Major League Baseball
MLB News Wire
  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    MLB roundup: Arizona, Cuban slugger reportedly strike deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Arizona Diamondbacks reportedly have agreed to a lucrative contract with Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas.

    • The deal will be worth $68.5 million over six years, according to MLB.com sources, who say the contract includes an opt-out clause after four seasons. The deal is pending a physical, MLB.com reported.

      Tomas, 24, has played outfield for the Havana Industriales for most of the past seven years and figures to play left field for Arizona.

      Tomas would be the latest Cuban star to be signed to a rich contract by a major league team. The Boston Red Sox made Rusney Castillo the highest-paid Cuban player when they signed him to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal in August.

      Arizona, which had the worst record in the majors last season, has been aggressive under new general manager Dave Stewart and Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa. They previously acquired pitcher Jeremy Hellickson from Tampa for a pair of minor league prospects.

      ---Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is feeling so good about an offseason procedure to address a nerve problem near his right thumb that he says it's 100 percent better.

      Bothered by the thumb problem for the past two seasons, Braun's production at the plate declined and he batted a career-worst .266 with 19 home runs and 81 RBIs in 2014.

      Braun underwent cryotherapy after the season ended at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles. The treatment, which involves freezing damaged tissues, had not been done previously in the thumb area.

      "Right now, I don't feel any (pain), and I haven't been able to say that for two years," Braun said. "I think I've told you guys, it (hurt) shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don't feel it at all, so I'm excited."

      ---The Tampa Bay Rays added an arm to their bullpen on Wednesday, signing former Angels closer Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract.

      Frieri will receive $800,000 guaranteed and has the potential to earn $2.35 million in incentives.

      The 29-year-old struggled last season when the Angels and then with the Pittsburgh Pirates after a trade. He was released by the Pirates after posting a 1-4 record with a 7.34 ERA in 41 2/3 innings between the two teams.

      ---The Rays designated utility player Sean Rodriguez for assignment after five years with the team.

      The 29-year-old batted .211 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 96 games and 259 plate appearances last season.

      ---The Chicago Cubs are preparing for the possibility that the renovated bleachers in Wrigley Field will not be finished before opening day in April.

      Reports indicate that the team is putting contingency plans in place. The project experienced delays resulting from the installation of a new water main that was not completed on the scheduled date.

      The Cubs plan to refund or move ticket-holders from the bleachers in the event that the work is not completed in time.

      The home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals is scheduled for April 5.

  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Report: D-backs agree to deal with Cuban slugger
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Arizona Diamondbacks reportedly have agreed to a lucrative contract with Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas.

    • The deal will be worth $68.5 million over six years, according to MLB.com sources, who say the contract includes an opt-out clause after four seasons. The deal is pending a physical, MLB.com reported.

      Tomas, 24, has played outfield for the Havana Industriales for most of the past seven years and figures to play left field for Arizona.

      Tomas would be the latest Cuban star to be signed to a rich contract by a major league team. The Boston Red Sox made Rusney Castillo the highest-paid Cuban player when they signed him to a seven-year, $72.5 million deal in August.

      Arizona, which had the worst record in the majors last season, has been aggressive under new general manager Dave Stewart and Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa. They previously acquired pitcher Jeremy Hellickson from Tampa for a pair of minor league prospects.

  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Wrigley bleachers might not be ready for opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Chicago Cubs are preparing for the possibility that the renovated bleachers in Wrigley Field will not be finished before opening day in April.

    • Reports indicate that the team is putting contingency plans in place. The project experienced delays this fall resulting from the installation of a new water main that was not completed on the scheduled date.

      Should the work not be completed in time for the start of the season, the Cubs plan to issue refunds or move ticket-holders from the bleachers to other seats.

      The home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals is scheduled for April 5.

  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Rays waive versatile Rodriguez
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Tampa Bay Rays designated utility player Sean Rodriguez for assignment on Wednesday after five years with the team.

    • The 29-year-old batted .211 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 96 games and 259 plate appearances last season.

      Rodriguez has played second base, shortstop, third base, left field and first base. He has a .225 career batting average with 45 home runs and 186 RBIs for the Angels and the Rays.

  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Rays sign reliever Frieri
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Tampa Bay Rays added an arm to their bullpen on Wednesday, signing former Angels closer Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract.

