ortega – younger guys that will have an opportunity if we don’t make any additions,” Reagins said.

“We’ll see what presents itself out there. In that role, we feel we have in-house candidates that we feel can fill that job capably.”

To date, the Angels have lost Lackey, third baseman Chone Figgins, right-hander Kelvim Escobar and left-handed reliever Darren Oliver. Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero is all but certain to depart as well.

On the plus side, the team has re-signed right fielder Bobby Abreu and added free-agent DH Hideki Matsui and right-handed reliever Fernando Rodney. -- Ken Rosenthal

Monday's latest news and notes

Showcase for free agents set for Feb. 2 -- 4:38 p.m.

Have you checked the list of familiar veterans who have yet to sign with a team for 2010?

Well, now they have the chance to show teams they are still talented and healthy enough to earn a job in the majors this year.

Tampa Bay Rays scout Rob Ducey, a former major league outfielder, has organized a Professional Free Agent Showcase for Feb. 2-4 at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

If a critical mass of players and scouts attend, the event could become a significant date on baseball's offseason calendar.

After all, only six weeks remain before the start of spring training. The time is approaching for players and clubs to pair up, if they haven't done so already.

''I have gotten calls and emails from both sides -- agents and clubs -- saying that it is a very good idea and opportunity," Ducey said this week. "We will see. If we get the players, the scouts will be there.''

Free agents must have experience in the U.S. or international pro leagues in order to take part. That should make for a more select talent pool than normal tryout camps. And the timing allows plenty of time for teams to agree to terms with players and invite them to their spring camps.

Players must pay a $750 fee in order to register, with a deadline of Jan. 20.

Ducey has established a web site for the event at www.proshowcase.net. According to information there, field staff for the showcase will include former big leaguers such as Pat Hentgen, Cecil Fielder, Heathcliff Slocumb, Darnell Coles and Willie Fraser. Ducey hopes the event will draw officials and scouts from major league, international and independent clubs. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Wang receives good news from doctor — 3:28 p.m.

Free-agent right-hander Chien-Ming Wang visited Dr. James Andrews on Monday and received a report “even more positive” than had been expected, according to the pitcher’s agent, Alan Nero.

Wang, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in July, could throw off a mound in 6 to 8 weeks. Andrews was “very optimistic” that Wang would return to form, Nero said.

“We hope that this information will heighten interest,” Nero said. “We do anticipate positive activity within the next couple of weeks.”

Nero also represents free-agent right-hander Colby Lewis, who spent the last two seasons as a highly successful starter with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, going a combined 26-17 with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Six teams are “aggressively bidding” for Lewis, Nero said, and the pitcher could make a decision shortly.

The Rangers, Lewis’ original team, are among the clubs interested in him, according to MLB.com. -- Ken Rosenthal

Dec. 30's latest news and notes


Are the Dodgers stuck? — 3:17 p.m.

As the Dodgers seek to create payroll flexibility, don’t look for them to trade any of their top arbitration-eligible players — right fielder Andre Ethier, center fielder Matt Kemp and first baseman James Loney, right-hander Chad Billingsley, closer Jonathan Broxton and catcher Russell Martin.

The Dodgers, after repeatedly resisting the temptation to move their best youngsters as they ascended to the majors, are not about to shift course and break up their core, according to major-league sources.

Thus, there might not be much the team can do.

The Dodgers, sources say, essentially are limited to cash-neutral transactions due to the divorce proceedings between owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie.

If the team wanted to add a free agent such as right-hander Joel Pineiro, it would need to subtract a player at a comparable price -- an odd position for a franchise that led the majors in attendance last season and is coming off back-to-back appearances in the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1977-78.

A player such as Ethier could bring a significant return, but to what end? Ethier emerged as a top power hitter last season, and his salary in arbitration figures to be in the $6 million range. The Dodgers no longer can trust left fielder Manny Ramirez to be the Manny of old. Moving Ethier could be counter-productive.

Trading a pitcher would be equally problematic; the Dodgers need to add a free agent such as Pineiro, not diminish their staff. The way the team currently sets up, Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda would head the rotation. A group of youngsters would compete for the fourth and fifth spots.

Left-handed reliever George Sherrill, projected to earn about $4 million in arbitration, remains a candidate to be traded. But even then, the savings would not be terribly significant. What’s more, club officials are reluctant to weaken the bullpen, which led the National League in ERA by a wide margin last season.

It may turn out that the Dodgers do little of consequence -- their biggest offseason moves thus far have been the trade of outfielder Juan Pierre and the signing of free agent Jamey Carroll as an infield reserve.

If that is all this team can manage, fans undoubtedly will want answers from McCourt. -- Ken Rosenthal

Dec. 23 latest news and notes

Nationals make sense for Capps -- updated 3:47 p.m.

While free-agent reliever Matt Capps still could sign with the Cubs, the better guess is that he will pick the Nationals when he decides between the two teams on Wednesday.

The Nats fear that the Cubs will make Capps a better financial offer. The Cubs, however, might prefer to move more deliberately in their search for bullpen help, sources say.

What's more, the Nats are offering Capps something that the Cubs can not – the opportunity to close. If Capps went to the Cubs, he would set up for Carlos Marmol.

The Nats’ sales pitch to Capps essentially boils down to this – sign a two-year deal with us, earn 60 or more saves during that time and then hit the free-agent market at age 28.

Another possibility for Capps would be to sign a one-year deal, setting himself up for a better multi-year deal the next season -- or a big score in his final year of arbitration before becoming a free agent.

Capps, whose previous team was the Pirates, would stand a better chance of winning a World Series with the Cubs, but the Nats at least are trying to improve.

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez and right-hander Jason Marquis already have signed free-agent contracts with the club, and left-handed reliever Eddie Guardado is on the verge of an agreement.

The Nats still want to add another starting pitcher and free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, who would further strengthen their defense.

By continuing to add pitching, one Nats official said, the team can avoid rushing its top young arms – most notably right-handers Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen, both of whom were first-round draft picks in 2009.

“If you keep them in the minors until September, you know that you will have done well in December,” the official said. -- Ken Rosenthal

Trying to figure out Atlanta's plan -- 3:36 p.m.

Two thoughts on the Braves:

*The Javier Vazquez trade cannot be adequately judged until the Braves spend the approximately $8 million they saved in the exchange -- and maybe not even then.

The Braves’ motivation in trading Vazquez was to clear salary for other moves. The first will be the signing of free agent Troy Glaus to play first base. Let’s say, just for the sake of discussion, that the second will be the signing of Mark DeRosa.

At that point, the trade effectively would amount to Vazquez and left-hander Boone Logan for outfielder Glaus, DeRosa, Melky Cabrera, left-hander Mike Dunn and minor-league righty Arodys Vizcaino, who was rated the Yankees’ third-best prospect by Baseball America.

Such a breakdown accounts neither for the years of control for each player, nor the two high draft picks the Yankees will receive if Vazquez departs as a high free agent after next season. But once the entire picture is known, the deal likely will appear more balanced.

Here's the problem:

Given the Braves' need for a right-handed slugger, they should be plunging into the markets for Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, the two top hitters on the free-agent market. Both, club officials say, are out of the Braves' price range.

*Another concern: What do Glaus, left-handed closer Billy Wagner and right-handed setup man Takashi Saito have in common?

None has been a picture of health in recent seasons.

The Braves aren’t buying robust players in their primes; they’re gambling on three thirty-somethings -- late thirty-somethings in the cases of Wagner and Saito.

Wagner is a physical freak who returned from Tommy John surgery in near-record time last season. Still, he pitched on back-to-back days only once with the Red Sox.

Saito, too, was handled delicately by the Sox after missing most of the second half of 2008 with a right elbow sprain. Braves manager Bobby Cox, on the other hand, can be hard on relievers; let’s see if Saito makes it through the whole season.

Finally, Glaus made a strong enough return from right shoulder surgery last January to rejoin the Cardinals in September and crack their postseason roster. But in four of the past seven seasons, he has missed significant time with injuries. -- Ken Rosenthal

'Wait and see' approach for Twins -- 1:23 p.m.

The Twins would like to upgrade their infield and starting rotation before Opening Day. But they seem content to wait while sifting through the options in both areas, hoping that the prices will drop.

