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We'll keep track of today's minor moves here:
- The Royals announced via press release that they have signed infielder Jason Donald and outfielder Melky Mesa to minor-league contracts. Donald, 29, last appeared in the majors in 2012 with the Indians. In 603 career big-league plate appearances, he's hit .257/.309/.362, spending the majority of his time on defense at the shortstop and second base positions. The 26-year-old Mesa received very brief major-league playing time from 2012-2013 with the Yankees, with whom he's spent his entire career. He owns a 246/.313/.438 triple slash in more than 2,800 minor-league plate appearances.
The Rangers enter 2014 with what appears to be the game's best offense, Buster Olney writes in an article for ESPN.com (Insider sub. required). With their aggressive moves to acquire Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, Texas has added left-handed power and patience to a lineup that finished eighth in the majors in runs in 2013. Rounding out Olney's top five are the Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals and Angels. Here are more Saturday night Rangers notes:
- Neftali Feliz is in position to close for Texas following Joe Nathan's signing with the Tigers, writes T.R. Sullivan in this week's mailbag. If Feliz is not ready, the Rangers could turn to setup reliever Tanner Scheppers or former Royals All-Star closer Joakim Soria. But, for right now, the job is Feliz's to lose.
- The Rangers are enthused about what Shin-Soo Choo can bring to the table, but Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs looks at the outfielder's struggles against lefties and his reputation as a glorified platoon player. Choo inked a seven-year, $130MM deal with Texas this offseason.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
DECEMBER 28: The Padres have announced the deal. Corey Brock of MLB.com reports that Benoit will earn $6MM in 2014 and $8MM in 2015, and the deal includes an $8MM option for 2016 (with a $1.5MM buyout) that will vest if Benoit finishes 55 games in 2015.
DECEMBER 19: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that Benoit's contract will be a two-year, $15.5MM contract once he passes his physical.
DECEMBER 19: The Padres and right-hander Joaquin Benoit are in agreement on a deal, pending a physical, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Talks between San Diego and the ACES client were said to be heating up earlier this morning.
The 36-year-old Benoit posted a 2.01 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 with 24 saves in 67 innings for the Tigers in 2013. Passan reported last week that the Padres and Indians were both discussing deals in the neighborhood of $14MM over two years with Benoit. Since that time, Cleveland appears to have moved on by inking John Axford to a one-year deal.
Benoit fills a need for the Padres by adding an experienced arm to the back of the bullpen now that Luke Gregerson has been traded to the Athletics. San Diego already has Huston Street under control for $7MM next season, making him the likely closer, but Benoit could step into the ninth inning in the event that the oft-injured Street winds up on the disabled list.
Injuries haven't been a problem for Benoit since he missed the 2009 season following surgery to repair his right rotator cuff. Since that time, Benoit has stayed off the disabled list entirely, averaging 65 innings per season and posting a brilliant 2.53 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 259 1/3 total innings of work. In that time, opponents have batted a mere .200/.258/.333 against Benoit.
The contract is a rarity for San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes, who has given just one multiyear pact to a reliever – Street's two-year, $14MM contract — in his time as a general manager. When I spoke to him at last month's GM meetings, Byrnes told me that he would be against signing a left-handed reliever to a multiyear pact, but he clearly didn't feel the same about right-handers, or at least about Benoit specifically.
In addition to Street, Benoit will join a mix of relievers that includes Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, Tim Stauffer and Brad Boxberger. Left-hander Patrick Schuster, acquired in a trade with the Astros (who selected him in the Rule 5 Draft) could also get a chance to compete for a job. Byrnes is known to be on the lookout for a left-handed reliever.
As I noted when projecting a two-year, $16MM contract for Benoit in my free agent profile nearly two months ago, Benoit faced steep competition on this year's open market given the presence of Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson and many other closer-type relievers. In spite of that competition, his agents at ACES look to have done well, as he will nearly match the $16.5MM guarantee on his last contract despite it being a three-year deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Portillo is a 22-year-old right hander who has thrown just 35 innings above A-ball. He originally signed with the Padres in 2008, receiving a $2MM amateur signing bonus in a deal that was at the time the largest ever given to a Venezuelan-born player. However, he's struggled since, amassing a 4.86 ERA over five seasons in the minors.
If you're a regular MLBTR reader, you'll be familiar with our chats, Week In Review posts and Baseball Blogs Weigh In feature. Here's some more detail on when you'll see our weekly features and exactly what to expect from them:
- MLBTR Chats - Join Tim Dierkes every Tuesday at 2pm CDT to chat about the latest trades, signings and rumblings around the Major Leagues.
- Baseball Blogs Weigh In - Every Friday, I feature some of the best writing from baseball blogs around the web. Whether it's opinion, stats or something else entirely, you can connect to the best of the blogosphere once a week on MLBTR. If you want to submit a post of yours, you can reach me at email@example.com.
- Week In Review - It's remarkable how much happens in seven days. Every Sunday night, MLBTR summarizes the week's biggest stories in our Week In Review posts.
- MLBTR Originals - Edward Creech gathers all our original analysis and reporting in one place every Sunday night.
On this date in 2005, the Diamondbacks send Troy Glaus and highly touted infield prospect Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays in exchange for Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson and starter Miguel Batista. Toronto’s active off-season in which the team has also signed starter A.J. Burnett, closer B.J. Ryan and first baseman Lyle Overbay convinced the third baseman to waive his limited no-trade clause. As for Santos, he never made his mark as an infielder, but instead found his success on the mound. Here's this week's look around the baseball blogosphere..
