Buzz: Latest from the MLB offseason
Feb. 15 News and Notes
Sources: Branyan talking closely with Indians
Free agent Russell Branyan, who's talking with three clubs, is furthest along with the Indians, according to major-league sources.
The Rays maintain mild interest in Branyan, while the Red Sox also are in the mix, sources say. But the Indians could offer Branyan more playing time than the Red Sox and probably the Rays.
Branyan, 33, could play first base, third and both corner outfield positions for the Indians, though he has appeared only 13 times in the outfield since 2006. The Indians’ designated hitter, Travis Hafner,
also bats left-handed.
The Red Sox's DH, David Ortiz, also is a left-handed hitter, and the extent of the team’s interest in Branyan is unclear. The Sox routinely explore free-agent possibilities late in the offseason, trying to
ensure that they do not miss any potential bargains.
The Sox could not open a spot for Branyan on their major-league roster unless they traded third baseman Mike Lowell. They also feature prominent regulars at each of Branyan’s possible positions.
Branyan, however, would offer the Sox protection against injury — and a potential alternative at DH if Ortiz got off to a slow start for the second straight season.
— Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
Tigers, Damon exchange proposals but no deal is imminent — 8:08 p.m.
There is now only a “very small” difference of opinion between the Tigers and Johnny Damon as to what the outfielder’s salary should be, one major league source said Monday.
The sides have exchanged proposals within the last several days, but the source said a deal is not yet imminent.
A one-year, $7 million deal is possible, as is a two-year contract worth $14 million. But the source downplayed the chances of a one-year deal with a player option for 2011 — similar to the contract that Adrian Beltre, another Scott Boras client, signed with the Red Sox.
Some people in the industry have wondered why the Tigers offered Damon a two-year contract last week, at a time when it’s questionable that any other team is interested in signing the 36-year-old to a deal of that length.
Similarly, many believe it would be foolish for Damon to turn down a two-year deal, because it could be difficult for him to replicate his Yankee Stadium success of 2009 while playing in Detroit’s more spacious Comerica Park.
The Braves haven’t intensified their pursuit of Damon in the last week, a separate source said, leaving the White Sox as perhaps the strongest challenger to Detroit.
— Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal
Feb. 13 News and Notes
Boras loses one client, picks up another — 1:55 p.m.
Agent Scott Boras confirmed Saturday that free-agent infielder Felipe Lopez no longer is his client. ESPN.com reported Friday that Lopez has left Boras for the Beverly Hills Sports Council.
The change occurred this week, another major-league source said. Lopez now will be represented by the BHSC's Dan Lozano.
"We wish Felipe well. He's a fine player," Boras said. "We understand that a player gets frustrated when we contact all 30 teams numerous times and there is not a starting job for him."
Boras, however, said that he recently added an even more high-profile client than Lopez: Angels first baseman Kendry Morales, who previously was represented by the Hendricks brothers.
Lopez, 29, batted .310 with a .383 on-base percentage for the Diamondbacks and Brewers last season. He has had difficulty staying with one club. His next team will be his fifth in the past three seasons. — Ken Rosenthal
Feb. 10 News and Notes
Chavez making rapid progress — 2:03 p.m.
Free agent outfielder Endy Chavez has made rapid progress after major surgery on his right knee and could be ready to play in May — perhaps even April, according to the most optimistic projections.
At this point, Chavez and his agents must decide on one of two courses of action: Chavez could sign with a club soon and rehabilitate with the team’s medical staff throughout spring training, or continue his workouts individually and stage a showcase in late March.
Either way, one major-league source said that he’s drawing interest from a number of teams that could use outfield help, including the Mets, Mariners, Blue Jays, Astros and Royals.
Of those teams, Chavez has already played for the Royals, Mets and Mariners. The Mets have some uncertainty in the outfield, as they await the return of Carlos Beltran from his knee surgery. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Wang sweepstakes heat up — 10:20 a.m.
If the Dodgers or Mets intend to sign free-agent right-hander Chien-Ming Wang, they will need to accelerate their pursuits.
Wang, 30, has received offers from two other clubs — the Nationals and a still unidentified team — according to a major-league source. He likely will make a decision within 7 to 10 days, the source said. The Boston Globe is reporting that Wang has chosen the Nats and is close to signing.
Various teams are at different points in the process with Wang. The Dodgers are lagging, the source said, and the Mets are further behind.
Wang, recovering from arthroscopic shoulder surgery to repair a tear in his shoulder capsule last July 29, is eager to reunite with former Yankees manager Joe Torre in Los Angeles, according to a second source.
The Mets have yet to add a starting pitcher this offseason; Wang, who is likely to open the season on the disabled list, could represent insurance for their questionable rotation.
The Orioles, searching for another starter, have discussed Wang; they also pursued free-agent left-hander Erik Bedard, who is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum, before he signed with the Mariners.
Wang’s past success in the AL East also could make him attractive to the Rays and Blue Jays; the Jays, too, pursued Bedard. The Nationals continue to explore every available remaining free-agent starter, and are considering Wang, a source said.
Several clubs have sent their trainers and/or pitching coaches to watch Wang, who is throwing three times a week. Some teams already have given Wang physicals; once he agrees to a deal, that part of the process will be complete. — Ken Rosenthal
Feb. 9 News and Notes
Branyan fights to prove his back is healthy — 9:14 p.m.
The big truck tires are propped up against a wall in the Vanderbilt University weight room. Russell Branyan pounds them with sledgehammers, the way a lumberjack chops wood.
“It’s a difficult exercise,” Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin says. “He couldn’t do it if he had the back injury that people say he has.”
That is the rap against Branyan in free agency — that he is still hampered by a back problem that sidelined him with the Mariners for a month late last season.
Corbin, who has been present while Branyan has worked out with fellow major leaguers Dan Uggla and Khalil Greene at Vanderbilt, doesn’t buy it.
“I see him every day in the weight room, doing all this core work,”
Corbin says. “I don’t know what the situation was with Seattle, but he looks good to me. He’s hitting every day with Uggla and Khalil. I don’t see anything wrong.”
