While the Phillies are close to wrapping up a new contract with closer Ryan Madson, they are also moving aggressively on another one of their primary targets in free agency.
According to Tom Sredenschek of FOX 29 in Philadelphia, Michael Cuddyer was in town today for a meet-and-greet with the Phillies.
Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com confirms Sredenschek’s report while adding that Cuddyer toured Citizens Bank Park and had lunch with Phillies officials. He also met manager Charlie Manuel, who flew in from Florida.
We learned over the weekend that the Phillies were “in serious pursuit” of Cuddyer while Jim Thome said during his press conference Sunday that he has done his part to make a recruiting pitch.
Cuddyer, who turns 33 in March, batted .284/.346/.459 with 20 home runs, 70 RBI and an .805 OPS over 584 plate appearances this season. He appears to be an ideal fit for the Phillies, who could use him in the outfield and at first base if Ryan Howard misses the start of the 2012 season following surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. He also has experience at second base and the hot corner.
Cuddyer’s asking price isn’t exactly clear, but he reportedly turned down a two-year, $16 million extension with the Twins in August. He qualifies as a Type A free agent this winter, so the Phillies would surrender their first-round pick for 2012 (No. 31 overall) to Minnesota if an agreement is reached.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.