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MLB off season thread  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Fri Jan 24th, 2014 10:46 pm
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CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago Cubs have agreed to a one-year contract with All-Star pitcher Travis Wood, avoiding arbitration.

A person familiar with the situation said Friday that the deal is for $3.9 million. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the terms were not announced by the team.

Wood was the Cubs' most consistent starter last year and made the All-Star team, going 9-12 with a 3.11 ERA. Wood had filed at $4.25 million with the team countering at $3.5 million.

The Cubs' remaining arbitration-eligible players are pitcher Jeff Samardzija, second baseman Darwin Barney and outfielder Justin Ruggiano.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 24th, 2014 10:47 pm
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CLEVELAND (AP) The Indians have agreed to a minor league contract with catcher Luke Carlin, who is returning to Cleveland's organization.

Carlin's deal includes an invitation to major league spring training camp. The 33-year-old spent time with the Indians and their Triple-A affiliate from 2010-12. He played in 10 games for Cleveland during that span.

Last season, Carlin played for Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting, .230 with four homers 29 RBIs in 77 games. Carlin has played in 56 career games over four seasons with San Diego, Arizona and Cleveland.

With Carlos Santana likely to move to third base, Carlin gives the Indians depth at catcher behind presumed starter Yan Gomes.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 24th, 2014 10:50 pm
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The Atlanta Braves added depth to their pitching rotation when they reached agreement on a minor-league contract with veteran Freddy Garcia, according to a baseball source. Garcia's deal includes an invitation to the team's major-league spring training camp.

Garcia, 37, is 156-108 with a 4.15 ERA over 15 seasons with Seattle, the Chicago White Sox and five other clubs.

Garcia spent the bulk of last season with Baltimore's Triple-A Norfolk club, posting an 8-3 record with a 2.84 ERA for the Tide.

The Braves acquired Garcia for cash considerations in August after a season-ending injury to Tim Hudson, and he went 1-2 with a 1.65 ERA in six appearances down the stretch. Garcia pitched well enough that manager Fredi Gonzalez gave him a start against Los Angeles in the National League Division Series.

Now that Hudson has left Atlanta for the San Francisco Giants, Atlanta's projected 2014 rotation consists of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood, with David Hale also in the mix for a spot.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 24th, 2014 10:51 pm
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Justin Verlander is recovering from core muscle surgery, but Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski would not rule out the possibility that Verlander could miss the start of the season.

When the surgery was first announced Jan. 9, Dombrowski said the Tigers "fully anticipate Justin to participate in spring training and be in a position to compete at the beginning of the 2014 season."

But on Thursday, Dombrowski told MLive.com that Verlander's status to start the season is still uncertain.

"He's doing great," Dombrowski said. "I'm not concerned for him being out an extended period. If he misses any time of the season, it would only be a very short time period. I'm not ready to say that he will. But he's doing very well."

Verlander's rehab was initally expected to take six weeks.

Tigers pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 13, while Opening Day is March 31. Verlander has started for the Tigers on Opening Day for six straight years, but this season that honor could go to reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer.

"We don't want him to push too hard," Dombrowski told MLive.com. "We want him to follow the doctor's schedule. He's been under the doctor's guidance. He's stayed there so far. He's been doing phenomenal. He's already moving around. They say he's at the point where he might start doing some movement drills and all beginning next week."

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 Posted: Fri Jan 24th, 2014 10:56 pm
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CHICAGO (AP) The Chicago White Sox say they have agreed to a multi-year contract extension with manager Robin Ventura.

The terms were not disclosed. The White Sox announced the deal on Friday, hours before their annual weekend fan convention began.

Ventura turned down an extension before the 2013 season, leading to speculation that he might not stick around much longer.

He led the White Sox to 85 wins and a second-place finish in the AL Central, but they dropped to 63-99 while finishing last in his second season. Ventura, 46, is148-176 in two seasons.

