Akinori Otsuka Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Teixeira, Otsuka

Jon Heyman of SI.com has been working the phone lines; here are some notable rumors from his latest column.

  • The Braves seemed fairly close to a Mark Teixeira trade yesterday, but the Angels are definitely knee deep in it.  They’ll make a solid offer including Casey Kotchman, Ervin Santana, and Major League player.  Adam Dunn remains Plan B.
  • Heyman says there’s speculation that Akinori Otsuka could need Tommy John surgery, which might compel the Rangers to sign Eric Gagne and/or keep Joaquin Benoit.
  • Refresher on Gagne’s 12-team allowable list can be found here.  Gagne must consent to a trade to Detroit, and it seems the Rangers asked for Cameron Maybin.  Not gonna happen.  The Yankees appear to be out on Gagne because he wants to close.  I’m skeptical – he wouldn’t pitch as a setup man if they guaranteed his entire contract?
  • Seems the Yanks entertained a Morgan Ensberg acquisition.  They would’ve used him at first base.  Joe Torre nixed the idea because Ensberg hasn’t hit for a long time.
  • Heyman’s top five available starters are Matt Morris, Livan Hernandez, Jose Contreras, Jason Jennings, and Kyle Lohse, in that order.  That ranking is reasonable.  A Jon Garland, Noah Lowry, or Joe Blanton would easily jump to that top of the list if made available.

Rockies Hunting For Relief Help

Playoff odds reports put the Rockies’ chances at 6-8% currently, but they still view themselves as buyers.  After all, they’re still just 4.5 games out of the Wild Card and 5.5 games out in the NL West.

Though a crude metric, the Rockies’ bullpen currently ranks 12th in the NL with a 4.42 ERA.  Among contenders in the league, only Philadelphia has been worse.  Brian Fuentes seems at least another week or two from returning.   According to Troy E. Renck of the Denver Post, Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd has been burning up the phone lines looking for a reliever.  Renck says the Rockies have inquired on Jon Rauch, Chad Cordero, Akinori Otsuka, Julian Tavarez, and Manny Delcarmen.

Of that list, only Rauch or Cordero are clearly available and would help the team.  Otsuka is hurt, Delcarmen is cheap and an essential part of the Boston bullpen, and Tavarez isn’t a great pitcher.  However, both Rauch and Cordero are flyball pitchers and may not succeed at Coors Field.  Given the high price for either, the Rockies don’t have any attractive options.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Andruw, Lidge, Gwynn Jr.

Ken Rosenthal has a new Full Count video up at FOXSports for your viewing pleasure.

  • Rosenthal believes that despite Andruw Jones‘s lousy May and June, he’ll still cash in this winter as the best available center fielder.  He’ll still provide more offense than Torii Hunter in the long run. 
  • The Nationals are still asking for the moon in trade talks.  If Jim Bowden does start acting reasonable, Dmitri Young, Chad Cordero, Jon Rauch, and Ryan Church could be dealt.  Word via Bill Ladson of MLB.com is that only the Braves have inquired on Young.
  • Brad Lidge is expected to remain an Astro.  The main reason: Drayton McLane still doesn’t think  his team is out of it.  Most simulations a 2% chance or less of reaching the playoffs.  If the Astros finally do acknowledge reality, they’d prefer to trade relievers other than Lidge (ie, Dan Wheeler or Chad Qualls).
  • The Rangers and Brewers were close to a trade: Akinori Otsuka to the Brewers for Tony Gwynn Jr.  Rosenthal seemed to dislike it, but I think it made sense for the Crew.  Regardless, Bill Hall‘s injury thwarted the deal as Gwynn will be needed to man center. 
  • The new plan for the Brewers is to call up 29 year-old Grant Balfour, who’s dominated in the minors.  He endured elbow and shoulder woes before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of ’05.  In the midst of his TJ recovery, Balfour developed the need for shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum.  This guy would be pumping gas if he’d been born a few decades earlier.  After the surgeries, the Twins cut Balfour and the Reds snagged him.  Balfour rehabbed with the Reds but never made it to the bigs; the Brewers claimed him off waivers in October of ’06.  He’s all the way back; Johnny Estrada was singing his praises back in February.

Gagne/Otsuka Suitors

Teams are lining up to pluck away the top two members of the Rangers’ bullpen, and Jon Daniels is in "listening mode."

MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan has the scoop: the Diamondbacks, Cubs, Red Sox, and Yankees are the top suitors for Eric Gagne.  The Mets, Braves, Phillies, Tigers, and Brewers are focused on Akinori Otsuka.  And the Tribe likes both relievers. 

Benefits of Gagne: he can be unhittable and he’ll give you two good draft picks after the season.  Plus he seems to be finally healthy.  The Indians, despite their interest, are not on Gagne’s list of 12 teams he can be dealt to without his consent.    

The benefit of Otsuka is that you have him through 2009.  That’s why the Rangers are more likely to hang on to him.  Conversely, a team like the Mets would prefer him because he’s not a rental.

Rosenthal’s Latest

Ken Rosenthal has a new column up.  A summary appears below.

  • Rosenthal thinks the Tigers are unlikely to acquire Eric Gagne or Akinori Otsuka, perhaps preferring to look at internal options.  That’s a shame, as I think they really need to add someone.
  • The White Sox won’t be granting a 72 hour negotiating window if they trade Mark Buehrle.  Strictly a rental.  That could limit the market for him, but Kenny Williams will come up with at least one quality prospect.
  • The Dodgers don’t seem likely to trade for Adam Dunn or Jermaine Dye, but could go after Mark Teixeira.  Dye seems most likely to end up in the NL West somehow, but only if he is healthy and hitting.
  • Possible Dontrelle Willis suitors: the Rockies or Diamondbacks.  They’ve got the young trading chips, and the need in the present day.  The Rox could offer Aaron Cook plus prospects, and the D’Backs could try Livan Hernandez and youngsters.  If the D’Backs dare offer up Justin Upton, the Marlins would jump.  Of course, D-Train needs to be healthy and the Marlins would need to fall out of contention.
  • Barry Bonds‘s agent really doesn’t see a trade happening.  Well, no one does, but it’s fun to speculate.  Rosenthal thinks only the Yankees could accomodate him.
  • Aside from the Pirates and Padres, the Astros, Cardinals, and Rangers could go after Milton Bradley
  • Rosenthal has a GM source who thinks the Reds could wait until this winter, exercise Adam Dunn’s $13MM option for ’08, and then trade him.  Dunn, however, would gain no-trade protection until June 15, 2008 and then be able to block 10 teams thereafter.
  • Troy Glaus isn’t going anywhere.  Even if the Jays wanted to trade him, his contract is prohibitive.
  • The Indians or Rockies could trade for Octavio Dotel for bullpen depth.  Dotel is developing into a fine trading chip for Dayton Moore, just as planned.  The Tribe has had interest in Dotel in past offseasons. 

Rosenthal On Teixeira For Hughes Possibility

Ken Rosenthal has a long article today regarding possible scenarios by which Mark Teixeira becomes a Yankee.  Rosenthal says the Yankees scouted the Rangers last week in regards to Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka.  The Rangers expect Brian Cashman to have interest in Teixeira, and have been performing due diligence on Phil Hughes and other Yankee farmhands.

Rosenthal’s main point: Hughes is not untouchable, but Teixeira could be traded to the Yankees without him involved.  Maybe Jon Daniels surrenders two of his major trading chips in a single blockbuster, giving up Otsuka or Gagne plus Teixeira just to get Hughes.  One would be hard-pressed to say that deal does not make the Yankees significantly better in 2007.

If Daniels is going to earn that contract extension, he needs to get another big-market team seriously involved.  It would be fantastic to get Boston seriously engaged.  The Tigers are another option.  But if Daniels comes up with quantity over quality – for example the Rosenthal proposal of Melky Cabrera, Chase Wright, and another prospect – he will have failed.

Rosenthal’s Latest Video

Ken Rosenthal has a new video up at FOXSports.com for your viewing pleasure.  My summary:

  • As you know, Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka are drawing strong interest across baseball.  The only team named by Rosenthal is the Yankees, and in a roundabout way.  He simply said that the Rangers have been scouting the Yanks. 
  • Both the Dodgers and Angels would love to add a power-hitting third baseman.  The problem is, there’s not much about there.  Rosenthal says Troy Glaus, Mike Lowell, and Miguel Cabrera are all currently unavailable.  One who might become available and could play third is Miguel Tejada.  My own speculation on some possible second-tier trade candidates at third base (some long shots included): Jose Bautista, Mark Reynolds, Chad Tracy, Ty Wigginton, Melvin Mora, and Wilson Betemit
  • Michael Barrett could be on his way out of Chicago, mostly because of his defense.  Rosenthal names the Marlins and Rockies as interested parties.

