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  • Brewers agree to deal with RHP Feliz
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, January 19, 2017

    The Milwaukee Brewers added veteran depth to their bullpen on Thursday by reaching agreement with free agent right-hander Neftali Feliz on a one-year, $5.35 million deal.

    • Feliz can earn an additional $1.5 million in incentives as part of the deal with the Brewers, who traded closer Tyler Thornburg to the Boston Red Sox in early December. Thornburg had assumed the closing duties after Jeremy Jeffress was traded to the Texas Rangers on Aug. 1.

      Feliz passed his physical on Wednesday in Milwaukee, which was a positive sign considering the 28-year-old Dominican saw his 2016 season end on Sept. 3 due to arm fatigue.

      "We kept in touch with his representatives throughout the offseason and we're happy to be able to get something done with him," general manager David Stearns told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We saw some things last year in his repertoire, in his stuff and usage that we thought were positive trends. We think he threw the ball very well. We think there's still room for growth with him and we think he's going to be a nice addition to the back of our 'pen."

      Feliz earned American League Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 after recording 40 saves with Texas. He helped the Rangers advance to the World Series in 2010 and 2011, but he blew a save in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals that ignited a difficult stretch in his career.

      Feliz underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and missed the majority of the following season as a result. He also spent plenty of time on the disabled list in 2014 and 2015.

      Feliz posted a 4-2 mark with 3.52 ERA in 62 appearances with the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He owns a 19-14 record with a 3.22 ERA in 308 career appearances with Texas, the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh.

  • Marlins deal top prospect for Reds RHP Straily
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, January 19, 2017

    The Miami Marlins acquired well-traveled right-hander Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday for a trio of prospects.

    • Straily will be pitching for his fifth club in six years when he joins the Reds, who received right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice along with outfielder Isaiah White in the deal.

      Straily recorded a 14-8 mark with a 3.76 ERA in 34 games last season after being selected off waivers from San Diego Padres prior to Opening Day. The 34-year-old led Cincinnati in wins, innings pitched (191 1/3) and strikeouts (62) but also tied for the National League lead in homers allowed (31).

      Straily owns a 27-21 career mark with a 4.24 ERA while pitching in 86 games for the Oakland Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Reds.

      Castillo, 24, posted an 8-6 mark with a 2.26 ERA and 103 strikeouts over 24 starts last season while splitting his time between Class-A Advanced and Double-A. He was the top-ranked pitching prospect in the organization according to Baseball Prospectus.

      Brice struggled in 15 relief appearances with the Marlins last season, recording a bloated 7.07 ERA in 14 innings. The 24-year-old fared better during his time in Double-A and Triple-A last year, posting a 4-7 mark, 2.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 32 games.

      The 20-year-old White, who was a third-round pick in the 2015 draft, batted .214 in low-A ball last year.

  • Public 2018 Hall ballots should benefit Bonds, Clemens
    By The Sports Xchange / Thursday, January 19, 2017

    If you love baseball and care about the Hall of Fame, it is time to familiarize yourself with a principle called "The Observer Effect."

    • It is chronicled in science, but it is about to be a real thing in baseball. It could shape who ends up with a coveted spot in the sport's shrine in the coming years.

      The basic idea is that a process is changed when we are able to see it. This comes into play next year when the secret balloting by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America for the Hall of Fame becomes public. On the next ballot, every voter's choices will be revealed and open to scrutiny.

      Plenty of ballots were made public before Wednesday night's announcement that Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were ticketed to be enshrined. But the difference between the vote totals that were public and final tallies was telling. And, as interesting as the candidacies for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were already, they may be much more so next year.

      First the news on those two: Out of 442 votes and with 332 (75 percent) needed, Clemens got 239 (54.1 percent) and Bonds got 238 (53.8 percent). Each, in his fifth year, is up almost 10 percent. Of 14 new voters we know about, 13 picked both.

      The thing here is the difference between the choices of voters who went public with their selections and voters who stayed private. Just before the results were announced, there were 250 voters who revealed their ballots, and Bonds was at 64.4 percent and Clemens at 63.2 percent. Clearly, many of the voters who resisted scrutiny by the general public left them off. Here's a theory as to why.

      Every voter who went public, either by posting on social media or writing about it or turning it in to one of the trackers, likely received a reaction. The experience here was a fusillade of responses, some approval but more than half who were upset with an omission. Angry people like to speak out, especially with the cover of social media anonymity. There is no doubt that the scrutiny played a role.

      Most voters don't want their choices torn apart. Was that the case for the majority who left Clemens, Bonds or both off their ballots? It remains to be seen. Will being outed with their ballots move the vote totals?

      It might.

      And that is why watching the tallies for Bonds and Clemens next year is so interesting.

      Given the enormity of circumstantial evidence that those two used performance-enhancing drugs, it is clear the electorate initially didn't want to give them a pass. Many voters felt voting for them insulted the game's integrity. Some were looking for the Hall of Fame to take a position. Some hoped for more information. And others decided to withhold their votes for a period of time to communicate their disapproval.

      Next year, everyone will be watching. How the electorate responds to that could be extremely interesting.

      There is another thing. Raines didn't make the cut for nine seasons. In his final year on the ballot, he got in overwhelmingly (though for transparency, without this vote). Many voters who hadn't selected Raines in years past went for him on his final chance.

      Some voters are comfortable with the public seeing them change position on a player; the decision here was to include Bonds and Clemens this year because they were superior to others from their era voted in despite suspicion of drug use. But how will the electorate feel about changing their disposition in the disinfecting sunlight?

      Once the voting is entirely public, will voters resist the public calling them a "flip-flopper" by doing what so many did this year with Raines?

      Next year may be the best chance Bonds and Clemens have to get in.

      How the electorate changes -- new voters are taking a softer stance on those from the so-called "PED era" -- is an unknown. Some of the hardliners are removed from covering the game and will have their voting rights expire.