Really, what did you expect? The Twins may be moving into a new (better-attended) ballpark in the spring, but the Twins are still the Twins.

In each search, the field is broad.

Among starters, one source said the Twins have some level of interest in Jarrod Washburn, Jon Garland, Doug Davis and Brett Myers.

Garland, however, is looking for a multiyear contract and may be out of the Twins’ price range.

At third base, the Twins like (but may not be able to afford) Mark DeRosa and Adrian Beltre. Other options include Miguel Tejada and Juan Uribe.

The Twins haven’t actively pursued a trade for Cleveland third baseman Jhonny Peralta, multiple sources said. But the Indians could be persuaded to move him if offered the right package. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Why Matsui will be a hit -- 10:18 a.m.

The newest Angel slugger, Hideki Matsui, hits everywhere, but is particularly comfortable in western environs.

Consider Matsui’s numbers in each of the four AL West parks, as compiled by Nick Stamm of STATS LLC.

Park          PA    2B  HR    BA/OBP/SLG
Angels      118     3     8      .272/.350/.553
Athletics    98      5     4      .306/.367/.529
Mariners  119    10    5      .312/.361/.541
Rangers    90      9     4      .316/.422/.592

Tuesday's latest news and notes


Rival exec lays out new Joba rules -- 11:26 p.m.

A rival executive says that neither Phil Hughes nor Joba Chamberlain should be in the Yankees’ rotation next season.

Instead, the exec suggests that the Yankees keep both youngsters in their bullpen and make Chad Gaudin their fifth starter.

Not a crazy thought. But if the Yankees enact such a plan, they are far more likely to use Alfredo Aceves as their fifth starter, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking.

The Yankees mostly have used Aceves as a reliever, but he was a starter in Mexico and at Class AA and AAA -- and his ERA in five major- league starts is 3.42.

Aceves, 28, also has been an effective reliever, going 10-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 44 career relief appearances. But the Yankees could put together a powerhouse bullpen without him.

Hughes and Chamberlain would set up for Mariano Rivera. Damaso Marte would be the left-handed specialist. Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and David Robertson could fill the other spots.

Left-hander Boone Logan, acquired from the Braves in the Javier Vazquez trade, could open the season in the minors -- he still has minor-league options.

Another possibility for the Yankees would be to trade Gaudin and/or Mitre, but they might prefer to keep their depth, considering the heavy workloads that CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte carried last season.

One other Yankees note: They inquired about left-hander Cliff Lee both before and after he was traded to the Mariners. Their talks with the M’s, one source said, “went nowhere.” --Ken Rosenthal

Are Tigers about to lose more relief -- 8:34 p.m.


On Tuesday, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski described the chances of his team re-signing Fernando Rodney as “not probable.”

“But,” he added, “you never know.”

The Tigers have already lost one late-inning reliever this offseason: setup man Brandon Lyon, who signed with Houston.

Now Rodney is in serious discussions with the Angels, according to ESPN.com. Two sources confirmed that talks have taken place between Rodney and the Angels, but one cautioned that “nothing is done.”

Rodney went 2-5 with a 4.40 ERA in 73 appearances for Detroit this year. He converted 37 of 38 save opportunities. -- Jon Paul Morosi

What does Anderson signing mean to K.C.? -- 4:45 p.m.

Free-agent outfielder Brian Anderson signed a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Royals on Tuesday.

The move will not affect the Royals’ pursuit of free-agent outfielder Scott Podsednik, according to a major-league source.

Before the addition of Anderson, David DeJesus, Jose Guillen and Mitch Maier were the only three outfielders on the Royals’ roster -- and the team is open to trading DeJesus.

Thus, Podsednik could still fit, with Anderson becoming a fourth outfielder. Podsednik bats left-handed, Anderson right-handed.

However, the Cubs, Giants and Tigers also have shown interest in Podsednik, who might prefer to play for more of a contender than the Royals. -- Ken Rosenthal


Brewers' moves limited by payroll -- 1:55 p.m.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin wanted to upgrade his rotation this offseason, but he had to do it within the parameters of Milwaukee’s moderate payroll.

So, he signed Randy Wolf to a three-year, $29.75 million contract.

But Wolf was willing to work with him on how big his paychecks will be in 2010. Of Wolf’s $9.25 million salary, major league sources say $4 million will be deferred without interest.

The reason: Milwaukee’s payroll will be tighter in 2010 than 2011. Melvin should have a little more flexibility after next season, at which point Dave Bush will become a free agent and options will come due on big contracts for Jeff Suppan, Trevor Hoffman and David Riske.

The Brewers aren’t necessarily through upgrading their rotation for 2010. (At present, Wolf is in a starting group that includes Suppan, Bush, Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra.) Jarrod Washburn, a Wisconsin resident, remains unsigned for 2010 and has previously shown interest in pitching for the Brewers.

“The thought of playing close to home has always appealed to me,” Washburn said in an e-mail earlier this offseason, in reference to the Twins and Brewers.

The Twins -- even after signing Carl Pavano -- remain interested in Washburn, a source said. -- Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal

Yanks, Braves chasing same free agents -- updated 12:47 p.m.

The Yankees and Braves, after completing the five-player Javier Vazquez trade, likely will compete for the same free agents as they try to fill their remaining holes.

The party line from both clubs is that Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, the two best hitters on the market, are too expensive.

But both teams are interested in Mark DeRosa, who plays infield and outfield. Marlon Byrd, who plays all three outfield position, also makes sense for both.

The Braves’ preference is a right-handed hitter such as DeRosa or Byrd, and they still need to address first base as well as left field.

Right fielder Jason Heyward, one of the top prospects in the majors, figures to be in the majors this season, perhaps as soon as Opening Day.

The Braves could go with an outfield of Heyward, Nate McLouth and Melky Cabrera. DeRosa could serve as a super-utility man, along with Omar Infante.

Xavier Nady, coming off his second Tommy John surgery, is a hitter in whom the Braves long have had interest. He has played 82 career games at first base. Re-signing Adam LaRoche, a left-handed hitter, is another possibility.

The Yankees could make DeRosa their starting left fielder, but also use him as their primary backup for third baseman Alex Rodriguez and as a reserve at first and second.

Byrd, too, could play left -- and like DeRosa, would be less expensive than Johnny Damon, who is another potential target for the Braves. However, the Cubs also are targeting Byrd, and they would play him in center. -- Ken Rosenthal

Four teams left in Bay bidding? -- 12:42 p.m.

With three days left before Christmas -- and the unofficial intermission of the Hot Stove season -- Jason Bay still doesn’t know where he will play in 2010.

But an official of one interested club believes that four teams remain involved in the bidding: the Mets, Mariners, Giants and Angels.

And while the Yankees are signaling that they’re not in on Bay -- or Matt Holliday, or Johnny Damon -- they have been known to shift course rapidly at this time of year.

One source believes the Mariners are attempting to clear payroll in order to make a late push for Bay. But one rival executive doubts Seattle would sign Bay for more than one or two years, since prospects Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley are candidates to play left field in the long term.

The Angels haven’t ruled themselves out, either. They have watched their own free agents, Chone Figgins and John Lackey, sign elsewhere.

As for the Giants? One person familiar with the organization’s plans said today that it’s "not impossible” to envision them signing Bay or Matt Holliday.

In other words, it’s far from certain that Bay will sign with the Mets. -- Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi

Giants still looking to add some pop -- 12:28 p.m.

The Giants lost Nick Johnson to the Yankees. They could lose Mark DeRosa to the Yankees, Braves or Cardinals. But they remain confident that they will free-agent hitters.

Matt Holliday or Jason Bay?

“I wouldn’t say it’s impossible,” said one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, “but let’s see how everything unfolds.”

The Giants believe Holliday and Bay will receive more attractive offers from other clubs, the source said. They also might prefer to distribute their money to several players rather than allocate most of it to just one.

Defense remains a priority, making third baseman Adrian Beltre a logical fit. The Giants still want to add a catcher and fifth starter as well a big bat. -- Ken Rosenthal

Final player in Mariners-Jays deal? -- 11:46 a.m.


The second player going to Seattle in the Mariners-Blue Jays trade will be a minor leaguer, one source said this morning.

