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Chien-Ming Wang vows to return by May

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We’re used to hearing your typical New Year’s resolutions. Work out more. Quit smoking. Read more HardballTalk. You know, that kind of thing.

But for Chien-Ming Wang, the goal is simple. He wants to pitch in the majors this upcoming season. According to a report in the China Post, Wang said at a charity drive yesterday he’ll be able to do so “hopefully in May.”

Wang, who turns 31 in March, hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since undergoing shoulder surgery in July of 2009. The Nationals signed him a to a one-year, $2 million contract last offseason in hopes that he would be able to make it back at some point during the 2010 season, but he was only able to make a couple appearances for the organization’s Instructional League team in the fall. He recently re-signed a new contract with the Nationals that includes a $1 million base salary and $4 million in performance incentives.

There was a time when Wang’s sinker was one of the most effective pitches in the major leagues, so this is a small price to pay for a chance at a rebound, especially for a rotation that needs all the help they can get.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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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.