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Spring Headlines: Free agent Ervin Santana now seeking one-year deal; Oliver Perez signs for two years with Diamondbacks

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(USA Today)

Baseball is back. As we get closer to the regular season, be sure to stop by The Stew each morning for your get your daily helping of spring storylines.

As opening day draws closer, free agent right-hander Ervin Santana is reportedly lowering his demands in hopes of signing with a new team at the soonest possible time.

Santana originally sought a five-year deal worth at least $100 million when free agency opened in November. According to Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal the 31-year-old right-hander is now willing to settle for a one-year deal, with the only caveat being his preference to join a strong offensive team.

Signing Santana will also cost a team their highest unprotected draft pick after he turned down the Kansas City Royals $14.1 million qualifying offer. Rosenthal mentions the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays as possible fits based on their offensive output last season, previous interest in Santana during the offseason and unique flexibility with their draft picks.

Both the Jays and Orioles, however, are uniquely positioned to add a compensation free agent. Both of the Jays’ first-round choices are protected, and the Orioles already have forfeited top picks by signing right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez and outfielder Nelson Cruz. The Jays would forfeit the 50th overall choice for signing Santana, the Orioles the 91st.

Earlier on Friday, the Philadelphia Phillies were reportedly checking in on Santana after left-hander Cole Hamels suffered a setback that could push his return back until May. After scoring the third fewest runs in the NL last season, Philadelphia doesn't exactly fit the offensive criteria, but Santana's options would be limited if the two AL East teams don't emerge as possibilities.

CC SABATHIA LEARNING TO THROW CUTTER: The New York Yankees recognized ace already has an impressive pitching repertoire at his disposal, but with the help of former teammate Andy Pettitte he’s looking to expand it even more. Earlier in the week, Pettitte arrived to camp in an instructor role, and his first order of business was to pull Sabathia aside and teach him a true cut fastball.

“He was showing me a grip with the cutter,” Sabathia said after throwing a four-inning simulated game indoors at Steinbrenner Field because of heavy rain Thursday morning. “I used it today and it worked pretty good, so I’m anxious to take it into a game.”

According to Newsday, in past seasons Sabathia has referred to his slider as more of a cutter. Now he's looking to add the real thing, and there's no more trusted source than his friend and mentor. We'll be watching out to see how it develops over the next few weeks.

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(USA Today)

DIAMONDBACKS SIGN OLIVER PEREZ: While Santana seeks a one-year deal, veteran left-hander Oliver Perez signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday. This according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, who notes Perez will likely become the primary left-hander in an expensive bullpen that's loaded with right-handed firepower.

Earlier in the offseason, Arizona traded for Chicago White Sox closer Addison Reed to go along with J.J. Putz and setup man David Hernandez. Perez should provide some balance in a role he's excelled in the past two seasons with Seattle. Over 94 relief appearances, he posted a 3.16 ERA with 98 strikeouts.

JOE BLANTON ROCKED: The veteran right-hander fooled nobody on Friday, allowing seven runs and four homers over three and one-third innings in the Angels 7-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies. Blanton, who's in the final year of a two-year, $15 million contract, is already a long shot for the Angels rotation after posting a 6.04 ERA last season. He may struggle to land their long relief role with another outing or two like this.

GREINKE TO FACE LIVE BATTERS: According to True Blue LA, the next step in Zack Greinke's recovery from a strained calf will be facing live batters on Saturday. If all goes well, he should be ready for game action next week.

MARCO SCUTARO'S RETURN DELAYED: The San Francisco Giants may be forced to explore backup options at second base after Marco Scutaro's spring debut was pushed back on Friday. The veteran infielder has been out of action with a back injury, and the Giants feel if he can't return next week they'll need another plan in place for opening day.

Last spring Kyle Lohse found himself in the same situation Ervin Santana does now as an unsigned free agent with a compensation draft pick attached to him. In Lohse's case, he remained on the open market well into March until signing a three-year, $33 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. All things considered, it worked out well for him, but one year later he's still not happy with how the qualifying offer system works.

Here's more from CBS Sports' Jon Heyman:

“The market goes from 30 teams to like two or three,” Lohse recalled of his own experience. “I don’t think that’s the idea of a free market.”

It is, as Lohse called it, a “screwy” system whereby being part of a bad team (which triggered their midyear trades and precluded the possibility of qualifying offers), as Garza and Nolasco were, monumental benefits to the player. Meanwhile, being part of a good team like Santana was with the Royals and shortstop Drew certainly was with the World Champion Red Sox, is a detriment. Had Nolasco been saddled with a qualifying offer, there’s no reason to think he’d have gotten anywhere near $49 million.

“It seems screwy to change the system that drastically to where teams are staying away from guys who could definitely help them,” Lohse said.

Lohse's sentiments have been echoed by many in recent weeks, but it will be three years before any changes can be negotiated. The current collective bargaining agreement expires on December 1, 2016.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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