MLB’s #1 Ranked Prospects Of 2012

Number 1 Ranked Prospects by Position

Carolina League

CATCHER- Toronto Blue Jays
Travis d’Arnaud Rank: 1 Status: Disabled 7-Day ETA: 2013 Position: C Age: 23, DOB: 02/10/1989 Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 195 Drafted: 2007, 1st (37)

When Toronto traded Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, d’Arnaud may not have been the top prospect in the deal, but he might end up being the best. He has terrific all-around skills that surpass those of current young big league catcher J.P. Arencibia. He started truly fulfilling his offensive potential in 2011, showing the ability to hit for both average and power. Behind the plate, d’Arnaud is agile and athletic, and he has plenty of arm to help control the running game. A torn thumb ligament suffered while playing for Team USA isn’t an issue, and he started the Triple-A season on schedule, but he’ll miss a large chunk of the season after a torn ligament in his left knee landed him on the disabled list in late June.

1ST BASE- Chicago Cubs (Currently with club)
Anthony Rizzo Rank: 1 ETA: 2012 Position: 1B Age: 22, DOB: 08/08/1989 Bats: L, Throws: L Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 220 Drafted: 2007, 6th (204)
Rizzo’s big league debut in 2011 may not have gone very well, but that didn’t mean his left-handed bat wasn’t still in high demand. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer, who helped draft Rizzo in Boston and then traded for him while the GM in San Diego, acquired him in Chicago during the offseason. A solid defender at first, it’s Rizzo’s power bat (51 homers and 200-plus RBIs over the past two seasons in the Minors) that is his calling card. Look for him to make some adjustments and hit the big leagues in 2012. He started the year in Triple-A and was called up on June 26.
2ND BASE- San Diego Padres
Cory Spangenberg Rank: 1 Status: Disabled 7-Day ETA: 2013 Position: 2B Age: 21, DOB: 03/16/1991 Bats: L, Throws: R Height: 6′ 0″, Weight: 185 Drafted: 2011, 1st (10)
Spangenberg became a great example of the benefits of signing early, getting out and racking up 330 plate appearances while many of his fellow first-rounders were sitting around and waiting to sign. He also showed reports of his ability to hit were spot on, as he put up impressive numbers in average and on-base percentage. He also has plus speed that will allow him to continue to steal bases. He’s already made the move to second base full time and should be just fine there. He’s on the fast track already and to see him in Double-A at some point in 2012 seems very reasonable. Spangenberg was placed on the disabled list on June 22 with concussion-like symptoms, after being hit on the side of the head.
3RD BASE- Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado Rank: 1 Tulsa Drillers (AA) ETA: 2013Position: 3B Age: 21, DOB: 04/16/1991 Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6′ 1″, Weight: 205 Drafted: 2009, 2nd (59)
Some players get knocked unfairly because of their surroundings. It’s not Arenado’s fault he played in the hitting-friendly California League and then the equally cozy Arizona Fall League in 2011. He deserves credit for raking in both places. He led the Minors in RBIs with 122 and struck out just 53 times all season. Arenado won the AFL MVP award, finishing among the leaders in a host of offensive categories. He should hit for average and will be a run-producer even if he doesn’t hit a ton of homers. There was concern about his defense at third, but he’s worked to improve and those worries are gone. It might not be too long before Arenado is spotted in Coors Field.
SHORTSTOP- Baltimore Orioles
Manny Machado Rank: 1 Bowie Baysox (AA) ETA: 2013 Position: SS Age: 20, DOB: 07/06/1992 Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 185 Drafted: 2010, 1st (3)
Machado was the first high school player taken in the 2010 Draft, and for good reason. Although his first full season had its ups and downs, including dealing with a knee injury that forced him out of action for a month, he did get promoted and went to the Futures Game. Machado is right where he should be defensively, playing solid shortstop despite his size. The time away from the field did show in his hitting a bit once he was up in the Carolina League, as he needs to improve his approach at the plate. That will come in time and Machado should hit for average and some power.
OUTFIELD- Kansas City Royals
Bubba Starling Rank: 1 Burlington Royals (R) ETA: 2015 Position: OF Age: 19, DOB: 08/03/1992 Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6′ 4″, Weight: 180 Drafted: 2011, 1st (5)
As top athletes go, there are few in baseball better than Starling. Kansas City signed him away from a scholarship to quarterback at the University of Nebraska and Starling has all five tools in his toolbox. He has plus speed that should allow him to both steal bases and play an outstanding center field. His strong throwing arm is a plus defensively as well. He has excellent raw power and has shown enough pure hitting skills where there’s confidence he’ll tap into that power consistently and hit for average as well. It might take him a little time to put it all together, but the payoff could be huge.
LH Pitcher- New York Yankees
Manny Banuelos Rank: 1 Status: Disabled 7-Day ETA: 2012Position: LHP Age: 21, DOB: 03/13/1991 Bats: L, Throws: L Height: 5′ 11″, Weight: 200 Signed: March 30, 2008
The stuff is definitely there for Banuelos to be successful at the Major League level. All he has to do is learn how to harness it more consistently. He has three pitches that can be above-average or better with his fastball, curve and changeup. He’s struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings throughout his Minor League career and his pure stuff has gotten better in recent years, so that should continue. His command is what’s holding him back. He walked nearly five batters every nine innings in 2011 and often didn’t command his fastball well within the strike zone. He’s shown the ability to do it and once he finds consistency, he could be ready to help out full time.
RH Pitcher- Atlanta Braves
Julio Teheran Rank: 1 Gwinnett Braves (AAA) ETA: 2012 Position: RHP Age: 21, DOB: 01/27/1991 Bats: R, Throws: R Height: 6′ 2″, Weight: 175 Signed: July 2, 2007
Teheran was at the lowest full-season rung, the South Atlantic League, at the beginning of 2010. He made his Major League debut a year later in May, and spent more time in Atlanta in September 2011. In between callups, Teheran was dominant in Triple-A, using outstanding stuff and mound presence to excel. He has three above-average-or-better offerings with his fastball, curve and changeup, and commands them all well. He’ll be just 21 for all of the 2012 season and should continue to add strength to his frame. The Braves have a ton of good young pitching, and Teheran has a chance to lead them all. He made a spot start for the Braves in early June.

Arizona Fall League

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Updated 1-Month MLB Power Rankings: Where Does Your Favorite Team Stand?

Where does your favorite MLB team stand after the season’s first month?

