Cardinals looking for upgrade over Brendan Ryan at shortstop

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Brendan Ryan is one of the elite defensive shortstops in baseball, but he followed up a solid 2009 season at the plate by hitting just .223 with a lowly .573 OPS this year and general manager John Mozeliak told Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that the Cardinals will look to upgrade the position this offseason.

Mozeliak indicated that they may also look to upgrade over Skip Schumaker at second base, but shortstop is a higher priority because there’s more optimism about Schumaker bouncing back from his poor 2010:

The basic agenda is how can we get more offense out of those positions or both. There is a school of thought that Skip will produce more than he did last year. There’s a comfort level of that being probable. In Brendan’s case you would hope there would be some improvement, too. But if there were a way to address one of those positions in a positive way, we would pursue it. We probably have more of an emphasis on short than second at this point.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported yesterday that the Cardinals “will likely be aggressive in pursuit of Juan Uribe” and Strauss has written previously that manager Tony La Russa would like to bring in Miguel Tejada.” Uribe and and especially Tejada would be a clear downgrade from Ryan defensively, but based on Mozeliak’s comments the Cardinals are focused on improving the offense even if it means sacrificing some glove work.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.