– The Twins have signed DH Jim Thome to a one-year/$1.5M deal. Thome can earn an additional $700K in incentives. It’s a perfect bargain-basement signing by the Twins, who add a still-dangerous bat at a cheap price. Thome, who turns 40 later this season, hit .249/.366/.481 last year with 23 homers. The Twins have DH Jason Kubel firmly entrenched at DH and Justin Morneau at first base, so finding Thome playing time could be tricky. Adding a hitter of Thome’s pedigree at this price was a no-brainer, though. Moving Kubel into the outfield in lieu of OF Delmon Young while giving Thome the majority of DH at-bats against right-handers would give the team it’s most dangerous lineup, but it’s currently unclear if that will happen.
– The Athletics have signed RHP Ben Sheets to a one-year/$10M deal. Incredibly, the four-time All Star could earn up to $12M with incentives, quite a nice haul for someone who didn’t throw a pitch in the major leagues last season after elbow surgery. The Athletics won’t be responsible for all of the cash if they’re successful in dealing him at the deadline come July. The 31-year-old right-hander is 86-83 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over eight major league seasons, all with the Brewers, and is one of the game’s best when healthy. The problem is that those days have been few and far between.
– The Padres have signed RHP Jon Garland to a one-year contract. Terms are not yet known. It’s somewhat of a surprising destination for the veteran, but not many teams appeared willing to shell out a lucrative contract for a guy who provides 200 middle-of-the-road innings. Garland, 30, was 11-13 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.40 WHIP in 33 starts with the Diamondbacks and Dodgers last season. He’ll likely be moved at the trade deadline.
– The Orioles have officially signed IF Miguel Tejada to a one-year/$6M contract. He has the opportunity to earn more with incentives, but he won’t come near the $13M he made last season. Tejada, who turns 36 in May, will make the transition to the third base upon his return to Baltimore, a position he has never played in the majors. The veteran batted .313/.340/.455 with 14 home runs and 86 RBI with the Astros last season, so he still adds plenty of value with the bat, but he’s nothing more than a one-year stopgap until top prospect 3B Josh Bell is ready to take the reins at the hot corner.
– The NY Daily News reports that the Mets are heavily targeting RHP John Smoltz. The Mets’ interest in Smoltz has been well documented this winter. Chances are Smoltz will cost less than Garland, but there’s no promise he can provide the number of innings the Mets seek for a middle-of-the-rotation type. The team is also internally discussing either C Yorvit Torrealba and C Rod Barajas.
– According to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, OF Jim Edmonds is talking seriously with two teams and the Cardinals are not one of them. Edmonds told a St. Louis area radio station last week that the Yankees had some interest in signing him, but it’s not clear if they are still in the running. The 39-year-old outfielder did not play in the majors last season but he posted a .937 OPS and hit 19 home runs over 250 at-bats with the Cubs in 2008. It’s reported that “negotiations could be completed within the next two to three days.”
– Buster Olney of ESPN.com hears that the dialogue between the Athletics and free agent OF Johnny Damon is continuing, even after the signing of RHP Ben Sheets. Fairly or unfairly, he won’t get anywhere near the guarantee Sheets just got, despite being far more durable, but it may ultimately be a reflection of the market. With the Yankees reportedly holding firm on $2M, and no other team stepping up, a $4-5M guarantee with Oakland might be the best deal he can get.
– SI reports that the Cubs and Rays are looking into RHP Chan Ho Park.
– The Red Sox have signed OF Jeremy Hermida to a one-year/$3.35M deal.
– The Cubs have signed OF Xavier Nady to a one-year/$3.3M deal. Nady will serve as a fourth outfielder in Chicago. He had a second career Tommy John surgery last season but he’s expected to be fine by the start of spring training. The 31-year-old hit .305/.357/.510 with 25 home runs and 97 RBI between the Pirates and Yankees in 2008, his last fully healthy season.
– Mets LHP Johan Santana (elbow) vowed Monday that he will be ready for Opening Day. “At this point I feel way ahead of what I was last year at this point. Definitely. There’s no question about it. I can’t wait to be out in spring training and see where we’re at to put everything together for Opening Day.” He battled triceps tendinitis at the start of last season. The Mets ace finished last season with a 13-9 record and a 3.13 ERA in 25 starts. He will throw off a mound Tuesday.
– Oilers D Sheldon Souray has handed the Oil a list of 10 teams that he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause for. One of the reasons he signed his five-year deal with the Oilers back in 2007 was because it would be easy for him to fly to L.A. from there to see his kids. It is believed that the 10 teams are all teams on the west coast for the same reason. Stay tuned.
– Devils second-round pick F Patrice Cormier was suspended Monday for the remainder of the QMJHL season and playoffs for a violent hit on an opposing player. Cormier, a 19-year-old forward the Devils selected in the second round of the 2008 draft, was suspended by the QMJHL for elbowing F Mikael Tam, sending the Quebec defenseman into convulsions. QMJHL disciplinarian Raymond Bolduc took more than a week investigating the Jan. 17 incident and called the hit “dangerous and intolerable.” The 18-year-old Tam spent two days in the hospital because of brain trauma. Cormier, who was captain of the Canadian world junior team, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Devils last summer.
Cormier would not be allowed to play for the Devils – or their AHL affiliate – until his team, Rouyn-Noranda, is eliminated from the QMJHL playoffs. There was a chance he could surface in a lower-tier professional league, but New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello closed the door on that option. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said in a statement,
“We will honor the league’s suspension, have not considered, and will not explore other avenues for his return this season. We are pleased to hear Mikael Tam is doing well. Our thoughts are with him for a full recovery.”
