Free agent pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka signed a minor league contract to return to the New York Mets, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN. The contract will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the major league team, reports Joel Sherman of Yahoo! Sports.
Matsuzaka, 33, is expected to compete for a chance to be New York's fifth starter. The team currently boasts a rotation of Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee, Jonathon Niese and Zack Wheeler, with right-hander Jenrry Mejia and recently signed left-hander John Lannan also in the mix for the fifth spot.
Dice-K initially joined the Mets in August after a stint with the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate did not yield a promotion to the majors. He made seven starts for New York in 2013 and recorded a 4.42 ERA and a 2.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38⅔ innings. Although that performance came in a small sample, it suggests that he may be fully recovered from the Tommy John operation that ate up most of his 2011 and 2012 seasons. Although Matsuzaka has generally failed to live up to the hype that accompanied his arrival from Japan, he did post quality seasons in his first two campaigns with the Boston Red Sox and has shown that he can succeed in the majors when healthy. Unfortunately, injuries have limited him to 62 starts over the last five seasons.
Red Sox add Cousins
Cousins, who turned 29 on Wednesday, has not yet found success in the majors. He has a career batting line of .179/.230/.285 in 193 plate appearances over the last four seasons, most recently with the Los Angeles Angels. He's best known for colliding with Giants catcher Buster Posey while sliding into home plate during a game in 2011. The incident left Posey with a severe ankle injury and a broken leg, but he made a full recovery and won the NL MVP award the following year.
Cousins will likely provide outfield depth in Boston. Despite his poor major league stats, the left-hander has shown a decent bat in the minors with a career line of .275/.338/.438 in 579 games. The Red Sox have retained Shane Victorino in right field and a platoon of Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes in left from their 2013 World Champion team, but are counting on rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. to replace Jacoby Ellsbury in center. They also have Mike Carp available as a backup on the corners, and they recently signed Grady Sizemore to see if the oft-injured star can make a comeback in 2014.
Cubs ink two players
Anderson, 26, was once a top-rated prospect in the Boston Red Sox system. He was drafted in 2006 when current Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were running the Red Sox, so the signing represents a reunion of sorts. Coincidentally, he is now blocked at first base in Chicago by Anthony Rizzo, who was also drafted by Epstein and Hoyer in Boston before being acquired twice more by Hoyer when the executive moved to San Diego and then to Chicago. Anderson bounced around several organizations last year, but did not appear in the majors. The left-hander received 56 plate appearances in Boston from 2010-2012, but batted only .167/.268/.188. He has a career OPS of 782 with 78 home runs in 814 minor league games.
Coghlan, 28, is best known for winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2009 as a member of the then-Florida Marlins. However, the left-handed hitter has not come close to repeating the 850 OPS that he posted that year; in the four seasons since, he batted .242/.307/.352 with 12 home runs in 265 games. Injuries have been a big part of Coghlan's problem, as he has failed to play in more than 91 games since his rookie year. His 2010 season ended in July when he tore the meniscus in his left knee during a postgame celebration, and he missed nearly three months in 2013 with a back injury. The Cubs may be encouraged by the fact that Coghlan had finally rediscovered his stroke last year prior to the back problem, as he batted .338/.379/.525 in 31 games (87 plate appearances) in May and June before getting hurt. The Cubs other outfield options include Nate Schierholtz, Justin Ruggiano, Junior Lake, Ryan Sweeney, former top prospect Brett Jackson and a host of non-roster invitees.
D'Backs sign Duncan
Duncan, 34, has found success in the majors as a part-time right-handed power bat. He hit 11 home runs in each of three straight seasons for the Indians from 2010-12 despite never receiving more than 264 plate appearances in any one campaign, and his career .419 slugging percentage is nearly 200 points higher than his career batting average. He spent 2013 with the Tampa Bay Rays but batted only .182/.297/.309 in 64 plate appearances.
Arizona already has a crowded outfield with Mark Trumbo, Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock and Cody Ross, but Duncan could find a role on the bench as a fifth outfielder and a backup for first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Royals pick up two pitchers
The 40-year-old Mota didn't pitch in 2013 after losing most of his 2012 season to a 100-game PED suspension. He spent 2010 through '12 with the Giants and posted a 4.18 ERA in 155 innings combined over those three seasons. The right-hander owns a 3.94 career ERA in 743 games over 14 seasons and will likely provide depth for a strong Kansas City bullpen.
Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Penny is attempting a comeback after sitting out in 2013 to rest a tired arm. The right-handed starter also last pitched for the Giants in 2012, and boasts a 119-100 record and a 4.26 ERA in 341 games (315 starts) over a 13-year career. Penny's career highlights include a pair of wins in the 2003 World Series, in which his Marlins defeated the Yankees, and an All-Star start in 2006 as a member of the Dodgers. The Royals' current rotation includes James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas in the top three spots, but there could be room for competition at the back end as Danny Duffy attempts to prove that he is recovered from a 2012 Tommy John surgery and Wade Davis attempts to prove that he can start in the majors (5.67 ERA in 24 starts last year).
Dodgers grab four players
Olivo, 35, is the biggest name in that group. The veteran catcher appeared in 33 games for the Marlins last year and has hit 145 home runs over a 12-year career. While that power is appealing, it comes with a downside: Olivo has a career .275 OBP and has exceeded .300 in just one season (.315 in 2010). Robinson, 26, returns to the team that drafted him after posting a 602 OPS in 90 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2011 and 2012 combined. The other two players are second baseman Ryan Adams and right-handed pitcher Mark Pope, neither of whom appeared in the majors in 2013.