MLB Rumors: Vernon Wells Trade, Johnny Damon and the Latest MLB Buzz

Joseph ChasanCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2011

MLB Rumors: Vernon Wells Trade, Johnny Damon and the Latest MLB Buzz

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    The Hot Stove is heating up once again, as a flurry of new activity has stoked the dying embers and re-ignited the flame.

    We've got major trades to report, some more free agent signing rounding out team rosters, and we'll even throw in a few rumors to marinate on this Friday night.

    Bleacher Report sends you into the weekend right, and satisfies your baseball cravings with all the latest news and buzz.  Here are 12 of the biggest recent stories across baseball.  Dig in!

12) Signings Around the League

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    Some utility players found new homes in the last few days.

    Infielder Nick Punto signed a one-year deal to join the St. Louis Cardinals.  He had played for the Minnesota Twins for the last seven seasons, and provides the Cardinals with versatility off the bench, as he can play all four infield positions.

    Two former Padres landed in new spots, as well.  Jody Gerut signed a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners, and the New York Mets finalized a one-year Major League deal with Scott Hairston to be a backup outfielder and pinch hitter.

    The Mets also completed their deal with another former Padre, pitcher Chris Young, and completing the pitching signings, Nate Robertson, the former mainstay of the Tigers rotation who ended last season with the Phillies, agreed to terms with the Mariners on a minor league deal.

11) 2011 Won't Be Guillen's Last Year On The South Side

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    White Sox fans: your fiery, loquacious manager will continue to entertain you for at least a few more years.

    Ozzie Guillen had the team option on his managerial contract picked up by the White Sox today, giving him more of an assurance that he'll still be in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field through at least 2012.

    The Sox won the World Series in 2005 in Guillen's second year at the helm, but have struggled to maintain consistent success since then, making just one appearance in the postseason since (and losing in the first round to the Tampa Bay Rays).

    But, despite his frequent outbursts (or perhaps because of them), he has kept the team competitive, for the most part, and now he won't have to answer questions about his contract all season, a relief for all parties involved.

10) Barry Bonds' Past Still Looms Large

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    I hate to bring up this ghost again, but it's one that refuses to go away.

    Barry Bonds name is in the news again, as his federal trial on perjury charges, scheduled to start March 21st, grew larger in scope today.  US District Court Judge Susan Illston ruled on Friday that prosecutors in the case will be allowed to call former teammates' of Bonds, as well as other players with ties to trainer Greg Anderson, as witnesses for their case.

    That list of names could include Jason Giambi, who is still active.  The ruling is important because without further testimony, it may be difficult to prove that Bonds knowingly used illegal drugs supplied by Anderson, because Anderson has refused to testify against his former client.

    I join the masses in wishing we didn't have to deal with this issue, but at this point, the best thing that can happen is the truth finally comes to light in a court of law, and we can wash our hands of this stain on the game once and for all.

9) It's Official: Andruw Jones Is a Yankee

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    The Yankees have finally made the deal that was long suspected, bringing Andruw Jones into the fold as a fourth outfielder and part-time DH.

    Jones will earn $2 million, with another $1.2 million on the table as performance incentives.  The team will be hoping he can provide some balance, with his right handed bat serving as a compliment to the Yanks' otherwise lefty-heavy outfield.  The Yankees other outfielders include lefty swinging Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson.

    They'll also be hoping that he can rediscover the stroke that made him a five-time All-Star during his days with the Atlanta Braves.  He could be a steal at that price.

8) Vladimir Guerrero Is The Lone Ranger

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    With Jim Thome returning to Minnesota and now Manny Ramirez finding a spot with Tampa Bay, the last big-name free agent DH out there is now Vladimir Guerrero.

    His chances of landing back in Texas seem slim, with the Rangers having already signed Adrian Beltre to play third base, and in the process committing to use Michael Young as their primary DH, but apparently the door isn't completely shut.  The team might still have interest in him for a platoon role, similar to Andruw Jones' expected new role with the Yankees.

    He's not likely to go for something like that though, coming off another splendid season.  He wants to get a full time job somewhere.  There's been talk about a decision being just around the corner, and the most recent buzz has centered around the Angels and the Orioles.

    With L.A. committing a significant amount of money to import Vernon Wells today, perhaps that leaves Baltimore as the favorites for Vlad.  We might know by the end of the weekend.

7) Josh Hamilton Has His Health, Needs a Contract

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    Josh Hamilton, the primary offensive force behind the Rangers push to their first AL Pennant in 2010, recently suffered a scary ordeal when he had to go to the hospital with what turned out to be a case of pneumonia.

    After being bedridden for six days, he's now back home and feeling better.  But there's another looming issue on the horizon: Hamilton still needs a contract for 2011.  He's eligible for arbitration, and it might have to go to that after the figures exchanged by his representatives and the Rangers front office were $3.3 million apart.

    With Hamilton coming off an MVP-winning season in which he led all of baseball with a .359 average, while hitting 32 home runs and driving in 100, the Rangers would be wise to not let it get to that point, however.  They would love to lock the slugging outfielder up with a long-term deal, but it seems that negotiations in that area have not gotten off the ground.

