MLB Rumor Central: Jonathan Villar not interested in extension?

February, 23, 2017
Feb 23
3:55
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Jonathan VillarAP Photo/Benny SieuJonathan Villar broke out for the Brewers in 2016, leading the majors with 62 stolen bases.

Coming off a breakout 2016 season for the Milwaukee Brewers, Jonathan Villar doesn't appear to be interested in an extension just yet.

The Brewers approached the 25-year-old with an extension offer in the $20 million range, but he passed on it, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports notes in his latest column.

Villar isn't eligible for arbitration until 2018, so it isn't a big surprise if he isn't looking to secure an extension at this time. The infielder -- who will be moving to second base after primarily splitting time at shortstop and third base last season -- hit .285 with 19 homers, 63 RBIs and a league-leading 62 stolen bases in 2016.

- Kyle Brasseur

MLB Rumor Central: Rangers, Rougned Odor in extension talks?

February, 23, 2017
Feb 23
11:25
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Troy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsRougned Odor hit 33 homers with 88 RBI for the Rangers last season.

The Texas Rangers are negotiating a long-term contract with second baseman Rougned Odor and are using the six-year deal Jason Kipnis received with the Cleveland Indians in 2014 as a benchmark, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

Heyman hears the Rangers have offered a deal that is similar to the six-year, $52.5 million contract Kipnis received from the Tribe prior to reaching arbitration. Kipnis and Odor are both represented by the Beverly Sports Council, which explains the mode of comparison.

The 23-year-old Odor, who is still a year away from arbitration eligibility, had a huge season in 2016 with a .798 OPS and 33 homers.

The Rangers and Odor reportedly had extension talks last year but were unable to reach a deal.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Wandy Peralta in Reds' bullpen mix?

February, 23, 2017
Feb 23
10:50
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Wandy PeraltaAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarWandy Peralta struggled in a September call-up but has been impressive this spring.

The Cincinnati Reds have yet to play a Cactus League game, but left-hander Wandy Peralta may already be making a case for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Reds manager Bryan Price has signaled out Peralta's performance following a couple of bullpen sessions in Arizona. "I don't know if there is anyone who has impressed me more than Wandy Peralta, as far as his bullpen quality, his pitch quality," Price told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.

Price is looking for a situational left-hander in a bullpen that currently lists Tony Cingrani as its only southpaw. One possibility is the 25-year-old Peralta, who struggled as a September call-up with an 8.59 ERA in 7 1/3 innings.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Peralta split last season between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville, posting a combined 2.50 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Angels in no rush to name a first baseman

February, 23, 2017
Feb 23
10:30
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Luis ValbuenaScott Halleran/Getty ImagesLuis Valbuena will compete for the Angels' first-base job after two seasons in Houston.

The Los Angeles Angels' brain trust may very well wait until Opening Day before deciding on a starting first baseman.

Free agent Luis Valbuena was signed to a two-year, $15 million contract over the winter and will compete for playing time with incumbent C.J. Cron.

"It's not something that we have to decide until the very end," general manager Billy Eppler told MLB.com's Maria Guardado. "I'm very pragmatic with decisions. I like to wait until the 11th hour all the time, so we'll just see how it goes."

Eppler says Jefry Marte and prospect Matt Thaiss also will play some first base in Cactus League play.

The 31-year-old Valbuena had a .260/.357/.459 slash line for the Astros in 2016, but his season was cut short in July by a hamstring injury. The 27-year-old Cron posted a .278/.325/.467 slash line for the Angels last year.

The health of designated hitter Albert Pujols, who underwent offseason foot injury, plays into the Angels' first-base plans. If Pujols misses any time, Guardado reports Cron would likely slide into the DH spot.

- Doug Mittler

Carlos Gonzalez Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesA three-time All-Star, Carlos Gonzalez has six seasons of 20 or more homers.

Carlos Gonzalez has made no secret of his willingness to sign a contract extension, but the three-time All-Star feels the Colorado Rockies are in no rush to complete a long-term deal.

