We are fast approaching the start of spring training, and almost all of the big-name free agents are spoken for. That said, it's still the offseason, and that means rumors can be found. We have found them and rounded them up for Monday. Here they are:
Yankees sign Wilson
Wilson, 33, spent the last two seasons with the Mets. In 68 appearances in Queens, he posted a 2.91 ERA (143 ERA+) and a 2.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Wilson, who pitched for the Yankees in 2015, relies primarily on two pitches: a mid-90s fastball and a cutter, a combination that has allowed him to suppress quality contact the past few years.
Wilson is the second notable addition the Yankees have made to their bullpen recently, joining right-hander Darren O'Day, whom the Yankees signed after moving Adam Ottavino in a trade with the Red Sox.
Mets add Pillar to outfield
Pillar, 32, will give the Mets more outfield depth for the 2021 MLB season. The veteran -- who can play all three outfield positions -- hit .288/.336/.462 with six home runs, 12 doubles and 26 RBI during the abbreviated 2020 season. Pillar began his 2020 season with the Red Sox before he was traded at the deadline to the Rockies. Pillar has established himself as an elite defender during his eight-year MLB career, and although his numbers aren't at their peak, he still boasts impressive defensive stats.
The Mets missed out on top free-agent center fielder George Springer this offseason, and the recent Pillar signing may signal that they may be out on free-agent center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. too. As things stand now, it looks like Pillar could take over in center, which would be a clear upgrade over Brandon Nimmo. Pillar's played primarily in center and right field throughout his career. Then, they'd have Michael Conforto in right field and Dominic Smith in left. Or, the Mets could stick with Nimmo in left and shift Smith to the bench. They have flexibility with their outfielders.
New York also added outfielder Albert Almora Jr. this winter. Pillar joins Almora, Jose Martinez and Guillermo Heredia as the right-handed outfield options on the Mets 40-player roster, with Smith, Nimmo and Conforto as the left-handed outfielders.
All this to say, these moves don't necessarily take them out of the running for Bradley Jr. They have been engaged in discussions with the longtime Red Sox outfielder, who entered the offseason ranked by CBS Sports as the 12th-best free agent available. Our own Mike Axisa recently listed the Mets as a good landing spot for JBJ.
Kipnis joins the Braves
Veteran infielder Jason Kipnis tweeted on Monday afternoon that he had signed with the Braves. The deal is a minor-league pact.
Kipnis, 34 in early April, spent last season with the Cubs. He hit .237/.341/.404 (101 OPS+) with three home runs in 135 trips to the plate. It was Kipnis' finest offensive effort since 2016, as judged by OPS+.
Kipnis figures to compete for a bench spot with the Braves. As it stands, Atlanta is expected to carry backup catcher Alex Jackson, outfielder Ender Inciarte, and infielders Johan Camargo and Adrianza as its reserves.
Twins pick up Shoemaker
The Minnesota Twins have signed veteran starter Matt Shoemaker to a one-year, $2 million deal, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. The deal is pending a physical and allows Shoemaker to earn another $250,000 in performance bonuses, Passan adds.
Shoemaker, 34, could figure into the Twins rotation as a back-end starter. He'll be facing competition from right-hander Randy Dobnak and lefty Devin Smeltzer for the No. 5 spot. In 2020, Shoemaker started six games (28 2/3 IP) and recorded a 4.71 ERA (94 ERA+) with 26 strikeouts and nine walks for Toronto.
Over Shoemaker's last three seasons, he owns a 3.77 ERA to go along with a 23.5 percent strikeout rate and 7.9 percent walk rate in 88 1/3 innings in 18 starts. But, injuries (he's already undergone surgeries for his forearm and knee) could keep him out of the rotation in 2021. He's been limited to just six starts per year in the last three. The last time he reached 15 starts in a season came in 2016 with the Angels. The Twins also added free-agent left-hander J.A. Happ to their rotation this winter.
Red Sox sign Sawamura
The Red Sox have agreed to terms with Japanese reliever Hirokazu Sawamura on a two-year deal worth $3 million, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The contract includes an option that is said to be "conditional and complex," but that would push the total value of the deal closer to $8 million.
Sawamura, who will turn 33 in April, made close to 400 appearances during his career in Nippon Professional Baseball. He departs with a 2.82 ERA and a 2.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Sawamura throws a straight, mid 90s fastball that sits around 96 that he can locate well at the bottom of the zone. His primary secondary pitch is a low-mid 90s splitter, which has some late drop but doesn't have a huge break due to the speed he throws it at. He does a good job of keeping the pitch down, either in or below the zone, and hitters regularly swing over it when it dips out of the zone. Splitters are difficult pitches to command, which is a factor contributing to Sawamura's high walk rates.
Padres sign Kela
Kela, 28 in mid-April, did not rank among CBS Sports' top 60 free agents in the majors entering the winter. The reasons for his exclusion were straightforward: he had been limited by COVID-19 and injury to just two innings in 2020, and had been involved in too many off-the-field incidents in 2019 to merit inclusion.
Nonetheless, Kela has been an effective reliever when he's been hearty and hale. In 231 career big-league appearances, he's posted a 139 ERA+ and a 3.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Kela's arsenal has largely consisted of just two pitches: a mid-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss breaking ball.
Rockies sign Cron
The Rockies announced on Monday that they had signed veteran first baseman C.J. Cron to a minor-league pact.
Cron, 31, entered the winter ranked as the 43rd-best free agent available. Here's what we wrote at the time;
Cron played in just 13 games before he required season-ending knee surgery. He's still one of the top first basemen on the market, a statement that says more about the paucity of good options available than it does about him. Cron is a serviceable option, mind you, one who can deliver 20-plus homers and an OPS+ in the 100-110 range. Alas, "serviceable" first basemen tend to change uniforms frequently. Cron sure has, as he's played with four teams the past four years. Expect that to become five in five soon enough, and then six in six, and then ....
Cron figures to compete with another recent signing, Greg Bird, for playing time at first base.
Brewers add Boxberger
Boxberger, 33 in May, appeared in 23 games with the Marlins last season, accumulating a 151 ERA+ and a 2.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18 innings. Time hasn't been too kind to Boxberger since he made the 2015 All-Star Game: even including his success in 2020, he's compiled a 4.27 ERA and more than five walks per nine in his last 151 innings.
The Brewers have a largely flexible bullpen, as only Ray Black lacks options. That said, Milwaukee is certain to carry Josh Hader, Devin Williams, Brent Suter, and Freddy Peralta if healthy. Boxberger might be competing, then, with Justin Topa and/or J.P. Feyereisen for a spot in the Opening Day 'pen.