By Joel Reuter (Featured Columnist) on BLEACHER REPORT

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 23:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

1: Texas Rangers (16-6, Previous: 1)

Despite their worst week of the season so far, the Rangers maintain the top spot after taking two of three from the Yankees, then dropping two of three to the Rays.

Josh Hamilton (.395 BA, 9 HR, 25 RBI) continues to be the AL version of Matt Kemp, while the rest of the offense is doing its part as well with five other players tallying double-digit RBI. The Rays proved the Rangers are human, but there is still little question that the Rangers are the best team in baseball right now.

2: Tampa Bay Rays (14-8, Previous: 8)

It was a fantastic week for the Rays as they swept the Angels at home before going to Texas and taking two of three from a Rangers team that was undeniably the best team in baseball going into the week.

While the Rangers still get the nod over the Rays here, there is a lot to like about the Rays. From a deep offense that is light years better than last season to their immensely talented pitching staff, they could certainly challenge the Rangers for the top spot in the near future.

3: St. Louis Cardinals (14-8, Previous: 2)

After dropping two of three to the rival Cubs in Chicago, the Cardinals took two of three from the Brewers at home to maintain a three-game lead in the NL Central.

The starting pitching outside of Adam Wainwright (7.32 ERA) has been phenomenal, and David Freese (.333 BA, 5 HR, 20 RBI) continues to carry an offense that has gotten consistent contribution up and down the lineup.

4: Los Angeles Dodgers (16-6, Previous: 6)

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp

The Dodgers dropped two of three to the Braves to open the week, but bounced back to sweep a good Nationals team for a 4-2 week that kept them atop the NL West and gave them the NL’s best record.

The offense has consisted almost exclusively of Matt Kemp (.425 BA, 11 HR, 24 RBI) and Andre Ethier (.277 BA, 5 HR, 24 RBI). While they have been great, the rest of the team needs to start hitting around them. Of note, Ted Lilly is very quietly 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA through three starts.

5: Atlanta Braves (14-8, Previous: 7)

A 4-2 week pulled the Braves even with the Nationals atop the NL East, as they took two of three from a good Dodgers team and finished up a series victory over the Pirates with a win on Sunday.

The team pulled a shocker of sorts when they sent 2011 All-Star Jair Jurrjens (9.37 ERA) down to Triple-A, but the move corresponded with Tim Hudson coming off the disabled list, so the team should be fine in the short term. They are off to a good start, but there is a ton of room for improvement across the board in Atlanta.

6: Washington Nationals (14-8, Previous: 4)

The difference between the No. 3 spot and the No. 7 spot on this list is minimal, but a four-game losing streak left them at 2-4 on the week, and they fall a bit because of it.

That said, I am still very much a believer in the Nationals, as their pitching (2.33 team ERA) is going to keep them in most games. The call-up of Bryce Harper should allow the Nationals to get some much-deserved national attention, and also gives them a boost not many teams can find in their farm system.

7: Baltimore Orioles (14-8, Previous: 16)

After skeptically inching them up the rankings the past few weeks, I will officially admit I am now drinking the Orioles’ Kool-aid, as a 5-1 week that included a sweep of the Blue Jays has put them in first place in the AL East.

With an offense that ranks 10th in runs scored and a pitching staff that ranks seventh in ERA, they are doing everything well right now. Five players have double-digit RBI, and J.J. Hardy (.181 BA) and Nick Markakis (.244 BA) are not among them. Once those two get going, the Orioles could be even better.

8: New York Yankees (12-9, Previous: 5)

The Yankees had a tough week on the schedule as they opened the week dropping two of three to the Rangers before taking two of three from the Tigers for a respectable 3-3 showing.

However, they drop on this list due to the news that Michael Pineda is done for the year with a shoulder injury. With Phil Hughes (7.88 ERA) and Ivan Nova (5.18 ERA) struggling and Freddy Garcia (12.51 ERA) moved to the bullpen in favor of untested David Phelps, the rotation is once again a huge question mark.

9: Detroit Tigers (11-11, Previous: 3)

It was a tough week for the Tigers, as they were swept by the Mariners and then dropped two of three to the Yankees as they nearly doubled their loss total with a 1-5 week.

On top of that, they released long-time Tiger Brandon Inge and lost Delmon Young indefinitely after he was arrested and charged with hate-crime harassment. They will look to get things back on track against the Royals and White Sox this coming week, and they still have to be considered among the AL favorites despite this hiccup.

10: Toronto Blue Jays (12-10, Previous: 9)

The Blue Jays completed a four-game sweep of the Royals on Monday before turning around and being swept themselves by the Orioles. They then took two of three from the Mariners for a 3-4 week.

Edwin Encarnacion (.310 BA, 7 HR, 20 RBI) is 5-for-9 with three home runs and seven RBI in his last three games, and he’s been moved to the cleanup spot in hopes of better protecting Jose Bautista. The real story, though, has been their starting pitching, as four of their five starters have ERAs under 4.00.

11: New York Mets (13-9, Previous: 14)

It was a busy week for the Mets, as they played eight games in seven days and at the end of it all walked away with a 5-3 record, including a sweep of the Marlins mid-week.

They’ll be getting center fielder Andres Torres back from injury on Monday, shifting rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis to left field as the lineup should be improved moving forward. As long as their pitching staff—especially the starters—keeps performing like they have, the Mets are on track to do much better than expected.

12: San Francisco Giants (12-10, Previous: 12)

The Giants dropped two of three to the Reds to open the week, but salvaged things by taking two of three from the lowly Padres for a 3-3 finish.

Buster Posey (.353 BA, 4 HR, 9 RBI) has bounced back great from his injury last season, but the offense is still struggling to score runs. The biggest stat of the week for the Giants, though, was Tim Lincecum’s eight-inning, zero-run outing as he is back on track after a horrible start.

13: Arizona Diamondbacks (11-11, Previous: 10)

After losing two of three to the Phillies to open the week, the Diamondbacks managed to finish 3-3 in taking two of three from the struggling Marlins.

The team finally had enough of Josh Collmenter’s struggles (9.82 ERA), moving him to the bullpen and calling up their No. 8 prospect Patrick Corbin (1.67 ERA, 27 IP at Double-A) to make his big league debut. As long as they can consistently score runs, they should be able to find a rotation that works with perhaps the youngest starting pitching depth in baseball.

14: Boston Red Sox (10-11, Previous: 23)

After plummeting from 12th to 23rd in the rankings last week, the Red Sox seem to have righted the ship as they went 6-1 this week, sweeping the Twins before taking three of four from the White Sox.

