Rick Porcello

With scouts watching, Rick Porcello turns in gem

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At least according to the numbers, Rick Porcello turned in one of the best outings of the spring so far Monday, striking out six in four scoreless innings against the Astros. The watchers were likely pretty impressed, too.

With Porcello rumored to be available in trade talks, today’s performance came in front of a “ton” of scouts, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. MLB.com said it was “more than a half-dozen.”

The Tigers are weighing whether Drew Smyly’s emergence as a rotation option has made Porcello expendable. The truth is that they don’t get as much from Porcello as another team might; the groundballs he so frequently generates too often skip past Jhonny Peralta, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Give him another set of infielders and he probably would have finished with ERAs in the low-4.00s the last couple of years. Instead, he’s come in at 4.92, 4.75 and 4.59 since a stronger rookie season in 2009.

However, there is a problem in trading Porcello; especially after moving Justin Turner last summer, they’d have very little rotation depth beyond their top five with Porcello gone. Rule 5 pick Kyle Lobstein, veteran Shawn Hill, prospect Casey Crosby and relief candidate Duane Below are their next best options and none inspire much confidence. For that reason, the ideal Porcello trade might be similar to the one the A’s pulled off with the Diamondbacks last year, when they got Jarrod Parker in return for Trevor Cahill.

Alternatively, the Tigers could trade Porcello for a closer candidate. However, there don’t appear to be any teams looking to move established closers at this time. The Cubs’ Carlos Marmol is very much available, but he’s hardly a safe choice to close for a contender these days. Perhaps the best fit would be with Colorado and Rafael Betancourt. The Rockies could certainly use another starter with upside, and while Betancourt isn’t a big name, he’s an excellent reliever.

For now, the Tigers might as well take a wait and see approach and keep their six starters until the end of the spring in case one gets hurt. They’ll also have a better handle on their bullpen by the final week of the month.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.