      Trevor Hoffman, a bellwether for closers, came up five votes short this time around. But maybe the biggest injustice in this year's Hall of Fame voting is that Vladimir Guerrero didn't get in. His credentials are impeccable, and he carries no taint of PED use, but he was still 15 votes shy. Both are likely to get in with first-year nominees Chipper Jones and Jim Thome next year.

      Bonds and Clemens? The guess here is that they don't get in next season but they come within a couple dozen votes of qualifying. Tainted as they are, they both probably will get in eventually. But if the bump isn't there next season -- with every vote there for the fans to dissect -- maybe the writing will be on the wall.

      "The Observer Effect" could be very much on play in the coming year.

  • Pudge, Bagwell, Raines get Hall call
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    PHOENIX -- The long (and longer) waits for Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are finally over. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez had no such stress.

    • First baseman Bagwell, outfielder Raines and catcher Rodriguez were named Wednesday to the MLB Hall of Fame in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America, continuing the Hall's recent trend toward inclusion and immediate recognition.

      Bagwell received 86.2 percent of the vote (381 ballots) in his seventh year on the ballot, one more vote than Raines, who was in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Rodriguez joined Johnny Bench as the only catchers elected in their first year of eligibility.

      The 2017 Hall class was nearly the largest since the initial class of 1936, when five players were inducted. Closer Trevor Hoffman finished five votes short of the 332 necessary, and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero was 15 votes shy.

      Raines received 86 percent of the votes, a jump from 69.8 percent last year and the largest increase among the repeat candidates.

      "I was pretty happy about what happened last year," Raines told the MLB Network after the announcement.

      "I was within striking distance. This is kind of the first year I lost sleep, you know it is your last year. I'm a happy young man. I don't even think of what happened the last nine years. I kind of got what I was looking for."

      Steroid era stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens gained in the voting, passing 50 percent for the first time, but still fell far short of enshrinement. Bonds is the career home run leader; Clemens ranks ninth in victories.

      Bonds received 53.8 percent of the votes this year, his sixth on the ballot, up from 44.3 percent. Clemens, also in this sixth year, improved to 54.1 percent from 45.2.

      The biggest loser was right-hander Curt Schilling, who fell from 52.3 percent to 45.0 percent. Some voters were critical of his political stance during the last election cycle and said they would not for him, citing the "character" standard in determining a player's candidacy.

      Bagwell, known as one of the savviest trading-deadline acquisitions when Houston traded for him in 1990, spent 15 years with the Astros and had eight seasons with at least 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs. He had two seasons of 40 homers and 30 stolen bases and is one of 11 players with 440 homers and 200 stolen bases. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1991 and the NL MVP in 1994. Bagwell is the 50th Hall of Fame to play for only one team.

      Raines, known for his speed, is the only player in major league history with 100 triples, 150 home runs and 600 stolen bases. He is the only player with four seasons of 50 extra-base hits and 70 stolen bases, and he also is the only player with 70 or more stolen bases in six consecutive seasons (1981-86) with the Montreal Expos. Among players with at least 400 stolen base attempts, Raines success rate of 84.7 percent ranks first.

      Rodriguez is the 52nd player elected in his first year of eligibility, a list that does not include Lou Gehrig, who was elected by acclamation by the BBWAA in 1939, or Roberto Clemente, who won in a special election in 1973, three months after his death. Rodriguez won 13 Gold Gloves, the most for a catcher and tied for second most among position players, and seven Silver Slugger Awards. He was the American League MVP with Texas in 2009 and was a 14-time All-Star. He has 2,844 hits and 572 doubles, the most of any player who spent at least 50 percent of his games as a catcher.

      Twelve players, including eight first-year candidates, have been voted into the Hall in the last four years, the most in any four-year span. This year was the third time as many as five players have received at least 70 percent of the vote, also in 1936 and 1947.

      Hoffman, whose 601 saves are second in major league history, improved from 67.3 percent to 74 percent, but finished just short in his bid to become the sixth electee who was primarily a closer. As much as what Hoffman did is also what he did not do. His 76 failed save convertors are the fewest among Hall of Fame closers and his save percentage is third-best in baseball history among long-time closers.

      Closer Lee Smith, who had 478 saves, received 34.2 percent of the votes in his 15th and final year on the ballot. The other closer on the ballot, Billy Wagner, received 10.2 percent of the vote.

      Designated hitter Edgar Martinez continued his climb forward by receiving 58.6 percent of the votes in his eighth year on the ballot. He had 27 percent in 2014 and 43.4 last year.

      Right-hander Mike Mussina had 51.8 percent of the vote in his fourth year on the ballot.

      Outfielder Manny Ramirez received 23.8 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot.

  • MLB notebook: Bagwell, Raines, Rodriguez named to Hall of Fame
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    First baseman Jeff Bagwell, outfielder Tim Raines and catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez on Wednesday were selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2017.

    • Bagwell (381 votes) received 86.2 percent of the vote, one year removed from falling just 15 votes shy of the 75 percent needed to gain entry into the exclusive club.

      Raines (380) garnered 86 percent on his final year on the ballot and Rodriguez (336) had 76 percent of the vote to become the second catcher in the history of the voting to be elected on his first year on the ballot.

      The trio will be honored along with former commissioner Bud Selig and executive John Schuerholz as well as the late Bill King and Claire Smith as part of the Hall's Induction Weekend on July 28-31. King is the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting and Smith is the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for writing.

      --The Oakland Athletics agreed to terms with infielder Trevor Plouffe on a one-year, $5.25 million contract.

      The 30-year-old can make an additional $750,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances -- $150,000 for 350, and $300,000 each for 450 and 525 at-bats.

