B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria, Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon and B.J. Upton want to stay with Rays in 2012

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Matthew Pouliot wrote yesterday about how the Rays are in position to potentially bring back nearly their entire roster next season, with the notable exception of Johnny Damon being one of their few free agents and B.J. Upton possibly being on the trading block.

Following yesterday’s season-ending loss Damon and Upton both expressed a desire to remain with the Rays in 2012. Damon called Tampa Bay “the perfect fit” and told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that he “would love to come back.”

Upton was slightly less optimistic with one season remaining until he’s eligible for free agency, saying:

I’m hoping I’m back. That’s out of my hands, I’ve got nothing to do with that. But I’ve grown up with a lot of these guys, and the guys we’ve acquired, I enjoy being around them. So hopefully next February I’m still in a Rays uniform.

There were plenty of rumors swirling around Upton in July, so he figures to be linked to numerous teams this offseason. He’s in line for about $7 million via the arbitration process and the Rays have Desmond Jennings ready as a center field replacement. If the Rays liked having Damon around and he’s willing to take another moderately priced one-year contract he could fit into their 2012 plans, but the Upton situation is more complicated.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.

Tigers to give Omar Infante some work in center field this spring

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Omar Infante #4 of the Detroit Tigers follows through on an RBI single scoring Prince Fielder #28 during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field  on September 11, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
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Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.

Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.

The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”