Akinori Iwamura Rumors

Odds & Ends: Trembley, Konerko, Oswalt, Athletics

Links for Tuesday, as Scott Rolen's big season continues…

Odds & Ends: Angels, Willis, Oswalt, Jones

Memorial Day linkage, as Ubaldo Jimenez continues to amaze…

Odds & Ends: Crawford, Raynor, Lackey, Strasburg

Links for Tuesday, as Tim Lincecum reclaims the MLB strikeout lead…

  • Marc Topkin of The St. Petersburg Times spoke to Crawford, who said he was misquoted in the upcoming Sports Illustrated piece mentioned below. "Nothing's changed, no decisions," he said. "I don't know what Carlos [Pena] is doing.''
  • Pirates' GM Neil Huntington told Chuck Finder of The Pittsburgh Post Gazette that he tried to made a deal with the Marlins that would allow Rule 5 pick John Raynor to remain with the Pirates, but to no avail. Raynor was returned to Florida today.
  • John Lackey said he wasn't surprised when the Angels let him depart as a free agent given their trade record with letting home grown players leave, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. "It's different," said Lackey. "The way they preach the team game and giving it up for the team. That's a little suspect. You're supposed to give it up for the team. When the time comes, they might not want to give it up for you. But I totally knew that was a possibility. I was prepared for that. That's the nature of the game today."
  • Stephen Strasburg has been promoted and will make his Triple A debut Friday against Freddie Freeman and the Gwinnett Braves, reports MLB.com's Bill LadsonESPN's Rob Neyer notes that Strasburg seems to be on the Mark Prior path to the bigs, perhaps delayed a few weeks for cost savings.
  • MASN's Ben Goessling says Nats 2006 first-round pick Colton Willems has decided to retire.  The team has the pitcher on the restricted list in case he changes his mind.
  • An upcoming Sports lllustrated piece on Carlos Pena features this quote from Carl Crawford: "This core group is going to still be together, me and Carlos are the only two guys that are going to be leaving."
  • The Royals granted reliever Roman Colon his release so he can sign with the Kia Tigers of Korea, according to the team.  Just three months ago, Colon and Juan Cruz were in the mix to be Joakim Soria's primary setup man.  The Royals' bullpen sports an AL-worst 5.56 ERA in 81 innings.
  • White Sox GM Kenny Williams wouldn't rule out a fire sale at a later date, but said the team's aggressive nature will probably prevent it (Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reporting).
  • ESPN's Buster Olney explains that his Saturday story about Cliff Lee being likely to reach free agency was prompted by a call Olney made to Lee's agent.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Blue Jays attempted to sign Kelly Johnson to play left field during the offseason, offering more than the $2.35MM Johnson received from Arizona.  Johnson told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic in March that he strongly considered offers from the Blue Jays, Pirates, and Indians.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post points out that the upon acquiring Javier Vazquez, the Yankees considered two 2011 draft picks part of the deal.  Already, Vazquez's Type A status and arbitration offer are in question.  We'll be able to give you Vazquez's exact Elias standing later this month, when Eddie Bajek makes his first pass at 2009-10 rankings.
  • Dejan Kovacevic's latest article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests the Pirates were overly optimistic about Akinori Iwamura, currently their highest-paid player.
  • Click here to listen to my radio appearance on KFNS St. Louis from earlier today.

Pirates Rumors: Dotel, Ankiel, Iwamura

The Pirates won't spend as much on free agents as their division rivals, the Brewers and Cardinals, but they're still being aggressive. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Pirates are gaining momentum with Octavio Dotel, though talks with Rick Ankiel aren't progressing as well.

The Pirates, who made initial inquiries on Jose Valverde and Kevin Gregg before talks with the two relievers slowed, have offers out to Dotel and other relievers. As Ed Price reported yesterday, the Pirates are interested in Dotel's former teammate, D.J. Carrasco.

The Pirates aren't willing to promise any free agent – including Rick Ankiel – a starting job. The outfielder's agent, Scott Boras, hopes to find a full-time role for his client, so talks aren't developing, though the Pirates are open to signing the one-time pitcher.

Kovacevic also updates us on a couple former Rays. In this article, we hear that Akinori Iwamura has a release clause in his contract that allows him to become a free agent before he has six years of service time. He'll hit the open market after this year year if the Pirates don't lock him up. Also, the Pirates aren't interested in Jonny Gomes.

Odds & Ends: Lackey, Upton, De La Rosa, Wood

Some more links to check out as you celebrate the end of the work week…

  • MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez confirms that the Red Sox did indeed meet with John Lackey's agent. This morning we learned that Boston expressed preliminary interest in the free agent hurler.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Rangers asked the Rays about outfielder B.J. Upton as part of their offseason routine, but no talks are ongoing.
  • Rockies' GM Dan O'Dowd said that they will only look at a one year deal for the arbitration eligible Jorge De La Rosa, according to Troy Renck of The Denver Post.
  • ESPN's Keith Law writes that Indians' closer Kerry Wood could be a "nice pickup on the cheap for a team unwilling to go multiple years" on some of the free agent closers. Wood is owed $10.5MM in 2010, with an $11MM club option for 2011 that could vest based on games finished.
  • The Pirates intend to be more aggressive in Japan, says MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch. Picking up Akinori Iwamura will help put the team on the radar of Japanese players looking to come to the U.S.
  • ESPN's Peter Gammons writes about the impact of the economy on the free agent market, among other things.
  • Giants' prospect Angel Villalona had his visa revoked by the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com. Villalona was charged with killing a man in the Dominican back in September.
  • Ben Kabak at River Ave. Blues takes a look at each of the Yankees' five arbitration eligible players.

Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Dodgers, Red Sox, Iwamura, Matsui

On this date 33 years ago, Bill Campbell became one of the first players to sign a contract with a new team under baseball's new free agency system. After saving 20 games with the Twins in '76, Campbell signed a four-year, $1MM deal with the Red Sox. In his first season in Boston, he would save 31 games and make his only All-Star appearance. As we enter the 34th Hot Stove season, let's take a look at what is being written in the Blogosphere…

Cork Gaines writes for RaysIndex.com. If you have a suggestion for this feature, Cork can be reached here, and followed on Twitter here.

Iwamura Interested In Exploring Long-Term Deal

Just two days after being acquired from Tampa Bay, Akinori Iwamura said he's "interested" in exploring a long-term deal with the Pirates during a conference call, according to Dejan Kovacevic of The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

"I'm definitely interested in the long term, but I first have to do what I can do. We'll see what happens. Hopefully, we can go to the playoffs next season."

You have to love the optimism.

Yesterday we learned that GM Neal Huntington "has interest in exploring an extension" with his new second baseman at some point, so the first obstacle of getting everyone on-board appears to have been cleared.

Iwamura also indicated during the call that his knee feels good, but is not yet at 100%. He expects to be ready for next year.

Odds & Ends: Lilly, Iwamura, Beckett, Marlins, Dunn, Cubs

Here's some links to check out while waiting for what might be the final start in the great careers of Andy Pettitte and Pedro Martinez

  • Ted Lilly had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder today, and the Cubs expect to have him back in their rotation "within the month of April," according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Might the Cubbies look for a little extra rotation insurance this offseason?
  • MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch mentions that the Pirates "began to show heavy interest" in Akinori Iwamura back in September. GM Neal Huntington confirmed that they had several scouts watch Aki after he came back from his knee injury.
  • WEEI.com's Rob Bradford mentions that Josh Beckett "isn’t likely to take a hometown discount" to stay with the Red Sox. Yesterday we learned that the two sides plan to meet in the coming weeks to discuss a contract extension.  
  • MLB.com's Joe Frisaro answers some hot stove related questions in his mailbag today. He thinks the Marlins will sign Josh Johnson to an extension this winter, and that they may explore trade possibilites for reliever Renyel Pinto.
  • In response to some weekend speculation that Adam Dunn could be a fit in St. Louis if Matt Holliday leaves as a free agent, ESPN's Keith Law says "just doesn't make a lot of sense for the Cardinals to consider it," noting that they'd be looking at a big drop-off by sticking Dunn in left field.
  • The Cub Reporter looks at what might happen on Chicago's north side in the coming weeks.

Pirates Talk: Iwamura, Ankiel, Wilson

As usual, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the latest on the Pirates…

  • The Akinori Iwamura addition does not necessarily mean more significant moves are coming.  The Pirates are comfortable with their internal options.
  • The Pirates intend to inquire on Rick Ankiel when free agency begins.  Moreso than Chris Bootcheck, perhaps this is a sign that the team is not letting bad blood linger with Scott Boras from the Pedro Alvarez situation.
  • Kovacevic says Ronny Cedeno is not a lock at shorstop, and there is at least some mutual interest in bringing Jack Wilson back.  First, the Mariners would have to buy out Wilson's $8.4MM club option.
  • In another article, Kovacevic discusses the team's out-of-character acquisition of Iwamura.  Kovacevic calls it Neal Huntington's "first major transaction prioritizing the present above the future," since Iwamura is under relatively pricey and under control for one season while Jesse Chavez is cheap and under team control through 2014.  Iwamura is now the Pirates' highest-paid player.  Huntington has interest in exploring an extension with him at some point.
  • On a related note, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs explains that "just because a team won’t be contending in 2010 doesn’t mean they should avoid investing in the 2010 product." 
  • An article at Beyond the Boxscore explains that the Pirates came out a winner on the Iwamura-Chavez deal, but the Rays had little leverage.

Rays Deal Iwamura To Pirates For Chavez

6:15pm: The deal is official, as per a press release by the Pirates. The deal is Chavez for Iwamura straight-up.

4:34pm: ESPN's Buster Olney tells us the Rays will receive reliever Jesse Chavez in return.  Chavez, 26, posted a 4.01 ERA in 67.3 innings this year as a rookie, with a 6.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.  He throws hard – his average fastball was 94.5 mph.  Chavez is under team control through 2014.

Kovacevic believes the Pirates "will probably get another player in the Iwamura deal."  He notes that Iwamura would be the Pirates' highest-paid player.

3:35pm: Topkin says Iwamura is headed to the Pirates, and the deal will be announced tonight.  MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch does not believe the Bucs will surrender an established player.  I'm a bit surprised they're willing to take Iwamura on at that salary, not that he's bad value.

3:04pm: Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets that he's hearing the Pirates are part of the Iwamura trade talks.  MLB.com's Joe Frisaro believes the Marlins would have interest, but not if they had to assume Iwamura's entire contract.

2:41pm: Roger Mooney of the Bradenton Herald believes Iwamura is headed to an NL club.

12:45pm: Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times hears that the Rays are on the verge of trading Akinori Iwamura. Topkin's source, who's not with the Rays, says the team close to acquiring Iwamura is not the Dodgers or Cubs.

The Rays have until one day after the end of the World Series to pick up Iwamura's $4.85MM option or buy him out for $550K. The Rays don't need Iwamura thanks to Ben Zobrist's emergence, but it's not surprising that other teams have interest in the Japanese infielder. The 30-year-old has a career line of .281/.354/.393 and he plays a solid second base, according to UZR/150.