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1:35pm: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets that Baker will earn $1.6MM in 2014 and $2.1MM in 2015.
1:16pm: The Marlins and Jeff Baker have agreed to a two-year deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The New York Post's Joel Sherman tweets that Baker is guaranteed $3.7MM and has an additional $500K of incentives built into each year of the deal. Baker's agent, Scott Boras, said last night that he was nearing agreements for four of his clients, including Baker.
The 32-year-old Baker slashed .279/.360/.545 in 2013 thanks in large part to his Herculean numbers against left-handed pitching. Baker has never been one to handle same-handed pitching well, and he showed that last season with a .204/.250/.286 line against righties in just 52 plate appearances. However, in his 123 PAs against southpaws, Baker mashed at a .314/.407/.667 clip. In his career, he's a .298/.353/.522 hitter against lefties.
Baker's splits make him a natural platoon partner at first base for Garrett Jones, who the Marlins also signed to a two-year deal earlier this offseason. Baker also comes with experience at second base, third base and both outfield corners, making him a valuable bench piece whose versatility should serve sophomore manager Mike Remond well.
Baker also drew interest from the Giants, Nationals and Rangers at varying points this offseason. The Marlins' willingness to guarantee a second year seems likely to have pushed them to the front of the pack, though that's just my speculation.
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today; so, according to legend, there will be six more weeks of winter. But, for baseball fans, spring does begin early this year when pitchers and catchers for the Diamondbacks (February 6) and Dodgers (February 8) report one week earlier than the other 28 MLB teams because of their season-opening series in Australia. Here's today's news and notes from the National League:
- Marlins President David Samson told reporters, including MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, the team is still looking to add some depth. "Certainly, you're looking at some potential non-roster invites," said Samson. "We're looking to bring people in to compete, because you just don't know. What we've learned over the years is you have injuries. The more depth you can have going into a camp, the better it is." The Marlins have invited 26 non-roster players to camp and Frisaro notes another reliever or two could be added to that total.
- The Reds have had a lackluster offseason, but still have a good strong core of starting pitching and position players to be very competitive in the NL Central, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com in a readers inbox column.
- Within the same article, Sheldon shot down any notion the Reds would have interest in Ichiro Suzuki citing his age, salary, and defensive limitations.
- Suk-Min Yoon held a workout on the campus of UC-Irvine Friday attended by the Giants and Orioles, per a report from SBS (h/t Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net). Earlier this week, it was reported four clubs had extended offers to the Korean right-hander with negotiations underway with two of those teams. The Twins, Red Sox, and Indians have been linked to Yoon this offseason with varying degrees of interest.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe shares a few hot stove items in his latest Sunday column…
- Bronson Arroyo has been looking for a three-year deal or at least a vesting option for a third year, which could be holding up his market. If Arroyo was willing to settle for a flat two-year contract, Cafardo opines, he could find a deal, possibly with the Diamondbacks; Cafardo reported earlier this week that Arizona was "beginning to kick the tires" on the veteran right-hander. Arroyo recently said that he has yet to receive a concrete offer from any team, despite a lot of interest from around the league.
- The Dodgers are another team who "are very interested" in Arroyo but don't want to give him a guaranteed third year.
- Nelson Cruz's market is beginning to heat up, and “there could be up to four or five teams who could take the plunge in the end," a Major League source tells Cafardo. This interest could manifest itself into a multiyear deal for Cruz, though Cafardo notes that the slugger could still have to settle for a one-year contract. We've recently seen the Mariners, Orioles, Rangers and Twins linked to Cruz in rumors, though Texas and Minnesota only seem interested at a greatly reduced price.
- Cafardo thinks the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes is down to the Pirates, Phillies and Orioles, though he wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees were also exploring a reunion with the veteran right-hander. The Rays and Blue Jays have also been connected to Burnett, though it seems more likely that Burnett will choose a team located closer to his home in Maryland.
- The Marlins have "asked a lot" about Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks but there doesn't seem to be a trade fit. Miami is one of several teams who have asked Boston about Middlebrooks' availability, but the Sox don't want to give up on Middlebrooks' power potential. Even if the Red Sox re-signed Stephen Drew to play shortstop and Xander Bogaerts took over at third, Middlebrooks would still receive playing time alternating between third and first base.