Yet, Branyan remains unemployed, despite hitting 31 home runs last season.
The Indians and Blue Jays are interested in Branyan, major-league sources say, but both of those clubs are considering other hitters as well.
The Indians, who also are talking to infielder Hank Blalock and outfielder Jermaine Dye, are wary of signing a veteran who would take away at-bats from outfielder Michael Brantley and first baseman Matt LaPorta.
The Blue Jays could use Branyan at the infield corners and possibly left field as well as at DH. But they, too, are reluctant to block a young player such as Travis Snider.
Branyan, 34, had a .955 OPS in the first half last season, a .688 OPS in the second. His statistical decline alarmed clubs, but he has said his back is fine.
“It really is strange,” Corbin says. “A guy like that who hit 31 bombs, there has got to be a place for him somewhere. In a clubhouse, he’s as good as gold. I haven’t met a lot of major leaguers like him.”
— Ken Rosenthal
Damon stands firm on demands — 8:34 p.m.
Even with pitchers and catchers set to report next week, free agent outfielder Johnny Damon hasn’t moved off his demand of a two-year deal, several major league sources said Tuesday.
A number of people in the industry have said in recent days that they expect Damon to sign with the Tigers, Braves or Rays. But if his asking price drops, other teams could enter the market.
It didn’t appear that a deal for Damon was imminent as of Tuesday evening. The Tigers probably have the greatest interest — and greatest need — but club president/general manager Dave Dombrowski hasn’t spoken publicly about Damon.
“We continue to monitor everything,” Dombrowski said Tuesday, when asked generally about the market. “I am not sure if we are close on anything.”
Tampa Bay would probably need to unload salary in order to afford Damon even on a one-year deal, and sources have said that Cincinnati isn’t actively involved.
Atlanta’s need for Damon is tempered somewhat by the fact that prospects Jason Heyward and Jordan Schafer could contribute during the season. The Braves have taken a more passive approach than the Tigers and would be happy to sign Damon if he “falls into their lap,” one source said last week.
Detroit, meanwhile, could pay Damon around $6 million this year and keep its payroll under what it was in 2009.
— Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal
Mets and Rangers encounter problems in signing a catcher — 6:19 p.m.
Two of the teams that could benefit from signing free-agent catcher Rod Barajas — the Mets and Rangers — appear hamstrung by complications at the ownership level.
The Mets, outbid by the Padres for catcher Yorvit Torrealba, are out of money, major-league sources say — a curious position for a team that spent $66 million on outfielder Jason Bay knowing it had other needs.
The Rangers, other sources say, are either A) at their payroll limit or B) unable to increase payroll in an ownership transition without approval from both the selling and buying groups.
The Rangers’ need at catcher stems from the uncertainty surrounding Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s recovery from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome last September. The team also has explored the possibility of signing Jose Molina, but the addition of a catcher is neither close nor likely, one source said.
None of the Mets’ catchers — Henry Blanco, Omir Santos, Chris Coste and Josh Thole — is an established major-league starter. Thole, 23, had a September callup last season, but has yet to play at Class AAA.
The Mariners, another team in the market for catching, also have expressed interest in Barajas; Rob Johnson is coming off surgeries on both of his hips. However, the M’s at this point might be more likely to add a pitcher than a catcher.
— Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
Would O's sign Washburn? -- 3:09 p.m.
The Orioles haven’t stopped trying to add to their pitching staff. That became apparent when the Baltimore Sun reported that the team had pursued free agent Erik Bedard before he signed with Seattle.
So, where might their search go now?
One major league source said that they have some interest in free agent left-hander Jarrod Washburn, but that his “price would have to drop pretty far” in order for Baltimore to become a realistic destination.
The source added that the Orioles are unlikely to add free agents Todd Wellemeyer, Braden Looper or John Smoltz.
One scout pointed out a drawback of Washburn signing with the Orioles: “Not sure the AL East is the place for an arm to come for one year, in hopes of landing some cash in subsequent years.”
Washburn, for his part, is not in a rush to sign a new contract. He would prefer to play for the Mariners or Twins, but their ability to afford him could be compromised by their respective signings of Bedard and Orlando Hudson.
The Mets and Blue Jays are also looking for bargain starters, sources said. Washburn could thrive at pitcher-friendly Citi Field in New York, but it’s not clear if there is mutual interest there. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Orioles sign pair of relievers — 12:54 p.m.
The Orioles have signed two left-handed relievers, veteran Will Ohman and journeyman minor leaguer Will Startup, sources told FOXSports.com.
Ohman appeared in only 21 games with the Dodgers last year and posted a 5.84 ERA. Because of an injury, he didn’t pitch in the majors after the end of May.
Startup has never pitched in the major leagues and was limited to only 11 appearances over the past two seasons. But the 25-year-old has a herky-jerky delivery that could enable him to have success against left-handed batters. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Feb. 8 News and Notes
Unsigned free agents take wait-and-see approach — 1:50 p.m.
The strategy for right-hander Braden Looper — the strategy for a number of unsigned free agents — will be to wait.
Looper’s representatives are telling clubs that the pitcher will not settle for a major-league contract with a low base salary or a minor- league deal with an invitation to spring training.
Looper, 35, is preparing to pitch this season; he does not plan to retire. But he simply might wait for an opportunity to develop in spring training or even during the season, be it through an injury, trade or poor performance.
Free-agent hitters such as outfielder Jermaine Dye could take the same approach, but the danger is that well-paying jobs might not open, effectively forcing such players into at least temporary retirement.
Outfielder Jim Edmonds, for example, sat out all of last season, only to return on a minor-league contract with the Brewers last month.
Pitchers generally are in greater demand than position players, so Looper — along with bigger names such as Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz — might eventually get contracts they desire.
Looper has averaged 13 wins and 190 innings as a starting pitcher the past three seasons. He had a 5.22 ERA for the Brewers in 2009 and led the majors with 39 homers allowed, but pitched the entire season with an injured right knee that required arthroscopic surgery in October.
