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A’s call up catching prospect Derek Norris for MLB debut

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Derek Norris, the catching prospect acquired from the Nationals as part of the offseason swap for Gio Gonzalez, has been called up by the A’s and is making his big-league debut behind the plate today.

Norris is one of the more interesting prospects in baseball, as he’s been very productive in the minors despite low batting averages thanks to tons of walks and power.

Last year, for instance, he hit just .210 in 104 games at Double-A … but smacked 20 homers and drew 77 walks for a strong .367 on-base percentage and .446 slugging percentage. Norris has clearly altered his approach somewhat this season, cutting back on his walks in the name of making more contact and the result is a .273 batting average with a slightly lower OPS than last year.

His power hasn’t gone anywhere with eight homers and 14 doubles in 55 games at Triple-A, so if Norris can continue to hit above .250 in the majors he has a chance to be one of the more productive catchers in the league. For now he’ll try to stick in Oakland at age 23, although with Kurt Suzuki around it’s tough to see a ton of starts behind the plate available for Norris.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.