Hiroyuki Kobayashi Rumors

Angels Release Hiroyuki Kobayashi

The Angels released right-hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times reports (on Twitter). The team had signed Kobayashi to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training last month.

The 34-year-old didn't pitch for an MLB or NPB team in 2012, but he posted a 3.00 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 39 innings of relief for the Hanshin Tigers in 2011. He first moved to the bullpen in 2010, saving 29 games for the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Pirates and Diamondbacks were linked to Kobayashi following the 2010 season.

Angels Sign Hiroyuki Kobayashi

We’ll track the day’s minor moves here…

  • The Angels signed Hiroyuki Kobayashi to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to Spring Training, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports. The 34-year-old didn't pitch for an MLB or NPB team in 2012, but he posted a 3.00 ERA with 10.4 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 39 innings of relief for the Hanshin Tigers in 2011. He first moved to the bullpen in 2010, saving 29 games for the Chiba Lotte Marines. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times first reported the sides were close to a deal. The Pirates and Diamondbacks were linked to Kobayashi following the 2010 season.

AL West Notes: Kobayashi, Rangers, Trout, Wells

The Rangers and Nationals are waiting to hear if Nelson Cruz or Gio Gonzalez could face disciplinary action from Major League Baseball due to their possible connection to a clinic that sold performance-enhancing drugs, but though both teams are in limbo with these key players, ESPN's Jim Bowden doesn't think either team will jump quickly to find replacements until more facts are known.  As it happens, Bowden says both clubs were already looking to improve in those areas before the news of this PED scandal broke — the Nats were known to want pitching depth and the Rangers were in need of another power hitter.  Bowden suspects the Rangers will make a move for a big bat closer to the trade deadline.

Here are some more items from around the AL West…

  • The Angels are close to signing right-hander Hiroyuki Kobayashi to a minor league deal, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter link).  Kobayashi, 34, has pitched out of the bullpen for Chiba Lotte and Hanshin for the last three seasons.  He last explored a move to MLB when he became a free agent following the 2010 season, when he was linked to the Pirates and Diamondbacks in rumors.
  • It wouldn't make sense for the Rangers to sign Michael Bourn to replace Cruz, argues MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, since "a five-year contract to cover a two-month need seems a bit extreme."  The Rangers didn't make a big push for a center fielder this winter since they like Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin as CF options.
  • The Angels haven't talked to Mike Trout's representatives about an extension for the young star, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports.  Trout is under team control through the 2017 season and is still two seasons away from arbitration eligibility.  Those arb years will get expensive if Trout continues his superb play but, as Gonzalez notes, big-market clubs like the Angels can afford pricey arbitration payouts and thus don't quite feel the pressure that smaller-market clubs have to lock up their young stars early.
  • Casper Wells has turned into something of an afterthought on the Mariners roster and could become trade bait if the M's were to add another outfielder like Bourn, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.  Wells struggled when given regular at-bats last season and Baker wonders if the club has given up on the player who was "possibly the front-liner" of the trade package the Mariners received in the Doug Fister deal.

Pirates Looking At Free Agent Relievers

6:49pm: The Pirates' interest in Chan Ho Park appears to be cooling, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch.

4:34pm: The Pirates have inquired on Aaron Heilman as a reliever, MLBTR has learned. Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (on Twitter) that the Pirates are not targeting Matt Guerrier.

1:42pm: The Pirates are showing interest in and making offers to a number of free agent relievers, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  He says they were in on J.J. Putz before he reached an agreement with Arizona and are looking at guys like Kevin Gregg.  I'm told the Pirates showed lukewarm interest in Hiroyuki Kobayashi, only on a minor league deal.

The Pirates already have Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan as closer candidates, so it appears they're trying to once again build a late-inning reliever surplus.  It worked well with Octavio Dotel this year.

No D’Backs Offer To Hiroyuki Kobayashi

8:08pm: In a text to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said the Kobayashi offer was "news to me!"  (Twitter link)

7:38pm: The Diamondbacks are prepared to offer a two-year, $3MM contract to Japanese pitcher Hiroyuki Kobayashi, according to Sponichi (and tweeted by NPBTracker's Patrick Newman).  We heard last week that Kobyashi was leaving the Chiba Lotte Marines for the majors, and it makes sense the reliever-starved Snakes would be interested in the right-hander.

Kobayashi became a full-time reliever in 2010, and posted a 2.21 ERA and 7.82 K/9 rate for the Marines.  The 32-year-old spent his previous three seasons in the Chiba Lotte rotation, so it's possible he could also be called upon as an emergency starter.  In Newman's look at the international free agent class coming from Japan, he said "Kobayashi doesn’t have a power arm, but attacks the strike zone."

Japan Rumors: Nishioka, Kobayashi

The Chiba Lotte Marines will not decide whether to post shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka until after Saturday's championship game, tweets Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times.  Nishioka would prefer to play for the Dodgers if he's posted, reports Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times.  Otherwise, he hopes to land with the Giants, Padres, or Diamondbacks.  Of course, Nishioka can't control which team wins the bidding for the right to negotiate with him.  The 26-year-old switch-hitter batted .346/.423/.482 this year, and was described as a Chone Figgins/Ryan Theriot type by Patrick Newman of FanGraphs.  Hernandez says he'll be represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council if posted.

One Marines player is definitely heading to MLB, tweets Coskrey: free agent reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi.  The 32-year-old righty reliever posted a 2.21 ERA, 7.82 K/9, 2.07 BB/9, and 0.30 HR/9 in 61 innings this year.  Kobayashi moved to the bullpen in 2010, reported Newman, so he brings versatility.  He will be represented by Octagon, MLBTR has learned.

Japanese Pitchers To Watch: Kobayashi & Sawamura

In his latest post at NPB Tracker, Patrick Newman fills us in on two Japanese pitchers who could find their way into MLB before long. 

Hiroyuki Kobayashi, the soon-to-be 32-year-old closer for the Chiba Lotte Marines, has already qualified for international free agency, and is reportedly ready to jump across the pond. Newman says that this isn't the first time Kobayashi has hinted at making the move either, and speculates that the Giants could be a fit. In 12 innings this year, he's struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and three walks. 

The 20-year-old Hirokazu Sawamura is the better prospect of the two, reportedly hitting 97 with his fastball. The Giants and Mets have had scouts in attendance during his recent starts for Chuo University, and one opined that it would "be a waste for him to stay in Japan." A quote from February suggests that Sawamura is leaning towards staying in Japan, but the lure of a payday similar to Junichi Tazawa's could be tough to pass up.