— Ken Rosenthal
Feb. 5 News and Notes
Dye could be headed for AL club — 7:09 p.m.
Several baseball executives said Friday that they expect Jermaine Dye to sign with an American League club. That way, his at-bats could be spread among the maximum number of positions: left field, right field, designated hitter and perhaps first base.
But that begs the question: Which AL team?
As of Friday, it didn’t appear that anyone had taken the lead in the pursuit for Dye. Perhaps teams will wait for Johnny Damon to sign before moving on Dye. That’s how it happened with the second base market. Orlando Hudson signed with the Twins, then Adam Kennedy paired up with the Nationals.
It’s not as if Dye is coming off a lousy season, although he did slump badly in the second half. He finished with 27 home runs and 81 RBIs last year, while batting .250. Dye averaged 33 home runs per year during his five-year tenure with the White Sox, but his contributions remain undervalued by some. (In fact, he hit more home runs last year than Damon.)
But even if Dye’s market is restricted to the AL, he should appeal to a number of clubs still looking for a corner bat or DH. Toronto, Kansas City, Cleveland and Detroit all match that description. Still, it’s not clear if any of them are actively pursuing Dye.
In some respects, Dye looks like a candidate to sign a one-year deal in February and be traded in July. If healthy, the former World Series MVP would have considerable value to contenders.
If a contender doesn't offer a role to his liking, his best match might be with a rebuilding team — Blue Jays? Indians? Padres? — that is trying to accumulate tradable assets.
Of all the clubs, I think he fits best in Toronto, where Jose Bautista is the incumbent right fielder.
And wouldn’t it be funny if Dye were to play better in Toronto than Alex Rios does in Chicago? Rios effectively replaced Dye last year when the White Sox claimed him off waivers from the Jays for a cool $60 million. I think Dye can be had for a little less than that now. — Jon Paul Morosi
Mets more likely to sign pitcher than catcher — 3:48 p.m.
The Mets are more likely to sign a pitcher than a catcher this month, two major league sources said Friday.
One person in the industry said he “doubts” the Mets will sign either Rod Barajas or Jose Molina, the best options left on the market. But it’s hard to rule out anything during what has been an erratic offseason for the team.
Meanwhile, the club is still considering right-handed starters John Smoltz and Todd Wellemeyer, sources said.
The Rangers and Mariners, competitors in the American League West, are among the teams that could add another catcher before Opening Day. — Jon Paul Morosi
Twins weren't high bidder for Hudson — 2:36 p.m.
The Twins were not the high bidder for free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson -- at least not in total dollars.
The Indians offered Hudson a two-year, $10 million deal, major-league sources say, though the present-day value would have been lower.
The deal was backloaded, and a significant portion of the guarantee was in the buyout of a third-year option, according to one source.
Hudson, by accepting a one-year, $5 million contract from the Twins, went with a team more likely to contend in 2010 than his two other finalists, the Indians and Nationals.
His deal includes a stipulation that the Twins cannot offer him salary arbitration if he is a Type A free agent, ensuring that a team can sign him next off-season without losing a draft pick. -- Ken Rosenthal
Feb. 4 News and Notes
Retirement in the cards for Washburn? — 7:36 p.m.
At the beginning of this week, Jarrod Washburn had narrowed his possible 2010 destinations to a very small list.
In fact, it might have included only two teams — the Mariners and Twins.
On Thursday, both clubs moved toward commitments with other players. Seattle is close to a one-year deal with starter Erik Bedard. Likewise, Minnesota is nearing an agreement with second baseman Orlando Hudson.
So now what for Washburn?
It remains possible that Seattle or Minnesota could boost its payroll by enough money to give Washburn an enticing one-year offer.
If that doesn’t happen, and if Washburn doesn’t want to play elsewhere, he has a third option.
It sounds extreme, yes. But one major league source said Thursday that the left-hander might decide to stay home in Wisconsin if he doesn’t get the right offer from the right team.
Washburn, 35, has hinted at retirement before, but a strong first half with the Mariners last year rekindled his desire to pitch. And after offseason knee surgery, he wants to atone for his disappointing performance with the Tigers after the trade deadline. — Jon Paul Morosi
Twins in final stages of deal with Hudson -- 7:37 p.m.
The Twins are in the final stages of negotiating a one-year, $5 million contract with free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, according to major-league sources.
Several hurdles remain before the deal will be completed, including Hudson passing a physical, the source said. But Hudson clearly has chosen the Twins, and the momentum for an agreement continues to build. Full story ...-- Ken Rosenthal
Bullpen depth could help Jays add young talent — 5:30 p.m
For the Blue Jays, it’s all about assets.
Right now, the Jays’ most marketable players in trades are relievers Jason Frasor, a right-hander, and Scott Downs, a lefty.
The pending addition of a third closer candidate, free-agent right- hander Kevin Gregg, will give the Jays the ability — if they wish — to deal from strength.
The Jays also can keep all three relievers, then offer each salary arbitration at the end of next season, preserving their rights to draft-pick compensation. Each pitcher figures to be at least a Type B, meaning the Jays would receive at least a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds.
Under new general manager Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays have shown a fairly consistent approach to free agency: They want additional value, be it through club options or potential draft picks.
Anthopoulos offered arbitration to his own free agents, shortstop Marco Scutaro and catcher Rod Barajas, then signed catcher John Buck to protect against the loss of Barajas. The GM also negotiated club options into the deals for Gregg and shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
The Jays know they are not going to contend anytime soon. Whether through trades or draft picks, they want to add as many quality young players as possible. — Ken Rosenthal
Latest on Bedard, Washburn destinations — 12:13 p.m.
For several months last year, the pitching of Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn helped the Mariners remain in contention.
Now, their free-agent marketplaces are intertwined.
Two people in the industry said Thursday morning that they expect Bedard to return to the Mariners. And sources confirmed later Thursday that the parties are close to finalizing a one-year deal.
For Bedard, who is coming off shoulder surgery, a familiarity with Seattle’s medical staff could be an important consideration; the left-hander spent the past two injury-plagued seasons with the Mariners.