That would rule out one of the promising left-handed starters who debuted with the Blue Jays in 2009: Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil or Brad Mills.

Catcher Brian Jeroloman was among the names discussed, the source said, but it’s not clear if he was ultimately included in the trade.

FOXSports.com senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal reported late Monday that the Mariners had agreed to send right-hander Brandon Morrow to the Blue Jays for reliever Brandon League and a prospect.

Players must pass physicals in order for the deal to be completed. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Yanks have deal with catcher Rivera -- 2:06 a.m.

The Yankees have agreed to a minor league contract with catcher Mike Rivera, according to one major league source.

Rivera, 33, will be invited to the team’s major league spring training.

New York currently has two catchers on its 40-man roster, Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli.

Rivera batted .228 with two home runs and 14 RBIs in 41 games for the Brewers this year. He was non-tendered by Milwaukee earlier this month. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Monday's latest news and notes

Yanks negotiating for a starter -- 10 p.m.

The Yankees are in “active” trade negotiations on several fronts for a starting pitcher, according to a major-league source.

Reds right-hander Aaron Harang is not among the possibilities, the source said, and the Yankees’ interest in Braves right-hander Derek Lowe, is minimal, according to another source.

A deal could be completed as soon as Tuesday.

Braves right-hander Derek Lowe is also available, but the Yankees are not interested in him, other sources said. -- Ken Rosenthal


Something's not right about Byrd -- 8:26 p.m.

As the Cubs weigh the top three free-agent center fielders, perhaps Marlon Byrd’s biggest negative is that he is right-handed.

But should it be?

Byrd hit righties far better than lefties last season and also fared slightly better against righties in ’08. For his career, his OPS against righties is just slightly lower than it is against lefties.

In other words, Byrd deflects the argument that the Cubs need to add balance by signing one of the left-handed hitting free agents, Scott Podsednik or Rick Ankiel.

Byrd is a better defender in center than Podsednik and a safer overall bet than Ankiel. Podsednik, though, adds value as a leadoff man, while Ankiel is perhaps the best defender of the three - and the best player if he can get back to where he was in the first half of 2008.

The Cubs’ other option is to trade for a center fielder, but chances are they will wind up with one of the three free agents. As one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said, “It’s not an open-and-shut call.” -- Ken Rosenthal


Nats among final three for reliever Capps -- 6:20 p.m.

The Nationals might actually be on a roll.

Not only are the Nats set to announce a two-year deal with free-agent right-hander Jason Marquis, but they also are one of three finalists for free-agent reliever Matt Capps.

“They came out of nowhere,” said Capps’ agent, Paul Kinzer. “Going in, we weren’t even considering them. But they’re right there. They’ll be in the last conversation, I know.”

Kinzer said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has been a persuasive recruiter. The Nats’ biggest advantage, though, is they are one of the few teams in need of a closer.

Kinzer indicated the Cubs also are a finalist for Capps, who could set up for closer Carlos Marmol.

The agent declined to name the third club, but said the Angels were not involved.

"It's going to be a tough decision," Kinzer said. "He's happy with the choices." -- Ken Rosenthal

Drama-filled Dodgers in a cash-neutral position -- 5:34 p.m.

The Dodgers never had a chance to land Reds right-hander Aaron Harang -- not unless the Reds were willing to pay nearly all of the $15 million remaining on Harang’s contract.

A second-tier, free-agent starter? Not likely, when free-agent right- hander Jason Marquis reportedly will average $7.5 million in his new two year-deal with the Nationals.

The divorce of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt from his wife Jamie has forced the team back into a cash-neutral approach with its payroll, according to major-league sources.

The Dodgers are unable to add significant salary without subtracting a comparable figure, sources say. They have been in the same spot at past trade deadlines, trading better prospects for cash to cover the salaries of the players they acquire.

The breakdown of free-agent infielder Jamey Carroll’s two-year, $3.85 million contract with the Dodgers reflects the team’s cash-strapped position; Carroll will earn only $1.35 million in the first year of his deal.

Thus, the Dodgers will need to be creative in their search for a starting pitcher.

One possibility would be to build a bullpen surplus, then trade a reliever -- possibly left-hander George Sherrill, more likely a lesser pitcher -- for a back-of-the-rotation type.

Finding inexpensive relievers is easier than finding inexpensive starters. The Dodgers, who signed righty relievers Luis Ayala and Justin Miller to minor-league contracts last week, figure to look for more bullpen bargains. -- Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi

Cust no lock to sign with AL club -- 5:25 p.m.

Will Jack Cust sign with an American League team?

Not necessarily.

Cust’s agent, Bobby Barad, said Monday that he’s heard from multiple National League teams who have interest in his client as an outfielder. (Cust was Oakland's primary designated hitter this year but played 51 games in right field.)

Barad believes his client’s athleticism has been unfairly criticized. Barad said in a telephone interview that Cust had the second-fastest sprint time among A’s players in spring training this year; he added that Cust, who stands 6-1, is able to dunk a basketball with two hands.

Cust, of course, is better known for his walks and strikeouts. He has averaged 103 and 182, respectively, over the past three seasons in Oakland. He led the A’s in runs, home runs, walks and strikeouts this year.

The Tigers, Royals, Giants and Rangers are among the teams who have expressed interest since the A’s non-tendered Cust earlier this month. -- Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal

Agent on Zambrano-to-Yanks buzz — 2:32 p.m.

Barry Praver, agent for Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano, issued a statement in response to a New York Post report that said the Yankees are believed to have inquired about a trade for Zambrano.

Praver said he has not heard from Cubs general manager Jim Hendry about a possible deal. Zambrano, who has a full no-trade clause, would need to agree to any trade.

"Jim has not approached us about Carlos waiving the no trade provision of his contract nor is Carlos interested in waiving it," Praver said. -- Ken Rosenthal

Uggla to Braves? Now that's creative thinking — Updated 11:28 a.m.

To find a bat, the Braves probably will need to be creative. Trading for Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla and sticking him in left field would qualify as such a move.

The Braves have talked to the Marlins about Uggla, but one source describes Atlanta’s interest as only “mild.” A trade for the Yankees’ Nick Swisher or the signing of free-agent left fielder Johnny Damon might be preferable to the Braves.

The Yankees still could move Swisher if they wish to obtain Damon or another outfielder; they are not looking to trade Swisher, one source said, but also are not opposed to it.

Damon, meanwhile, lives in Orlando, the site of the Braves’ spring-training home; the Braves, however, probably would not be willing to pay him $10 million or more per season.

As for Uggla, before the Braves traded for him, they might want assurances that he would be willing to play left field.

Another possibility would be for the Braves to acquire Uggla to play second, then allow the situation to evolve. Uggla, once he saw the defensive skill of Martin Prado and Omar Infante at second in spring training, might be more open to a change.

The teams have yet to exchange names, one source said, and the Braves ultimately might decide that Uggla is not a fit.

Uggla’s agent, Jeff Borris, told Yahoo! in November, that “there should be no reason to consider a position change at this time.” Uggla later told MLB.com, “It’s a tough subject. I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”

The Braves intend to play Prado at second; their opening is in left. Uggla, 29, stands to make between $7 million and $8 million in arbitration. However, his value going forward will be higher if he remains at second base.

The Marlins’ talks with the Giants about Uggla are “on-again, off- again,” one source said. The Orioles are out on Uggla now that they’ve signed free-agent third baseman Garrett Atkins.

Also, the Marlins on Monday signed infielder Danny Richar to a minor-league deal that would include a $410,000 salary. Richar, a .229 career hitter in 79 career games, could provide additional infield depth if Uggla is dealt. — Ken Rosenthal

Damon more expensive than originally thought — 10:16 a.m.

One thing to keep in mind when considering the Yankees’ unwillingness to meet Johnny Damon’s price – and one thing I failed to mention in my recent column about the free-agent outfielder:

The luxury tax.

The threshold next season will be $170 million. The Yankees will surpass that number and, as a repeat offender, pay a 40 percent penalty on every dollar they are over.

Thus, the true cost of paying Damon $13 million would be $18.2 million; the true cost of paying him $10 million would be $14 million.

Of course, this works both ways.

