Two weeks ago Baltimore declined to offer arbitration to Koji Uehara because it would have meant committing to a raise on his $5 million salary, but the Orioles have now re-signed the 35-year-old reliever to a one-year deal with a vesting option for 2012.
According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun the new deal includes $3 million in guarantee money and another $2 million or so in possible incentives.
Uehara reportedly drew interest from a half-dozen teams as a free agent, so by not offering arbitration the Orioles risked losing him without receiving a compensatory draft pick in return, but the move ultimately worked out well as they lowered the upfront money and also potentially secured his rights for 2012.
Uehara struggled to stay healthy as a starter, but transitioned to the bullpen full time this year and thrived with a 2.86 ERA, .220 opponents’ batting average, and 55-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 44 innings. He converted 13 saves in 15 chances and will likely enter 2011 as the favorite to claim closer duties.
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.