Hisashi Iwakuma Rumors

West Notes: Nevin, Puig, Iwakuma, Dipoto

The Padres are considering Phil Nevin for their managerial job, tweet Scott Miller of Bleacher Report. Nevin, currently managing for the Diamondbacks Triple-A affiliate, also played for the Padres from 1999 through 2005. Per Miller, he is “among those under consideration.” Miller also says that current interim manager Pat Murphy isn’t expected to return.

  • The Dodgers have reinstated outfielder Yasiel Puig from the disabled list, the team announced via press release. Puig will man right field and bat sixth tonight. The 24-year-old slugger has battled injury this season. The most recent malady was a right hamstring strain. He’s managed just 306 plate appearances this year. His .256/.324/.440 batting line is solid (112 wRC+) but falls well short of expectations. With the playoffs right around the corner, Puig will have two games to tune up. Manager Don Mattingly doesn’t plan to start him tomorrow, but he’ll be available off the bench, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange Country Register (via Twitter).
  • Hisashi Iwakuma looked at yesterday’s start as a normal appearance, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Iwakuma, a free agent after the season, says he prefers to remain in Seattle, but he is seeking a multi-year deal. Mariners officials would also like to re-sign him, calling it a priority. Iwakuma had another solid season despite making just 20 starts. He posted a 3.54 ERA with 7.70 K/9 and 1.46 BB/9.
  • Newly installed Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has a busy offseason ahead of him, writes Dutton. The club’s farm system has failed to produce a top talent in recent seasons. For that reason (and others), industry insiders expect Dipoto to lure Angels assistant GM Scott Servais away L.A. Dipoto also has to make a quick decision about manager Lloyd McClendon and build depth. Lengthening the rotation is a stated goal so an extension for Iwakuma appears likely.

Dipoto On Marte, Wilhelmsen, Mariners’ Core

New Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto touches on a variety of topics in a wide-ranging interview with Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. Here are some of the highlights.

  • Dipoto says he is not planning a full-scale rebuild, and therefore is not looking to trade core players like Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz or Felix Hernandez. “The greater likelihood is, we’ll focus on those four guys, and Taijuan Walker, as the core we’re trying to build around,” says Dipoto. “And we’ll have to be more creative in finding ways to augment that group, rather than using that group to build a new program.”
  • Dipoto hasn’t yet seen rookie shortstop Ketel Marte play live much, but he sounds open to the possibility that Marte could play the position full-time.
  • The GM reiterates that re-signing Hisashi Iwakuma will be a priority, as was previously reported this week.
  • Dipoto says he would be happy with Tom Wilhelmsen as the Mariners’ closer next year, but adds that another possibility is that he could also acquire another reliever to close and use Wilhelmsen as a setup man.
  • Dipoto praises hitting coach Edgar Martinez but has not yet committed to Martinez remaining in that position 2016.
  • The GM is aware that the Mariners could get a protected top-ten pick in next year’s draft if they do poorly this weekend, but he says he hasn’t discussed that topic with manager Lloyd McClendon. “It’s something that as a team-planner, an organization builder, I’m aware of the value that’s associated with that,” Dipoto says. “But as a former player, and understanding how it works out there, I try to turn the volume down in my head. Because these guys have to go out and compete.”

Re-Signing Iwakuma A Priority For Mariners

Re-signing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will be a priority for the Mariners this offseason, new general manager Jerry Dipoto told Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.

Iwakuma, a 34-year-old client of the Wasserman Media Group, has pitched exclusively for the Mariners in his big league career since coming over from Japan in 2012. After signing an initial one-year, $1.5MM contract, he inked a two-year, $14MM extension with a $7MM club option that wound up vesting but would have been an easy call for the Mariners to exercise either way.

A strained lat muscle cost Iwakuma a bit more than two months of action this season and has limited him to 122 2/3 innings. He’s performed well in that time, however, demonstrating his typical brand of pinpoint control (1.5 BB/9 rate) and a strong ground-ball rate (50.6 percent) as well as a characteristically solid 7.6 K/9 rate.

Iwakuma will turn 35 next April, complicating his free agent stock to some extent. Age and injury status notwithstanding, Iwakuma has a strong case for a multi-year deal based on his excellent track record. He’s tallied a 3.19 ERA in 646 2/3 career innings, and his career strikeout, walk and ground-ball rates are all quite similar to his aforementioned 2015 rates.