The Yankees re-signed left-hander Andy Pettitte for $11.75 million and added first baseman/DH Nick Johnson for $5.5 million. Pettitte’s true cost, including the tax penalty, will be $16.45 million. Johnson’s will be $7.7 million.

Are those better values than Damon would be at, say, a net cost of $14 million? It’s debatable. But the tax is part of the equation, particularly with the Yankees insisting that they will stick to a budget this off-season. — Ken Rosenthal

Saturday's latest news and notes


Phils build quality catching depth — 4:04 p.m.

The catcher’s name is Sebastian Valle. He is 19 years old, another example of the Phillies’ minor-league strength.

I had never heard of Valle until Saturday, when a rival executive mentioned his name, saying that the Phillies had traded two catching prospects in the past five months — Lou Marson and Travis D’Arnaud — but had another one coming.

Valle, who spent last season at Single-A, has hit 10 home runs in the Mexican winter league in just 138 at-bats.

“It just shows you the depth they’ve built in the last 5-6 years in Philly," the exec said.

As baseball faces an industry-wide shortage of quality catchers, the Phillies’ recent surplus behind their starter, Carlos Ruiz, looks that much more impressive.

The Phillies traded Marson to the Indians as part of their four-player package for left-hander Cliff Lee in July, and D’Arnaud to the Blue Jays as part of the Roy Halladay blockbuster last week.

Valle?

“He is young. We like him. We still did not want to move D’Arnaud,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. — Ken Rosenthal

Cubs 'not leaning toward' any particular CF — 3:37 p.m.

Now that the Cubs have dealt Milton Bradley to Seattle, they will move Kosuke Fukudome to right field and find a new center fielder.

As of early Saturday afternoon, though, the Cubs were “not leaning toward” any one candidate in their search, one major league source said.

Marlon Byrd and Scott Podsednik are the strongest options among free agents, sources say. Rick Ankiel, who had a difficult 2009 season with St. Louis, is a less likely option.

Byrd is coming off a career year in which he batted .283 with 20 home runs and 89 RBIs for the Rangers. Byrd, 32, has the added value of being able to play all three outfield positions.

The Cubs like the fact that Byrd is a true center fielder and hits for more power than Podsednik. However, Podsednik has three factors in his favor: He bats left-handed, hits leadoff and would be a less expensive alternative to the right-handed Byrd.

Chicago GM Jim Hendry may also consider trades. One of the Yankees’ young outfielders — Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner — could become available this offseason, depending upon how their roster evolves.

The Cubs have asked the Nationals about Nyjer Morgan, one source said, but Washington officials want to keep him.

The Braves are looking for an outfield bat but aren’t pursuing Byrd, one source said. — Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi

B. Molina key to catching market -- 2:27 p.m.

A lot of teams, a lot of catchers, and a lot of agents are waiting on Bengie Molina.

“Once Bengie signs,” one person in the industry said Saturday, “the catching market is going to go quick.”

The Mets are widely known to be targeting Molina, but the parties haven’t found common ground. One source briefed on those talks said the sides are “not close” and described the negotiations as a “waiting game.”

As a result, free agent catchers like Rod Barajas, Yorvit Torrealba and Jose Molina (Bengie’s brother) are waiting to learn where they will play in 2010.

Torrealba is drawing interest from the Mariners, Rockies, Rangers, Mets and Giants, one major league source said.

Seattle is now better able to address its catching needs, after acquiring Cliff Lee and Milton Bradley in trades earlier this week. The Mariners may benefit from having a veteran catcher on the roster, given that Rob Johnson is recovering from multiple surgeries. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Sources: Nats eye Garland — 1:13 p.m.

The Nationals are making a strong run at free-agent right-hander Jon Garland, according to major-league sources.

Garland, 30, is seeking a three-year contract, one source said. The Nationals would prefer to sign him for two years.

If the two sides can not reach agreement, the Nats could turn to another free-agent starter, possibly right-hander Jason Marquis or lefty Doug Davis.

Garland went a combined 11-13 with a 4.01 ERA for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers last season, topping 190 innings for the eighth straight year.

His 3.35 ERA after June 1 was just slightly higher than free-agent right-hander Joel Pineiro's 3.33, and better than Marquis' 4.09 and Davis' 4.35.

He is 117-102 lifetime with a 4.42 ERA. — Ken Rosenthal

Friday's latest news and notes


Tejada's options are dwindling -- 8 p.m.

Miguel Tejada could still be an everyday shortstop in 2010. But his options are dwindling.

The primary reason is an obvious one: Only a small number of teams — Oakland, Washington, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Houston — are unsettled at the position next year.

In the American League, for example, Oakland is the only team without a player on its roster who started 100-plus games at shortstop this year.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals, Reds and Astros seem committed to younger (read: cheaper) homegrown shortstops.

Brendan Ryan started 95 games at shortstop for St. Louis this year and batted .292. Tejada would be a great fit for the St. Louis lineup, hitting before or after countryman Albert Pujols. But can the Cardinals really begin an all-out pursuit of Tejada while they remain engaged with Scott Boras on Matt Holliday?

And consider what the managers of the Reds and Astros said during the winter meetings.

Cincinnati’s Dusty Baker on Paul Janish: “Everybody wants that quality offensive shortstop. Certainly he is one of the best defensive shortstops already to me. Let’s give the guy a chance first.”

Houston’s Brad Mills on Tommy Manzella: “Tommy Manzella is at a point where he has earned a chance to be able to get in there and play, and I think we need to afford him that opportunity. He has not given us any reason to think that he’s not going to be a solid shortstop at the major league level.”

So, the A’s and Nationals are the two teams who have the greatest need for a shortstop. And the A’s and Nationals, who finished last in their respective divisions, are not known for spending big on 35-year-old free agents like Tejada.

The teams with uncertainty at third base are more numerous and better funded: the Red Sox, Angels, Twins, Cardinals and Giants.

So, amid questions about his defense at shortstop, it might be in Tejada’s best financial interest to be marketed as a third baseman.

A similar scenario has unfolded with another well-known shortstop: Orlando Cabrera is talking with two teams about playing second base, one major league source told FOXSports.com national baseball writer Ken Rosenthal.

This would be a good time to note that Tejada is looking for a contract north of Placido Polanco’s three-year, $18 million deal with the Phillies, according to an executive of one interested team.

And you know what? Judging by the numbers, that's a very reasonable request. Tejada had a better offensive season than Polanco in 2010. He has had the better overall career.

Polanco received all that money to move across the diamond to third base. If Tejada is willing to do the same, he might be similarly rewarded. — Jon Paul Morosi


Market for Cust now taking shape -- 5:18 p.m.

Now that Nick Johnson and Milton Bradley have found new homes, the market for left-handed slugger Jack Cust should become clearer.

One major league source said Friday that the Royals, Tigers, Mariners and Giants have shown interest in Cust. Also, the A’s haven’t ruled out the possibility of bringing him back.

It’s not clear if Seattle’s acquisition of Bradley will entirely eliminate Cust as an option there. But now that the Mariners have Bradley and Ken Griffey Jr., club officials would probably need to view Cust as a possible first baseman in order to fit him onto the roster. And he has never played first in the major leagues.

Oakland non-tendered Cust earlier this month. He led the American League in strikeouts during each of his three seasons with the A’s but also hit 84 home runs. — Jon Paul Morosi


Damon's time with Yanks may be over -- 4:41 p.m.

Free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon lowered his price for the Yankees earlier this week -- first to two years, $26 million, then two years, $20 million, according to major-league sources.

But by the time Damon dropped for the second time, one source said, the Yankees already were close to a one-year, $5.5 million deal with first baseman/DH Nick Johnson.

They offered Damon two years, $14 million sometime in the process, but the belated exchanges failed to produce an agreement.

Damon's departure now seems assured -- the Yankees' remaining money is limited, sources said, and they plan to focus mainly on pitching.

What Damon will command on the open market remains to be seen.

The Nationals, Braves and Giants are among the teams that could be interested. -- Ken Rosenthal


Yanks will focus on pitching if they land Johnson -- 11:40 a.m.

The Yankees will shift their focus to pitching –- both starters and relievers -– if they complete their deal for free-agent first baseman/DH Nick Johnson.

