Blue Jays avoid arbitration with Colby Rasmus at $2.7M

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Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com is reporting that the Blue Jays have inked Colby Rasmus to a $2.7 million contract for 2012, thus avoiding salary arbitration with the 25-year-old center fielder.

Rasmus made a poor first impression with Toronto last year, batting just .173/.201/.316 in 140 plate appearances after being acquired from the Cardinals at the July trade deadline. But he’s still regarded as an immensely talented young player and would seem capable of shifting his career back on track.

The former first-round pick made a big splash in 2010, when, as a 23-year-old, he registered a sparkling .859 OPS with 23 home runs and 12 stolen bases in 144 games for St. Louis. His development took a sudden detour in 2011 and his clashes with the Cardinals’ coaching staff eventually resulted in an eight-player swap.

Rasmus will be eligible for arbitration twice more before getting a crack at the free agent market.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.

Orioles acquire Alec Asher from the Phillies

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The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the club traded pitcher Alec Asher to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Asher, 25, was the victim of a roster crunch. He was not going to make the 25-man roster and the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley was already full. The Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade.

Asher had good results in 27 2/3 innings in the big leagues last year, posting a 2.28 ERA with a 13/4 K/BB ratio. While it didn’t show in those stats, the right-hander sometimes struggles with command and he doesn’t miss bats often enough to make up for it. The Orioles, however, are happy to add some pitching depth.