Veras agreed to a deal Tuesday joining a group that includes Justin Grimm, Blake Parker, Hector Rondon, James Russell, Pedro Strop, Carlos Villanueva and newcomer Wesley Wright, among others. Prospect Arodys Vizcaino and Japanese pitcher Kuyji Fujikawa are rehabbing from injuries and are expected back in 2014 as well.
As a whole, the bullpen looks that much better than at the beginning of last season when Carlos Marmol anchored the back end of a group that blew 26 saves and produced the third-worst ERA (4.04) in the National League. The turnover by midseason was astounding as only Rondon and Russell survived from start to finish.
"That was one of our biggest regrets from last year," general manager Jed Hoyer said last week at the winter meetings. "We have spent a lot of time about the bullpen, thinking of ways to get better."
At the same time, Hoyer was quick to point out the holdovers are better positioned to have success next year. The Cubs simply have more depth and now are "redundant" in several roles to withstand injury or ineffectiveness.
There is a $5.5 million option for 2015, the source said, along with incentives.
The Tigers declined a $3.25 million option on Veras in November.
The right-hander went 0-5 with a 3.02 ERA in 67 appearances with the Astros and Tigers this past season, but Detroit's bullpen was a problem in the team's AL Championship Series loss to Boston.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
As I look around the league, I can see 10 more moves that make a lot of sense and should to get done for their teams to remain viable contenders for 2014. Let's take a look:
1. Los Angeles Angels | Move: Sign free-agent RHP Matt Garza
The Angels have worked hard
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CHICAGO -- “We wish there was a free-agent market for young players.” -- Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein, Nov. 8, 2013.
Epstein and the Cubs got what they wanted -- sort of -- when Major League baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball finally agreed on a new “posting” system Monday, allowing Japanese star players to resume coming to the United States.
It paves the way for 25-year-old right-hander Masahiro Tanaka to come to the big leagues if his Japanese team allows. Tanaka was 24-0 in the regular season for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, who went on to win the Nippon championship. He is the biggest name to potentially come over this offseason and he’ll be well sought after by many major league teams. Worst case, he projects as a No.2 starter but most scouts believe he can be a No. 1.
Under the new posting system, the Golden Eagles would set a “fee” -- which is capped at $20 million -- for allowing him to come to the United States. Clubs that agree to meet that fee would have 30 days to negotiate with Tanaka just as if he were any other free agent. The club that agrees to terms with him then pays that fee over to Rakuten. If no agreement with any team can be reached within 30 days then Tanaka would return to Japan and can’t be “posted” again until Nov. 1, 2014.
The Cubs have not beaten around the bush about their interest in Tanaka. He fits their needs like a glove.
Wright, a reliever who turns 29 on Jan. 28, was 0-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 70 games last season for Houston and Tampa Bay, which bought his contract in August. Wright had been the longest-tenured player on the Astros.
Wright, 10-15 with a 4.37 ERA in six big league seasons, became a free agent when Tampa Bay failed to offer a contract by the Dec. 2 deadline. In addition to his salary with the Cubs, he would earn a $25,000 bonus under Monday's deal for pitching 50 games or more.
Wright was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2003 amateur draft and was taken by Houston in the 2007 winter meeting draft.
Buster listed seven teams that could still have a big move left -- the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, Tigers, Mariners and Diamondbacks. With that in mind, here are 10 predictions on what will happen the rest of the offseason.
1. The Rangers sign Shin-Soo Choo.
Nelson Cruz without forfeiting the first-round pick they'd lose for signing Choo, but Texas had a mediocre offense last year with Cruz. Why go down that road again? Choo gets on base more and would give the team another table-setter in front of Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder.
The Tigers signed Rajai Davis and appear willing to move forward with a Davis-Andy Dirks platoon in left field. Don't count out the Mariners -- the outfield is still a mess with the likes of Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley and possibly Corey Hart or Logan Morrison, although the latter two are best suited for first base or DH duties.
2. The Rays trade David Price to the Mariners.
Robinson Cano and two guys coming off injuries. For better or worse, general manager Jack Zduriencik is all in. Cano's best season in a Mariners uniform is likely to be 2014 and not 2016 or 2017, so there is pressure to upgrade the current roster right now.
To get Price, the Mariners will trade Taijuan Walker despite proclamations from Zduriencik that that won't happen. "I don't have intentions of trading Taijuan," he said during the winter meetings. "You listen to any opportunities that present themselves and you go into discussions with a lot of people. And his name will come up. Why wouldn't it? As do a lot of our guys, quite frankly. But Taijuan is high-profile because he's rated our top prospect."
