Betancourt, 33, signed a one-year deal with Japan’s Orix Buffaloes last season but hit .141/.139/.155 in 74 plate appearances and eventually was released due to an injury. A veteran of nine Major League seasons, the Cuban-born Betancourt’s last MLB work came with the 2013 Brewers, where he struggled to a .595 OPS. Betancourt typically struggled to get on base in the Majors and was regarded as a below-average defender, but he showed double-digit home run power, topping out at 16 with 2010 Royals. In his nine Major League seasons, he batted a combined .261/.285/.388.
Free agent infielder Yuniesky Betancourt has reached agreement on a one-year contract with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Betancourt, soon to turn 32, is represented by Miami Sports Management.
Last year, spending most of his time at first and third for the Brewers, Betancourt checked in with a .212/.240/.355 line and 13 home runs in 409 plate appearances. Betancourt has played nine MLB seasons, registering a cumulative .261/.285/.388 slash line in 4,278 plate appearances. He has not maintained an OPS of over .700 since the 2007 season, and both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference credit Betancourt with a cumulative sub-replacement level contribution over his career to date.
Though the vast majority of Betancourt's MLB time has been spent at short, Betancourt has not held down a shortstop job since 2011. He has also seen at least 60 games apiece at first, second, and third. Betancourt is expected to see most of his time with Orix at the corner infield, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
Jon Rauch is close to signing with a team, MLBTR's Zach Links reports (Twitter link). The 35-year-old posted a 7.56 ERA in 16 2/3 IP with the Marlins last season and also made 10 appearances for the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate after signing a minor league contract with the O's in June. Despite his outlier of a 2013 season, Rauch has been a solid right-handed bullpen arm for much of his career, posting a 3.65 ERA, 2.79 K/BB and 7.2 K/9 over 549 2/3 IP from 2004-2012.
Here's some more news as we wrap up a busy Wednesday around baseball…
- The Braves only offered Eric O'Flaherty a one-year contract to remain with the team, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (via Twitter). Though O'Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery last May and will miss at least part of the 2014 season, he still scored a two-year, $7MM deal from the A's earlier today.
- Yuniesky Betancourt will decide on his new club within the week, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports (Twitter link). Betancourt was drawing interest from several teams, potentially even as a starter.
- Also from Cotillo, there is "strong interest" in right-hander Todd Coffey. At least nine of the 14 teams who attended Coffey's throwing session last week want to see his second session. Coffey is looking to return to action after missing all of 2013 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
- Much of the Indians' success at the plate last season was due to their lineup flexibility and use of bench players, a trait that MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes could be somewhat difficult to duplicate in 2014, though Carlos Santana's proposed attempt to play third base would be a great help in that department.
- The Twins didn't have any interest in Grady Sizemore this winter, though the club checked in on him last summer, 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson reports (via Twitter).
- "Another issue with a physical does nothing to enhance the Orioles' reputation in the industry, which is taking a two-fisted beating this winter," Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes in regards to the news that Baltimore's agreement with Tyler Colvin has been delayed due to a problem with the outfielder's physical. Kubatko wonders if the O's could be trying to get Colvin to sign a minor league contract instead of a Major League deal, as the club did last offseason when it wasn't satisifed with Jair Jurrjens' physical.
- The Phillies liked Masahiro Tanaka and engaged in "cursory negotiations" with his representatives, but GM Ruben Amaro told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the team wasn't prepared to go beyond five years to sign the Japanese righty. The Phillies seem likely to go into 2014 with their current pitching options, as they only would've exceeded their payroll limitations for "an exception" like Tanaka.
A number of teams have interest in free-agent infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, and there's also a possibility he might start, MLBTR's Zach Links reports. The Marlins, who had previously had contact with Betancourt, are no longer among the interested teams, since they've already added Casey McGehee. Betancourt hopes that he can finalize a deal within the next two weeks (all Twitter links).
Betancourt, 31, hit .212/.240/.355 in 409 plate appearances with the Brewers last season, mostly at the corner infield spots. He has a career. 261/.285/.388 line in nine big-league seasons.
