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Padres sign RHP Jordan Lyles to 1-year contract

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres have signed right-hander Jordan Lyles to a one-year contract with a club option for 2019.

The Padres announced the move Sunday. Left-hander Travis Wood was designated for assignment.

The 27-year-old Lyles joined San Diego in early August, soon after being released by Colorado. He was a combined 1-5 with a 7.75 ERA in 38 games, including five starts.

Lyles is 28-48 with a 5.43 ERA in seven seasons with Houston, the Rockies and Padres.

Wood was 4-7 with a 6.80 ERA in 39 games for Kansas City and San Diego last season. The 30-year-old lefty pitched 11 times for the Padres, all of them starts.


Braves get their veteran starter from Dodgers in Brandon McCarthy, who is coming off an intriguing season

A path was cleared for wunderkind Ronald Acuna as the Braves moved the albatross of Matt Kemp’s contract with Saturday’s stunning five-player trade with the Dodgers.

But this deal also had met one of new general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ goals, adding a veteran starter on the last year of his deal in right-hander Brandon McCarthy to supplement a young rotation.

“We have a lot of young arms,” said Anthopoulos, who added that he expects McCarthy to make the starting staff. “We don’t know that they’re all going to necessarily be able to go 200 innings. We need that depth. It’s going to be really important.”

The 34-year-old was 6-4 with a 3.98 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 105 ERA+ in 92 2/3 innings over 19 games (16 starts) with the Dodgers last season. He missed half of the year with a shoulder injury and blisters, and was still a 2.4 WAR pitcher.

Of note, that would have led the Braves last season, who were topped by Mike Foltynewicz’s 1.8 WAR.

Those innings were the most innings McCarthy has thrown since 2014 when he hit the 200-inning mark for the first time, and the past three have seen a combined 155 2/3 innings.

But while his 2017 was abbreviated, was the most effective the 12-year veteran had ever been with his fastball, with a wFB of 4.4. That was the first time that figure had been in the positives since 2013 (3.4), and McCarthy complimented that with a cutters (3.6) that was at its best since 2012 (5.5).

It should come as no surprise that if anyone would bank on that being replicable in a healthy season it would be Anthopoulos, who saw McCarthy the past two seasons while working in the Dodgers front office. Since taking over in Atlanta, the GM had already added Grant Dayton and Josh Ravin from Los Angeles and now Charlie Culberson and Scott Kazmir as part of this deal.

Now, just as the Braves did a year ago in bringing in Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey on one-year deals and trading for Jaime Garcia, they are looking to McCarthy not only as a stabilizer, but also a buffer while young arms continue to develop.

The Braves have a group of projected starters all under 27 in Julio Teheran (26), Mike Foltynewicz (26), Sean Newcomb (24) and Luiz Gohara (20), and were expected to look to in-house options like Lucas Sims (23) and Max Fried (23) if they didn’t add another arm. Not to mention the next wave of pitchers, with the likelihood that reigning organization Pitcher of the Year, Mike Soroka, and others could vie for playing time.

Atlanta saw positives with Fried (113 ERA+ in 26 innings) and Sims (5.62 ERA and 76 ERA+ in 57 2/3) in the first tastes of the majors last season, and while some of the luster has been stripped from Matt Wisler (52 ERA+) and Aaron Blair (32 ERA+), they remain factors.

Acquiring McCarthy doesn’t change their potentials. If he’s as effective in a Braves uniform as he was for Los Angeles last season, which included him landing on the World Series roster, he could provide a trade chip.

Getting that desired veteran arm, and coming with the added bonus of ridding themselves of Kemp’s deal and a hurdle to putting baseball’s No. 1 prospect in Acuna, made it an added bonus since the Braves didn’t have to enter the free-agent market.

Along with the McCarthy — who is due $10 million in the last year of his deal — Atlanta also received Scott Kazmir. But the 33-year-old missed all of last season with a hip injury and fatigued left arm and Anthopoulos said the Braves aren’t looking for a definite output from the three-time All-Star.

He’s basically a lottery ticket, with Atlanta obviously welcoming the return it he’s again the 2.0-plus WAR player Kazmir was in 2013-15. But like McCarthy, he’s also in the final year of his contract at $17.7 million.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.’ are now available.