Bringing back Iwakuma would keep the Mariners’ solid 1-2 punch of Felix Hernandez and Iwakuma intact, and the Mariners will of course be hoping for better health from both Taijuan Walker and James Paxton in 2016. Lefties Vidal Nuno and Roenis Elias also figure to be in the mix. As Bowden notes, building depth is Dipoto’s modus operandi, so the team will likely be better equipped to handle any rotation injuries that do arise in 2016.

Interest in Iwakuma should be fairly widespread, however. While he doesn’t fit into the top of the marketplace alongside David Price, Johnny Cueto and Zack Greinke, Iwakuma’s stable performance and the fact that he can likely be had on a shorter-term deal should make him appealing to a large number of teams in addition to just Seattle.

Heyman’s Latest: Samardzija, GMs, Ozuna, Managers, Giants, Iwakuma

Despite a terrible second half following up what had been an already underwhelming season, multiple executives tell Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that they expect White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija to do just fine in free agency. As has been said on many occasions, scouts love Samardzija’s raw stuff and competitive nature, and as Heyman points out he’s a relatively low-mileage arm due to his days as a wide receiver and time spent in the bullpen early in his MLB career. Two execs told Heyman they expect Samardzija to top Ervin Santana‘s four-year, $55MM contract, with one saying he should “blow it away.” Unsurprisingly, Heyman hears that the Sox will extend a qualifying offer to Samardzija. I’ll join Heyman and the execs to whom he spoke in saying I’d be shocked to see Samardzija accept.

More from Heyman’s latest Inside Baseball column…

  • Frank Wren is seen as a likely hire for Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, though Heyman notes that Wren may receive a role other than GM. Turning to other GM openings, Heyman lists Jerry Dipoto as the favorite for the Mariners‘ GM gig and calls current A’s assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz a favorite for the Brewers. Milwaukee is said to be seeking someone who is extremely analytical, and they’ve felt that some who have interviewed haven’t fit that description well enough. Billy Eppler is still the favorite for the Angels‘ slot, Heyman writes. He doesn’t list a favorite for the Phillies, though he again connects Angels AGM Matt Klentak and Royals AGM J.J. Picollo to the position. Also according to Heyman, Ben Cherington turned down an interview with the Mariners, as his current plan is to take some time away from the rigors of GM work.
  • Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald recently wrote that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is very open to trading Marcell Ozuna, but president of baseball operations Michael Hill expressed a desire to keep the talented-but-struggling center fielder when speaking to Heyman. “He’s extremely talented and very much in our plans moving forward,” said Hill, although such a line is to be expected from an on-record executive anyway. Even if the intent is to shop Ozuna, Hill wouldn’t come out and say it.
  • Nationals skipper Matt Williams is “all but assured of a pink slip” following the season barring a miraculous playoff surge, per Heyman. On the opposite end of the spectrum is interim Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, who looks like he’ll be given a chance to shed the “interim” portion of his title in 2016. Brad Ausmus is indeed expected to be let go by the Tigers following the season, he also writes, and Ausmus could find himself in the dugout for the Padres if that comes to pass.
  • The Giants hope to add at least one, if not two starting pitchers this offseason, and a run at retaining Mike Leake appears to be one possible scenario. San Francisco is expected to work out a reunion with Tim Lincecum as well, he adds; the two-time Cy Young winner had hip surgery that ended his season earlier this month, though his surgeon strongly believes that the operation will help Lincecum restore some of his disappearing velocity.
  • Mariners ownership and those remaining in the front office want Hisashi Iwakuma back, so much so that they told other clubs at the deadline that they wouldn’t even consider trading him, Heyman writes. Iwakuma is keen on returning to Seattle as well, he notes. Of course, a run at Iwakuma would have to align with the thinking of whichever new executive steps into the GM’s chair.
  • Not that there should’ve been any doubt, but Heyman notes that the Blue Jays intend to pick up the club options on Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. That’s hardly a surprise, as the respective $10MM and $14MM options on the right-handed sluggers are probably two of the easiest option decisions you’ll ever see.
  • Joel Hanrahan isn’t in a rush to return from his second TJ surgery and may not attempt to pitch in the Majors again until 2017. Best of luck to Hanrahan, who has seen injuries destroy the past three seasons of his career.

