Braves announce 4-year deal with Toscano

Club evaluated Cuban outfielder during November workouts in the DR

Braves announce 4-year deal with Toscano

ATLANTA -- After aggressively scouring the international market over the past few months, the Braves opted to take a chance on Dian Toscano, a relatively obscure Cuban outfielder who might become a part of Atlanta's outfield mix after gaining some seasoning at the Minor League level.

The Braves officially announced their four-year deal (with an option for 2019) with Toscano on Wednesday afternoon. The two parties reached an agreement in early December, but it took nearly two months to complete the clerical requirements necessary to allow the 25-year-old to enter the U.S.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Teams eager to ink Cuban phenom Moncada

Cuban infield prospect has yet to be cleared by US government

Teams eager to ink Cuban phenom Moncada

Major League Baseball issued a memo to its clubs on Tuesday night that acknowledged new regulations for Cuban players that were published earlier this month by federal officials, and reminded teams that the League's current policies for Cuban players remain intact until further notice.

The one-page memo states the League, its legal counsel and the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control are discussing the changes. For now, Major League Baseball will continue to require an OFAC unblocking license prior to players being allowed to enter a contract. The scouting of Cuban players and travel to the island by club personnel or representatives remain prohibited, the memo states.

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Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Prospect Watch: Top 10 shortstops

Astros' Correa, Indians' Lindor, Cubs' Russell lead strong contingent

Prospect Watch: Top 10 shortstops

MLBPipeline.com's 2015 Top 100 Prospects list will be unveiled on Friday on MLB.com, with the Top 50 revealed during a one-hour show on MLB Network at 9 p.m. ET. Leading up to that, MLBPipeline.com takes a look at baseball's Top 10 prospects at each position.

The top two players from the 2014 list of top shortstop prospects graduated: Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox and the Cubs' Javier Baez. So did the last two on that top 10: Luis Sardinas, then of the Rangers, and Chris Owings of the D-backs.

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Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Finding fantasy value post-Tommy John

Finding fantasy value post-Tommy John

An elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery is among the most serious that a baseball player can suffer. Pitchers can go from fantasy studs to completely off the radar faster than you can say "right forearm strain." Hurlers who take more than a year off due to the lengthy recovery process can disappear from the memories of fantasy owners, but those who want to win their 2015 leagues will need to get reacquainted with the following players.

Matt Harvey (Mets)
Expected return: Opening Day
Expected fantasy production: 10 wins, 190 K's, 3.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

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Fred Zinkie is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Lindsay Berra

Players, coaches discuss impact of the infield shift

Players, coaches discuss impact of the infield shift

MLB's new Commissioner, Rob Manfred, got people's attention right out of the gate.

In an interview that aired on ESPN on Sunday, his first official day at the helm, Manfred responded to a query by Karl Ravech by saying he was open to the possibility of doing away with defensive shifts. This stirred up immediate chatter in social media, on sports radio and among sportswriters, which was a good thing, according to the game's 10th Commissioner.

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Lindsay Berra is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Time for hitters to counter defensive shifts

Time for hitters to counter defensive shifts

New Commissioner Rob Manfred certainly wasn't speaking in binding terms when he floated the possibility of eliminating or limiting the defensive shifts that have become so prevalent in baseball. In fact, he was simply replying to a question about any "radical" changes he might consider. That said, the impact of shifting is a topic many executives, coaches and players have bandied about in the office or locker room at a time when offensive production is at its lowest levels in decades.

But as is the case with so many of the game's evolutions in circumstances and strategy, the players themselves will probably dictate the direction taken here. Shifts, after all, are the byproduct of historical data, and they inherently create present and future areas of vulnerability on the field. And so it is incumbent upon the hitters to disrupt the data with revolutionary results.

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Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Panda hits a half-court shot sitting down

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Panda hits a half-court shot sitting down

Pablo Sandoval is an accomplished professional baseball player. He is a two-time All-Star, three-time World Series champion and, this past offseason, a highly coveted free agent who ended up signing a five-year deal with the Red Sox. But that isn't enough. He wants to conquer the world of trick-shot basketball, too.

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Padres to don brown pinstripe uniforms for 5 games

Club announces promo schedule, with Salute to Military days among highlights

Padres to don brown pinstripe uniforms for 5 games

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have decided to bring back the brown in 2015 -- well, at least on a limited basis.

The team announced Wednesday that on five Wednesday day games this season, Padres players will wear brown pinstripe uniforms -- the same style that was worn by teams from 1985-90. In-game music, graphics and other entertainment features will add to the "Way Back Wednesday" theme on these days.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Angels agree to deal with Freese, avoid arbitration

Angels agree to deal with Freese, avoid arbitration

ANAHEIM -- The Angels avoided arbitration with third baseman David Freese on Wednesday, agreeing on a $6.425 million salary that stood as the midpoint of the numbers previously exchanged by both sides.

The Angels' only remaining arbitration-eligible players are outfielder Matt Joyce, a pending free agent, and starting pitcher Garrett Richards, who attained Super Two status this offseason.

