Derek NorrisAP Photo/Gregory BullDerek Norris hit just .186 for the Padres last season, but was an All-Star for the A's in 2014.

The Tampa Bay Rays may have reached out to Derek Norris, but a source tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times the club is “on the outside looking in” regarding the recently released catcher.

The Washington Nationals traded for the veteran backstop over the winter, but he became expendable following the signing of free agent Matt Wieters. By releasing Norris last week, the Nationals were required to pay him about $700,000 in termination pay rather than his $4.2 million salary.

There are available at-bats in Tampa Bay for Norris, at least early in the season. The Rays signed Wilson Ramos over the winter, but the former Nats catcher will begin the season on the disabled list as he works his way back from knee surgery. The Rays have split the catching duties this spring between Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre.

Topkin also lists the Colorado Rockies as among the other teams interested in Norris. The Rockies are looking for catching help after Tom Murphy suffered a fractured right forearm.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reported last weekend that the St. Louis Cardinals may have some interest in Norris as a backup to Yadier Molina.

The 28-year-old Norris hit just .186/.255/.328 in 125 games for the San Diego Padres last season, but he was an All-Star for the Oakland Athletics in 2014.

-- Doug Mittler

Angel PaganKelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsPhiladelphia and Toronto are reportedly considering the veteran outfielder after his deal with Baltimore fell through earlier this month.

The MLB regular season is just over a week away and free-agent outfielder Angel Pagan has yet to sign a new contract.

However, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies are both interested in the 35-year-old veteran's services.

According to Heyman, Pagan had a deal in place with the Baltimore Orioles earlier this month before it fell through because of issues with a physical. Since then, Pagan slashed .286/.371/.969 across 35 at-bats while playing for runner-up Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

Pagan played the vast majority of his games in left field last season for the San Francisco Giants, and the Blue Jays have question marks at the position heading into 2017. Steve Pearce is their top option in left, but he has yet to take the field this spring. Other left fielders on the roster include Melvin Upton Jr. and Ezequiel Carrera.

The Phillies would seem to be a less likely fit for Pagan as their three outfield spots are occupied by Odubel Herrera, Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders. Beyond those starters, Philadelphia also has other options such as Aaron Altherr and Tyler Goeddel.

Pagan, a switch-hitter, compiled a slash line of .277/.331/.418 with a career-high 12 home runs last season for the Giants. He has performed better against right-handed pitching during the past few seasons and is reportedly seeking a deal in the $5 million range.

The Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates have also been linked to Pagan, per Heyman.

-- Nick Ostiller

MLB Rumor Central: Could the Rays deal a pitcher?

March, 21, 2017
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Erasmo RamirezBrian Blanco/Getty ImagesRamirez started 27 games in 2015 before being switched to a bullpen role last season.

The Tampa Bay Rays could look to deal a pitcher, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, citing sources.

Rosenthal tweets that the Rays "could trade from pitching depth" and mentions reliever Erasmo Ramirez as the strongest candidate to be dealt. Last week, the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin suggested Ramirez as a possible trade candidate, noting that Ramirez could have value as a starter with another team.

After 27 starts in 2015, Ramirez was moved to the bullpen in 2016. He finished the season with a 3.77 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, going 7-11 in 64 games (one start). The right-hander struck out 63 in 90 2/3 innings and posted 15 holds.

Ramirez, 26, is signed to a one-year, $3.13 million deal. He is eligible for arbitration in 2018 and will be a free agent in 2020 at the earliest.

The Rays dealt two members of last year's pitching staff -- both starters -- at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, sending lefties Matt Moore and Drew Smyly to the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners, respectively. Over the winter, Tampa Bay acquired right-handed prospect Jose De Leon from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for infielder Logan Forsythe.

--Alex Tekip

Jacoby JonesBrace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty ImagesThe Tigers' JaCoby Jones is hitting .346 with a .393 OBP in Grapefruit League play.

Already the Detroit Tigers' center fielder of the future, JaCoby Jones is trying to push up the timetable.

Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports the 24-year-old Jones helped his cause in the Tigers' center field competition with a big game on Thursday, collecting a pair of hits, including a long home run, drawing a walk, stealing two bases and making an impressive running catch against the Atlanta Braves.

In 13 Grapefruit League games, Jones is hitting .346 with a .393 OBP.

The Tigers traded Cameron Maybin to the Angels over the winter, leaving an open center field competition between Jones, Tyler Collins, Anthony Gose and Mikie Mahtook.

Fenech cites people in the organization who believe Jones is the best defensive player in the group, adding “the only thing keeping him from an everyday big league job is experience.” The Tigers, however, do not want to rush Jones and feel he might benefit from more minor league experience.
While Jones has a bright future, his offensive approach “might need time to hone,” reports MLB.com’s Jason Beck.

Jones split last season between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, posting a .256/.327/.407 combined slash line. He hit .214 in 28 at-bats as a late-season call-up.

-- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Braves pursuing free agent Angel Pagan?

March, 17, 2017
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Angel Pagan Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesAngel Pagan is looking for work after spending the last five seasons with the Giants.

The Atlanta Braves have made “a couple different attempts” to sign free agent Angel Pagan, but the veteran outfielder has declined, reports Jon Heyman of FanRagSports.

Heyman says Pagan, who is currently playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, has been seeking a major league deal of close to $5 million. Pagan made $11.25 million last season with the San Francisco Giants.

The Braves are believed to be looking for a backup outfielder behind starters Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis.

The 35-year-old Pagan has spent the last five seasons with the Giants, hitting .277/.331/.418 in 495 at-bats in 2016.

The Detroit Tigers, who have yet to decide on a center fielder after trading Cameron Maybin, also have been mentioned as a possible landing spot for Pagan.

-- Doug Mittler

BlancoChristopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsGregor Blanco has spent the last five seasons in San Francisco, hitting a career-high .291 in 2015.

Gregor Blanco could be in line for more playing time in the Arizona Diamondbacks' outfield if Yasmany Tomas remains sidelined with an oblique strain.

Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports Tomas, the D-backs’ starting left fielder who has been sidelined since March 6, will be out of the lineup “for an indefinite period of time.” Gilbert says the injury could “open the door” for Blanco to get some extra at-bats and for Jeremy Hazelbaker to make the Opening Day roster.

A career .258 hitter over eight seasons, Blanco agreed to a minor league contract in January after spending the last five years with the San Francisco Giants. Blanco is hitting just .185 in 10 Cactus League games.

Manager Torey Lovullo told Gilbert that veteran infielder Chris Owings is not viewed as a candidate for the starting outfield spot.

- Doug Mittler

Alejandro De Aza Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsAlejandro De Aza spent last season with the New York Mets, hitting just .205 with a .297 OBP.

With the help of a contract clause, veteran Alejandro De Aza may be the front-runner to land the final outfield spot on the Oakland Athletics' roster, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

A shoulder injury to Jake Smolinski has created an opening, and the A's are considering the idea of using the extra slot on a fifth outfielder. De Aza and Jaff Decker are the primary contenders.

De Aza is hitting just .227 with a .261 OBP this spring, but Slusser reports the 32-year-old might have the edge because he has an opt-out clause in his contract if he has not been assured a roster spot by the end of March.

Decker is hitting .300 with a pair of homers this spring.

The A's would be the seventh big league team for De Aza, who hit just .205 last season with the New York Mets.

-- Doug Mittler

Emilio BonifacioAP Photo/John BazemoreEmilio Bonifacio hit just .211 for the Braves last season, spending most of the year at Triple-A Gwinnett.

After a pair of subpar seasons, veteran utility man Emilio Bonifacio is enjoying a strong spring, putting him in "good position" to win a roster spot on the Atlanta Braves' bench, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The 31-year-old Bonifacio had to settle for a minor-league contract with the Braves after hitting .211 in 24 games last season, spending most of the year at Triple-A Gwinnett. The native of the Dominican Republic has a combined .181 average over the past two years with the White Sox and Braves.

