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Dallas Keuchel
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

Astros, Dallas Keuchel avoid arbitration with record $7.25 million

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The Astros and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel avoided arbitration on Friday, agreeing on a one-year, $7.25 million contract in the lefty’s first year of arbitration eligibility. That, as Jon Heyman notes, is a record for first-time arbitration-eligible players.

Keuchel, 28, will be eligible for arbitration in 2017 and ’18 as well, and can become eligible for free agency after the 2018 season. He and the Astros are expected to discuss a contract extension, however.

This past season, Keuchel went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA and a 216/51 K/BB ratio in 232 innings. He received 22 of 30 first place votes in AL Cy Young balloting, beating out runner-up David Price.

Indians’ Roberto Perez drawing trade interest

Cleveland Indians’ Roberto Perez watches his ball after hitting a two-run home run off Minnesota Twins startling pitcher Tyler Duffey in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Cleveland. Abraham Almonte scored on the play. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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In Saturday’s column for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Terry Pluto notes that the Indians have received trade interest in catcher Roberto Perez. The club is reluctant to deal him, though, as catching depth behind starter Yan Gomes is thin.

Perez, 27, hit a productive .228/.348/.402 with seven home runs, 21 RBI, and 30 runs scored in 226 plate appearances for the Indians last season. He was also helpful behind the plate, nabbing 42 percent of attempted base-stealers, 10 percent above the league average.

Perez won’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2017 season and he won’t be able to hit free agency until after the 2020 season, so he represents cheap catching depth for the Indians. They aren’t in any rush to deal him.

Sandy Alderson doesn’t want to go beyond one year for free agent relievers

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The defending National League champion Mets are searching for bullpen help, but seem content to wait for free agent demands to diminish. GM Sandy Alderson would prefer to avoid multi-year contracts for relievers, per Mike Puma of the New York Post.

“Does it really improve the team to give a reliever a one-, or two-year contract if we don’t believe he is better than what we have?” general manager Sandy Alderson asked earlier this week.

Two targets left in free agency include Antonio Bastardo and Tyler Clippard. Bastardo, 30, posted a 2.98 ERA with a 64/26 K/BB ratio in 57 1/3 innings for the Pirates this past season. Clippard, who came over to the Mets from the Athletics ahead of the trade deadline, compiled an aggregate 2.92 ERA with a 64/31 K/BB ratio over 71 innings.

The Mets have three bullpen spots set with closer Jeurys Familia followed by Addison Reed and Jerry Blevins. The other bullpen spots are open. Hansel Robles, Carlos Torres, Josh Edgin, Sean Gilmartin, Dario Alvarez, Erik Goeddel, Jim Henderson, Josh Smoker, Logan Verrett, and Rafael Montero — likely among others — will have opportunities to claim roles in spring training,

Ross Atkins to meet with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion regarding extensions

Jose Bautista
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Appearing on MLB Network Radio on Sunday, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said he plans to meet with outfielder Jose Bautista and 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion next week to discuss contract extensions. No offers have been made thus far.

Bautista, 35, is entering the final year of his five-year, $65 million contract. The Jays exercised their club option for the 2016 season back in November and will pay him $14 million. The slugger went yard 40 times in 2015, driving in 114 runs, scoring 108 runs, and batting .250/.377/.536. Though Bautista has played in 150-plus games in each of the past two seasons, he has dealt with various injuries in recent years and his age will certainly be a limiting factor for the team as well. In particular, he dealt with hamstring and shoulder injuries in 2015.

Encarnacion, 33, is also entering the final year of his deal, a three-year, $29 million pact. Similarly, the Jays picked up his $10 million club option back in November. He ripped 39 home runs with 111 RBI, 94 runs scored, and a .277/.372/.557 batting line in 2015. Encarnacion spent 85 games at DH and 59 at first base. He underwent surgery at the end of October for a sports hernia but is expected to be ready for spring training.

Don Mattingly, Barry Bonds urging Marlins to hold onto Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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New Marlins manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Barry Bonds have pushed back against owner Jeffrey Loria’s desire to trade outfielder Marcell Ozuna, as they feel they can mold him into a 30/30 player, per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Loria has made no secret that he dislikes Ozuna.

Ozuna, 25, won’t become eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. Over parts of three seasons, he has hit .265/.311/.416 with 36 home runs, 161 RBI, and 10 stolen bases across 1,397 plate appearances. The Marlins curiously demoted him to Triple-A in early July this past season and waited until mid-August to recall him.

Cafardo notes that “up to 10 teams” have inquired or otherwise have serious interest in acquiring Ozuna from the Marlins, which isn’t surprising.