Nick Johnson

The Cubs aren’t exactly aiming high on the free agent market

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Cubs fans envisioning Jayson Werth or Adam Dunn in the fold can put those thoughts to rest, it seems, because according to the Sun-Times, Jim Hendry isn’t thinking that big:

With a payroll budget that figures to leave little room for big-shot free agents, indications are that general manager Jim Hendry is focusing more on the likes of lefty-hitting Nick Johnson — if the medicals look good enough — for first base and is keeping an eye on former Cub Kerry Wood’s status for a possible bullpen job.

Kerry Wood would be a feel-good thing, I suppose, but the Cubs don’t exactly need him with Carlos Marmol hanging around. And after his successful stint with New York, you figure that Wood would want to close, um, woodn’t you?  As for Nick Johnson: I defended him just as long if not longer than anyone, but at this point, anyone who thinks he’s going to hold up as a starting first baseman probably needs his head examined.

Ultimately the big issue in Chicago is money. As in, they lost with a $145 million payroll in 2010, and Mr. Ricketts wants to cut it back some.  With Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Demptser under contract to the tune of nearly $80 million for next year alone, there’s not going to be a lot of room to improve the roster via free agency.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.