UPDATE: Turns out the Blue Jays didn’t sign Cesar Izturis after all. Mike Cormack of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays actually signed Julio Izturis, who is Cesar’s 23-year-old brother. He played with the Giants’ low Class A affiliate this past season.
Wednesday, 7:13 PM: After stops in Los Angeles, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Washington, Cesar Izturis is returning to the organization that originally signed him as a 16-year-old in 1996. He inked a minor league deal with the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Izturis will battle to make the team as a utility infielder. He hit .241/.254/.343 in 166 at-bats with the Brewers and Nationals last season (though just four of them were with Washington).
If Cesar can make the team, he’d play with his half-brother, Maicer, for the first time in the majors. Maicer Izturis was signed to a three-year deal earlier this month.
In Cesar Izturis, Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson, the Jays had three top middle infield prospects come up at roughly the same time 11 years ago. The team opted to trade Izturis to the Dodgers for top pitching prospect Luke Prokopec after the 2001 season and go forward with Lopez at short and Hudson at second. Alas, Prokopec got hurt and was a bust. Izturis never did develop into much of a hitter, but he would have given the Jays some stability at short had they kept him. Lopez lasted just one year as the starter before getting traded, and the position has been a revolving door ever since, though Jose Reyes finally figures to change that.
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.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.