6) Red Sox Considered Dealing Jonathan Papelbon

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    Word has begun to leak that the Red Sox had seriously considered pursuing free agent closer Rafael Soriano this offseason.

    They ultimately didn't sign him, and he was eventually scooped up by the Yankees for three years and $35 million.  But the idea the Red Sox had was not necessarily to use Soriano in a setup role, as the Yankees will with incumbent closer Mariano Rivera still effective.

    The Red Sox would have potentially wanted Soriano to close, and would have looked to gauge interest in current closer Jonathan Papelbon.  Papelbon has pitched his entire six season career with the Red Sox, and had looked to be one of the best young closers in the game for much of that time.

    But he suffered through stretches of inconsistency last season, when he blew eight saves and finished with a career-high (and decidedly un-closer like) 3.90 ERA.  While he was recently signed to a $12 million contract for 2011, the last year before he's eligible to become a free agent, speculation now exists that Boston will look elsewhere for their closing needs in the future.

5) Don't Be A Stranger, Andy Pettitte

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    It seems that the Yankees have resigned themselves to the fact that Andy Pettitte won't be on the active roster in Spring Training, but a glimmer of hope still remains that we haven't seen the last of the veteran lefty.

    Manager Joe Girardi revealed that Pettitte has in fact started to work out at home to at least keep himself in reasonable shape should he change his mind.  It's not the strict regime he usually undertakes, but at least it's something.

    Just as if Pettitte was planning on coming back in time for Opening Day, he'd have decided that already, he really was 100% done, he'd have decided that already, too.  The blueprint is certainly already there, with Roger Clemens having executed a similar midseason comeback just four years ago.

    With every day that we don't get an official retirement announcement, my feeling strengthens that he'll find his way back to the mound before the summer is out.

4) Carl Pavano's Deal Solidifies Twins Rotation

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    With Carl Pavano officially back in the fold in the Twin Cities after finalizing a two year, $16.5 million contract the other day, Minnesota's starting rotation is looking fairly complete.

    Pavano went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA in 2010, one of the best seasons of his career.  As important, he tossed 221 innings, allaying concerns that he couldn't last through the long haul of a six-month season after suffering through a number of injury-shortened seasons.

    If he can come at all close to replicating that performance, he'll give the Twins a solid anchor to go along with other incumbent starters like Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, as well as a trio of youngsters competing to round things out.

    Liriano could be the key.  If he is truly back from the injuries that have slowed down his career thus far, then the Twins will be formidable once again.

3) The Pujols Watch Continues

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    The latest in the negotiations between Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals over an extension for the all-world first baseman is that Pujols' camp is asking to set the start of Spring Training as an informal deadline to have a deal done.

    That doesn't give the Cardinals much time, if he is indeed firm on that date.  Pitchers and catchers report to Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida in less than a month, and there seems to still be a reasonably wide divide between the two sides preventing the consummation of a deal.

     Pujols is not one to give the media much fodder to talk about.  To his credit, he chooses to play things fairly close to the vest in public, and for the most part, you'd never know that he's approaching a major turning point in his career.  He seems to be preparing for this season just like any other.

    This isn't just any other year, however, and with every passing day, Cardinal fans get more and more concerned.  Speculation exists that St. Louis is looking to keep a deal to no more than seven years, and does not want to guarantee anything more than $200 million.  It's realistic to think that Pujols won't be satisfied with that, unless he's willing to take a hometown discount.

2) Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez Reunite In The Sunshine State

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    Reports out of Florida have pegged the Tampa Bay Rays, another team that had spent much of the winter watching stars leave without getting rewarded with anyone come on board, as making a pair of major signings today.

    Both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are set to come on board, each signing a one-year contract to join the defending AL East Champions.  Damon and Ramirez were teammates for years with the Boston Red Sox, and perhaps the appeal of a potential reunion served as a factor in their decisions.

    The contracts are a relative bargain, with Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman reporting via Twitter that Damon's deal is for $5.25 million, with the potential for another $750,000 in incentives, while Manny's services being retained for the low low price of just $2 million.

    Apparently, he realized that it was either that, or retirement, and he wasn't ready to retire.  So Tampa's lineup gets a boost at an affordable cost.  They'll be an interesting team to watch come spring.

1) Vernon Wells Headed West

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    It's not official yet, as physicals still must be passed, but it looks for all the world that Vernon Wells will have a new home in 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels.

    According to Fox Sports, Wells will bring his big bat to the AL West in exchange for catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli, and outfielder Juan Rivera.  Since Wells' contract calls for him to make $86 million over the next four years, the Blue Jays will also send an undisclosed sum of cash to the Angels to help defray the cost of acquiring the veteran slugger.

    The Angels have been looking to land some offensive help all offseason after losing Hideki Matsui as a free agent to the A's, but until now, had largely come up empty.  Adrian Beltre was a target before deciding to sign with Texas, instead.

    Wells has been a mainstay in Toronto's lineup for nine years, and is second on their career leaderboard in both home runs and RBI.  But he has struggled to maintain consistent production in recent years, and became expendable this offseason.