: It was 60 degrees and sunny on Monday in Phoenix as scouts gathered to watch Benson take his surgically repaired arm out of mothballs. Among the group were members of the Yankees, Mets, Astros, Nationals and Phillies, all looking for pitching help.
Reports were good, as Benson showed little wear and tear after missing the 2007 season in Baltimore because of surgery to repair a torn labrum. Benson felt no pain, said his agent, Greg Clifton.
"I thought it went very well," Clifton told MLB.com. "There were 25 scouts in attendance. From an overall perspective, I thought it was a very effective workout and he showed that he is 100 percent recovered from his injury and he is way ahead of schedule on his normal offseason program."
The top pick overall by the Pirates in the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, Benson has played for three teams in his eight seasons: Pittsburgh, the Mets and Orioles. Benson, 33, is 68-73 with a 4.43 ERA.
"For the right team, like the Phillies, it's a great opportunity," Clifton was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He's a seasoned Major League veteran who's battled this injury for the last couple seasons prior to '07. He sucked it up and pitched, so '08 could be a tremendous year for him because he's finally healthy. ... There's not a lot of long-term risk, either, and great potential upside."
Benson, who received a $500,000 buyout on his $7.5 million 2008 option from Baltimore, should be a bargain. Right now, though, there are no reported offers.
: Los Angeles signed the much-traveled Gary Bennett as a backup to Russell Martin. This is the eighth team for Bennett, who is the answer to this trivia question: Who made the last out in the Padres' last game at Qualcomm Stadium, played at the end of the 2003 season? Bennett struck out swinging.
Of note is that Bennett is the first signing of any of the free agents mentioned in the Mitchell Report since it was released on Thursday.
: The Rays filled a gap in the outfield by signing Floyd, who is joining his sixth team. Since 2006, he's gone from the Mets to the Cubs and now to Tampa Bay.
"We're excited to add someone of Cliff's ability to the organization," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "We were looking for a left-handed bat to complement our existing players, and we're comfortable that Cliff will fit in very nicely to the DH/right-field rotation."
Floyd, 35, hit .284 with nine home runs and 45 RBIs for the Cubs in 2007.
Floyd will make $2.75 million in 2008, with a chance to earn as much as $2 million in bonuses based on plate appearances. The deal includes a team option for the 2009 season at the base compensation he establishes in 2008 (ranging from $2.75 million to $4.75 million, depending on how much bonus money he earns), with the potential for him to earn an additional $2 million. There's a $250,000 buyout for the option year.
The signing of Floyd leaves 43 free-agent outfielders on the market, but the list is beginning to thin. Mike Cameron, who's being coveted by the Phillies, may be the hottest veteran remaining, although still available are the likes of Barry Bonds, Darin Erstad, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Geoff Jenkins, Kenny Lofton, Trot Nixon and Sammy Sosa.
: Speaking of Bonds, the fact that the A's traded Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks for six prospects could be the death knell of his chances of signing with Oakland. Though A's general manager Billy Beane wouldn't talk directly about the topic, he told the San Jose Mercury-News to read the tea leaves. "I never talk about free agents, but I'll say this: You can draw your own conclusions based on where we're going. I don't think you'd be wrong if you did that." ... Tigers starter Nate Robertson has told the club he'd like to sign a long-term contract rather than become a free agent after the 2008 season. "He wants to stay in Detroit and play for the Tigers," Steve Canter, his agent, told the Detroit Free Press. "He appreciates everything they've done for him and his family. He's a proven guy in big games. He finished strong this year. If you look at what he's done career-wise, it's pretty significant." ... The Astros, as noted above, are eyeing Benson, but they're also hot on the trail of free agent Mark Prior, who's won just one game since 2005 because of surgery and injuries. "We've got an offer out to him at this point in time," Astros general manager Ed Wade told the Houston Chronicle. "I got a sense that we're in the relatively early stages. Yeah, we got on board with that one."