3. The Angels sign Matt Garza.
Mark Trumbo trade gave the Angels some rotation depth with Hector Santiago from the White Sox and young lefty Tyler Skaggs from the Diamondbacks. Those two would slot in behind Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards, but the Angels may not be done looking for a starter. As they learned last year, you can never have enough pitching depth, plus it wouldn't hurt to give the 22-year-old Skaggs more time in the minors to help rediscover the form that made him one of the top prospects in the game in 2012.
Can Garza fit in the payroll? Right now, Baseball-Reference estimates it at about $144 million, up from last year's $129 million. The new national TV money is coming in, but signing Garza means the Angels may need to clear some payroll. Leading to this ...
4. The Angels trade Howie Kendrick to the Braves.
Brian McCann and Tim Hudson via free agency. No, signing Gavin Floyd -- he's not expected back until at least May after Tommy John surgery -- doesn't qualify as a major move.
Remember, despite winning 96 games, this team still batted Evan Gattis cleanup in a playoff game and started Freddy Garcia with its season on the line. The obvious position to upgrade is second base, where Dan Uggla posted a minus-1.3 WAR and was left off the postseason roster in favor of Elliot Johnson. Uggla is due $13 million each of the next two seasons, but the Braves have to decide whether they want to count on a guy who may be washed up or whether they want to pay $22 million for two second basemen.
Kendrick is signed for two more years and would cost a couple of prospects, but maybe the Braves could toss in Uggla while picking up the majority of his salary.
5. The Reds re-sign Bronson Arroyo.
Homer Bailey to a long-term extension, but that hasn't happened. So they may shift their priorities back to Arroyo, who has been with them since 2006.
Even though the Twins have signed Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey, they reportedly still want to sign one more guy as they revamp their rotation. Arroyo is a classic Twins-type pitcher: control over velocity. He's looking for a three-year contract, which may price out the Pirates, but Arroyo would be a nice fit to replace A.J. Burnett if he doesn't return to Pittsburgh.
6. The Dodgers do not trade Matt Kemp.
Dave Cameron wrote this week that we shouldn't assume Kemp's days as an elite-level player are over:
There's some good news for Kemp and the Dodgers, however; age-28 regressions are actually pretty common, even for good young players who had established themselves as high-quality players at a young age. In most of the cases, the guys who took a year off from hitting well bounced back to perform at a high level again.
Selling now on Kemp means selling low. Yes, he has that monster contract, but the Dodgers would be wiser to hold on to Kemp and hope he rebounds and gives them a huge middle of the order with Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez. There is the concern that he shouldn't be playing center field, but it's not like Andre Ethier is that all much better out there. Puig is probably the best option for center if the Dodgers want to move him.
As for Ethier, maybe a trade market develops for him once Choo and Cruz sign. The Dodgers can afford to be patient.
7. The Mariners sign Nelson Cruz.
What would the Mariners look like with Cruz and Price? Something like this:
SS Brad Miller
LF/1B Corey Hart
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nelson Cruz
3B Kyle Seager
DH Logan Morrison
1B Justin Smoak
C Mike Zunino
CF Michael Saunders/Dustin Ackley
SP Felix Hernandez
SP David Price
SP Hisashi Iwakuma
SP James Paxton
SP Erasmo Ramirez
8. The Orioles sign Grant Balfour.
Jim Johnson, a hole in left field after losing Nate McLouth, and no obvious candidate to take most of the DH at-bats. It appears they are most concerned with finding a closer.
Several teams still need (or desire) a closer, but it could come to AL East rivals. While the Yankees can ultimately just put David Robertson in the ninth-inning role, the Orioles' top relievers (Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz) all have platoon issues. Balfour will turn 36 later this month but is seeking a three-year contract. My bet is the Orioles give it to him.
9. The Dodgers sign Ervin Santana.
just decide to keep Tanaka.
Even if the Eagles do post Tanaka -- he's an unrestricted free agent in two years, so they may just decide to cash in regardless -- the Dodgers also have to sign Clayton Kershaw to a long-term contract. With Zack Greinke and eventually Kershaw, do they want three starters being paid mega-millions? Probably not. So look for them to seek a cheaper alternative like Santana, who would fill out the rotation as a durable No. 4-type starter.
10.The Cubs will keep Jeff Samardzija.
So maybe he just remains with the Cubs because of the high asking price. And then the Cubs will hopefully sign him to a 10-year extension so we don't have to go listen to all these rumors again in July.
Hendriks, 24, is 2-13 with a 6.06 ERA in his career in parts of three seasons with the Twins. He was originally signed by Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2007. In six minor league seasons he was 42-28 with a 2.99 ERA before making it to the big leagues in 2011.
The Cubs also signed infielder Ryan Roberts to a minor league contract, giving him an invite to spring training. Roberts, 33, has played for three teams since breaking into the league in 2006. He spent 2012-13 with the Tampa Bay Rays after achieving a career high in home runs, 19, with Arizona in 2011. He’s a career .245 hitter.