– According to the National Football Post, CB Ed Reed is “definitely expected to play” to return to the Ravens in 2010. Aaron Wilson, who doubles as a Ravens beat writer, says it will take a “major setback” with Reed’s nerve impingement or ligament tears in his hip and groin to force him into retirement. Reed recently indicated that he’s “feeling good” but isn’t yet ready to announce a decision.
– The Bulls have traded F Aaron Gray to the Hornets for G Devin Brown. The Daily Herald predicts that the team will send either G Kirk Hinrich or G John Salmons packing in exchange for an expiring contract. The hope is to get as much salary cap space as possible by the time the February 18 trading deadline comes in order to have a good chunk of room to add a big free agent this summer.
– The Boston Globe reports that Celtics G Ray Allen wants to remain with the team beyond this season.
– Suns G Leandro Barbosa (wrist) is out six weeks.
– The Jazz have signed G Sundiata Gaines for the rest of the season. Pierce has a $21M player option for next season that he’ll likely choose. And Garnett is signed until 2012. The paper suggests that Allen would take a two-year/$20M contract right now if the team wanted to try and keep the threesome together for two more years. The 34-year-old Allen is making $19M this season, a number he won’t reach anywhere else. “I am a loyalty person. If the opportunity presented itself to get a deal at the current moment as we speak, I would be all over it,” Allen said.
– Wizards G Javaris Crittenton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge Monday, explaining he had a pistol because he feared teammate G Gilbert Arenas would shoot him or blow up his car after the two argued over a card game. D.C. Superior Court Senior Judge Bruce Beaudin sentenced Crittenton, 22, to a year of unsupervised probation after Crittenton pleaded guilty to misdemeanour possession of an unregistered firearm. Beaudin ordered Crittenton to mentor young people in Washington and to help with relief efforts for Haiti. Crittenton must also pay a $1K fine and $250 into a victims’ fund.
– Nuggets F Kenyon Martin has been fined $35K for being ejected from Denver’s game against Charlotte.
– Although plans can change very quickly in WWE, the idea over the weekend was that Triple H is the favorite to win the Royal Rumble and receive a title match against Sheamus at WrestleMania 26.
His DX partner, Shawn Michaels, is expected to face Batista at No Way Out to determine who will battle the Undertaker at WrestleMania.
At one point, there was talk of Triple H and Shawn Michaels both winning the Royal Rumble (Bret Hart and Lex Luger back in 1994), which would have allowed HBK to chose the Undertaker and HHH to chose Sheamus as their respective WrestleMania opponents. The idea was seemingly dropped after creative came up with the idea of Hunter winning by himself. Then the big interbrand match at WrestleMania would pit John Cena against Batista.
– With Conan O’Brien’s departure from the Tonight Show being one of the top stories in the entertainment industry, WWE is reportedly interested in bringing in the comedian to host WWE RAW. While the terms of his departure from NBC prohibit O’Brien from hosting his own television show until September, there is no word on whether he would even consider the role, but considering USA Network is owned by the same company as Conan’s former home NBC, it seems unlikely he’d work for them again.
– Gary Stokan, President of the Atlanta Sports Council, said this week on The Sports Buffet show that Atlanta and Miami are the two choices for WWE’s WrestleMania in 2011. The announcement will be officially made on February 1, the day after the Royal Rumble PPV in Atlanta.
If Miami is chosen, Sun Life Stadium, which holds approximately 76,500 fans, would host the event. If Atlanta is chosen, the Georgia Dome which holds 71,000 would host the event. It’s worth noting that the 2010 Survivor Series is already set for Miami.
– Rob Van Dam mentioned in his latest blog post at RobVanDam.com that WWE is paranoid he’ll wind up working for the competition:
The constant rumors that I am or have signed with one of the wrestling companies seems to be getting stronger still. Last week, WWE locked me out of my profile page at WWE Universe because they believed I had signed with TNA!
RVD is arguably the hottest free agent in the industry and would surely make some waves if he showed up in TNA. It also shouldn’t be ruled out that Van Dam makes a surprise appearance at Sunday’s Royal Rumble, as we saw last year.
Just last week on the “Busted Open” Sirius satellite radio show, Van Dam said, he’d be open to working for WWE again, but only if the conditions were right. He said, “I can tell you for sure that I have no interest in returning to a full-time schedule like I did before. That’s not going to happen.” Van Dam continues to wrestle for various independent promotions across the world and could return to the national wrestling scene at any time. With TNA bringing in so much new talent and a work schedule that is far less demanding than WWE, it could be an attractive option for RVD.
– WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross is back with another blog update at his official website, JRsBarBQ.com.
Dule Hill’s Job Hosting RAW: “USA’s Psyche star Dule Hill has tons of talent and charisma and was fun to watch host Raw Monday night. Hill has a bright future in television and film, without question. I plan on watching Psyche for the first time Wednesday night when John Cena guest stars.”
Cena’s Interaction with Vince McMahon: Ross called the segment “spot on” and some of the best verbal confrontations he’s seen in a long time. Ross said, “The dialog between Cena and the Chairman of WWE was organic, emotional, and really has me anxious to see Raw next week when Bret “Hitman’ Hart returns to confront McMahon.”
DX’s Promo On RAW: “The serious nature of winning the Royal Rumble match and what it means individually to every competitor was underscored with Monday Night’s DX in ring promo. This was another verbal exchange that captured my interest. DX in a serious tone really captivated my attention.”
Our Thoughts: Dule Hill had several entertaining segments and held his own with some of WWE’s best talkers. Cena’s performance showed just how good he can be on the mic and the confrontation felt special. As does Sunday’s Royal Rumble. It’s one of those years where you could see a number of superstars coming out on top and there are several storylines in place that will all come to ahead on Sunday.
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