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Cuban catcher Yenier Bello has been cleared by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and is now free to sign with a Major League club, according to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.
The 28-year-old Bello was cleared to sign by Major League Baseball back on Oct. 1 and has been scouted by as many as 15-20 Major League teams. Sanchez lists the Dodgers, Cubs and Blue Jays as teams that have been connected to Bello, who is said to offer some pop from behind the dish. He batted .274 with 13 homers in Cuba's Serie Nacional in 2011 — a league in which the regular season is just 90 games long.
It's unclear what type of commitment it would take for a team to land Bello, but doesn't appear to be on the same prospect level as recent Cuban signees Jose Dariel Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman. Because he is older than 23 and has more than three years of professional experience, Bello will not be subject to the international spending limitations laid out in the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement; Bello can sign with any team for any amount. Now that he's been cleared to sign, I've added Bello's name to our 2014 Free Agent list.
Via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern of MLB Network Radio that his team has about a 50/50 shot of adding a significant free agent pitcher. Nicholson-Smith writes that the Jays know the asking prices of pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana but aren't prepared to overpay a free agent. Here's more out of the AL East…
- The Yankees are weighing a run at Stephen Drew now that they've blown past the luxury tax threshold, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. A person familiar with the team's thinking told Heyman that a pursuit of Drew would still depend on the price, however. ESPN's Buster Olney reported the other day that the Yankees weren't likely to make any major additions following the Tanaka signing.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington told Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com that despite signing Grady Sizemore to a Major League deal, there are no guarantees that the former Indians star will make the Opening Day roster. Cherington didn't rule out a minor league assignment for Sizemore.
- Also from Mastrodonato (on Twitter), Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters at tonight's BBWAA dinner, "We're going to have Jackie Bradley in center field." Mastrodonato adds that Cherington said, "We believe in Jackie Bradley."
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier examines the Red Sox' wealth of pitching depth. Speier writes that while it would seem logical for the Sox to deal from their perceived surplus, the majority of top pitching prospects simply don't pan out. Speier points to a study from Camden Depot's Matt Perez that looks at the history of Baseball America's top prospects, revealing that even in the most successful stretch for those prospects, just over one of four became solid Major Leaguers.
- Asked about his potential grievance with the Orioles at today's press conference, new Rays closer Grant Balfour told reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times: "I'm not going to comment on it. We'll see what happens. I'm here to stay. I have a contract with the Rays, and anything else that's going to happen on that part will be taken care of, and we'll move forward. That's not going to affect anything I've got going here. I'm moving on. I'm glad to be here, really happy to be here."
The Yankees dominated the headlines in baseball today with their signing of Masahiro Tanaka. Earlier today on MLBTR, we looked at some of the reaction and fallout to the big move, while MLBTR's Zach Links took part in a conference call with Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Here's some more from around the AL East…
- For now, Mike Carp's future with the Red Sox isn't likely to be impacted by the club's signing of Grady Sizemore, an industry source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Carp received a lot of trade interest earlier this winter and now another left-handed outfield bat has joined the team, Carp could be the odd man out. I'd guess that Boston wouldn't do anything with Carp, however, until they get a long look at the injury-plagued Sizemore during Spring Training.
- The Blue Jays' self-imposed five-year limit on free agent contracts is hurting their ability to upgrade the roster, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi opines. The Jays' inability to develop young talent like the Rays or spend like the Yankees (or Red Sox) leaves them somewhat hamstrung in the tough AL East.
- While the Yankees' big free agent splurge was necessary to improve the team, Joel Sherman of the New York Post thinks the club needs to focus on more cost-effective strategies. "It is a horrible business plan, a caveman way to build a roster (no art, all financial bludgeoning). It is a tactic that leaves the Yankees susceptible to this current crew wilting and forcing a rinse, repeat, spend a half a billion in a few more years to cover up more malfeasance in drafting, international signings and development," Sherman writes. Sherman further explores this idea in a separate piece, with quotes from co-owner Hal Steinbrenner.
- David Robertson will be the Yankees' closer in 2014, Steinbrenner told Sherman and Dan Martin of the New York Post. Cashman wasn't quite as firm during a media conference, saying that Robertson is "obviously…the odds-on favorite" but not ruling out any further bullpen additions.
- In other AL East news from earlier today, the Yankees designated southpaw David Huff for assignment, the Red Sox signed Grady Sizemore and designated Brayan Villarreal for assignment, Zach Links spoke with Sizemore during a conference call, the Orioles may have hit a snag in their agreement with Tyler Colvin and the Rays officially announced a seven-player deal with the Padres. We also collected more news from Baltimore and Tampa Bay in the latest editions of Orioles Notes and Rays Notes.
The Masahiro Tanaka saga has come to an end in record-setting fashion. Earlier today, Tanaka agreed to an enormous seven-year, $155MM contract with the Yankees that contains an opt-out clause after the fourth season. Tanaka's $155MM guarantee is the second-largest in history for a free agent pitcher (the largest for a right-hander) and is also the second-largest pitcher contract in history in terms of new money guaranteed. The Tanaka buzz is unlikely to die down in the next couple of days, as pundits dissect the contract and what it means for the Yankees and the free agent market. Here's a look at some of the early reactions to and fallout from the Yankees' staggering investment…
- New York GM Brian Cashman discussed the deal from the team's perspective in a conference call today, and MLBTR's Zach Links reported on the highlights.
- ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the Yankees' internal sense is that this concludes their pursuit of major free agents this offseason (Twitter link).
- It's little surprise that the team with the biggest need and one of the two biggest revenue bases from which to draw wound up landing Tanaka, writes ESPN's Keith Law (Insider required). Law feels that Tanaka will be one of the 20 to 25 best starters in Major League Baseball in 2014 and notes that the opt-out clause works to the Yankees' advantage, in a way.
- SB Nation's Rob Neyer writes that while Tanaka is a significant upgrade for the Yankees, it's hyperbolic to suggest that this signing will change the balance of power in the American League.
- The Cubs were the runner-up in the Tanaka sweepstakes, according to David Kaplan of CSN Chicago (Twitter link). Ultimately, the fact that they're not ready to win in 2014 ended their chances, he elaborates.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Yankees separated themselves, but not by a wide margin. The Dodgers, Cubs, White Sox, Astros and Diamondbacks were all involved in the end. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, all teams that participated in the second round of bidding had to come in above the six-year, $120MM level.
- Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com reports that the seventh guaranteed year is what separated the Yankees from the rest of the pack (on Twitter). According to Kaplan (via Twitter), other factors "trumped the possibility of more money," including the influence of Ichiro Suzuki and Hiroki Kuroda and the attractiveness of playing for the game's highest-profile franchise.
- The Dodgers wanted Tanaka, but drew a financial line, reports Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. As Dilbeck explains, the team does have financial limitations that it intends to abide by. "We went as far as we thought we could go," said GM Ned Colletti.
- For the White Sox, GM Rick Hahn says that reports of the team's efforts to land Tanaka largely seemed "accurate," reports Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. Ultimately, however, Hahn says that the money reached a level that the club was not comfortable reaching. The resources that the club would have used to sign Tanaka remain available for a similarly attractive opportunity in the future, Hahn said, but he does not see any in the current market. (Links to Twitter.)
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports that the Astros' offer to Tanaka exceeded $100MM. McTaggart adds that GM Jeff Luhnow, owner Jim Crane and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens were among the Astros contingent that went to meet with Tanaka in Los Angeles.
- Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona was told that the Diamondbacks would not pursue other free-agent starters if they missed out on Tanaka, as the front office believes the asking prices to be too high (Twitter link).
- The Blue Jays were involved initially on Tanaka, but had "no way to compete" once it became clear that he would command seven years, reports John Lott of the National Post. Toronto had been willing to pay the $20MM fee, but was only interested in going to five years on the contract, Lott says. The team was also troubled by the opt-out clause, Lott tweets. Toronto figures to be among the most active teams on remaining free agent starters.
- Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters, including MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez, that his team was never very involved with Tanaka and did not make a formal offer (Twitter link). As Gonzalez further explains, the Halos will instead either try to fit Matt Garza within the team's approximately $15MM of 2014 budget space or hunt for a good deal from amongst the cheaper open-market options.
- The Tanaka signing caps a nice run for Casey Close and the Excel Sports Management agency, notes Darren Heitner of Forbes. With an estimated 4% take, those two contracts would deliver a total of $14.8MM to the agency. Heitner notes also that Excel has worked out several notable deals with the Yankees in the past, given its representation of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. With its latest run of big contracts, says Heitner, Excel will surely climb the Forbes agency valuation chart.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
The Masahiro Tanaka clock is ticking, and the right-hander has until Friday to agree to a deal with his first Major League team. Recent reports have indicated that the Cubs are emerging as one of the favorites, but their status as a losing team could stand in the way of landing Tanaka. Yesterday it was reported that Tanaka could agree on Tuesday or Wednesday this week in order to give his new club time to perform the necessary physical and paperwork to make things official. We'll keep track of today's Tanaka-centric links here…
- Whichever club is chosen by Tanaka should know by at least the end of the day Wednesday, tweets David Kaplan of CSN Chicago and WGN Radio. That way, explains Kaplan, the club has time for "additional medicals."
- The Blue Jays "are not among the teams in consideration" for Tanaka, says Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. But Toronto is definitely involved in adding a free agent starter from what Griffin calls the "next tier" of starting arms, and is willing to sacrifice a second-round pick to do so. (The Jays' two first-round choices are protected.)
- Industry source believe that the Cubs will outbid the field in terms of years and dollars in order to land Tanaka, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. Levine adds that at this point, no team knows how much its competitors have bid.
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports writes that the Cubs may need Tanaka more than the Yankees or Dodgers, but he doesn't feel that Tanaka is interested in coming to America to pitch for a losing club. He feels Chicago would have to overpay in order to land Tanaka, which he says is not the Ricketts family's style. The Dodgers present the best set of circumstances in terms of available money, proximity to Japan, weather, a competitive team and a pitcher-friendly environment, Morosi writes.
