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MLB off season thread  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Thu Jan 30th, 2014 02:46 am
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NEW YORK (AP) Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Christopher O'Hare has been suspended for the first 50 games of the season for a second positive test for a drug of abuse under baseball's minor league drug program.

A 23-year-old left-hander, O'Hare was selected out of Fisher College in the 23rd round of last June's amateur draft. He was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA in five innings over five relief appearances for the Gulf Coast League Phillies, Clearwater of the Class A Florida State League and Lakewood of the Class A South-Atlantic League.

O'Hare is on Lakewood's roster.

There have been 10 suspensions this year under the minor league program.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 30th, 2014 06:48 pm
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HOUSTON (AP) Six-time All-Star Lance Berkman is retiring after 15 seasons in the major leagues.

Berkman almost left the game last offseason before signing with the Texas Rangers. He then had another injury-plagued season and was limited to 73 games.

The 37-year-old Berkman was Houston's first-round draft pick in 1997 out of Rice, and played 12 seasons for the Astros. He played 1,879 career games, all but 287 for Houston, finishing a .293 career hitter with 366 home runs and 1,234 RBIs.

''Lance was one of the greatest players in Astros history,'' his original team said in a release Wednesday night.

The Astros said they hope to honor Berkman during the upcoming season and ''give the fans the chance to recognize his outstanding career.''

He finished the 2010 season with the New York Yankees before two years in St. Louis, where he was part of the 2011 World Series champions.

''Just physically I've gotten to the point where I don't feel like I can compete at a level that I'm used to competing at,'' Berkman told KRIV-TV of Houston. ''I could probably still drag my carcass out there, but I'm not interested in doing that. ... I don't want to hang on just to hang on.''

Berkman said he was excited about retiring.

The Rangers declined their $12 million contract option for 2014 last October, which got Berkman a $1 million buyout. He hit .242 with six homers and 34 RBIs for the Rangers.

He went on the disabled list July 7 with a left inflammation and a sore right knee, and played only five games after coming back the final month of the season.

The six-time All-Star played only 32 games for St. Louis in 2012, when he dealt with a strained left calf and had two operations on his right knee. He hit .301 in 2011 for the Cardinals, who won the World Series that season over Texas.

Berkman had said last winter that he had gone into that offseason feeling like he was going to retire then. But he responded to the Rangers, and made $10 million last season.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 30th, 2014 06:49 pm
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ST. LOUIS (AP) The Cardinals and infielder Daniel Descalso avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $1.29 million, one-year contract, the midpoint between the $1.65 million he had asked for and the $930,000 St. Louis had offered.

St. Louis settled with all three arbitration-eligible players, agreeing earlier this month with outfielders Peter Bourjos and Jon Jay.

The 27-year-old set career bests with five home runs, 42 RBIs, 25 doubles and 43 runs scored last season, when he appeared in 123 games and made $511,000. Descalso and Jamey Carroll are the only players in the majors to have made 90 appearances at third base, second base and shortstop the last three seasons.

The non-guaranteed contract includes a $10,000 performance bonus for 250 plate appearances.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 30th, 2014 06:50 pm
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CINCINNATI (AP) Infielder Ramon Santiago has agreed to a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds after 12 seasons with the Detroit Tigers.

The 34-year-old hit .224 with one homer and 14 RBIs in 80 games last season. Santiago started 30 games at second base, seven at third and 19 at shortstop.

Santiago is a career .243 hitter with 28 homers and 197 RBIs.

Cincinnati, which announced the agreement Wednesday, invited Santiago to major league spring training camp next month.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 30th, 2014 06:51 pm
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) The Texas Rangers have been awarded left-hander Pedro Figueroa on a waiver claim from Tampa Bay.

Figueroa made 24 relief appearances over two seasons for the A's. He allowed four runs in three innings last season. He spent most of the year with Triple-A Sacramento.

The Rays waived Figueroa to make room for free agent closer Grant Balfour. Tampa Bay had acquired the 28-year-old Figueroa on waivers from Oakland.

The Rangers made room for Figueroa on the 40-man roster by designating right-hander Chaz Roe for assignment. The Rangers picked up Roe on waivers from Arizona. They have 10 days to trade, release or outright the 27-year-old Roe to the minor leagues.

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 Posted: Thu Jan 30th, 2014 06:54 pm
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David Ortiz said Wednesday that he and his representatives have had discussions with Red Sox management about adding a one-year extension for the 2015 season to this contract.

Earlier this week, Ortiz made some waves by saying in a TV interview that if the team did not offer him another long-term deal, it was "time to move on."

"We're good. We're good. We talked, they're talking and I just asked for one year," Ortiz said on a WEEI.com podcast, reiterating comments he made in December at his charity golf tournament. "I didn't ask for anything crazy. It wasn't like I asked for a five-year deal. It's a one-year extension I asked for.