Yet, the team will "not be in a hurry" to make any move, according to one source familiar with the club's plans.

The reason: Yankees officials believe that bargains will emerge in January and February due to the large number of free agents that still will be available.

Free-agent infielder Mark DeRosa remains of interest to the Yankees, and the team could add one more bat in addition to Johnson.

But the Yankees are unlikely to sign DeRosa if they complete their deal for Johnson -- "not at these prices," the source said.

DeRosa, who turns 35 on Feb. 26, is seeking a three-year contract for between $18 million and $21 million. The Giants and Cardinals remain interested, and the Braves also could jump on him if they trade right-hander Derek Lowe without getting a hitter in return.

The Giants, however, are another team taking a deliberate approach in the market, waiting for prices to drop. General manager Brian Sabean has told rival executives that he acted too quickly last off-season when he signed relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry and shortstop Edgar Renteria early in free agency. — Ken Rosenthal

Mariners making progress with Gutierrez -- 11:16 a.m.

The Mariners are “making progress” with center fielder Franklin Gutierrez on a long-term contract, according to one of the player’s agents at Octagon Baseball.

Gutierrez, who is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, likely would sign a three-year deal with one club option or a straight four-year contract.

The four years of club control would cover Gutierrez’s three arbitration years and his first year of free agency.

Octagon’s discussions with the Mariners about a long-term deal for another of its clients, right-hander Felix Hernandez, are not as far along.

“There’s a lot of brainstorming going on,” said the agent, who asked not to be identified. “Everything has been very civil, but we do not have any offers on the table from them yet.” -Ken Rosenthal

Source: Mariners trying to trade Morrow for hitter -- 10:48 a.m.

The Mariners, on the verge of losing free-agent first baseman Nick Johnson to the Yankees, are trying to trade right-hander Brandon Morrow for a hitter at first base, third or DH, according to a major- league source.

The Mariners also have not ruled out re-signing third baseman Adrian Beltre and first baseman Russell Branyan.

General manager Jack Zduriencik, the Brewers’ former scouting director, spoke with his former club about a Morrow-for-Mat Gamel deal. The talks failed to progress but could be revisited later, the source said.

If the Brewers traded Gamel, a third baseman, they would commit to Casey McGehee at third. -Ken Rosenthal

Rays reach deal with Shealy — 9:27 a.m.

First baseman Ryan Shealy has agreed to a minor-league deal with Tampa Bay, with an invitation to join the club for spring training.

Shealy, drafted by the Rockies in 2002, has played for the Royals since being traded there in 2006.

In three seasons with the Royals, he's played in 123 games and has a .260 average. — Ken Rosenthal

Thursday's latest news and notes


3 teams interested, but Bradley deal not close — 10:07 p.m.

At least three teams remain interested in Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley — the Rays, Rangers and Mariners.

However, no trade is close, according to major-league sources.

The Rays and Cubs have been at an impasse for weeks, with neither side willing to budge on the terms of a proposed Bradley-for-Pat Burrell exchange.

The Rangers, one source said, remain a “longshot” for Bradley, who would fit well in their lineup, but did not leave on the best of terms after the 2007 season.

The Mariners, meanwhile, might be an even bigger longshot — the team, after making positive news with its signing of free-agent third baseman Chone Figgins and trade for left-hander Cliff Lee, likely would balk at adding a player as controversial as Bradley.

Bradley is owed $9 million next season and $12 million in 2010. The Cubs are willing to include some money in a deal, but will not pay the vast majority or release Bradley, sources say. — Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi

Lowell fate expected to be resolved by weekend — 8:38 p.m.

The fate of the tentative Mike Lowell trade between the Rangers and Red Sox should be resolved “one way or the other” by the weekend, according to one official with close knowledge of the situation.

During the winter meetings, the teams agreed to a trade that would send Lowell to Texas and catcher Max Ramirez to Boston. The Red Sox also agreed to pick up $9 million of Lowell’s $12 million salary for 2010.

But Lowell might require surgery on his right thumb, which has complicated matters. It’s possible that the Red Sox could be asked to assume greater financial responsibility as a result of the concern over Lowell’s health.

One source said earlier this week that the chances of the deal occurring are “better than 50-50, but not a lock.”

In Texas, Lowell would likely play at first base while also getting some at-bats at third — when Michael Young needs a day off — and as a DH.

Even if the Rangers acquire Lowell, they could pursue a free agent hitter such as Jermaine Dye or Vladimir Guerrero, sources have said. — Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal

Capps is a hot commodity — 4:07 p.m.

Reliever Matt Capps continues to be a hot free agent.

“I always felt like there would be some demand,” said Capps’ agent, Paul Kinzer. “But nothing like we’ve had.”

Kinzer said that Capps plans to select five or six finalists by the weekend, then make his decision.

Only three teams are still looking for closers -- the Nationals, Tigers and Capps’ former team, the Pirates. Capps, 26, also could accept a setup role with a contending club, Kinzer said.

The Pirates made Capps a free agent when they declined to offer him a contract and risk paying him more than $3 million in salary arbitration.

Kinzer declined to name all of the clubs interested in Capps, but the Nats definitely are in the mix, and the Cubs, Mets and Yankees all have been mentioned in reports. -- Ken Rosenthal

Dennis Gilbert making moves -- 3:13 p.m

Technically, Dennis Gilbert still stands a chance of owning the Texas Rangers. A group headed by Pittsburgh attorney Chuck Greenberg and Rangers president Nolan Ryan was granted an exclusive 30-day window to buy the club Tuesday, and now must complete a deal.

If Gilbert, a former sports agent, cannot get the Rangers, he possibly could buy the Astros or even his hometown Dodgers if they are eventually put up for sale. But at the moment, he isn’t even ready to entertain such possibilities.

“It’s too soon,” he said Thursday. “Right now, I’m not over this yet. I’m just not over it.”

Gilbert’s passion, background and dynamic personality would make him, at the very least, a fascinating owner. For now, he remains an executive with the White Sox, and looks forward to the annual dinner for an organization he helped found -- the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation.

The dinner takes place Jan. 16 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. The emcee is Larry King, and the honorees will include Bob Feller, Robin Roberts and Tony La Russa. For information, call 310-996-1188.  -— Ken Rosenthal

Holliday intrigued by Orioles? -- 1:45 p.m.

Free-agent left fielder Matt Holliday might be more intrigued by the Orioles now that the team has signed his close friend, third baseman Garrett Atkins.

Yet, Atkins isn’t Holliday’s only close friend on the team.

Holliday also is close with Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. Both are involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

The Orioles are pursuing Holliday, major-league sources say, but they should know better than to expect a “buddy discount” from Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras.

Still, if the O's are willing to meet Holliday's price, they could offer him a built-in comfort zone with the team. — Ken Rosenthal

Do Mets have alternative for Molina? -- 1:40 p.m.

The Mets will not give free-agent catcher Bengie Molina a three-year contract. The question is whether reasonable alternatives even exist for both parties.

Few teams need catchers, and probably none is willing to give Molina, 35, a three-year deal. The Mets, meanwhile, probably cannot find a better catcher than Molina in either free agency or trade.

The club is not high on free agent Yorvit Torrealba, whose talks with the Rockies broke down over his desire for a two-year, $6 million deal.

A trade for the Diamondbacks’ Chris Snyder is another option, but the two clubs are not in active discussions. Free agents Miguel Olivo and Rod Barajas? Possibilities.

The Mets currently have four catchers on their 40-man roster -- Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, Omir Santos and Josh Thole.

Molina would be a significant upgrade, and the Mets’ offense could improve significantly if the team also signed free-agent left fielder Jason Bay.

Consider this sample lineup:

Jose Reyes, SS
Luis Castillo, 2B
Carlos Beltran, CF
Jason Bay, LF
David Wright, 3B
Bengie Molina, C
Jeff Francoeur, RF
Daniel Murphy, 1B

Murphy would be the only left-handed hitter; Beltran and Castillo are switch-hitters. Neither Molina nor Francoeur walk much. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

If that lineup were healthy -- always a big if with this outfit -- the Mets would be more potent, at least offensively.

Giants, Mariners join Johnson chase -- 12:13 p.m.


While the Yankees remain interested in Nick Johnson, the Giants have increased their offer and the Mariners remain in the mix, according to a major-league source.