      Plouffe batted a career-high .260 with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs in 84 games with the Minnesota Twins last year in a season interrupted by three stints on the disabled list. He started 60 games at third base and 13 at first base in 2016. He is expected to be Oakland's primary third baseman if he can stay healthy.

      --Outfielder Kole Calhoun agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels, plus a club option for 2020, the team announced.

      Financial terms were not disclosed, but the Orange County Register reported the deal is worth $26 million. Calhoun, who earned $3.4 million in 2016, batted .271 with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs in 157 games last season.

      The 29-year-old had career highs in runs scored (91), doubles (35), triples (five) and walks (67) while matching a personal best with 161 hits.

  • Pudge Rodriguez, Bagwell, Raines selected to Hall of Fame
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    First baseman Jeff Bagwell, outfielder Tim Raines and catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez on Wednesday were selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2017.

    • Bagwell (381 votes) received 86.2 percent of the vote, one year removed from falling just 15 votes shy of the 75 percent needed to gain entry into the exclusive club.

      Raines (380) garnered 86 percent on his final year on the ballot and Rodriguez (336) had 76 percent of the vote to become the second catcher in the history of the voting to be elected on his first year on the ballot.

      The trio will be honored along with former commissioner Bud Selig and executive John Schuerholz as well as the late Bill King and Claire Smith as part of the Hall's Induction Weekend on July 28-31. King is the Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting and Smith is the J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for writing.

      Players must receive 75 percent of the vote from eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America members to be elected. Voters can list 10 players, who remain eligible for one 10-year window.

      Relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman (327, 74 percent) fell five votes shy of gaining entry on his second year on the ballot. Outfielder Vladimir Guerrero received 317 votes (71.7 percent) as a first-year candidate.

      Right-hander Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and slugger Barry Bonds (53.8) saw significant boosts from last year's respective 45.2 and 44.3 percent totals.

      Bagwell received Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors during his 15-year career with the Houston Astros. Bagwell, who belted 449 homers, made four All-Star teams and won three Silver Slugger Awards.

      Raines was a seven-time All-Star with the Montreal Expos during the 1980s and saw his career span 23 years while playing with the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, the then-Florida Marlins and Baltimore Orioles. He ranks fifth in history behind Rickey Henderson, Lou Brock, Billy Hamilton and Ty Cobb with 808 stolen bases, and his 84.7 percent success rate is the best among players with at least 400 attempts.

      Rodriguez was the American League MVP in 1999 and accrued 14 All-Star selections to establish himself as one of the best catchers of his generation. He batted .296 (2,844 hits) with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs in 21 seasons with six teams.

  • C Arencibia, who played for three teams, retires
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    Veteran catcher J.P. Arencibia announced his retirement from Major League Baseball on Wednesday.

    • Arencibia batted .212 with 80 home runs and 484 RBIs in 466 games over parts of six seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers. He last played in 2015 with the Rays.

      The 31-year-old also spent time in the minor league systems of the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies and finished up his major league career while playing in 24 games with the Rays in 2015.

      "I really never could take a walk in my career, but this walk will be my biggest yet, I'm walking away from baseball," Arencibia wrote in a statement. "I've been blessed to play the game I love professionally for 10 years, with six of those seasons in the MLB. I have done everything with hard work and no shortcuts. I'm so thankful to all the people who have helped me along the way."

      Arencibia hit two home runs to highlight a four-hit performance in his major league debut on Aug. 7, 2010.

      "So many great memories, nothing biggest than my debut in Toronto," the Miami native said. "Thank you to the Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays for giving me a chance to live my dream.

      "Toronto and Canada will always hold the biggest part of my heart, I always felt at home there."

  • Versatile INF Plouffe agrees to one-year deal with A's
    By The Sports Xchange / Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    The Oakland Athletics agreed to terms with infielder Trevor Plouffe on a one-year, $5.25 million contract Wednesday.

    • The 30-year-old Plouffe can earn an additional $750,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances -- $150,000 for 350, and $300,000 each for 450 and 525 at-bats.

      Plouffe batted a career-high .260 with 12 home runs and 47 RBIs in 84 games with the Minnesota Twins last year in a season interrupted by three stints on the disabled list. He was the Twins' Opening Day starter at third base for the fourth consecutive season and was batting .302 with two homers and six RBIs in 12 games when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 19 with a strained right intercostal. Plouffe also was out from July 2 to Aug. 7 with a fractured left rib and Sept. 7 through the end of the season with a strained left hamstring.

      Plouffe started 60 games at third base and 13 at first base in 2016. He is expected to be Oakland's primary third baseman if he can stay healthy.

      Plouffe has played every position except pitcher, catcher and center field in his career but has seen most of his playing time at third base with 545 games.

      Plouffe made his major league debut in 2010 and is a .247 career hitter with 96 home runs and 357 RBIs in 723 games over seven seasons, all with the Twins. He hit a career-high 24 homers in just 119 games in 2012 and had 22 home runs and career-high 86 RBIs in 2015.

      To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the A's designated right-handed pitcher Zach Neal for assignment.

      Neal made his major league debut with Oakland last season and went 2-4 with two saves and a 4.24 ERA in 24 games (six starts) over four stints with the A's.

  • MLB notebook: Bautista agrees to deal with Blue Jays
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Outfielder Jose Bautista is returning to the Blue Jays on a one-year deal, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.

    • The contract is reportedly worth $17.2 million for 2017 and includes a mutual option for the following season.

      Bautista rejected that same one-year offer in November and became a free agent.

      The 36-year-old Bautista is a six-time All-Star but didn't draw much interest on the free-agent market after hitting just 22 homers with 69 RBIs in 2016.

      Prior to the season, Bautista insisted he wouldn't give the Blue Jays a "hometown discount" and would part ways if his financial demands weren't met.

      --Former American League MVP Josh Hamilton agreed to terms on a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, the team announced.

