Bevy of deals stir up baseball
BOSTON (AP) — Free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski has agreed to a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Tuesday.
The deal would be pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t finalized the agreement.
The lefty-hitting Pierzynski and righty David Ross, the backup, both will be 37 next season. With catching prospects Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart making their way up the system, the Red Sox were reluctant to give a multiyear deal to free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia, their starter the past three seasons.
Pierzynski hit .272 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs last season, his only one with the Texas Rangers. He walked just 11 times and doesn’t fit the Red Sox preference for patient hitters who work the count. In 2012, he had 27 homers and 28 walks, both career highs.
AP Source: Yanks, Ellsbury reach $153M, 7-yr deal
NEW YORK — Free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, fresh off winning the World Series with Boston, reached agreement with the rival New York Yankees on a seven-year contract worth about $153 million, a person familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday night.
Ellsbury is the second major free-agent addition in the Yankees’ offseason rebuilding. He was to take a physical in New York on Wednesday, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
The Yankees also had been negotiating with Shin-Soo Choo, who like Ellsbury is represented by agent Scott Boras.
Earlier Tuesday, New York finalized an $85 million, five-year contract with All-Star catcher Brian McCann.
AP sources: Saltalamacchia, Marlins reach deal
MIAMI — Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going from the World Series champions to a team that lost 100 games.
Saltalamacchia has agreed to a $21 million, three-year deal with the Miami Marlins, two people familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday. The people confirmed the agreement to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been finalized.
Saltalamacchia started the past three seasons for the Boston Red Sox, who were reluctant to offer him a multiyear deal. The switch-hitter batted a career-high .273 with 15 homers, 40 doubles and 65 RBIs last season. He hit .188 in the postseason and was benched during the World Series.
The Marlins will count on Saltalamacchia to give their offense a much-needed boost. Miami ranked last in the majors in 2013 in runs and batting, and their catchers batted only .194 and totaled nine home runs, with Jeff Mathis, Rob Brantly and Miguel Olivo sharing the job.
Astros get OF Dexter Fowler in trade with Rockies
HOUSTON — Dexter Fowler is looking forward to a new beginning with the rebuilding Houston Astros while also dealing with what he calls a bittersweet ending to his time with the Colorado Rockies.
Astros acquired the outfielder and a player to be named from the Rockies on Tuesday for outfielder Brandon Barnes and right-hander Jordan Lyles.
Drafted by Colorado in 2004, Fowler has spent his entire career with the Rockies. He joins a team that has posted three straight 100-plus loss seasons, including a franchise-record 111 losses in 2013 in its first year in the American League.
The speedy 27-year-old Fowler hit .263 with 18 doubles, 42 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 119 games last season.
Fowler, a switch-hitter who primarily plays center field, hit .300 in 2012.
“One of our goals this offseason was to bring in an outfielder who can spark our offense,” Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “Dexter is an exciting player who can help with the bat, with his legs, and with his glove.”
Fowler missed a big chunk of the last month of the season with an injured left knee, but said Tuesday that the problem was behind him.
“I’m awesome,” he said. “I’m healthy and ready to go.”
Fowler hasn’t had any extended conversations with Luhnow, but expects to play center field for the Astros next season and called the position “home.” He isn’t worried about navigating Tal’s Hill in center field at Minute Maid Park.
“I played in the biggest yard in major league baseball, so I don’t think anything is as challenging as Coors is,” he said.
The Astros had the lowest payroll in the majors last season at less than $30 million. Houston owner Jim Crane said this offseason that he planned to start investing money into the payroll this season, and Tuesday’s move is a sign that he was serious about that statement. Fowler is set to make $7.35 next season before he is eligible for arbitration in 2015.
Fowler said he doesn’t know any of the Astros players. He said he does know manager Bo Porter and is looking forward to playing for him.
Fowler is spending this offseason in Salt Lake City and said he’ll train there until spring training because he and his wife are expecting their first child in January.
“She can’t travel,” he said, “so neither can I.”
The 23-year-old Lyles was 7-9 with one save and a 5.59 ERA in 27 games — 25 starts — in 2013. He was a supplemental first-round pick by the Astros in 2008 and fills a need the Rockies have for a starting pitcher. Lyles made his debut at 20 and already has 65 career starts. He feels fortunate to have so much experience at such a young age.
“I’m going to continue to learn,” he said. “I’ll never stop trying to learn.”
But he does know that pitching at Coors Field won’t be easy.
“The park is obviously different,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like going there, but I’m up for the challenge and I think it’s going to be fun.”
Barnes, also 27, hit .240 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs as a rookie last season. He also became known for his knack for hustling to make great catches in center field.
“I’m excited for a new chapter and a new experience,” Barnes said. “I’ve always prided myself on how hard I work and I plan on working really hard there and being a part of the Rockies’ future and hopefully winning some championships.”