Dodgers acquire Matt Kemp from Braves in five-player trade

Matt Kemp is returning to the place where he began his major league career, reacquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday as part of a five-player trade with the Atlanta Braves that creates more financial flexibility for the reigning NL champions.

The Dodgers sent first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, oft-injured starting pitchers Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, infielder Charlie Culberson and cash to Atlanta for the 33-year-old Kemp.

Gonzalez agreed to waive his no-trade clause after receiving assurance from the Braves that he would be designated for assignment since they are already set at first base with Freddie Freeman.

“This allows him the opportunity to go and find some playing time,” new Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos said.

After sitting on the sidelines during the recent winter meetings, the Dodgers moved quickly to dump nearly $50 million in salary committed to Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy for 2018. Kemp is owed about $43 million over the next two seasons.

Los Angeles was looking to reduce baseball’s highest payroll of $240 million last season as a way of lowering exposure to higher luxury taxes.

The deal made sense for the Braves, too, since the players they acquired all have expiring contracts.

“It puts us in an even greater financial position going forward and going into next off-season as well,” said Anthopoulos, who was hired from the Dodgers.

Kemp played for the Dodgers from 2006-14, hitting 182 home runs, fourth-most in Los Angeles history. The outfielder hit .276 with 19 homers, 64 RBIs and 23 doubles in 115 games last season with the Braves.

Moving Kemp opens up a potential roster spot for top Braves prospect Ronald Acuna, who turns 20 on Monday. He was the most valuable player of the Arizona Fall League and Baseball America’s minor league player of the year.

“We expect Ronald Acuna to be a very good player for a very long time,” Anthopoulos said. “When he’s ready to go, we’re going to look to make room for him and certainly a deal like this won’t hurt.”

The 35-year-old Gonzalez helped the Dodgers win five straight NL West division titles after being acquired from the Red Sox in August 2012. He was an All-Star in 2015 and led the NL in RBIs in 2014, but went on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back last season for the first time in his career. He was usurped at first base by NL Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger.

Gonzalez is owed $21.5 million in the final year of a $154 million, seven-year contract that the Dodgers absorbed in the 2012 trade with Boston.

Kazmir didn’t pitch last season because of a hip injury, one of many in his career. The 33-year-old left-hander went 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA in 26 starts in 2016, his first with the Dodgers. He is owed $15 million in 2018.

“I spoke to him and he’s pretty encouraged and excited about the work he’s been able to do in the off-season, so we’re excited to get a look at him in camp,” Anthopoulos said. “If we can get him back and he can bounce back, there’s certainly some upside there.”

McCarthy was 11-7 with a 4.51 ERA in 29 starts over three seasons with the Dodgers. The 34-year-old right-hander missed most of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He went on the DL three times last season, when he was limited to 19 appearances and went 6-4 with a 3.98 ERA.

McCarthy was added to the Dodgers’ World Series roster after missing the first two rounds. He gave up a home run in extra innings of a Game 2 loss to Houston in his only appearance. He is owed $12 million in the last year of a $48 million, four-year deal.

Anthopoulos said he sees McCarthy being in the Braves’ rotation, which needs a veteran arm after not re-signing knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and releasing Bartolo Colon during last season.

“He came back at the end of the year and was on the World Series roster because of how good he looked, how good his stuff was, up to 94 (mph) and he started throwing a slider that he just added at the end of the year,” Anthopoulos said. “I’m excited about him, think there is an upside to him.”


Cubs announce two-year deal with reliever Cishek

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs have finalized a two-year contract with side-arming reliever Steve Cishek.

The 31-year-old Cishek had a 2.01 ERA and a 3-2 record in 49 relief appearances this year for Seattle and Tampa Bay, which acquired him on July 28. He joins a rebuilt Cubs bullpen that also includes fellow right-hander Brandon Morrow, who finalized a $21 million, two-year contract on Tuesday.

The Cubs announced the deal on Saturday. Cishek posted on Twitter: “I’ve had go Cubs go playing in my head since Thursday… thankful for this opportunity and beyond thrilled to be a Cub!”

Cishek is 24-28 with a 2.73 ERA and 121 saves over eight seasons.

His eight-year major league career started with the Florida and Miami Marlins from 2010-15. He was traded to St. Louis in July 2015, became a free agent and signed a $10 million, two-year contract with the Mariners.