- Over the weekend, a rival executive told MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo that he believes the Astros met with Tanaka, though he is unsure whether or not they made a formal offer (Twitter link).
Bluebird Banter looks at both the Blue Jays' most recent arbitration hearings and, more importantly for the general MLBTR readership, the most recent arb hearing from each team. The Indians have gone the longest without an arbitration hearing, having not taken a case to court since Jerry Browne and Greg Swindell back in 1991. Anibal Sanchez and Emilio Bonifacio are the two most recent players to win arb hearings, both coming against the Marlins in 2012. The whole table is worth checking out, featuring notable names like Kyle Lohse, Andruw Jones, A.J. Pierzynski and Oliver Perez. Here are some more links related to the possible arb cases we could see next month …
- With several star Braves players (Craig Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman, and Jason Heyward) set to face a hearing, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, the effects on the organization could be long-lasting. First of all, if Kimbrel wins the $9MM salary he has requested, he would set himself up for two more massive arb paydays that could force Atlanta to deal him. As for Freeman and Heyward, both of whom are represented by Excel Sports Management, Bowman says that the confrontational hearing process could potentially make it at least marginally harder (or, at least, more expensive) to keep them around for the long haul.
- The Mets will continue to negotiate with first baseman/outfielder Lucas Duda after exchanging numbers, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The respective salary submissions ($1.35MM vs. $1.9MM) did not fall among the most difficult-to-bridge gaps, as noted in my roundup of notable arbitration situations from Friday.
- Club GM Sandy Alderson also said today (courtesy of Rubin) that Duda could see time in the outfield next year, and could conceivably break camp with the Mets alongside Ike Davis. Since Duda has an option remaining, his 2015 arbitration case could suffer from a lack of playing time if he does not force his way onto the active roster for a substantial portion of the coming season.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Here are Monday's minor moves from around the league…
- The Blue Jays announced on Twitter that they've re-signed outfielder Ricardo Nanita to a minor league deal with an invite to Major League Spring Training. The 32-year-old Nanita has spent the past four seasons with the Jays' minor league affiliates, where he's batted over .300 overall. He struggled a bit in 2013, slumping to .258/.312/.376.
- The Padres have re-signed outfielder Travis Buck to another minor league deal, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish (Twitter link). Last season marked the first time since 2006 that Buck did not appear in a Major League game. The 30-year-old CAA client appeared in 35 games at Triple-A Tucson where he batted .256/.296/.464. Buck did not receive an invite to Major League Spring Training, Cotillo adds in a followup tweet.
- Carlos Peguero of the Mariners is the only player that is currently in DFA limbo, as can be seen in MLBTR's DFA Tracker.
We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.
Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…
- After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
- The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
- The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
- Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
- Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
- Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
- The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
- The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
- Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
- The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
- The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter). He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).
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The Blue Jays have avoided arbitration with center fielder Colby Rasmus by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $7MM, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). This is Rasmus' final year of arbitration eligibility, as he'll be a free agent in the offseason.
Rasmus, 27, is represented by Excel Sports Management. The left-handed swinger batted .276/.338/.501 with 22 homers for the Blue Jays in 2013 and played strong defense in center field according to UZR/150 (+15.2) and The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs saved metric (+11). Rasmus will be one of the most appealing free agents on next year's market, though he could stand to cut down on this past season's 29.5 percent strikeout rate. His $7MM guarantee tops the projection of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz by $500K.
The Blue Jays originally acquired Rasmus from the Cardinals in a three-team trade that sent Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson to St. Louis. Toronto has successfully avoided arbitration with all three of its arbitration eligible players (the others being Brett Cecil and Esmil Rogers), meaning GM Alex Anthopoulos can boast that he's never had to go to an arbitration hearing for at least another year.
Here's the latest from around the American League East:
- Red Sox first baseman/outfielder Mike Carp could still be dealt before Opening Day, reports Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com. Though Boston has reportedly held out for a substantial return for Carp, and the club values the depth he provies, he might be worth more to other clubs who could deploy him more regularly.
- Meanwhile, extension talks still have yet to begin between Jon Lester and the Boston front office, reports WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. Clayton Kershaw's extension does not necessarily serve as a comparable for Lester's purposes, says Bradford, but his absence from the open market could have an impact.
- The Orioles are having ongoing discussions with free agent starter Bronson Arroyo, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). We learned recently that Baltimore had active interest in the veteran.
- Confirming recent reports, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said today that the price of pitchers on the free agent and trade market remains too high for the club's liking, Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi tweets.
- Recent comments from Alex Rodriguez and Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner indicate that both sides believe a return to the field in 2015 is a realistic possibility. Rodriguez sounds as though he has accepted the likelihood that he will ultimately sit out the entire 2014 campaign, but a spokesman said Rodriguez would "get ready for 2015 should the judge rule against him" in his court challenge against his full-season suspension. Steinbrenner, meanwhile, said that Rodriguez is "an asset" on the field and insisted the club would take a business approach to dealing with Rodriguez's situation going forward.