<span class="vcard">D.J. Short</span>

FILE - This is a Sept. 21, 2014, file photo showing Tropicana Field,  before a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays have reached a deal with St. Petersburg that would allow the team to search for new stadium sites on both sides of Tampa Bay. The team has played since its inception in Pinellas County at what now is called Tropicana Field. The agreement, slated for a vote Thursday, Dec. 11, by the St. Petersburg City Council, would allow the Rays to evaluate sites on the east side of the bay in Hillsborough County, where Tampa is located.  (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay, File)
AP Photo/Reinhold Matay, File

Rays granted permission to look for new stadium sites

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Here’s a potentially significant development in the ongoing Rays’ stadium saga.

According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the St. Petersburg City Council approved an agreement Thursday — by a vote of 5-3 — to allow the Rays to look for new stadium locations outside the city and in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

As Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times notes, this was the third time that St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman tried to get a deal done. The first one was shot down last December and the second ended in a deadlock a few months later.

The Rays’ stadium issues have been well-documented. Partially due to location, the team hasn’t drawn well despite some very successful teams. They are also stuck in a brutal lease at Tropicana Field through 2027. Rays owner Stuart Sternberg has long said that the current situation isn’t viable, leading to speculation about a possible sale or a move to Montreal. Naturally, Sternberg was happy coming out of today’s vote:

We’re still a long way from a new stadium, but today’s development is welcome news for Rays fans.

MLB just released the following statement:

“Major League Baseball appreciates this step forward taken by the St. Petersburg City Council and remains fully supportive of Stu Sternberg’s vision to bring this stadium process to conclusion. Mr. Sternberg’s patience and persistence throughout the franchise’s long-standing efforts have illustrated his commitment to fans of the region. We look forward to further progress in the weeks and months as the Rays strive to ensure the future of the franchise with a first-class ballpark in the region.”

Report: Orioles have made offer to Yoenis Cespedes

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UPDATE: No word on the exact offer, but ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Orioles are willing to give Cespedes a five-year deal in the range of $75-90 million. He also hears that the team has grown frustrated with the lack of progress in talks with Chris Davis and might be close to walking away. Could the Cespedes offer be an attempt to force a resolution?

6:03 p.m. ET: After being quiet for most of the winter, we are finally seeing some movement in the market for free agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

According to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, the Orioles have made an offer to Cespedes. The specifics of that offer aren’t yet known. However, Kubatko writes that the club prefers him over fellow free agent Justin Upton. Part of this could be that Cespedes won’t cost a draft pick while Upton would. Nothing new has developed with Chris Davis, so this is a signal that the Orioles aren’t willing to wait much longer to get ready for 2016.

Cespedes, 30, is coming off a career year where he batted .287 with an .870 OPS to go along with 35 home runs and 105 RBI. Still, he hasn’t been able to land that lucrative contract many had him pegged for. The Mets have reportedly kept in touch about a short-term deal, but he still appears likely to end up elsewhere. Could Baltimore be that spot?

Rays avoid arbitration with Alex Cobb, Jake McGee, Brandon Guyer

Alex Cobb
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File
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MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Rays have avoided arbitration with right-hander Alex Cobb, reliever Jake McGee, and outfielder Brandon Guyer.

Cobb, who underwent Tommy John surgery last May and missed the entire season, will receive a $4 million salary. This matches what he made through the arbitration process last winter. He figures to be in rehab mode for most of this season, but the Rays have him under team control through 2017. The 28-year-old owns a 3.21 ERA over his first 81 starts in the majors and was considered the Rays’ ace going into last year.

Coming off a 2.41 ERA a 48/8 K/BB ratio over 37 1/3 innings last season, McGee will earn $4.8 million in 2016. It’s a nice raise from the $3.55 million he made in 2015. With the 29-year-old getting more expensive through the arbitration process, it’s easy to understand why the Rays have had him and Brad Boxberger on the block this winter. Like Cobb, McGee will be eligible for free agency after 2017.

Guyer, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, will get $1.185 million in 2016. He played well in a part-time role last season, batting .265/.359/.413 with eight home runs, 28 RBI, and 10 stolen bases over 128 games.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi confirms Aroldis Chapman will be closer

Aroldis Chapman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Ending speculation about the three-headed monster in the back-end of his bullpen, Yankees manager Joe Girardi confirmed during an appearance on YES Network tonight that the recently-acquired Aroldis Chapman will go into spring training as the team’s closer.

It’s not exactly an unexpected decision given Chapman’s history in the role, but this means that Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances will pitch in a set-up capacity in 2016. Miller was the primary closer for New York last season, posting a 2.04 ERA over 60 appearances while going 36-for-38 in save opportunities.

While Chapman is Girardi’s projected closer at the moment, his status for the start of the season remains in question. MLB is currently investigating him for a domestic violence incident from October and could levy a suspension.

Rockies one of three finalists for Gerardo Parra

Baltimore Orioles' Gerardo Parra follows through with a double against the New York Yankees in the third inning of the first baseball game of a doubleheader in Baltimore, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
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We have mentioned the Rockies’ interest in free agent Gerardo Parra in recent weeks and now the outfielder’s agent, Jose Mijares, tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that the club is one of three finalists for his client.

The other finalists aren’t yet known, but Mijares said that Parra hopes to make a decision “within the next few days.”

“The Rockies are one of three teams in the mix,” agent Jose Mijares said from Venezuela where he was watching the winter baseball finals. “We are going to look at all the situations and do what is best for Gerardo and his family.”

The elephant in the room here is that the Rockies already have a full outfield with Carlos Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon. The pursuit of Parra suggests that a trade is inevitable. With that in mind, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register expects the Angels to make a run at Blackmon.

Parra struggled after being traded from the Brewers to the Orioles at the non-waiver trade deadline last July 31, but he still finished with a solid .291/.328/.452 batting line. Mijares says the 28-year-old is looking for a three-year deal.