Hisashi Iwakuma Rumors

AL Notes: Donaldson, Tomas, Red Sox, Cabrera, Smoak

In this morning’s Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that he feels a Josh Donaldson trade is likely for the Athletics this offseason. Billy Beane has shown a willingness to trade players at their peak value, Olney writes (citing the Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill trades, among others), and Donaldson’s salary will begin to rise quickly now that he’s hit arbitration. Olney looks at the rest of Oakland’s roster and notes that no other trade candidate has value as high as Donaldson’s, so while Jeff Samardzija would be an attractive chip, Donaldson could help Beane usher in his next roster reconstruction.

Some more news from the American League…

  • The Red Sox won’t hold a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The team did attend his showcase in the Dominican Republic and they’re intrigued by his power, but the team’s glut of outfielders and concerns over Tomas’ strikeout rate in Cuba have tempered their interest.
  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal points to the Pirates’ success in reviving the careers of Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and points to some similar buy-low candidates that the Red Sox could try for on the free agent market. Of course, as he notes, the Sox are expected to pursue Jon Lester and James Shields, so his suggestions of Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana are intended to be secondary targets.
  • Miguel Cabrera turned down his share of the team’s postseason bonus when the time came to sign the paperwork, reports Paul White of USA Today. Cabrera refused to sign, instead stating that he “just wants the ring.” As White points out, Cabrera could be turning down as much as $300K (though that figure pales in comparison to his salary), and that money could be reallocated to other players as well as Tigers staff such as clubhouse personnel, traveling secretaries, etc.
  • Justin Smoak‘s contract to avoid arbitration last year contained a rare club option, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that it’s a virtual lock that the Mariners will buy out his $3.65MM option for $150K and non-tender the first baseman. Smoak, the centerpiece of an ill-fated Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers, hit just .202/.275/.339 and has failed to establish himself as a regular in four seasons with Seattle.
  • Also from Divish’s piece, GM Jack Zduriencik called the decision to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s $7MM option a “no-brainer,” which certainly isn’t surprising.

AL Notes: Iwakuma, Goins, Trout

If you share my excitement for the onset of spring (or, at least Spring Training), you'll want to give a quick listen to the late, great Ernie Harwell reciting the "Voice of the Turtle" to announce the start. (Via James Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press; hat tip to Scott Miller.) Here are some AL notes to round out the day:

  • Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners will keep his right middle finger in a splint for three more weeks, the originally expected timetable, the club announced. With the hurler unable to begin his full pitching program until that time, needless to say, he is unlikely to be be in the team's rotation when the season opens. 
  • The Blue Jays expect Ryan Goins to handle the bulk of the club's second base duties, manager John Gibbons said today, as MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports. Toronto's second base position has long been an area of speculation as to a possible addition; while a change of direction is always possible, of course, Gibbons did not make it seem like that was likely. "We're giving Goins every opportunity to be the guy," said the manager. In an excellent recent profile of Goins' progress, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca broke down some reasons for the team's optimism. 
  • In his podcast yesterday (audio link), ESPN.com's Buster Olney talked with colleague Jayson Stark about a possible extension for Mike Trout of the Angels (among many other topics). His record $1MM pre-arbitration deal is already in the bag, but what's next? Olney says that executives around the league tell him that, if Trout agrees to anything less than a monster ten-year (or greater) deal, their take would be that he hopes to have a chance to make a triumphant return to his native east coast with a large-market team. Otherwise, now is the time to cash in given his incredibly high standing and youth.

AL West Notes: Iwakuma, Astros, Cruz, Moreland

Mariners righty Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to be out for four-to-six weeks with a strained tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand (Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune has the details on the injury).  While the injury doesn't appear to be too serious, one wonders if it could spur the M's to bolster their rotation with a free agent starter, as the club was already rumored to be asking about Ervin Santana earlier this week.

