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MLB rumors: Mets have serious interest in Taijuan Walker; Phillies, Cubs sign relievers

MLB spring training is here. The first wave of pitchers and catchers reported to camps in Arizona and Florida on Wednesday, and, in less than two weeks, the Cactus League and Grapefruit League seasons will begin. Real live baseball is approaching. Here are the latest hot stove rumblings.

Cubs add Workman, Strop to bullpen

The Chicago Cubs signed right-hander Brandon Workman to a one-year, $1 million deal, according to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic. The contract includes an additional $2 million in incentives. Workman, 32, will be a veteran piece for Chicago’s bullpen.

After a successful 2019 which saw Workman perform as a solid late-inning arm, he struggled during the abbreviated 2020 season. Workman split his time between the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies last season, and recorded a 5.95 ERA and 2.24 WHIP in 21 appearances. He gave up 14 runs in just 19 2/3 innings, and had 23 strikeouts compared to 13 walks. Most of the damage came during his stint with the Phillies in which he had 13 2/3 rough innings, giving up a total of 10 runs in that span.

The Cubs will be certainly hoping that Workman is able to bounce back and return to his ’19 form where he recorded 16 saves for the Red Sox and finished with a 1.88 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 104 strikeouts over 71 2/3 innings. With Chicago, he’ll likely be able to act as a setup man for Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel.

The Cubs also added right-hander Pedro Strop on a a minor-league contract as a non-roster invitee, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. Strop, 35, signed with the Cubs for the final month of the 2020 season, and now, he’ll return to the team to compete for a major-league roster spot during spring training. Previously, he was a member of the Cubs for seven seasons, including their 2016 World Series title, from 2013 to 2019. He didn’t appear in any MLB games with Chicago last season but he has made 54 relief appearances with the Cubs and Reds over the past two seasons. During that time, he posted a 4.91 ERA (90 ERA+), 1.35 WHIP and 52:26 K:BB over 44 innings of relief.

Mets have serious interest in Walker

The New York Mets may have gotten veteran starter Carlos Carrasco in the Francisco Lindor trade, but other than that, the club fell short on signing any top free-agent starting pitchers. As spring training gets underway this week, the Mets are reported to have interest in right-hander Taijuan Walker, according to Andy Martino of SNY. The Mets have “serious interest” in Walker, and while there’s no agreement, the two sides have engaged in extensive discussions, Martino adds.

Entering the offseason, CBS Sports’ R.J. Anderson ranked Walker as the No. 28 free agent available. Here’s what we had to say:

Walker missed almost the entirety of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, meaning his 11-game stint this past season (split between Seattle and Buffalo, uh … Toronto) represented his first real opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of his reworked arm action. He made the most of the chance, averaging five innings per pop while accumulating a 2.70 ERA and a 2.63 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Walker’s fastball clocked in around 93 mph and remained his best bat-missing weapon, as it evaded lumber 23 percent of the time — or, for comparison’s sake, about as frequently as the heaters thrown by Tyler Glasnow, Max Fried, and Mike Clevinger. He doesn’t have another big-time bat misser in his arsenal, but he does have the willingness to throw most of his other pitches, especially his splitter and curve, to lefties and righties alike. While that doesn’t sound like much, it does give him the ability to show each individual batter three or four looks. Provided he stays healthy, he should slot in as someone’s fourth starter.

After Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Carrasco, the Mets rotation falls off a bit, so Walker could slot in nicely as the No. 4 starter. That is, until Noah Syndergaard is cleared for his return from Tommy John surgery. The Mets have some additional starting pitching depth thanks to their offseason addition of left-hander Joey Lucchesi. According to Martino, if the Mets and Walker don’t come to an agreement, they could go after free-agent starter Jake Odorizzi (ranked No. 27) on a one-year deal.

Shaw back with Brewers on minor-league deal

After infielder Travis Shaw was non-tendered by the Toronto Blue Jays in December, it appears that he’s now landed back with his former club. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, Shaw and the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed on a minor-league deal that includes an invitation to major-league spring training. The minor-league deal will pay Shaw $1.5 million with another $1.5 million in incentives if he makes the club, Feinsand adds. Shaw will be able to opt out of the deal on March 15 if he’s not on the Brewers roster.

Shaw, who turns 31 in April, spent the 2020 season with the Blue Jays, hitting .239/.306/.411, but it wasn’t enough for Toronto to decide to keep him. Shaw hit 63 home runs over his first two seasons with the Brewers, but the club let him go after he posted a .157/.281/.270 (.551 OPS) slash line in 2019. In Milwaukee, Luis Urias appears to be the favorite to win the starting job at third base for the 2021 MLB season, but Shaw should find himself in the mix to win it.

Watson joins Phillies on minor-league contract

The Philadelphia Phillies and relief pitcher Tony Watson have agreed on a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to MLB spring training, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. He can earn $3 million if he makes the big-league roster, according to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports.

It’s another veteran signing for the Phillies to help rework and repair their disastrous 2020 bullpen. The club also recently added right-hander Brandon Kintzler on a minor-league deal to go along with the other new additions of Archie Bradley, Jose Alvarado and Sam Coonrod

Watson, who will be 36 in May, is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he turned in a 2.50 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over 21 appearances with the San Francisco Giants.

Phillies sign Miller to one-year deal

The Phillies announced the signing of infielder/designated hitter Brad Miller Wednesday afternoon. The club signed Miller to a one-year deal. Miller, 31, will return to the Phillies after he spent the 2020 season with the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2019, Miller hit .263/.331/.610 (.941 OPS) in 66 games for the Phillies, but saw a bit of a dip in his 2020 numbers, hitting .232/.357/.451 (.807 OPS). He played third base and left field while he was with Philadelphia in 2019.

Miller will add infield depth for the Phillies, able to play shortstop, second base and first. The projected 2021 Phillies infield will likely be Rhys Hoskins at first base, Jean Segura at second base, Didi Gregorius at shortstop and Alec Bohm at third base. While in St. Louis, Miller saw most of his appearances come as the designated hitter, but there is still no agreement on the universal DH for the National League for 2021, so he’ll likely spend more time in an infielder/bench role.

Yankees add Dietrich on minor-league deal

The New York Yankees included designated hitter Derek Dietrich on their list of minor-league invitees to spring training, the club announced Wednesday. Dietrich also has experience playing first base, second base, third base and left field.

Dietrich, 31, spent the 2020 season with the Texas Rangers where he hit .197/.347/.459 over 75 plate appearances. His 28 percent strikeout rate contributed to his sub-.200 batting average. The veteran will likely be vying for a bench role with the Yankees this spring.




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