Tampa Bay Rays v Philadelphia Phillies

Rays send Jake McGee to minors, call up Alex Cobb for spot start Sunday

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Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays have sent Jake McGee to Triple-A Durham and called up Alex Cobb to start Sunday’s series finale against the Angels.

The Rays need a spot starter for Sunday because of Thursday’s doubleheader against the Twins.

McGee, 24, made the Rays out of spring training, but posted a 5.84 ERA and 2/3 K/BB ratio over his first seven innings. While he’s still considered the closer of the future in many circles, Rays manager Joe Maddon told J.B. Long of Bright House Sports Network that he wants the young left-hander to get more work in the minor leagues.

Cobb, a 23-year-old right-hander, has a 3.10 ERA over parts of six seasons in the minors, averaging 7.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9. The former 2006 fourth-round pick has a 2.05 ERA and 29/6 K/BB ratio over his first four starts with Triple-A Durham this season. He was ranked as the organization’s No. 16 prospect by Baseball America over the winter.

His first taste of the big leagues is expected to be a brief one, as Cobb will be sent back to the minors following Sunday’s outing. Topkin writes that right-hander Brandon Gomes, who was acquired from the Padres in the Jason Bartlett trade, is a “strong candidate” to join the Rays’ bullpen.

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.