Ian Stewart Rumors

NL Notes: Goldschmidt, McCann, Nationals, Stewart

Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he has discussed a contract extension with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, according to AZCentral.com's Nick Piecoro. Goldschmidt is represented by Joe Sambito of SFX. Piecoro quotes a source saying that it would be "a surprise" if Goldschmidt and the Diamondbacks were to strike a deal in the near future, however. Last month, the Diamondbacks attempted to initiate talks with Goldschmidt, but Goldschmidt had indicated that he wanted to go year-to-year in an attempt to build up more value.

Goldschmidt, 25, would be eligible for arbitration after the 2014 season and eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. MLBTR's Extension Tracker reveals that, in the past five years, no first basemen with between one and two years of service time have signed long-term deals, so establishing a baseline value for Goldschmidt is difficult. (Goldschmidt himself had told Towers in February that he wanted to build up more service time before discussing an extension in order to get a clearer sense of who is "peer group" was.)

Allen Craig, who recently signed a five-year, $31MM extension with the Cardinals, shares passing similarities with Goldschmidt as a hitter, but also has a year more service time than Goldschmidt. Craig will make $11MM in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Replacing that year with a pre-arbitration salary for the first year of a potential Goldschmidt deal produces a starting point of five years and $20.5MM, which would cover all of Goldschmidt's remaining pre-arbitration seasons. The Diamondbacks would presumably also want to add a team option or two at the end of the deal, giving them the chance to buy out one or more of Goldschmidt's free agent years.

Here are more notes from the National League.

  • A return to form by Brian McCann will likely ensure that the he signs with a new team next winter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. McCann, who is recovering from labrum surgery, will likely return to the Braves' lineup about two weeks into the season. Some of McCann's old teammates tell Rosenthal that McCann was unhappy last season, when he played through injury and hit only .230/.300/.399, down from .270/.351/.466 in 2011. A phone call from GM Frank Wren to McCann after the season may have helped improve the relationship between the team and its star catcher, but that might not matter once he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. If McCann hits well in 2013, the Braves might not be able to afford him, Rosenthal says; if McCann hits poorly, the Braves might not want him, at least not an expensive long-term deal.
  • The Nationals added Rafael Soriano this offseason, but not a lefty reliever, despite the departures of Sean Burnett and Tom Gorzelanny, MLB.com's Marty Noble notes. That likely leaves Zach Duke as the only lefty in the Washington bullpen. But manager Davey Johnson, who can count on tough righty relievers like Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen in addition to Soriano, says it's no problem that the Nats didn't acquire another lefty. "I don't have room for another lefty reliever," he says.
  • Cutting Ian Stewart, who is suffering from a quad injury, doesn't make sense for the Cubs, Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago argues, since the savings from cutting Stewart would be insignificant. The Cubs can avoid paying most of Stewart's one-year, non-guaranteed contract if they release him in Spring Training, but the entire cost of the deal is just $2MM.

Central Notes: Francoeur, Myers, Twins, Cubs

Much-maligned outfielder Jeff Francoeur doesn't blame Royals fans for their criticism of the James Shields / Wil Myers deal, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports, even though Myers would likely have taken playing time away from Francoeur himself. “[W]hen we traded Wil — why the heck did we do that? — I sit there and say, ‘As a fan, looking from the outside, I’d lead that criticism.’ For fans, looking from the outside, I don’t blame them," Francoeur says. “I had a terrible year." Francoeur hit .235/.287/.378 in 2012 as the Royals' starter in right field. Here are more notes from throughout the AL Central.

  • Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony admits the Twins have made mistakes in their attempts to find middle infielders, Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Antony laments the trade of J.J. Hardy to the Orioles and describes Alexi Casilla's tenure with the Twins as "so frustrating." Antony also says the Twins "failed" with Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Shortstop Pedro Florimon and second baseman Brian Dozier are next in line to try to stabilize the Twins' middle infield. If Florimon wins the job, he will be the Twins' eighth 2013 Opening Day shortstop in eight years. Minnesota's Opening Day second baseman will be its sixth in seven years. 
  • After spending 2012 as a reliever, Brett Myers is happy to be part of the Indians' rotation, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. Myers, who pitched at least 216 innings in both 2010 and 2011, isn't sure why the Astros used him out of the bullpen. “I still don’t know why. They asked me to do it, and I didn’t want to fight them about it. It was one of those things where you do what’s best for the team,” he says. The Indians signed Myers to a one-year, $7MM deal with a club option, and he's assured a job as a starter.
  • Ian Stewart's injured quad complicates his pursuit of the Cubs' third base job, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Stewart will be out for ten to 14 days. His contract isn't guaranteed, and the Cubs could save $1.67MM by cutting Stewart by March 16 and $1.5MM by cutting him prior to Opening Day. Luis Valbuena would likely be in line for Stewart's starting job in such a scenario, and could win playing time over Stewart even if Stewart is healthy.

Cubs To Sign Ian Stewart

4:24pm: The deal is non-guaranteed, a source tells Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  The Cubs will be off the hook for the $2MM deal if he is released in spring training.

3:32pm: The Cubs are set to re-sign third baseman Ian Stewart, sources tell Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via Twitter).  It's a one-year, $2MM deal for the Reynolds Sports Management client, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  The deal also includes $500K of incentives.

The 27-year-old is said to be back to full health after playing with a broken bone in his wrist for the last two years.  During that stretch, Stewart has had a .183/.272/.289 slash line with five home runs in 338  total plate appearances.  Before the injury, Stewart owned a career .245/.332/.451 slash line in four seasons with the Rockies.

The Cubs non-tendered Stewart earlier this month as he was set to earn $2.3MM in arbitration.  Stewart picked up varying degrees of interest from other clubs in the last week including the Marlins.

Marlins Pursuing Third Basemen

2:18am: In addition to Reynolds and Hannahan, the Marlins are interested in Jeff Keppinger and Ian Stewart acccording to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

12:24am The Marlins' trade of Yunel Escobar to the Rays earlier tonight was prompted by the fact that Escobar approached the club saying he was not comfortable at third base just days after telling them otherwise, writes Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said that Escobar's $5MM salary will be re-invested toward finding a suitable third base replacement, either via free agency or trade. Earlier today it was reported that the Marlins have interest in Mark Reynolds, and the team has also been linked to Jack Hannahan tonight, though Hannahan's salary certainly won't approach the $5MM mark. For now, the Marlins aren't close to anything, says Capozzi.

Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel notes, via Twitter, that Zack Cox will get a look in Spring Training but likely isn't ready. The Marlins acquired Cox in exchange for Edward Mujica this past July.

AL Central Rumors: Stewart, Revere, Victorino, Soria

The latest from around the AL Central…

  • Despite the fact that the Twins are looking to give Trevor Plouffe some competition at third base, Ian Stewart isn't a match with the team, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III (on Twitter).
  • Ben Revere's name has surfaced as a possible trade candidate, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Revere became the Twins' projected center field starter with the trade of Denard Span to the Nationals, so Morosi believes Minnesota might need to get a center field back in order to move Revere.
  • The Indians offered four years and $44MM to Shane Victorino, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Victorino ultimately chose a three-year, $39MM offer from Boston, but it shows that the Indians have some money to spend.
  • The Royals' offer was "not even close to what I was looking for," new Rangers setup man Joakim Soria told reporters including MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez on a conference call today.  Soria landed a two-year, $8MM deal with the Rangers.
  • The White Sox continue to have dialogue with free agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, writes Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com.
  • We had a few Tigers rumors yesterday also.    