- Baseball Hot Corner has Alex Anthopoulos' five worst deals.
- Inside The Zona handicaps everyones odds on Masahiro Tanaka.
- Blogging Mets looks at the Mets' top moments of 2013.
- i70 Baseball says the Danny Valencia deal made sense for the Royals.
- The Beanball wants to know where the love for Paul Maholm is.
- Baseball News Source stacks Tanaka against Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish.
- Reviewing The Brew backs Marco Estrada.
- Outside Pitch looks at the five remaining major starters.
- MLB Reports makes a case against the Nats extending Jordan Zimmermann.
- Yanks Beat Blog says the Yankees need Tanaka.
If you have a suggestion for this feature, Zach can be reached at ZachBBWI@gmail.com.
The Braves, who have lost Brian McCann and Tim Hudson and done little to replace them, but it's not too late for them to recover this offseason, Mike Petriello of ESPN.com writes (Insider-only). They can start by signing young players like Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman to extensions, Petriello suggests. Another fix might be acquiring a new second baseman to supplant Dan Uggla, and one possibility might be dealing for Howie Kendrick of the Angels, who need young pitching. Here's more from around the Majors.
- A "perfect storm" of factors will allow Masahiro Tanaka to land a huge contract, MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby writes. Those factors include the revamped posting system, which limits the amount of money a player's old team receive, along with a huge bump in national television revenue and limits on spending in the draft and on Latin American amateurs.
- Tanaka's workload is a serious concern, writes Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated. Before even beginning his age-25 season, Tanaka has thrown 1,315 innings, a workload completely unlike those of most young big-league pitchers, at least in the last few decades. "Everyone is acting like it's a no-brainer all-in just because he's 25," said an executive for an MLB team. "He's still a pitcher and he's still got serious miles on him. [Tanaka is a] very attractive player nonetheless but a real risk … as with basically all pitchers."
- Signing Shin-Soo Choo and acquiring Prince Fielder will only be decisive for the Rangers if they have a core of very productive players who are much cheaper, argues Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. "We’re a larger market team, and we’ve operated from a higher payroll for the last couple of years," says Rangers GM Jon Daniels. "But everybody has limits. … When you talk about making an investment of this nature, you don’t make it without confidence in your people and your system. We have a lot of confidence in that." The Rangers' rotation offers a template, Grant says — Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando all at least began as cheap players, but the Rangers added to that group by making a big investment in Yu Darvish.
Add the Twins to the list of teams that have interest in Masahiro Tanaka, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter). Wolfson does, however, quote a Twins official who says Tanaka's posting is a "long process" and it's "difficult to know where it stands."
The Twins have already spent heavily on pitching this offseason, signing Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to multiyear deals and re-signing Mike Pelfrey. Even the Nolasco move was uncharacteristically splashy for them, so it would be very surprising if they managed to outbid teams like the Yankees and Dodgers for Tanaka.
Nonetheless, Tanaka would, obviously, be an attractive target for Minnesota. He's relatively young and he wouldn't require the loss of a draft pick, and the rotation still arguably represents an area of need even after the Nolasco and Hughes additions. The Twins also continue to be connected to free-agent starter Bronson Arroyo.
MLB is concerned about "back-channeling" when Japanese players are posted, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. That would be a situation in which an MLB team and a Japanese team circumvent the $20MM posting fee limit by agreeing to pay a significant amount of money on a lesser player posted later. "A club could guarantee to pay $20 million for the next guy — or the next two guys, for that matter," says a big-league executive. MLB is also concerned about Masahiro Tanaka (or any other player) donating to his old team, although Rosenthal notes that doing so would be inefficient, in that the player would be taxed for his income, and then the team would also be taxed on the donation. Here's more on Tanaka.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden compares Tanaka to prime Dan Haren, noting his command and great split-finger fastball (via Twitter).
- The Dodgers, who have plenty of money and have had a relatively quiet offseason, appear to be the favorites to land Tanaka, SB Nation's Grant Brisbee writes. The Yankees need him more, however. Brisbee also points out that the Astros could (not will, but could) be an interesting dark-horse candidate to sign Tanaka, given that they have few large payroll commitments. They would therefore be better-equipped to compete against a team like the Dodgers than some rich teams would. The Mariners' lack of big payroll commitments is how they ended up with Robinson Cano, Brisbee suggests. Tanaka's talent would obviously be appealing to the Astros, and so would his youth.
Major League Baseball will make sure Masahiro Tanaka's Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, does not receive more than its $20MM posting fee as a result of Tanaka's departure to the US, Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times report. That means that Tanaka cannot donate money to Rakuten.
Rakuten's president, Yozo Tachibana, had previously said that Tanaka intended to give money to Rakuten to improve its stadium. Rakuten has reportedly investigated adding a dome. Tanaka would, according to Tachibana, "cooperate and donate . . . starting with improving the environment for the players and to make sure it’s the kind of stadium that can be loved by [local] fans."
Such a donation would violate the agreement between MLB and NPB, which forbids NPB teams from receiving any money beyond a player's posting fee. "We are intent on enforcing all the provisions of the agreement," says MLB spokesperson Pat Courtney.