Cafardo’s Latest: Gray, Iwakuma, Red Sox, Padres

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo recaps the trade deadline moves, evaluates which teams fared well or poorly with their transactions (or lack thereof) and also looks ahead to the August trade market in his latest column.  Some highlights…

  • “Plenty of teams” approached the A’s about a trade for Sonny Gray, though unsurprisingly, Oakland held onto the young ace.
  • The Mariners believe they can re-sign Hisashi Iwakuma (a pending free agent) for one or two more seasons.  For this season, the M’s decided to keep the righty at the deadline, though Iwakuma drew interest from multiple teams.
  • Mike Napoli could be an August trade candidate, as one GM called him “a guy teams want to see a little bit more of” to see if Napoli can heat up at the plate.  The Red Sox first baseman is only hitting .206/.307/.387 with 13 homers over 362 plate appearances.  Boston shopped Napoli prior to the July deadline though the Pirates were the only team known to have any interest.
  • There was some deadline day speculation that the Padres could make a run at Pablo Sandoval, though no deal materialized.
  • The Red Sox pursued Cole Hamels for 18 months but are still looking for a rotation-topping ace as Hamels ended up dealt to Texas.  Cafardo wonders if all this wasted time will hurt Boston, as he feels the Sox could’ve matched or topped the prospect package the Phillies got from the Rangers.  Now, the Red Sox will have to spent far more than Hamels’ remaining salary to obtain an ace this winter.
  • One team evaluator though the Phillies ultimately fared well in their deadline deals for Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere, though “from where they started in their demands to where they wound up, it’s quite a fall. But if you look around at other deals, nobody was giving up No. 1 or 2 prospects. They settled for quantity in some cases, but they got a fair share of quality, as well.”
  • Cafardo was surprised to see the Tigers deal Joakim Soria, “as relievers of this ilk are hard to come by and the Tigers have a history of being unable to identify them. They finally did with Soria and yet they traded him.”
  • The fact that the Tigers entrusted GM Dave Dombrowski with trading Soria, Yoenis Cespedes and David Price could be a sign that Dombrowski may remain in Detroit, Cafardo opines.  The two sides hadn’t made progress on an extension as of early July, though Dombrowski’s last extension to remain with the Tigers (in 2011) wasn’t settled until August of that year.
  • You can add the Nationals to the list of teams that showed some interest in Justin Upton, as Cafardo writes that Washington “considered” a move for the Padres outfielder.
  • Speaking of Upton, Cafardo thinks the Padres could move both he and James Shields in August if the team finally decides they’re out of the race.  I would think an Upton deal would be extremely difficult, since any number of teams would put in waiver claims to block him from going to a rival and wouldn’t hesitate taking on the roughly $5MM remaining on Upton’s contract.  As for Shields, his much longer and pricier contract makes him unlikely to be claimed on waivers, so Cafardo thinks a team like the Yankees could make a move for Shields to upgrade their rotation.

Pitching Market Notes: Ross, Gallardo, Iwakuma, Indians, Chapman, Pirates

The Padres are “progressing” on multiple deals, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and Tyson Ross is a key piece among their trade chips. Rosenthal adds that trading him would be considered a concession on the 2015 season, and while that’s likely, it’s certainly possible that the Padres could acquire some MLB-ready talent to make it more even for 2015 purposes than if they went with an all-prospects package. The Padres could add some pieces as well, he notes.

Meanwhile Bob Nightengale of USA Today chimes in on Ross as well, tweeting that executives from other teams are “convinced” that Ross will be dealt. Nightengale says the Cubs continue to push for Ross. (Earlier today, ESPN’s Jayson Stark heard that Ross is Chicago’s top pitching target.)

Here’s more on the trade market for pitching help — starters and relievers alike:

  • The Cubs, Blue Jays and Dodgers are the most aggressive teams pursuing Yovani Gallardo of the Rangers at this time, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Yankees and Giants also have some level of interest, he adds. Gallardo started tonight, and things went poorly; the Yankees knocked him around for five runs in six innings, and he struck out just one hitter.
  • Despite a record that is well below the .500 mark, the Mariners aren’t planning to make right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma available, tweets Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. While other teams have apparently inquired, they’ve been informed that Mariners ownership prefers to keep him. Iwakuma’s value is down after a shaky, injury-filled season, though given his reasonable $7MM salary and track record, I’d imagine he’d draw no shortage of interest if put on the block.
  • Teams are still in touch with the Indians regarding their crop of young pitching talent, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. There’s nothing close at this time, but the Indians remain willing to engage in conversations. To this point, they’ve reportedly discussed Carlos Carrasco with other clubs, and one can imagine that Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer are of interest to other teams as well. Cleveland did bolster its impressive stockpile of young pitching today — albeit with a future-oriented move — acquiring Class-A lefty and former first-round pick Rob Kaminsky from the Cardinals for Brandon Moss.
  • The D-Backs reportedly have an offer on the table to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke to a pair of executives (Twitter link) about the asking price on Chapman, with one calling it “high” and the other using the term “ridiculous.”
  • Following today’s acquisition of Joakim Soria to strengthen his bullpen, Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters, including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that he doesn’t plan to acquire an additional starting pitcher prior to tomorrow’s non-waiver trade deadline (Twitter link).

