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2016 - 2017 MLB Off-Season  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Mon Nov 14th, 2016 02:11 pm
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lobo316



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The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly offered a three-year deal to left-handed reliever Brett Cecil, sources told Jamie Campbell of Sportsnet.

Selected in the first round of the 2007 draft by the Blue Jays, Cecil has spent his entire eight-year career in Toronto and said he's hopeful of re-signing.

An All-Star in 2013, Cecil was limited to 36 2/3 innings this season after suffering a torn lat muscle in mid-May that sidelined him for over a month. When he did pitch, Cecil fashioned a 3.93 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts.

While Cecil's season ERA was the worst he's posted since 2012, his first half was mostly to blame and he did finish strong. Over 25 appearances in the final two months of the season, the 30-year-old pitched to a 2.08 ERA and .175 opponent batting average.

In addition to the Blue Jays, the Seattle Mariners are also reportedly interested in signing Cecil.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 14th, 2016 02:12 pm
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lobo316



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Michael Fulmer took the baseball world by storm after getting his call to the big leagues at the end of last April, and even though he's primed to receive some attention as the favorite for American League Rookie of the Year, he still enjoys a simple blue-collar life in the offseason.

The 23-year-old hurler, who shattered a Detroit Tigers record for most consecutive innings pitched by a rookie without allowing a run, revealed in an exclusive interview with Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press he spends his offseason as a part-time plumber.

Fulmer works for Larry Wright, the uncle of a good friend, at Cyrus Wright Plumbing in Yukon, Okla. Fenech writes Fulmer initially got into plumbing after he helped out in a pinch, and he decided to come back after enjoying it.

"He called me, and I said, 'All right, we’ll see how it goes from here,'" Fulmer said of working for Wright. "And I’m still doing it, so it’s fun."

Wright described the work Fulmer does as no joke, having him dig six-foot ditches and change sewer lines.

"Generally, it’s hard," Wright explained. "When he’s working with me, he’s usually digging in or working on jackhammers. It’s pretty physical work, but he’s a great worker. He always wants to know more, he wants to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and he never complains."

During his rookie campaign with Detroit, Fulmer - a former first-round draft choice - finished 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 26 starts.

He'll contend with Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees and Tyler Naquin of the Cleveland Indians for the Rookie of the Year award, which is set to be announced Monday.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 14th, 2016 02:14 pm
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lobo316



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After a non-waiver trade deadline deal netted the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova from the New York Yankees, the 29-year-old went on to pitch remarkably well for the club which could end up earning him a multi-year contract.

Nova's agent Greg Genske told MLB Network Radio on Sunday his client could receive a 3-year, $36-million deal similar to the one the Toronto Blue Jays gave J.A. Happ last offseason.

"We have offers in that area," Genske said.

Both Nova and Happ turned around their careers after brief stints with the Pirates and renowned pitching coach Ray Searage.

In a thin free-agent market for starting pitching featuring Andrew Cashner, Doug Fister, Edinson Volquez, and potentially Jeremy Hellickson - if he turns down a qualifying offer from the Philadelphia Phillies - Nova could do well for himself and eclipse his $4.1 million salary from last season.

Over the course of his seven-year career, Nova owns a 58-41 record with a 4.30 ERA and 1.37 WHIP across 142 appearances, 129 of which have been starts.

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 Posted: Mon Nov 14th, 2016 02:14 pm
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lobo316



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If his general manager is to be believed, Gio Gonzalez can get comfortable in Washington.

Though the Nationals have a surplus of pitching and could potentially dangle Gonzalez to shore up other areas on their roster, general manager Mike Rizzo is adamant that the left-hander isn't going anywhere, and will be a key part of the team's rotation going forward.

"I would not describe him as expendable at all," Rizzo told Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. "To me, he's a reliable starter that takes the mound every five days, and those guys are worth their weight in gold."

Indeed, Gonzalez was a dependable arm for Dusty Baker in 2016, making 32 starts; among his teammates, only Max Scherzer (34) and Tanner Roark (33 starts, 34 appearances) took the mound more often last year. Despite his durability, however, the 31-year-old took a step back last year by posting a 4.57 ERA that was nearly a full run higher than his 2015 output, and his highest ERA in seven years. His ground ball rate also fell from 53.8 percent in 2015 to 47.6 percent.

