Brian Bannister Rumors

Brian Bannister Leaves Yomiuri Giants

Pitcher Brian Bannister left the Yomiuri Giants on March 15th in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, reported Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times on April 10th.  Unlike most foreign players, Bannister left without permission and had to be placed on the restricted list.  Coskrey said that placement on the list prevents Bannister from playing for any team – "in or outside of Japan" – until the situation is resolved.

An AP story on this topic surfaced today, in which Bannister reportedly told Japanese officials he has no plans to play in Japan or the U.S.

Bannister, 30, elected free agency after being outrighted by the Royals in November following a 6.34 ERA campaign.  He went on to sign a $1.8MM deal with the Giants, but never pitched for them.


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Brian Bannister Heading To Japan

Free-agent starter Brian Bannister has agreed to a one-year deal (plus a club option) with the Tokyo Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

Bannister, a five-year veteran of the big leagues, pitched for one season with the Mets and the past four with the Royals, to largely underwhelming results, and made 108 starts in his four-year stint with Kansas City. He'll turn 30 in February.

A second-generation Major Leaguer, Bannister was selected by the Mets in the seventh round of the 2003 draft.


Three Teams Heard Bannister Was Retiring

Brian Bannister plans to pitch in 2011. Apparently, three teams didn't get the memo — or they just got the wrong one.

FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that three clubs told Bannister's agents at Gaylord Sports that they'd heard the right-hander was planning on retiring this offseason. As Rosenthal points out, Bannister, a free agent, is definitely intent on pitching in 2011.

Bannister was designated for assignment and elected free agency last month (he'd have been non-tendered anyway) after the worst season of his career in 2010. The 29-year-old saw his ERA jump to 6.34 through 127 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 4.79 mark with which he entered the season.

Bannister's struggles can likely be traced to an alarming spike in his HR/FB, which rose to a career-high 14.5%. Couple that with his BB/9 raising to 3.52 (2.9 BB/9 career prior to 2010), as well as a career-high .323 BABIP, and you can see why his results soured.

If Bannister can rediscover his control, he'd be due for a rebound, especially with a move to the National League. His poor performance in 2010 and peripheral stats make him an intriguing buy-low candidate. At the very least, he's been durable since coming to the Royals. He only had one trip to the disabled list over the past four years, although the catch there is that it did come recently — he missed 31 days with shoulder tendinitis in the second half of the 2010 season.


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Brian Bannister Becomes A Free Agent

Brian Bannister is officially a free agent, according to the Royals. Kansas City reinstated Jason Kendall and David DeJesus from the 60-day DL and made room by outrighting Bannister to Triple-A and designating right-hander Brian Anderson for assignment. Bannister refused his assignment and became a free agent.

Bannister, 29, pitched to a 6.34 ERA in 127 2/3 innings last year. His walk rate rose to 3.5 BB/9 and his strikeout rate dropped to 5.4 K/9, so it's not surprising that the Royals let him go. If they had offered arbitration, Bannister would have made something like $2.3MM, his 2010 salary. When Mike Axisa identified Bannister as a non-tender candidate last month, 71% of MLBTR readers correctly predicted that the Royals would cut him loose.

Anderson, a longtime outfielder in the major leagues, started making the transition to the mound this year. He logged 17 1/3 innings across three levels in the Royals system, striking out 17 and walking 5.


Non-Tender Candidate: Brian Bannister

One of Dayton Moore's very first moves as general manager of the Royals was to swap hard-throwing but enigmatic reliever Ambiorix Burgos to the Mets for then 25-year-old righthander Brian Bannister. Bannister had just 38 big league innings to his credit at the time (4.26 ERA) but he was consistently excellent in minors (3.31 career minor league ERA at the time of the trade) and considered ready to step into a big league rotation. After a brief tune-up in Triple-A to start the 2007 season, the now 29-year-old Bannister joined Kansas City's starting staff and has remained there ever since.

