Report: Braves sign Wagner to take over closer's role

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wagner red sox.jpgA source told FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal that the Braves and Billy Wagner have come to terms on a one-year, $7 million contract with a vesting option for 2011.
The Braves were expected to be in on Wagner, but it’s a curiously timed move, given that the team just offered arbitration to both Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez on Tuesday. If either accepts the offer, the Braves would find themselves in position of two relievers due in excess of $6 million in 2010.
The odds are against that happening, though, and if the Soriano and Gonzalez depart, the Braves will could gain two additional first-round picks, plus two supplemental first-rounders, to make up for the one they’re giving the Red Sox to sign Wagner.
The Red Sox are also surely pleased with this turn of events. They weren’t poised to make a strong effort to retain Wagner, and now they’re set to land the 19th pick in the draft, assuming that the Braves fail to sign a higher ranked free agent. Matt Holliday, Jose Valverde, Jason Bay, John Lackey and Marco Scutaro are the only ones who will take precedence for the pick, and it’s highly unlikely Atlanta will land any of them. The Red Sox could now go ahead and ink Scutaro, safe in the knowledge that they’d still have at least one first-rounder.
In Wagner, the Braves get perhaps the best one-year closer option on the market. $7 million is certainly a fair price to pay, and the $6.5 million vesting option only kicks in if he finishes 50 games next year. Wagner will need to be both effective and healthy to pull that off, and if he does, the Braves would most likely want him back at that price anyway.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.