Tigers Trade Rumors

Jon Paul Morosi of the Detroit Free Press has the trade chatter surrounding the Tigers.

The first issue is the bullpen, which is having all sorts of problems. Joel Zumaya is out for three months after finger surgery, Fernando Rodney has been on the DL with biceps tendinitis, Jose Mesa predictably bombed, and Todd Jones has struggled recently.  Logically, the Tigers are scouring the trade market for relief pitching.  They still might sign Troy Percival.  The main competition there seems to be the Phillies.  Morosi also indicates that a trade could be worked out with the Rangers for Eric Gagne or Akinori OtsukaPeter Gammons confirms Gagne’s availability, and also mentions Al Reyes as a trade candidate.

Last December, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski showed interest in Renyel Pinto of the Marlins and C.J. Wilson and Ron Mahay of the Rangers.  That was back when the need was though to be a lefty specialist rather than just relievers in general.

One expendable player for the Tigers might be 29 year-old southpaw Mike Maroth.  The Tigers were offering him up in December but couldn’t find a deal.  Maroth had surgery a year ago to remove bone chips from his elbow, and was never right in ’06.  While he’s made all his starts this year, Maroth isn’t pitching like he did from 2003-05.  This year, his K rate is down even further, his control is off, and he’s allowed an unacceptable number of home runs (15 in 61 innings).  Morosi confirms Maroth’s availability via an NL exec.  The return of Kenny Rogers later this month may push him out of the rotation. 

Maroth makes $2.95MM this year and then will be eligible for arbitration afterwards.  He’ll become a free agent after the 2008 season.  He alone probably won’t bring a useful reliever, but could be part of a larger deal.   

Ringolsby On Lidge, Otsuka, And More

Esteemed Denver Post writer Tracy Ringolsby drops a few trade rumors on us in this morning’s column.

  • Ringolsby writes that the Padres have some rainy-day money saved up to be used specifically for one of three players, if they are available and the team is contending.  The players are future free agents Ichiro Suzuki, Andruw Jones, and Torii Hunter.  I’m not sure how Mike Cameron would feel about that, and whether it would affect his contract negotiations.  Hopefully he wouldn’t mind moving to a corner.
  • Should Eric Gagne prove himself healthy and reliable (a long shot), the Red Sox, Indians, and Marlins have interest in acquiring Akinori Otsuka.  In my opinion the Phillies might want in on that too.  The Mets and Diamondbacks have expressed interest in the past.  I’m a bit skeptical that the Marlins would take on another $3MM reliever after the Jorge Julio debacle.
  • The same three teams Ringolsby mentioned for Otsuka would have interest in Brad Lidge if available.  Also, some major connections between Lidge and the Rockies are described.  And Buster Olney mentions the Blue Jays as another possibility in his blog today
  • Ringolsby quotes Joe Nathan as saying his agents have had positive initial talks with the Twins.  Yesterday, Jon Heyman of SI.com had a source indicating that talks with Nathan had slowed.

Relief Moves

The Red Sox picked up 35 year-old right-handed reliever Brendan Donnelly from the Angels for Phil Seibel.  Donnelly’s control slipped significantly last season, but he’s had an excellent career despite a late start.  He can help.  Seibel, a southpaw, turns 28 in January.  He was unhittable across three minor league levels for the Red Sox this year.  The Red Sox also added J.C. Romero as a LOOGY option.

The D-Rays signed Al Reyes to a one-year deal.  You may recall he was a fantastic reliever for the Cards in ’05 before succumbing to TJ surgery.  He already threw a few Triple A innings in August so he should be 100% for spring training.  I could see him as the closer at some point.

The Mets probably won’t land Akinori Otsuka, but the Diamondbacks could trade for him.  On one hand, it’s scary to rely on Eric Gagne for anything.  On the other hand, Otsuka’s value will never be higher.  I agree with RotoWorld that Scott Hairston could be a huge sleeper in Texas.  More on Hairston here.