Braves Agree to Terms with Markakis
The Atlanta Braves have agreed to terms with Georgia native Nick Markakis, according to several reports. The deal is for four years, roughly $45 million. Markakis has been the face of the Baltimore Orioles franchise since making his debut with the O’s in 2006. He hit .290/.358/.435 with 141 homeruns in 1,365 games with the Orioles in nine years. Markakis will take over in right field for the Braves, replacing Jason Heyward. Atlanta traded Heyward to St. Louis earlier this off-season.
AtlantaDugout.com’s Bill Shanks has more on the deal: http://braves.scout.com/story/1488185-braves-agree-to-deal-with-nick-markakis.
The Braves also signed free agent reliever Jim Johnson to a one-year, major-league deal worth a reported $1.6 million guaranteed with another possible $900,000 in incentives. Johnson struggled badly with the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers last season, but he saved more than 100 games for the Orioles from 2012-2013. For more on this deal, click here.
Jays Acquire Saunders, Re-Sign Smoak
The Toronto Blue Jays continued their wheeling-and-dealing, acquiring outfielder Michael Saunders and re-signing first baseman Justin Smoak. The Jays had non-tendered Smoak on Tuesday but came to terms with him on Wednesday on a one-year, $1 million deal.
Saunders comes to the Blue Jays from Seattle in exchange for left-handed starter J.A. Happ. Saunders had a 791 OPS and eight homers in 78 games for the Mariners last year. He has struggled with injuries during his career, but is an excellent defensive outfielder with some power and speed when healthy. The acquisition of Saunders likely means that the Jays will no longer pursue free agent Melky Cabrera.
Happ gives the Mariners more starting rotation depth and could allow them to trade a young starter such as Taijuan Walker or James Paxton for a right fielder. Happ went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 158 innings for the Blue Jays last year. He has a 4.24 ERA in 840.2 major league innings spread over eight seasons. The left-hander has previously pitched for Philadelphia and Houston. He will be a free agent in 2016.
Rick Randall of SeattleClubhouse has more on this deal: http://mariners.scout.com/story/1488203-mariners-trade-michael-saunders-for-j-a-happ
Lester Decision this Week?
Several outlets are reporting that Jon Lester will make his decision this week. Lester has been publicly courted by the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves. On Wednesday, there was also a report from Matt Abbatacola that the New York Yankees have entered the Lester sweepstakes late with a big offer. The Los Angeles Dodgers are also showing late interest in Lester, according to Rob Bradford and Alex Speier. Lester reportedly has a $138 million offer in hand from the Cubs.
Padres Sign Barmes
One day after non-tendering Everth Cabrera, the San Diego Padres signed shortstop Clint Barmes to a one-year deal. Barmes appeared in 48 games last season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit .245/.328/.294. Barmes has struggled with the bat for much of his career, but he is a standout defensive shortstop who can also play second base. Barmes could either be the Padres’ everyday shortstop or give San Diego middle infield depth if they acquire another shortstop.
A’s, Indians Talking Deal?
John Hickey of the Oakland Tribune is reporting that the Oakland A’s and the Cleveland Indians have discussed a deal that would involve sending outfielder/first baseman Brandon Moss to Cleveland. The A’s suddenly entered rebuilding mode last Friday when they traded star third baseman Josh Donaldson. Moss was second on the A’s in homeruns last season and an AL All-Star. He had off-season hip surgery but is expected to be healthy before Opening Day.
The A’s are looking to get younger at the major-league level and in Triple-A. They could target Cleveland shortstop prospect Jose Ramirez.
Dodgers Acquire Heisey
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired OF Chris Heisey from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for RHP Matt Magill. Heisey gives the already crowded Dodgers' outfield another major-league veteran, setting up a possible deal for Los Angeles to move one or two of their existing outfielders.
Heisey hit .222 with eight homers in 119 games for the Reds last year. He hit 18 homers for Cincinnati in 2011.
Magill started six games for the Dodgers in 2013, posting a 6.51 ERA in 27.2 innings. He struck-out nearly a batter an inning but also walked 28. Magill has a good fastball, but he has struggled with command throughout his career.