Nearly four full years after the fact, it's easy to declare Moore the winner of the trade. Not only has Bannister out-WAR'ed Burgos 7.1 to 0.0 since the deal, but the latter hasn't even pitched since 2008 due to a litany of legal issues. Perhaps best known for his love of advanced statistics, Bannister has given the Royals 629.1 innings across 108 starts (and one relief appearance) in his four seasons with the team, posting 5.13 ERA with 5.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9. Shoulder tendinitis this August prevented him from eclipsing the 150 inning mark for a fourth straight season.

After making $2.3MM in 2010, Bannister will go through the arbitration process one final time this winter before becoming a free agent after next season. He posted an ugly 6.34 ERA in 127.2 innings this year, and the .302/.365/.503 line opponents managed against him approximates Ryan Braun's 2010 production (.304/.365/.501). Never a big stuff guy, Bannister's fastball actually crept up in the last few seasons and now sits right around 90 mph.

Bannister was a fine piece when he was making six figures, but now that he's entered into multi-million dollar territory, Moore will assuredly think twice before tendering the righty a contract this offseason. In fact, Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star recently predicted that the team will shop Bannister around this offseason and could non-tender him if they don't find a taker. Bannister's name has been featured at each of the last two trade deadlines, but obviously no deal was made and now the team is facing the possibility of losing him for nothing.

If you haven't seen it already, or if you just want to read it again, make sure you check out the Q&A Tim conducted with Bannister back in 2008 (parts one, two, and three). Once you're done with that, click here to vote about what you think the Royals will do with Bannister after he season, and here to see the results.


Royals Notes: Payroll, Greinke, Chen, Bannister

It will likely be "a relatively quiet offseason" for the Royals, writes Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star.  Here are some of the hot stove-related notes from Dutton's recent look ahead to the Royals' 2011 season.

  • The payroll is expected to be in "the low $60MM range" next season, down from K.C.'s 2010 payroll of just under $75MM.  This whole drop could be attributed to Jose Guillen's $12MM salary coming off the books. 
  • Speaking of Guillen, Dutton reports that "the days of shelling out millions to retread veterans for stopgap purposes appear over."
  • There have been some rumors about Zack Greinke being on the trade block, but Dutton thinks the K.C. ace won't be moved this winter since his trade value will be higher at next year's trade deadline and in the 2011-12 offseason.
  • Bruce Chen wants to re-sign in Kansas City and there appears to be mutual interest from the Royals.  The club may "have too many promising left-handed prospects to offer Chen more than a one-year deal," but it's hard to imagine another club giving Chen multiple years.
  • Dutton predicts the Royals will either deal or non-tender Brian Bannister.  The right-hander made $2.3MM in 2010 and is entering his third arbitration year.
  • With Jason Kendall set to miss part (or maybe all) of 2011 after rotator cuff surgery, Kansas City will be in the market for a cheap, defensive-minded veteran catcher.
  • The team is looking for right-handed hitting and will probably "scour the bargain bins" for the likes of a Matt Diaz or a Cody Ross.  Dutton notes, however, that if the Royals are particularly taken with a higher caliber of right-handed hitting corner outfielder, they would be "willing to shell out a few million for a good fit."  Such a player would be all the more important to the club if David DeJesus is traded in the winter.

Giants Discussing Guillen, Interested In Willingham

The San Francisco offense is heating up, but the Giants are still looking for outfield bats. The Royals are discussing Jose Guillen with San Francisco, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The potential deal would send the 34-year-old to San Francisco along with cash to cover some of the $4.5MM or so remaining on Guillen’s contract. 

But Jayson Stark of ESPN.com hears (via Twitter) from a rival official who believes the Royals have “no real options” to move Guillen, even if they ask for a modest return and take on salary. Stark’s source says (via Twitter) there’s very little action on some of Guillen’s teammates: Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies and Kyle Farnsworth.

Another one of Guillen’s teammates, Scott Podsednik, is drawing strong interest from NL West teams, including the Giants. For what it’s worth, the Giants have been scouting Guillen aggressively, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (via Twitter). For the season, Guillen has 16 homers and a .271/.333/.457 line.