      Hamilton will receive an invitation to spring training.

      The 35-year-old Hamilton missed all of last season with a knee injury while playing the fourth season of a five-year, $125 million contract. Texas released him in late August and the Los Angeles Angels are paying most of his 2017 salary.

      Hamilton was a five-time All-Star for the Rangers and won MVP honors in 2010 when he led the AL with a .359 average and had 32 homers and 100 RBIs.

      --Rangers relief pitcher Jake Diekman is scheduled to have surgery later this month to minimize the effects of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.

      The surgery will keep him out of action for at least half of the 2017 season, multiple media outlet reported.

      Diekman wanted to delay the surgery until after the 2017 season, but doctors told him that putting off the operation would increase the health risk.

      The left-handed Diekman appeared in 60 games for the Rangers in 2016, and he had a 4-2 record with four saves and a 3.40 earned-run average in 53 innings pitched.

  • Rangers LHP Diekman to undergo surgery for colitis
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jake Diekman is scheduled to have surgery later this month to minimize the effects of ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease.

    • The surgery will keep him out of action for at least half of the 2017 season, multiple media outlet reported Tuesday.

      Diekman was diagnosed with colitis when he was 11 years old, and he turns 30 this week. He wanted to delay the surgery until after the 2017 season, but doctors told him that putting off the operation would increase the health risk.

      "It's one of those step-away-from-baseball deals," general manager Jon Daniels told the Dallas Morning News. "I know he's a big-time competitor and is not looking forward to being away from the club. From a competitive standpoint, you hate to lose someone like him, but this is the right thing to do."

      The left-handed Diekman appeared in 60 games for the Rangers in 2016, and he had a 4-2 record with four saves and a 3.40 earned-run average in 53 innings pitched.

      Diekman avoided arbitration last week by agreeing to a $2.55 million salary for the 2017 season.

  • Bautista reaches deal with Blue Jays
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Outfielder Jose Bautista is returning to the Blue Jays on a one-year deal, multiple outlets reported Tuesday.

    • The contract is reportedly worth $17.2 million for 2017 and includes a mutual option for the following season.

      Bautista rejected that same one-year offer in November and became a free agent.

      The 36-year-old Bautista is a six-time All-Star but didn't draw much interest on the free-agent market after hitting just 22 homers with 69 RBIs in 2016.

      Prior to the season, Bautista insisted he wouldn't give the Blue Jays a "hometown discount" and would part ways if his financial demands weren't met.

      Bautista joined the Blue Jays in 2008 and has three 40-homer seasons during his time with the club.

      Toronto lost star slugger Edwin Encarnacion earlier in the offseason. Encarnacion signed with the Cleveland Indians as a free agent.

  • Rangers sign Hamilton to minor league deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Tuesday, January 17, 2017

    Former American League MVP Josh Hamilton agreed to terms on a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers, the team announced Tuesday.

    • Hamilton will receive an invitation to spring training.

      The 35-year-old Hamilton missed all of last season with a knee injury while playing the fourth season of a five-year, $125 million contract. Texas released him in late August and the Los Angeles Angels are paying most of his 2017 salary.

      Hamilton was a five-time All-Star for the Rangers and won MVP honors in 2010 when he led the AL with a .359 average and had 32 homers and 100 RBIs. He hit a career-best 43 homers in 2012 and departed as a free agent to sign with the Angels.

      Hamilton's career went into a deep decline and he hit 31 homers in two seasons with the Angels before they dealt him back to the Rangers. He batted .253 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 2015 while batting injuries.

      Hamilton received medical clearance in December.

      Texas also signed right-hander Dillon Gee to a minor league deal. Gee went 8-9 with a 4.68 ERA for the Kansas City Royals last season while splitting time as a starter and reliever.

  • MLB Notebook: Cubs feted at White House
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, January 16, 2017

    President Barack Obama, wrapping up his last week in office, celebrated with the World Series champion Chicago Cubs at the White House on Monday.

    • The president, who has a home in Chicago, is a diehard Chicago White Sox fan but rooted for the Cubs after the Sox failed to reach the postseason.

      The Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908 by defeating the Cleveland Indians in November.

      Cubs players filed into the White House East Room on Martin Luther King Day for Obama's final ceremony for a championship sports team. He leaves office Friday when Donald Trump is sworn in.

      As Obama walked into the East Room, the boisterous audience chanted, "Let's Go, Cubbies!"

      --The Kansas City Royals agreed to a five-year, $65 million contract with left-hander Danny Duffy on Monday.

      The 28-year-old Duffy will remain with the team that chose him in the third round of the 2007 draft.

      Duffy could have become a free agent after the 2017 season, his final year of arbitration. He will make $5 million this season, $14 million in 2018, $15.25 million in 2019 and 2020, and $15.5 million in 2021, according to multiple reports.

      Duffy started the 2016 season in the bullpen before transitioning to the starting rotation. He set career highs in wins (12), starts (26), innings pitched (179 2/3) and strikeouts (188), while also leading Royals starters in ERA (3.51).

      --The Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a one-year, $9 million contract with outfielder Michael Saunders, multiple media outlets reported Monday.

      The deal includes a club option worth $11 million that can jump to $14 million with escalators, or a $1 million buyout.

      Saunders made the American League All-Star team with the Toronto Blue Jays and hit .253 with 24 home runs and 32 doubles in 2016. The 30-year-old logged a career-high 140 games played last season after totaling 87 in the previous two campaigns combined.

  • Phillies, Saunders agree to one-year deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, January 16, 2017

    The Philadelphia Phillies agreed to a one-year, $9 million contract with outfielder Michael Saunders, multiple media outlets reported Monday.

    • The deal includes a club option worth $11 million that can jump to $14 million with escalators, or a $1 million buyout.

