Rangers expressing interest in free agent Hiroki Kuroda?

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Take this one with a grain of salt, as Japanese news services have been wrong many times before about the goings-on in MLB. But here’s the report…

According to Sponichi, via the invaluable Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker, the Rangers are expressing free-agent interest in Hiroki Kuroda.

Kuroda has drawn attention from several teams this offseason, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Rockies, but he’s not budging from an asking price that is thought to be in the range of $12-$13 million annually. The Rangers might not have that kind of room in their budget, and they already have six viable starters on their 40-man roster in Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, and Yu Darvish — who is expected to sign a contract before the January 18 deadline. So it’s hard to see where Kuroda might fit.

But, hey, crazier things have happened. And the 36-year-old right-hander isn’t just some slouch.

Kuroda registered a 3.07 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 32 starts last year for the Dodgers, striking out 161 batters and issuing only 49 walks in 202 innings. He has a 3.45 career ERA in four major league seasons.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

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The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.