Report: Yankees agree to one-year, $10M deal with CC Sabathia

The New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year, $10-million deal with starting pitcher CC Sabathia, according to Mark Feinsand of

The 37-year-old left-hander had garnered interest from the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels, among other teams, this off-season.

Sabathia — a veteran of 17 years, the past nine of which were spent with the Yankees — has enjoyed a career renaissance over the past two seasons. In 2017, he posted a 3.69 ERA in 148.2 innings during the regular season then a 2.37 ERA across four playoff starts.

“(Sabathia offers) leadership, big-game ability,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week. “He’s not going to back down from any challenge. Strike thrower. (On) the biggest stages, he’s proven he’s still more than effective.”

The Yankees rotation now features Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. The club has also pursued Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole in recent days and it remains to be seen if Sabathia’s signing impacts that.


What to make of Mark Shapiro’s “reset” comments

Dec 16, 2017
Mark Shapiro

Mark Shapiro

Earlier this week Mark Shapiro was quoted as saying “I’ve said it all along, if we were just running our team without fans and it was an intellectual exercise, we probably would’ve hit the reset over a year ago.”

Instead of hitting the reset button, they went out and overpaid for both Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce, and in so doing added yet another two aging players to an already old roster.  I admire that Shapiro is listening to the fans, but the truth is, he was hired for this job because he’s the expert with the adequate experience to run a big league franchise.  Someone probably needs to reiterate to Shapiro another quote, “if you listen to the fans, you’ll be up there sitting with them.”  Every fan is opinionated, and because there are so many fans, with so many differing opinions, if you try to appease them all, you’ll find yourself being pulled in a hundred different directions and wouldn’t make any progress.

In 2015 and 2016, for the first time in 21 years, the Blue Jays were a post-season team and Shapiro obviously wanted that run of good fortune to continue.  The problem is, even though Toronto still has many of the same players from those playoff teams, they’re most certainly not the same dominant ball club they once were.  Considering that Toronto’s front office made an effort to continue their winning ways last season and failed, why is it then they believe they’re still a legitimate contender heading into 2018?

It’s important to listen to your fan base, but at the same time, as the President of this team it’s important to do what you feel is best for this franchise.  Shapiro needs to have a better understanding of this.  Many fans have a tendency to think with their heart, and because of that, sometimes their opinions aren’t exactly what’s best for this team.  As difficult as it might be, Shapiro and Ross Atkins need to start doing what they think is best for the Blue Jays.  Even if that means making unpopular decisions (e.g. trading Josh Donaldson).

Toronto still has a decent team, with a solid starting rotation, but even with that they’ll be lucky to contend next year.  What the Blue Jays need to understand is that 2-3 years from now they can be right back to where they were in 2015.  To do so however, they have to stop playing things so safe and start making the extremely difficult decisions that will make them plenty of enemies at the moment, but in time will have been the right calls to have made.

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Matt Moore dealt from Giants to Rangers for minor leaguers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Texas acquired Matt Moore in a trade with the San Francisco Giants on Friday, raising the possibility of four left-handers in the Rangers’ rotation.

“As far as the four lefties, generally it’s a good thing,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “I realize there’s some very heavy right-handed clubs in our division. With the exception of Martin (Perez), the other three guys have been very effective against righties in their career.”

Texas sent minor league right-handers Israel Cruz and Sam Wolff to the Giants. The Rangers also received $750,000 in international signing bonus pool allotment from the Giants.

Perez, a 13-game winner, and Cole Hamels, another lefty who won 11 games, were the only holdover Texas starters when the offseason started. Counting Moore, the Rangers have added three options to their rotation.

Right-hander Doug Fister agreed to a $4 million, one-year deal that could be worth up to $11.5 million over two seasons, and lefty Mark Minor received a $28 million, three-year contract.

Minor was a reliever for Kansas City last season but previously was a starter for Atlanta before missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons with shoulder issues. Daniels said the club still intends to prepare Minor as a starter in spring training.

“We talked about when he signed, both he and us are aware that that could change based either one the club, kind of how it’s shaping out, or if he has any issues getting stretched out,” said Daniels, who is interested in acquiring even more starting pitching.

Right-hander Andrew Cashner, another 11-game winner for Texas, became a free agent after completing a $10 million, one-year deal.

