MLB In Full Bloom 12/18/2013

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56 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

103– Number of days until Opening Day

We are just seven days away from Christmas day, but Christmas has come early for several relievers this week. Once John Axford signed with the Cleveland Indians on Sunday night, I felt we could see a domino effect take place this week and sure enough that is exactly what is happening. We should continue to see more activity over the next few days before GMs and owners enjoy the holiday season.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Grant Balfour and the Baltimore Orioles agreed on a two-year contract for $15 million on Tuesday. Balfour will inherit closing duties with the Orioles after Baltimore traded Jim Johnson to the Athletics. The trend in the game for closers is that they are not nearly as valuable and teams are not handing out long term deals.
  • Jose Veras and the Chicago Cubs agreed on a one-year deal for $4 million. Veras contract also includes an option of $5.5 million for 2015. After starting last season as the Astros' closer, Veras was traded in July to Detroit, where he was primarily used as a reliever and posted a 3.20 ERA . However, given the fact that the Cubs bullpen is so unstable, it's likely Veras will return to a closer role with the Cubs. Overall, the Cubs have added only $6.5 million in guaranteed money this offseason on Veras, Wesley Wright and backup catcher George Kottaras
  • Matt Thorton and the New York Yankees agreed to a two-year deal for $7 million. Thorton is coming off a 3.74 ERA over 47 1/3 innings this past season between the White Sox and Red Sox. He's a cost-effective replacement for Boone Logan.
  • J.P. Howell and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed to a two-year deal for $11 million. Howell drew interest from several teams, but the Dodgers outbid them all to bring him back. Howell was dominate and posted a dominant 2.03 ERA in 62 innings this past season for Los Angeles.
  • Shane Victorino underwent successful nerve release surgery on his right thumb Monday. Victorino dealt with a back injury during the playoffs and will require some time to recover this offseason. The Reds Sox expect him to be ready for spring training.
  • The wait for Masahiro Tanaka continues. We have yet to hear where he would like to pitch or who is representing him. It's really holding up the market for several key free agents. Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Bronson Arroyo, and Ubaldo Jimenez are all still out there because teams are waiting for resolution on Tanaka. And, it even trickles down to position players and it's almost to the point that the sport is in a holding pattern until Tanaka is signed.
  • Cody Ross has made encouraging progress from August surgery to repair a dislocated hip according to Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers. Towers said Ross is expected to be cleared to begin running by the end of the month. It was a major procedure, though, so most of his time in spring training will be spent rehabbing.