Led by David Ortiz (.395 BA, 4 HR, 18 RBI), their offense has been solid despite a slow start from Kevin Youkilis and the absence of Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. Their pitching continues to be a question mark, but as long as they continue to post double-digit run totals like they did three times last week they’ll win games.

15: Cincinnati Reds (11-11, Previous: 20)

The Reds moved to second in the NL Central with a 4-2 week, as they captured two of three from both the Giants and Astros.

Jay Bruce (.296 BA, 7 HR, 17 RBI) is on fire right now, as the highly touted offense is finally performing up to expectations. Now if only the notoriously slow-starting Mat Latos (5.97 ERA) can start paying dividends, they’d be in pretty good shape.

16: Philadelphia Phillies (10-12, Previous: 11)

My feeling early on was that the Phillies’ pitching would be enough to outweigh their aging and injury-riddled lineup, but another subpar 3-3 week in which they dropped two of three to the Cubs again showed the holes in their roster.

The unexpected trio of Carlos Ruiz, Juan Pierre and Ty Wigginton are the only everyday players with averages over .253, and Hunter Pence is the only player with double-digit RBI at 11. Kyle Kendrick has struggled filling in for the injured Cliff Lee, and all-in-all things just don’t look great in Philly right now.

17: Cleveland Indians (11-9, Previous: 18)

A rough week from the Tigers and a 3-3 showing by the Indians has put Cleveland in first place in the AL Central, as they dropped two of three to the lowly Royals before salvaging the week in taking two of three from the struggling Angels.

The starting pitching has been hit-or-miss, and the offense has no true standout player at this point, but they continue to win games. In what looks to be a wide-open AL Central, they should be able to stay in contention if nothing else.

18: Milwaukee Brewers (10-12, Previous: 15)

The Brewers stayed in the division last week, taking two of three from the Astros before dropping two of three to the Cardinals in St. Louis.

There is little doubt that the team misses Prince Fielder’s bat, and the struggles of Rickie Weeks (.193 BA) and Aramis Ramirez (.228 BA) have only magnified the loss. Their pitching staff may be a bigger concern, though, as Randy Wolf (7.17 ERA) and Yovani Gallardo (6.08 ERA) have struggled mightily.

19: Chicago White Sox (11-11, Previous: 17)

Last week, I was torn apart in the comments section for only moving the White Sox up one spot after a 4-1 week, my reasoning being I wasn’t sold on them just yet. Now, after a 2-5 week I can’t help saying I told you so.

That said, the White Sox have been better than expected, led by Paul Konerko (.383 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI) and Jake Peavy (3-1, 1.67 ERA), and their solid start could be enough to delay what was expected to be a full-blown rebuilding season.

20: Seattle Mariners (11-12, Previous: 25)

The Mariners swept the Tigers in Detroit to open the week before dropping two of three to the Blue Jays at home, but they have to be happy with a 4-2 week against two of the league’s top teams.

They tallied 30 runs in their four wins and just two in their two losses, and that is how their season will go as they have the pitching to compete but will only be as good as their offense allows them.

21: Los Angeles Angels (7-15, Previous: 13)

After giving them the benefit of the doubt through the first three weeks of the season, a 1-5 week and a the third-worst record in the American League simply can’t be overlooked. The Angels were swept by the Rays and dropped two of three to the Indians, ekeing out a 2-1 win on Saturday.

The call-up of uber-prospect Mike Trout, who was hitting .403 in Triple-A, could be the spark the team needs to get things going. A hot streak by Albert Pujols (.216 BA, 0 HR, 4 RBI) certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

22: Colorado Rockies (10-11, Previous: 19)

A 2-4 week saw the Rockies drop two of three to the Pirates and Mets, although they did explode for 18 runs on Friday in a victory over the Mets.

They acquired a good deal of starting pitching depth in the offseason, and they are already dipping into it as former A’s starter Guillermo Moscoso was called up with Jeremy Guthrie on the disabled list. The rotation has undoubtedly been their weakness to this point, with just one starter (Jamie Moyer, 3.14) with an ERA under 4.00.

23: Oakland Athletics (11-12, Previous: 21)

The A’s took two of three from the White Sox before dropping two of three to the Orioles, as they have struggled to find any consistency so far this season.

Despite having the worst team batting average in all of baseball at .205, the A’s have managed to stay competitive thanks to their pitching staff. Jarrod Parker (6.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 Ks) could make them even better after looking strong in his first start. Now they just need to find someone who can hit the ball.

24: Pittsburgh Pirates (9-12, Previous: 24)

The Pirates took two of three from the Rockies to open the week, then dropped two of three to the Braves in Atlanta as they held on to fourth place in the NL Central.

They continue to score runs at an alarmingly low pace, with just 49 through 21 games, but their pitching has been fantastic—their 2.77 team ERA thanks ranks third in all of baseball.

25: Chicago Cubs (8-14, Previous: 29)

The Cubs are in the midst of their best stretch of the season thus far, as they took two of three from the rival Cardinals to open the week and completed a 4-2 week with a victory over the Phillies on Sunday.

Tony Campana (.435 BA, 6 SB, 6 R) has provided a spark, taking over in center field for the departed Marlon Byrd, and the starting rotation has impressed, with Matt Garza throwing seven innings of one-hit ball to cap the week.

26: Miami Marlins (8-13, Previous: 22)

A sweep at the hands of the Mets opened the Marlins’ week, and they dropped two of three to the Diamondbacks to close things out, as a 1-5 week dropped them to last place in the NL East.

So far, the team has been perhaps the biggest disappointment in all of baseball. It starts with their superstars as Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez are both hitting .205, while Josh Johnson sports a 5.34 ERA.

27: Houston Astros (8-14, Previous: 26)

The Astros managed a 2-4 week on the road, taking one game each from the Reds and Brewers as they dropped to last place in the NL Central.

The offense has been solid, led by Jose Altuve (.373 BA) and J.D. Martinez (19 RBI), but the team desperately needs someone in the rotation to step up alongside Wandy Rodriguez (2-2, 1.72 ERA).

28: San Diego Padres (7-16, Previous: 28)

The Padres had a tough draw this week, facing the Nationals and Giants as they managed to win one game in each series for a 2-4 week.

Their pitching is starting to come around, and their bullpen has been terrific, but that doesn’t mean much when they’re not scoring runs. Chris Denorfia (team-high .282 average) has moved into a starting spot in left field, but it’s going to take a lot more than that for the Padres to turn things around.