      Saunders made the American League All-Star team with the Toronto Blue Jays and hit .253 with 24 home runs and 32 doubles in 2016. The 30-year-old logged a career-high 140 games played last season after totaling 87 in the previous two campaigns combined.

      Saunders' OPS of .815 in 2016 would have been the highest on the Phillies.

      Saunders is expected to start in right field for Philadelphia, with fellow newcomer Howie Kendrick in left. Odubel Herrera, who signed a five-year extension earlier in the offseason, will remain in center.

  • Cubs feted at White House for World Series title
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, January 16, 2017

    President Barack Obama, wrapping up his last week in office, celebrated with the World Series champion Chicago Cubs at the White House on Monday.

    • The president, who has a home in Chicago, is a diehard Chicago White Sox fan but rooted for the Cubs after the Sox failed to reach the postseason.

      The Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908 by defeating the Cleveland Indians in November.

      Cubs players filed into the White House East Room on Martin Luther King Day for Obama's final ceremony for a championship sports team. He leaves office Friday when Donald Trump is sworn in.

      As Obama walked into the East Room, the boisterous audience chanted, "Let's Go, Cubbies!"

      "They said this day would never come," Obama said as he started his remarks, adding: "Something none of my predecessors ever had a chance to say, 'Welcome to the White House, the World Series champion Chicago Cubs.' ... I will say that the Cubs took long enough. I've only got four days left."

      Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who wears No. 44, presented the nation's 44th president with a No. 44 Cubs jersey with OBAMA on the back.

      "Among Sox fans," Obama said, "I'm the Cubs' No. 1 fan."

      Cubs president Theo Epstein issued a "midnight pardon" to the president for being a White Sox fan.

      Obama said on Martin Luther King Day that "sports has the power to bring us together even when we're divided. There is a line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here. Sports has a way sometimes of changing hearts in a way that politics or business hasn't."

  • Royals ink Duffy to five-year, $65 million deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Monday, January 16, 2017

    The Kansas City Royals agreed to a five-year, $65 million contract with left-hander Danny Duffy on Monday.

    • The 28-year-old Duffy will remain with the team that chose him in the third round of the 2007 draft.

      Duffy could have become a free agent after the 2017 season, his final year of arbitration. He will make $5 million this season, $14 million in 2018, $15.25 million in 2019 and 2020, and $15.5 million in 2021, according to multiple reports.

      Duffy started the 2016 season in the bullpen before transitioning to the starting rotation. He set career highs in wins (12), starts (26), innings pitched (179 2/3) and strikeouts (188), while also leading Royals starters in ERA (3.51).

      The Royals were 17-9 (.654) in his 26 starts. His 12-3 record (.800) matched Larry Gura in 1978 for the best single-season winning percentage in Royals history (minimum 15 decisions).

      "Danny has been great. He has one of the best arms in all of baseball," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said earlier this offseason. "The fact that he's left-handed makes him more special and separates him even more. He's the kind of pitcher we all envision."

      Duffy won 10 straight decisions from June 11-Aug. 21 of last season. He held left-handed batters to a .183 average in 2016, fourth best in the American League.

      In six major league seasons, all with the Royals, Duffy is 36-33 with a 3.71 ERA in 134 appearances (106 starts). He went 1-0 with nine strikeouts in six appearances during the 2015 postseason, including three World Series outings.

  • Changing times boost Hall chances for Bonds, Clemens
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, January 14, 2017

    When Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens first appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot, it was a tough sell. The case for both was clouded by evidence that they used performance-enhancing drugs. Nothing was proved in legal proceedings against either, yet there was all that testimony.

    • For most voters, it was a lot to digest, even though it involved a seven-time MVP and the all-time home runs leader as well as a seven-time Cy Young Award winner with 354 career victories. It seemed reasonable not to vote for them right out of the gate because of what was heard.

      Their vote totals reflected the skepticism. Needing 75 percent on balloting for enshrinement to the Hall of Fame, they got less than 40 percent their first three years and between 40 and 50 percent last year, their fourth time on the ballot.

      The dynamics may be changing now. Many voters have posted their ballots on social media, and one man, Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs on Twitter), is keeping track, as he does each year. As of Saturday evening, 201 of the approximately 450 ballots were public. Bonds and Clemens were both in the mid-60 percent range. It is starting to look as if they eventually will get in.

      I changed my vote on Bonds and Clemens this season, something that has happened on more than 10 percent of the now-public ballots. A few things seem to be in play with this. Many of the long-time voters who felt it their duty to "protect" the Hall no longer cover the sport and cannot vote. The electorate is getting younger, and the performance-enhancing-drug use doesn't seem to matter as much to that segment.

      And, based on the writings of a number of voters -- members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- they switched their votes on Bonds and Clemens because Bud Selig was voted, almost unanimously, into the Hall by the Eras Committee (formerly the Veterans Committee). Their reasoning, generally, is that if the commissioner who allowed performance-enhancing drugs to permeate the game is in then voting for those with that taint is fine.

      That wasn't the case with this voter, though it did give me pause. I didn't vote for Bonds and Clemens initially because I wanted more information. Maybe time would change something. Maybe there would be more proven evidence that Bonds and Clemens actually did something wrong. Maybe the Hall of Fame would take a position on those who were suspected of using PEDs. Maybe a trend would develop.

      Nothing has.

      And it has been years now. What changed is that Bonds' and Clemens' peers from the same era -- some with serious suspicions of PED use -- are getting into the Hall of Fame.

      And for this reason, my stance on denying Bonds' and Clemens' entry into this museum that honors baseball's best performers is evolving. Voting for Mike Piazza, despite nothing but rumors, was easy. But now Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is likely to gain entry, even though Jose Canseco gave first-person testimony in his book that he knows Rodriguez used.

