The Cubs have agreed to a contract extension with right-hander Pedro Strop, per ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers. The new deal will run through the 2018 campaign and comes with a club option for the 2019 season. That buys out one year of free agency for Strop, who was set to hit the open market next winter, and gives Chicago an option over what would’ve been his second free-agent season.
Matt Wieters’ lengthy stay on the free-agent market has formally come to a close, as the Nationals announced on Friday that they’ve signed the four-time American League All-Star. Wieters, a client of the Boras Corporation, receives a two-year guarantee that allows him to opt out of the contract after the first season. He’ll reportedly be guaranteed a total of $21MM, with $10.5MM coming in each year of the deal (though $5MM of that sum is reportedly deferred to 2021). To make room for Wieters on the 40-man roster, the Nationals placed minor league first baseman Jose Marmolejos on the 60-day disabled list with a left forearm strain. Wieters is the top remaining player on MLBTR’s pre-offseason top fifty list; he checked in at 16th. Though the Nats are already well-stocked with catching options, the switch-hitting Wieters now stands to receive the bulk of the duties behind the dish. He joins Derek Norris — acquired earlier in the offseason — along with holdovers Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino as catching options in a suddenly crowded mix. It’s unclear exactly how things could play out for the Nats, but adding Wieters would hold out the promise of upgrading the catching situation while also opening some room for further transactions. Norris and Lobaton are both playing on non-guaranteed arbitration contracts, with the former set to earn $4.2MM in his second-to-last season of control and the latter entering his walk year with a $1.575MM salary. Conceivably, either of those catchers could be moved now that Wieters is on board, though multiple reports have indicated that Norris is the one the Nationals are looking to trade
The Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization announced on Friday that they’ve signed veteran Major League right-hander Carlos Villanueva to a one-year contract (h/t: Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net and Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency). The ISE Baseball client will earn $1.5MM in his first venture into pro ball overseas. He’ll join former big leaguers Alexi Ogando and Wilin Rosario on the Eagles’ roster for the 2017 campaign. Villanueva, who turned 33 this offseason, spent the 2016 campaign with the Padres and struggled to a 5.96 ERA in in 74 innings of relief. The veteran swingman did display some more encouraging peripherals, including a 7.4 K/9 rate, 1.7 BB/9 and an 11 percent swinging-strike rate, but interest in the soft-tossing righty (88.1 mph average fastball in ’16) never picked up much steam this winter. In fact, today’s signing marks the first time that Villanueva’s name has been tagged here at MLBTR since inking his one-year deal with San Diego in Jan. 2016. Prior to his ugly 2016 season, Villanueva enjoyed a terrific year with the Cardinals, during which he logged 61 innings with a 2.95 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 42.4 percent ground-ball rate. That year served as an exclamation point on a nice five-year run that saw Villanueva toss 499 2/3 innings of 4.03 ERA ball while pitching for the Blue Jays, Cubs and Cards. Next year’s crop of free-agent pitchers is superior to the group that hit the open market this year, but a rebound campaign in the hitters’ paradise that is the KBO could either create renewed Major League interest in Villanueva or earn him a more substantial payday overseas in 2018 and beyond
The Braves have agreed to sign former NFL defensive back Sanders Commings to a minor league contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Rosenthal wrote earlier this month that the former Kansas City Chiefs and University of Georgia corner had interest in pursuing a baseball career as an outfielder. Commings, who will turn 27 in early March, was a fifth-round pick by the Chiefs back in 2013, though he appeared in just two games with Kansas City in his brief NFL career. He’s no stranger to baseball, having played high school ball in Augusta, Ga., as Rosenthal noted.
The White Sox are set to retire Mark Buehrle’s #56 jersey this summer, the team announced. As Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago notes on Twitter, that would appear to suggest the the lefty himself is also hanging up his spikes for good — though there’s been no official word to that effect as of yet. Last we heard, around this time last spring, Buehrle was still pondering his future. But he decided against pitching in 2016, and we’ve heard no indication since that he was planning a return. Today’s news seemingly confirms that the famously fast-working and incredibly durable southpaw is finished after 16 highly productive seasons in the majors. Though he ended his career elsewhere, Buehrle spent his first dozen seasons in Chicago. He was a model of consistency there, providing 2,476 2/3 innings of 3.83 ERA ball while averaging 5.1 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.
We’ll track the day’s minor moves here: The Mets have announced the signing of righty Wilfredo Boscan to a minor-league deal that does not include an invite to MLB camp. Boscan, 27, appeared in the majors for the first time last year — he had previously been on an active roster without being handed the ball — though he struggled in limited action. He did, however, managed 169 1/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball at the Triple-A level, with 5.8 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9. Boscan’s broader track record in the upper minors suggests those results may have been something of an outlier, however; he has allowed more than four earned runs per nine innings over his 467 2/3 lifetime frames at Double-A and Triple-A. In any event, he’ll represent another depth arm for New York to call upon should a need arise this year.
The Orioles have acquired lefty Richard Bleier from the Yankees, per a club announcement, with cash or a player to be named later heading back in return. Baltimore designated first baseman/outfielder Christian Walker for assignment to create roster space. Bleier, 29, had been designated for assignment recently by New York. The soft-tossing southpaw managed a strong 1.96 ERA in his 23 MLB frames with the Yankees last year, but managed only 5.1 K/9 to go with strong walk (1.6 BB/9) and groundball (54.1%) rates. While that’s obviously rather promising for a debut campaign, Bleier hasn’t compiled the minor-league record to suggest its entirely sustainable. He worked to a 3.72 ERA in his 58 Triple-A innings in 2016, notching just 25 punchouts along the way. And though he has recorded an over 3.29 earned run average in 147 frames at the highest level of the minors, exhibiting excellent command along the way, he has an anemic 3.7 K/9 in that span. As for Walker, the move rates as a disappointment after indications earlier in the offseason that he could contend for a roster spot.
10:42am: There is indeed a deal in place, pending a physical, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (Twitter links). It includes a deferral that would push $5MM of his earnings to 2021. 10:35am: Wieters will receive a $21MM guarantee, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). He’ll earn $10MM in 2017 and have the choice whether to take $11MM or return to the open market for 2018. 9:04am: The Nationals are nearing a deal with free-agent backstop Matt Wieters, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). It would be a two-year contract that includes an opt-out, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links) and Heyman (via Twitter).
The Orioles have reached agreement on a contract with outfielder Michael Bourn, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com first reported (via Twitter). It’s a minor-league pact that comes with a camp invite, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweets. Bourn would earn $2MM if he cracks the MLB roster, per Heyman. Bourn will have a chance to opt out of his deal if he isn’t added to the 40-man late in camp, though there’s a bit of discord on the date.