29: Kansas City Royals (6-15, Previous: 30)

Two losses to open the week pushed the Royals’ losing streak to 12 games, but they rallied to take the final two games of their series with the Indians before splitting two games with the Twins for a modest 3-3 week.

However, they are still 0-10 at home on the season.

Alex Gordon (.232 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI) has begun to turn things around after moving out of the leadoff spot in the order, and if Eric Hosmer (.188 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI) could follow suit it would go a long way toward helping the Royals at least find some consistency.

30: Minnesota Twins (6-15, Previous: 27)

With a win over the Royals on Sunday, the Twins managed to snap a six-game losing streak, as they were swept by the Red Sox to start the week before dropping one of two to the Royals for a 1-4 week.

Josh Willingham (.353 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI) remains the team’s offensive leader, while Joe Mauer (.325 BA, 1 HR, 13 RBI) continues to show he is finally healthy. However, they may have the worst pitching staff in baseball, and that will continue to keep them near the bottom of the rankings.

Hot Stove MLBlog: News, notes and analysis

The action didn’t disappoint at the Winter Meetings in Dallas, and the offseason maneuvering is still in full swing. Stay up on all the trades, signings, rumors and analysis with the Hot Stove MLBlog.

AL teams talk to Cubs about Soriano The Cubs traded Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins on Thursday. Could Alfonso Soriano be the next to go?

Alfonso Soriano ---- This image was moved from...

Soriano

According to reports, the Orioles were one of a few American League teams who talked to the Cubs about a possible deal involving Soriano. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Thursday the Cubs could not find a match for the outfielder after talking to a few teams. Soriano, who turns 36 on Saturday, is owed $54 million over the final three years of his contract.

On Thursday, Theo Epstein was asked about Soriano, and said the outfielder is still a valuable offensive player and that it’s up to the Cubs to get the best out of him.

— Carrie Muskat

Prado, Jurrjens likely to remain with BravesResponding to MLB.com’s early November report that Jair Jurrjens or Martin Prado might be traded this offseason, Braves general manager Frank Wren said he felt both players would still be with his club at the start of Spring Training.

Jair Jurrjens

Jair Jurrjens

With the start of Spring Training a little more than six weeks away, this is starting to look more like a possibility.

The Braves have spent the past couple months talking to a number of clubs about these players. But with questions surrounding both Prado and Jurrjens, there is growing reason to wonder if Wren should wait until June or July to trade these players with the hope they will have had time to regain some of their respective values.

This might not be comforting news to those anxious Braves fans that have increasingly become more uncomfortable as the Marlins and Nationals have made significant attempts to strengthen their respective bids to end the Phillies’ supremacy in the National League East.

The Marlins stole the headlines in early December with free-agent signings of shortstop Jose Reyes, left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell. They grabbed more attention this week by trading with the Cubs for Carlos Zambrano, who will make manager Ozzie Guillen‘s clubhouse even more interesting and possibly strengthen the starting rotation.

The up-and-coming Nationals bolstered their starting rotation with the Dec. 23 acquisition of left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez. This week, they may have emerged as the favorites to land Prince Fielder.

But instead of reacting to these moves in a knee-jerk fashion, Wren has dealt with the reality of an extremely tight budget and avoided the temptation to significantly upgrade his lineup by trading any of his coveted top four pitching prospects — Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino and Mike Minor.

The Orioles learned that this last month when they inquired about acquiring Jurrjens, Prado and two other “premium guys” in exchange for outfielder Adam Jones.

The Braves obviously declined that offer. But they still have interest in Jones and could continue talking about the outfielder if the Orioles are willing to make a more reasonable offer that would likely be void of pitching prospects and not include both Prado and Jurrjens.

While the Braves have shown a willingness to talk about Prado and Jurrjens, they understand that both players could still provide significant value to this year’s team.

Prado’s history shows that he could easily bounce back from last year’s injury-plagued, frustrating season and provide some production in left field while serving as dependable insurance for soon-to-be 40-year-old third baseman Chipper Jones.

The Tigers and Rockies are among the teams who have shown the most interest in Prado and expressed the belief that he could regain the form he had when he was an All-Star second baseman in 2010. The 28-year-old Venezuelan’s .260 batting average this past summer was likely influenced by the fatigue he battled after missing a month with a staph infection.

Jurrjens’ value was at its highest level when he entered this year’s All-Star break with a National League-leading 1.87 ERA. But he struggled mightily as he posted a 5.88 ERA after the break and then missed the stretch run for a second straight year because of a troublesome right knee. Jurrjens believes his right knee will be sound as he wears a knee brace while pitching this year, and the Reds were among the teams that expressed interest in him. In fact, the Braves thought they might have been nearing a deal before the Reds landed Mat Latos from the Padres in December.

With some health-related questions surrounding Tim Hudson, who underwent back surgery in November, and Tommy Hanson, who missed 2011’s final two months with a sore right shoulder, the Braves could seemingly benefit from keeping Jurrjens around for at least the season’s first couple months.

If Jurrjens finds early-season success and proves his knee is sound, the Braves could certainly find his value on the trade market to be more significant this summer. At that time, the club might be in position to feel more comfortable about adding yet another young pitcher to its already rather green starting rotation.

— Mark Bowman

Angels discussing long-term deals with Kendrick, AybarThe Angels have begun extension talks with the representatives for second baseman Howie Kendrick and shortstop Erick Aybar, general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed Thursday.

Kendrick and Aybar are both lifelong Angels, are both heading into their final years before free agency and are both coming off arguably their best seasons.

“It’s certainly something we’re exploring, and something we feel is important, otherwise we wouldn’t be exploring it,” Dipoto said. “Howie and Erick are both career-long Angels. We want to make sure that continues. We have four arbitration-eligible players remaining and they’re all important to us, and we want to make sure that each one of them is given the appropriate attention, and we’ve already taken the initial steps in the case of Howie and Erick, and making sure we can make them a part of what we’re doing here moving forward.”

The Angels’ other two arbitration-eligible players are first baseman Kendrys Morales and third baseman Alberto Callaspo, both of whom have two seasons to go before hitting free agency.

Dipoto said there is no timetable for the Kendrick and Aybar negotiations, but that those are the only two they’re negotiating with right now. Kendrick’s agent, Larry Reynolds, declined to go into specifics.

“We’re going to see where the process takes us; that’s all I can say at this point,” Reynolds said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s really kind of early in the process.”