- While Jon Lester recently said he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Red Sox, Cafardo points out that it might not be a huge discount, as Lester also noted that "you never want to be the guy that takes the market backward."
- The Red Sox will experiment with Ryan Lavarnway as a first baseman during Spring Training, GM Ben Cherington confirmed. Since Boston is so deep at catcher at both the Triple-A and Major League levels, Lavarnway's only chance at continued playing time may be as a Triple-A first baseman.
- "There’s a feeling that a team like the Yankees may pluck Fernando Rodney, or someone of his ilk, to ensure they have another closer in case David Robertson breaks down or isn’t up to the task," Cafardo writes. Rodney was reportedly drawing interest from four teams, though the Yankees hadn't spoken with him since November and may not have enough remaining payroll space to add to the bullpen.
Here are the day's minor transactions:
- Middle infielder Niuman Romero and backstop Jose Gonzalez have also signed on with the Rockies on minor league pacts, per the MLB.com transactions page. Since cups of coffee in 2009 and 2010, Romero has played in the upper minors. He maintained a .367 OBP in each of the last two years, playing at the Double-A and Triple-A level for the Tigers and Orioles. Romero has spent most of his time at short in recent years. Gonzalez has spent the past eight seasons in the Rockies organization but slashed just .190/.274/.281 in 250 PAs at Triple-A in 2013.
- The MLB.com transactions page also notes that the Reds have agreed to a minor league deal with Edgar Gonzalez. The right-hander, who turns 31 in February, allowed 15 runs in 18 innings between Toronto and Houston last season but owns a 4.35 ERA in 854 1/3 Triple-A innings.
- Free agent infielder Josh Rodriguez will join the Marlins on a minor league deal, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The 29-year-old spent the last two seasons with the Mets, putting up a .272/.371/.390 line last year at Double-A. Rodriguez has seen substantial time at short, second, and third.
- The Twins have re-signed righty Daniel Turpen to a minor league deal, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Turpen, 27, has yet to see MLB action but has been throwing in the high minors since 2010. Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A for the Twins last year, Turpen put up a 4.98 ERA in 65 innings.
- The Mets announced that they've signed utilityman Matt Clark to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training (Twitter link). The former Padres farmhand spent the 2013 season with NPB's Chunichi Dragons, batting .238/.328/.457 with 25 homers. The 27-year-old is primarily a first baseman but also has corner outfield experience. In 1045 Triple-A at-bats, Clark is a .291/.365/.502 hitter. He also bats left-handed, which figures to put him behind Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on New York's depth chart.
Steve Adams also contributed to this post.
The Marlins have signed outfielder Reed Johnson to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, the club announced. The 37-year-old, right-handed swinging Johnson has played in 11 big league seasons.
Last year, with the Braves, Johnson struggled to a .244/.311/.341 line in just 136 plate appearances, leading the club to decline his $1.6MM option and instead pay him a $150K buyout. He was much better over the previous two seasons, however, combining to log 554 plate appearances while slashing .299/.342/.431.
The Marlins, of course, have plenty of interesting young outfielders, the oldest and most-established of whom — Giancarlo Stanton — is only 24. Before today's signing, the grizzled veteran of the outfield corps was Brian Bogusevic, who is 29 and has yet to qualify for arbitration. While the club figures to give plenty of playing time to its younger group, Johnson should bring veteran presence, depth, and some healthy spring competition.
1:07pm: Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that Baker is close to signing with a team, and the Nationals are still in the mix.
11:39am: The Marlins and Nationals are among the teams showing interest in Jeff Baker, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter), who also notes that the Orioles are a possibly interested team.
Despite huge numbers against left-handed pitching — Baker slashed .314/.407/.667 with 10 homers in 123 plate appearances against southpaws last season — it's been a relatively quiet offseason for the 32-year-old. The Rangers are known to have interest in re-signing Baker, and the Giants had talks with him a couple months back, though that was shortly before they elected to sign Mike Morse. The Morse signing would seem to indicate that Baker is no longer a consideration for San Francisco.
Baker has just a .647 OPS against right-handed pitching in his career, but he has an .875 OPS against lefties to go along with experience at second base, third base, first base and both outfield corners.
