MLB In Full Bloom 1/7/2014

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38 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

85– Number of days until Opening Day

The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the Baseball Writers' Association of America election results at 2 p.m. ET Wednesday. Unlike last year, it will be a banner day for the game as the ballot is full of first time candidates that are sure to get it. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas are on the ballot for the first time and I believe all three will receive their ticket to the Hall of Fame. Craig Biggio is on the ballot for the second time and after just falling short in 2013, I think he cracks the barrier this time and receives a ticket this year as well. We'll know tomorrow, but one thing is certain - tomorrow is going to be a special day for Major League Baseball and their fans around the world.

This time of year, there are smaller transactions that might not get the big headlines, but they do not go unnoticed in MLB In Full Bloom.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • James Loney and the Tampa Bay Rays completed the three year deal for $21 million. This deal was reported in December, but it is still surprising that the budget minded Rays decided to give Loney the largest free agent contract since current ownership led by Stuart Sternberg took control after the 2005 season. Loney hit a team-leading .299 with 13 homers and 75 RBIs for the Rays last season, his first with Tampa Bay.
  • Jeff Francouer and the Cleveland Indians agreed to a minor league deal. Francouer, 29 years old, surprisingly could not find a better offer on the market. Francouer had a disappointing 2013 campaign with the Royals and Giants, hitting .204 and producing just three home runs. There are no guarantees for Francouer, but there is an opportunity for him to be a fourth or fifth outfielder and he could DH. Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Raburn are the candidates to start in the outfield for the Indians.
  • Scott Atchison and the Cleveland Indians agreed to a minor league deal. Atchison will report to major league spring training camp, where he'll have a chance to win a spot in Cleveland's bullpen. He appeared in 50 games for the Mets last season because two trips to the disabled list.
  • Humberto Quintero signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners on Monday that includes an invitation to spring training. He hit .237  with four home runs and 13 RBI last. He will head into Spring Training with a decent chance of earning a spot to backup starting catcher Mike Zunino in 2014.
  • Robert Andino and the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. Andino will provide the Bucs with additional shortstop depth beyond likely starter Jordy Mercer. Andino provides little to no offensive punch.
  • Bryce Harper has reached out to the UFC as he wants the opportunity to win the UFC title belt. A professional athlete carrying around a WWE title belt isn't all that unusual anymore. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer got them for winning the Cy Young award this season. Harper wants a championship belt too. Just not a pro wrestling one. Harper prefers MMA and he wants a UFC title belt. He promises to hit a home run in batting practice while wearing the belt.

MLB In Full Bloom 1/6/2014

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39 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

86– Number of days until Opening Day

Things remained quiet over the weekend with free agent signings and trades and until Masahiro Tanaka signs with a team, I think things will continue to be slow. Tanaka is the big fish out there and the lack of activity tells me that there are several, if not all, teams focused on pursing Tanaka. Let's take a look at what did happen over the past few days.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Ben Badler of Baseball American reports that the Seattle Mariners appear to be be the favorites to land Masahiro Tanaka. Badler has his finger on the pulse of all international signings matters, so if he says Seattle is the favorite for Tanaka, everyone would be wise to believe him.The Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Dodgers remain in the mix.
  • The Los Angeles Angels have spent much of the offseason trying to stay under the $189 million threshold and right now they are within $13-$15 million of that threshold. So, they are right on the edge and they could possibly sign Matt Garza or another free agent pitcher. But, the bigger question is should the Angels go over the threshold and pay the luxury tax? They will eventually because if they sign Mike Trout to a long-term deal they are going over anyway. At some point they will sail past $189 million so they might as well go over it now and add the starting pitching they desperately need to compete in 2014.
  • According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports the Los Angeles Dodgers and Don Mattingly are making progress in a contract extension. The two sides have been discussing an extension since the end of last season. The two sides could agree soon.
  • It appears that Nelson Cruz could settle for a one-year contract in an attempt to rebuild his value. Cruz has been seeking a four-year $75 million deal, but there have been nobody willing to give Cruz that contract. It's good to see Cruz struggling to find work after testing positive for PEDs in 2013.
  • Chris Dickerson and the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Dickerson batted just .238  in 109 plate appearances last season for Baltimore. He'll likely have to report to the Pirates' Triple-A club at the start of the 2014 season
  • Ryan Theriot has officially retired from Major League Baseball. He hasn't appeared in the big leagues since he was a member of the San Francisco Giants during the 2012 season. He finishes his eight year career with a .281 BA, 17 homers and 121 stolen bases in 899 games.
  • Aubrey Huff announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. Huff didn't play in 2013 but had left the door open that he may return. He's taken a job as an announcer for the Pac-12 Network. He finishes his MLB career by hitting .278 in 13 seasons with 242 home runs.

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