Hudson, Braves make three-year deal official

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In a deal that was agreed upon weeks ago and delayed by the need for a pre-signing physical exam, the Braves and Tim Hudson have officially completed a three-year contract extension that includes a fourth-year team option for 2013.
Atlanta held a $12 million option or $1 million buyout on Hudson for 2010, but the new contract supersedes that. Hudson will reportedly receive around $9 million per season after posting a 3.61 ERA in seven starts down the stretch to apparently convince the Braves that he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Obviously handing a three-year contract to a 34-year-old who’s just 42 innings removed from elbow surgery carries plenty of risk, but Hudson looked very much like his old self in September and has had an ERA above 3.75 just twice in 11 seasons. For his career he’s 148-78 with a 3.49 ERA in 2,060 innings, including 56-39 with a 3.77 ERA since coming to the Braves from the A’s in a December of 2004 trade.
Atlanta’s outstanding rotation depth hardly made retaining Hudson a must, so the Braves must be very confident about his elbow. General manager Frank Wren explained that re-signing Hudson “allows us to take the next step,” which almost surely means trading at least one of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Kenshin Kawakami for offensive help. Here’s more from Wren:

This does give us the depth and strength in one area of our club that allows us to do some other things now. We’re going to be looking at that over the next three to four weeks as we lead into the winter meetings. I think we’re a work in progress in that regard, still in feeling-out process with other clubs. This is the first step to it, and now we have some additional direction.

Lowe is 36 years old and just posted the second-worst ERA of his career, so shedding the remaining three years and $45 million on his contract will prove difficult unless the Braves are willing to eat a bunch of salary. Vazquez is coming off a fantastic season and will make $11.5 million in 2010 before becoming a free agent, so he’d be far easier to deal for significant value. Either way, with veteran starting pitching to shop the Braves will be major players at the winter meetings in a few weeks.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.