In his latest column over at FOXSports.com, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Diamondbacks' pursuit of top free agents Masahiro Tanaka, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran stemmed from the fact they'll soon be completing a new television deal with FOX Sports that will be worth at least $90MM per season for a span of 15 to 20 years (beginning in 2016). He notes that while comparing TV deals is difficult because of differing equity stakes negotiated by each team, but the contract should still top the Rangers' recent TV deal, which pays them $80MM per season. More highlights from Rosenthal…
- The Cubs' offer to Masahiro Tanaka did not include an opt-out clause, according to Rosenthal. Knowing that they might not compete until 2016, the Cubs were wary of including a clause that would allow him to opt out shortly after their next competitive club hit the field.
- Their recent signing of Matt Garza will allow the Brewers to move trade acquisition Will Smith (received in exchange for Norichika Aoki) to the bullpen. Milwaukee could still add another reliever this offseason, but they also want to take a look at Rule 5 lefty Wei-Chung Wang.
- After missing out on a Major League deal with the Orioles due to concerns over his back, Tyler Colvin is weighing a number of minor league offers.
- The Marlins and Rockies are both interested in former Reds right-hander Nick Masset, who has missed each of the past two seasons due to shoulder injuries.
The Marlins have signed Ty Wigginton to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, the club announced. The 12-year MLB veteran is an ACES client.
Wigginton, 36, has spent most of his career at the corner infield, though he has seen some time up the middle and in the corner outfield. He has only played several seasons as a regular — most recently, in his 2010 All-Star year with the Orioles — but has seen at least 400 plate appearances in eight seasons. 2012 was Wigginton's last full season of MLB action. He posted a .235/.314/.375 line and eleven home runs in 360 plate appearances for the Phillies.
Wigginton has been a free agent since the Cardinals released him last July. He had signed a two-year, $5MM deal with St. Louis, but was cut loose after struggling to a .158/.238/.193 line in his first 63 plate appearances for his new club.
The Marlins entered the offseason with a hole at third and plenty of roster opportunities to compete during the spring. It could be an uphill battle for Wigginton to earn a roster spot. Among the organization's non-prospect mix, fellow minor league signee Casey McGehee figures to have the inside track at the hot corner, and Greg Dobbs makes sense as a backup or platoon-mate since he swings from the left side. Also under team control is Ed Lucas, who played 61 games at third last year for the Fish and was the team's only infielder to post a positive fWAR.
Matt Harvey knows he's not likely to pitch in 2014, but if it were up to him, he'd be taking the mound late in the season, the injured Mets ace told Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal. "When you see stories of guys coming back in 10 months, I'm going to think, 'Hey, I can come back in nine,'" Harvey said. The 24-year-old is doing upper-body workouts and hopes to be playing catch by the end of February, Barbarisi writes. Harvey said that he was excited by the Mets' signing of Curtis Granderson, though he realizes it will be more than a year before he pitches in front of him. More news on the Mets and the rest of the division…
- Though the Mets reportedly made a run at Grant Balfour prior to his new deal with the Rays, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that they're not likely to embark on a similar pursuit of Fernando Rodney.
- MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reports that the Marlins are interested in adding Vernon Wells. Though Brian Bogusevic projects to be the club's fourth outfielder, the Fish are interested in Wells as a right-handed bench bat and occasional starter. Over the weekend, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe noted near the end of his Sunday column that the Phillies have also expressed some early interest in Wells.
- Phillies reliever Mike Adams is currently throwing from 100 feet and hopes to be ready for Opening Day, writes CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. The Phils inked Adams to a two-year, $12MM pact prior to last season, but a shoulder injury sidelined him for much of the 2013 campaign. Though the Phillies would like to salvage as much as they can from that investment, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Adams spend the first couple of weeks on the disabled list, Salisbury adds.
The Marlins have told star Giancarlo Stanton that they wish to sign him to a long-term extension, GM Dan Jennings told Jim Bowden of Sirius XM MLB Network Radio (Twitter link). Miami hopes to work out a deal sooner rather than later, according to Jennings.
Needless to say, the contract situation of Stanton has been one of the most watched in the game. He recently agreed to a one-year, $6.5MM deal to avoid arbitration, but reports have suggested that extension talks were not underway. Stanton is currently set to reach free agency before the 2017 season. If the Fish can lock up their best position player, he would join young ace Jose Fernandez as a franchise cornerstone under team control for the foreseeable future.