Willy Aybar signs with Edmonton Capitals

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Willy Aybar, who went without a gig all winter and still didn’t have any takers despite the rash of injuries to National League third basemen, has signed with the Edmonton Capitals of the independent North American League.

The 28-year-old Aybar was a very solid hitter in part-time roles for the Rays in 2008 (.253/.327/.410 in 362 AB) and 2009 (.253/.331/.416 in 296 AB) before struggling last year (.230/.309/.344 in 270 AB).  Disappointed in his performance, the Rays declined his $2.2 million option for 2011 and then non-tendered him in December.

It was odd to see Aybar go all winter without signing.  It seems safe to assume he was holding out for a major league deal at something close to his 2010 salary of $1.35 million, but to not take a minor league deal in February looks like a big miscalculation now.  According to its rules page, North American League teams have a salary floor of $60,000 and a soft cap of $90,000.

(BTW – If you spent a lot of time following the minor leagues over the last 10 years and you’re kind of bored, give the NAL transactions page a look.  Seeing Chuck Tiffany and Mitch Einertson traded for some guy named Donald Brandt (who was promptly sold to another league) really brings back memories.)

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.