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Zaidi confirms Dodgers’ interest in Yoan Moncada
Cuban pitcher Yoan Lopez broke the international signing record on Tuesday, inking a deal with the Diamondbacks that includes an $8.25 million bonus. Following the announcement, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweeted that the Dodgers made an aggressive run at the pitcher and were shifting their attention toward countryman Yoan Moncada. On Wednesday, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi confirmed the club’s interest in the 19-year-old Cuban infielder during an interview with MLB Network Radio.

“Moncada, we’ve scouted extensively,” Zaidi said. “We have the checkbook. Young, elite talent in baseball is the most valuable asset to have, and to the extent that our evaluation of him matches or exceeds where his market goes, we will definitely be a player there. We’re doing all the homework we can.”

Scouts have gushed over the five-tool potential of the six-foot, 210-pound switch-hitting infielder, who Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote “would be in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick” if he were eligible for the 2015 draft. Earlier this offseason, Moncada was projected to sign a bonus in the $30-40 million range, with a 100 percent overage tax hiking the total expenditure up to $60-80 million.

Zaidi’s comments come a week after Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweeted that the Yankees and Red Sox are the “heavy favorites” to land Moncada. With the Dodgers entering the fray, a bidding war between the three large-market clubs is inevitable and could drive up Moncada’s price even further once the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control clears him for employment.

There is the possible, albeit unlikely, scenario that if Moncada isn’t cleared by the U.S. government and signed by June 15th (the end of the current international signing period), the Yankees and Red Sox will be both be out of the running on the teenage phenom. Along with the Angels, Rays and Diamondbacks, the two AL East clubs have already gone over their allotted bonus pool and will be unable to spend more than $300,000 on any single international prospect in the 2015-2016 signing period. The Cubs and Rangers, who face the same constraints in the current signing period, would replace the Yankees and Red Sox as players in the Moncada sweepstakes in such a case.

Angelos denies reports that Orioles and Blue Jays in negotiations over Duquette
When reports surfaced during the winter meetings that Dan Duquette was a candidate to become the Blue Jays team president and chief executive officer, Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos told the Baltimore Sun that he expected Duquette to honor his contract and remain the general manager of the organization. On Wednesday, about five weeks after those initial rumors, multiple reports indicated that Duquette may be closer to heading north of the border, but Angelos vehemently denied them just as he did in December.

In the morning, Rosenthal tweeted…

…adding that the two sides weren’t close to a deal but that people within Baltimore’s organization were open to letting Duquette go, in part due to unease that the situation initiates. With rumors swirling and loyalty possibly in question, Rosenthal tweeted that some within the organization are of the mindset that “if he wants to go, let him go.”

Rosenthal’s colleague, Jon Morosi, also tweeted later in the day that a source told him there has been ongoing discussion about a return package for Duquette and that there is “growing optimism in recent days” that a deal will be completed. Tony Paul of The Detroit News also reported that a deal between the two sides is almost done.

In the wake of the multiple reports, Angelos insisted to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that Duquette is staying put.

“That is not going to happen. There have not been any changes in the status of Dan Duquette. He is our GM and he is going to remain our GM,” Angelos said. “He is concentrating on his efforts to determine the composition of our team for 2015. That is the answer. Period.”

Connolly went on to write that indications are that the Orioles would have to be blown away by a return to allow Duquette to leave Baltimore, understandable considering the general manager is under contract through 2018. Lewie Pollis has written about the evidence this offseason that teams have begun to place a higher value on their front office employees, but if Angelos’ comments actually reflect the organization’s stance on trading Duquette, there isn’t much optimism for a deal given past trade returns for executives.

Six teams scout Johan Santana’s first start since tearing Achilles
Johan Santana’s most recent comeback attempt began on Tuesday with the 35-year-old pitching two perfect innings for Navagentes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League. Santana last pitched in the majors for the Mets in 2012 and missed the 2013 season after undergoing his second shoulder surgery. He signed a minor league deal with the Orioles in March of 2014 but tore his left Achilles tendon after being struck by a line drive in extended spring training on June 6th.

The Blue Jays, Brewers, Mariners, Rangers, Rays and Yankees all sent scouts to watch Santana, who was originally expected to throw about 40 pitches during the appearance but was limited to just 17 pitches due to a pre-game rain delay. Santana reportedly topped out at 90 mph with his fastball.

The left-hander averaged just over 89 mph with his fastball in 2012 and was clocked in the high 80s during extended spring training games with Baltimore prior to his injury last year. The Orioles were encouraged enough by his progress last year that they purchased his contract from Triple-A Norfolk right before he injured his Achilles, so there should be enough interest for a team to sign Santana to an incentive-laden deal if his rehab continues to go well.

One of the teams that will keep tabs on Santana in the meantime is the Yankees, who Dan Martin of the New York Post writes are interested in the possibility of bringing Santana to the Bronx. Martin’s source tells him that the Bombers plan to “keep an eye on him.”

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