As we wind up one of the busiest weeks in the history of baseball transactions, here are a few more notes as we head into the weekend…
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow is happy to have acquired Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman before the Winter Meetings, but Luhnow tells reporters (including Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that his club has more on its to-do list. “To have them both done before the Winter Meetings is a bonus," Luhnow said. "So now that we can focus on the bullpen and focus on potentially another position player somewhere….We may not be done with starting pitching either. We’re still actively talking to some other folks.”
- With the Phillies reportedly shopping closer Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the team will have a tough time given Papelbon's large salary, signs of decline and his possible attitude issues.
- J.A. Happ could be a trade chip for the Blue Jays if the team needed to free up some payroll space, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith writes. Happ is set to earn $5.2MM in 2014 with a $6.7MM team option for 2015. The southpaw was limited to 18 starts in 2013 due to head injuries suffered when he was hit in the head with a line drive, as well as a knee injury also stemming from the incident.
- Also from Nicholson-Smith, nothing is imminent with Yuniesky Betancourt, though a number of teams are still interested in the veteran as infield depth. The Marlins were linked to Betancourt last month.
- Erisbel Barbaro Arruebarruena has a good glove at shortstop, is lacking at the plate and is overall not going to provide the impact of recent Cuban signings, a scout tells MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. "This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop," the scout said. Arruebarruena will showcase his skills for teams this weekend, and the Mets have been identified as one of the attending clubs.
The Blue Jays discussed a trade for Matt Kemp with the Dodgers at the GM meetings, reports Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca. Those discussions appear to have gone nowhere, but Davidi says they are indicative of a trend throughout MLB — teams are entertaining ideas of big trades (like the recent Prince Fielder / Ian Kinsler blockbuster) rather than diving into a free agent market that's become increasingly expensive. Here are more notes from around the East divisions.
- The Nationals are hunting for a starting pitcher, but they don't want to sacrifice their 2014 first-round draft pick (no. 20 overall) in the process, writes Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post. That could make Matt Garza or Ricky Nolasco, who did not receive qualifying offers because they were traded in-season, more attractive options than Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Hiroki Kuroda.
- The Marlins have made contact with free agent infielder Yuniesky Betancourt, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. The Marlins are looking for a third baseman, and Betancourt played 59 games there in 2013, a season in which he hit .212/.240/.355. One would think that the Marlins would be interested only on a minor-league deal, though it's worth noting that Betancourt has received near-regular playing time for most of his career despite not posting an on-base percentage above .300 since 2007.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. acknowledges the risk involved in signing soon-to-be-35-year-old catcher Carlos Ruiz to a three-year deal, CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury writes. "Clearly this is a commitment that will be scrutinized," Amaro says. "Is it a risk to put three years into a catcher at this stage of his career? It can be, yes. But I think every signing is a risk and we hope that he remains productive throughout the three years and perhaps more." Ruiz hit .268/.320/.368 in a weak offensive season in 2013.
Joe Nathan agreed with Jim Bowden's suggestions of the Tigers, Angels and Yankees as good fits for his services, the veteran closer told Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM. Nathan said that finding a winning team was more important to him than location, he's prepared to be patient and see how his market develops, and he revealed that his old teammate Torii Hunter was trying to recruit him to come to Detroit. Tip of the cap to MLB.com's Jason Beck for providing an audio link to Nathan's interview and a partial transcript.
Here's some more news as we wrap up a busy day around baseball…
- The Phillies have a long-standing interest in Peter Bourjos and would love to have him, but they don't have the young pitching the Angels would want back in a trade, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. The Phils would have to get a third team involved to work out a deal, or forget Bourjos entirely and focus on other outfield candidates; Rosenthal suggests Grady Sizemore as a bench possibility.
- Also from Rosenthal, rival scouts figure the Yankees will make a big push to sign international talent since they're already over the bonus pool limit for international signings and will be penalized anyway. It's worth noting that Joe Pawlikowski of the River Ave Blues blog believes Rosenthal may have miscalculated some figures and is actually saying the Yankees will overspend during the next international signing period, which opens on July 2, 2014.
- MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez lists 10 teams who could possibly be trade partners for the Angels in their search for young, controllable pitching.