— Alden Gonzalez

Dipoto says Angels are “very unlikely” to sign MadsonContrary to swirling Internet rumors — and essentially a process of elimination — the Angels are “very, very unlikely” to sign free-agent closer Ryan Madson, general manager Jerry Dipoto told The Los Angeles Times on Thursday.

Dipoto’s statements are consistent with those he made from the Winter Meetings in early December, when he said he was looking for someone to “complement [current closer] Jordan Walden, not replace” him. But Madson’s market has dried up considerably as teams have used a deep talent pool of closers to fill their ninth-inning needs, and it took a major hit when the Red Sox traded with the Athletics for Andrew Bailey.

Madson’s present scenario, his Orange County, Calif., roots and the Angels’ bullpen struggles last season seemingly made the two a fit. But the Angels have already spent nearly $330 million on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this offseason. And now, Dipoto has basically shot down his team’s chances of adding a proven closer like Madson.

“We’re trying to add depth, and in a perfect world, we’d like to find another guy to join Jordan Walden, Scott Downs and [offseason addition] LaTroy Hawkins to help with those last nine outs,” Dipoto told the LA Times. “But closer has never been the real priority.”

You probably shouldn’t completely rule it out just yet, though. Madson’s agent, Scott Boras, can be real creative and Dipoto has already displayed an element of surprise. If Madson is willing to take less money, and perhaps even sign a backloaded deal — like Pujols and Wilson did — maybe, just maybe there’s still a glimmer of hope.

As we’re experiencing with the Nationals and those links to Prince Fielder that don’t seem to go away, there are very few certainties in the free-agent market.

— Alden Gonzalez

Reds sign BrackmanThe Reds completed the signing Wednesday of right-handed pitcher and local product Andrew Brackman to a one-year contract. Terms were not immediately available.

The 26-year-old Brackman, who was the first-round Draft pick of the Yankees in 2007 (30th overall), was born and raised in Cincinnati and was a two-sport star at Moeller High School.

Signed by New York to a four-year, $3.35 million Major League contract out of North Carolina State, Brackman’s selection came with risk since the club knew he would promptly require Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

In three Minor League seasons, Brackman was 15-29 with a 5.11 ERA. The Yankees declined his 2012 option after last season.

— Mark Sheldon

Dombrowski: Tigers aren’t in trade talks on startersThough the Tigers have been linked in rumors with talks on Cubs right-hander Matt Garza, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Detroit has no trade talks ongoing on any starting pitchers.

And while Dombrowski won’t call any of his top prospects untouchable, a term he rarely uses on anybody, he made it clear they aren’t looking to deal Jacob Turner. That doesn’t mean Turner isn’t available for the right deal, but it indicates they aren’t going out and shopping him for a veteran starter.

At this point, Dombrowski said, the Tigers haven’t reversed course on their plans to go after a fifth starter to compete with prospects such as Turner, Drew Smyly and Andy Oliver.

“Our plan hasn’t changed,” Dombrowski said. “We’re in a situation where we really have been consistent all along. We like our young guys. We feel that one of them will step up and be our fifth starter. Somehow [our approach] has been mistaken.”

Dombrowski said the Tigers have not called about any starting pitchers on the trade market. Any conversations on veterans starters, he said, have been initiated by other club. “We are not looking,” he said. “There are some guys that are out there and are very good and clubs haved called us about them. But we have four veteran starters, and sometimes you have to break in young pitching.”

They’ll still listen, he said, but they’re not looking. And the inquiries that have been made, he said, haven’t gone far.

“Probably the only guy we had serious conversations on was Gio Gonzalez,” he said, “and we just weren’t prepared to pay the price. Other than that, we really haven’t talked about a starting pitcher.”

Dombrowski also said Al Alburquerque’s recent elbow surgery won’t put them in the market for another reliever. They signed Octavio Dotel knowing that Alburquerque was dealing with off and on injuries. Dombrowski didn’t rule out re-signing Joel Zumaya if he accepts a minor-league contract, but that nothing has changed on that front either.

Padres nearly done with roster constructionFew general managers have been as busy this offseason as Padres GM Josh Byrnes, who on Saturday pulled off his sixth trade of the winter in trading for White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin.

With that trade, the Padres are already close to being a finished product — well before heading to Arizona for the start of Spring Training next month.

“We’re getting close,” Byrnes said on Tuesday.

The Padres could still add a late-inning reliever and have to decide if they’re going to hold onto first-base prospect Anthony Rizzo or move him before Spring Training. In their deal with the Reds last month — when they acquired right-hander Mat Latos — the Padres received first baseman Yonder Alonso, who will get first crack at winning the first-base job.

— Corey Brock

Pirates sign Jo-Jo ReyesLefty Jo-Jo Reyes has agreed to a Minor League deal with the Pirates, a source confirmed to MLB.com. Terms of the deal were not immediately known, though Reyes is expected to participate in the Pirates’ big-league camp this spring.

Reyes, 27, became a free agent last month when the Orioles opted not to tender a contract to the left-hander, who was arbitration eligible for the first time in his career.

In 2011, Reyes made 20 starts for the Blue Jays before being designated for assignment in late July. He was subsequently picked up off waivers by Baltimore, which used Reyes in nine games (five as a starter) over the season’s final two months. Reyes combined to finish with a 7-11 record and 5.57 ERA.

A former second-round pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, Reyes has made 70 career appearances (62 starts) in parts of five seasons in the Majors. He spent the first nine years of his professional career in the Braves organization.

— Jenifer Langosch

Yankees discussing Edwin JacksonThe Yankees are balking at a high asking price for the Cubs’ Matt Garza and have instead turned their attention to free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson, CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported Tuesday.

Noting that the Yankees and Jackson “aren’t in any way close to a deal,” Heyman suggests that New York and agent Scott Boras could eventually find middle ground. Boras has been reported to be looking for a four- or five-year pact for Jackson worth approximately $15 million per season.

That could prove too high for the Yankees, who have been preaching fiscal responsibility this winter and would not get involved with free agents C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle, despite their stated need for a starting pitcher to slot behind CC Sabathia in the rotation.

— Bryan Hoch

Matt Garza & the YankeesThe Cubs are not going to deal Matt Garza unless they get significant players in return, and the asking price apparently is too high for the Yankees. ESPNNewYork’s Wallace Matthews reported Tuesday the Cubs’ asking price is “out of the question” for the Yankees.

The Cubs reportedly want at least two and possibly three of the Yankees’ top prospects Jesus Montero, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. The Red Sox, Tigers, Marlins and Blue Jays also have been linked to Garza, but FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported the Blue Jays also have reportedly balked at the Cubs’ requests.

