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The Braves announced that they’re retiring John Smoltz’s number 29 to honor the right-hander’s contributions over the course of 20 seasons with Atlanta. Here are today’s links…
- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine publicly questioned Kevin Youkilis' commitment, but GM Ben Cherington says the entire organization knows Youkilis works and plays hard. "Bobby's acknowledged that he shouldn't have said what he said and spoke to Kevin about it,'' Cherington told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- The Red Sox aren’t likely to deal for an outfielder to fill in while Jacoby Ellsbury’s on the disabled list, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe hears from a team source.
- MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli wonders if it’s time for the Orioles and Kevin Gregg to part ways (Twitter link). Gregg, who had a rough outing in Toronto yesterday, will earn $5.8MM this year. I expect the Orioles to decline their $6MM club option for Gregg this coming offseason.
- As far as MLB teams know, Jorge Soler isn’t officially a free agent yet, Ben Badler of Baseball America tweets. This means teams can’t yet negotiate with the promising young outfielder.
As long-time Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston celebrates his 49th birthday today, here's the latest out of Wrigley Field…
- Rumors that the Cubs have a $27MM agreement in place with Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler "are completely bogus," GM Jed Hoyer told reporters (including Dave van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune). Soler is still waiting to be officially declared a free agent by Major League Baseball.
- Hoyer also says (via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times) that he "wouldn’t be surprised" if the Cubs made a trade before the season begins, though the team is happy with its current roster. The Cubs theoretically have an excess of pitching but Hoyer likes having that extra depth in the staff.
- Anthony Rizzo has hit well this spring while Bryan LaHair has struggled, but Hoyer tells reporters (including ESPN Chicago's Doug Padilla) that the Cubs still intend to start LaHair at first base on Opening Day and have Rizzo begin the year in the minors.
- Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago says the Cubs aren't keen on starting the Major League service time clocks of their top prospects, so Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters look to remain in the minors for at least a few months, if not all, of the 2012 campaign. Also from Levine's chat, he discusses the lack of news about possible trades of Matt Garza or Marlon Byrd and now Alfonso Soriano is virtually untradeable even if he enjoys a good first half of the season.
Here's the latest from both of MLB's Central divisions…
- MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm doesn't put much stock in the latest Gavin Floyd trade rumors between the White Sox and the Blue Jays because of the Jays organization's "cone of silence" under Alex Anthopoulos. "There’s a general rule of thumb Toronto’s GM likes to use in these type of situations," Chisholm writes. "If a report gets out that a deal is done then it very likely is done. If a report comes out that two teams are discussing something, or that a team and agent have begun serious negotiations, more often than not it’s false."
- Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer declined to comment on whether the team was any closer to a multiyear extension with Matt Garza, reports Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com. We heard last month that the two sides planned to talk contract during Spring Training.
- Dusty Baker was non-committal about his future with the Reds as he enters the last year of his contract, Baker told the media (including MLB.com's Barry M. Bloom). "This year, it's my decision, as well as a [Reds] ownership decision. It depends whether I'm asked back. It depends on my feelings," Baker said. "You get to that certain point in your life. We'll see at the end of the year or before it, depending on how things go."
- Indians right-hander Roberto Hernandez (a.k.a. Fausto Carmona) has agreed to complete a work program in the Dominican Republic in exchange for having the false identity charges against him dropped, reports The Associated Press. Hernandez is currently on Cleveland's restricted list while the matter is being investigated. It is still unknown when Hernandez will be allowed to obtain a new visa and resume his baseball career.
- The Indians are interested in Jorge Soler, but Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer thinks the Tribe will be outbid for the Cuban outfield prospect. At least nine teams are known to have some level of interest in Soler, with the Cubs considered by "most in the industry" to be the favorites.
- The Pirates' process of rebuilding their minor league system in order to restock their team's talent base is slowly beginning to pay dividends, writes MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince.
- Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole's first pro Spring Training experience and his road to being the first overall pick in last summer's amateur draft are profiled by J. Brady McCollough of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Here's the latest on the Red Sox, who are trying to get back to the playoffs after two straight years on the outside looking in…
- The Red Sox did not make an offer for Nationals starter John Lannan, reports WEEI.com's Alex Speier. Yesterday we heard that they had made an offer for the southpaw, but weren't close. Speier says the Sox intend to monitor Lannan's situation this spring, but there is no indication they will seriously pursue him.
- Boston will pursue 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, reports Speier. Soler is still waiting to be declared a free agent by MLB, but Speier says most in the industry (including the Red Sox) expect him to sign with the Cubs.
- Check out our Transaction Tracker for a recap of all the Red Sox's moves this offseason.
A few notes to pass along out of the NL Central, as the Cardinals gear up to defend their World Series title from a year ago …
- The Cubs have officially announced the signing of 20-year-old Cuban left-hander Gerardo Concepcion to a five-year Major League contract. Concepcion joins the 40-man roster but will report to minor league camp. The deal is worth $6MM, which includes a $3MM signing bonus, according to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com.
- The Cardinals will likely turn to a handful of in-house candidates to take Chris Carpenter's rotation spot if the right-hander misses any substantial chunk of time due to a bulging disc in his neck, according to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. The Cards may choose from relievers Lance Lynn, Kyle McClellan, Marc Rzepczynski, and Mitchell Boggs, or perhaps minor leaguers Brandon Dickson and Shelby Miller, so it doesn't seem like they'll explore a trade or signing for now.