- Ruben Tejada's possible grievance against the Mets is just the latest sign of strained relations between the shortstop and the team, and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News figures the two sides are close to parting ways.
- The Rays plan to rotate Wil Myers, Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce and David DeJesus at DH this season, a move that will help keep the players fresh and also allow the club to save money on signing a designated hitter, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune writes.
- Five teams have shown interest in Yuniesky Betancourt as a second or third baseman, agent Alex Esteban tells Sportsnet.ca's Ben Nicholson-Smith (Twitter link).
- The White Sox aren't used to picking as high as third overall in the amateur draft, MLB.com's Scott Merkin writes, but the club is hoping to use the high pick and larger draft bonus pool to fuel GM Rick Hahn's plan to restock the farm system.
The Brewers signed infielder Yuniesky Betancourt to a Major League deal, according to a press release from his agency. He'd been the team's starting shortstop in 2011, and now he'll serve in a utility role.
Betancourt, 31, hit .228/.256/.400 in 228 plate appearances for the Royals last year, playing mostly second base. He was on a minor league deal with the Phillies this spring, but opted out a few days ago.
Former Expos outfielder Warren Cromartie is convinced that the city of Montreal would welcome baseball back with open arms, writes Bill Beacon of the Canadian Press. Cromartie is heading up the Montreal Baseball Project — an organization that has been formed with the goal of bringing baseball back to Montreal. The $400K project will be completed by year's end and feature financial analysis, legal consultation and extensive market research among the city's population. Here's more from around the league for those of you in the mood for some late-night reading…
- Former Expo (and Angel, Ranger and Oriole) Vladimir Guerrero has an offer from the independent league Quebec Capitales, and he's been in contact with the Long Island Ducks as well, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (confirming an earlier tweet from Chris Cotillo).
- The Indians are hopeful of working out a trade with the Rangers to keep Rule 5 Draft pick Chris McGuiness, tweets MLB.com's Jordan Bastian.
- The Yankees had preliminary discussions with Yuniesky Betancourt on Sunday but don't see a fit, Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger reports (via Twitter).
- MLB.com's Brian McTaggart breaks down Rick Ankiel's incentive structure with the Astros (on Twitter). Ankiel, who has a $750K base salary, will receive $75K for 200, 250 and 300 plate appearances. He'll then receive $100K for 350, 400 and 450 plate appearances. All told, he could earn $1.275MM. Ankiel, an Article XX(B) free agent, was named the team's everyday right fielder earlier today.
- Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times expects the Angels to receive a low- to mid-level prospect from the Yankees when the reported Vernon Wells trade is finalized (Twitter link).
- Joey Nowak of MLB.com lists 12 notable out of options players who could be traded before the end of Spring Training.
The Twins announced yesterday that they will hand the reins in center field over to top prospect Aaron Hicks. The 2008 first-rounder ranked 72nd on Baseball America's Top 100 list and 98th on MLB.com's Top 100. Here's some more on the Twinkies as we draw closer to the end of Spring Training…
- General manager Terry Ryan told MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger that Hicks won the Opening Day job because he doesn't believe in holding players back for service time reasons: "'Can you imagine if we sent somebody out who did what the kid did?' Ryan said. 'And I had to look at [Josh] Willingham, [Justin] Morneau, [Glen] Perkins, [Joe] Mauer and those guys who are trying to win, and I'm going to stop that guy? I just don't believe in that.'"
- Other teams are interested in catcher Drew Butera, who the Twins optioned to Triple-A yesterday, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). However the Twins prefer to keep Butera, who they signed to a $700K contract in order to avoid arbitration this winter. The 29-year-old is just a .183/.232/.265 career hitter but is regarded as a terrific defensive catcher.
- The Twins contacted Chris Young this offseason and had interest in him at one point according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, but an official tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that the team no longer considers him a fit (Twitter link). Young is set to opt out of his contract with the Nationals.
- The Twins were approached by representatives for both Yuniesky Betancourt and Freddy Garcia, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, but the team passed on both players (Twitter links).
- Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez, who signed a minor league deal with the Twins, has all but guaranteed himself a spot on the Opening Day roster, tweets MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger. A corresponding 40-man roster move will need to be made in the coming days.