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Red Sox Designate Drake Britton For Assignment

The Red Sox have designated lefty Drake Britton for assignment, the club announced (via Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, on Twitter). His roster spot will go to the just-signed Alexi Ogando, whose signing was made official.

Britton, 25, has seen 27 2/3 innings of action at the MLB level over the last two years, working to a 2.93 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. But he spent most of 2014 at Triple-A, where he struggled to a 5.86 earned run mark in 58 1/3 frames.

With Robbie Ross added to the bullpen mix and Craig Breslow already on hand, Boston apparently felt it could stand to sacrifice some southpaw depth. It surely did not help that Britton is out of options. That fact will limit interest around the league, though he seems a likely candidate to be claimed or traded out of limbo.


Rockies Sign Rafael Betancourt, Omar Quintanilla

The Rockies have re-signed former closer Rafael Betancourt and also added shortstop Omar Quintanilla, Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports on Twitter. It appears that the pair will head to camp on minor league deals.

Betancourt is entering his age-40 season. He came back from Tommy John surgery in late 2013 to throw 19 1/3 Triple-A innings last year, and he will surely hope for another crack at the bigs this time around. Betancourt has been excellent since joining the Rockies back in 2009, contributing 236 1/3 innings of 3.08 ERA bullpen work with 10.5 K/9 against 1.7 BB/9. He racked up 57 saves in that span.

Quintanilla, 33, will return to the place where he first cracked the show (back in 2005). He has bounced around a bit since, most recently appearing with the Mets. Despite a lifetime .220/.287/.295 slash, Quintanilla has taken 1,162 trips to the plate at the MLB level over parts of nine seasons. As one might expect, Quintanilla has spent the bulk of his time playing at short and second, though he has also logged a few innings at third.


Yankees To Sign Scott Baker To Minor League Deal

4:15pm: Baker will earn at a $1.5MM rate if he makes the big league roster, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

12:15pm: The Yankees have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with longtime Twins right-hander Scott Baker, reports Matt Eddy of Baseball America (on Twitter).

Baker was a mainstay in the Twins’ rotation during their run at the top of the division, but he underwent Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of 2012 and has yet to re-establish himself as a reliable rotation cog in the Major Leagues. Baker has spent the past two seasons in the Cubs and Rangers organizations, working to a combined 5.17 ERA in 95 2/3 innings of work.

Prior to those struggles and his surgery, however, Baker was a solid, if unspectacular mid-rotation arm for Minnesota. He averaged 181 innings of 4.11 ERA ball (103 ERA+) from 2008-10 with the Twins before seemingly taking a significant step forward in a 2011 season that was cut short by injury. Baker notched just 134 2/3 innings that year but had turned in a pristine 3.14 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 prior to being shut down. Metrics such as his 3.45 FIP and 3.43 SIERA reflected genuine improvement as well.

Now with the Yankees, the former second-round pick will hope to earn a rotation spot amid a sea of other injury question marks. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova ultimately comprise New York’s ideal rotation, but Nova won’t be ready to start the season after having his own Tommy John last year. Meanwhile, Sabathia is coming off knee surgery, uncertainty surrounds Tanaka’s UCL and Pineda’s history of shoulder problems is a persistent concern. Chris Capuano was signed to a big league deal this winter, so he should open the year in the rotation, but given the injury troubles surrounding the entire group of rotation options, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Baker get a crack, should his own health issues permit.



Red Sox To Sign Alexi Ogando

4:04pm: Ogando passed his physical, tweets Cafardo. He’s likely to serve as a seventh-inning option for Boston.

3:11pm: Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that there are an additional $1.5MM worth of roster bonuses and performance incentives in the deal.

3:05pm: Ogando’s deal is worth a guaranteed $1.5MM, tweets Rosenthal. He adds that Ogando can earn more via incentives.

2:44pm: The Red Sox and right-hander Alexi Ogando are in agreement on a one-year, Major League contract, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe had just tweeted that the two sides were “moving along,” and colleague Alex Speier added that they were nearing a Major League deal. The deal is pending a physical, per Rosenthal. Ogando is a joint client of Reynolds Sports Management and Draft Pix Sports.