"The team needs to approach us if they want it to happen. I've got one year left on my contract, and there's no conversation right now," Gonzalez told Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post.

There are two sides to every story, and general manager Jeff Bridich told ESPN’s Jim Bowden earlier this year that he was hoping to extend the veteran outfielder. That remains possible, but CarGo’s comments, at the very least, represent a desire to pick up the pace.

After five straight losing seasons, the Rockies have hopes of being a legitimate playoff contender. A central figure in that revival figures to be Gonzalez, who had a bounce-back season in 2016 with a .298/.350/.505 slash line and 100 RBIs.

The 31-year-old Gonzalez is in the final season of a seven-year contract that will pay him $20 million in 2017.

There is still plenty of time to work out a deal, but the Rockies may have bought some insurance by signing free agent Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal over the winter. Desmond will play first base this season but could be moved back to the outfield if Gonzalez were to depart via free agency.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Bold pitching experiment in San Diego?

February, 22, 2017
Feb 22
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Andy GreenAP Photo/Charlie RiedelPadres manager Andy Green may have found a way to employ a large crop of rotation candidates.

With close to a dozen pitchers competing for rotation spots, the San Diego Padres are considering some unconventional options as to how they will employ their starting pitchers.

AJ Cassavell of MLB.com reports the Padres might have a starting pitcher go just once through an opposing lineup before going to a reliever, preferably one who throws with a different hand. "The goal is simple: to quickly negate any matchup advantages in the opposing lineup, or at least force the opposing manager to go to his bench earlier than usual," Cassavell writes.

Manager Andy Green gave no specifics as to if and when he would employ the tactic, but did not dismiss it either, telling Cassavell: "It's well within intelligent thinking to say, you know what, let's flip this and take advantage of it."

If any team were to try this experiment, it might as well be the Padres, who have plenty of moving parts in their rotation and few with established roles. Green is choosing from a group of starters that includes, among others, Trevor Cahill, Jhoulys Chacin, Jarred Cosart, Christian Friedrich, Luis Perdomo and Clayton Richard.

The Padres also are not viewed as realistic playoff contenders, making it easier to experiment outside the pressure and increased attention of a pennant race.

-- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Will Nationals deal Derek Norris?

February, 22, 2017
Feb 22
10:18
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Derek NorrisJustin K. Aller/Getty ImagesDerek Norris has started 229 games behind the plate for the Padres over the last two seasons.

Give Dusty Baker credit for being honest. The Washington Nationals manager all but conceded the club was shopping catcher Derek Norris after agreeing to a two-year deal with free agent Matt Wieters on Tuesday.

"There's always somebody out there that needs a front-line catcher," Baker told reporters, including Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post.

The Nationals acquired Norris from the San Diego Padres in December but feel they have found an upgrade in Wieters, a four-time All-Star who is coming off a down season with the Baltimore Orioles. The 28-year-old Norris hit just .186/.255/.328 last year but is a proven starter and a viable option for a team looking for a No. 1 catcher without a long-term commitment. Norris will make $4.2 million in 2017 before being eligible for free agency.

The Nats are still undecided on a closer, so the most obvious trade partner is the rebuilding Chicago White Sox, who are open to shopping David Robertson and need a starting catcher. According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, "a team that has been talking with the White Sox says they've been waiting for the Nats to sign Matt Wieters to rekindle David Robertson trade talks."

The Nats could deal Norris or prospect Pedro Severino, who spent most of last season at Triple-A Syracuse and hit .321 in 28 at-bats for Washington. ESPN's Eddie Matz hears the White Sox are rumored to be "bullish" on Severino.

Castillo cautions the Nationals do not automatically have to trade Norris since he and Severino have minor-league options remaining. Jose Lobaton, another backup, does not have options left and could be a trade candidate as well.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Multiple leadoff options for Mets?

February, 21, 2017
Feb 21
10:45
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Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, New York MetsBill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsCurtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are all candidates to see at-bats in a leadoff role for the Mets.

