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

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Brian Matusz throws against the Miami Marlins during the 12th inning during a baseball game in Miami, Saturday, May 23, 2015. Matusz left the game after his forearm was inspected by umpires. The Marlins won 1-0. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)
AP Photo/Joe Skipper

Orioles and reliever Brian Matusz avoid arbitration at $3.9 million

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The Orioles and reliever Brian Matusz have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $3.9 million contract, as first reported by Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports.

Matusz requested $4.4 million and was offered $3.5 million by the Orioles when figures were exchanged last month. The two sides ultimately settled for a little under the midpoint.

A former starter, Matusz has found his niche in Baltimore’s bullpen over the past three seasons. He had a 2.94 ERA over 58 appearances in 2015 while averaging a career-high 10.3 K/9. He’s due to be a free agent after this season.

With Matusz out of the way, closer Zach Britton is now the last arbitration case remaining for the Orioles. While it’s possible the two sides could settle, they have an arbitration hearing scheduled for February 17. There’s a bit of a gap here, as Britton requested a $7.9 million salary and was offered $5.6 million. If it does go to a hearing, the three-person arbitration panel will choose one salary or the other.

The Royals unveiled an awesome billboard

CaJdfO-UEAAHBiG
Kansas City Royals on Twitter
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The Royals have had some creative billboards in the past, but their latest effort takes the cake.

If you have followed the defending World Series champions at all, you know that catcher Salvador Perez likes to douse his teammates with the water cooler after a big win. He got to do that a lot last season. This tradition inspired the awesome, new design:

There’s an interactive aspect to this, as fans are encouraged to pose for pictures in front of the billboard and tag them with #SalvySplash on Instagram and Twitter for the chance to win some prizes. Well done, Royals.

Report: White Sox ‘exploring’ potential trade for Andre Ethier

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Going into this offseason, it was unclear whether the White Sox were going to be buyers or sellers. They answered that question by picking up Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie in trades while signing Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro as their new catching tandem.

Many have considered a corner outfielder as the missing piece for Chicago, as Avisail Garcia disappointed to the tune of a .675 OPS last season. Yoenis Cespedes was an obvious fit, but the White Sox were reportedly reluctant to give him a long-term deal. Now that the free agent market has thinned out, the club is keeping an eye on possible trades.

It’s unclear if there have been any substantive talks between the two clubs. Rogers also hears that the Dodgers would prefer to deal Carl Crawford. Either, who turns 34 in April, is coming off a strong bounceback season where he batted .294 with 14 home runs and an .852 OPS over 445 plate appearances. He’s owed $38 million over the next two seasons.

The White Sox also continue to be linked to free agents Dexter Fowler and Ian Desmond. Both players are attached to draft pick compensation.

Giants, George Kontos avoid arbitration at $1.15 million

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher George Kontos throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Cincinnati. San Francisco won 6-1. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
AP Photo/Al Behrman
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The Giants and reliever George Kontos have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.15 million contract, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.

Kontos was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 30-year-old right-hander requested $1.35 million and was offered $850,000 by the Giants when figures were exchanged last month, so the two sides settled just a shade over the midpoint.

Kontos thrived out of the Giants’ bullpen last season, posting a 2.33 ERA in 73 appearances. While he made some big strides with his control, oddly he struck out only 44 batters in 73 1/3 innings. He averaged 8.1 K/9 over his previous stints in the majors from 2011-2014.

The Nationals are on Jonathan Lucroy’s no-trade list

Jonathan Lucroy
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy recently indicated that he and the team would likely be better off if he was traded in the near future. Meanwhile, the Nationals have reportedly expressed interest in him as a potential upgrade over Wilson Ramos behind the plate. It sounds like a good match on the surface, but it might not be that simple.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal has the scoop:

Now, this doesn’t mean that Lucroy wouldn’t accept a trade to the Nationals under any circumstances. Usually in these sort of situations, a player asks for some sort of financial incentive to waive their no-trade clause. Lucroy is an interesting case in that he’s owed $4 million this season, with a $5.25 million club option for 2017 or a $250,000 buyout. The Nationals obviously wouldn’t have a problem picking up that option as a condition of the trade, but perhaps Lucroy could insist that the option be renegotiated.

Lucroy, who turns 30 in June, was limited to 103 games last season due to a fractured big toe and a concussion while batting .264/.326/.391 with seven home runs and 43 RBI. He’s a big chip for the rebuilding Brewers, so they might prefer to wait to see if he rebounds.