      So now the best players from that era -- where it is likely that PED use was widespread -- are getting into the Hall of Fame. More are to come. I don't see how the best players from this era could go to Hall of Fame while Bonds and Clemens do not. They were the very best from that era. They belong ahead of anyone else who has circumstantial evidence against them. So I felt it only right to vote for them this season and not hold two people accountable for the sins of so many.

      And I did, for the first time. And I will from this point on. Unless something new, something even more damning, is introduced to the debate. They are undoubtedly among the best baseball performers of all time.

      Along with Bonds and Clemens, I added newcomers Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero. They are on my eight-person ballot along with four holdovers: Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Trevor Hoffman and Curt Schilling.

      A few words about the decision-making process regarding some I chose and did not choose and the way their fortunes on Hall of Fame balloting are going:

      Rodriguez -- One of the best catchers, on offense or defense, of his time. In 21 seasons, he was an All-Star 14 times, a Gold Glove winner 13 times, has great all-time numbers including a .296 batting average and played like a stud as the Marlins captured the 2003 World Series. I expect the rest of the electorate sees things the same way.

      Guerrero -- One of the most feared power hitters of his time, he batted .318 with 449 homers and an OPS-plus of 140. He was a nine-time All-Star and won an MVP. And he wasn't the typical home run hitter; he had no 100-strikeout seasons. If he doesn't get in this season, I expect he will next season. Public balloting has him close on his first ballot.

      Bagwell -- He was a player you would buy a ticket to see, one of the great power hitters of his era. He had a .948 OPS and his OPS-plus is 149, 12th best all time among right-handed hitters. Detractors suggest PED use from a good minor league hitter who became a behemoth. His cause is gaining momentum, and I expect him to get in on this ballot.

      Schilling -- A lot of voters are putting him on the bench this season because he suggested journalists should be lynched in a post on Twitter. He later said it was a joke. I don't care about his right-wing politics and take him at his word about the tweet. He is still one of the best pitchers of his time and maybe the best postseason pitcher I've seen. He certainly won't get in this year, and it remains to be seen if some keep him on the bench.

      Hoffman -- There is a prejudice against closers because, in recent years, they pitch just one inning per game and maybe 65 to 80 innings in a season. Hoffman was not only one of the very best -- he recorded 601 saves, averaged close to 40 in his full seasons as a closer and has a 2.87 career ERA -- but he was a pioneer of sorts. In an era of hard-throwers, his changeup was one of pitching's most devastating weapons. Heck, Major League Baseball named its National League closer award for him. It is going to be close this year, but he eventually should get in.

      Martinez -- No disrespect to Mariners teammate Ken Griffey Jr., but opponents feared Martinez as much or more. His career slash line of .312/.418/.515 is evidence enough that he belongs, but he also had an .873 OPS in the postseason. The knock on him has always been he was primarily a designated hitter; the time is coming where voters will appreciate that DH is a position in the game. In public voting, no player is gaining more ground. His day probably won't come this year, but it will come.

      Manny Ramirez -- He is the best right-handed hitter this writer ever saw, but he didn't earn the vote. His numbers -- a .996 OPS with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBI -- would make him an automatic. Plus he helped Boston win a pair of World Series and was MVP in one. But he is a proven PED user, twice disciplined by baseball; in fact we're only voting on him this season because of his second positive test. This voter can't see choosing him now. It would be no surprise as the electorate changes that he starts gaining more acceptance.

      Sammy Sosa -- No vote here and probably no chance for admission ever. He hit 609 home runs, but there may be no player whose "greatness" is more a product of his performance-enhancing-drug use. He was a .273 hitter and, though he helped save baseball with his 66-homer performance in the great 1998 home run race with Mark McGwire, he was a one-trick pony.

      Tim Raines -- Raines likely will get in this season, the last year he is eligible. He didn't get a vote here, but many voters have changed their tunes. I suspect it is sentimentality. To this voter, Raines was an excellent player, superior base-stealer and maybe the second-best leadoff hitter of his generation behind Rickey Henderson. However, he wasn't a player that people paid to see and had only six or seven great years in a 23-year career.

      Mike Mussina -- Another great player who didn't get this vote, though I suspect he could make a climb and reach the Hall before his time on the ballot is over. Mussina was a standout for most of his 18 seasons, always pitching in the tough AL East, but his 270 wins aren't quite the 300 people look for. His 3.68 ERA would be among the highest in the Hall (though he pitched in the "steroid era"). He had one 20-win season and never won a Cy Young Award (he once finished second). He keeps gaining, but I don't see it.

      Billy Wagner -- For two seasons in a row, believe it or not, this is the one that leaves me feeling as if I made a mistake by omitting him. It is possible that as the tide rises on the significant impact of relief pitchers, Wagner's boat will rise with it. There is no doubt that he was a dominating force when he came into a game. In 16 seasons -- 12 as his team's primary closer -- he recorded 422 saves and was an All-Star nine times. His 2.31 ERA is tremendous, and he struck out nearly 12 per nine innings, a big measure of relievers these days. His chances seem remote right now, but things are changing.

  • All smiles for Cubs in wake of World Series title
    By The Sports Xchange / Saturday, January 14, 2017

    CHICAGO -- There were several anxious moments as Kyle Schwarber jumped off a 3-foot dais to greet a young fan at a downtown hotel on Saturday.

    • The Chicago Cubs catcher/outfielder, who missed nearly the entire 2016 season with a knee injury yet returned for the World Series, executed a perfect landing on his surgically repaired leg and gave a 4-year-old fan a high five.

      Schwarber then prudently walked back upstairs to his seat during a kids press conference with teammates Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr. at the offseason Cubs Convention that drew several thousand fans to a soldout event.

      The yearly gathering had extra meaning for both the team and fans in the wake of a 2016 World Series championship -- the club's first in 108 years.