O'Brien reports Bonifacio has reported to camp in better shape and looks to be in a good position to land a roster spot because he can play all three outfield positions as well as second and third base. In 12 Grapefruit League games, Bonifacio is 8-for-28 (.286) with a double, a home run, two stolen bases and a .355 on-base percentage.

Bonifacio had his best seasons with Marlins from 2009-12, when he hit .271 and stole 103 bases.

- Doug Mittler

The World Baseball Classic is a way for an under-the-radar player to raise his profile. The same can apply in the dugout for Luis Urueta, the manager for Colombia who reportedly has made a very favorable impression.

Colombia, making its first appearance in the WBC, was 1-2 in Pool C play, losing both of its games in extra innings to the highly regarded United States and Dominican Republic teams.

"He might have been a low-profile guy before the WBC but not anymore," a National League executive told John Perrotto of FanRag Sports. "He’s going to be on teams' radars now."

The 36-year-old Urueta is the Arizona Diamondbacks' minor-league field coordinator and has worked in the organization in various roles since 2007. A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, Urueta played three seasons in Class A as a first baseman and outfielder and also spent three years playing in Italy.

At the very least, Colombia's performance could put Urueta in the mix for a minor-league managerial gig.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Rays showing interest in Derek Norris?

March, 15, 2017
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Derek NorrisAP Photo/Gregory BullAn All-Star in 2014, Derek Norris has spent the last two seasons in San Diego after three years in Oakland.

The rumors of catcher Derek Norris finding a new home with the Tampa Bay Rays appear to be picking up steam.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Tuesday that the Rays “continue to have conversations” about adding Norris, who reportedly was placed on waivers by the Washington Nationals last weekend.

Norris was due to make $4.2 million this season, but arbitration-year salaries are not guaranteed and the Nats would be responsible for only 30 days of termination pay by releasing him. Earlier this week, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Rays tweeted that the Rays “would have some interest” in the 28-year-old Norris if and when he was released.

The Nationals acquired Norris from the Padres in December, but he became expendable when four-time All-Star Matt Wieters signed as a free agent earlier in spring training.

There are available at-bats in Tampa Bay for Norris, at least early in the season. The Rays signed Wilson Ramos over the winter, but the former Nats catcher will begin the season on the disabled list as he works his way back from knee surgery.

Olney cautions the Rays are “wary” of bringing in a new catcher and “interrupting [the] relationship” that incumbent options Curt Casali and Luke Maile are building with the pitching staff.

As for other options, the Rockies could be looking for a catcher after Tom Murphy suffered a fractured forearm, but it is unclear if Colorado will look outside the organization.

The 28-year-old Norris hit just .186/.255/.328 last year in San Diego, but he was an All-Star for the A's in 2014 and is considered a solid defensive player.

-- Doug Mittler

Antonio SenzatelaMatt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsAntonio Senzatela is making his case for a Rockies' rotation spot with a 2.38 ERA in four Cactus League games.

Rookie right-hander Antonio Senzatela might be emerging as a legitimate candidate for a spot in the Colorado Rockies' rotation, reports MLB.com’s Thomas Harding.

Senzatela threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts against the Royals on Monday to lower his Cactus League ERA to 2.38.

The 22-year-old from Venezuela has not advanced beyond the Double-A level, but is in the mix for the final spot in the rotation along with Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez. Harding reports "the Rockies are still trying to determine where Senzatela fits in."

Senzatela was 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA in seven starts for Double-A Hartford last season, but needed two stints on the disabled list with shoulder issues that appear to be healed.

Last week's departure of Chad Bettis to seek additional treatment for testicular cancer leaves the Rockies with two rotation spots to fill behind Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray. Nick Groke of the Denver Post reported last week that veteran Chris Rusin "seems an obvious choice" for one of the openings.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Roster spot for Ross Detwiler in Oakland?

March, 14, 2017
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Ross DetwilerAP Photo/Tony AvelarRoss Detwiler struggled to a 6.10 ERA with the Indians and A's last season.

Veteran left-hander Ross Detwiler, who is in camp on a minor league contract, is "emerging as a strong possibility" for a role in the Oakland Athletics' bullpen, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Slusser says Detwiler is the front-runner for the role of second southpaw behind Sean Doolittle.