"Everything is going well. We had a great conversation. They are happy about what we talked about."

In an interview that aired on Boston CBS4 on Sunday night, Ortiz said he would like to retire with the Red Sox, but was asked what would happen if the team didn't offer him another long-term deal.

"Time to move on," he said.

In reference to that comment, Ortiz said Wednesday that he was responding to a hypothetical in which the team showed no interest in retaining him.

"I heard a comment the other day that came through the news about me saying that I'm going to go somewhere else. People sometimes take the wrong message. I was asked if the Red Sox don't want to offer me an extension, then what am I going to do? I'm not going to retire. I'll go somewhere else," Ortiz said. "Whoever offers me a contract, that's where I'm going to be. It's not a secret from no one that I want to be part of this organization. This is where I want to play. But it's a business."

Ortiz said he would like an extension so he can focus on this season without worrying about questions on his contract status.

"I don't want to have contract talk with all of you every day," he said. "It distracts me, it's something that gets me thinking, and all I want to do through the season is just make sure I get the job done, make sure that I do what I do best without having to worry about anything else."

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 Posted: Fri Jan 31st, 2014 06:31 pm
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Longtime Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young will announce his retirement Friday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the team announced.

Reports surfaced the past few weeks that Young was contemplating whether to play another season, likely in a backup role, or stepping away from the game to spend more time with his family.

Young, who still has a home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, split the 2013 season between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .279 in 147 games.

But Young's legacy was built in Texas and he will retire a Ranger. He played 13 seasons and 1,873 career games with the organization, appearing in two World Series and wound up in 43 postseason games despite not playing in one at all until 2010.

"The Texas Rangers want to congratulate Michael Young on his outstanding major league career. For 12 seasons in a Rangers uniform, he was a standout performer on the field and the consummate role model in the community," the Rangers said in a statement.

"Michael is a leader, and he demonstrated those skills every day of the season, year in and year out. We are proud to say that Michael Young is this franchise's all-time leader in games, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, and total bases. He excelled at multiple positions and came through in the clutch."

Young finishes his career with a .300 batting average and a .441 slugging percentage. He won a batting title in 2005 with Texas and was named to seven All-Star teams. He finished in the top-10 of the MVP voting twice (eighth in 2004 and 2011) and won a Gold Glove at shortstop in 2008.

Young was a durable player, never ending up on the disabled list and averaging 155 games per season in his 12 full seasons. The most action he missed during a season was 30 games (in large part because of a hamstring issue) in 2009. And he moved all around the infield, breaking in with Texas as a second baseman and then moving to shortstop when the club traded for Alfonso Soriano in 2004. He shifted to third base to allow Elvis Andrus to jump up from Double-A and play at shortstop every day in 2009. He then moved into a designated hitter and "super utility" role with the Rangers when Adrian Beltre signed a five-year deal prior to the 2011 season.

"(He's) one of the greatest Rangers of all time," said former teammate Mark Teixeira. "A guy who may not have gotten the hype that some players do in Major League Baseball, but inside the game with his colleagues, he was as well respected as anyone in the game."

Young came to Texas as part of a three-player deal with the Blue Jays for pitcher Esteban Loaiza in 2000. Young made his big league debut late that same season and then was a part of the Rangers' lineup for good in late May of 2001.

Young made the decision to waive his no-trade clause and approve a deal in December 2012 to the Phillies when it was clear his role was going to be further reduced with other young players needing time in the lineup.

Young was a consistent hitter, belting out more than 200 hits in six of his 12 full seasons in the big leagues, including five straight campaigns from 2003 to 2007.

FoxSports.com was first to report that Young was retiring.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 31st, 2014 06:32 pm
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Left-hander Bruce Chen got his wish Thursday, agreeing to a $4.25 million, one-year contract to return to the Kansas City Royals, where he's spent the past five seasons.

Chen became a free agent after last season, but he made it clear that he wanted to return to the Royals. He'll do so on a deal that pays $3.25 million this season with a mutual option at $5.5 million for 2015 with a $1 million buyout. The deal is subject to a physical, likely to take place Saturday.

He'll also be eligible for performance bonuses this season of $125,000 for each start from 16 through 25, a sign the Royals may view him primarily as a long-reliever with the ability to step in as a spot starter in the case of injuries or ineffectiveness.

That's similar to the role Chen had last season, arguably the best of his 15-year career. He went 9-4 with a 3.27 ERA while making 15 starts and 19 appearances out of the bullpen.

One of the most popular players in the clubhouse, the 36-year-old Chen has seemingly gotten better with age. He won 35 games for the Royals from 2010 to 2012, when he was almost exclusively a starter, then helped stabilize the rotation the last 2½ months of last season.