One source said Thursday that Bedard can probably start pitching again in June, so he won’t necessarily address the Mariners’ need for starting pitching at the beginning of the season. But Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is unlikely to bring back both Bedard and Washburn.
So, what does this mean for Washburn?
If Bedard signs with the Mariners, the Twins would become a more appealing destination for Washburn. The Twin Cities are very close to Washburn’s home in Wisconsin.
But there is yet another level to the intrigue: It’s not clear if the Twins can afford both Washburn and free agent second baseman Orlando Hudson. And one source said Thursday morning that they were intensifying their pursuit of Hudson.
Either way, this much is certain: The Twins will be in a very favorable negotiating position with Washburn if Bedard returns to Seattle. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Feb. 3 News and Notes
Rockies consider Wellemeyer for pitching depth — 8:38 a.m.
The Rockies have turned their attention to right-hander Todd Wellemeyer in their effort to add pitching depth. Wellemeyer has expressed an interest in starting and while the Rockies will go to spring training with a projected rotation of Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel and Jeff Francis, the only experienced alternatives coming to spring training if a need arises are lefty Greg Smith and right-hander Tim Redding.
The Rockies also are looking for protection in their bullpen, where they are hoping Manuel Corpas can rebound from the surgery he underwent last season. Corpas, however, was ineffective in a brief stint in the Dominican Republic, creating concerns about when he might be ready to pitch in the big leagues again.
Wellemeyer struggled with elbow problems in 2009, which has kept teams from making him a guaranteed offer.He was 7-10 with 5.89 ERA in 28 games (21 starts) with the Cardinals last season. — Tracy Ringolsby
Feb. 2 News and Notes
Why the A's took Willy Taveras — 9:28 p.m.
The deal looked odd.
Why would the A’s accept outfielder Willy Taveras in a trade with the Reds if they were almost certain to release him?
If the net result was adding infielder Adam Rosales for $1.3 million, why didn’t the A’s simply include that sum along with Aaron Miles in the trade?
The answer — or answers — actually are rather simple.
One, though it’s a longshot, the A’s could trade Taveras, whom they immediately designated for assignment.
If the A’s paid, say, $2 million of Taveras’ $4 million contract, they would come out ahead financially after dumping Miles’ $2.7 million salary — and still get Rosales and whatever they could acquire for Taveras.
More realisticially, the A’s will release Taveras — and yes, the move would benefit their bottom line.
Any team that acquired Taveras would pay him the $405,000 minimum, with the A’s assuming the rest of his salary.
That offset essentially would reduce the price of Rosales to $900,000, making the trade even more appealing from the A’s perspective. — Ken Rosenthal
Source: Dodgers, Amezaga reach deal — 6:34 p.m.
Free-agent infielder Alfredo Amezaga has reached an agreement with the Dodgers on a minor-league contract, according to a major-league source. Full story
Gregg close to deal with Jays — 2:19 p.m.
Free-agent reliever Kevin Gregg is close to signing with the Blue Jays, according to major-league sources.
Gregg, a right-hander, would be turning down chances to set up for the Rockies and Marlins for a better opportunity to close with the Jays.
Right-hander Jason Frasor and left-hander Scott Downs had most of the save opportunities last season for the Jays, who released their previous closer, oft-injured lefty B.J. Ryan, in July.
Gregg, 31, had the third-lowest save percentage in the majors last season with the Cubs, converting 23 of 30 chances. The year before, he had the sixth lowest percentage while pitching for the Marlins, going 29-for-38.
His ERA rose from 3.41 in 2008 to 4.72 last season, but Gregg has been durable, averaging approximately 75 innings per season over the past six seasons and never once appearing on the disabled list.— Ken Rosenthal
Verlander's stats could add up to Hernandez-like deal soon — 10:55 a.m.
The Tigers are increasingly optimistic that they will sign Justin Verlander to a long-term contract extension, one major league source told FOXSports.com on Tuesday.
Verlander’s representatives are using Felix Hernandez’s recent contract with the Mariners – five years, $78 million – as a reference point in negotiations. One person familiar with the talks said Friday that a sixth year at a mutually acceptable price would probably clinch the deal.
But it’s also possible that the sides could agree on a five-year deal with a guarantee of more than Hernandez’s $78 million. Surpassing the Seattle ace’s big deal is believed by some to be a consideration for the competitive Verlander.
Verlander’s track record would suggest he's justified in asking for more money than Hernandez. While Hernandez has the better career ERA – 3.45, compared to 3.92 – Verlander has more career wins, more seasons of 15 or more victories, and more All-Star appearances.
Verlander, who turns 27 this month, has also pitched in the postseason and thrown a no-hitter. Hernandez, 23, has yet to do either. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Benson throwing again, looking for work — 8:50 a.m.
A number of National League teams are keeping track of Kris Benson’s progress, including the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds and Nationals, according to one major league source.
The Dodgers are also looking to add starting depth but are a more remote possibility, sources indicated.
Last week, Benson’s agent said he expected the free agent right-hander to join a new team within the next few weeks.
Benson has made only eight appearances in the majors since 2006, in large part because of injuries. He pitched in the majors and minors for Texas last year, with minimal success. But Benson’s agent, Gregg Clifton, is encouraged by the fact that he’s already throwing his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Mariners on fringe of Hudson pursuit — 1:50 a.m.
The Mariners signed Ryan Garko on Monday, raising to five the number of position players added to their major-league roster from outside the organization this winter.
Yet, team officials haven’t entirely dismissed the possibility of bringing in a sixth.
Seattle, a team not often linked to Orlando Hudson, remains a long-shot candidate to sign the free-agent second baseman, multiple major-league sources said Monday.
The Nationals, Indians and Twins have also shown interest in Hudson recently, sources said.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik has gained a reputation for making bold moves, but the addition of Hudson would probably require some Olympic-caliber roster gymnastics.
For one thing, Seattle already has a second baseman: Jose Lopez, who happened to lead the team with 96 RBIs last year. If Hudson comes in, Lopez will need to move – either to first base or another team.
