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Keppinger, Chavez, Blanton & Bay move at meetings

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Keppinger, Chavez, Blanton & Bay move at meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Jeff Keppinger, Joe Blanton, Jason Bay and a diamond full of players wound up in different places Wednesday at the winter meetings while top contenders waited for a pair of free-agent prizes to make their decisions.

Eric Chavez, Randy Choate and Sean Burnett also joined new teams. The lone trade was minor, with Detroit sending left-hander Andy Oliver to Pittsburgh for a young catcher.

Former MVP Josh Hamilton and former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke remained in play. They're the driving forces in this market and depending on where they go, more moves are likely to follow.

Texas would like to re-sign Hamilton, at the right price. The slugger was in Nashville this week but has left, and his agent met with Rangers general manager Jon Daniels on Tuesday night.

``Obviously, one of the bigger dominoes,'' Daniels said. ``Trying to get the first one to fall.''

New York Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey keeps drawing attention. He lives near the Opryland Hotel and dropped in for a visit, though there's no change in his situation. Signed for next season, he wants a new contract while several clubs, including Boston, want to trade for the reigning NL Cy Young winner.

In the meantime, some deals stayed on deck. No telling if any of them will get done before the meetings end Thursday with the Rule 5 draft for players left off 40-man rosters.

``We wondered if one of the guys went off, (if) it would speed up. We'll see,'' Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said. ``It seems like it may be moving a little bit.''

Also in the mix: Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, amid speculation Arizona is trying to get him in a multi-team swap.

All-Star third baseman David Wright of the New York Mets became the first player to step up to the brightly lit podium in the press room. Standing at the spot where trades and signings are usually announced, his appearance was expected.

Wright was in town to talk about his $138 million, eight-year contract, the largest in team history. The lifetime .301 hitter is a six-time All-Star and turns 30 in two weeks. A Mets fan growing up, Wright said he wanted to spend his entire career with the club.

``I've never pictured myself in a different uniform,'' he said.

``It just feels like there's so much unfinished business and I'd like to finish what I've started,'' he added. ``Honestly, it wouldn't mean as much to me winning somewhere else as it would obviously winning here.''

Away from the dais where Wright spoke, inside the suites at the sprawling 2,881-room hotel, several players changed jerseys.

Keppinger agreed with the Chicago White Sox on a $12 million, three-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because there was no announcement.

The versatile infielder hit .325 with a career-high nine home runs and 40 RBIs for Tampa Bay last season. At 32, the well-traveled Keppinger is known for making contact and has more walks than strikeouts during his eight-year career with the Rays, San Francisco, Houston, Cincinnati, Kansas City and the Mets.

Keppinger is likely to play third base for the White Sox. Kevin Youkilis finished the season at that spot for Chicago last season, then became a free agent. The New York Yankees and Arizona also had been interested in Keppinger.

Arizona wound up with Chavez, giving the corner infielder a $3 million, one-year contract, a person with knowledge of the deal said.

The 34-year-old Chavez hit .281 with 16 homers in 278 at-bats for the Yankees, seeing time at first base, third base and designated hitter. The six-time Gold Glove winner lives in the Phoenix area.

Bay and the Seattle Mariners agreed on a one-year deal, a person familiar with the negotiation said. The 34-year-old outfielder is hoping to resurrect his career with the Mariners after three disappointing and injury-plagued seasons with the Mets.

The Los Angeles Angels added Blanton and Burnett to their retooled pitching staff, and St. Louis signed Choate for its bullpen.

The Chicago Cubs and outfielder Nate Schierholtz closed in on a $2.25 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations said. Baltimore kept outfielder Nate McLouth and Colorado re-signed pitcher Jeff Francis.

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AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.

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Orioles starting rotation ranked near the bottom of MLB

Orioles starting rotation ranked near the bottom of MLB

BY TYLER BYRUM

Coming into the 2017 season, the Baltimore Orioles are looking to build off a Wild Card appearance last year that ended in disappointment. 

In the off-season the team needed to address numerous issues along their roster, especially the team’s starting pitching.  Without any major moves during the winter, the Orioles will start the season with the 24th best starting rotation in the majors according to USA Today.

Last year the team’s rotation was not that great and a majority of them are returning to the squad this season. Behind Kevin Gausman (3.61 ERA) and Chris Tillman (3.77), the remaining six regular starters averaged a 5.35 ERA. Only one of those pitchers had a sub 5.00 ERA and that was right-hander Dylan Bundy (4.02).

He started the season primarily as a reliever but towards the end of the year he was consistently in the five-man rotation. In the games he started, the right-handed pitcher finished with a 8-5 record. None of the other starters, excluding Chris Tillman, finished the season with a winning record. 

Based on essentially no pitching moves by the organization, it appears that the 24-year-old Bundy will be called on to be the third man in the rotation.

READ ALSO: Orioles projected to have a down season

The next rotation spot is lining up for Wade Miley, a starting pitcher the Orioles acquired last season from the Seattle Mariners. Starting in 11 games for Baltimore he only registered two wins.

Leaving only one rotation slot open, returner’s Ubaldo Jimenez, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Wright will be fighting for the spot. Jimenez, who gave up the homerun that ended the 2016 campaign against the Toronto Blue Jays, initially looks to be one of the pitchers to fill in.

While the free agent class was not stellar this off-season, it included two World Series champions Jason Hammel and Edinson Volquez. Other notable free agents were Ivan Nova, R.A. Dickey, and Rich Hill.

Of all the minor transactions the team made in the past three months only one pitcher, Tomo Ohka, has notable experience as a starting pitcher. He turns 41 in March.

RELATED: Manny Machado ranks high among third basemen

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Where does Orioles star Manny Machado rank among MLB third basemen?

Where does Orioles star Manny Machado rank among MLB third basemen?

With the 2017 MLB season just around the corner, several positional rankings have made their rounds. The most tightly contested rankings are of those who man the hot corner because third base is arguably the deepest position in all of baseball. 

Manny Machado is one of the best in the game, but where did he rank with regards to other stars such as Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson and Nolan Arenado? 

Here's how Machado ranks according to several publications:

Tied for first with Kris Bryant according to CBS Sports.

Third accoring to MLB.com

Second according to FOX Sports

Second according to ESPN

It's mostly a three-man race for best third baseman in baseball between Bryant, Arenado and Machado. Over the last two season's Machado has accumulated  13.3 wins above replacement according to Fangraphs, while Bryant has 15 wins above replacement and Arenado has a 9.7 WAR. 

While all three players are similar in their offensive prowess, Machado and Arenado have been significantly better than Bryant when it comes to defensive runs saved over the course of the last two seasons. 

It's hard to go wrong with any of these players at the hot corner, especially with each one capable of hoisting an MVP trophy the end of the year. 

Related: Orioles picked to finish last in AL East in 2017