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Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Cardinals are still the team to beat in NL Central

Even with the Cubs' many moves, St. Louis primed for another division title

Cardinals are still the team to beat in NL Central

The Cubs grabbed the offseason headlines in the National League Central.

Don't, however, overlook the defending division-champion Cardinals.

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Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Stewart names Carter special assistant to GM

Former Blue Jays teammates reunite in Arizona

Stewart names Carter special assistant to GM

Arizona senior vice president and general manager Dave Stewart turned to an old friend and teammate Wednesday, hiring Joe Carter as a special assistant to the general manager.

Carter and Stewart were teammates on the Blue Jays in 1993-94 and also part of the '93 World Series championship team.

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Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

White Sox reunite with Beckham on one-year deal

Versatile infielder happy to return to Chicago; Viciedo designated for assignment

White Sox reunite with Beckham on one-year deal

CHICAGO -- Gordon Beckham has returned to the White Sox ... after a very brief absence.

The White Sox announced on Wednesday that they have agreed to terms on a one-year, $2 million contract with the sure-handed, right-handed-hitting infielder, with outfielder Dayan Viciedo designated for assignment. The 40-man roster remains at 40.

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Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Moore on mound for 1st time since April

Rays lefty continues comeback from Tommy John surgery, hopes to return to rotation by June

Moore on mound for 1st time since April

Rays left-hander Matt Moore has reported no setbacks throughout his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and he's targeting a return to the big league mound in June.

After reportedly throwing off the mound Tuesday for the first time since the operation, nothing's changed. And in this case, no news is good news for Moore and the Rays. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Moore threw 15 times from about halfway up the bullpen mound at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, and he told the Times he felt "pretty good."

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Fred Lynn's favorite player: Mike Trout

Fred Lynn's favorite player: Mike Trout

As a former outfielder, Fred Lynn pays extra attention to the players who roam the outfield today. One player stands above the rest: Lynn's favorite current player, Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

Trout, who burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2012 like Lynn did back in 1975, when he won AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, can seemingly do it all. That's why Lynn admires him.

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Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cardinals counting on Heyward to fill outfield hole

Acquisition joins Holliday, Jay as starters; Bourjos, Grichuk provide depth

Cardinals counting on Heyward to fill outfield hole

This is the fourth of a seven-part Around the Horn series that will take a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into next season. Previous installments examined the catchers, corner infielders and middle infielders. Up next: outfielders.

ST LOUIS -- When the book closed on the 2014 season, the Cardinals' outfield plans appeared fairly finalized. Matt Holliday and Jon Jay would return in their starting roles, while Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk would provide coverage in right field. Unexpected tragedy, however, soon shattered the well-intentioned plans, leaving the Cardinals to quickly revise their offseason to-do list while also grieving over the loss of 21-year-old Taveras.

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Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Blue Jays, Brewers talk potential trade for Papelbon

Blue Jays, Brewers talk potential trade for Papelbon

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are still talking to the Brewers and Blue Jays about a Jonathan Papelbon trade.

Two sources said on Tuesday evening that the talks are alive, although the seriousness of those discussions is unclear. Yahoo! Sports first reported Friday that the Phils and Brewers were in serious negotiations. FOXSports.com mentioned the Blue Jays' interest.

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Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

In Minors, Russell Wilson tackled tornadoes

Rome Braves GM Dunn saw qualities in quarterback during tragedy

In Minors, Russell Wilson tackled tornadoes

ATLANTA -- As a frightening string of destructive tornadoes ripped through the Southeast on April 27, 2011, Mike Dunn took precautionary measures to protect his Class A Rome Braves players and the visiting Asheville Tourists club that included a young second baseman named Russell Wilson.

Wilson's baseball career was nearing its end, but his leadership abilities were on full display as he helped take control of a potentially dangerous situation.

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Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Commissioner Rob Manfred's letter to fans

Commissioner Rob Manfred's letter to fans

Dear Fans:

On the night of August 14, 2014, I left a Baltimore hotel after being elected Commissioner of Baseball. As I began to reply to the overwhelming number of congratulatory messages coming in, it hit me that I'd just been entrusted to protect the integrity of our National Pastime and to set a course that allows this great game to continue to flourish -- now and in the years to come. Needless to say, I was deeply honored by the trust the owners placed in me.

Today is my first day as Commissioner, and I am incredibly excited to get to work. I am grateful to Commissioner Selig for his expertise and friendship. His leadership set a direction that led to historic success.  

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Derek Jeter and Russell Wilson have a pleasant chat

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Derek Jeter and Russell Wilson have a pleasant chat

What happens when two such winners meet face-to-face and partake in conversation with each other? What do they talk about? Well, we don't actually know what Derek Jeter and Russell Wilson discussed on June 11 ahead of the Yankees-Mariners matchup at Safeco Field. But we can imagine.

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Inbox: Should Peterson play first base exclusively?

Beat reporter Greg Johns fields Mariners fans' questions

Inbox: Should Peterson play first base exclusively?

Here's the latest in our Reader Inbox series. You can click here to submit a question of your own.

Why are the Mariners letting D.J. Peterson play third base when they already have Kyle Seager there? Why not have him just play first?
Brandon H., Tacoma, Wash.

