Johan Santana throwing

Johan Santana could be cleared for rehab start next week

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Johan Santana is about 10 months removed from shoulder surgery and Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that he might be ready for a return to game action in the minors.

Santana threw a three-inning simulated game today and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Sunday, at which point the Mets could clear him to begin a rehab assignment.

Prior to coming off the disabled list today David Wright faced Santana while rehabbing a back injury of his own in Florida and gave Rubin a pretty encouraging scouting report on the two-time Cy Young winner’s status:

The stuff’s there. I just think that little extra oomph isn’t quite there at this time, but that’s expected. … There’s no question he’s building momentum.

Various reports throughout the past few months have pegged mid-August as the goal for Santana returning to the majors and that certainly looks plausible now. However, with two years and $55 million remaining on Santana’s contract there isn’t a ton of difference between his rejoining the rotation in mid-August or even for just a few starts in September. As long as he heads into the offseason healthy and with some reps against big-league hitters under his belt the Mets should be happy. So far so good.

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.