— Carrie Muskat

Cordero and Reds still talkingThere could be some movement, one way or another, in the next few days on free-agent closer Francisco Cordero. The Reds are still in the running.

“We’re still talking with [Cincinnati] and a couple of other clubs,” Cordero’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, said on Tuesday. “We’re making progress on a lot of fronts. Multiyear contracts are definitely involved.

“The Reds are involved and are still interested in bringing him back. I am talking with them on a regular basis.”

Stringfellow declined to detail the specific numbers being bandied about with the Reds in negotiations. It seemed like he was optimistic about where talks were going with the different clubs and that a deal was possible.

“It could be today or 10 days from now. I don’t know,” Stringfellow said. “I do know that we’re closer now than we’ve been. I don’t think it will carry on too much longer.”

— Mark Sheldon

Crisp returning to Oakland?Though the A’s are in full rebuilding mode, they may be close to reeling back in a veteran outfielder. According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden, Coco Crisp is on the verge of re-signing with Oakland, for which he hit .264 with eight home runs and a career-high 49 steals in 136 games last season.

Crisp’s desire to join a winning ballclub on a multiyear deal has been well documented, but so has his interest in remaining on the West Coast, given his California roots. At one point, Crisp was heavily linked to the Giants, another time the Cardinals and on Monday evening it was the Orioles who were reportedly in on the center fielder. But if Bowden’s report holds true, the A’s would add experienced depth to what right now is an unproven outfield boasting the likes of Michael Taylor, Collin Cowgill and Josh Reddick.

— Jane Lee

Report: Nationals front-runner for FielderA report from the Journal-Sentinel in Milwaukee says the Nationals are the front-runner to land All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder.

The Nationals have repeatedly denied such rumors, continuing to publicly say that Adam LaRoche will be the club’s first baseman in 2012, but the Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt cites an MLB official who says Washington is leading the chase for Fielder.

The report says the Nationals may not offer the eight- to 10-year deal that Fielder’s agent, Scott Boras, is seeking. They club might want a shorter deal, but Haudricourt believes if the Nationals can match or exceed the $25.4 million annual salary that Albert Pujols is getting from the Angels, Boras and his client should still be pleased.

— Joey Nowak

Garza reportedly on Marlins’ wish listToss Matt Garza’s name into the mix of possible Miami trade targets.

Acquiring another front-line starting pitcher remains a priority, and reportedly Garza fits the mold.

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com claims the Marlins have “serious interest” in Garza. No deal is close, but the interest makes sense.

To seriously compete in the National League East, the Marlins are looking for as much starting pitching depth as possible. They’ve already signed free agent Mark Buehrle, and they made a strong push for C.J. Wilson, who eventually signed with the Angels.

Miami also pushed hard for Gio Gonzalez, who ended up being traded from the A’s to the Nationals.

Garza, 28, is projected to make between $9-10 million in arbitration in 2012, and he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.

The Cubs reportedly are seeking a trade package similar to the deals that sent Mat Latos from the Padres to the Reds and Gonzalez to Washington.

There is stiff competition for Garza, who also is being coveted by the Yankees and Blue Jays.

The Cubs are looking for top prospects, and the Marlins are willing to part with some of their high-end young talent for an established starter.

Outfielder Christian Yelich, part of Class A Greensboro’s championship team, is highly coveted.

The Marlins have made it clear that Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton are off limits, but they would be willing to move other young players, if the deal made sense.

— Joe Frisaro

Quentin dealt to Padres for two hurlersThe White Sox and Padres pulled off a trade Saturday afternoon that sends outfielder Carlos Quentin to San Diego in exchange for two Minor League pitchers.

The White Sox will receive 23-year-old right-hander Simon Castro and 22-year-old lefty Pedro Hernandez from the Padres.

Quentin, 29, is a two-time All-Star who has hit at least 21 homers in each of the last four seasons with Chicago. He was drafted by the D-backs in the first round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft and spent two seasons with Arizona.

His first year with the White Sox, in 2008, was his best so far, as he hit .288 with 100 RBIs and 36 homers. He has played either left or right field his entire career.

“Improving our offense is a priority this offseason,” Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said. “And the acquisition of Carlos gives us a proven middle-of-the-order bat. We specifically targeted Carlos because of his production and his hard-nosed style of play.”

Castro, the Padres’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009, split time between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson in 2011, posting a 7-8 record with a 5.63 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 22 starts overall. He began the season with San Antonio, where he was 5-6, before moving up to Tucson, where he was 2-2 with a 10.17 ERA.

He has been in the Padres’ Minor League system for six seasons, and he was named to the Texas League mid- and postseason All-Star teams in 2010, while also pitching for the World Team in the All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim.

Hernandez spent time at Class A Lake Elsinore this season, along with Tucson and San Antonio, posting a 10-3 record with a 3.49 ERA in 28 games (18 starts) overall. He recorded 94 strikeouts in 116 innings of work.

The southpaw is 25-11 over five seasons in the San Diego Minor League system.

— Joey Nowak

Blue Jays ink Laffey to Minor League dealThe Blue Jays have signed left-hander Aaron Laffey to a Minor League contract, the club announced Saturday.

The 26-year-old has spent five seasons in the big leagues, most recently with the Yankees after starting the 2011 campaign in Seattle. He was drafted by, and spent the first four years of his career with, the Indians.

Last season, Laffey was 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 47 relief appearances. He held left-handed hitters to a .242 average. He has made 49 starts in his career and owns a lifetime 4.34 ERA.

The Blue Jays also announced they have signed the following four Minor League free agents with invitations to Spring Training: right-hander Jerry Gil, right-hander Garrett Mock, right-hander Robert Coello and shortstop Brian Bocock.

— Joey Nowak

Blue Jays close to deal with OliverToronto is close to signing veteran reliever Darren Oliver to a one-year contract with a possible option for 2013, MLB.com’s TR Sullivan has reported.

Oliver has spent at least a part of 18 seasons in the big leagues, the most of which (10 seasons) were with the Rangers. He was with Texas from 1993-98, then again from 2000-01 and for the last two seasons.

In 2011, the 41-year-old right-hander was 5-5 with 16 holds and a 2.29 ERA through 51 innings of work. He allowed six hits and four runs in 6 1/3 innings of postseason ball. The Blue Jays would be the ninth Major League club that Oliver has suited up for.

