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That report of the lowball offer to Pujols could be bogus

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Albert Pujols hit Cardinals training camp today and met the press.  By all reports he was calm, cool and collected.  He said that he’s not just about the money and that he wants to be a Cardinal for life. He said that he has no ill will with the Cardinals over negotiations and that it will be business as usual this season. He also commented on that report that was floating around yesterday that the Cardinals lowballed him:

Pujols said he hopes to remain a Cardinal forever. Also said he and his agent and the Cardinals laughed at reported contract numbers.

Emphasis added.

If it was just he and his agent laughing I suppose there could be some ambiguity there regarding whether it was laughable because it was a bad report or that the reported low offer was itself laughable.  But if the Cardinals were laughing too, it suggests that the notion that they truly tried to offer Pujols a relative pittance compared to his value is a false one and that the report was off the mark.  It may have been low — and there are multiple reports saying that it was below Alex Rodriguez-money — but that “not even in the top ten stuff” that was being discussed yesterday is looking less plausible.

And really:  if he was really saying that the Cardinals’ offer was laughable, it would have flown in the face of all the good vibes Pujols tried to send out this morning.

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.