Chen's been successful despite a fastball that rarely breaks 85 mph. He instead relies on a beguiling mix of sliders, curveballs and cutters, and he often jokes about his lack of velocity.

The front end of the Royals' rotation is set with James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and recently signed Jason Vargas. Talented left-hander Danny Duffy, who came back from Tommy John surgery last season, is in line for one of the remaining spots, leaving the fifth job up for grabs.

Hard-throwing youngster Yordano Ventura pitched well during a September call-up and is widely expected to join the rotation at some point this season. It's possible that Chen could serve as a stopgap out of spring training if Ventura isn't ready to step into the rotation.

Former starter Luke Hochevar, who flourished in the bullpen last season, and Wade Davis, who has also been much better as a reliever than a starter, could also compete for the job.

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 Posted: Fri Jan 31st, 2014 06:33 pm
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins have released left-hander Andrew Albers, allowing him to sign with a South Korean team.

The Twins announced Thursday the 28-year-old Albers cleared waivers. He will join the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization.

Albers went 2-5 with a 4.05 ERA in 10 starts for the Twins last season, throwing 8 1-3 scoreless innings in his major league debut Aug. 6 at Kansas City to set a team record. But with Kevin Correia, Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey set as starters, there's only one spot open.

Albers received the organization's minor league pitcher of the year award after going 11-5 with a 2.86 ERA for Triple-A Rochester. He had 32 walks and 116 strikeouts in 132 1-3 innings.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 1st, 2014 03:12 am
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Royals have agreed to terms with reliever Aaron Crow on a $1.475 million, one-year deal that leaves Greg Holland as their only unsigned arbitration-eligible player.

The deal includes a $50,000 bonus if Crow is an All-Star, which he was in 2011. Crow had asked for $1.7 million and the Royals offered the same $1.28 million he made last year.

Crow went 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 57 games last season. The former first-round pick is 14-10 with a 3.19 ERA in his three-year career.

Holland, coming off his first All-Star appearance, asked for $5.2 million and the Royals offered $4.1 million. He made $539,000 last year, when he was 2-1 with a 1.21 ERA and 47 saves. Arbitration hearings begin this weekend and run through Feb. 21.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 1st, 2014 03:13 am
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MIAMI -- Outfielder Reed Johnson has signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins and received an invitation to spring training.

Johnson is an 11-year veteran and a .282 career hitter. Last season he batted .244 in 74 games for the Atlanta Braves.

The Marlins said Friday they have 26 non-roster invitees to spring training, which begins Feb. 16.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 1st, 2014 03:17 am
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NEW YORK (AP) A minor league pitcher in the Miami Marlins' organization has been given a 50-game drug suspension.

The commissioner's office said Friday that right-hander Ronny Fermin had been penalized. Fermin is on the roster of the Marlins team in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Fermin was banned after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the minor league drug program.

There have been 11 suspensions this year under the minor league program.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 1st, 2014 05:14 am
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Free-agent pitcher Jason Hammel agreed to a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs worth $6 million on Friday, according to multiple reports.

Hammel, 31, is 49-59 with a 4.80 ERA over eight seasons in the major leagues. He's pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Colorado Rockies and most recently the Baltimore Orioles. He went 7-8 with a 4.97 ERA last season in 23 starts. He missed time in 2013 with a strained forearm and had knee surgery in 2012.

Hammel has 158 starts among his 215 big league appearances. He figures to start spring training in the mix for the Cubs' fourth or fifth starter behind Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta.

The agreement was first reported by Fox Sports. The Cubs have not made an official announcement.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 1st, 2014 05:15 am
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The Detroit Tigers avoided arbitration with Alex Avila on Friday as the catcher agreed to a one-year, $4.35 million deal, sources said.

The deal has a $5.4 million option for 2015, which triggers if Avila is selected to the All-Star team or makes the top 10 in MVP or Silver Slugger voting in 2014.

Avila hit .227 in 102 games last year for Detroit, his worst hitting performance since his first full season in 2010.

The 27-year-old Avila had just five hits in 11 postseason games last season.

He was an All-Star and Silver Slugger in 2011. He led the American League in runners caught stealing in 2011 and '12.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 1st, 2014 05:16 am
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NEW YORK (AP) The New York Mets have signed infielder-outfielder Matt Clark, a season after he hit 25 home runs while playing in Japan.

The Mets said Friday that they had signed the 27-year-old infielder and outfielder to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training.

Clark hit .238 with 70 RBIs in 132 games for the Chunichi Dragons last year.

Clark was drafted by San Diego in 2008. He hit 102 home runs in five minor league seasons before going to Japan. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed.

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