The Giants are pursuing outfielders other than Guillen and Podsednik, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Like the Braves, Rays and Red Sox, the Giants have interest in Josh Willingham.


Royals Will Listen To Offers

Royals GM Dayton Moore told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star that the club has some "nice pieces" to market this summer. The 27-37 Royals have a number of players who might appeal to contenders and Moore is ready to listen, even though the Royals aren't actively looking to move players at this point.

"We'll evaluate what comes our way if anything does come our way," he said. 

It wouldn't be surprising to see an offer or two for David DeJesus come the Royals' way. Dutton reports that clubs are already scouting the outfielder, who is hitting .314/.392/.479. DeJesus makes an affordable $4.7MM salary this year and there's a club option for $6MM in 2011 ($500K buyout). 

If the Royals hold onto DeJesus, they could decline his option and offer him arbitration. If he turns down their offer to sign elsewhere, they would obtain at least one draft pick, possibly two. The promise of draft picks makes the Royals hesitant to deal him for a pedestrian return, but there are advantages to dealing now. DeJesus must climb into Type A territory under the Elias rankings system and decline arbitration for them to get two picks. Even if they get the picks, they would have to wait a year and pay each draftee about $1MM. 

Rival teams could also have interest in Scott Podsednik, Jose Guillen, Kyle Farnsworth, Willie Bloomquist, Brian Bannister, Kyle Davies, Alberto Callaspo and Rick Ankiel.


Stark On Damon, Bedard, Phillies, Smoltz, Gregg

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com points out that teams aren't handing out long-term contracts as liberally as they were a few years ago. We've seen just eight contracts of three-plus years this offseason, after seeing 13 such contracts in each of the previous two winters. The offseason before that? Players signed 29 contracts of three years or more. Here are Stark's rumors:

  • Detroit doesn't seem that interested in Johnny Damon and the Braves haven't spoken with Damon's agent, Scott Boras, in a month and a half. The Rays have checked in, but they have little to spend.
  • Erik Bedard and the Orioles have mutual interest in a reunion, Stark hears. 
  • The Phillies would like to add a veteran left-handed reliever on a minor league deal, but Alan Embree and Ron Mahay are holding out for big league deals at this point, despite the Phillies' interest. 
  • Kevin Gregg is high on the Rockies' shopping list. They're looking at infield options and hoping to save enough money to shore up their bullpen, too. 
  • The Blue Jays have told clubs that Scott Downs and Jason Frasor are available. The Cubs have checked in on the pair of relievers. 
  • The Royals have told teams they're "open minded" about moving Gil Meche or Brian Bannister. 
  • John Smoltz is in no rush to sign. He's open to waiting for a few months, since he'd like a starting job and some execs question his ability to start for an entire season. 
  • Ben Sheets will be the first A's pitcher to make $10MM (though some believe Sheets will be traded before the end of the year).
  • Mark Prior is throwing off a mound and would like to make a comeback. 


Odds And Ends: Giambi, Wainwright, Meche

Some more links for the morning…

  • ESPN.com's Buster Olney believes NL teams should consider Jason Giambi next year if they're looking for a powerful, high OBP bat off the bench.
  • Olney also hears from a scout who raves about Adam Wainwright. In case you're wondering, he won't become a free agent until after 2012 or 2013 (the Cards hold an option).
  • Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports (via Twitter) that Gil Meche is likely done for the year. Like rotation-mate Brian Bannister, Meche has a tired shoulder. Makes sense for the team to play it safe if there's any doubt, in my opinion.
  • Murray Chass points indirectly to this ESPN.com article and argues that some baseball writers rely too much on anonymous sources. Chass believes writers should pass information along to readers without giving too much play to individual biases.
  • Joba Chamberlain and Rick Porcello top the list of young pitchers who won't have the luxury of resting their arms during the season's final month, as ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick shows.