  • The Astros' increase in spending this offseason had nothing to do with a statement from MLBPA head Tony Clark that the team was being monitored for its low payroll, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports.  The additions of Scott Feldman, Dexter Fowler, Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls and others will boost Houston's payroll to over $40MM in 2014 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts), not counting several players making the league minimum.  Owner Jim Crane noted that the Astros were willing to spend even more this winter but did not succeed in signing Masahiro Tanaka or Jose Dariel Abreu.
  • Speaking with reporters (including MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan) today, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said that he has kept in touch with Nelson Cruz's representatives but he doesn't think a reunion will happen.  "We check in periodically, but nothing has changed," Daniels said. "My expectation is he will sign elsewhere."  Cruz has been heavily linked to the Mariners within the last week, and Texas only seems interested in re-signing Cruz if his market completely dries up.
  • The Rangers' arbitration case with Mitch Moreland is a week away and Daniels said the two sides are "so close, I would like to think we would avoid it. But until you have a deal, you have to be prepared for anything."  Moreland asked for a $3.25MM contract for 2014 while the Rangers countered with a $2.025MM offer.
  • While the Rangers have been looking for a right-handed bat, Daniels said "We're not talking to anybody" on the free agent market.  The GM hinted that Texas would turn to internal options like Michael Choice as candidates to provide a right-handed hitting balance to Moreland.
  • Darren Oliver will work with the Rangers as a special assistant and will spend a week with the club during Spring Training, Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith reports.  Oliver retired following his 20th Major League season and is now enjoying his first (mostly) free spring in over two and a half decades.  Oliver also shared a few opinions about what his former team, the Blue Jays, needs to do to improve in 2014.
  • The Angels made a number of low-cost moves this offseason, a tactic MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince believes is a nod towards saving money to lock Mike Trout up to a long-term extension.  Trout's future price tag is the biggest question facing the Angels franchise and "the most captivating contractual conundrum in the game today."  We heard earlier today that Trout and the Angels would discuss a multiyear deal this spring.

Quick Hits: Gonzalez, Cowgill, Iwakuma, Delgado

While Ben Cherington was the only GM that was in attendance for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez's audition yesterday, the Red Sox aren't the only team with interest in the Cuban right-hander.  The Dodgers sent three of their top scouts to Tijuana on Thursday to find out if they might have another exciting Cuban import to join Yasiel Puig, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.  Agent Jaime Torres declined to say how many clubs sent representatives to the Tijuana showcase but said there was "a great turnout."  Meanwhile, Gonzalez is scheduled to put on another display for teams next Friday where he could pitch five innings, tweets Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com.  Here's more from around baseball..

  • After designating him for assignment on Tuesday, Mets assistant GM John Ricco acknowledged that the club is soliciting trade offers for Collin Cowgill, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.  Ricco added that the Mets would try to get Cowgill through waivers and send him to Triple-A Las Vegas if they were unable to get a suitable deal rather than release Cowgill.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma's name has popped up in rumors, but the Mariners intend to hang on to him. "Trust me," M's GM Jack Zduriencik told Peter Gammons (on Twitter), "we're not going to trade him."  The 32-year-old has a 2.06 ERA with 8.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 through 15 starts this season.
  • Diamondbacks right-hander Randall Delgado hired Beverly Hills Sports Council, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).  You can look up agency info for just about every major leaguer with MLBTR's Agency Database.

West Notes: Headley, Gregerson, Dodgers, Iwakuma

Today we celebrate Veterans Day, a day to recognize every person who serves our nation valiantly in the defense of our freedom and liberty whether it be in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, or National Guard. Thank you kindly to all who have served and are currently serving at home and overseas. John Schlegel of MLB.com explains how the national pastime is forever linked with the nation's armed forces and uses, as an example, the statue of Jerry Coleman erected by the Padres this past September. The pose wasn't inspired by Coleman's playing days or by his Hall of Fame broadcasting career, but of his tour of duty as a Marine pilot during World War II. Here's the latest news on the Padres and the other NL and AL West division teams:

Mariners, Iwakuma Agree To Extension

11:30pm: Iwakuma's deal is worth at least $14MM over two years, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  The right-hander will get $6.5MM in 2013, $6.5MM in 2014, and a $1MM buyout if his $7MM option for 2015 is declined.

10:13pm: The Mariners announced that they have agreed to a new deal with right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma that will extend him through 2014 with an option for 2015.  Iwakuma is a client of the Wasserman Media Group.

Seattle had exclusive negoatiating rights with the pitcher through tomorrow night.  If General Manager Jack Zduriencik did not reach agreement with Iwakuma by the deadline then the hurler would not have been able to pitch until May 15th.

The M's inked Iwakuma to a one-year, $1.5MM deal last year and did well in his debut MLB season.  The 31-year-old 3.16 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 16 starts and 14 relief appearances.

Mariners Links: Woodward, Iwakuma, Payroll

Here's the latest from Seattle….

  • Chris Woodward has retired from playing and has been hired as the Mariners' minor league infield coordinator, according to a team press release. Woodward was a 54th-round raft pick of the Blue Jays in 1994 but managed to play 12 seasons in the majors with the Jays, Mets, Braves, Red Sox and Mariners, usually as a backup infielder.  The 36-year-old played with the Mariners in 2009-10 and spent last year at the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.
  • A clause in Hisashi Iwakuma's contract gives the M's exclusive rights to the right-hander through Saturday, reports MLB.com's Greg Johns, whereas other free agents are available to other teams at 11 PM CST on Thursday.  The extra day of exclusivity comes at a price, however, as if the M's re-sign Iwakuma after their extended negotiating period, Iwakuma wouldn't be able to pitch until May 15.
  • Also from Johns' mailbag piece, he notes that the M's will look to increase payroll from last year's $83MM total and that the club could look to sign a veteran catcher on a minor league deal to add some depth given that Jesus Montero will primarily be a DH next year.
  • Larry Stone of the Seattle Times disagrees with Tim Dierkes' prediction that none of the top 50 free agents will sign with the Mariners this winter, arguing that the M's will have enough available payroll space to sign at least one notable free agent.

