Roster-setting day makes minor moves the theme

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Friday was the last day for teams to add prospects to the 40-man roster in advance of next month’s Rule 5 draft. That resulted in plenty of minor moves of interest mostly to geeks like me:
*The Red Sox claimed reliever Robert Manuel off waivers from the Mariners.
Manuel, 26, was the return from the Reds for Wladimir Balentien this summer. He had a 1.25 ERA and a 103/18 K/BB ratio in 86 2/3 innings while spending most of 2008 in Double-A and a 2.88 ERA and a 49/16 K/BB ratio in 65 2/3 innings for two Triple-A teams last season. Still, no one takes him very seriously because he’s primarily a high-80s guy and his slider doesn’t have a whole lot of break. He deserves an extended chance, but he’ll be a long shot to make the Red Sox out of spring training.
*The White Sox added former shortstop Sergio Santos to their 40-man roster.
Working as a reliever for the first time, Santos, the Diamondbacks’ first-round pick in 2002, had an 8.16 ERA and a 30/20 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings in four minor league stops last season. He’s currently at 6.14 with a 20/10 K/BB ratio in 14 2/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Obviously, the White Sox see some promise here. What makes this especially interesting, though, is that, as far as I can tell, Santos is out of options, having used them all up during his time as an infield prospect.
That means he’ll have to clear waivers if the White Sox want to send him down at the end of the spring. In theory, they would have had a better chance of keeping him had they declined to protect him now, since if he went unpicked in the Rule 5 draft, he wouldn’t have had to go on waivers next spring.
*The Orioles claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Reds.
It’s hard to believe the Orioles could find room for another standard-issue No. 3 catcher on their 40-man, but not Steve Johnson, the second prospect they acquired along with Josh Bell from the Dodgers for George Sherrill. Johnson went 12-7 with a 3.41 ERA and a 154/62 K/BB ratio in 145 1/3 IP between Single-A and Double-A last season, but he’ll be available to everyone in the Rule 5 draft.
Tatum is a fine defender, but he brings absolutely nothing to the table from an offensive standpoint. He’s minor league-contract material.

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

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
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.