    • Frieri will receive $800,000 guaranteed and has the potential to earn an additional $2.35 million in incentives.

      The 29-year-old right-hander struggled last season when the Angels and then with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was released by the Pirates after posting a 1-4 record with a 7.34 ERA in 41 2/3 innings between the two teams.

      In 2013, Frieri had 37 saves and a 3.80 ERA for the Angels. He logged 23 saves in 2012 after joining the Angels from the San Diego Padres.

      Frieri, a six-year veteran, has 71 career saves and a 3.46 ERA.

  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Brewers' Braun encouraged about thumb
    By The Sports Xchange

    Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is feeling so good about an offseason procedure to address a nerve problem near his right thumb that he says it's 100 percent better.

    • Bothered by the thumb problem for the past two seasons, Braun's production at the plate declined and he batted a career-worst .266 with 19 home runs and 81 RBIs in 2014.

      Braun underwent cryotherapy after the season ended at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles. The treatment, which involves freezing damaged tissues, had not been done previously in the thumb area.

      "Right now, I don't feel any (pain), and I haven't been able to say that for two years," Braun said. "I think I've told you guys, it (hurt) shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don't feel it at all, so I'm excited."

      The 31-year-old Braun tested the thumb with some swings and said he felt good. But he wants to wait until spring training in February to further assess his status.

      "I'm encouraged by how it feels," he said. "But at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic (until) I get into spring training and see how it responds. But it hasn't felt this good in a really long time."

  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014
    Giants third base coach Flannery retires
    By The Sports Xchange

    Tim Flannery, the third base coach who waved home runners for the San Francisco Giants in their three recent World Series championship seasons, retired from baseball Tuesday.

    • Flannery, 57, first served as a coach under Bruce Bochy with the San Diego in 1996, and the duo moved together to the Giants in 2007.

      San Francisco won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

      Flannery wrote on his Facebook page, "I thought you should know that today, officially, I have stepped down as the 3rd base coach of the 3 time World Champion San Francisco Giants. Talked to (general manager) Brian Sabean, and Bruce Bochy this morning and shared some tears together.

      "Without getting into this too deep, I just want you to know my family and I have been talking and praying over this for many months. The grueling grind, the schedule, the demands have taken a toll, and I feel it is the time to step off the highway and heal. This baseball life is a blessing, but collateral damage comes with it. After winning our 3rd World Title, (and I have no dreams of managing), I just didn't know what else I could give as a 3rd base coach, especially at the level I demand myself to perform at."

      Flannery played 11 seasons as a major league infielder, all for the Padres from 1979-89. He was part of San Diego's 1984 team that lost the World Series to the Detroit Tigers.

      He posted a .255 batting average, a .335 on-base percentage, a .317 slugging percentage, nine homers and 209 RBIs in 972 career games.

      "This has all been thought-out," Flannery told the San Francisco Chronicle regarding his decision to retire, added that he dealt with double vision in one eye last season. "This is not a knee-jerk reaction. So then you ask yourself, what else are you going to do? Keep coaching third till drop over? Win a fourth world championship? A fifth? What else can I do in the next phase of my life?

      "I need to stay home a little while and enjoy what we have just accomplished, or else it doesn't mean anything."

      In addition to his baseball fame, Flannery is a musician who sings with his band, Tim Flannery and Lunatic Fringe. He also devoted considerable time and money to assist the family of Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who was left with brain damage after he was beaten outside Dodger Stadium on Opening Day 2011.

      "I was as fulfilled helping the Stow family as much as anything in my life," Flannery told the Chronicle.

  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014
    MLB roundup: Red Sox welcome Sandoval
    By The Sports Xchange

    When Pablo Sandoval arrived in Boston early Tuesday, the natives made sure he quickly recognized his new home. The switch-hitting third baseman was greeted at his introductory press conference at Fenway Park by a fan wearing a mascot-type, oversized panda head.

    • Boston's new third baseman, who signed a five-year, $100 million contract that includes a sixth-year option, was known as the Kung Fu Panda for his physical likeness to the animated film character and jovial personality.