Market Notes: Guerrero, Iwakuma, Latos, Prado, Cardinals, Ross

The Dodgers are having active discussions on utilityman Alex Guerrero, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Though Guerrero’s contract allows him to opt into free agency after the year if he’s dealt, Rosenthal notes that he’s expressed a willingness to work out a deal with a new team if he’s traded. Guerrero’s production has fallen back after a blistering early showing, and he’s lost playing time along the way, but he does offer relative youth and has shown good power. The 28-year-old has also dealt with a seemingly minor back issue of late. Los Angeles has several other similar utility options, as well as an overflowing stock of outfield pieces, so it’s certainly plausible to imagine that he’d have more value to another team.

Let’s take a look in at some other notable market developments as we continue to see significant activity in advance of Friday’s trade deadline:

  • It’s not yet clear whether the Mariners will move pending free agent righty Hisashi Iwakuma, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Seattle has, however, received interest from several clubs. Since a mediocre and injury-plagued start to the year, Iwakuma has turned in three consecutive solid outings and could be a nice mid-rotation piece for a contender.
  • The Marlins are increasingly “confident” they’ll find a taker for starter Mat Latos, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. Latos has pitched well of late and has appeal as a reasonably high-upside rental piece. According to the report, the market for his services is “coming into focus.”
  • Marlins infielder/outfielder Martin Prado increasingly seems available, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter links). An executive from another club says that the Fish appear to be “open to at least contemplate” a deal, which seemingly indicates slightly more availability than we heard yesterday (when Miami was said to be interested only for a sizable offer). Sherman notes that the Yankees and Mets could join the Royals with interest in Prado as a secondary option to Ben Zobrist (who is expected to be dealt in short order).
  • The Cardinals are looking at possible bullpen additions to slot alongside the just-acquired Steve Cishek, Heyman tweets. St. Louis will hope to bring back righty Jordan Walden in the relatively near future, as he’s progressing through a rehab assignment, but the club has been active in recent years in adding pitching depth.
  • Padres righty Tyson Ross remains a hotly-pursued name on the market, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported yesterday. He’s drawn interest from teams like the Blue JaysAstros, Dodgers, and Rangers, per the report. Expectations are that Ross would require a significant return, and Heyman notes that the team would likely prefer to move other pitching assets.

AL West Notes: Iwakuma, Samardzija, Astros, Angels

With a string of three consecutive strong starts under his belt, Hisashi Iwakuma would make for an interesting trade candidate, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. However, as Sherman reports, the Mariners remain hesitant to undergo any sort of sale of veteran pieces as the trade deadline nears. Iwakuma, who’s earning just $7MM this season ($2.86MM remaining), has now allowed just four runs over his past 20 2/3 innings, striking out 18 hitters against four walks in that time. Iwakuma’s name — and the Mariners’ likely reluctance to sell — are both topics that came up on today’s edition of the MLBTR Podcast.

A few more notes from around the AL West…

  • The Astros discussed Jeff Samardzija with the White Sox prior to acquiring Scott Kazmir earlier today, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. The lack of a consummated trade was not due to the fact that the White Sox weren’t willing to part ways with Samardzija, a source tells Crasnick (Twitter link), but rather just due to the fact that the Astros deemed Kazmir a better fit.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Astros aren’t ruling anything out when it comes to their next move on the trade market. The team could use another bullpen arm — GM Jeff Luhnow has voiced a preference to add a flamethrower — and another bat would make sense as well. However, the Astros’ priority, as one team official tells Rosenthal, is simply “talent.” It would seem, then, that the Astros are open to making further moves to bolster their rotation rather than limiting themselves to bullpen or lineup additions.
  • The Angels were already looking at potential third base upgrades before losing David Freese for at least three weeks last night, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. They’re continuing to look at the market for third basemen, but an outfield bat remains the Halos’ top priority, according to Fletcher. Freese hit the DL last night after a Mike Pelfrey fastball broke his right index finger.
  • In the meantime, though, it’ll be Kyle Kubitza occupying Freese’s roster spot. The Angels recalled Kubitza, a 25-year-old prospect acquired from the Braves in an offseason swap, prior to today’s game vs. the Twins. Taylor Featherston got the start at third base, though Kubitza did enter the game as a pinch-hitter.