He spent 16 major-league seasons with the White Sox (1989-98), New York Mets (1999-2001), New York Yankees (2002-03) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2003-2004), hitting .267 with 294 home runs and 1,182 RBIs.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 25th, 2014 11:23 pm
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Yu Darvish, as long as he's healthy, will start Opening Day for the Texas Rangers against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Manager Ron Washington made that proclamation after a fan asked about it at Rangers Fan Fest at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday morning.

"I think it's obvious," Washington said. "It's Darvish."

Darvish received an injection to relieve inflammation in his lower back after the season was over, but the club has received good reports and the 27-year-old is working out as normal this offseason in Japan.

Darvish is the fifth straight different pitcher to start on Opening Day after Kevin Millwood, who started four consecutive in a Rangers uniform, left Texas. He joins Scott Feldman (2010), C.J. Wilson (2011), Colby Lewis (2012) and Matt Harrison (2013) on that list.

Darvish was the runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award balloting last year after going 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA in 209 2/3 innings. He led the league with 277 strikeouts and received praise this week from Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.

"The sky is the limit for him," Maddux said. "He's got four quality pitches. He's pitched now over here for two years. Hopefully, he's a lot more relaxed and Americanized, or however you want to say it. I think if he continues to be better and wants to be better, there's no telling how well he can do."

Darvish started the Rangers' second game of the season in 2013 and had a perfect game broken up with two outs in the ninth inning in Houston. Now he gets the chance to start the first game of the season at home.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 25th, 2014 11:25 pm
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NEW YORK -- The New York Mets have added Daisuke Matsuzaka to their fifth-starter competition.

Matsuzaka has agreed to a minor league deal with the club that includes an invite to spring training.

He will compete with left-hander John Lannan and right-hander Jenrry Mejia for a rotation role. Prospects Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero officially will be in that competition as well, but they appear targeted for Triple-A Las Vegas.

Lannan agreed to a minor league deal with the Mets last weekend.

Matsuzaka, 33, went 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in seven late-season starts with the Mets in 2013 after opting out with the Cleveland Indians, for whom he had been pitching in Triple-A.

He appeared in danger of getting dumped early by the Mets, when he had a 10.95 ERA and logged only 12 1/3 innings in his first three starts with the club. But Matsuzaka posted a 1.37 ERA over his final four starts of the season.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 25th, 2014 11:27 pm
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The San Francisco Giants have acquired left-hander David Huff from the Yankees for cash, two days after he was designated for assignment by New York to make room for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka.

The Giants announced the deal Friday.

The 29-year-old Huff was 3-1 with a 5.50 ERA for Cleveland and New York last year in 14 appearances, making two starts. The Yankees picked him up off waivers from the Indians in May.

Drafted by Cleveland with the 39th overall pick in 2006, Huff led the Indians with 11 wins in 2009, tied for fourth among AL rookies. He is 21-27 with a 5.32 ERA in 69 games, 54 starts, in parts of five big league seasons.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 25th, 2014 11:28 pm
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MIAMI (AP) Third baseman Ty Wigginton has signed a minor-league contract with the Miami Marlins and has been invited to their spring training camp.

Wigginton, 36, was released by the St. Louis Cardinals in July after hitting .158 in 57 at-bats. He's a career .261 hitter with 169 home runs.

Marlins third basemen totaled three homers and 44 RBIs in 2013, worst in the majors in both categories.

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 Posted: Sat Jan 25th, 2014 11:29 pm
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SEATTLE (AP) The Seattle Mariners have added two more pitchers to their spring training camp, signing left-hander Joe Beimel and right-hander Mark Rogers to minor league deals.

Seattle announced the moves Friday.

Beimel, 36, spent last season with Triple-A Gwinnett in the Atlanta organization, going 1-2 with a 4.36 ERA in 30 relief appearances. He missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Previously he pitched for Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington and Colorado. He last pitched in the majors in 2011.

Rogers, who turns 28 next week, was the fifth overall pick of the 2004 amateur draft by Milwaukee. He pitched in the majors in 2010 and 2012 with the Brewers, appearing in 11 games. He spent most of last season on the 60-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury.

