UPDATE: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that Orioles manager Buck Showalter and longtime scout Fred Ferreira watched Ramirez take batting practice shortly after the Winter Meetings. It isn’t clear whether they have legitimate interest or this was just a matter of due diligence.
4:00 PM: Manny Ramirez is scheduled to hold a workout for MLB teams later this month, but a couple teams are already getting a headstart on their evaluation process.
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports (link in Spanish) that the Orioles and Blue Jays have sent scouts to watch Ramirez hit in an indoor hitting cage in Miami.
Ramirez was officially reinstated from the voluntary retirement list last month. While he was initially expected to serve a 100-game suspension for a second positive test related to performance-enhancing drugs, MLB has since ruled that because he sat out nearly the entire 2011 season, he’ll instead serve a 50-game penalty. However, the clock on his suspension won’t begin until he signs with a team. Not surprisingly, interest is lacking.
Ramirez turns 40 in May and considering the wealth of alternatives among aging free agent DH-types, a minor league deal is probably the best-case scenario.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
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.