<span class="vcard">Aaron Gleeman</span>

Report: White Sox, Orioles “emerging as leaders” for Yoenis Cespedes

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Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reports that the White Sox and Orioles are “emerging as leaders” in the Yoenis Cespedes derby, with the Angels, Giants, and Rangers also involved.

According to Sanchez the market for Cespedes is “taking shape,” although it’s unclear if that means the free agent outfielder is expected to sign soon.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported Monday that the White Sox were pursuing big name outfielders, mentioning Cespedes and Alex Gordon specifically, so clearly there’s so fire behind the smoke even though Chicago currently has a starting outfield of Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, and Avisail Garcia.

Cespedes seems likely to get offers exceeding $100 million and won’t require parting with a draft pick to sign.

John Jaso joins the Pirates on a two-year contract

Orioles Rays Spring Baseball
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Pittsburgh has found its left-handed-hitting replacement for Pedro Alvarez at first base, signing John Jaso to a two-year, $8 million contract.

Jaso, who began his career as a catcher and transitioned out from behind the plate following a concussion, figures to platoon at first base with the right-handed-hitting Michael Morse. He won’t come anywhere near the same power numbers as Alvarez, but Jaso has very strong on-base skills and almost can’t help but be an upgrade defensively.

Jaso hit .286 with five homers and an .839 OPS in 70 games for the Rays in 2015 and he’s a career .263 hitter with a .767 OPS through age 31. Those career marks include a .274 batting average and .797 OPS versus righties–compared to a .178 batting average and .542 OPS versus lefties–so it’s easy to see why the Pirates think he’s a good fit for a platoon role paired with Morse.

Cubs release Brendan Ryan one week after trading for him

Brendan Ryan Getty
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Last week the Yankees traded Brendan Ryan to the Cubs as the player to be named later in the Starlin Castro-for-Adam Warren swap and today they released the veteran infielder.

Ryan already exercised his $1 million player option for 2016, so the Cubs will be on the hook for that and presumably his inclusion in the trade was simply intended to balance the salaries a bit given Castro’s much larger contract.

Ryan has long been one of the majors’ best defensive shortstops, but he’s a career .234 hitter with a paltry .610 OPS and basically matched those numbers for the Yankees in 2015. He should be able to find another gig as a utility infielder, but may have to do so on a minor-league contract.

Alexi Ogando signs with the Braves

Alexi Ogando
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Alexi Ogando, who spent 2015 in a middle relief role for the Red Sox, has signed a minor-league deal with the Braves that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ogando posted a 3.99 ERA and 53/28 K/BB ratio in 65 innings for the Red Sox, but served up 12 homers to avoid being trusted in key spots. When healthy he’s generally been an impact arm and the 32-year-old right-hander has a 3.44 ERA in 471 innings as a big leaguer spent mostly with the Rangers, but clearly teams have doubts about his remaining upside.

Chris Cotillo of SB Nation says the deal would pay $2 million plus incentives if Ogando makes the Opening Day roster and includes an opt-out clause.

Alex Gordon tells Royals they have “no chance” to re-sign him at current offer

Alex Gordon
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Kansas City seemingly never had much hope of re-signing Alex Gordon and now Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the free agent outfielder has informed the Royals they have “no chance” of bringing him back based on their current offer.

Jim Bowden of ESPN.com says the Royals’ offer was four years and around $50 million, which would barely be better than not making any offer given than he’s likely to sign for at least twice that much.

Gordon is a Gold Glove-caliber corner outfielder with a good but not great bat and on a four- or five-year deal it wouldn’t be surprising to see him surpass $20 million per season. During the past five years he’s hit .281 with an .809 OPS while consistently rating among the best all-around outfielders in baseball.

Kansas City will receive a first-round draft pick as compensation for Gordon signing elsewhere after a decade in the organization and the Royals figure to pursue mid-level veteran free agents to replace him. That is, unless Gordon’s stance leaking to the media motivates the team to significantly increase their offer.