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Athletics considering free agent shortstops Stephen Drew and Hiroyuki Nakajima

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The Athletics could be involved in trade talks with the Marlins for Yunel Escobar, but they are also keeping their eyes on the free agent market. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Athletics general manager Billy Beane said this evening that Stephen Drew and Hiroyuki Nakajima are the two free agent shortstop possibilities being considered right now.

Drew, who turns 30 in March, batted .223/.309/.348 with seven home runs, 28 RBI and a .657 OPS in 79 games this season between the Diamondbacks and Athletics. He looked a bit more like himself after joining Oakland in August, but the A’s declined their half of a $10 million mutual option for 2013 in late October. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM reported yesterday that the A’s, Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals and Tigers are all in on the veteran shortstop.

Nakajima went through the posting process last winter, but had to return to Japan after he failed to work out an agreement with the Yankees. He’s an unrestricted free agent this time around. The 30-year-old batted .311/.382/.451 with 13 home runs, 74 RBI, seven stolen bases and an .833 OPS this past season with the Seibu Lions. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle hears that the Giants have spoken with Nakajima’s representatives as a possible backup plan in case they are unable to re-sign Marco Scutaro.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.