And the recently acquired Casey Kotchman is slated to be the primary first baseman.
But the Mariners have an affinity for Hudson, because he’s a four-time Gold Glove winner at second base. Seattle built a successful team last year on pitching and defense, and Hudson is better in the field than Lopez. Hudson also adds value as a switch hitter, although his production for the Dodgers tapered at the end of last year.
So, if Seattle signs Hudson without trading Lopez, how would all the pieces fit?
Well, manager Don Wakamatsu told MLB.com on Monday that the Mariners could carry 14 position players on their Opening Day roster.
And it’s not definite that Seattle will have a three-man left field committee of Milton Bradley, Eric Byrnes and Ryan Langerhans. If only two of those three are on the Opening Day roster – because of injury or performance – the Mariners would probably have enough room to carry Hudson, Lopez, Kotchman and Garko.
It’s worth noting that Langerhans, a .218 hitter in the majors last year, doesn’t have a guarantee provision in his major-league contract.
So, even though it may be hard to believe, the possibility of Hudson signing with Seattle is still there. — Jon Paul Morosi
Feb. 1 News and Notes
Red Sox sign RHP Nelson to minor-league contract — 8:19 p.m.
The Red Sox added possible bullpen depth Monday, signing free-agent right-hander Joe Nelson to a minor-league contract.
Nelson, 35, confirmed the deal to FOXSports.com. He previously with the Red Sox in 2004, making three appearances.
Nelson spent last season with the Rays, posting a 4.02 ERA in 42 relief appearances. He struggled in May, but produced strong numbers before and after that slump.
The Rays designated Nelson for assignment on Aug. 1 after signing right-hander Jeff Bennett. Nelson spent the rest of the season at Class AAA.
— Ken Rosenthal
Jan. 31 News and Notes
Sources: Dodgers interested in Wang — 4:23 p.m.
The Dodgers will visit Taiwan for two exhibition games in March.
Who better to join them than the most successful player from Taiwan, pitcher Chien-Ming Wang?
The Dodgers are interested in Wang, major-league sources say, but not because of their scheduled spring-training trip to his native land.
Manager Joe Torre recalls Wang’s best days with the Yankees, and the Dodgers are still looking for another starting pitcher.
Wang, coming off season-ending shoulder surgery last July 30, is not expected to be ready before May 1. The Mets and other teams also are monitoring his rehabilitation.
— Ken Rosenthal
Jan. 30 News and Notes
Nelson seeks chance to prove slump was a fluke — 7:36 p.m.
The A’s are targeting a left-handed hitting outfielder, but it’s not Johnny Damon.
The team is in serious discussions with free agent Gabe Gross on a one- year contract, according to major-league sources.
Gross, 30, spent last season and most of 2008 with the Rays. He is considered an above-average defender and decent threat against right-handed pitching, though his numbers last season were down across the board.
The A’s almost certainly will use Gross as a reserve, seemingly leaving them with the option of adding Damon.
However, there have been no recent talks between the A’s and Damon’s representatives, a source said.
Gross is a career .239 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage and .399 slugging percentage.
— Ken Rosenthal
Nelson seeks chance to prove slump was a fluke — 4:28 p.m.
Right-hander Joe Nelson was a feel-good story in 2008, a journeyman reliever who broke through with the Marlins, producing a 2.00 ERA in 59 games.
Nelson, 35, was less effective with the Rays last season, but the way he sees it, he had only one bad month, posting an 11.17 ERA from May 4 to 27.
Now Nelson is a free agent, and he says the Red Sox, Dodgers and Nationals are among the teams showing interest.
One executive says Nelson lost his confidence and then his command last season, and probably fit best in a spacious National League park.
Nelson, though, points to his numbers before and after his May meltdown – a 2.38 ERA in 10 games before and a 1.40 ERA in 20 games after.
The Rays designated him for assignment on Aug. 1 after signing right-hander Jeff Bennett, and Nelson spent the rest of the season at Class AAA.
“I had a really tough May last year,” he says. “Before and after that I was throwing the ball really well.”
— Ken Rosenthal
Will the Nationals give Dunn a contract extension? — 4:05 p.m.
A contract extension for Adam Dunn became a popular topic Friday at the Nationals’ “Hot Stove” luncheon for season-ticket holders.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo described Dunn as “one of the family” and the first baseman said an extension was “something I want to do.”
Still, don’t count on Dunn rushing into such a move.
Dunn, 30, will be a free agent at the end of the season, perhaps the top slugger on the open market. The Nationals, operating in a worse economy, awarded him a two-year, $20 million free-agent contract last offseason.
Perhaps the Nats would be willing to give Dunn an even bigger deal — club officials seem comfortable with him at first base, though most baseball people view him as more of a DH.
But true sluggers are becoming increasingly scarce in the drug-testing era, and Dunn could fit for a number of American League teams.
The Red Sox, for example, could look to replace David Ortiz. The Rangers, under new ownership, could be another possibility — Dunn grew up in Porter, Texas, near Houston, and attended the University of Texas on a football scholarship.
— Ken Rosenthal
Jan. 29 News and Notes
Baldelli not worried about unemployment — 11:04 p.m.
Spring training is less than three weeks away, but free-agent outfielder Rocco Baldelli says he’s not worried that he’s still unemployed.
“I’m not going to base my decision on the date,” Baldelli says.
Baldelli, who has been linked to the Yankees and Rangers, could fit both those clubs as a right-handed-hitting reserve. He says only that he wants to be "comfortable" with his choice.
His career batting/on-base/slugging line against left-handed pitching is .295/.346/.485, and he nearly matched those numbers in limited time with the Red Sox last season. — Ken Rosenthal
Agent: Benson ready to pich again — 9:29 p.m.
The agent for Kris Benson said Friday that the right-hander is “100 percent” ready to pitch and should sign with a new team within the next few weeks.
Gregg Clifton said Benson has already thrown for two interested teams. According to Clifton, Benson’s fastball reached 92 and 93 miles per hour and averaged 91 during both of the 90-pitch sessions.