Mariners Unlikely To Add Big-Name Player In Trade

While the Mariners remain in the market for a backup catcher and perhaps a right-handed reliever, GM Jack Zduriencik makes a move for a significant name between now and the non-waiver trade deadline seem unlikely. Via Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, Zduriencik said the team’s acquisition of Mark Trumbo may be its most notable move:

“We did the Mark Trumbo thing. We tried to jump the market and make a deal at the time that we thought could bring in, what we considered, a pretty good power bat for our lineup, to help augment what we already have. I think anything else will probably be moves within the organization. There’s always the possibility something could happen, but you’re not really counting on it.”

The Mariners have aggressively attempted to remedy what has a perennially disappointing offense through both free agency and trades over the past two seasons, but to little avail. Both Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz were signed to significant free agent contracts, while on the trade market, Zduriencik has acquired Trumbo, Austin Jackson, Seth Smith and the since-designated-for-assignment Justin Ruggiano. While Cano was excellent in his first season with Seattle and Cruz is hitting quite well in 2015, the moves, as a whole, have done little to help the Mariners overcome their run-suppressing home environment. And as Divish notes, the decision to part with Welington Castillo in the Trumbo trade is presently haunting the Mariners. Castillo’s bat looks revitalized with Arizona — .289/.366/.533 in 101 PAs — while the Mariners continue to receive little offensive production behind the plate. (Of course, Arizona’s hitter-friendly environment must be considered as well.)

Divish goes on to write that a hot start to the second half could lead Zduriencik to seek ownership approval to make further additions, though current asking prices are beyond what the Mariners have to offer in prospect collateral. Furthermore, continued struggles could lead to the sale of impending free agents such as Hisashi Iwakuma, J.A. Happ and Jackson. Such a fade could also bring into question Zduriencik’s future with the club, Divish notes, as expectations entering the season were high.

One encouraging note for the Mariners and their fans should be the relative ease of their second-half schedule. As ESPN’s Buster Olney noted earlier today in ranking the strength of clubs’ remaining schedules, the Mariners are currently slated to play just 22 of their final 73 games against clubs that carried a record of .500 or better into the All-Star break. The bad news for Seattle, though, is that many of those games will come in the next two weeks. The Mariners took a tough 4-3 loss at Yankee Stadium last night, and after two more games there, they’ll head to Detroit for four games before hosting the Blue Jays for three. The only games they’ll play against a sub-.500 team prior to the trade deadline will be when they host the D-Backs from July 27-29. From there, they head to Minnesota for a four-game set.

Heyman On Grilli, D-backs, Marlins, Dodgers

Here are the highlights from Jon Heyman’s massive new Inside Baseball article for CBS Sports. Be sure to check out Heyman on the latest edition of the MLBTR Podcast.

  • The Braves have had “serious talks” about dealing closer Jason Grilli to a contender, Heyman writes, with the Blue Jays and Dodgers among the teams that make the most sense.
  • The Diamondbacks have made infielder Aaron Hill and pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Addison Reed available in trades, and all three players have attracted at least some interest.
  • The Marlins could trade starter Dan Haren for the right return. On paper, the Dodgers would seem to make sense, but that seems unlikely, since the Dodgers treated Haren basically as a throw-in in the Dee Gordon trade in the offseason. The Dodgers would also prefer to find a starter they could use in the playoffs, and Haren likely doesn’t qualify.
  • Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins could become available in a trade as top prospect Corey Seager continues to demonstrate he’s ready for the big leagues.
  • The Dodgers, Blue Jays, Nationals and perhaps other teams had scouts on hand as Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma returned from a lat injury this week. Iwakuma could be a trade candidate, but Heyman notes that giving up four homers to the Tigers probably didn’t exactly increase his value.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez still seems set on retiring after the season, despite agent Paul Kinzer’s efforts to get him to continue.
  • The Padres have been scouting the Mets lately, leading to speculation that the Mets could be trying to trade for Justin Upton.
  • The Phillies are “not bending” in their demands for Cole Hamels, and his limited no-trade clause remains an obstacle.
  • The Giants have had talks with free agent infielder Everth Cabrera. The Orioles released Cabrera last month. He would provide depth for San Francisco.