Pirates eyeing Rick Ankiel?

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According to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pirates expect to be active in the free agent market, with potential targets including John Grabow, who they traded to the Cubs in July, and Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel.



This is a clear indicator that the
Pirates are beginning to shuffle their cards. Garrett Jones has
surprised with 19 home runs in 265 at-bats, however, he is 28 years
old, so there is little hope for further progression. Jones has played
69 games this season, but 20 of them have come at first base, so there
is a chance he could be used in more of a utility role in 2010, with
Jeff Clement getting his feet wet at first base and 20-year-old
top-prospect Jose Tabata potentially finding his way to the majors by
early June.




Ankiel is an interesting target who
may come on the cheap. Reason being, he is batting just .234/.286/.390
with 11 home runs and 37 RBI in 351 at-bats this season. With young
Colby Rasmus carving out an everyday role, the Cardinals have little
reason to bring him back. If Tabata proves himself to be a competent
corner outfielder — something that is still open to debate — the
Pirates could always trade Ankiel to a contender if he has a
bounceback season.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.