Santana Claus returns to Venezuela

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Great story about Johan Santana’s annual trip to his hometown in the remote mountains of Venezuela, where he spreads holiday cheer:

He lives in Florida in the off-season, but late every year, he returns to Tovar, bearing gifts by the truckload. He
organizes the Cy Youngazo, or the Great Cy Young, where he hands out
Christmas presents to children and organizes local soccer and baseball
tournaments . . . During
this year’s event, young boys stood slack-jawed and old men whistled
their appreciation as he walked by. He was continually stopped by
people either asking for autographs or just wanting to shake his hand.

He also watches out for would-be kidnappers. He has a full security detail for him and his family, and the former director of Venezuela’s anti-kidnapping police unit, who now works for Venezuela’s professional baseball league, was on hand too.

My first impulse when I hear about Venezuelan players having their families kidnapped is to ask why any of these guys ever go back.  Then you read something like this piece about Johan Santana’s annual trip home, and you wonder how any of them can stay away.

Oh, and by the way: Santana says his elbow is “100 percent recovered” and he’s ready for spring training.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.