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Chipper Jones plans to return next season

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Chipper Jones has mentioned the possibility of retirement in the past, leading some to speculate that he would consider walking away following this season. Well, he told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier today that he has every intention of honoring the final guaranteed year on his contract.

“I’m playing next year,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday. “I still feel like I can go out there and play a good third base and be a threat, at least, at the plate. I’m having a good defensive year and the [batting] average is on the rise.”

Jones, who turns 40 next April, is owed $13 million next season in the final guaranteed year of his three-year, $42 million contract extension. His contract includes a club option for 2013, though it could automatically vest if he appears in 123 games next season or averages 127 games played between 2011 and 2012. Jones hasn’t ruled out playing in 2013, but will wait until next season to decide.

While Jones has battled the regular bumps and bruises this season and missed three weeks following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, the switch-hitting third baseman is batting .275/.347/.466 with 12 homers, 56 RBI and an .813 OPS over 336 plate appearances. In fact, he has homered in each of the past two nights. Compare that to average major league third baseman, who has an ugly .248/.312/.379 batting line and a .691 OPS. He’ll stick around as long as he’s still healthy enough to hit.

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.