Benson has made only eight appearances in the majors since 2006. He pitched in the majors and minors for Texas last year, with minimal success. But Clifton is encouraged by the fact that he’s already throwing his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup.
Some of the teams that pursued Ben Sheets may now show interest in Benson — at a considerably lower price.
The Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds, Mariners, Nationals and Dodgers may be in the market for rotation depth, but Clifton declined to say if any of them had made contact. — Jon Paul Morosi
More than 20 players sign up for camp — 7:09 p.m.
Here are the players who have registered so far for the Professional Free Agent Showcase, scheduled for Feb. 2-4 at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Pitchers – Nick Bierbrodt, Wayne Hedden, Kyle Jackson, Javier Martinez, Yu Miyake, Neal Musser, Will Startup, Aaron Wideman
Catchers – Luis Bautista, Jeffrey Christy, Pete LaForest, Edwin Rodriguez, Steve Strausbaugh
Infielders – Joe Jiannetti, Kody Kirkland, Josh Pressley, Robert Spain
Outfielders – Tim Battle, Sheldon Fulse, Tim Raines Jr., Steve Moss
Tampa Bay Rays scout Rob Ducey, a former major-league outfielder, is organizing the event. He said that it will include live batting practice to simulate game conditions. Cecil Fielder and Pat Hentgen are among the former big leaguers who will serve on the field staff.
Ducey said scouts from major-league teams and the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau will attend, along with Asian and independent organizations. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Jan. 27 News and Notes
Indians trying to make room for Hudson — 10:15 p.m.
The Indians have explored the idea of trading right-hander Fausto Carmona to clear money for free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson, but the possibility is unlikely to come to fruition, according to major-league sources.
Carmona, 26, is guaranteed $4.9 million this season and $6.1 million next season, and the Indians hold club options on him for 2012 and ’13. His trade value, however, is down — he was 5-12 with a 6.32 ERA last season and spent nearly two months at Class AAA.
The cash-strapped Indians cannot sign Hudson unless they clear a salary such as Carmona’s. Hudson, 32, would be more of a sure thing than the Indians’ current second baseman, Luis Valbuena, who hit 10 home runs in 368 at-bats as a rookie last season, but had only a .298 on-base percentage.
The market for Hudson is seemingly fluid. The Nationals are widely perceived to be the front-runner, but the Twins also are interested and other clubs are in the mix.
Price could be an issue for the Twins. Their payroll is currently $87 million, according to one rival club’s calculations. Such a figure would represent a $22 million increase from their Opening Day payroll last season. — Ken Rosenthal
Sources: Cabrera choosing between Reds, Rockies — 8:37 p.m.
Free-agent infielder Orlando Cabrera is deciding between offers from the Reds and Rockies, according to major-league sources.
The Reds would play Cabrera at shortstop. The Rockies presumably would use him at second, making Clint Barmes a super-utility man.
Cabrera, 35, signed a one-year, $4 million free-agent contract with the A’s last offseason, then was traded to the Twins on July 31.
He stabilized the Twins’ middle infield down the stretch, helping the team win the AL Central title.
For the season, Cabrera batted .284 with a .316 on-base percentage and .389 slugging percentage. His career line is .275-.322-.398.
If the Rockies fail to sign Cabrera, they will turn to Melvin Mora, one source said. Mora would be more of a super-utility player, enabling Barmes to remain at second.
The Rockies also have discussed signing both Cabrera and Mora and trading Barmes, but that scenario is unlikely because of Barmes' $3.225 million salary in 2010. — Ken Rosenthal
Blue Jays still shopping? — 11:34 a.m.
With teams looking for bargain talent at this time of year, don’t forget about the Blue Jays.
New Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said recently that he is “open to anything” when it comes to upgrading his roster.
The Blue Jays have particular use for an inexpensive slugger who plays one of the corner outfield spots or designated hitter. Fortunately for them, the market has a number of players like that, including Hank Blalock, Jonny Gomes and Marcus Thames. (Blalock plays the corner infield spots and not the outfield.)
Adam Lind could be Toronto’s left fielder or DH, depending on how the rest of the roster fills out. (A new addition could play where Lind does not.) The Blue Jays don’t have an established right fielder, either.
Gomes is particularly appealing for teams looking for power, because he's still two seasons away from qualifying for major league free agency. So, a team could sign him to a one-year contract and bring him back for 2011 through salary arbitration. --Jon Paul Morosi
Don't forget Amezaga — 11:19 a.m.
Here’s another name to keep in mind if your team is looking for a super-utility type:
Amezaga, who underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee last July, worked out for four clubs last week, according to a major-league source.
His recovery is on course, the source said, but his doctor, Richard Steadma, prescribed a conservative rehabiliation program.
Amezaga, 32, only began running a few weeks ago. He is now taking groundballs and throwing and increasing his running program.
The Marlins non-tendered Amezaga due to medical concerns, but considered him one of their more valuable players from 2006 to ’08. — Ken Rosenthal
Infielders' fate depends on Hudson's next move — 12:27 a.m.
Once second baseman Orlando Hudson picks his next team, the market for several other free-agent infielders will become clearer.
Hudson is the linchpin of the remaining infielders, with six teams showing varying degrees of interest, according to major-league sources.
Adam Kennedy is talking to many of those same clubs. Felipe Lopez, Orlando Cabrera and Melvin Mora also could be tied, directly or indirectly, to Hudson.
The Nationals, Twins, Reds, Tigers and Rockies are among the teams looking for infield help.
The Mariners could add an infielder if they trade second baseman Jose Lopez. The Rays could sign Hudson and move Ben Zobrist to right field. The Cardinals would like to upgrade at third base. The Rangers, looking for possibly one more bench player, have “fringe” interest in Mora, one source said.
The glut of infielders and number of potential moving parts could spur teams to be creative — and unpredictable — as spring training nears.
— Ken Rosenthal
Jan. 27 News and Notes
Blalock, Kennedy could fill Tigers' infield needs — 11:43 p.m.