      Sandoval, 28, struck a deal with the Red Sox after seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants, winning World Series championships in three World Series appearances -- 2010, 2012, and 2014 -- and was a vital component to the team's victories each time. He helped the Giants to the 2014 title, batting .366 with seven doubles, five RBIs and five walks in 17 postseason games. His 26 hits set a postseason record.

      First baseman/catcher Ryan Lavarnway was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Sandoval.

      ---Free-agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is headed back to his native Japan after spending eight years in the major leagues.

      The 34-year-old Matsuzaka reached a contract agreement with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, the current Japanese League champions, according to the Japan Times.

      In eight major league seasons, Matsuzaka logged a 56-43 record with one save and a 4.48 ERA. He issued 387 walks and had 720 strikeouts in 790 1/3 innings.

      ---The Cincinnati Reds added former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers to their front-office staff on Tuesday as a special assistant for player personnel.

      Towers takes over for Bob Miller, who left after nine seasons with the Reds to become an assistant general manager with the Washington Nationals.

      The Reds also named Jeff Schugel as a special assistant for pro scouting. Schugel was with the Atlanta Braves last season as a special assistant and also has worked for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels during a 31-year career in baseball.

      Towers, 53, was Arizona's general manager for the past four years. Before that, he served as San Diego Padres general manager from 1996 to 2009.

      ---The San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs appear to be interested in landing free-agent pitcher Jon Lester, according to reports Tuesday.

      After the Giants lost third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the Boston Red Sox, it was reported that Lester has a meeting next week with the World Series champions. Other reports indicated that the Cucbs offered the left-hander a six-year contract worth more than $135 million. Both teams are attempting to bolster their starting pitching.

      Lester finished last season with the Oakland Athletics after a deal with the Red Sox at the trade deadline in July. With Lester boosting the A's staff, Oakland reached the playoffs before losing 9-8 in 12 innings to Kansas City in the American League wild-card game.

      The 31-year-old Lester was 6-4 with a 2.35 ERa in 11 starts with the A's and 16-11 overall with a 2.46 ERA in 32 starts last season between the two teams. He logged a career-high 219 2/3 innings.

  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014
    Giants, Cubs express interest in Lester
    By The Sports Xchange

    The San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs appear to be interested in landing free-agent pitcher Jon Lester, according to reports Tuesday.

    • After the Giants lost third baseman Pablo Sandoval to the Boston Red Sox, it was reported that Lester has a meeting next week with the World Series champions.

      Other reports indicated that the Cubs offered the left-hander a six-year contract worth more than $135 million.

      Both teams are attempting to bolster their starting pitching.

      In San Francisco, Lester would join fellow left-hander Madison Bumgarner at the top of a rotation that could include right-hander Tim Lincecum and 39-year-old Tim Hudson. Right-hander Matt Cain underwent elbow surgery in July.

      Lester finished last season with the Oakland Athletics after a deal with the Red Sox at the trade deadline in July. With Lester boosting the A's staff, Oakland reached the playoffs before losing 9-8 in 12 innings to the Kansas City Royals in the American League wild-card game.

      The 31-year-old Lester was 6-4 with a 2.35 ERa in 11 starts with the A's and 16-11 overall with a 2.46 ERA in 32 starts last season between the two teams. He logged a career-high 219 2/3 innings.

      According to reports, the Cubs' offer is significantly higher than what the Red Sox proposed for Lester to return to Boston. In addition to the Cubs and Giants, the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals also could be interested in Lester.

  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014
    Reds bring former Arizona GM Towers on board
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cincinnati Reds added former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers to their front-office staff on Tuesday as a special assistant for player personnel.

    • Towers takes over for Bob Miller, who left after nine seasons with the Reds to become an assistant general manager with the Washington Nationals.

      The Reds also named Jeff Schugel as a special assistant for pro scouting. Schugel was with the Atlanta Braves last season as a special assistant and also has worked for the Minnesota Twins, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels during a 31-year career in baseball.

      Towers was Arizona's general manager for the past four years. Before that, he served as San Diego Padres general manager from 1996 to 2009.

      The 53-year-old Towers will work with Reds general manager Walt Jocketty. Towers helped construct the Diamondbacks' National League West championship team in 2011 and NL West champs with the Padres in 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2006. The 1998 Padres lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series.

