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.

MLB In Full Bloom 12/17/2013

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57 – Number of days until pitchers and catchers report

104– Number of days until Opening Day

Now that we have an agreement between Major League Baseball and the Japanese league, the question of the day is who add Masahiro Tanaka play in 2014? It's safe to assume it will be a big market team like the Yankees, Cubs, Angels, Dodgers, and the Diamondbacks. In all reality, just about every team can be in on Tanaka with the posting fee being a maximum of $20 million. This is great news for Tanaka because the total package is going to be more than $100 million and with only $2o million going to the team, Tanaka is going to get a huge contract. He is the big fish out there and once he signs we will see Matt Garza and Ervin Santana among others to sign.

MLB NEWS & NOTES

  • Joba Chamberlain and the Detroit Tigers agreed on a one-year deal for $2.5 million. Chamberlain had an ugly 4.93 ERA over 42 innings last year, but he's still only 28 and throws very hard. He'll help set up for Joe Nathan.
  • Brian Roberts and the New York Yankees agreed on a one-year deal for $2 million. Roberts will be apart of the infield mix with Kelly Johnson and Brandon Ryan. If he can stay healthy, Roberts has a legitimate shot at being the every day second baseman.
  • Shin-Soo Choo remains on the free agent market and there does not seem to be a conclusion in the near future. The Cincinnati Reds appear to be a big part of the mix and Texas is still there. The Rangers have made an offer, but they could easily move on at some point. There are reports that the Houston Astros have been in touch with Choo's agent, Scott Boras. History has shown that big free agents sign in January.
  • Nelson Cruz is another free agent that has yet to find a new home. The Seattle Mariners have been pursing Cruz, but Cruz does not want to go to Seattle. The Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks are all interested in Cruz. Staying in Texas is certainly a possibility, but it may take Shin-Soo Choo signing before Cruz gets a deal.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Chicago White Sox completed their second trade together of this offseason on Monday. The Diamondbacks sent third baseman Matt Davidson to the Sox in exchange for reliever Addison Reed. Davidson, the 35th overall pick in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft, batted .280 with 17 homers with  74 RBI in 115 games this past season at Triple-A. Reed is a solid closer with a strong amount of upside, but this is a pretty good get for the rebuilding White Sox.
  • Jose Valverde and the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to a minor league deal. Valverde was in Arizona back in the day to where it all began for him. He has saved 226 games in seven years. Obviously, the last year or so it's be a big-time struggle for him, but he is still young enough to pitch effectively and for a low risk contract for the D'Backs it makes sense.

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