Link-O-Rama: Cubs not interested in bringing Harden back

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* Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs “have no plans” to re-sign impending free agent Rich Harden despite the oft-injured right-hander saying publicly that he’d like to stay in Chicago. Minnesota made a run for Harden prior to the trading deadline, but an incentive-laden deal from a big-payroll team seems like the most probable scenario.
* Team USA lost their tournament opener and then won 14 straight games to capture back-to-back World Cup titles, defeating Cuba in the championship game yesterday. Cuba had won nine straight World Cup titles before losing to the United States in 2007. Rangers prospect and 2008 first-round pick Justin Smoak was named MVP of the tournament after hitting nine homers with 22 RBIs in 15 games.
* Nate Schierholtz has been swinging at everything while posting awful strikeout-to-walk ratios for his entire pro career, which spans 800 games and 3,100 plate appearances between the majors and minors. All of which makes Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s contention that playing winter ball this offseason “will help him learn the strike zone” kind of silly.
* Omar Vizquel has spent this season backing up Elvis Andrus in Texas and the majors’ oldest position player said yesterday that he’s planning to play in 2010. Vizquel was a starter for the first 20 years of his career, but the 42-year-old has hit .266/.319/.343 while logging just 187 plate appearances as a full-time backup this season.
* San Francisco is unlikely to exercise the $8.1 million option on Freddy Sanchez for 2010 and the impending free agent indicated yesterday that he’d rather hit the open market than agree to a new deal with the Giants at a lower salary.
* Ozzie Guillen clarified that he doesn’t hate football, he just hates football after his team gives up 12 unanswered runs after leading 5-0.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.