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.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.

Report: Tyson Ross not expected to pitch in April

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Petco Park September 29, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Comments from an anonymous team official suggest that Rangers right-hander Tyson Ross will not be expected to join the rotation until May or June, per a report from Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Both Ross and GM Jon Daniels favor a conservative approach for the 29-year-old as he works his way back up to full health after undergoing surgery last October to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.

The delay is reportedly being implemented so that Ross will be have the strength and stamina to contribute during the stretch run. Per Daniels:

We would rather err on a little extra time up front with the goal being to finish strong, pitching in big spots, meaningful games down the stretch and hopefully past 162.

Ross signed a one-year deal with the team on Thursday after pitching through an injury-riddled season with the Padres in 2016. If all goes according to plan, he’ll slot into a rotation that includes Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Martin Perez. The Rangers are expected to narrow down their fifth starter alternatives in spring training.