Cardinals maintaining strong interest in Carlos Beltran

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From FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal comes this:

The Cardinals did extensive background work on free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran last week and maintain strong interest in him, according to major league sources.

Rosenthal goes on to say that other teams “remain in the mix” and that Beltran is considering “two- and even three-year” offers, but the Cardinals may have become the front-runner with the Rockies’ recent acquisition of Michael Cuddyer and the Blue Jays’ heavy involvement in the Yu Darvish bidding.

Beltran batted .300/.385/.525 with 22 home runs, 39 doubles and 84 RBI in 598 plate appearances for the Mets and Giants in 2011. The 34-year-old would likely to be asked to play right field in St. Louis until Allen Craig heals from his knee surgery, then he could be shifted to center in place of Jon Jay.

Anibal Sanchez accepts optional assignment to Triple-A

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The Tigers announced on Monday that pitcher Anibal Sanchez has accepted an optional assignment to Triple-A Toledo. Pitcher Warwick Saupold was recalled from Toledo to take Sanchez’s roster spot.

Sanchez, 33, continued to struggle this season pitching out of the bullpen. He gave up 26 runs (21 earned) on 34 hits and nine walks with 22 strikeouts in 21 innings. Nine of those 34 hits were home runs. Sanchez finished the 2015 season with a 4.99 ERA and last season with a 5.87 ERA, so he’s had a rough go of it in recent years.

The decision to go to Triple-A was Sanchez’s, Anthony Fenech of the Free Press reports. Sanchez wants to be stretched out as a starting pitcher again.

Braves release James Loney

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Just a few days after inking him to a minor league deal, the Braves have released first baseman James Loney, the team announced on Monday. Loney became expendable when the Braves acquired Matt Adams from the Cardinals on Saturday as a replacement for the injured Freddie Freeman.

Loney, 33, appeared in two games at Triple-A Gwinnett. He had one hit, a single, and one walk in eight plate appearances.

Loney will likely have to wait for another team to deal with an injured first baseman or DH before he can secure another contract.