Free agency is officially underway

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As of 12:01 a.m. ET this morning, MLB free agency was officially open for business.

Free agents are now free to negotiate and sign with any team. Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton headline this year’s crop, which isn’t nearly as impressive as ones we have seen in the past. Still, many believe that we could see some wild spending this winter, as the game is thriving and new television deals will put significant money in the pockets of each team.

You may have noticed yesterday that a handful of players received one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offers from their respective teams. Aaron has the full list here. The reason teams did that was to secure draft pick compensation if those players sign elsewhere. We’ll know by next Friday whether the offers have been accepted or declined.

In the past, most of the activity in the Hot Stove took place during the Winter Meetings in early December (this year it’s December 3-6 in Nashville), but it will be interesting to see if things develop more quickly this offseason. Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, teams were not required to offer arbitration to their free agents until the latter part of November. For instance, last year the deadline was November 23. This year’s qualifying offer deadline was three weeks earlier.

Craig has a thorough run-down of free agency here while Matthew ranked his top 50 free agents here.

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.