Johnson, as reported by the New York Post, is discussing a one-year contract with the Yankees. The Giants, too, are offering one year, but have raised their offer to the $5.5 million to $6 million range, the source said.

The Mariners also want to sign Johnson for one year, but the level of their financial interest is not known. Johnson would prefer a two-year deal. — Ken Rosenthal

Escobar making a comeback -- 11:18 a.m.

After throwing for scouts on Wednesday, free agent right-hander Kelvim Escobar will continue his comeback bid by returning to game action with Cardenales de Lara, according to his agent, Peter Greenberg.

Greenberg said Escobar will likely pitch one inning for Barquisimeto-based Lara in a Venezuelan Winter League game Friday or Saturday.

Escobar nearly made the American League All-Star team in 2007, when he went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 30 starts for the Angels. But he has pitched in only one regular season game during the past two years because of a series of right shoulder problems.

He missed the entire 2008 season with a labral tear, underwent surgery, started one game this June, and then missed the remainder of the year with irritation in the shoulder.

But Greenberg said scouts were “very impressed” with Escobar’s Wednesday session, citing a fastball that reached 94 mph along with good command and control. (Escobar threw 30 pitches off a mound.)

The Rays, Mariners, Brewers, Twins, A’s, Cubs, Yankees, Pirates, Tigers and Giants were in attendance, Greenberg said. — Jon Paul Morosi


Source: Giants haven't given up on Beltre -- 10:48 a.m.

The Giants are remaining in contact with Scott Boras regarding free agent Adrian Beltre, one major-league source said Thursday, but the sides aren’t close to a deal.

The person indicated that the Giants and Boras remain some distance apart on the years and dollars it would take to sign Beltre. Sources have indicated to FOXSports.com senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal that Beltre is looking for a four-year deal worth at least $40 million.

Beltre is the best pure third baseman left on the free-agent market, after Chone Figgins signed with the Mariners for four years and $36 million. (The Mariners remain open to re-signing Beltre and shifting Figgins to second base.)

Beltre batted .265 with eight home runs and 44 RBIs in 111 games for Seattle this year. The season included his first stays on the disabled list since 2001 -- one following left shoulder surgery, another because of a severely bruised testicle.

The surgery on Beltre’s non-throwing shoulder should have little long-term impact on his Gold Glove-caliber defense. But he maintained a .388 slugging percentage after the procedure, below his American League norm of .442.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean downplayed the chances that the team would sign Beltre when asked about the third baseman at the winter meetings. The Red Sox are known to have interest in Beltre, but that pursuit would end abruptly if Boston strikes a deal with San Diego for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

The Giants are also pursuing Mark DeRosa as an everyday third baseman. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Sources: O's interested in Holliday -- 12:40 a.m.

The Cardinals are not the only team pursuing free-agent left fielder Matt Holliday.

The Orioles have jumped into the bidding, though both the seriousness of their efforts and Holliday’s desire to play in Baltimore are in question, major-league sources say. Full story

Wednesday's latest news and notes


O's reach agreement with Mike Gonzalez -- 10:32 p.m.

The Orioles and left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez have reached preliminary agreement on a two-year, $12 million contract, two major league sources confirmed to FOXSports.com.

The signing was first reported by Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports. The contract, which is pending a physical examination, could be worth $16 million if Gonzalez reaches all available performance incentives.

Baltimore intends to use Gonzalez as its closer, one source said. As a result, Wednesday’s agreement could affect the market value of remaining free agent closers Fernando Rodney and Jose Valverde. Only a small number of teams are looking for a closer; the Nationals and Tigers are in that group, and neither plans to spend lavishly to fill the role.

Gonzalez went 5-4 with a 2.42 ERA in a career-best 80 appearances for the Braves in 2009. He also recorded 10 saves. The average annual value of his contract -- $6 million -- is slightly higher than the per annum of Brandon Lyon’s recent three-year, $15 million deal with the Astros.
-- Jon Paul Morosi

Rockies end talks with Torrealba -- 9:56 p.m.

The Rockies have ended their talks with free-agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba and are now examining other options, according to major-league sources.

The discussions between the two sides broke down for the usual reason -- a difference of opinion on the player’s value.

The Rockies’ last offer reportedly was $5.6 million for two years. Torrealba, sources said, wanted $6 million to $6.5 million.

For now, the Rockies will turn their attention to other free agents -- first Miguel Olivo, then Josh Bard as a possible fallback.

Torrealba, 31, still could re-enter the Rockies’ picture if he lowers his price. Such a scenario is not out of the question -- there is a glut of catching on the market.

Bengie Molina appears likely to sign with the Mets, but Olivo, Torrealba and Rod Barajas are still looking for jobs.

The Rockies, Giants, Rangers and Astros are looking for catchers to varying degrees. Most of those teams, however, would prefer to offer only one-year deals. -- Ken Rosenthal

Source: Carroll agrees to deal with Dodgers -- 7:28 p.m


Free-agent infielder Jamey Carroll has agreed to a two-year, $3.85 million contract with the Dodgers, according to a major-league source. Incentives could push the deal past $4 million.

The A's offered Carroll more money, but Torre and Mattingly were the clinchers, a source said. Carroll is from the same town as Mattingly -- Evansville, Ind.

Carroll hit .276 in 315 at-bats last season with the Indians. -- Ken Rosenthal


NL East rotations after Doc's arrival -- 7:21 p.m.


The Phillies acquired one Cy Young Award winner on Wednesday and traded another.

So, what of the other National League East rotations?

The Nationals remain intent on adding two starting pitchers before Opening Day, one major league source said, and would prefer that at least one of them be a No. 2 starter or better.

Among the names presently on their list: Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland and Jason Marquis, in no particular order.

Pineiro is looking for a four-year contract, another source said, with Marquis hoping for a two- or three-year deal.

Meanwhile, the Mets still view Pineiro and Marquis as options to upgrade their rotation. But the organization is currently devoting the bulk of its attention to the search for a left fielder -- with a particular focus on free agent Jason Bay.  -- Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi


UPDATED: Mets in 'serious' talks for Bay -- 6:07 p.m.

The Mets, nearing a critical juncture in their talks with free-agent left fielder Jason Bay, are weighing whether to sign Bay to a five-year deal or a four-year contract at a higher salary, according to major-league sources.

The negotiations, described as “serious” by a source with knowledge of the discussions, could resume late Wednesday. The Mets would prefer to sign Bay for four years, another source said, but for the right average salary -- a lower one -- might be willing to go to five.

The rest of the market for Bay is unclear. The Red Sox are out after signing free agent Mike Cameron. The Angels and Giants have consistently downplayed their interest. The Mariners’ early pursuit of Bay was “overstated,” sources said.

The Mets, badly in need of a power-hitting left fielder, are trying to be careful not to bid against themselves, sources said. Their original offer to Bay reportedly was four years in the $60 million to $65 million range.

The Mets are less active on free-agent left fielder Matt Holliday. Holliday's agent, Scott Boras, reached out to the club Tuesday, and Mets general manager Omar Minaya phoned him Wednesday, "just to check in," a source said. 
-- Ken Rosenthal

BoSox weren't sure Lackey was interested -- 4:07 p.m.


John Lackey in Boston? At first, not even Sox general manager Theo Epstein thought Lackey was truly interested.

In fact, Epstein was “very skeptical” about the idea, according to Lackey’s agent, Steve Hilliard.

“The first time we talked about John was in Chicago at the winter meetings,” Hilliard said. “I live in San Diego. I’ve known Theo a long time. I said John would have interest. Theo looked at me like, ‘Are you serious?’

“He talked about some of the comments John had made over the years, some of the things that happened in Boston between the Angels and Red Sox. He really did not believe John would seriously consider Boston. It took some convincing on my part.

“I told him that John’s wife grew up in Maine and went to UNH (the University of New Hampshire. I talked about (former Angels and Red Sox pitcher) Brendan Donnelly, how they remain close to this day. Brendan told John nothing but good things about Terry Francona and John Farrell, how the organization is run.

“I had to pull in all these stories just to convince Theo that John was legitimately interested. Eventually he started believing me. And by the time we got to Indy (for the winter meetings), we were having very serious talks about it.”

