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This Week’s MLB Offseason Transactions and Rumors – January 3

The latest MLB offseason free agent signings, trades, and rumors for the week of December 28-January 3.

Joaquin Benoit San Diego Padres
Joaquin Benoit San Diego Padres

Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Joaquin Benoit (53) pumps his fist after getting to Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (not pictured) to hit a fly out during the ninth inning in game one of the American League Championship Series baseball game at Fenway Park. The Detroit Tigers won 1-0. Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The top free agents left on the market have all rejected qualifying offers and would cost their next team a draft pick, which has left players like Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, and Ubaldo Jimenez without a whole lot of takers. This week, the MLB offseason shifted its focus to the bullpen and key veterans as teams look to fill out their 2014 roster.

Chicago Cubs signed RP Jose Veras

Veras split last season between Houston and Detroit, posting 21 saves in 25 opportunities, a 3.02 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 60 K/22 BB in what was undoubtedly his best season yet. In his career, Veras has a 3.84 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. The deal is worth $3.85 million with a $5.5 million option for 2015.

Los Angeles Angels signed OF Raul Ibanez

Ibanez wasn’t particularly consistent but he put up as good as season as you can ask from a 41-year-old outfielder last year in Seattle. The veteran played 124 games in his third stint with the Mariners and posted a .242/.306/.487 line with 29 home runs, 65 RBI, and 54 runs. The one-year deal is worth $2.75 million but incentives could push his season earnings to $5 million.

San Diego Padres signed RP Joaquin Benoit

All of the Tigers’ closer concerns were alleviated when Benoit stepped into the role and converted 24 of 26 save opportunities. He posted a 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 73 K/22 BB on the season and finished fifth in the league in Win Probability Added. Benoit will earn $6 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015, and has a vesting $8 million option for 2016 that kicks in if he finishes 55 games in 2015.

Los Angeles Angels released Chris Volstad

Volstad is a former first round draft pick, top 50 prospect, and didn’t see an ERA higher than 3.08 as a teenager in the minors. In his first season, a 21-year-old Volstad went 6-4 in 15 games, posting a 2.88 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. He has since gone 29-47 with a 5.22 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Volstad is expected to sign with a Korean team.

Pittsburgh Pirates traded RP Miles Mikolas to Texas Rangers for 1B Chris McGuiness

Mikolas is a highly regarded middle relief prospect who owns 64 saves, a 2.97 ERA, and 1.26 WHIP in the minors. McGuiness owns a .257/.372/.437 career line in the minors and hit 23 home runs while driving in 77 runs in 2012.

Houston Astros signed RP Jesse Crain

Although he was ultimately stifled by injury, Crain was a monster when he did take the mound last season, posting a 0.74 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 36.2 innings and making his first All-Star roster. The 32-year-old owns a 3.05 career ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 7.4 K/9.

Los Angeles Angels signed P Mark Mulder

Mulder last stepped on a Major League mound in 2008 and has been working as a baseball analyst since but the Angels are giving the 36-year-old a chance to make a comeback. Between 2001 and 2005, Mulder went 88-40 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. In the following three seasons, Mulder only played 23 games, going 6-10 with a 7.73 ERA and 1.83 WHIP. It’s only a minor league contract but Mulder could earn $6 million in incentives if he makes the roster.

Chicago White Sox Signed RP Scott Downs

Although he’ll be 38 when the next season starts, Downs remains one of the best lefty relievers in the game and has posted a 2.33 ERA and 1.19 WHIP since 2007. The deal is worth $4 million with a $4.25 million team option for 2015.

Latest rumors, per MLBTradeRumors.com:

Mariners are odds-on favorite to sign Japanese free agent P Masahiro Tanaka. Yankees, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Cubs all remain in the Tanaka sweepstakes. Tanaka is expected to receive a contract worth $120-$150 million. SS Stephen Drew is likely to sign with the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox could look to trade SP John Lackey. Twins could be interested in SP Matt Garza. Baltimore Orioles could be interested in DH Kendrys Morales. Orioles are also potential landing spots for OF Nelson Cruz, RP Fernando Rodney, SP Bronson Arroyo, and SP A.J. Burnett. The Orioles have also discussed trading for Mets 1B Ike Davis. The Twins could be interested in bringing back SP Johan Santana.

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