Akinori Otsuka Rumors

Quick Hits: Gray, Haren, Angels, Nationals

One scout is hoping to bring baseball to Africa, reports Danny Knobler of CBS SportsWhite Sox scout John Tumminia has worked to provide baseball supplies to impoverished children around the world, and Kenya is this year's target.  Commissioner Bud Selig has raised baseball's profile internationally in recent years with events like the World Baseball Classic and increasing amounts of players from South America and Europe. Also, this year the MLB will host camps in African nations of Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, tweets Diamondbacks European scout Rene Saggiadi. Here tonight's look around the rest of the baaseball world… 

  • Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray has climbed all the way to the top of Baseball America's (subscription required) draft prospect rankings.  Some see parallels between Gray's steady rise in the scouting world, to that of Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 draft.  Boras Corporation advisees take the next two spots, with Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and San Diego third baseman/outfielder  Kris Bryant ranking No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.
  • Dan Haren empathizes with the Angels and their 12-22 start, reports Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Haren signed with the Nationals after the Angels declined a club option for the right-hander last winter following an up-and-down year in 2012. Haren understands what if feels like to endure a rough stretch to the season, but added "If they would have kept the team together and rolled it over into this year, I guarantee that team would have played really good baseball."
  • Former Major Leaguer Akinori Otsuka is attempting a comeback, tweets Patrick Newman of     NPB Tracker. The 41-year-old right-hander intends to pitch for the Grand Serows team of the Japanese independent BC League.  Otsuka's last pitched appeared in the majors in 2007 with the Rangers.  The former set-up man pitched to a 2.44 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 over his four big league seasons. 

Max Fogle contributed to this post.

Odds And Ends: Otsuka, Orioles, Johnson

I’ll keep this updated as more comes in, but for now these are your Saturday links…

  • Patrick Newman found that Akinori Otsuka will work out in front of reps from all MLB teams next month. Apparently Padres GM Kevin Towers is interested if Otsuka’s healthy.
  • Roch Kubatko knows there’s pitching talent coming from the minors, but he doesn’t love the current Orioles rotation and expects them to add two more starters.
  • The difference between 69 and 72 in 2009 wins isn’t worth much to the Orioles, Peter Schmuck writes.
  • The Red Sox move on after missing out on Mark Teixeira.
  • Eric Wedge doesn’t seem bothered by the Yankees’ big acquisitions.
  • Vernon Wells knows how hard it will be to compete now that former-teammate A.J. Burnett‘s in pinstripes along with a couple other big names.
  • Keith Law says the Randy Johnson signing moves the Giants "toward 2009 respectability, if not outright contention."
  • Vlae Kershner doesn’t like the possibility of Garret Anderson on the A’s.
  • Bleed Cubbie Blue argues that Adam Dunn‘s patience-power combination would work well for the Cubs. Last week Dunn said he thinks so too.
  • Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi revealed his favorite meal and dream date in a Q&A with the Sporting News.

Akinori Otsuka Headed For Elbow Surgery?

The Newberg Report passes along a comment reportedly made by Rangers GM Jon Daniels yesterday.  Apparently, Daniels told the crowd that he non-tendered Akinori Otsuka because he’s headed for elbow surgery.  The status of Aki’s elbow had been a mystery up to this point, though there had been signs that it wasn’t right

Ranger Rumors: Botts, Otsuka, Padilla

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News recently did a Q&A, and there were some interesting hot stove-related tidbits to consider.

  • Grant believes one of Nelson Cruz or Jason Botts will depart before Opening Day.  Botts is out of options, so he may be more likely to go.  While acknowledging that he is a 27 year-old DH, Botts’ recent Major League Equivalencies say he may be able to post an .800 OPS in the bigs.
  • Grant answers a question about Akinori Otsuka and his "scary" elbow.  He says Otsuka probably can’t pitch through the pain and if he did his ligament would be at risk of tearing anyway.  That’s why Otsuka is a free agent (not because he recommended San Diego to Kosuke Fukudome). The Padres and Phillies have been linked to Otsuka, while the White Sox passed on him.
  • Grant notes that the Mariners had mild interest in Vicente Padilla but that may be gone with their Carlos Silva signing.  Since Padilla’s value is at a low point it may make sense to hope he has a solid first half and deal him then.

Odds and Ends: Roberts, Otsuka, Walker, DaVanon

A few minor moves to speak of…

  • The Cubs don’t appear to be concerned about Brian Roberts‘ steroid admission.
  • The Padres’ talks for Xavier Nady are "on hold," according to Bill Center.  Also, the Friars continue to eye Akinori Otsuka.
  • Aside from the aforementioned Michael Barrett, the Padres signed Robert Fick and Jeff DaVanon.  DaVanon, a switch-hitter, has had some decent years against righties.  Ken Rosenthal believes the Padres may consider their outfield situation settled now after missing out on Geoff Jenkins and signing DaVanon.
  • Todd Walker, remember him?  He was released by the Padres this year in Spring Training and hooked on with Oakland.  After a month and a half there, they designated him for assignment.  He wasn’t picked up, and enjoyed spending the time with his family.  Now, however, the Rockies have had preliminary conversations with him according to Tracy Ringolsby.  Walker played for the Rox in 2000, posting a .929 OPS in limited duty.  He had another half season in Colorado in ’01 before being traded to the Reds for Alex Ochoa.
  • Excellent team blogs are going corporate – Bucco Blog was purchased by Baseball Interactive Media, and MetsBlog partnered with SNY.  Both seem like positive developments for readers – Jake and Matthew maintain editorial control, but perhaps gain additional access and technology.

Stark’s Latest: Prior, Lofton, Otsuka

ESPN’s Jayson Stark dishes some good rumorage in his latest column.

