Author: Bill Baer

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton delivers a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Tuesday, June 23, 2015, in Boston. The Orioles won 6-4. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
AP Photo/Steven Senne

Zach Britton settles with the Orioles for $6.75 million

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The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.

Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.

The Blue Jays will also try to sign Josh Donaldson to a multi-year deal

Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson gets up after being unable to handle an infield single by Boston Red Sox's Mookie Betts during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
AP Photo/Winslow Townson
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Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.

Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.

This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.

Ray Searage would like to retire as a Pirate

Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, left, confers with relief pitcher Jared Hughes after he was pulled against the Colorado Rockies in the eighth inning of the Rockies' 10-1 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has one year remaining on his contract and both sides would like to continue their existing relationship if at all possible. Searage said, “I’d love to retire as a Pirate,” as Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. However, GM Neal Huntington understands that a lucrative offer could pry the pitching guru out of Pittsburgh. He went as far as to call Searage “special”.

Cook notes that the Pirates have used Searage’s tutelage as a sales pitch in bringing new pitchers to the club, including Jon Niese, Kyle Lobstein, Ryan Vogelsong, Neftali Feliz, and Juan Nicasio. Searage has previously been credited with turning around the careers of Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and J.A. Happ, among others. He also aided in the success of Gerrit Cole and Arquimedes Caminero.

Searage was named the interim pitching coach for the Pirates in August 2010 after the club let Joe Kerrigan go. He gained the official title of pitching coach in the following offseason. The Pirates’ staff ERA, starting with his first full season in 2011, has been: 4.04, 3.86, 3.26, 3.47, and 3.21.

Royals and Salvador Perez working on a new contract

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MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports that the Royals and catcher Salvador Perez are working on a new contract. The Royals’ backstop will earn $2 million this season and has club options on each of the following three seasons worth $3.75 million, $5 million, and $6 million progressively. A new contract would cover those four seasons and presumably one or two years during which he could otherwise be a free agent.

Perez, 25, helped the Royals win the World Series last season, batting .260/.280/.426 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI during the regular season while playing solid defense behind the plate. He homered four times during the post-season as well.

The Royals are also reportedly working on an extension with third baseman Mike Moustakas.

Ryan Braun a few weeks behind schedule after offseason back surgery

Ryan Braun
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
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Brewers slugger Ryan Braun underwent back surgery in late October, and the outfielder says he’s still a few weeks behind schedule and won’t be 100 percent when spring training begins, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That being said, he hasn’t experienced any setbacks and expects to be ready by Opening Day.

Braun, 32, played in 140 games last season, his highest total since 2012. He hit .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs, 84 RBI, 87 runs scored, and 24 stolen bases. The performance led to his sixth career All-Star selection. The return to form was heartening for the Brewers, who still owe him $95 million through at least 2020.

The Brewers, reportedly, “would not hesitate” to trade Braun if they received an offer they liked. The club traded shortstop Jean Segura on Saturday night and could trade catcher Jonathan Lucroy by Opening Day or at some point during the season.