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 Posted: Mon Jan 27th, 2014 05:51 pm
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BOSTON -- World Series MVP David Ortiz, who turned 38 in November, said in a TV interview that aired Sunday night that he would like to retire as a member of the Boston Red Sox, but said if the club did not offer him another long-term deal, it was "time to move on."

Asked how much longer he expected to play, Ortiz said, "It can be two years, it can be three years, it can be 10 years. You never know."

Ortiz, who has a year left on the two-year extension he signed last winter with Boston, appeared via satellite in an interview Sunday night on Boston CBS4's "Sports Final."

Asked by station sports director Steve Burton if he would like to retire with the Red Sox, for whom he has played the last 11 years, Ortiz said, "Hey, I would like to. I'm having fun. It's been a hell of a ride as long as I've been here.

"But as I always keep on telling people, this is a business. Sometimes you've got to do what's best for you and your family.

"As long as they keep offering me a job and I keep doing what I'm supposed to do and the relationship keeps on building up, I'm going to be there. Hopefully, I won't have to go and wear another uniform."

Burton then asked what would happen if the team didn't offer him another long-term deal.

"Time to move on," he said.

Could he really envision himself in another uniform?

"I haven't seen it but if I have to, I've got no choice, I'm not going to quit. As long as I keep hitting the ball the way I have, I've got to keep on giving it a try."

Ortiz signed a four-year, $52 million contract prior to the 2007 season, with the club picking up his option in 2011 for $12.5 million. The club offered him salary arbitration prior to the 2012 season, and when the sides could not reach agreement on a two-year deal (the club's offer was reported to be for $18 million), Ortiz signed a one-year contract for $14.575 million.

The Red Sox slugger, who chafed at playing for a one-year deal and vowed not to repeat the experience, signed a two-year deal for $26 million last offseason that increased to $30 million after he did not appear on the disabled list for as many as 20 days. Since last season ended, he has expressed his desire in interviews for another extension, but Boston general manager Ben Cherington said the club had not yet entered negotiations and did not seem to consider it a matter of urgency.

Ortiz, who reached the 2,000-hit plateau last season, hit 30 home runs and drove in over 100 runs for the first time since 2010, saved his best work for the postseason. He hit a dramatic grand slam in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers that turned that series around, then hit .688 in the World Series, an average exceeded only by Billy Hatcher of the Reds (.750) in the 1990 Series (minimum seven hits).

Ortiz described 2013 as a "perfect season" to Burton. "The way everything started, the way everything finished, it was like a movie," he said.

Asked how many more years he wanted to play, he said, "I don't know. I have said in a couple of interviews before, I'm feeling good. This is not a career that is forever. As long as I'm having fun like I had, as long as I keep doing what I'm doing and I'm healthy, of course, I'm going to keep on giving it a try."

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 Posted: Mon Jan 27th, 2014 05:52 pm
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OXON HILL, Md. -- Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper says he wants to focus on the upcoming season, rather than dwell on his injuries last year.

Harper is working to rehabilitate his left knee from surgery last October.

Asked Saturday to talk about what he learned about himself during a year in which he was limited to 118 games, he said: "That I like hitting walk-off homers."

The 21-year-old hit his first one to end a 9-7 win over Pittsburgh on July 25. It was a bright spot for Harper and the Nationals in year where much more was expected of both.

"I don't really want to think about last year," the two-time All-Star said during the team's annual NatsFest.

"Everybody knows how I did last year and how I got hurt. I just want to focus on this year and focus on what I need to do to get better, what the rehab is, how to get better in spring with my knee, running, hitting and everything," he said.

Harper said he probably won't be at 100 percent when spring training opens.

"It's going well right now," he said. "Trying to get back to full strength. See where I can get by spring training and see if I can maybe go through spring training and get to 100 percent by the time the season starts."

"I sprinted for the first time three weeks ago," he said. "That was awesome. No pain. To run with no pain was a lot of fun. I haven't hit with no pain for about, I mean, a year."