- Cubs GM Jed Hoyer declined to comment on the team's pursuit of prized Cuban outfield prospect Jorge Soler with reporters, including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, as Soler has yet to officially be designated a free agent by MLB.
Red Sox ownership already spoke to the media this morning, so now let's check in the on the rest of the AL East…
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette wouldn't comment on the team's interest in Jorge Soler, telling Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com that tipping his hand wouldn't benefit the team. The O's watched the 19-year-old outfielder work out earlier this month.
- The Orioles lead all clubs with ten out of options players, and manager Buck Showalter told MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli that he estimates they'll have to make "2-4 moves" before the end of camp (Twitter link).
- Daisuke Matsuzaka told WEEI.com's Rob Bradford that he still wants to pitch until he's 40. The right-hander is in the final year of his contract with the Red Sox, and is expected back from Tommy John surgery at midseason.
- “If I didn’t think that I was capable of playing the game at a high level I would go home," said Yankees captain Derek Jeter to reporters yesterday, including George King of The New York Post. "If I wasn’t enjoying myself or enjoying the competition I would go home. Right now I am an enjoying myself. I can’t comment on what would force me to retire because I have a lot of confidence and if that starts to waver I would do it."
- Joel Sherman of The New York Post wrote about Alex Rodriguez, wondering what kind of contract the Yankees third baseman would have received had he been a free agent his offseason.
The latest from Florida, where all five AL East teams are preparing for Opening Day…
- Rays starter Wade Davis told Bill Chastain of MLB.com that he doesn't want to get traded, despite the uncertainty surrounding his role on the 2012 team.
- Red Sox right-hander Chris Carpenter tells Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald that it was "kind of cool" to be traded for Theo Epstein earlier this week. Epstein called Carpenter to explain the situation.
- All of Boston's top talent evaluators including GM Ben Cherington have seen Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com reports. The 19-year-old appeals to the Red Sox more than Yoenis Cespedes did, according to Edes.
- Blue Jays president Paul Beeston, who is entering the final year of his contract, told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca that he'd like to continue in his current role. “I guess I would say that, but I’m not even thinking about that right now," he said. The Blue Jays promoted Alex Anthopoulos and invested in scouting and player development since Beeston assumed his current role following the 2008 season.
- The Orioles aren't likely to add a catcher from outside of the organization any time soon, MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli tweets.
The Astros are keeping tabs on powerful Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler as he nears free agency, GM Jeff Luhnow told Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle. Soler, who is represented by Praver/Shapiro, is not yet a free agent, but Luhnow has seen him and is in contact with his camp.
Baseball America ranks the Astros' farm system 17th in the game, but ESPN's Keith Law has them 27th. With 11 picks in the first ten rounds of the 2012 draft including the first overall, the Astros have MLB's second-largest allowance at $11.1777MM, according to Baseball America. BA's Jim Callis would rank Soler 43rd on their top 100, better than any Astros prospect aside from Jonathan Singleton. With the new $2.9MM international spending cap beginning with the 2012 July 2nd class, Soler represents the last chance for any team to bid eight figures for a raw international free agent.
In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at the Red Sox's shortstop position after the trade of Marco Scutaro. Major league evaluators are skeptical that Mike Aviles and Nick Punto can get the job done, which could leave the door open to prospect Jose Iglesias getting the nod. All eyes will be on manager Bobby Valentine to see how he handles the club's shortstop situation this spring. Here's more from Cafardo..
- Two GMs told Cafardo that Jorge Soler will go for more than the five years and $15MM-$20MM most thought he would settle for. Some of the clubs who elected to stay away on Yoenis Cespedes because of the hefty price and question marks about his game have decided that Soler is a better value. The Red Sox are one of about eight teams in on Soler.
- Mike Gonzalez is likely headed to the Rangers if they can trade Koji Uehara. The A's have also been connected to the free agent reliever recently.
- The Yankees prefer Raul Ibanez to Johnny Damon because of cost. Damon is seeking about $5MM while Ibanez will likely be in the $1.5MM-$2MM range.
- Angels veteran Bobby Abreu would have gone back to the Yankees in an A.J. Burnett deal. The Halos have a logjam with Kendry Morales returning and Albert Pujols at first base and Abreu has been offered around.
- The Red Sox didn’t attend Scott Kazmir’s workout on Friday and have no plans to watch Brandon Webb throw when he is on display. That's because Boston decided not to delve into the rehab market for pitchers. The club has tried a number of pitchers coming back from serious injury and in most cases, it hasn't worked out.
- Cafardo wonders if Cardinals backup Tyler Greene is worth a look for the Red Sox shortstop mix. The 27-year-old was once a promising prospect and is out of options this year.
Here's the latest from the City Of Brotherly Love…
- "Industry insiders" consider the Phillies to be a longshot for Jorge Soler, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Though the Phils are known to be one of Soler's top suitors, the team has never been big spenders on the international market and may balk at Soler's price tag. Salisbury hears from one baseball executive who predicts Soler will end up with the Cubs, who are reportedly ready to offer the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder as much as $27.5MM.
- The Phillies traded Wilson Valdez to the Reds since GM Ruben Amaro felt his team already had several other utility options in place, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki as part of a reader mailbag. Zolecki says he was personally a little surprised by the Valdez deal.
- One of those other utility options, Ty Wigginton, is excited to play for a contender, reports Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer. In that piece, Amaro mentioned that Wigginton had been highly regarded by several Phillies scouts over the last few years.
- David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News looks at five key questions surrounding the Phillies as they open Spring Training.