— Joey Nowak

Matt Garza hot topicCould the Cubs deal Matt Garza? They are apparently still listening to teams interested in the right-hander. The Cubs are most likely looking for a package similar to what the Padres received from the Reds for Mat Latos and what the Athletics received from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, which means a lot of talented prospects.

According to reports, the Blue Jays and Yankees may be the front-runners. What makes Garza attractive to the Jays and Yankees is his 23-15 record, 3.34 ERA in 56 career games vs. the AL East. Plus, he’s 7-4 with a 3.83 ERA in 19 games against the Red Sox.

Chicago helped its system by dealing Sean Marshall to Cincinnati for Travis Wood and two other players. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, has said Garza is “exactly the type of pitcher we want to build around” but is willing to listen as the team re-tools. They’d have to be overwhelmed to move Garza, who is under team control through 2013. Gonzalez, 26, and Latos, 24, will be under team control for at least four years.

— Carrie Muskat

Shrinking market making Madson to Angels possibleExactly how possible remains to be seen. But on Wednesday afternoon — after the Red Sox acquired Andrew Bailey from the Athletics in exchange for three young players — it became more possible than ever.

With the Red Sox, a team with money to spend, filling a huge need in the back end of their bullpen by acquiring the young Bailey, the market for Madson has reached a new low.

It’s now pretty clear that the 31-year-old right-hander won’t get anything close to what the Phillies reportedly offered him before turning their attention to Jonathan Papelbon (a four-year, $44 million contract).

But just how much of a pay cut he takes is the big question.

It’d have to be a pretty sizeable one for the Angels to be a fit, now that the team has committed more than $330 million to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. But it’s interesting to note that Wilson turned down a larger contract for the Marlins in order to sign with the Angels and return to Orange County, Calif. — where Madson was also born.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said during the Winter Meetings that his mission was to “complement [closer] Jordan Walden, not replace Jordan Walden.” In tune with that, he signed veteran right-hander LaTroy Hawkins to potentially help lefty Scott Downs in a setup role. But getting Madson would be a far bigger step towards improving a bullpen that was tied for first in the American League in blown saves last season.

So far, it appears the Rays and Reds are the two main teams that still need a closer. But the Reds and Francisco Cordero reportedly want a reunion, and the Rays don’t have the financial wherewithal to allocate a lot of money to the ninth inning.

Time for Scott Boras to get creative with Madson.

— Alden Gonzalez

Signing Dobbs Marlins’ top priorityExploring the market for a frontline starting pitcher is high on the Marlins’ shopping list.

But it’s not the club’s most immediate priority.

Right now, bringing back free agent Greg Dobbs is a main objective, and the team is hoping to finalize a deal done soon.

In 2011, Dobbs provided veteran leadership as well as some timely hits. Of late, the Marlins have been working on getting a deal done. If they can lock up Dobbs before New Years, it would cap a highly productive month of December for the Marlins.

The Marlins made a big splash early in the month by signing free agents Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

Dobbs, a non-roster invitee with an invitation to Spring Training last year, enjoyed a highly productive 2011. Initially, the 33-year-old was used as a left-handed bat off the bench, but he ended up getting regular playing time, mainly at third base, and batted .275 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs in 411 at-bats.

As a pinch-hitter, Dobbs made a big impact, posting a .370 (10-for-27) batting average with a home run and eight RBIs. If Dobbs comes back, he will fill the important role of left-handed bat off the bench.

The Marlins are not expected to sign any more big ticket free agents.

Miami is looking at trade possibilities for a starting pitcher, primarily a front of the rotation-caliber starter. The team isn’t seeking competition for the back end of the rotation. A major trade is more likely to find a starter than signing a free agent.

From an organizational standpoint, the Marlins have hired Bobby Ramos as their Latin American player development coordinator.

Ramos, formerly the Rays’ bullpen coach, is taking on a new position in the organization.

— Joe Frisaro

Stanton, Morrison off limitsWith Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison regarded as “off limits,” the Marlins are finding it difficult to trade for frontline starting pitching. Miami pursued Gio Gonzalez for more than a month, but Oakland’s asking price always included either Stanton or Morrison. Because the Marlins are not willing to part with either, they are finding it difficult to lure in a legitimate All-Star pitcher.

If the Marlins had more high-end prospects, perhaps they would have been able to swing a deal for Gonzalez. They don’t, and the A’s on Thursday dealt their All-Star left-hander to the Nationals.

Miami’s search for a frontline starter continues. For Gonzalez, the Marlins were willing to part with any number of their top Minor Leaguers. They just weren’t willing to do it at the expense of their every day lineup. So what’s next?

Javier Vazquez, who had a remarkable second half, maintains he is retiring. The Marlins aren’t expecting him back, and they’re looking in other directions. Left-hander Joe Saunders has been mentioned, but don’t count on it.

The Marlins already signed Mark Buehrle, who is not overpowering. They aren’t looking to have two soft-tossing southpaws, especially for the $7 million that Saunders commands.

Keep in mind, Miami seeks a top of the rotation pitcher, not just an innings eater. James Shields is in the mix, but not at the price of Stanton or Morrison.

Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Oswalt may be more realistic options.

As of now, the Marlins’ rotation is Josh Johnson, Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad. Lefty Wade LeBlanc was obtained by the Padres to add experienced depth. Clearly, the Marlins would like to add another established arm, but they won’t force the issue. If need be, they may continue their search into Spring Training, ideally finding someone before Opening  Day.

— Joe Frisaro

Cubs sign Corpas to one-year deal

The Cubs have agreed to a one-year Major League deal with reliever Manuel Corpas, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Corpas was in Chicago on Thursday for a physical.

The 29-year-old right-hander last pitched in the Majors in 2010 with the Rockies. He underwent Tommy John surgery later that year, and the Rangers signed him to a Minor League contract in April. He pitched in the instructional league and played winter ball in Panama.

Corpas has a 12-16 record with a 3.93 ERA for his career, striking out 206 batters and walking 80 in 286 innings. He was never a strikeout artist, averaging 6.5 K’s per nine innings in five Major League seasons. But he limited his walks (2.5 per nine innings for his career) and induced ground balls at a respectable rate.

He is best known for his work during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007, when he saved 19 games with a 2.08 ERA in 78 innings of work. He finished the 2007 postseason with five saves and a 0.87 ERA.

— Adam Berry

Beltran deal done

The Cardinals have officially announced that they’ve agreed to a two-year deal with free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, pending a physical.

The deal is reportedly worth $25 million-$26 million. That would be the largest outlay by the Cardinals to a free agent not already in the organization since Jason Isringhausen received a guaranteed $27 million before the 2002 season.

