MLB In Full Bloom 1/29/2014

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9 - Number of days until the Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers report

11 - Number of days until the Dodgers pitchers and catchers report

17 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

64 – Number of days until Opening Day

We've added two new items to our countdown because pitchers and catchers are reporting on different days. Since the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers start the season in Australia on March 22nd, both teams have their pitchers and catchers reporting a few days earlier than other teams. So, to be fair to those fan bases, the staff at MLB In Full Bloom made the decision to pull out those two teams and have them be recognized on their own. The bottom line for baseball fans everywhere is that we are another day closer to Opening Day!

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  •  A.J. Burnett announced on Tuesday that he will return to pitch in 2014. After weighting his options, Burnett, 37, made the decision to return for his 16th season. Burnett lives in Maryland during the offseason and he would prefer to sign with a team close to home. The Orioles makes alot of sense for alot of reasons, but the question has been this entire offseason is why the Orioles have not been more active in the free agent market to improve a weak starting rotation. The Orioles do not like to give out long-term deals and a one-year offer to Burnett will probably get a deal done. The Pirates and Phillies are two other possible destinations for the right-hander.
  • Aroldis Chapman and the Reds avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year deal for $5 million on Tuesday. The two sides saved themselves the hassle of going in front of an arbiter, and instead split the difference right down the middle. Chapman's role heading into 2014 remains unclear. The Reds continue to say they want to get more innings out of him, but a return to the closer's role seems the most likely scenario.
  • Carlos Pena and the Angels agreed to a minor league deal which includes an invitation to spring training on Tuesday. Pena played in 89 games for the Astros and Royals in 2013, before an emergency appendectomy cut his season short. Pena would be a decent option to give Albert Pujols a rest at first base, as he always poses a solid power threat, but nothing like the 25 home run power he once did in his career.
  • Brandon Boesch (shoulder) and the Angels agreed to a minor league deal which includes an invitation to spring training on Tuesday. Boesch is a solid option to plug into the corner outfield spots if Raul Ibanez or Josh Hamilton need a day off, or be used as a designated hitter on a given day.
  • Dillon Gee and the Mets were able to avoid arbitration and agreed to a one-year deal on Tuesday. Gee is coming off a strong 2013 campaign in which he posted a 3.62 ERA in 199 innings. Gee certainly has decent fantasy value in NL-Only leagues and deep mixed leagues in 2014.
  • Chad Tracy and the Orioles agreed to a minor league contract with includes an invitation to spring training. Tracy, 33, spent the last two years with the Washington Nationals and will provide the Orioles depth as on the bench and in the event that Manny Machado suffers any type of setback in his recovery, Tracy could be a short-term solution at third base. Fantasy owners already know that Tracy provides little to no value and should not be considered in any format.
  • FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Yuniesky Betancourt has reached an agreement with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes. It was reported earlier this offseason that Betancourt was receiving plenty of MLB interest, but it's no surprise that he ultimately found a better opportunity overseas.

MLB In Full Bloom 1/28/2014

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18 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

65 – Number of days until Opening Day

We have seen teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Rangers active this offseason and found ways to improve their chances to win in 2014. We expect those teams to spend money and be a contender each year, but what has been more surprising to me has been the inactivity by the Angels and Orioles. The Orioles have a two-year window left until Matt Wieters and Chris Davis are free agents. Both are Scott Boras clients and the chances of the O's signing either player are not good. The O's desperately need starting pitching to go along with their solid lineup and to this point, they have not added a pitcher that improves their chances to contend. The Angels swung and missed on Masahiro Tanaka and they don't seem to have a sense of urgency to add another arm. With 18 days left until pitchers & catchers report, there is still time for the Angels and Orioles to add a pitcher, but I'm starting to think both teams will not make a free agent splash this year.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Major League Baseball has approved a version of padded caps for pitchers to try in spring training this year. There use is optional and some pitchers will most likely not try out the new caps because the weight of the cap is going to be 10-11 ounces where a normal cap is 3-4 ounces. These caps can perhaps protect pitchers from the line drive ball hit back at them. This is good news for pitchers to try and use and I'm hoping players embrace these caps.
  • Jason Hammel and Chris Capuano appear to be the two pitchers the Los Angeles Angels have on their radar if they decide to add another starting pitcher. The Angels swung and missed on Masahiro Tanaka and are looking at other options. It's interesting to that there does not seem to be a sense of urgency by Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto to add depth to the rotation. If the season started today the Angels rotation includes Jared Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, and Hector Santiago.
  • Jesse Crain (biceps) is about 10 days from returning to throwing. Crain posted an incredible 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances with the White Sox last season before being traded to the Rays while on the DL. After offseason surgery on his biceps, he is close to returning, but his status for Opening Day will likely be determined as he prepares in spring training.
  • David Ortiz said in an interview that if the Red Sox don't offer him another long-term deal, it would be "time to move on,". Ortiz, who turned 38 in November and will be a free agent after the upcoming season is angling for another contract. This is a recurring plot line for Ortiz and at his age there will not be many teams giving out a long-term deal to him. If the Red Sox offer him another two-year deal with an average annual salary of $15-$16 million, Ortiz would be crazy to turn it down.
  • Ryan Howard returned to play the final three games of the 2013 season and looked good. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg is confident that Howard who has  now had four months to train and prepare for the upcoming season, is ready to play and produce. Howard's surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee ended his 2013 campaign prematurely, the second straight injury-ravaged season he's suffered through. Durability will remain the biggest concern with Howard, but the team will focus on correcting other issues, namely his lack of discipline at the plate and struggles against lefties in spring training.
  • Prince Fielder expects to hit third in the batting order for the Rangers in the 2014 season. Fielder has been a cleanup hitter throughout his career protecting All-Star hitters Ryan Braun and Miguel Cabrera in the batting orders. But now, the Rangers are going to let Fielder hit in front of Adrian Beltre and he should see better pitches to hit.  He will have high on-base man Shin-Soo Choo in front of him in the order, so he could see an interesting change in pitch selection this season.
  • Victor Martinez wants to stay with the Detroit Tigers beyond 2014. He is entering the final year of a four-year contract and with the Tigers looking to sign Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera at the end of this year, it will be interesting to see if the Tigers have the necessary funds avaliable to keep Martinez. He was awful over the first few months of the season last year as he worked his way back from an injury-wasted 2012, but hit .370 from June 29 on.

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