Hot Stove roundup: Ellis, Axford find new homes
Cards near deal with second baseman; Tribe bringing in former closer
After a frantic week of offseason activity to begin December and the usual stream of rumors pouring out of the Winter Meetings last week, the Hot Stove cooled down considerably on Sunday.
Or as Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond tweeted Sunday night, the Hot Stove League is "not so hot lately."
Stoves not so hot lately and I'm a little disappointed. Who's the next big FA off the board?- Ian Desmond (@IanDesmond20) December 16, 2013
But there still were a few notable deals done and hints that more could be coming soon. Let's take a look at Sunday's news from around the Majors:
• The Cardinals are going to finish their offseason shopping early, as they are nearing a one-year deal with second baseman Mark Ellis. The right-handed hitter should complement young Kolten Wong in St. Louis' infield, providing a solution for the last area of need the club had identified. The Cardinals have not confirmed the agreement, as MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch reported, and Ellis must pass a physical before the contract can be finalized.
• The Indians agreed to terms with reliever John Axford, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian confirmed Sunday night. The 30-year-old right-hander was traded to St. Louis in August, compiled a 1.74 ERA and pitched well in the postseason, but he had seven blown saves last season. Axford, a former closer with the Brewers, was non-tendered this offseason by the Cardinals. ESPN's Buster Olney first reported that the Tribe was "on the verge" of signing Axford.
• That news prompted Fox Sports and MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal to speculate on how the rest of the bullpen market might shake out. Rosenthal noted that with Axford heading to the Indians, the Orioles expressing interest in Grant Balfour and the Padres pushing for Joaquin Benoit, the Mariners and Yankees could be options for former Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
• Yankees president Randy Levine said during an ESPN Radio appearance that New York has "absolutely no intention" of trading Brett Gardner despite the speculation following the club's signing of Jacoby Ellsbury. Levine reiterated what general manager Brian Cashman said at the Winter Meetings: The Yankees will listen to the interest in Gardner, but the plan is to have both Gardner and Ellsbury in the Opening Day outfield.
• MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes that the Braves are in the midst of "serious discussions" with starter Gavin Floyd, who's only seven months removed from Tommy John surgery. Bowman reports that the two sides are nearing an agreement, but it's not known whether it will be a Major League or Minor League deal.
• Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network tweeted that there's still a strong market for starter Matt Garza, even if the Twins aren't likely to pursue him anymore. Heyman pointed to Garza's solid 2013 performance, his history of success in the American League East and the lack of Draft-pick compensation attached to Garza.