      Towers was not retained as GM by the Diamondbacks after last season and opted to leave the organization rather than accept another role.

  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014
    Matsuzaka to return to Japan
    By The Sports Xchange

    Free-agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is headed back to his native Japan after spending eight years in the major leagues.

    • The 34-year-old Matsuzaka reached a contract agreement with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, the current Japanese League champions, according to the Japan Times.

      Matsuzaka's best years in America came immediately after he signed a $51 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

      In his first season in 2007, Matsuzaka started 32 games and posted a 15-12 record. He improved to 18-3 in 2008 with a 2.90 ERA and then started to go backward.

      Matsuzaka moved over to the New York Mets in 2013 and spent two seasons in New York. In 2014, he showed some signs of recapturing his form, pitching in 34 games and posting a 3-1 record with a 3.89 ERA.

      In eight major league seasons, Matsuzaka logged a 56-43 record with one save and a 4.48 ERA. He issued 387 walks and had 720 strikeouts in 790 1/3 innings.

  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014
    Red Sox view Sandoval as 'perfect fit'
    By The Sports Xchange

    When Pablo Sandoval arrived in Boston early Tuesday, the natives made sure he quickly recognized his new home.

    • The switch-hitting third baseman was greeted at his introductory press conference at Fenway Park by a fan wearing a mascot-type, oversized panda head.

      "It was a tough decision for me," said Sandoval. "This is similar, but the (San Francisco) Giants gave me the opportunity to be in the big leagues. I need a new challenge. I'm happy to be here to show the fans ... I came here to be in the postseason again."

      Boston's new third baseman, who signed a five-year, $100 million contract that includes a sixth-year option, was known as the Kung Fu Panda for his physical likeness to the animated film character and jovial personality.

      "Pablo was a primary target of ours in the offseason," general manager Ben Cherington said. "He really embodies a lot of what we care about. He's been a big winner. He's been a performer when it counts the most. He's been a great teammate. ... We really look forward to having him in the middle of the lineup for years to come."

      Sandoval, 28, struck a deal with the Red Sox after seven seasons with the San Francisco Giants, winning World Series championships in three World Series appearances -- 2010, 2012, and 2014 -- and was a vital component to the team's victories each time.

      A good friend of shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who was finalizing a four-year, $88 million contract with the Red Sox, Sandoval said he's excited by the roster makeup. Sandoval dined with Ramirez in Boston and said fans will find out Ramirez is "a lot of fun."

      Sandoval helped the Giants to the 2014 World Series title, batting .366 with seven doubles, five RBI, and five walks in 17 postseason games. His 26 hits set the all-time record for a single postseason.

      He batted .279 with 26 doubles, three triples, 16 home runs, and 73 RBI in a career-high 157 regular season games and 153 starts in 2013.

      "There's just a lot about Pablo that appealed to us," Cherington said. "Coming from a place that has some similarities to Boston, everything about him we learned through our research suggested this is a guy who loves the game, loves to play, loves to win. ... He's made himself a really good third baseman. His approach makes him a good fit for this ballpark -- line-drive hitter, hits a lot of balls to left and left center. Third base has been a position we've been trying to figure out for a couple years now."

      Sandoval will keep the same jersey number (48).

      First baseman/catcher Ryan Lavarnway was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Sandoval.

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    MLB roundup: Red Sox acquire Ramirez, Sandoval
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Boston Red Sox reportedly acquired two prized free agents on Monday -- shortstop Hanley Ramirez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval.

    • On Monday afternoon, the Red Sox and Ramirez agreed on a five-year deal worth $88 million, according to multiple reports.

      Ramirez, 30, hit .283 with a .369 on-base percentage, a .448 slugging percentage, 13 homers and 71 RBIs in 128 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers this past season.

      Earlier on Monday, Boston and Sandoval came to terms on a five-year deal worth nearly $100 million.

      Sandoval has won three World Series rings in five years with the Giants.

      The 28-year-old Sandoval is coming off a season where he hit .279 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs. In the postseason, he hit .366 in 17 games.

      --Pitchers who won a combined nine Cy Young Awards and position players who earned three batting titles are among 17 new candidates on the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot.

      Pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz; infielder Nomar Garciaparra and outfielder Gary Sheffield join 17 holdovers from the 2014 balloting in which pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas won election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. It marked the first time that three first-ballot nominees were elected since Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount in 1999.