The New York Mets' roster is stacked with plenty of hitters, but who's the best option in the leadoff spot? Veteran infielder Jose Reyes will most likely fill the role for New York when he's in the lineup, but he's no longer the everyday player he once was.

Manager Terry Collins has plenty of time to evaluate his options during spring training. Collins tells Mike Puma of the New York Post that Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera are his three primary considerations for the leadoff role for when Reyes doesn't start.

Granderson seems like the most logical choice. The 35 year old has over 3,400 leadoff at-bats with a .260 BA, .340 OBP and 141 HR for his career. However, the veteran outfielder went through a slump at the No. 1 spot in the first half of last season before being moved to the middle of the lineup.

Walker and Cabrera both have minimal experience (eight AB and 315 AB, respectively) at the leadoff spot compared to Granderson, but both are open to the idea, according to Puma.

--Paul Saldana

MLB Rumor Central: Comeback attempt for Eric Gagne?

February, 21, 2017
Feb 21
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Eric GagneJon Soohoo/WireImageEric Gagne saved 55 games for the Dodgers in 2003 and was the NL Cy Young Award winner.

Eric Gagne is on Team Canada for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Could the former Cy Young winner be pitching for another club in 2017?

The 41-year-old Gagne, who is serving as a pitching instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers this week, told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick that he is considering a comeback.

An Arizona resident, Gagne says he has had throwing sessions with the Padres and D-backs. Though he has not pitched in the majors in almost a decade, Gagne boasts he is throwing his fastball in the 90s and has control of his trademark changeup. "I feel great. It's almost scary," he said.

It remains to be seen if any team would have interest in Gagne, even if he pitches well in the WBC. Gagne has 187 career saves, including 55 in 2003 when he won the Cy Young with the Dodgers, but his production declined rapidly later in his career. He finished his career with the Brewers in 2008, posting a 5.44 ERA and a 1.468 WHIP.

-- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Braves interested in Kelly Johnson encore?

February, 21, 2017
Feb 21
10:50
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Kelly JohnsonMike Zarrilli/Getty ImagesKelly Johnson tied for the major league lead with four pinch-hit homers last season.

The Atlanta Braves may be open to another reunion with utility man Kelly Johnson.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports tweets the Braves are among the teams interested in Johnson, who is still looking for a major league contract.

Johnson, who turns 35 on Wednesday, already has three separate stints with the Braves and has signed free-agent deals with Atlanta each of the past two years. The Texas native was traded to the New York Mets each of the past two summers.

David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last month that the Braves might add a bench player, and one of the possibilities was Johnson.

Johnson posted a combined .247/.306/.391 slash line in 131 games last season and tied for the major league lead with four pinch-hit homers.

-- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Some first-base duty for J.T. Realmuto?

February, 21, 2017
Feb 21
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J.T. Realmuto, Don Mattingly, Martin PradoStephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThe Marlins are looking at ways to keep J.T. Realmuto's potent bat in the lineup.

J.T. Realmuto could see some time at first base this season while remaining the primary catcher for the Miami Marlins.

Tim Healey of the Sun Sentinel reports Realmuto is doing extra work with infield coach Perry Hill, while outfielders Matt den Dekker and Brandon Barnes also are getting some reps at first base.

The number of at-bats will be limited since the Marlins no longer view Justin Bour as a platoon player and will give him the chance to be a regular at first base.

Realmuto had a breakout season with a .303/.343/.428 slash line in 2016, and the Marlins would like to keep his bat in the lineup on the days he is not catching. One option would be an occasional game at first base, a position he has never played in the big leagues. He started once at first in the minors back in 2012.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Joey Rickard on shaky ground in Baltimore?

February, 21, 2017
Feb 21
9:30
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Joey RickardAP Photo/Tony GutierrezJoey Rickard hit .268/.319/.377 last season and was the Orioles' Opening Day left fielder.

Joey Rickard could be the odd man out on the Baltimore Orioles' roster following Monday's signing of Michael Bourn to a minor league deal.