The Rangers non-tendered Ogando this Deceber rather than pay him a projected $2.6MM due largely to concerns over his health. For that reason, the physical on this deal would not seem to be a slam dunk; Ogando battled nerve damage and inflammation in his shoulder as well as a biceps issue in 2013. In 2014, he was limited to just 25 innings of work thanks to a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm.

Suffice it to say, the risk with Ogando is considerable, however the upside is tantalizing. In four seasons with the Rangers from 2010-13, Ogando pitched to a 3.12 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 381 innings as both a starter and a reliever. Ogando’s fastball averaged 96-97 mph when he was at his best with the Rangers in the first three seasons of his career, but his arm issues over the past two season dropped that heat to about 93.5 mph. If he’s healthy and his velocity returns, Ogando can provide the Red Sox with a weapon out of the ‘pen or perhaps another option for the rotation, though the picture is fairly crowded on that front. Boston has the added benefit of controlling Ogando through the 2016 season via arbitration, should he perform well enough to merit that scenario.


Rockies Designate Jayson Aquino For Assignment

The Rockies announced that they have designated left-hander Jayson Aquino for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for newly acquired right-hander David Hale.

Aquino, who turned 22 in November, split the 2014 campaign between Class-A Advanced and Double-A, working to a 5.13 ERA with 7.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 107 innings (18 starts). Aquino has three times ranked among Colorado’s top 30 prospects, per Baseball America, topping out at No. 9 following the 2012 season. However, he slipped to 28th last offseason, with BA noting that while he possesses a plus changeup and an average slider, his fastball command is poor, and he doesn’t use the pitch enough. BA’s report also indicated that Aquino is too emotional on the mound, often showing that emotion when disagreeing with umpires’ calls.


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

Here is today’s list of minor arbitration settlements, with all projections coming via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • The Orioles and Steve Pearce have agreed to a one-year deal that will pay the first baseman/outfielder a sizable $3.7MM sum, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Pearce had an unexpected breakout season with the O’s in 2014, batting a whopping .293/.373/.556 with 21 homers after spending the first seven season of his career in relative obscurity. The 31-year-old entered the 2014 campaign with a pedestrian .238/.318/.377 batting line over the life of 847 big league appearances. The unique nature of Pearce’s breakout led him to vastly surpass the $2.2MM estimate of Swartz’s projection model. His $3.7MM settling point was the exact midpoint of the $5.4MM at which he filed and the $2MM figure submitted by the Orioles (which is one of the more notable gaps you’ll see in arb filing numbers). With his case settled, the Orioles have only Zach Britton, Alejandro De Aza and Miguel Gonzalez remaining.

Remember, all arbitration situations can be monitored using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker.


Rockies Acquire David Hale, Gus Schlosser From Braves

The Rockies have acquired right-handers David Hale and Gus Schlosser from the Braves in exchange for minor league catchers Jose Briceno and Chris O’Dowd, the teams announced today.

Of the players involved in this trade, Hale easily has the most big league experience. The 27-year-old Hale has turned in 98 1/3 innings of 3.02 ERA ball over the past two seasons in a swingman role for the Braves, making eight starts and 39 relief appearances. He’s averaged just 5.3 K/9 and walked a slightly troubling 3.7 hitters per nine, but he’s also posted a stellar 56.7 percent ground-ball rate, which undoubtedly has appeal to the Rockies. It’s unclear at this time what role Hale will fill for the Rockies; Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Matzek and Jordan Lyles appear likely to hold down the first four rotation spots, and Hale could join Eddie Butler, Christian Bergman and Chris Rusin in competing for the fifth slot. He could also again serve as a swingman, providing long relief when needed and slotting into the rotation on occasion throughout the year.

As for Schlosser, the 26-year-old debuted in 2014 but struggled to a 7.64 ERA in 17 2/3 innings of work. Schlosser struck out just eight hitters against six walks in that stretch, though he fared better in the minors to some extent, notching a 4.18 ERA with 6.4 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman points out (on Twitter), Schlosser has been through a curious cycle with the Braves over the past two months. He was non-tendered on Dec. 2 to clear a space on the 40-man roster then re-signed to a minor league deal four days later, and he’s now been shipped to Colorado.