      Schwarber, who hit .412 (7-for-17) in five World Series games, exhibited a comedian's timing, stealing the show at what is usually an entertaining event featuring unfiltered questions from children.

      He was asked if he planned to play during the 2017 season or wait until the World Series, revealed his favorite superhero (Superman), his favorite video game growing up and the ice cream he likes most.

      And when a question was directed to third baseman Kris Bryant -- who was not part of the press conference -- Schwarber promptly dialed up the 2016 National League Most Valuable Player and put him on speaker phone to reply.

      On a serious note, Schwarber said that while he enjoyed the rewards and recognition from a World Series win, there was still serious work ahead as the 2017 season looms.

      "I'm still trying to rehab and just try to separate where it's personal time and business time," he said.

      The convention typically generates little news, but this year was an exception.

      The Cubs announced Friday they avoided arbitration with right-hander Jake Arrieta, signing him to a one-year deal worth $15.6 million.

      "What we've been able to accomplish the last two years is remarkable," said Arrieta, who went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and a no-hitter in 2016. "Everyone knows how difficult it is to repeat with the shortened offseason, everything going on that comes along with a championship, everybody's getting pulled in all these different directions. (But) for me it makes me a little hungrier to do it again."

      The convention was scheduled to wrap up on Sunday, followed by a Cubs road trip to Washington and a Monday White House welcome from President Barack Obama.

      Obama told Cubs manager Joe Maddon that he hoped the Cubs could come before he second term ends next Friday.

      "I just found out about it couple of days ago that they were actually going to do it," Maddon said Saturday. "It's quite an honor."

  • Pirates avoid arbitration with Cole, 4 others
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, January 13, 2017

    The Pittsburgh Pirates and right-handed ace Gerrit Cole agreed to a one-year, $3.75 million deal on Friday to avoid arbitration.

    • Cole went 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 21 starts last season while dealing with injuries to his ribs and elbow. It was a dropoff from his 2015 performance when he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award balloting.

      Cole, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2011 draft, is 47-30 with a 3.23 ERA in four big-league seasons.

      Pittsburgh also reached one-year deals with shortstop Jody Mercer ($4.325 million) and right-handers Juan Nicasio ($3.65 million), Jared Hughes ($2.825 million) and Drew Hutchison ($2.3 million).

      Mercer batted .256 with 11 homers last season. Nicasio was 10-7 with a 4.50 ERA, Hughes was 1-1 with a 3.03 ERA while Hutchison was 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA while splitting time with Toronto and the Pirates.

  • MLB notebook: Harper, Arrieta get hefty 1-year deals
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, January 13, 2017

    Washington Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $13.625 million deal Friday.

    • Harper, 24, received a pay increase of more than $8 million despite a down season in which he batted .243 with 24 homers and 86 RBIs. He made $5 million in 2016.

      The four-time All-Star was unanimous National League MVP in 2015 when he batted .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBIs. Harper has a .279 career average with 121 homers and 334 RBIs in five seasons with the Nationals.

      Harper is slated to become a free agent after the 2018 season and there are rumors his agent, Scott Boras, is seeking a 10-year, $400 million contract.

      --The Chicago Cubs and right-hander Jake Arrieta avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $15.64 million contract.

      Arrieta made $10.7 million last season when he went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and was a pivotal part of their World Series-winning squad.

      Arrieta is eligible for free agency after the 2017 campaign.

      The right-hander put together a career-best season in 2015 when he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and won the National League Cy Young Award.

      --Postseason standout Cody Allen agreed to a one-year, $7.35 million deal with the Cleveland Indians to avoid salary arbitration.

      The right-hander closer registered 32 saves with a 2.51 ERA in the regular season before helping fuel Cleveland's run to the World Series. Allen recorded six saves and 24 strikeouts in 13 2/3 scoreless postseason innings and his 15.8 strikeouts per nine innings rate was the highest in postseason history among pitchers with at least 10 innings.

      Allen, 28, has 90 saves in three seasons since becoming the Indians' closer. He is 17-16 with a 2.61 ERA in five seasons with Cleveland.

      Cleveland also reached deals with right-handers Zach McAllister (one year, $1.825 million) and Dan Otero (one year, $1.055 million).

      --The Baltimore Orioles avoided salary arbitration with star closer Zach Britton when the two sides agreed on a one-year, $11.4 million deal.

      The left-handed Britton finished fourth in the American League Cy Young Award balloting last season when he was a perfect 47 of 47 in save opportunities.

      Britton recorded a microscopic 0.54 ERA over 69 relief appearances while allowing four earned runs all season. He won the Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Award as the AL's top bullpen performer.

      Baltimore also agreed to terms with infielder Ryan Flaherty (one year, $1.8 million) and left-hander T.J. McFarland (one year, $685,000).

      --Kansas City Royals star first baseman Eric Hosmer avoided arbitration with the team by agreeing to a one-year, $12.25 million deal.

      Hosmer just completed a two-year deal in which he made $5.65 million in 2015 and $8.25 million last season. The 27-year-old is scheduled to become a free agent following the 2017 season.

      Hosmer set career highs with 25 homers and 104 RBIs last season while batting .266. He was MVP of the All-Star Game.

      The popular Hosmer was a key figure in Kansas City reaching the World Series in back-to-back seasons. He has a career batting average of .277 with 102 homers and 472 RBIs in six seasons with the Royals.

      --Colorado Rockies star Nolan Arenado agreed to a two-year, $29.5 million deal with the club to avoid salary arbitration.

      Arenado will make $11.75 million this season and $17.75 million in 2018. The two-time All-Star third baseman tied with Milwaukee's Chris Carter for most homers in the National League last season with 41. He led the NL with 133 RBIs.

      Arenado made just $512,500 last season when he batted .294 and scored 116 runs.

      The 25-year-old has a .285 career average with 111 homers and 376 RBIs in four seasons with Colorado.