      Former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio missed the 75-percent qualifying point by two votes in last year's balloting.

      Other holdovers who remain on the ballot include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.

      --After 11 seasons, outfielder Josh Willingham told ESPN that he is retiring.

      The 35-year-old hit .253 with 195 home runs during a career that included stops with the Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.

      His best season came in 2012, when he hit 35 homers, drove in 110 runs and won a Silver Slugger Award with the Twins.

      --Third baseman Kyle Seager and the Seattle Mariners are nearing a long-term deal that will keep the 27-year-old in the Northwest for the next seven years.

      According to multiple reports, the Mariners will lock up Seager at a cost of nearly $100 million. The contract will include an option in the eighth year and could be worth another $20 million.

      Seager is coming off an All-Star type season. He won his first Gold Glove while hitting .268 and belted 25 home runs.

      --Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee got the green light to begin his offseason throwing program.

      Lee missed the final two months of the 2014 season because of a left elbow strain.

      General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told CSNPhilly.com Lee would begin his offseason throwing program next week and that the veteran left hander will be ready for the start of spring training.

      --ESPN reported that the Texas Rangers have engaged the Atlanta Braves in talks with the hope of acquiring outfielder B.J. Upton.

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    Phillies' Lee cleared to start throwing
    By The Sports Xchange

    Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee got the green light to begin his offseason throwing program on Monday.

    • Lee missed the final two months of the 2014 season because of a left elbow strain.

      General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told CSNPhilly.com Lee would begin his offseason throwing program next week and that the veteran left hander will be ready for the start of spring training.

      "Originally we planned to have him throwing in mid-November, but we moved it back because he had been sick for about a week," Amaro said. "His strength is back now. His elbow feels good. He's pain-free and doing great, ready to begin his normal throwing program on Dec. 1."

      Lee made only 13 starts in 2014.

      "We think he's over it," Amaro said. "He's been able to do all his strength work and he hasn't felt it at all. We'll know more when he starts throwing."

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    Red Sox, SS Ramirez agree on $88 million deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Boston Red Sox got their man, make that their men.

    • On Monday afternoon, the Red Sox and free-agent shortstop Hanley Ramirez agreed on a five-year deal worth $88 million, according to multiple reports.

      Ramirez, 30, hit .283 with a .369 on-base percentage, a .448 slugging percentage, 13 homers and 71 RBIs in 128 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers this past season. The previous season, he finished eighth in National League MVP voting after batting .345 despite missing half the season due to injuries.

      Earlier on Monday, Boston and free-agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval came to terms on a five-year deal worth nearly $100 million.

      Last season, rookie Xander Bogaerts played shortstop for Boston and Will Middlebrooks was the primary third baseman. Both produced disappointing offensive numbers. Ramirez reportedly is open to moving to a new position if requested to do so by his new team.

      Boston signed Ramirez as a 16-year-old Dominican free agent in 2000, and he appeared in two games for the Red Sox in 2005. In November 2005, he was dealt to the Florida Marlins in the deal that sent right-hander Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston.

      Ramirez won NL Rookie of the Year for Florida in 2006. He was a three-time all-star with the Marlins before joining the Dodgers in 2012.

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    Willingham retires on 'my terms'
    By The Sports Xchange

    After 11 seasons, outfielder Josh Willingham told ESPN on Monday that he is retiring.

    • The 35-year-old hit .253 with 195 home runs during a career that included stops with the Florida Marlins, Washington Nationals, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals.

      His best season came in 2012, when he hit 35 homers, drove in 110 runs and won a Silver Slugger Award with the Twins.

      "After praying on my decision many times and talking to my wife, my father and ex-players who have gone through the same process toward the end of their careers, I have decided to retire,'' Willingham said.

      "I felt like it wouldn't be fair to myself, and more importantly to the team that was paying me a lot of money to perform at a high level, if there was a chance my dedication would waver -- particularly as the season got longer. I'm honored to have played for as many years as I have, and I feel even luckier to walk away on my own terms instead of having the decision made for me."

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    Mariners' 3B Seager gets $100 million deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    Third baseman Kyle Seager and the Seattle Mariners are nearing a long-term deal that will keep the 27-year-old in the Northwest for the next seven years.

