MLB In Full Bloom 1/21/2014

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It's Tuesday in the MLB Full Bloom Hot Stove and we're another day closer to spring training. I find that my excitement level growing with pitchers and catchers report in just 25 days. I have two fantasy drafts that I have already begun to prepare - one AL-Only League and an NL-Only League. Both are rotisserie  leagues as I like the challenge over 162 games. I'm not a fan of mixed leagues or head-to-head leagues. I find mixed leagues to be easier with the depth of the talent pools. Head-to-head leagues are weekly match-ups and while some like a new start each week, I like the strategies that are needed to win rotisserie leagues. It's imperative that those of us that compete in "only leagues" to know each and every player in the free agent pool as they all factor into the equation on some level. Fantasy baseball drafts are closer than you think and it's never too early to begin your research.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers are in the "early stages" with discussions for a contract extension. Ramirez can become a free agent after the 2014 season, but the Dodgers seem committed to locking him up before Opening Day. At 30 years old, Ramirez posted impressive offensive numbers in 2013 with a .345 batting average with 20 home runs. Ramirez should be a top 10 fantasy pick in all fantasy formats.
  • Lyle Overbay and the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training. Overbay had two successful seasons with the Brewers from 2004-05 and set the club record for doubles in a season. He has traveled around the league since then and spent last season with the Yankees in a backup role. Overbay will compete with Mark Reynolds, who also signed a minor league deal with an invite to spring training this offseason, for the first base position.
  • Logan Forsythe is receiving alot of interest in trade discussions from several teams this week. The Padres second baseman was reportedly linked to the Yankees last week, but it appears they are not the only ones. Forsythe batted just .214 over 75 games last season while battling plantar fasciitis, but he hit a much better .273 in 2012. Forsythe can play second base, third base, and shortstop so that versatility is appealing to several teams.
  • Derek Jeter (ankle) participated in on-field activities for the first time this offseason on Monday. Jeter began weight training back in November and now made a big step in recovery by taking the field. His work Monday included hitting off a tee and fielded a large amount of ground balls. He should be ready for spring training.
  • Kolten Wong is expected to start the season as the Cardinals second baseman. Wong is arguably the top second base prospect in all of baseball, and the Cardinals thought highly enough of him to include Wong on the 2013 postseason roster. He will get every chance to keep his job this year. The Cardinals did sign Mark Ellis, providing the team with some insurance in case Wong isn't quite ready.
  • Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago reported that he is hearing from industry sources that the Cubs "will outbid the field on money and years" for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka's signing deadline is January 24 at 5:00 p.m. ET, which is this Friday evening.  The White Sox, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Dodgers are the other confirmed bidders for Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings last season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
  • Once Masahiro Tanaka signs on Friday, I expect the remaining top free agents to sign rather quickly. The big names still on the board are Stephen Drew, Nelson Cruz, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, A.J. Burnett, Matt Garza, and Bronson Arroyo. Burnett could be leaning towards retirement and there are reports on Garza that an injury could be playing a part for him finding a new home. With 25 days left for these pitchers to report, things will move quickly and we should see action this coming weekend.

MLB In Full Bloom 1/20/2014

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26 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

73 – Number of days until Opening Day

With the focus on the NFL over the weekend, it's likely that many people missed the headlines that Major League Baseball created the past couple days. Never fear, MLB In Full Bloom kept an eye on both the NFL and MLB! Masahiro Tanaka is still a free agent, but official offers have been submitted to the Tanaka camp. Let's get caught up!

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • The January 24th deadline for Masahiro Tanaka is looming and reports indicate that a number of bids for over $100 million. Reportedly, he has received offers from the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Dodgers, and White Sox. Where he goes is anyone's guess, but it will be over soon. The Angels were not in the report, but there have been other reports that the Angels are in the mix. The Angels, much like the Yankees do not want to go over the $189 million luxury threshold.
  • Matt Garza remains a free agent and it's not only because of Masahiro Tanaka. An American League executive said that there "may be concerns about Garza physically."  Garza will eventually sign with a team, but he might not get the deal he entered the offseason thinking he would receive. The Angels and Twins are two teams that are known to have interest in him.
  • Ernesto Frieri and the Angels avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract. Frieri received a size-able raise and it was earned by his performance last year. Frieri racked up 37 saves in 41 chances for the Angels last season, posting a 3.80 ERA. He'll serve as the Angels closer again in 2014.
  • Jose Veras signed with the Cubs this offseason and manager Rick Renteria stated at the Cubs Convention that Veras will be the closer heading into spring training. Pedro Strop was expected to compete for the job, and considering that it's January, he still might, but it's probably not a big surprise that the new manager would give the inside track to the more-experienced Veras.
  • Carlos Santana expects to play third base for the Indians in 2014. It was reported that Santana was working during winter ball at third base, perhaps to function as a utility player to limit his time behind the plate. Fantasy owners should be excited about this news as owners of Santana will provide much needed roster flexibility. Third base is such a waste land for many fantasy owners so those who own Santana have to be pleased.
  • Mike Minor and the Braves avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract. Minor earned a very nice raise after putting together a 3.21 ERA and with 181 strikeouts over 200 innings last season. He will have to be a key piece again in 2014 if the Braves want to repeat as NL East champs.
  • Vernon Wells is drawing some interest by the Phillies. He was released last week by the Yankees. The Yankees and Angels are still paying Wells' salary in 2014, so he will be available for the MLB minimum by any team that signs him. He could be useful in a reserve role and make some starts against lefties.

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