The Los Angeles Dodgers have been taking care of business this offseason. Shortly after reaching a deal with Rich Hill to keep him entrenched in their loaded rotation, the reigning NL West champs ponied up to retain both of their other key free agents.
Third baseman Justin Turner is returning to LA with a new four-year, $64 million contract, while Kenley Jansen gets five years and $80 million to stay on as closer. Each played a vital role in the club's division title and deep postseason run. The Dodgers are doing a good job of keeping intact the core that brought the franchise within two wins of its first World Series appearance in almost 30 years.
The question now is how they will attempt to actively improve upon their 2016 formula. Specifically they need to upgrade at second base, where they have no one in place with Howie Kendrick traded and Chase Utley a free agent. The front office is known to have interest in trading for Brian Dozier or Ian Kinsler, but buzz has been quiet on those fronts recently. Jon Heyman did report that the Dodgers remain interested in Dozier. One would think that young pitchers like Jose De Leon or Yadier Alvarez might be in play.
Ramos Ready In May?
Wilson Ramos officially finalized his two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Rays, and said this week that he's ahead of schedule in his rehab from a September knee injury. He believes he will be ready to start making appearances at designated hitter in early May, putting him be well ahead of Tampa's timetable that points to a return around the All Star break.
Obviously, any time a player is optimistically estimating his own recovery speed it should be taken with a grain of salt. But Ramos does of course have plenty of financial motivation to get back on the field as quickly as possible, with built-in performance bonuses that could significantly increase the value of his contract. He starts hitting his extra incentives next year at 325 plate appearances, a number that would be virtually impossible to reach if he doesn't start playing before July.
Yankees in Cost-Cutting Mode?
After their $86 million splurge on closer Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees might now be looking to reduce payroll elsewhere.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that both New York teams are seeking to shed expensive contracts. We more or less knew that the Mets wanted to unload Jay Bruce or Curtis Granderson after re-signing Yoenis Cespedes, but Sherman adds that the Yankees "continue to gauge interest" in Chase Headley and Brett Gardner.
It might be tough to find a taker for Headley, who has been a major disappointment in fantasy and reality since moving to Yankee Stadium. Gardner was an All Star in 2015 and a Gold Glover in 2016, but there's no question that the 33-year-old's speed is in decline.
Quick Hits: The Braves signed John Danks, who was released by the White Sox last May and hasn't posted an MLB-average ERA since 2011, to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training ... Hanley Ramirez received permission from the Red Sox to play winter ball ... The Angels acquired infielder Danny Espinosa from the Nationals in exchange for a pair of pitching prospects, and he's expected to be the starter at second base in Anaheim coming off a 24-homer season ... Veteran infielder Ruben Tejada inked a minor-league contract with the Yankees ... Rockies starter Chad Bettis announced that he recently underwent surgery for testicular cancer, but he's expected to be fine for spring training ... The Marlins reached one-year deals with catcher A.J. Ellis and right-hander Dustin McGowan ... The Angels sent Jett Bandy to the Brewers for Martin Maldonado (plus a minor-league pitcher) in a swap of light-hitting catchers ... The Cubs signed reliever Koji Uehara to a one-year deal with $6 million ... Mark Melancon says he'll skip the World Baseball Classic next spring as he prepares to take over as Giants closer ... The Rockies finalized their five-year, $70 million pact with Ian Desmond, who will evidently play first base in Colorado.