    • According to multiple reports, the Mariners will lock up Seager at a cost of nearly $100 million. The contract will include an option in the eighth year and could be worth another $20 million.

      Seager is coming off an All-Star type season. He won his first Gold Glove while hitting .268 and belted 25 home runs.

      Seager must pass a physical before the deal becomes official.

      This is the third consecutive offseason that the Mariners have signed a player to a $100-million deal. Last offseason, Seattle signed free-agent second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract. The year before, Felix Hernandez signed for seven years and $175 million.

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz appear on HOF ballot
    By The Sports Xchange

    Pitchers who won a combined nine Cy Young Awards and position players who earned three batting titles are among 17 new candidates on the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot.

    • Pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz; infielder Nomar Garciaparra and outfielder Gary Sheffield join 17 holdovers from the 2014 balloting in which pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas won election to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. It marked the first time that three first-ballot nominees were elected since Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount in 1999.

      Former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio missed the 75-percent qualifying point by two votes in last year's balloting.

      Johnson won five Cy Young Awards -- four in the National League with the Arizona Diamondbacks and one in the American League with the Seattle Mariners -- during a 22-season career in which the lefthander won 303 games and totaled 4,875 strikeouts, second only to Nolan Ryan.

      Pedro Martinez also won Cy Young Awards in both leagues -- two in the American League with the Boston Red Sox and one in the NL with the Montreal Expos. The right-hander led his league in earned run average five times and finished his 18-season career with 3,154 strikeouts and a .687 winning percentage (219-100).

      Smoltz was the NL Cy Young Award winner in 1996 with the Atlanta Braves for whom he spent the bulk of his 21 seasons in the majors as a rotation mate of Hall of Famers Maddux and Glavine.

      He played on clubs that won 14 division titles, five pennants and the 1995 World Series. Smoltz is the only pitcher in history with more than 200 victories (213) and 150 saves (154).

      Other holdovers who remain on the ballot include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell.

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    Report: Rangers to make run at B.J. Upton
    By The Sports Xchange

    ESPN is reporting that the Texas Rangers have engaged the Atlanta Braves in talks with the hope of acquiring outfielder B.J. Upton.

    • Upton set career highs in runs (29) and RBIs (102) last season with the Braves. But after a second-half collapse, the Atlanta is reshaping its roster. The Braves already have traded outfield Jason Heyward and seem willing to part with Upton for the right deal.

      The Rangers are planning to shift Shin-Soo Choo to right field, which would open up left field for the 30-year-old Upton.

      Upton has a limited no-trade clause in his contract to four teams, but the Rangers are not one of them, ESPN reported. His contract also is appealing to the Rangers. It has one year remaining on a six-year, $51.2 million contract extension he signed while playing with Arizona

  • Monday, November 24, 2014
    Reports: Red Sox land Sandoval
    By The Sports Xchange

    Free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval is leaving his heart in San Francisco and heading cross-country to Beantown.

    • According to multiple reports, Sandoval and the Boston Red Sox have agreed on a five-year deal worth close to $100 million.

      The Red Sox are also closing in on a deal with free agent shortstop Hanley Ramirez. According to FOXSports.com, the Red Sox expect to finalize a deal with Ramirez on Monday.

      Ramirez has indicated to the Red Sox that he is willing to play other positions besides shortstop.

      Sandoval has won three World Series rings in five years with the Giants.

      The 28-year-old Sandoval is coming off a season where he hit .279 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs. In the postseason, he hit .366 in 17 games.

      For his career, the switch-hitting Sandoval has compiled a .294 average with 106 home runs and 462 RBI in seven seasons with the Giants.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Reports: Red Sox wooing Hanley Ramirez
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Boston Red Sox are making a bid to rework the left half of their infield.

    • In addition to offering a big contract to free agent third baseman Pablo Sandoval, Boston is negotiating with free agent shortstop Hanley Ramirez, multiple media outlets reported Sunday.

      A source told WEEI.com that a Ramirez deal "could come together quickly." CBS Sports reported that talks between Ramirez and Boston were becoming increasingly serious.