Lackey’s five-year, $82.5 million free-agent contract with the Red Sox matches the deal that the Yankees gave free-agent right-hander A.J. Burnett last offseason. But because Lackey’s deal is front-loaded, it actually has a greater present-day value.

Lackey will receive a $3.5 million signing bonus, $18 million in his first season and $15.25 million in each of his next four. --Ken Rosenthal
 

 

Sources: Wallace's shoulder concerns delayed Doc trade -- 4:02 p.m.

The delay in the announcement of the Roy Halladay trade was the Blue Jays’ concern over the condition of infielder Brett Wallace’s shoulder, according to major-league sources.

Wallace, headed from the A’s to the Jays for outfielder Michael Taylor, underwent an MRI and checked out fine, the sources said.

Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos, completing his first major trade, merely wanted to exercise caution by taking the additional step.
--Ken Rosenthal

Mets in 'serious' talks for Bay -- 12:07 p.m.

The Mets, nearing a critical juncture in their talks with free-agent left fielder Jason Bay, are weighing whether to sign Bay to a five-year deal or a four-year contract at a higher salary, according to major-league sources.

The negotiations, described as “serious” by a source with knowledge of the discussions, could resume late Wednesday. The Mets would prefer to sign Bay for four years, another source said, but for the right average salary -- a lower one -- might be willing to go to five.

The rest of the market for Bay is unclear. The Red Sox are out after signing free agent Mike Cameron. The Angels and Giants have consistently downplayed their interest. The Mariners’ early pursuit of Bay was “overstated,” sources said.

The Mets, badly in need of a power-hitting left fielder, are trying to be careful not to bid against themselves, sources said. Their original offer to Bay reportedly was four years in the $60 million to $65 million range. -- Ken Rosenthal

Tuesday's latest news and notes


Jays' young GM not afraid to deal -- 8:55 p.m.

Grabbing Canadian prospects would have been the easy thing to do for Alex Anthopoulos, a native of Canada, in his first major trade as Blue Jays general manager.

The Phillies tried to bait Anthopoulos into such a move, offering the Jays one of two Canadian youngsters from the Mariners, pitcher Phillippe Aumont or outfielder Tyson Gillies, in an effort to keep their own young catcher, Travis D’Arnaud, major-league sources say.

Anthopoulos, 32, wanted D’Arnaud instead.

Years might pass before anyone knows whether Anthopoulos received a proper return for one year of ace right-hander Roy Halladay and $6 million. But Anthopoulos, rather than reach for an easy public- relations coup, tried to make the baseball best trade possible.

The Jays coveted D’Arnaud in the 2007 draft, but the Phillies grabbed him with the 37th overall pick, leaving the Jays to take left-hander Brett Cecil at No. 38. The Phillies clearly traded D’Arnaud with great reluctance. Some Jays officials believe he might prove better than the other players they acquired from the Phils, right-hander Kyle Drabek and outfielder Michael Taylor.

Drabek, who was untouchable in last summer’s Halladay talks, possesses a higher upside than Phillies lefty J.A. Happ, another pitcher the Jays might have acquired.

Once the deal is finalized, the Jays will trade Taylor, an athletic all-around player, for A’s infielder Brett Wallace, a pure hitter without a position. But Anthopoulos, sources say, is convinced that Wallace is a middle-of-the-order bat.

The Jays’ inability to trade Halladay last summer left Anthopoulos with little leverage; Halladay had one year left on his contract, a $15.75 million salary and a full no-trade clause.

No one knows yet whether the new GM made a good trade or a poor one. 

But say this for Anthopoulos:  In his first major deal, he was not afraid.
-- Ken Rosenthal

Phillies wanted more than Doc last summer -- 7:50 p.m.

Turns out the Phillies weren’t only chasing Roy Halladay last summer.

They also inquired on Matt Holliday.

The pending trade of outfielder Michael Taylor from the Blue Jays to the A’s for infielder Brett Wallace had its origins in the Phillies’ discussions about Holliday, according to major-league sources.

The Phillies, fearing that left fielder Raul Ibanez might be lost or hampered for the rest of the season due to a muscle tear in his abdomen, were looking for a right-handed bat. They eventually landed Ben Francisco in their Cliff Lee trade with the Indians.

Their interest in Holliday went unreported - until now.

The Phillies did little more than “kick the tires” on Holliday, according to two sources with knowledge of the club’s thinking. Still, the talks advanced enough for the A’s to become intrigued by Taylor and then -- in classic Billy Beane fashion -- grow obsessed with him.

The A’s eventually sent Holliday to the Cardinals for a package headed by Wallace. Their trade of Wallace for Taylor, first reported by ESPN.com, will become official after the three-team Halladay trade is finalized. The Phillies are sending Taylor to the Jays in that deal.

Wallace, 23, is a pure hitter and below-average defender at either third base or first. The A’s viewed him as a first baseman, but they are stacked with young players at that position.

Daric Barton, 24, is the returning starter at first. Chris Carter, 23, was MVP of the Class AA Texas League. Sean Doolittle, 23, is another possible first baseman of the future.

Taylor, meanwhile, is an athletic, right-handed hitting corner outfielder who likely will be given a chance to open the season with the A’s. One A’s official considers him such an all-around talent, he calls him, “The Renaissance Man.”

Fear not, “The Renaissance Man” is coming to Oakland. And it all started when the Phillies asked about Matt Holliday. -- Ken Rosenthal

Is Lowe alone enough to net Braves a bat? -- 4:38 p.m.

A number of teams -- the Yankees, Mets, Angels, Orioles and Brewers -- would like to add a starting pitcher.

The Braves, needing a power bat, have made Derek Lowe available.

But it might not be easy for Atlanta to flip Lowe for a big bopper with a single move.

For example, the Mets and Brewers don't intend to deal a premier right-handed hitter for a starter. And it's highly doubtful that the Orioles would part with outfielder Nolan Reimold, a Rookie of the Year candidate.

So, the Braves may simply acquire some prospects for Lowe -- and then find a right-handed hitter elsewhere, either via trade or free agency.

Sounds like the makings of a three-way deal.

We wouldn't know anything about that, now, would we? -- Jon Paul Morosi

Angels don't want Bay, do want starter -- 4:21 p.m.

The Angels continue to downplay any interest in free-agent left fielder Jason Bay. Their biggest needs, after reaching agreement with free-agent designated hitter Hideki Matsui on a one-year contract, are a starting pitcher and bench help.

The starting pitcher could be Braves right-hander Derek Lowe, whose remaining three years and $45 million look more reasonable next to the new deals for right-handers John Lackey (five years, $82.5 million) and Roy Halladay (three years, $60 million).

Lowe, 36, is not in the class of Lackey or Halladay, but the Angels could make a decent deal for him if they sent outfielder Juan Rivera to the Braves. Rivera is guaranteed $9.5 million over the next two seasons, and the elimination of his salary would make the addition of Lowe more tolerable financially.

Without Rivera, the Angels still would have Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Gary Matthews Jr. and Matsui for their outfield/DH rotation. Brandon Wood would take over for Chone Figgins at third base. --Ken Rosenthal

Cards make Holliday big offer, but which one? -- 4:04 p.m.

ESPN.com reports that the Cardinals are offering free-agent left fielder Matt Holliday a five-year contract.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the deal could be for “up to eight years.”

Is it possible both are right?

Only if the Cardinals are offering a five-year guarantee with additional option years – an offer they know that Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras, would refuse.

The Cardinals, one source says, will not lose Holliday without offering him the longest and richest deal in team history -- a deal in excess of first baseman Albert Pujols’ current seven-year, $100 million contract, which Pujols signed not as a free agent, but as a first-time arbitration-eligible player.

In other words, the Cardinals’ final offer to Holliday will be at least eight years and more than $100 million. Their offer at the winter meetings last week was only their first formal proposal.

If the Cardinals offer Holliday eight years at $14 million per season, that’s $112 million. If they offer eight years at $16 million - as suggested by the Post-Dispatch -- that’s $128 million.

And the Cardinals would not necessarily stop at a $16 million average, though they might not award Holliday such a salary over eight years.

