MLB rumors: Indians sign Hanley Ramirez; Craig Kimbrel's agent disputes he'd sit out 2019 season

Exhibition season is here. Nonetheless, we still have plenty of big names left on the board in free agency, including superstar sluggers Bryce Harper and closer Craig Kimbrel. That means we've got a healthy supply of hot stove buzz in February. To give you an idea of what's out there this Saturday, we're here to round up all the notable rumors. As always, our free agent tracker is a great way to catch up on what's already happened on that front.

Let's round up the activity for the day here.

Indians sign Hanley

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Hanley Ramirez CLE • 1B • 13
BA.254
R25
HR6
RBI29
SB4

In a surprising move, the Indians have signed Hanley Ramirez to a minor league contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The Red Sox released Ramirez last May after he hit an underwhelming .254/.313/.395 with six home runs in 44 games. His contract with Boston expired following the season, so they're off the hook financially. For the Indians, it's a low-risk signing. It's essentially a spring training audition with no strings attached.

The Indians are essentially holding open auditions for their outfield right now, and while I doubt they would put Hanley out there, first baseman Jake Bauers has outfield experience. That would leave first base and DH to Ramirez and Carlos Santana. There has also been some chatter Santana could play the outfield, at least on occasion, which would further open up playing time for Ramirez. For now, Cleveland will bring Hanley to camp and see what the 35-year-old has left in the tank.

Kimbrel won't sit out

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Craig Kimbrel BOS • RP • 46
ERA2.74
WHIP.99
IP62.1
BB31
K96

Despite reports to the contrary, free-agent reliever Craig Kimbrel will not sit out the 2019 season should he not receive a contract offer to his liking. His agent, David Meter, released a statement to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:

Sitting out 2019 doesn't make any sense for Kimbrel. He would re-enter the market next offseason a year older and having not pitched competitively in a year. There's no way his free-agent stock would increase under those circumstances. Kimbrel would be better off taking a one-year contract, making a couple million bucks, then re-entering the market.

Few teams have even been rumored to have interest in Kimbrel, who has the most saves of anyone through their age-30 seasons. The Red Sox, his old team, have publicly ruled out a return. Meanwhile, the Braves and Twins have had stated interest. It's unclear if anyone else is involved or will become involved in the coming weeks.

Phillies possible suitor for Keuchel

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Dallas Keuchel HOU • SP • 60
ERA3.74
WHIP1.31
IP204.2
BB58
K153

Much of the talk concerning the Philadelphia Phillies as of late has been about their pursuit of Bryce Harper. As it turns out, Harper isn't the only free agent the Phils have interest in.

Rather, the Phillies remain a potential fit for left-hander Dallas Keuchel:

Keuchel has posted a 106 ERA+ during the past three seasons while averaging 173 innings per pop. He doesn't fit the mold teams look for in pitchers anymore -- he has a low-spin fastball that doesn't impress on the radar gun -- but he has been an effective starter who could slot into the middle of a contender's rotation without issue.

The Phillies have shown a willingness to spend money on their rotation. Around this time last year they signed Jake Arrieta, and more recently they extended ace Aaron Nola.

Cardinals give Martinez raise

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Jose Martinez STL • RF • 38
BA.305
R64
HR17
RBI83
SB0

Jose Martinez is used to being the odd man out in St. Louis, where his defensive shortcomings have limited his starting opportunities with the Cardinals. Despite effectively serving as a walking trade rumor for most of the past seven months, Martinez remains with the Cardinals -- and on Saturday he received a pay bump after agreeing to a two-year deal worth more than $3 million:

It's not quite right to call this an extension -- the Cardinals didn't gain any control over additional seasons, and Martinez will not qualify for free agency at the deal's conclusion -- but it does serve the purpose of keeping him stateside rather than pursuing more lucrative opportunities overseas.

Martinez has a career 128 OPS+ and last season homered 17 times in 590 plate appearances. He could come in handy if and when the National League installs the designated hitter.

Span gaining suitors

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Denard Span SEA • CF • 4
BA.261
R63
HR11
RBI58
SB9

With Harper still available, it has been easy to overlook that there are still other free-agent outfielders who merit contracts. One of those is Denard Span.

Span, who turns 35 in a couple days, is apparently drawing more interest now that spring training is underway:

Last season, Span posted a 112 OPS+ while splitting the season between the Rays and Mariners

CBS Sports Staff

R.J. Anderson joined CBS Sports in 2016. He previously wrote for Baseball Prospectus, where he contributed to five of the New York Times bestselling annuals. His work has also appeared in Newsweek and... Full Bio

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