Gregg Zaun missed most of this season following shoulder surgery, but the 40-year-old catcher plans to play in 2011 and recently told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that he’d prefer it be for the Rays.
Zaun played 34 games for the Rays in 2009 after being acquired from the Orioles in midseason trade, but it’s tough to see a fit for him in Tampa at this point with John Jaso entrenched as the primary catcher and Kelly Shoppach under contract as his backup/platoon-mate. And the Rays still have to figure out what to do with Dioner Navarro too.
Milwaukee declined its $2.25 million option on Zaun last week, choosing a $250,000 buyout instead. Zaun has always flown under the radar somewhat as a switch-hitting catcher with strong on-base skills and prior to the shoulder problems he was productive for the Brewers, hitting .265 with a .350 OBP.
Assuming he’s reasonably healthy Zaun would be a solid fit as a veteran backup somewhere, but Tampa Bay may not be the place.
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.
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.