Harper didn't provide details, but said he hadn't been 100 percent healthy even before his collisions with outfield walls on April 30 and May 13.

The run-ins eventually forced Harper out of the lineup for over a month with left knee bursitis. He finished with a .274 batting average, 20 homers and 58 RBIs.

The Nationals, picked by many to repeat as National League East champions, struggled for much of the season and were 60-64 on Aug. 19. They ended with a 26-12 run, but finished 10 games behind the Braves and missed the playoffs.

Monitoring Harper's progress in Florida will be one of new manager Matt Williams' priorities.

"I have the task of making sure he gets enough (at-bats) and we give him enough rest during the course of spring training so he'll be ready for opening day," Williams said. "So that said, it's kind of fluid at this point."

Hired in October to succeed Davey Johnson, Williams said he won't try to change Harper's aggressive style.

"He's going to run into walls, it's going to happen," Williams said. "Luckily, they're padded. I just hope he doesn't damage the stadium when he does."

"You can't take his aggressiveness away from him because he's always played that way. So what we need to do is maybe be a little bit smarter," he said. "Position him in a spot where he can get to a ball and he doesn't have to run into a wall, or maybe get him to the fence and let him find it to be able to make a play."

Harper said he's looking forward to playing for Williams.

"I think he's going to bring a spark to our team, the way he manages," Harper said. "He's going to take the bull by the horns and let us play, and he'll be fiery."

Pitcher Stephen Strasburg is aware of Williams' reputation.

"Everything I've heard from some of the guys that I live around, they say he's intense. I kind of get that feeling, but I think it's going to be a good thing for this club, so I'm excited to play for him," he said.

Strasburg, who underwent arthroscopic surgery in October to remove bone chips from his right elbow, indicated his recovery is on schedule.

"It's not considered rehab anymore," he said. "It's just like normal throwing, running, the normal routine I do every offseason."

The right-hander finished 8-9 with 3.00 ERA. He had trouble loosening up after his outing on Sept. 8 and eventually went 14 days before his next start.

"It wasn't so much when I'd go out there and pitch in a game," he said. "It was really the day after, trying to play catch and trying to throw a bullpen is where it became a little difficult trying to get my arm back and my elbow back and flexible because of these bodies in there."

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 Posted: Mon Jan 27th, 2014 05:55 pm
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the club will approach Yu Darvish about a contract extension "at the right time," adding however that they currently want the ace pitcher concerned only about preparing for the 2014 season.

"At some point, we'll sit down and talk with him just like we would on everybody," Daniels said this weekend at the team's Fan Fest at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. "He still has four years on his deal. I don't see a rush necessarily, but we'll address it at the right time.

"Right now, I'm focused on getting him in camp, getting him ready to make 33 starts this year."

Darvish's contract is a subject of conversation because of the seven-year, $155 million deal that fellow Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka signed with the New York Yankees last week.

Since Tanaka was posted under a new system, he got to negotiate with every team -- and only the team that ended up signing him had to pay $20 million to his Japanese team.

Darvish, who was posted after the 2011 season, received a six-year, $56 million contract (with $4 million added if he's healthy in the final few years of the deal) after the Rangers paid $51.7 million to his Japanese team. That gave the Rangers exclusive negotiating rights to sign the right-hander.

Tanaka, therefore, is making $99 million more in guaranteed money than Darvish, even though many scouts believe Tanaka does not possess as much upside as Darvish.

Darvish can opt out of the final year of his deal (2017) if he wins the Cy Young Award in the next three seasons or finishes in the top four of the voting in two of the next three seasons.

The 27-year-old Darvish was the American League Cy Young runner-up to Max Scherzer last season after going 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA and leading the majors with 277 strikeouts.

Daniels said he hopes that Darvish will use Tanaka's deal, just like the contracts that other top pitchers have received in recent seasons, as motivation.

"When you're at the top of your profession in any area, you're always kind of aware of what the guys in a similar category get," Daniels said. "We haven't talked to him about it."