San Francisco last month exercised Moore’s $7 million option for 2018. He went 6-15 with a 5.52 ERA in 174 1/3 innings last season, setting a career high for losses, as the Giants finished last in the NL West. He allowed a career-worst 107 earned runs.

“This move allows us to reallocate our resources to address our position player needs,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said. “In addition, we are pleased to add two power arms to our system. Our focus remains to strengthen our outfield defense and our everyday lineup.”

Texas went 78-84 and finished third in the AL West behind the World Series champion Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels.

San Francisco — last in the NL West in 2017 and having lost out in pursuits of Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani — acquired Moore at the 2016 trade deadline from Tampa Bay for third baseman Matt Duffy. The lefty’s best season came in 2013, when he was 17-4 with the Rays.

Daniels said the Rangers were interested in acquiring Moore when the Giants got him.

“Part of what was attractive at the time was the contract as well as getting him in his prime years,” Daniels said. “It felt like circumstances, the situation allowed us to pick him up for a little bit less than we would have been looking at in the past.”

In 2011, Moore pitched seven scoreless innings at the Rangers in his playoff debut in Game 1 of an AL Division Series, allowing just two hits in a 9-0 Tampa Bay victory. The Rangers won the next three games to take the series.

In his only postseason start for the Giants, Moore had 10 strikeouts in eight innings to help San Francisco to a 5-2 lead over the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the 2016 NL Division Series. The Cubs rallied in the ninth for a 6-5 victory to win the series on their way to the World Series title.

The 20-year-old Cruz was 3-2 with a 5.91 ERA in three starts and nine relief appearances for the Arizona League Rangers in 2017 this year. Wolff, 26, was 2-3 with a 3.54 ERA and three saves in 16 games at Double-A Frisco this year and 2-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 24 games at Triple-A Round Rock. He had surgery in August to repair a torn right flexor tendon.


Mets add Lobaton, finalize $14M, 2-year deal with Swarzak

NEW YORK (AP) The Mets added catcher Jose Lobaton, who will try to earn a roster spot in spring training, and finalized their $14 million, two-year contract with reliever Anthony Swarzak on Friday.

Lobaton will report to big league spring training and compete with Kevin Plawecki for a backup job behind Travis d’Arnaud. Lobaton would get a $1.25 million, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster.

The switch-hitting 33-year-old batted .170 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 158 plate appearances over 51 games with Washington this year, his most since 2014. He is 5 for 18 (.278) with two homers in nine postseason games.

Lobaton has a .218 career average with 21 homers and 103 RBIs in eight seasons with San Diego (2009), Tampa Bay (2011-13) and Washington (2014-17).

Swarzak, a 32-year-old right-hander, gets a $1 million signing bonus payable within 30 days of the contract’s approval by the commissioner’s office and salaries of $5 million next year and $8 million in 2019.

He reunites with new Mets manager Mickey Callaway.

Swarzak spent the first 2+ months of the 2015 season with Cleveland, making 10 appearances with a 3.38 ERA. Callaway was hired to manage the Mets in October after five seasons as the Indians’ pitching coach.

Swarzak was a combined 6-4 with two saves and a 2.33 ERA in 70 games last season for the Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee. He had 91 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings. He has pitched for five teams in the last four years, including Minnesota, Cleveland and the Yankees.

His fastball velocity increased from 93 mph in 2015 to 95 mph this year, according to Brooks Baseball. A four-pitch pitcher through 2014, he was restricted to a fastball and slider by Callaway before bringing back his changeup this year.

New York finished 70-92 and went to the winter meetings this week looking for a reliever to join closer Jeurys Familia, left-hander Jerry Blevins and righty A.J. Ramos at the back end of the bullpen.

Swarzak is 23-30 with a 4.22 ERA over eight seasons. He began his major league career in 2009 with the Twins and was a starter his first year, then began moving into a relief role.

More MLB baseball:


Hector Rondon agrees to $8.5M, 2-year deal with Astros

Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Hector Rondon reacts after giving up a grand slam to Los Angeles Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez during the third inning of Game 5 of baseball’s National League Championship Series, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, in Chicago. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)


MLB Winter Meetings signings: Teams continue to load up on free agent relievers

Dec 14, 2017

Through the first few weeks of the offseason, the free agent market has been very kind to relievers and no so kind to everyone else. Teams are stocking up on bullpen help and not so much on anything else right now. In fact, the only free agent position players to sign guaranteed major-league contracts this offseason are two catchers (Welington Castillo, Chris Iannetta) and one outfielder (Leonys Martin). All other signings have been pitchers.