Still, with a decent contract - Gonzalez's $12-million option for 2017 was exercised by the Nationals, and they own another one in 2018 - as well as a weak crop of free-agent pitchers, teams could have interest in the southpaw. For the Nationals, it's possible that a bevy of young starters including A.J. Cole, Joe Ross, and top prospect Lucas Giolito could eventually leave Gonzalez expendable.

Instead, Rizzo sees the crowded field of arms his team possesses - a field that includes Gonzalez - as a major area strength for his defending NL East champions heading into a pivotal 2017 season.

"We feel fortunate in the depth we have in pitching at the big league level and prospect wise," Rizzo said. "I know that every team we talk to would like to be in the same position we are as far as starting pitching goes."

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 Posted: Mon Nov 14th, 2016 09:45 pm
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lobo316



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Jeremy Hellickson has reportedly decided not to test free agency this winter, as the 29-year-old right-hander accepted the Philadelphia Phillies' one-year, $17.2-million qualifying offer hours before Monday's deadline, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

Hellickson, one of 10 players to receive a qualifying offer, rebounded with aplomb in 2016 following two rough seasons in a row, as the former AL Rookie of the Year crafted a 3.71 ERA (111 ERA+) with a 1.15 WHIP while matching his career high with 189 innings pitched. Only 20 starters compiled more WAR in 2016 than Hellickson (3.2), who also managed his best strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.42) since 2011, his first full season in the majors.

As such, despite his spotty track record and the draft-pick compensation attached to him, Hellickson was expected to test the market, with his agent, Scott Boras, telling reporters at last week's GM meetings that the pitching-thin free-agent class was "very advantageous" to him.

"He has a lot of components that tell you why he’s successful - his command, changeup, breaking ball - and that’s creating a lot of interest for a lot of teams," Boras said, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. "And in a free-agent marketplace short on starting pitching - it's very advantageous for him."

Boras continued: "Jeremy has worked his way back to really being a top-level pitcher for the last year and a half and the qualifying offer is evidence of that."

It appears, however, Hellickson wasn't comfortable with the degree to which the qualifying offer would've depressed his salary on the open market. So, for a second straight season, the soft-throwing veteran will anchor a rotation that isn't poised to feature another starter above the age of 27 in 2017. Had Hellickson rejected the qualifying offer and signed elsewhere, the Phillies would've received a compensatory pick in the 2017 MLB draft.

"We do have a nice volume of young pitching," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak told Matt Gelb of Philly.com last week. "Some of them are experienced in the big leagues, and some of them are going to pitch at Triple-A this coming year. But we have young starters in volume to get us through the year."

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 Posted: Tue Nov 15th, 2016 01:43 am
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lobo316



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Neil Walker is headed back to the Big Apple in 2017, as the second baseman has accepted the New York Mets' $17.2-million qualifying offer, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Walker confirmed the move on his Twitter account shortly after the 5 p.m. ET deadline.

Walker, who had been a free agent for the first time in his career, will now return to the Mets after a solid 2016 campaign that was cut short because of injury. The 31-year-old hit .282/.347/.476 and tied a career high with 23 homers over 113 games before a herniated disc in his back ended his season in September.

Now, he'll remain the starter at the keystone for the Mets, and, if healthy, will provide some much-needed infield stability for a team with other positions in flux. Midseason signing Jose Reyes will likely become a utility man who can play shortstop and spell both Walker and David Wright as needed; T.J. Rivera and Wilmer Flores will also likely play big roles in the middle infield combination.

Walker owns a career .273/.339/.436 slash line with 113 homers across eight big-league seasons with the Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Of the 10 free agents to be tendered qualifying offers this winter, only Walker and Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson accepted. He's just the fifth player ever to accept the offer.

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 Posted: Tue Nov 15th, 2016 01:44 am
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Last year, Dexter Fowler's free-agent odyssey ended in a surprising, complicated manner. This time, he's hoping to settle down in one place for awhile.