Coomer, 47, spent nine years in the major leagues including the 2001 season with the Cubs. He’s a native of the Chicago area and has most recently been serving as an in-studio analyst for the Minnesota Twins.
“What a great homecoming for Ron,” Crane Kenney, president of business operations for the Cubs, said in a statement. “I enjoyed getting to know Ron during the process and am a fan of his work in the Twin Cities. His knowledge of the game is vast and he will be a great complement to Pat (Hughes) in the WGN booth.”
Coomer replaces Keith Moreland, who resigned after last season.
“It’s a better fit for our roster,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday morning after the Rule 5 draft. “He can platoon with one of several guys that we have.”
Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz are holdovers from last season and are the presumptive starters going into the next one. The former hits from the right side, while the latter two are lefties. The immediate question after the acquisition of Ruggiano was how it affects Lake.
“Junior Lake is going to get a ton of playing time,” Hoyer said. “A player like that needs to be out there getting at-bats and developing.”
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Normally in this space, you'd be reading the annual, ever-popular Winter Meetings Winners and Losers recap you look forward to all offseason.
Sorry. Not this year.
Can't do it. So much happened the week before the winter meetings, it wouldn't be fair to grade just the goings-on of the past four days.
"Last week was so nuts," one National League executive said, "we couldn't possibly top it."
So this is the annual winners and losers recap, but we're also including the deals and signings that led up to the winter meetings. So everyone got that? Cool. Now heeeeeere we go:
• Fourth starters -- It has been a terrific winter to be Scott Feldman (three years, $30 million from the Astros, even though he has never had an ERA less than 3.86 in his career). ... Or Jason Vargas (four years, $32 million from the Royals, even though he has run off four straight seasons with an ERA-Plus of less than 100). ... Or Scott Kazmir (two years, $22 million from the A's, even though he hasn't pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title since 2007). With all of the new national TV money flowing into the sport, much of it has ended up in the pockets of pitchers whose names don't figure to be appearing on any Cy Young Award ballots near you. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
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Ruggiano, 31, hit a career-high 18 home runs with 50 RBIs last season with the Marlins. A right-handed hitter, Ruggiano can play all three outfield positions.
Bogusevic, a left-handed hitter who will be 30 in February, signed a minor league contract with the Cubs before the 2013 season. He played in 47 games with the Cubs last season, batting .273 with six home runs and 16 RBIs.
The Cubs lost Triple-A Iowa pitcher Marcos Mateo to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday. The right-handed Mateo, 29, pitched for the Cubs in 2010 and 2011 before being sidelined with an elbow injury.
Mateo is throwing well in the Dominican Republic this winter but wasn't on the Cubs' 40-man roster. He can be returned to the team if he doesn't make the Diamondbacks' 25-man roster this spring.
“It appears as though we’re looking at the all-day sucker, so maybe next year,” Boras said Wednesday at the winter meetings.
“It (a lollipop) takes a long time to dissolve,” Boras said. “The idea is it's going to take some time for them to reach the resolve to say they are going to compete on all fronts.”
In other words, the Cubs' rebuilding process is moving very slowly and isn’t at the point of spending what it would take to bring Boras’ free-agent client Shin-Soo Choo to Chicago, for example.
“It’s not the first time an agent has used the media to try and compel a team into spending huge amounts of money without knowledge of that club’s financial situation,” Cubs president Theo Epstein responded. “We’re not going to get into a war of words with Scott other than to say the folks who work at the Cubs probably have a better understanding of the situation than he does.”
For the record, Epstein and Boras have a very good relationship. Top prospects Kris Bryant and Albert Almora are both Boras clients and Epstein has every intention of signing others -- just not right now.
“It has nothing to do with the baseball people or how the organization is run, it’s just that you have a major market team that has dramatically more revenue than most clubs who take this type of approach,” Boras stated.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Scott Boras had a message for Jay Z.
Robinson Cano, a prized Boras client, switched agents this year to the hip-hop mogul and CAA Sports. The All-Star second baseman left the New York Yankees and agreed last week to a contract with Seattle said to be worth $240 million over 10 years.
"It's very different to be the creator of the umbrella versus those who stand under it," Boras said Wednesday at the winter meetings.
Boras maintained the talent of the player led to the agreement, not the player's representation.
"When you're bringing the prettiest girl to the prom, you don't really pay attention to who he's dancing with, unless it's a very unusual step," he said.
During a question-and-answer session that lasted about an hour, Boras touched on many of baseball's topical issues:
• On Oakland's general manager finding a way for the low-budget team to compete: "Remember that Billy Beane is the master of goulash. You never know what's in it. You just know it's good at the end of the year. ... The way Billy works is that he adds different things to his goulash every year."