The Tigers will add another hitter if the price is right, and some have wondered if Johnny Damon could land in Detroit now that he won’t return to the Yankees.
However, the Tigers’ greater need may be on the infield.
For one thing, third baseman Brandon Inge won’t be ready for the start of the Grapefruit League schedule. He’s still rehabilitating after surgeries to both knees, but the team is optimistic that he will be ready in advance of Opening Day.
The Tigers are also trying to break in a rookie second baseman, Scott Sizemore, who is recovering from an injury; a broken left ankle ended his stay in the Arizona Fall League.
So, one major-league source said the team is actively seeking players who could offer insurance at both second and third base. Adam Kennedy matches that description and remains available on the free agent market, but it's not clear if the sides are engaged in serious talks.
Kennedy played both positions for the A’s in 2009, making 78 starts at third and 49 at second. Of equal importance, he was a No. 1 or No. 2 hitter for much of the year; the Tigers haven’t settled on a No. 1 or No. 2 hitter at the moment.
Hank Blalock remains available, as well, but his defense at third base is “not good,” according to one scout familiar with him. Still, he’s a left-handed batter with a history of hitting for power. He’s coming off a season in which he hit 25 home runs — his highest total since 2005.
Kennedy would offer the Tigers more positional versatility than Blalock, whose primary position last season (first base) is the same as that of Miguel Cabrera. Blalock played only one game at third base last year. So, he would probably pick up most of his at-bats as a designated hitter.
— Jon Paul Morosi
Hudson talks remain fluid — 1:43 a.m. ET
Free-agent second baseman Orlando Hudson looks like he will have a choice.
Take a strong financial offer from the Nationals. Take perhaps a lesser contract from the Rays. Or take a deal from another club that might put him near the Nats financially and the Rays competitively — if such an opportunity exists.
The Nationals and Rays both are pursuing Hudson, but his negotiations remain fluid, major-league sources say. At least one, unidentified team might still be in the mix. That team could be the Twins, who are known to have interest in Hudson, major-league sources say.
So far this offseason, the Twins have been linked more with third basemen than second basemen. Nick Punto and Brendan Harris, however, can play both positions. Punto, in fact, was the regular third baseman during the second half of the 2006 season, helping the Twins win a division title.
Hudson, a Gold Glove defender at second, would hold particular appeal to the defensive-minded Twins — more than say, Miguel Tejada, another player the Twins liked, but who would have needed to move from shortstop to third base.
The question for the Twins would be price, just as it would be for the Rays. Rather than invest in Hudson, the Twins ultimately might prefer to sign a starting pitcher.
The Rays, facing their usual payroll constraints, would require some "interesting accounting" to sign Hudson, one source said. But the move clearly would make the team stronger, with Ben Zobrist moving to right field.
The Rockies only will sign Hudson if they can get him at a bargain price, sources say. The Mariners could add Hudson if they traded Jose Lopez. The Cubs are prioritizing another reliever over a second
baseman, and Tigers plan to play Scott Sizemore at second base.
— Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
Jan. 26 News and Notes
Washburn's wish list — 3:47 p.m.
Now that the A’s have reached a deal with Ben Sheets, the focus on free-agent starter Jarrod Washburn should intensify.
But in reality, the buzz will probably be muted. One major-league source said Tuesday that there are “a limited number of places” where the left-hander wants to pitch in 2010.
Minnesota is one place. Seattle is another. And the list may not be much longer than that. A separate source said he would be surprised if Washburn signed with a team other than the Twins or Mariners.
Each team has its own appeal. The Twins play close to Washburn’s offseason home in Wisconsin. And his family grew to love Seattle during his tenure with the Mariners, which ended with last July’s trade to Detroit.
The Cubs and Mets were among the teams that scouted Sheets' recent throwing session, and both remain in the market for starting pitching. It's not clear if they have interest in Washburn -- or he in them -- but one source with knowledge of the left-hander's market said a total of six teams have inquired. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Thome has new AL Central suitor? — 2:49 p.m.
Jim Thome reportedly isn’t returning to the Chicago White Sox, for whom he hit the 134 most recent home runs of his career.
He won’t be going back to the team where he hit Nos. 1 through 334, either.
One major-league source reiterated Tuesday afternoon that the Indians aren’t pursuing Thome. He would be a good gate attraction for a team that lost 97 games last year, but the presence of designated hitter Travis Hafner has eliminated that possibility.
Hafner is Cleveland’s highest-paid player and hasn’t started more than 10 games in the field during any season since 2003. As long as Hafner is healthy and productive -- hardly a guarantee -- Thome would have virtually no way of getting into the lineup.
However, the source said the budget-conscious Indians are still checking around for free-agent bargains.
They lack experience in left field, but it’s highly doubtful that they can outbid the Yankees for Johnny Damon. With an uncertain rotation, the Indians may gamble on a bounce-back starter -- as they did (successfully) with Carl Pavano last year.
The Twins remained interested in signing Thome as of Tuesday afternoon, a separate source confirmed to FOXSports.com.
Minnesota can’t give Thome an everyday role at the moment, but he could get at-bats in a few different ways. Unless the Twins upgrade at second or third base, manager Ron Gardenhire may want to use a late-inning pinch hitter for those two spots in the lineup. And Thome could be the DH when Jason Kubel has a day off or plays in the outfield against right-handed pitching.
One executive believes Thome could fit with the Rays or Blue Jays, in addition to the Twins.
"I think he knows he is going to be a guy who gets 250 to 300 plate appearances," the executive said. "He still has value when used properly." -- Jon Paul Morosi
Jan. 25 News and Notes
Sources: Nats to sign RH reliever Walker — 5:35 p.m.
The Nationals, continuing a massive overhaul of their bullpen, have reached agreement on a one-year contract with free-agent right-hander Tyler Walker, according to major-league sources.
The deal, pending a physical, will make Walker the fourth addition to the Nationals’ bullpen this offseason, joining right-handers Matt Capps and Brian Bruney and lefty Eddie Guardado.