The team is willing to give Holliday a higher average salary than Pujols’ current $16 million, one source said, knowing that Pujols will top that once he signs his next deal.

Boras wants at least seven years for Holliday. He wants an $18 million average salary, which is what the Rockies offered Holliday long-term when he was a player with just four years of service, not a free agent. Oh, and one other thing -- Boras rarely accepts option years.

The Cardinals appear to be the only public bidder for Holliday, but the threat of surprise teams for Boras clients is quite real.

The Yankees emerged at the last instant to sign Johnny Damon after the
2005 season. The Braves signed Derek Lowe with a late bid last winter and the Yankees did the same with Mark Teixeira. -- Ken Rosenthal

Is Bay next on M's wish list? -- 3:38 p.m.

Should we rule out the Mariners landing Jason Bay, now that they have signed Chone Figgins and are acquiring Cliff Lee?

No.

One person with knowledge of the team’s plans said Bay remains a “possibility” for the Mariners, because of the team’s need for a run-producing right-handed bat in the middle of the order. Seattle could lose third baseman Adrian Beltre and first baseman Russell Branyan to free agency, creating a void in the lineup.

Would Bay take a competitive four-year offer from the Mariners over a five-year offer from the Mets? That is unclear. But there is little doubt that the Mariners have a better chance than the Mets of reaching the postseason in 2010.

Bay lives in the Seattle area. In this case, he could both stay close to home and play for a team that is rapidly becoming the darling of the ’09-’10 Hot Stove season. --Jon Paul Morosi

Rangers may still go after Dye, Guerrero -- 2:39 p.m.

The Rangers still could pursue a free agent such as Jermaine Dye or Vladimir Guerrero even if they complete their trade for Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, according to major-league sources.

The chances of a Lowell deal occurring are “better than 50-50, but not a lock,” one source said. The Red Sox, who initially were to pay $9 million of Lowell’s $12 million salary, could assume an even greater financial burden due to the Rangers’ concerns over Lowell’s right
thumb, another source said. Lowell might require surgery.

If the Rangers signed Lowell, they likely would play him at first base while also using him some at third -- when Michael Young needs a day off -- and as a DH. Dye played 133 games in right field last season, Guerrero two. But Dye’s defense has diminished to the point where he, too, might better serve his team as a DH. -- Ken Rosenthal

Cubs turn eye toward OF Byrd -- 1:54 p.m.

Now that Mike Cameron is on the verge of joining the Red Sox, the Cubs are increasing their pursuit of free-agent outfielder Marlon Byrd, according to major-league sources.

The Cubs wanted Cameron, according to a major-league source, but the Red Sox moved aggressively to reach agreement with him on a two-year, $15.5 million contract.

Byrd, 32, is nearly five years younger than Cameron, but not as accomplished a player. If he signs with the Cubs, he will reunite with Rudy Jaramillo, his former hitting coach with the Rangers.

The Cubs, however, remain preoccupied with their efforts to trade outfielder Milton Bradley, who is owed $21 million over the next seasons. The team needs to gain payroll flexibility by clearing a
percentage of Bradley's money before spending in other areas. -- Ken Rosenthal

Will Dodgers spend Pierre savings? -- 1:24 p.m.


The Dodgers saved $8 million -- $3 million this year, $5 million next year -- when they traded Juan Pierre to the White Sox on Tuesday.

You might assume that general manager Ned Colletti will reinvest that money in the 2010 major league roster, using it to upgrade a rotation that sorely needs a No. 4 starter.

But that’s not a given. Because of the team’s financial state -- brought on by the divorce of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt -- it’s unclear if that money will be used to acquire a starter. Ownership could ask that the money be saved instead, resulting in a lower payroll.

If the Dodgers are able to use the money to shop for a pitcher, they could look for a low-cost free agent or re-engage the Pirates in trade talks. Pittsburgh had shown interest in Pierre, and the Dodgers would like to add a left-handed starter such as Paul Maholm or Zach Duke. -- Jon Paul Morosi

Sources: Yanks have contacted Bay -- 1:03 p.m.

The Boston Herald reported Tuesday that the Yankees have contacted the representatives for free-agent left fielder Jason Bay. Two sources confirmed to FOXSports.com that the Herald report was accurate. But a
third source with knowledge of the Yankees' plans said the team is not seriously interested in Bay -- at least not at the moment.

The Yankees often disguise their intentions -- they were not believed to be “in” on outfielder Johnny Damon when they signed him after the 2005 season, and insisted they were not “in” on first baseman Mark Teixeira a year ago until practically the moment they signed him.

Could Bay be their next mystery guest? Depends, for starters, upon Damon.

If the Yankees lose Damon on top of Hideki Matsui, they will need a left fielder/DH. Right now, the Damon talks are stalled, but the Yankees gave left-hander Andy Pettitte a raise from $10.5 million to $11.75 million in his new deal. Damon, who earned $13 million last season, is confident he will be treated with similar deference, sources said. However, he is seeking more than one year.

The Yankees also are looking for a starting pitcher and possibly a veteran reliever. Whether they would want Bay at a price of say, five years and $80 million, is unclear when more affordable options will be available.

The Mets, according to a source, are willing to give Bay a fifth guaranteed year, or perhaps increase their offer of approximately $16 million per season in a four-year deal.

The Giants, Mariners and Angels also have shown varying levels of interest, sources said. -- Ken Rosenthal

Sources: Yanks interested in Sheets -- 12:34 p.m.

The Yankees are "very interested" in free-agent right-hander Ben Sheets, according to major-league sources.

The question, as always, is price.

Sheets, sources say, is asking for more than what the Rangers gave right-hander Rich Harden -- a $7.5 million base salary, plus $2.5 million in incentives.

Harden, while frequently injured, made 26 starts for the Cubs last season. Sheets, recovering from elbow surgery, did not pitch.

As one source puts it, "Harden will at least be ready for the start of spring training -- you're buying a toy you can play with, not one that is under the tree and you have to look at while your mother and father
put it together."

Some executives believe that Sheets will wait out the market, then throw off a mound for interested clubs to prove that he is healthy and maximize his value.

However, a source with knowledge of Sheets' strategy says, "There is no definitive plan. When the right deal is there, he'll be ready to go. He feels great." -- Ken Rosenthal


Gonzalez deal may still work for Red Sox -- 12:15 a.m.

While a trade remains unlikely, Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez still would fit for the Red Sox.

The addition of free-agent right-hander John Lackey could make righty Clay Buchholz expendable.

The addition of free-agent outfielder Mike Cameron could make outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury expendable.

Put Buchholz and Ellsbury in the same deal, and the Padres would grow tempted to move Gonzalez, according to major-league sources.

But the Red Sox, one source says, do not have a deal in place for Gonzalez as they wait for Lackey and Cameron to pass their respective physicals.

Another source says that he doubts the Red Sox would even include Buchholz and Ellsbury in the same trade.

The Red Sox are expected to spend approximately $100 million combined on Lackey and Cameron. Third baseman Adrian Beltre, seeking a four- year deal for at least $40 million, according to sources, could be their next addition.

Then again, the Sox might not want to make another major investment when they still intend to negotiate a contract extension for right- hander Josh Beckett.

Gonzalez would make far less than Beltre — he is signed for $4.75 million next season with a $5.5 million option for 2011.

If the Red Sox failed to acquire either corner infielder -- and completed their trade of third baseman Mike Lowell to the Rangers — they would be left with a Casey Kotchman/Victor Martinez platoon at first and Kevin Youkilis at third.

Barring, of course, some other move.

M's, Brewers discussing deal for Morrow -- 12:14 a.m.

The Mariners, who remain active on multiple fronts, are discussing a trade that would send right-hander Brandon Morrow to the Brewers, according to major-league sources.

However, the deal appears unlikely due to the reluctance of Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik to move Morrow, one source said.

It is known what the Mariners want in return for Morrow, whom the Brewers would add to a revamped rotation that has been bolstered by the addition of free-agent Randy Wolf.



Tagged: Red Sox, White Sox, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers, Dodgers, Padres, Ben Sheets, Johnny Damon, Mike Cameron, Vladimir Guerrero, Juan Pierre, Marlon Byrd, John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez, Jason Bay, Rich Harden, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brandon Morrow, Clay Buchholz

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