  • Stark dug around to find all the Mark Prior suitors and came up with this list: Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Mariners, Mets, Cardinals, Padres, Astros, Giants, Reds, Nationals (11 teams).  Let’s compare notes.  MLBTR readers have seen the Yankees, Mets, Cards, Padres, Astros, Reds, and Nats linked to Prior already.  So Stark has added the Red Sox, White Sox, Mariners, and Giants.  The idea of the Mariners runs contrary to this MLB.com article.  Stark did not name the Rangers, who are said to be aggressively pursuing Prior.  Prior is dead set on a one-year deal and would take a big league mound in May in the best case.
  • The Phils are focused on Geoff Jenkins and Mike Cameron, offering two year deals to each.  They might just take the first one to accept.  Stark says Kenny Lofton could be an option if both decline.  Lofton batted a career-best .335 for the Phils in ’05.
  • Stark rattles off a laundry list of pitchers the Phillies are interested in: Akinori Otsuka, Byung-Hyun Kim, Roberto Hernandez, Kris Benson, John Parrish, Sidney Ponson, Chad Durbin, Kyle Lohse, and Jeremy Affeldt.  Given Stark’s 21 years at the Philadelphia Inquirer, I imagine he has a connection or two.  Most of those are new names besides Benson, Lohse, Ponson, and Affeldt.
  • A source of Stark picks the Yankees as the favorite for Johan, but it should be noted that they’re having internal debates about pulling Phil Hughes off the table.
  • For all the crazy Cubs fans we’ve got here: Stark says they’ve talked to the Orioles about both Brian Roberts and Erik Bedard, but couldn’t pull off a deal for both.  They favor Roberts even though they need Bedard much more.

Phillies Interested In Otsuka?

UPDATE, 12-14-07 at 10:09am: Ah, now the true story comes out on Otsuka.  MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan says the Rangers were going to send him to the White Sox for Chris Carter but the Sox nixed the deal after looking at Otsuka’s medical reports.  No surprise the Rangers non-tendered him, now.  Hat tip to Rangerfans.com.

FROM 12-14-07 at 8:47am:

Reliever Akinori Otsuka hit the free agent market on Wednesday; he turns 36 in January.  With a career ERA of 2.44 in 232 innings, it’s surprising the Rangers chose to non-tender him.  Otsuka earned $3MM in 2007, and even with a raise he’d have been a decent play on a one-year deal.

Unless, of course, the Rangers believes something is still wrong with Otsuka’s elbow.  I think that has to be the case, despite a trickle of positive reports recently.  The Phillies are the latest team to express interest in Otsuka.  Also, Tom Krasovic suggested a few days ago that the Padres might look to bring him back.

Back to the Phillies for a moment – Steve King notes that they have no interest in free agent Morgan Ensberg.  Also, they’re still planning to watch Kris Benson throw next week.

Rangers Acquire Broussard, Non-tender Otsuka

Quick note from Geoff Baker – the Mariners sent first baseman Ben Broussard to the Rangers for minor league infielder Tug Hulett.  Makes sense; the Mariners clear $3.5MM+ from the payroll and actually get something in return.  The Rangers get a cheap stopgap first baseman who won’t embarrass them.

We may never hear from Hulett again, but he’s better than the nothing the Mariners would’ve gotten for non-tendering Broussard.

The Rangers also non-tendered Akinori Otsuka.  Last we’d heard he was throwing pain-free in October, but maybe the Rangers learned he needed Tommy John after all. (Hat tip to Rangerfans.com).

Padres Deep In Talks For Bay

UPDATE, 12-12-07 at 3:56pm: Krasovic jumps in to say that the Padres definitely won’t be trading Headley to the Bucs (and probably not at all).  The Pirates and Padres have been talking a lot, and some kind of deal involving some of the players below could definitely happen. 

UPDATE, 12-12-07 at 12:01pm: Buster Olney is reporting that the Padres are "deep into discussions" with the Pirates about a multiplayer trade in which Bay would be the centerpiece.

FROM 12-12-07 at 9:30am:

Tom Krasovic checks in with all sorts of fresh Padres rumors, as he often does.  Below are the ones that haven’t come up elsewhere on the site today.

  • The Padres and Pirates might have mutual ground for some kind of multiplayer deal.  Names like Matt Morris, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and/or Nate McLouth are possible future Padres.  The Bucs could go for Michael Barrett and/or Padres’ top prospect Chase Headley.  My challenge to you: create a reasonable multiplayer trade scenario between these two clubs in the comments.
  • Krasovic says the Padres "explored a trade" for the Cardinals’ Anthony Reyes.  The Indians and Phillies have also been linked to the youngster before.
  • As you might expect, Morgan Ensberg will probably be non-tendered today.  He made $4.35MM in ’07, and the Friars don’t want to pay him anything like that.
  • Akinori Otsuka is another non-tender candidate, and the Padres could seek to bring him back if so.  Otsuka has been throwing pain-free since late October, though, so the Rangers will probably retain him.

Odds and Ends: Fukudome, Mahay, Santana

Rounding up some odds and ends for you…

  • I’d read that Akinori Otsuka recommended the Padres to Kosuke Fukudome, kind of glossed over the fact.  But Jamey Newberg has is rightly disappointed in the Rangers reliever.  After all, the Rangers have Fukudome in their sights, and Otsuka plays for the Rangers.
  • A good source tells me the Yankees believe they are in the lead for Ron Mahay, and think it can be done this upcoming week.  If it’s true that Mahay has narrowed his choices to the Yanks and Royals, and the Royals have little interest, this makes sense.
  • MetsBlog reports that Johan Santana prefers to pitch for the Mets.  He likes the idea of moving to the NL.