A switch-hitting outfielder, Beltran has one of baseball’s most well-rounded offensive games. He is a lifetime .283 hitter with both on-base ability (a career .361 average) and power (.496 slugging percentage). He’s one of the most efficient basestealers in Major League history, with 293 steals in 334 attempts for an 87.7 percent success rate. In 2011, he put up a combined .300/.385/.525 line in 142 games with the Mets and Giants.

Beltran, a three-time Gold Glove winner in center field, moved to right field in 2011 as he made his way back to full strength from knee surgery. He will likely start the 2012 season in right field, with Lance Berkman moving to first base in place of Albert Pujols, while Allen Craig is out due to his own offseason knee operation.

Once Craig comes back, Beltran would probably still play plenty of right field. But he also could get more time in center field, spelling Jon Jay against left-handed pitchers and allowing new manager Mike Matheny a great deal of flexibility in making out his lineup.

— Matthew Leach

Twins, Marquis close to reaching deal

The Twins are close to reaching an agreement with free-agent starting pitcher Jason Marquis, according to a FOXSports.com report.

The Twins, however, have not commented on the report.

Marquis, 33, posted a 4.43 ERA in 23 starts with the Nationals and D-backs last season. He also struck out 76, walked 43 and allowed 11 homers in 132 innings.

The right-hander has a career 4.55 ERA in 12 seasons with the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, Rockies, Nationals and D-backs. Marquis would fill a need as a back-of-the-rotation starter, as left-hander Brian Duensing remains a likely candidate to be moved to the bullpen this season.

Twins starters combined to post the third-worst ERA in the American League last season (4.64) while striking out just 617 batters in 961 innings.

— Rhett Bollinger

Marshall for Wood nearly done?The Reds appeared close Wednesday to completing a trade that would land left-handed reliever Sean Marshall from the Cubs in exchange for young lefty starter Travis Wood and two Minor Leaguers.

According to ESPNChicago.com, the deal was agreed to pending physicals. A source confirmed the Reds’ interest in Marshall to MLB.com, but did not expect the trade to be consummated on Wednesday.

Cincinnati currently has a vacancy for the closer’s role, but are looking at Marshall as a lefty set-up man.

— Mark Sheldon

Braves did not offer Prado, Jurrjens to O’sThe Braves did express interest in Adam Jones.  But they did not offer Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens to the Orioles in exchange for the outfielder.

A source with knowledge of the Orioles’ negotiations disputed a Baltimore Sun report that indicated the Braves were rejected when they offered Prado, Jurrjens and a pitching prospect for Jones.

The source said the Braves were told Jones was unavailable when they asked about him a couple weeks ago.  The Orioles later called the Braves to see if they would trade Prado, Jurrjens and two other “premium guys” in exchange for Jones. The Braves said they were not interested, and the two clubs have not had any recent discussions about these players.

—  Mark Bowman

Angels may still be in play for bullpen helpDespite a lack of financial flexibility, the Angels continue to seek ways to address their bullpen situation.

Depending on his price, one option may be veteran closer Francisco Cordero. His agent, Bean Stringfellow, told WEEI.com on Tuesday that the Angels are one of four teams in play for the right-hander, along with the Reds — his former team, which reportedly wants him back — the Red Sox and a fourth, unidentified club.

Cordero is perhaps the best — and most expensive — free-agent reliever remaining after Ryan Madson, making the Angels the least likely fit among the above-mentioned clubs. Beanfellow told WEEI.com Cordero is looking for a multi-year deal and is only interested in going into a situation where he’s the clear-cut closer (which, in Anaheim, would mean the young Jordan Walden is supplanted).

The Angels have also reached out to former reliever Darren Oliver, a source familiar with his thinking told MLB.com. Oliver’s preference is to return to Texas, but is “not ruling out other contending teams,” a source said, adding that in order to accomodate the Angels, Oliver would be willing to defer most of his salary. Oliver put up a 2.29 ERA in 61 appearances last year, but is 41 and would come in as the third lefty in the Angels’ bullpen — along with Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi.

Some other, cheaper options in the free-agent bin: Luis Ayala, Juan Cruz, Scott Linebrink, Guillermo Mota, Dan Wheeler and Jamey Wright. Most of them, however, may not sign deals until more materializes later in the offseason. Sources told MLB.com the Angels have yet to reach out to Ayala or Wheeler in particular.

Another interesting candidate is Joel Zumaya, the former Tigers flame-thrower who missed all of 2011 after undergoing exploratory surgery on his right (throwing) elbow. Zumaya performed in front of what was believed to be about 50 scouts in Houston on Wednesday, and someone in attendance told FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal he threw his fastball from 93-96 mph and had a decent curveball and OK command.

The Angels previously added LaTroy Hawkins — on a one-year, $3 million contract — in hopes of improving a bullpen that was tied for the American League lead in blown saves last season. General manager Jerry Dipoto previously said he’s looking for someone to “complement Jordan Walden; not replace Jordan Walden.”

— Alden Gonzalez

Cubs re-sign Johnson to one-year dealThe Cubs have reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with free agent outfielder Reed Johnson, pending a physical. Johnson, 35, batted .309 in 111 games last season with the Cubs. He’s a perfect extra outfielder and great guy in clubhouse, and  he batted .305 vs. left-handed pitchers. FOX Sports reported the agreement; the Cubs have yet to confirm.

— Carrie Muskat

An offer for Fielder?The line to sign Prince Fielder may start in Seattle. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that the Mariners have made Fielder an offer to continue his career in the American League West, the same division that snapped up Albert Pujols earlier this month.

Fielder, an All-Star in three of the last five years, has hit at least 32 home runs in five straight seasons. Fielder is the son of former All-Star Cecil Fielder, and together, they are the only father-son combo to hit for at least 50 home runs in a big-league season.

The younger Fielder, a former first-round draftee, batted .282 and drilled 230 homers and 656 RBIs in his first seven seasons with Milwaukee. The hulking first baseman matched his career high with a .299 batting average last year, and he established a new personal best with a .415 OBP. Fielder has walked at least 100 times in three straight seasons, and for his career, he’s a .279 hitter on the road.

Fielder, just 27 years old, is reportedly seeking a long-term contract that approaches the 10-year deal Pujols signed with Los Angeles earlier in the winter. The Cubs and Rangers may also be potential suitors for Fielder, and Heyman reported Tuesday that the Orioles may also be involved.

— Spencer Fordin

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.