Quick Hits: Marlins, Brewers, Maddux, Iwakuma

News from around the majors as we head into the very last weekend of the 2012 season…

  • Former Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez is believed to be on the Marlins' short list of managerial candidates, reports MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.  Gonzalez is currently a special assistant with the D'Backs and he spent his final season with Miami in 2008.
  • Candidates for the Marlins job are being interviewed separately by front office personnel and by owner Jeffrey Loria, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Loria and his staff will convene after the World Series and then make a decision.
  • Brewers owner Mark Attanasio tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his team will be focused on upgrading the bullpen and adding an experienced starter this winter, though the latter won't be at a large price.  “We’re just not adding any veteran. It has to be the right move for us. I know Doug [Melvin] and his staff would like to add another veteran starter. I don’t know how or where that’s going to come from," said Attanasio.  “We’ve got a lot of good young pitchers coming up from the minor leagues, so we may find our answers there.”
  • Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux hasn't yet been contacted about any managerial openings, reports MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan.  Maddux was interviewed for the Cubs job last winter turned down an interview with the Red Sox.  
  • The Mariners "will make a strong push" to re-sign Hisashi Iwakuma, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns, who also notes that Iwakuma expressed in returning to Seattle earlier this year.  Iwakuma signed a one-year, $1.5MM deal with the M's last winter and performed well in his first season in North America, posting a 3.16 ERA and a 7.3 K/9 rate in 30 games (16 of them starts).  Those numbers included significant home-road splits, so it's no surprise that Iwakuma would want to continue pitching at Safeco Field. 
  • Tim Bogar turned down an offer to be the Astros' bench coach due to a contract clause that would've prohibited Bogar from interviewing for managerial jobs, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  Bogar has been connected to manager jobs over the last few years, including the Astros job itself that eventually went to Bo Porter.  Bogar served as the Red Sox bench coach last season, though he won't be returning to Boston, as Torey Lovullo will serve as bench coach under new manager John Farrell.

AL West Notes: Iwakuma, Rangers, Dempster

The Athletics and Angels are currently positioned as the American League's two Wild Card teams. Both clubs made trades with the Brewers in anticipation of the non-waiver trade deadline, but the Angels' acquisition (Zack Greinke) led to considerably more headlines than the player the A's obtained (George Kottaras). Here's the latest on the other two AL West teams…

  • Sosnick Cobbe Sports no longer represents Mariners right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (on Twitter). Agent Paul Cobbe said it made sense for the sides to end their business relationship because of some personal differences.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels will look out for possible August trade targets this month, Bryan Dolgin of ESPNDallas.com writes. "It's unusual to find an everyday player, a starting pitcher, but you can find some quality role players or relief pitchers out there," Daniels said.
  • Recently-acquired Rangers starter Ryan Dempster said on ESPN 1000's The Waddle & Silvy Show that he never turned down a trade to Atlanta (link via ESPNChicago.com). "All I asked for was more time on one particular trade," the right-hander said. The Cubs sent Dempster to Texas for minor league third baseman Christian Villanueva and minor league right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Mariners Agree To Sign Hisashi Iwakuma

10:57pm: Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times reports (on Twitter) that the incentives kick in at 20 starts, at which point Iwakuma will be paid a $200K bonus. He will make $250K for 22 starts, $300K for 25 starts, and $400K for 30 starts. The innings bonuses kick in at 140 IP, and he can earn another $400K for 200 IP.

Iwakuma spent four days in Seattle back in December according to Baker, during which time he met GM Jack Zduriencik and was shown around town. He didn't speak to Ichiro Suzuki before signing, says Baker (on Twitter).

7:35pm: The Mariners have agreed to sign right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma to a one-year contract worth $1.5MM, reports ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (all Twitter links). The deal includes $3.4MM in incentives based on starts and innings pitched. We heard the two sides were closing in on a deal earlier this week. Iwakuma is a Sosnick-Cobbe client.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles posted the 30-year-old righty a year ago and the A's won the rights to negotiate with him for $19.1MM. However, the sides didn't work out a deal and Iwakuma re-signed with Rakuten. He posted a 2.42 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 119 innings in 2011 and became a true free agent after the season. He figures to join Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, and Michael Pineda in Seattle's rotation with Blake Beavan and Charlie Furbush as candidates for the fifth spot.