      Last season, rookie Xander Bogaerts played shortstop for Boston and Will Middlebrooks was the primary third baseman. Both produced disappointing offensive numbers. Ramirez reportedly is open to moving to a new position if requested to do so by his new team.

      Ramirez, 30, hit .283 with a .369 on-base percentage, a .448 slugging percentage, 13 homers and 71 RBIs in 128 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers this year. The previous season, he finished eighth in National League MVP voting after batting .345 despite missing half the season due to injuries.

      Boston signed Ramirez as a 16-year-old Dominican free agent in 2000, and he appeared in two games for the Red Sox in 2005. In November 2005, he was dealt to the Florida Marlins in the deal that sent right-hander Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston.

      Ramirez won NL Rookie of the Year for Florida in 2006. He was a three-time all-star with the Marlins before joining the Dodgers in 2012.

      The Red Sox reportedly offered Sandoval a five-year, $95 million deal. The terms being discussed with Ramirez were not known.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    MLB roundup: Six teams interested in Lester
    By The Sports Xchange

    At least six teams are interested in free agent pitcher Jon Lester, Fox Sports reported Sunday.

    • The Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are considered the favorites to land the left-handed starter, with the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals also known to be in the running.

      However, there are at least two other teams that are expected to join the bidding for Lester.

      The New York Yankees have denied they are going to make any major free agent moves but reportedly are expected to be a player in the Lester sweepstakes. It is not clear which other team or teams are interested.

      Lester, 30, went 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 220 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings combined between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's in 2014.

      --The Cleveland Indians acquired right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations. They also designated left-handed pitcher Brian Barnes for assignment.

      Brewer, 26, split last season between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, going a combined 11-12 with a 4.46 ERA in 29 starts. He was designated for assignment on Thursday.

      --The Oakland A's acquired first baseman Ike Davis from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Pirates announced.

      The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Pirates will receive international slot money and that the A's made the move for depth.

      The Pirates designated the 27-year-old Davis for assignment last week. Davis batted .233 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 2014 with the New York Mets and Pirates.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    A's acquire 1B Davis from Pirates
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Oakland A's acquired first baseman Ike Davis from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Pirates announced Sunday.

    • The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Pirates will receive international slot money and that the A's made the move for depth.

      The Pirates designated the 27-year-old Davis for assignment last week. According to MLB Trade Rumors, he is projected to make $4.4 million through salary arbitration in 2015. That could explain why the Pirates designated him for assignment and that they were planning to non-tender him by the Dec. 2 deadline.

      Davis batted .233 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 2014 with the New York Mets and Pirates.

      The A's recently signed free agent first baseman/designated hitter Billy Butler. Davis joins Butler, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, Nate Freiman and Kyle Blanks as first basemen on the A's 40-man roster.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Report: Six teams interested in Lester
    By The Sports Xchange

    At least six teams are interested in free agent pitcher Jon Lester, Fox Sports reported Sunday.

    • The Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are considered the favorites to land the left-handed starter, with the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals also known to be in the running.

      However, there are at least two other teams that are expected to join the bidding for Lester.

      The New York Yankees have denied they are going to make any major free agent moves but reportedly are expected to be a player in the Lester sweepstakes. It is not clear which other team or teams are interested.

      Lester, 30, went 16-11 with a 2.46 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 220 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings combined between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's in 2014.

      The Red Sox reportedly offered Lester between $110 million and $120 million over six years but he could garner more than $150 million.

  • Sunday, November 23, 2014
    Indians acquire RHP Brewer from Diamondbacks
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cleveland Indians acquired right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer from the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations Sunday and designated left-handed pitcher Brian Barnes for assignment.

    • Brewer, 26, split last season between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, going a combined 11-12 with a 4.46 ERA in 29 starts. He led all Diamondbacks minor leaguers in with 169 2/3 innings, was second in wins and third with 138 strikeouts. A 12th-round draft pick of the Diamondbacks in 2009, Barnes is 50-42 with a 4.09 ERA in 137 games (124 starts) in his minor-league career.

      Brewer became the first Arizona-born player to make his major-league debut with the Diamondbacks in 2013, appearing in four games in relief. He was designated for assignment on Thursday.

      Last season, Barnes went 3-2 with a 3.69 in 31 1/3 innings over 25 games (one start) for Triple-A Columbus.