So then, it is not surprising the Winter Meetings came to an end Thursday with another flurry of reliever signings. It seems teams are building their rosters from the ninth inning forward. Beef up the bullpen first, figure out everything else later. Here is our MLB Free Agent Tracker and here are the latest bullpen signings:

Chicago Cubs sign Steve Cishek

Former Marlins closer Steve Cishek was a popular second tier free agent target for many teams this winter after throwing 44 2/3 innings with a 2.01 ERA for the Mariners and Rays in 2017. The Cubs landed him with a two-year contract.

The side-winding Cishek continued to post strong strikeout (8.4 K/9) and ground ball (56.1 percent) rates this past season, and it should be noted he absolutely crushes right-handed batters. He held righties to a .147/.218/.194 batting line in 2017 and it is .200/.267/.286 for his career.

It is worth noting the Cardinals, possibly Chicago’s biggest NL Central challenger in 2018, have a predominantly right-handed lineup. Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong are lefties, and Dexter Fowler is a switch-hitter, and that’s it. Everyone else is a righty, including new pickup Marcell Ozuna. Cishek could gave St. Louis some matchup headaches next year.

Houston Astros sign Joe Smith

The Astros bullpen was truly a mess in the postseason — their best relievers were starters in October (Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton) — after being one of the top relief units in baseball during the regular season. Seeing room for improvement, the club has signed veteran righty Joe Smith to a two-year deal.

Smith was one of my top bargain free agents this winter because this past season he added strikeouts to his usual ground ball heavy approach. He added those strikeouts by elevating his fastball up in the zone — that is not easy to do from the sidearm slot Smith uses — to get more swings and misses. Smith posted an 11.8 K/9 in 2017. He had a career 7.5 K/9 prior to last season.

For all intents and purposes, Smith takes the place of the departed Luke Gregerson, who signed a two-year contract of his own with the Cardinals a week ago. Ken Giles figures to remain at closer, postseason struggles notwithstanding, which puts Smith in the setup mix alongside Will Harris and Chris Devenski.

Minnesota Twins sign Fernando Rodney

As you may remember, the Twins traded closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals at the trade deadline this year because they were falling out of the race, but a strong August and September allowed them to reach the postseason as the second wild-card team. 

The Twins needed a closer this offseason — veteran Matt Belisle handled the ninth inning after the Kintzler trade — and the club has inked Fernando Rodney to assume ninth inning duty. It’s a one-year contract.

Rodney, who turns 41 in March, went 39 for 45 in save chances with the Diamondbacks last season, and finished with a 4.23 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings. He still walks too many batters (4.2 BB/9) and will make things interesting more often than not, but it should be noted Rodney was dominant after April this year, throwing 45 1/3 innings with a 2.38 ERA. He held opponents to a .154/.250/.192 batting line in those 45 1/3 innings.

Given his age, it’s no surprise Rodney received a one-year contract. It’s also not a surprise the Twins limited their reliever search to a one-year contract. They’ve never signed a free agent reliever to a contract longer than one year. Seriously.

It remains to be seen whether the Twins will look to add more bullpen help throughout the offseason, or hand the setup reins over to youngsters like Trevor Hildenberger and Alan Busenitz

Washington Nationals sign Brandon Kintzler

Although other clubs likely would’ve given him a chance to close, Kintzler opted to return to the Nationals, where he’ll presumably be behind Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in the bullpen pecking order. His one-year contract comes with a unique set of options for 2019.

That’s an interesting little contract. If the Twins want Kintzler back in 2019, they’ll have to pay him a hefty $10 million to pick up the option. If they pass, Kintzler still has a nice little $5 million safety net in there in case things go wrong.

This season the 33-year-old Kintzler went 28 for 34 in save opportunities, with 27 of those 28 saves coming with the Twins, before he was traded to Washington at the deadline. He had a 3.03 ERA in 71 1/3 innings overall in 2017, and what he lacked in strikeouts (4.9 K/9) he made up for with ground balls (54.9 percent). Given some of the other reliever contracts handed out this winter, getting Kintzler at that price seems like a real nice move for the Nationals.

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