Briceno, the more highly regarded of the two prospects headed to the Braves, didn’t rank among the Rockies’ Top 10 prospects per ESPN’s Keith Law or Baseball America, but he did place 11th among Rockies farmhands on the list of Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel. Briceno, who turned 22 in September, spent this past season at Class-A where he batted .283/.336/.476 with 12 homers in 350 plate appearances. As McDaniel notes, Briceno is a work in progress defensively but has a plus arm and plenty of athleticism to go along with raw power and a feel for hitting. It’s a long shot, but he’s a potential everyday option behind the plate in McDaniel’s eyes, which is enough for him to praise Atlanta for making this move (Twitter link).

O’Dowd, the son of former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, was San Diego’s 23rd-round pick in the 2012 draft. He split the 2014 season, his age-23 campaign, between Class-A Advanced and Double-A, posting a combined batting line of .271/.335/.385 in 471 plate appearances.

From Atlanta’s perspective, this move will open a slot on their 40-man roster, allowing the team to make Jonny Gomes‘ one-year contract official.


Deal Between Blue Jays, Belisario Falls Through

JAN. 30: The deal between Belisario and the Blue Jays has fallen through, reports Mike Wilner of Sportsnet (on Twitter). The two sides were very close to a deal before it fell apart. Belisario remains a free agent.

JAN. 29: The Blue Jays added some depth to their bullpen mix today, agreeing to a minor league contract with right-hander Ronald Belisario. Toronto has long been said to be looking at bullpen upgrades, with reports last night suggesting that the team was looking hard at the free agent market. Though Belisario’s spot isn’t guaranteed, the McNamara Sports Group client will compete for a job in Spring Training and will reportedly earn $1.7MM if he makes the team.

Belisario, 32, was designated for assignment back in November by the White Sox to make way for the claim of Onelki Garcia. He was one of several players to slot in at closer last year in Chicago, but failed to grab hold of the job. Belisario was ultimately charged with an unsightly 5.56 ERA on the year.

Though the bottom-line results weren’t pretty, Belisario’s peripherals are decidedly better. With 6.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, and a stellar 59.3% groundball rate, Belisario drew marks from ERA estimators in the low-to-mid three range. His ballooned run tallies may well have been the result of a very low 57.7% strand rate and a somewhat bloated .339 BABIP.

Belisario had been projected by MLBTR/Matt Swartz to earn $3.9MM in arbitration before losing his roster spot in advance of the non-tender deadline. Toronto saw former closer Casey Janssen lured away with a total $5MM guarantee, though the club is said to have about that much in remaining payroll space.

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported, on Twitter, that the Jays were making a strong push for Belisario. ESPN’s Jim Bowden reported the agreement and terms (Twitter links).


Brewers Designate Elian Herrera For Assignment

The Brewers announced that they have designated infielder/outfielder Elian Herrera for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for the newly signed Neal Cotts.

The 29-year-old Herrera, claimed off waivers from the Dodgers last winter, spent 69 games with the Brewers and picked up 140 plate appearances, hitting .274/.288/.341. He’s seen time at all three outfield positions as well as third base, second base and shortstop in parts of three seasons at the Major League level.


Brewers Sign Neal Cotts

It’s been no secret that the Brewers were on the lookout for bullpen help, and they’ve added an arm to their relief corps, announcing the signing of left-hander Neal Cotts to a one-year contract today. The Pro Star Management client will reportedly receive a $3MM guarantee.

Cotts, 35 in March, comes with a lengthy injury history but has been healthy for the past two seasons and clearly showed he was healthy enough to pass Milwaukee’s physical.  Between Tommy John surgery and four surgeries on his right hip, Cotts missed three full seasons from 2010-12 before re-emerging with the Rangers in 2013.  Upon returning to the mound, Cotts delivered a 2.84 ERA, 3.12 K/BB rate and 9.3 K/9 over 123 2/3 innings and 131 appearances out of the Texas bullpen over the last two seasons.

The Brewers have been focused on bullpen additions in recent weeks, and they’ve been rumored to be exploring options like trading for Jonathan Papelbon, signing Rafael Soriano or re-signing former closer Francisco Rodriguez.  With only four career saves, of course, Cotts doesn’t project to be Milwaukee’s ninth-inning answer and looks to be in line for more of a setup role.  Cotts is also something of a reverse-splits pitcher (left-handed batters have a career .753 OPS against him, while righty batters have only a .703 OPS) so he doesn’t fit the usual mold of a lefty specialist.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the agreement (Twitter links). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted the financial details.