      --The Houston Astros avoided salary arbitration with left-hander Dallas Keuchel by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $9.15 million deal.

      The 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner struggled last season by going 9-12 with a 4.55 ERA. He was shut down in late August due to shoulder soreness.

      Keuchel, who made $7.25 million last season, went 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA during his Cy Young season. Keuchel is 50-47 with a 3.78 ERA in five seasons with the Astros.

      Houston also settled with outfielder Jake Marisnick on a one-year, $1.1 million deal. He batted .209 with five homers last season.

      -- The Boston Red Sox avoided arbitration with All-Star outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. when the two sides agreed to a one-year, $3.6 million deal.

      Bradley recorded career highs of 26 homers and 87 RBIs last season while batting .267. The first-time All-Star made $546,000 last season.

      Bradley, 26, has a .237 career average with 40 homers and 170 RBIs in parts of four seasons with the Red Sox.

      Bradley was a first-round draft pick in 2011.

      --The San Diego Padres and All-Star first baseman Wil Myers are on the verge of agreeing to a six-year deal worth more than $80 million, multiple outlets reported.

      Myers is eligible for arbitration and the arrangement would cover his last three seasons of arbitration and his first three years of free agency.

      Myers, 26, is now the face of the franchise after a breakout season that included career highs of 28 homers and 94 RBIs. He started the All-Star Game held in San Diego and batted .259.

      Myers is entering his third season with the Padres after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade that also included the Washington Nationals.

  • Cubs, Arrieta reach agreement on one-year deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, January 13, 2017

    The Chicago Cubs and right-hander Jake Arrieta avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $15.64 million contract on Friday.

    • Arrieta made $10.7 million last season when he went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA and was a pivotal part of their World Series-winning squad.

      Arrieta is eligible for free agency after the 2017 campaign.

      The right-hander put together a career-best season in 2015 when he went 22-6 with a 1.77 ERA and won the National League Cy Young Award.

      The 30-year-old Arrieta is 54-21 with a 2.52 ERA in 3 1/2 seasons with the Cubs after being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles. He was just 20-25 with a 5.46 ERA in 3 1/2 seasons with Baltimore.

      Chicago also agreed to terms with right-handed relievers Hector Rondon (one-year, $5.8 million) and Justin Grimm (one-year, $1.825 million).

      Rondon went 2-3 with 18 saves and a 3.53 ERA in 2016. Grimm went 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA.

  • Padres, Myers closing in on 6-year, $80 million deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, January 13, 2017

    The San Diego Padres and All-Star first baseman Wil Myers are on the verge of agreeing to a six-year deal worth more than $80 million, multiple outlets reported on Friday.

    • Myers is eligible for arbitration and the arrangement would cover his last three seasons of arbitration and his first three years of free agency.

      Myers, 26, is now the face of the franchise after a breakout season that included career highs of 28 homers and 94 RBIs. He started the All-Star Game held in San Diego and batted .259.

      Myers is entering his third season with the Padres after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade that also included the Washington Nationals. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2013 with the Rays.

      Myers has a career batting average of .257 with 55 homers and 211 RBIs in four big-league seasons.

      San Diego also settled with right-handed reliever Brandon Maurer on a one-year, $1.9 million deal. Maurer went 0-5 with a 4.52 ERA and 13 saves in 71 appearances last season. He became the closer when Fernando Rodney was traded to Miami midway through the season.

      The Padres reportedly also settled with right-hander Carter Capps and left-handers Christian Friedrich and Brad Hand on one-year deals.

  • Bradley Jr. agrees to 1-year pact with Red Sox
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, January 13, 2017

    The Boston Red Sox avoided arbitration with All-Star outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. when the two sides agreed to a one-year, $3.6 million deal on Friday.

    • Bradley recorded career highs of 26 homers and 87 RBIs last season while batting .267. The first-time All-Star made $546,000 last season.

      Bradley, 26, has a .237 career average with 40 homers and 170 RBIs in parts of four seasons with the Red Sox.

      Bradley was a first-round draft pick in 2011.

  • Royals, Hosmer avoid arbitration with $12.25M deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, January 13, 2017

    Kansas City Royals star first baseman Eric Hosmer avoided arbitration with the team by agreeing to a one-year, $12.25 million deal Friday.

    • Hosmer just completed a two-year deal in which he made $5.65 million in 2015 and $8.25 million last season. The 27-year-old is scheduled to become a free agent following the 2017 season.

      Hosmer set career highs with 25 homers and 104 RBIs last season while batting .266. He was MVP of the All-Star Game.

      The popular Hosmer was a key figure in Kansas City reaching the World Series in back-to-back seasons. The Royals lost to the San Francisco Giants in 2014 and defeated the New York Mets the following campaign.

      He has a career batting average of .277 with 102 homers and 472 RBIs in six seasons with the Royals.

  • Nationals, OF Harper reach $13.625M deal
    By The Sports Xchange / Friday, January 13, 2017

    Washington Nationals star outfielder Bryce Harper avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $13.625 million deal Friday.

    • Harper, 24, received a pay increase of more than $8 million despite a down season in which he batted .243 with 24 homers and 86 RBIs. He made $5 million in 2016.

      The four-time All-Star was unanimous National League MVP in 2015 when he batted .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBIs.

      Harper has a .279 career average with 121 homers and 334 RBIs in five seasons with the Nationals.

      Harper is slated to become a free agent after the 2018 season and there are rumors his agent, Scott Boras, is seeking a 10-year, $400 million contract.

      The Nationals also settled with right-hander Tanner Roark (one year, $4.315 million) and catcher Derek Norris (one year, $4.2 million).

      Roark went 16-10 with a 2.83 ERA last season. Norris, acquired in the offseason from the San Diego Padres, batted just .186 with 14 homers and 42 RBIs.