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yankees rely on veteran strength at the corners

Headley back at third after re-signing, while Teixeira will again handle first

Yankees rely on veteran strength at the corners

With the start of Spring Training just weeks away, anticipation is building for the 2015 season. MLB.com is going around the horn to break down each area of the Yankees, continuing with the corner infielders.

On the July afternoon that the Yankees announced their trade for Chase Headley, general manager Brian Cashman attempted to downplay expectations by revealing that their scouts painted the new acquisition as just "an average third baseman." That quickly became a running joke among observers, as Headley wasted little time making sharp plays at the hot corner.

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Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Ichiro still a treat to watch in late stage of career

In gifted veteran, Marlins get professional presence to complement young talent

Ichiro still a treat to watch in late stage of career

First, thanks to the Miami Marlins for giving us at least one more season of one of the most remarkable players of our time: Ichiro Suzuki.

Take a good look at Ichiro this season, his 15th in the United States. Even at 41, with skills that have faded a bit, he is still gifted, unique and relentless. In terms of pitch recognition and bat control, he's among the greatest players in baseball history.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Lowrie helps grow game with trip to Colombia

Shortstop joins Sports Diplomacy Program to host camps for at-risk kids

Lowrie helps grow game with trip to Colombia

HOUSTON -- When the head of the Sports Diplomacy Program in Washington, D.C., wanted to get in touch with Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie to gauge his interest in serving as a sports envoy, he knew exactly who to call.

Lowrie's wife, Milessa Muchmore Lowrie, is a former Foreign Service Officer who served the Department of State as a diplomat based in Toronto and Mexico City.

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Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mariners, Baker agree to Minor League deal

Veteran catcher gets invite to Spring Training, provides depth at position

Mariners, Baker agree to Minor League deal

SEATTLE -- Looking to add depth behind starting catcher Mike Zunino, the Mariners have an agreement with veteran John Baker to a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League camp.

The Mariners have not confirmed the deal, but shortly after CBSSports.com reported the news on Wednesday, Baker tweeted a photo of himself in front of the Space Needle and said, "Thanks for all the positive vibes being sent my way. Next Chapter begins. @Mariners."

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Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Source: Janssen, Nats agree to 1-year deal

Source: Janssen, Nats agree to 1-year deal

WASHINGTON -- Two weeks after trading dependable setup man Tyler Clippard, the Nationals filled a hole in their bullpen by agreeing to a one-year contract with free agent Casey Janssen on Wednesday, a source confirmed to MLB.com. The deal, which the club has not confirmed, guarantees Janssen $5 million, including a buyout for a 2016 mutual option, according to FOXSports.com.

The Nats dealt Clippard to the A's for shortstop Yunel Escobar, who is slated to move to second base. They also haven't re-signed free agent Rafael Soriano, their closer for much of the past two seasons, leaving Drew Storen to fill the ninth inning.

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Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Source: Arbitration-eligible Crawford gets $3.175 million

Giants shortstop avoids hearing, agrees to reported midpoint between player, team

Source: Arbitration-eligible Crawford gets $3.175 million

The Giants have avoided arbitration with shortstop Brandon Crawford by agreeing to a one-year, $3.175 million deal, a source told MLB.com's Paul Hagen on Tuesday.

The club has not confirmed the agreement.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Montgomery returns to Phillies as chairman

Giles becomes chairman emeritus; Gillick staying on as president in the short term

Montgomery returns to Phillies as chairman

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced significant changes to their leadership on Wednesday afternoon. David Montgomery will rejoin the franchise as team chairman, not as team president, the role he had held since 1997.

Montgomery took a medical leave of absence in August following jaw bone cancer surgery in May. Pat Gillick replaced Montgomery as interim president, but the team removed the interim tag. Gillick said he will serve as president as long as ownership wants him. Bill Giles has moved from chairman to chairman emeritus.

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Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Winker aims to continue rise at big league camp

After impressive AFL stint, Reds prospect being groomed for Majors

Winker aims to continue rise at big league camp

CINCINNATI -- When he was in Minor League camp during Spring Training last year, Reds outfield prospect Jesse Winker greatly appreciated the three times he was summoned to the big league side for Cactus League games. After all, it was a taste of what might be ahead if his career stayed on track.

This spring, Winker will get an even bigger bite. The 21-year-old left fielder will be in Reds Major League camp as a non-roster invitee. It's sure to mean valuable experience being among players at the highest level and facing more competitive pitching.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Phil Rogers

Top needs remaining as Hot Stove season winds down

Top needs remaining as Hot Stove season winds down

Now that we know Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette isn't going anywhere, it's time to find out something else about the guy who earned multiple Executive of the Year Awards for his work in 2014.

Is he also a miracle worker?

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Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Manfred ready for Majors from Day 1

New Commissioner ahead of baseball curve thanks to advanced 100-day plan

Manfred ready for Majors from Day 1

NEW YORK -- Rob Manfred's first day in the office as Major League Baseball's 10th Commissioner was, well, normal.

"It has been more routine than I would have expected, in the sense that I'm just dealing with the kind of everyday issues that come along," Manfred said on Monday afternoon.

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Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.