Rangers manager Ron Washington announced on Saturday that Darvish would be the club's Opening Day starter, assuming he is healthy. Darvish had an injection at the end of the season to help calm some inflammation in his lower back.

The club is getting good reports on Darvish, who is going through his normal offseason routine in Japan.

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 Posted: Mon Jan 27th, 2014 05:57 pm
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MILWAUKEE (AP) While Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun doesn't think he can ever stop apologizing, he's also ready for a new chapter in his baseball career.

It's been a unique offseason for Braun, the 2011 NL MVP trying to make amends with fans and teammates following his 65-game suspension last year for violating Major League Baseball's anti-drug agreement.

''I don't ever know if I could apologize enough for what's occurred, you know? I just continue to move forward and obviously I'll be apologetic,'' Braun said Sunday morning before an appearance at Brewers On Deck, the team's annual offseason fan event.

Save for one heckler, Braun received a relatively warm welcome. At one point, he got a standing ovation when introduced on stage for a ''Hollywood Squares'' type game show.

''I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I can't. All I can do is move forward and make the best of the opportunities presented to me,'' Braun told reporters.

The event at a downtown Milwaukee convention center was Braun's first major public appearance since his admission last year that he took performance-enhancing drugs and accepted his suspension in late July, abandoning claims he was innocent.

Since then, Braun has kept in touch with management and teammates. He's made at least one low-key appearance for a charity, and spoke to the media the day before Thanksgiving at a food drive at Miller Park.

''I've been hanging out with him. It's all good. I think he's just ready to move on like we all are,'' catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.

Braun said he thinks he's called every suite holder and many season ticket holders, and he said it he had one ''really challenging conversation.''

It matters what people think, he said.

''I've always taken tremendous pride in being a role model. I made a huge mistake. I've paid a great price for that mistake,'' he said. ''I deeply regret it. I wish I could change it.''

Despite all that's happened, there were still a fair number of fans wearing No. 8 Braun jerseys on Sunday.

When asked his first question on the mock game show, a heckler from the audience yelled ''You know he's lying.''

Braun ignored the jab but played it off his next time up.

''As a fan so graciously pointed out, I've gotten in trouble in the past for not being completely forthcoming,'' Braun said.

Manager Ron Roenicke said it was important for Braun to build his relationship with fans the community, though getting back to the level of interaction and acceptance from before the suspension won't ''happen overnight.''

''He's served the penalty Major League Baseball has come up with, and hopefully that's beyond what we need to address now,'' Roenicke said.

Suspension aside, a thumb injury also limited Braun - part of a litany of injuries that hit the Brewers. Braun hit .298 with nine homers and 38 RBIs in 61 games, by far the worst production of his career.

That was in left field. This year, he's moving to right. The Brewers are realigning their outfield following the trade of Norichika Aoki to Kansas City and the emergence down the stretch of rookie Khris Davis in left.

Braun isn't worried about a drop-off in production.

''No, I think I'll be better than I've ever been. Very confident in that,'' he said.

The thumb feels good. Braun also got married in the offseason. Spring training starts in a less than a month, and he hasn't been this eager to get started since 2011.

Braun declined comment when asked about the 162-game suspension of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who is suing to get his punishment overturned. Braun said ''he hasn't really paid close attention to his situation.''

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 Posted: Tue Jan 28th, 2014 05:57 pm
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CLEVELAND -- Versatile free agent infielder Elliot Johnson has agreed to a minor league contract with the Indians that includes an invitation to big league spring training camp.

The 29-year-old split last season between Kansas City and Atlanta. He batted .261 with five doubles, two triples and 10 RBIs as the Braves regular second baseman over the final five weeks. He was claimed off waivers on Aug. 21.

Johnson started all four games for Atlanta in its playoff series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A switch-hitter, Johnson has played every infield position and 18 games in the outfield since beginning his career in Tampa Bay's system in 2002. He debuted with the Rays in 2008 and appeared in a career-high 123 games for Tampa in 2012.

He was traded to Kansas City along with right-hander James Shields before last season.

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