Walker, who turns 34 on May 15, went 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in 35 1/3 innings with the Phillies last season after getting released by the Mariners in spring training. He also pitched 19 1/3 innings at Class AAA.
— Ken Rosenthal
Nats sign pitcher Chuck James to minor-league contract — 5:13 p.m.
Remember Chuck James?
In 2006, the left-hander went 11-4 with a 3.78 ERA as a rookie with the Braves. He also won 11 games for the Braves in ’07, then suffered shoulder problems and underwent extensive surgery in September 2008, forcing him to miss all of last season.
Nationals assistant general manager Roy Clark, the Braves’ former scouting director, remembers James. Clark watched James throw 88 to 90 mph on Saturday, and the Nats proceeded to sign James to a minor-league contract.
James, 28, figures to fight for the one of the Nationals’ open rotation spots behind right-hander Jason Marquis and left-hander John Lannan. At the very least, he represents additional depth for manager Jim Riggleman.
— Ken Rosenthal
Wang's agent confident about his client's future — 3:42 p.m.
As the market heats up for Ben Sheets, another free-agent right-hander with physical questions awaits his turn.
Chien-Ming Wang, coming off shoulder surgery on July 29, is expected to throw off a mound in the next week or two, according to one of his agents, Alan Nero.
“Everything is going extraordinarily well,” Nero said.
Six teams are evaluating Wang’s medical records, Nero said. Wang, who turns 30 on March 31, is training at Fischer Sports in Phoenix.
“We’re anticipating a major-league offer with a substantial guarantee and substantial upside,” Nero said.
“We’re so confident with what is going to happen, if we don’t do it until May, we’re OK. Whoever shows the initiative to take a little bit of risk is going to win.”
— Ken Rosenthal
Cubs playing catch-up to fill out roster — 2:24 a.m.
Until they found a new home for Milton Bradley, the Cubs’ off-season plans were stuck in neutral. Now they have only a few weeks left to do a winter’s worth of work.
On their shopping list: a right-handed setup man, a fourth outfielder and possibly a second baseman.
And oh, they would also like to add a starting pitcher as insurance for the indefinite absence of ace left-hander Ted Lilly. (They had a scout at Ben Sheets’ throwing session last week but fear his price tag may be too high.)
Upgrading the bullpen is a top priority, although one source indicated that the team’s interest in free agent right-hander Kiko Calero has waned.
The Cubs have interest in former White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye, but he probably wants more money than he would have on the North Side.
Unless Dye’s demands come down, one source said the Cubs’ top choice among free agent outfielders would be Xavier Nady. Scott Boras, the agent for Nady, told FOXSports.com in an email last week that the right-handed hitter is “on schedule to be ready in spring training,” following the second Tommy John elbow surgery of his career.
The team has also considered Reed Johnson, Rocco Baldelli and Jonny Gomes for the outfield role, a source said.
Mike Fontenot, who had a disappointing season in 2009, and Jeff Baker, who was a pleasant surprise, are the incumbent second basemen. The Cubs would like to upgrade there, but that's not a high priority; they have previously shown interest in free agents Orlando Hudson and Adam Kennedy, sources have said.
— Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi
Will Twins, Mauer talk this week? — 10:44 a.m.
This could be the week the Twins accelerate their contract talks with
catcher Joe Mauer, if only because the representatives for both sides
all will be in one place.
Mauer, his agent Ron Shapiro and Twins general manager Bill Smith will be in attendance Wednesday for ESPN’s “Homecoming with Rick Reilly” featuring Mauer.
The show will be taped at Mauer’s high school, Cretin-Derham Hall, in
St. Paul, Mn.
The two sides have maintained regular contact, according to major-
league sources, but the talks have yet to progress to the serious
Mauer, eligible for free agency at the end of the 2010 season, will be the most coveted player on the market if he fails to re-sign with the Twins. - Ken Rosenthal
Jan. 23 News and Notes
A's show up in full force for Sheets' workout — 2:22 p.m.
The A’s had a strong scouting presence at Ben Sheets’ recent throwing session in Louisiana, leading one rival executive to wonder if they have plans to spend the money they had set aside for Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman signed with the Reds, but the A’s were believed to be serious contenders until the end. Oakland has a young starting rotation and could benefit from the presence of a veteran such as Sheets.
The Mets would love to sign Sheets, too, after missing out on Joel Pineiro. A number of free-agent starters remain on the market, including Jarrod Washburn, Jon Garland, Pedro Martinez and Chien-Ming Wang. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Agent: Villarreal to hold throwing session — 1:46 p.m.
Oscar Villarreal will hold a throwing session for scouts Friday in Tempe, Ariz., according to his agent, Oscar Suarez.
Villarreal hasn’t pitched since 2008, but Suarez said he is healthy and ready to contribute in the big leagues.
Villarreal, a right-handed reliever, has had some successful seasons in the National League. He is 24-15 with a 3.86 ERA in 258 career games for the Diamondbacks, Braves and Astros. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Jan. 20 News and Notes
Source: Sheets still has long list — 3:44 p.m.
One day after Ben Sheets’ encouraging throwing session, the field of suitors for him remains broad. It doesn’t appear that the free agent right-hander has started narrowing his list, one major league source indicated Wednesday.
Sources said the Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox, Mariners, Blue Jays, A’s, Reds, Mets, Nationals, Rangers and Phillies had representatives in attendance Tuesday at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
One person in attendance said Sheets "looked good," adding that his fastball topped out at 91 miles per hour. -- Jon Paul Morosi
Kennedy down to three teams — 12:04 p.m.
The representative for free agent Adam Kennedy said he remains in talks with three teams about the infielder.
Two clubs are interested in Kennedy as their everyday second baseman, Paul Cohen said. Another has interest in Kennedy as a super-utility player.
“We have narrowed it down to three teams,” Cohen said.
Cohen wouldn’t address specific clubs, but the Cubs and Nationals are known to be looking for a second baseman.
Kennedy is coming off a strong season with the A's, in which he batted .289 with 11 home runs and 63 RBIs. He was Oakland's primary third baseman throughout the second half. -- Jon Paul Morosi