The 31-year-old Detwiler split last season between Cleveland and Oakland, struggling to a 6.10 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 16 outings, including seven starts. Detwiler, who started 27 games with a 3.40 ERA for the Nationals in 2012, was without a job until mid-January, when he agreed to a minor league deal with the A's.

Detwiler has not been all that impressive in Cactus League play, compiling a 5.40 ERA while walking three in five innings. But Daniel Coulombe, Detwiler’s primary competition, has allowed 10 hits with an 8.31 ERA in 4 1/3 innings.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Who will start in Cincinnati?

March, 14, 2017
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Robert StephensonAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesRobert Stephenson is one of several prospects in the mix for a rotation spot with the Reds.

The Cincinnati Reds' rotation already includes multiple question marks, and that was before it was revealed Monday that Anthony DeSclafani will begin the season on the disabled list.

DeSclafani was diagnosed with an ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his right elbow, and he will be shut down for up to four weeks. In a best-case scenario, the 26-year-old right-hander could make his season debut by mid-May, reports Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer.

DeSclafani had a 3.28 ERA last season, easily the best among Reds' starters.

With Homer Bailey already sidelined for a few months, the only two starters locked into rotation spots are Brandon Finnegan and Scott Feldman.

With less then three weeks to go before Opening Day, there appears to be no clear favorites for the remaining spots. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports the prospects still in the mix include Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Sal Romano, Luis Castillo and Rookie Davis.

DeSclafani's setback could provide an opportunity for 40-year-old Bronson Arroyo, who has not pitched in the majors since 2014 due to elbow and shoulder injuries. Arroyo looked impressive in his Cactus League debut on Sunday, pitching two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.

There also is Tim Adleman, who had a 4.00 ERA in 13 starts last season.

General manager Dick Williams told reporters that the Reds have not ruled out the possibility of looking outside the organization. Colby Lewis and Doug Fister remain on the free-agent market, and their price could drop further as we move closer to April.

- Doug Mittler

AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillEduardo Nunez hit .269 with four homers for the Giants following a July trade with the Twins.

There are no shortage of candidates playing third base for the San Francisco Giants this spring, but none appears to be a serious threat to unseat incumbent Eduardo Nunez, reports Carl Steward of the Mercury News.

Nunez started the bulk of the games at third base last season after being acquired in a deadline deal with the Twins, posting a .269/.327/.418 slash line in 50 games. "I thought he did a really nice job for us last year," manager Bruce Bochy told Steward on Sunday. "He played a really good defensive third base and once he got settled in, he showed the player that he is."

Nunez is 4-for-19 (.211) in his first seven Cactus League games.

Conor Gillaspie, Aaron Hill, Gordon Beckham, Kelby Tomlinson, Korean import Jae-gyun Hwang and top prospect Christian Arroyo are among those seeing time at the hot corner. Gillaspie is off to a fast start with a .429 average and two homers in six spring games.

Hill, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Morse and Tim Federowicz are among a group of veterans in camp on minor-league deals. Decisions on those players "will go down to the wire," reports MLB.com's Barry Bloom.

- Doug Mittler

MLB Rumor Central: Improved prognosis for Andrew Cashner?

March, 13, 2017
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CashnerAP Photo/Chris CarlsonFormer TCU star Andrew Cashner signed with the Rangers after splitting last season between San Diego and Miami.

The Texas Rangers' search for outside pitching help might be on hold after receiving some positive news regarding the health of Andrew Cashner.

The Rangers learned Thursday that Cashner, signed as a free agent during the winter, is unlikely to be ready for Opening Day because of a lingering biceps injury. Cashner, however, was back in camp Sunday after visiting a vascular specialist. The 30-year-old is still expected to miss the start of the season, but "he doesn’t expect to miss a significant stretch," reports Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram.

The improved prognosis regarding Cashner "may put the brakes" on the need to pursue outside rotation options, such as Colby Lewis or Doug Fister, says T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.

The Rangers reportedly were at least exploring the idea of bringing back the 37-year-old Lewis following Cashner’s original diagnosis.

- Doug Mittler

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