The outfielder, who officially became a free agent when he rejected the Chicago Cubs' $17.2-million qualifying offer Monday afternoon, is reportedly looking for a four-year contract from his next club, according to Bruce Levine of 670 The Score.

Fowler may very well get that term on the open market, even with draft-pick compensation attached to his name. He's coming off a career season for the World Series champion Cubs in which he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers and 13 stolen bases despite missing time due to a hamstring issue, and he's one of the better outfielders available in a thin free-agent market.

The 30-year-old was a free agent last year, but it didn't go according to plan. He was forced to wait until the start of spring training before finding a team, then surprisingly returned to the Cubs on a one-year contract shortly after an apparent multi-year deal with the Baltimore Orioles fell through.

Fowler has been previously linked with the New York Mets, among other teams.

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 Posted: Tue Nov 15th, 2016 01:45 am
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Jose Abreu has decided to take his chances in arbitration.

The slugger has chosen to opt out of the final three years of his contract with the Chicago White Sox, instead entering arbitration for the next three seasons, according to Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. He remains property of the White Sox through 2019.

By opting out, Abreu forfeited a guaranteed $34 million in salary from his original deal with the White Sox. That six-year, $68-million contract - which also included a $10-million signing bonus - would have paid him salaries of $10.5 million in 2017, $11.5 million in 2018, and $12 million in 2019, had he not gone the arbitration route.

Abreu signed his contract in October 2013 after defecting from Cuba several months prior. It was one of the largest free-agent deals ever handed out by the White Sox, and was also one of the biggest international free-agent contracts in baseball history.

Since arriving on the South Side, Abreu has turned into a feared right-handed slugger, and the linchpin of Chicago's lineup. The 29-year-old has hit at least 25 homers and 30 doubles, while driving in at least 100 runs in each of his first three big-league seasons. He's also been durable, playing over 150 games the past two years, including a career-high 159 in 2016.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year owns a career .299/.360/.515 line with 91 homers, 101 doubles, and 308 RBIs.

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 Posted: Wed Nov 16th, 2016 12:28 am
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lobo316



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Fifteen months after acquiring Matt Harrison from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels deal, the Philadelphia Phillies officially released the injury-plagued left-hander without him ever throwing a pitch for the organization.

Harrison has been limited to just 44 innings over the last four seasons due to back injuries, and hasn't appeared in a major-league game since July 27, 2015.

The 31-year-old is owed $13.2 million next season, and has a $13.25-million team option for 2018 that includes a $2-million buyout.

Harrison was part of a seven-player deal that also saw Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, and Jake Thompson go to the Phillies in exchange for Hamels and Jake Diekman.

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 Posted: Wed Nov 16th, 2016 12:32 am
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lobo316



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MIAMI - Free-agent slugger Yoenis Cespedes and Chicago White Sox star Jose Abreu are among the Major League Baseball figures on a U.S. witness list for an upcoming Cuban ballplayer smuggling trial.

Documents filed Monday in Miami federal court also list former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and several MLB executives as possible witnesses in the trial of South Florida sport agents Bartolo Hernandez and associate Julio Estrada.

Trial is set Jan. 3 for Hernandez and Estrada on charges of conspiracy and bringing immigrants into the U.S. illegally. Both men have pleaded not guilty. The players are not accused of wrongdoing.

A grand jury indictment says Cuban baseball players paid the smuggling ring more than $15 million to leave the communist-run island in secretive ventures that included surreptitious boat voyages.

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 Posted: Wed Nov 16th, 2016 01:44 pm
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lobo316 wrote: Fifteen months after acquiring Matt Harrison from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels deal, the Philadelphia Phillies officially released the injury-plagued left-hander without him ever throwing a pitch for the organization.

Harrison has been limited to just 44 innings over the last four seasons due to back injuries, and hasn't appeared in a major-league game since July 27, 2015.

The 31-year-old is owed $13.2 million next season, and has a $13.25-million team option for 2018 that includes a $2-million buyout.

Harrison was part of a seven-player deal that also saw Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff, and Jake Thompson go to the Phillies in exchange for Hamels and Jake Diekman.