Free Agent Rumors: Lannan, Escobar, Youkilis, Drew

With plenty of rumors flying around the lobby of the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, we're making sure we don't let anything slip through the cracks. Here are a few morning updates from around the league on some of this winter's free agents:

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Mets have displayed interest in the recently non-tendered John Lannan, perhaps as insurance if the team trades a starter.
  • Although he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2009, Kelvim Escobar is healthy in winter ball and is drawing interest at the Winter Meetings, tweets ESPN.com's Buster Olney.

Earlier updates:

  • The Yankees have spoken with Kevin Youkilis' agent, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link). According to Curry, Youkilis would consider a one-year deal if the salary was at a "premium amount."
  • The Mariners are interested in free agent outfielder Nate McLouth, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
  • A rival evaluator tells ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter link) that there's "no way" Stephen Drew would sign with the Yankees to be a part-time or utility player. Drew is seeking a full-time job.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that giving up a draft pick to sign Nick Swisher would be a factor in Boston's pursuit of the outfielder (link via Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com).
  • Mike Silverman of the Boston Herald hears that the Red Sox still have a chance in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes, but it's a long shot (Twitter link).
  • After getting a clean bill of health on his hand and wrist, Ian Stewart has drawn wide interest from teams looking for third base help, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes (via Twitter) that Stewart could be a fit for the Yankees.
  • Within his latest piece for the New York Post, Ken Davidoff hears that the Mets and Ryan Ludwick are an unlikely match, and wonders if Nick Swisher could end up with the Mariners.
  • The Reds will meet with Ludwick's agent this morning, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The veteran outfielder could accept the offer on the table from Cincinnati, though Fay speculates that the Reds are offering two years and Ludwick wants three. A two-year deal with a third-year option might work for both sides, says Fay.
  • The Athletics will meet with the reps for Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima today, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • The Dodgers, Giants, Brewers, Angels, and Rays are among the teams that have inquired on free agent reliever Mark Lowe, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • Scott Kazmir, who is throwing 90-94 mph in Puerto Rico, is drawing interest from a host of teams and could choose from a handful of offers soon, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. However, the Mets aren't in the mix for the lefty, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.

Central Notes: Reds, Chicago, Brewers, Pirates, Twins

Here are the latest news and notes from the NL and AL Central divisions:

National League Non-Tenders

Here are today’s National League non-tenders. All decisions must be in by 11pm CT tonight. Be sure to track all tender decisions using MLBTR's Non-Tender Tracker. Related resources include our list of non-tender candidates, our projected arbitration salaries and our arbitration eligibles series.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.

Central Links: Cubs, Chapman, Madson, Asdrubal

Some late-night reading surrounding baseball's two Central divisions…

Cubs Notes: Jackson, Valbuena, Stewart

Alfonso Soriano hit his 30th home run of the season last night, reaching the threshold for the sixth time in his career and for the first time since 2007. The 36-year-old now has a .261/.317/.499 batting line in 568 plate appearances this year. He'll earn $18MM per season through 2014 on a contract that no longer seems as unmovable as it once did. Here are some Cubs-related notes from Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune

  • The idea of spending $150MM-plus on an impact player such as Josh Hamilton isn’t part of the Cubs’ plan, Sullivan reports. He notes that David DeJesus’ $10MM contract and Paul Maholm’s $4.75MM contract were the largest deals the Cubs signed a year ago.
  • However, the team expects to be able to spend. "Right now it's kind of hard to say,” manager Dale Sveum said. “You just don't know who will be available. But yeah, we'll spend money somewhere."
  • The Cubs need multiple starters, multiple relievers a center fielder, and a third baseman in Sullivan’s estimation. It appears that the Cubs will give Brett Jackson another look in center field despite his poor contact rate.
  • Luis Valbuena will be tendered a contract, but Ian Stewart is expected to be non-tendered, Sullivan writes. "Valbuena is going to be part of the organization, and he does one heck of a job himself," Sveum said. MLBTR's Steve Adams discussed Stewart as a non-tender candidate last month.
  • Josh Vitters appears to be a long shot at third base, according to Sullivan.