As expected, the White Sox have exercised their 2011 options on reliever Matt Thornton and catcher Ramon Castro.
Thornton will earn $3 million next season, which is an incredible bargain for one of the best relievers in baseball. He has ERAs of 2.67, 2.74, and 2.67 over the past three seasons and this year held opponents to a .191 batting average while posting an 81/20 K/BB ratio in 60.2 innings. He could be asked to move from setup man to closer in 2011 if the White Sox part with Bobby Jenks.
Castro will get $1.2 million in 2011 after making $800,000 to hit .278/.328/.504 in 128 plate appearances as A.J. Pierzynski’s backup behind the plate this season. He might be stretched in an everyday role, but the 34-year-old Castro is an ideal backup for a left-handed-hitting catcher and gives the White Sox a solid fallback option with Pieryznski headed for free agency.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.