Albert Pujols downplays contract status … again

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Albert Pujols made an appearance at the Cardinals’ “winter warm-up” event this afternoon and naturally the assembled media asked him about his contract status despite the fact that he’s signed through 2011. Here’s what Pujols had to say:

My timetable is when I’m a free agent. Right now we’ve got a couple years. I don’t need to worry about that right now. Right now my job is to let my agent do my talking. We’re open to talk about it. But I’ll tell you: When the season starts we’re not talking about it.

Rarely has there been this much attention paid to the contract status of a player still two full seasons away from free agency, but I suppose everything is a little different for the best player in baseball. For comparison Joe Mauer is merely the best player in the American League, but unlike Pujols he’s just one season away from free agency and yet the Twin Cities media has paid about half as much attention to his contract status.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.