The Phillies ended up getting payout relief because the insurance company agreed to pay a nice chunk of the buyout.



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 Posted: Wed Nov 16th, 2016 02:11 pm
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lobo316



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With trade speculation surrounding Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale continuing to intensify, at least some industry executives aren't convinced the 27-year-old left-hander will be dealt this winter.

One rival exec recently downplayed the likelihood of a trade, suggesting the White Sox would only move the five-time All-Star for an unrealistic, exorbitant return, according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

"They're willing but only if they totally win the deal, which won't happen,” the executive said.

Still, they're going to get plenty of offers. Sale, who finished in the top-six in American League Cy Young voting in four of the past five seasons, will make a maximum of $38 million over the next three years (assuming his team options for 2018 and 2019 are exercised), and, according to various reports, has already drawn interest from the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, and Texas Rangers.

For the White Sox, though, moving Sale would indicate a full-on rebuild, and it's not clear whether general manager Rick Hahn wants to do that. As he discussed his offseason strategy with reporters last week, Hahn didn't say he was rebuilding, but did emphasize the club won't be targeting short-term upgrades this winter as they have the previous couple seasons.

"A lot of what we did in the last few years had been trying to enhance the short-term potential of the club to put ourselves in a position to win immediately," Hahn said, according to Dan Hayes of CSNChicago. "I feel the approach at this point is focusing on longer-term benefits. It doesn't mean we won’t necessarily be in a good position in 2017. It means that our targets and whatever we're hoping to accomplish have a little more longer-term fits in nature."

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 Posted: Wed Nov 16th, 2016 02:11 pm
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With the Houston Astros expected to be busy this offseason, general manager Jeff Luhnow confirmed Tuesday he could be on the cusp of making moves.

When asked about his slow start to free agency, Luhnow said, "We’re hoping to light a match to it at some point here in the next week or so," according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.

"We are in our competitive window. We are going to be competing for the division title I hope every year for next five years."

The Astros' payroll has remained below the $100-million mark since 2009 as the team built from the bottom up. Now following back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2005-06, the organization wants to be buyers.

"The reality is, we need to add somebody to our lineup," Luhnow told Jon Morosi of FOX Sports last week. "We're losing a couple good players through free agency. We've got the wherewithal with the prospects and money to potentially add an impact piece. We're certainly going to be looking at it."

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 Posted: Wed Nov 16th, 2016 09:45 pm
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The Los Angeles Dodgers have been in contact with the Detroit Tigers regarding a possible trade involving second baseman Ian Kinsler, sources told Jon Morosi of MLB Network.

Kinsler is coming off another strong season, hitting .288/.348/.484 with 28 home runs, 29 doubles, and 83 RBIs in 153 games while also claiming the first Gold Glove of his 11-year career. He's owed $11 million in 2017, with a $12-million team option in 2018.

The prospect-rich Dodgers need a second baseman after Chase Utley departed via free agency, and the right-handed-hitting Kinsler certainly fits the bill. Morosi noted the Tigers have interest in Dodgers prospect Cody Bellinger, who hit .263/.359/.484 with 23 home runs in Double-A last season.

Detroit appears to be in the beginning stages of a rebuild. General manager Al Avila has been blunt about his desire to cut payroll, and anticipates trading some of the club's veterans.

The Tigers have reportedly already had discussions with the San Francisco Giants about outfielder J.D. Martinez, while it's also believed Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera could be dangled in trade talks.

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 Posted: Thu Nov 17th, 2016 02:06 pm
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The Chicago Cubs have a lot planned for the 2017 season.

Along with trying to defend their World Series title, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said the organization plans to reach out to Steve Bartman.

"I’m sure we’ll reach out to him at the right time," Ricketts told USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale, "and I’m sure we’ll figure something out that provides closure for everybody. Hopefully, we can make it work."

Bartman was infamously blamed for prolonging the club's curse after he extended his arm to catch a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.

Ricketts isn't worried about what used to be, and just wants to look forward.

"I never focused on ghosts or curses or Bartmans or any of that stuff," he said. "It’s always been about needing a better team on the field. We wanted to eventually get to that point where we can pick out rings, like we did (Tuesday), and here we are."

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