While Bourn may no longer be an everyday player, the 34-year-old should make the Orioles' Opening Day roster "with little trouble," writes Dan Connolly of Baltimorebaseball.com. An 11-year veteran, Bourn hit .264 with five homers, 38 RBIs and 15 stolen bases with the Orioles and Diamondbacks last season.

Rickard, Baltimore's Opening Day left fielder in 2016, now faces stiff competition in a crowded outfield that also includes Craig Gentry, who agreed to a minor league deal over the weekend.

Connolly suggests Hyun Soo Kim, Adam Jones, Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo have made the team, leaving one or two outfield spots on the 25-man roster. The club might also look to keep one of its two Rule 5 outfielders -- Aneury Tavarez or Anthony Santander.

The 25-year-old Rickard hit .268/.319/.377 in 85 games as a rookie last season. He has minor league options remaining and is coming off a thumb injury, adding to the likelihood he will begin the season in Triple-A.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Who will be the Nats' closer?

February, 20, 2017
Feb 20
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Shawn KelleyGary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsVeteran Shawn Kelley is one of three pitchers in the running for the Nationals' closer vacancy.

The Washington Nationals failed to land a high-profile closer during the offseason and are now considering their internal options.

In an appearance on Jim Bowden's Sirius XM radio show, GM Mike Rizzo said the Nats haven't had trade talks for a closer in "quite some time" and believe they can have someone emerge in spring training.

Shawn Kelley, Blake Treinen and Koda Glover are all options to be Washington's ninth-inning man, according to Rizzo.

An eight-year veteran, Kelley has 11 career saves, seven of which came last season. The 32-year-old posted a 2.64 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 2016, striking out a career-high 80 batters over 58 innings while recording 14 holds.

Treinen, 28, recorded the first save of his career in 2016. He finished last season with a 2.28 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 22 holds.

Glover recorded a 5.03 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 19 appearances in the majors last year.

-- Alex Tekip

MLB Rumor Central: Giants to open with five outfielders?

February, 20, 2017
Feb 20
2:40
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Denard SpanJohn Hefti-USA TODAY SportsThe San Francisco Giants will likely deviate from their usual strategy and carry five outfielders to start the season.

With aging outfielders like Denard Span and Hunter Pence to account for, it appears San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy will be taking a different approach with his roster this year.

According to Chris Haft of MLB.com, Bochy told reporters on Sunday that he is "leaning toward" starting the season with five outfielders instead of adding extra pitchers like he's done in the past.

Though Span, 32, and Pence, 33, each played more than 100 games last season, both have dealt with injuries and have missed significant time over the past two seasons.

In 106 games last season, Pence batted .289 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs. In 146 games, Span hit .266 with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs.

Mac Williamson, Jarrett Parker and Gorkys Hernandez are among the top options to fill out the outfield rotation.

--Isaac Chipps

MLB Rumor Central: Eric Hosmer, Royals discussing extension?

February, 20, 2017
Feb 20
2:25
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Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images Eric Hosmer has spent his entire career with the Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer says that he, his agent, Scott Boras, and the team are discussing an extension, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports.

According to Rosenthal, Hosmer indicated that he'll test the free-agent market if a deal with the Royals isn't in place by Opening Day.

“I don’t know if it’s going to heat up now in spring training,” Hosmer said. “But during the season, I don’t like being bothered with that stuff. If something doesn’t happen here, I don’t see anything during the season really happening.”

The 27-year-old is one of four key Royals set to reach free agency at the end of the 2017 season. The others are third baseman Mike Moustakas, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and shortstop Alcides Escobar. Moustakas and Cain aren't in extension talks at the moment, and Escobar isn't a high priority, Rosenthal writes.

Rosenthal reports that the Royals are anticipating Hosmer to aim for a 10-year-deal, "knowing that a number of high-revenue clubs ... could seek a first baseman next offseason." He mentions the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies as examples.

Picked third overall in the 2008 draft, Hosmer has spent his entire career with the Royals, slashing .277/.335/.428 with 102 home runs and 472 RBIs in six major league seasons. The three-time Gold Glove-winner was named an All-Star last season and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2011.

-- Alex Tekip

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