Hong-Chih Kuo Rumors

Minor Moves: Andy LaRoche, Hong-Chih Kuo

Here's a recap of today's minor league transactions, courtesy of Baseball America's Matt Eddy

  • The Red Sox have signed Andy LaRoche after the Indians released him late last month. The 28-year-old infielder has already played in six games for their Triple-A affiliate and is hitting .265/.352/.418 in 193 minor league plate appearances overall this season.
  • The Cubs have released Hong-Chih Kuo. They signed him to a minor league deal in early-June. The 30-year-old left-hander has not appeared in a game yet this season after battling back and anxiety issues last year. Kuo owns a 3.73 ERA in parts of seven big league seasons, all with the Dodgers.

Cubs Sign Hong-Chih Kuo

The Cubs signed left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo to a minor league deal, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports (on Twitter). Kuo signed a Major League deal with the Mariners in February and has been a free agent since Seattle released him in March.

Kuo struggled through 40 appearances in 2011, posting a 9.00 ERA with 12.0 K/9 and 7.7 BB/9 and missing time with an anxiety disorder. His results were much better before last year; he had a 3.19 career ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 entering the 2011 season. The 30-year-old Octagon client underwent his fifth career elbow surgery in October of 2011 and the Dodgers non-tendered him two months later.

NL East Notes: Vizcaino, Phillies, Mets, Lannan

Earlier today MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reviewed the Marlins' busy offseason. Here are some more links from the NL East…

  • Braves GM Frank Wren told reporters that reliever Arodys Vizcaino will miss the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery. The 21-year-old right-hander appeared in 17 games with the Braves last year and entered the season as the 40th-best prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America.
  • The Phillies could start the season with prospect Freddy Galvis at second base, or explore the trade market for alternatives. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney hears from rival executives that there’s a short list of veteran middle infielders available in trades. Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Getz and Blake DeWitt appear to be options for teams seeking infield depth. 
  • Even though they're short on left-handed relief, the Mets are unlikely to sign C.J. Nitkowski, Hong-Chih Kuo or Dontrelle Willis, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports.
  • Jayson Stark of ESPN.com hears the Nationals "still have a lot of motivation" to trade John Lannan and his $5MM salary (Twitter link).

AL West Notes: Crisp, Martin, Kuo, Luetge

Mike Napoli could bring a bit of added intensity to the plate when he faces C.J. Wilson this season.  Wilson recently posted Napoli's phone number on Twitter, a response to an alleged comment made by Napoli about how he was looking forward to homering off of Wilson this season.  Napoli was not amused by the joke and, though he didn't recall making the initial statement, vowed to indeed try and take Wilson yard.  Eighty years after Babe Ruth hit his famous "called shot" in the World Series, if Napoli does indeed homer off of Wilson this season, can we call it the Prank Called Shot?

Some (more serious) news from around the AL West…

  • Coco Crisp said he wouldn't have re-signed with the Athletics had he known he was going to be moved to left field, reports USA Today's Bob Nightengale.  Yoenis Cespedes will start the year as Oakland's center fielder, and Crisp said the promise of the center field job was one of the reasons he signed with the A's over the Rays, who couldn't promise Crisp regular time in center due to B.J. Upton's presence.  Crisp did say that he was glad to be back with the A's and, in regards to the position switch, says he has to "go out here and just accept it."
  • The Rangers feel Leonys Martin needs more development and are "concerned about [his] lack of instincts," tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, though the club still recognizes his talent.  The Cuban outfielder signed a five-year, $15.5MM deal with Texas last May and hit .295/.362/.421 in 343 minor league PAs, going all the way from rookie ball to an eight-plate appearance cup of coffee with the Rangers in September.
  • Hong-Chih Kuo was released earlier today by the Mariners, though if the southpaw clears waivers, Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times believes the M's could re-sign Kuo to a minor league contract.
  • Also from Condotta, the Mariners are still figuring out what to do with Lucas Luetge, a left-handed reliever taken from the Brewers in last winter's Rule 5 draft.  Kuo's release could help Luetge find a spot in the Mariners' bullpen, though the M's also have Charlie Furbush, Cesar Jimenez and George Sherrill competing for roles as left-handed relief options.
  • For some news about the Angels, check this compilation of Los Angeles Notes from earlier tonight on MLBTR.

Mariners Release Hong-Chih Kuo

The Mariners announced that they released left-handed reliever Hong-Chih Kuo. Seattle has 39 players on its 40-man roster after cutting Kuo, who signed a Major League deal in February.

Kuo struggled through 40 appearances in 2011, posting a 9.00 ERA with 12.0 K/9 and 7.7 BB/9 and missing time with an anxiety disorder. His results were much better before last year; he had a 3.19 career ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 entering the 2011 season. The 30-year-old underwent his fifth career elbow surgery in October and the Dodgers non-tendered him two months later. Kuo, an Octagon client, signed for $500K in guaranteed money and would have earned an additional $500K plus incentives on the active roster.

Mariners Sign Hong-Chih Kuo

TUESDAY: Kuo's $500K guarantee increases to $1MM on the active roster, and he can earn another $2.25MM in incentives, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.

MONDAY: The Mariners signed lefty reliever Hong-Chih Kuo to a one-year, Major League contract, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times.  Kuo has passed his physical, notes ESPN's Jayson Stark.  The Mariners will have to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Kuo, who is represented by Octagon.

Kuo, 30, allowed an earned run per inning in a difficult 2011 season with the Dodgers.  With a 1.96 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.37 HR/9, and 5.8 H/9 in 170 innings, Kuo had been one of the game's most dominant relievers over the three prior seasons when healthy.  He had a DL stint for an anxiety disorder last season, and in October endured his fifth career elbow surgery.  

Kuo, a native of Taiwan, will again team up with Mariners offseason acquisition George Sherrill.  They'll presumably be setting up closer Brandon League.

After Kuo was non-tendered by the Dodgers in December, they continued to show interest, as did a few other unknown West Coast teams.  As our free agent tracker shows, Mike Gonzalez and Arthur Rhodes are now the top available lefty relievers.

Quick Hits: Ankiel, Kuo, Oswalt, Reds, Nationals

On this date in 1983, the Blue Jays traded Leon Roberts to the Royals for a minor leaguer by the name of Cecil Fielder.  Fielder made his Major League debut in 1985 and played for the Blue Jays through 1989 before having his contract sold to the Hanshin Tigers.  Fielder returned to MLB with the Detroit Tigers in 1990 where he made three All-Star appearances in his first four years with the club.  Here's a look at tonight's links..

Mariners Looking Closely At Hong-Chih Kuo

SUNDAY: Kuo is "close to a decision on a landing place" for the 2012 season, agent Alan Chang told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter).  Chang also confirmed that the Mariners are one of the teams that have shown "a lot of interest" in the left-hander (Twitter link).

SATURDAY: The Mariners are "looking closely" at Hong-Chih Kuo, reports Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times (on Twitter). It's unclear if they're close to a deal. Last week we heard that three West Coast teams were eyeing the southpaw, including his former team, the Dodgers.

Kuo, 30, was non-tendered earlier this offseason after allowing 49 baserunners and 29 runs in 27 innings last season. He was arguably the game's best reliever in 2010 though, allowing just 29 hits and eight runs (1.20 ERA) in 60 innings, striking out 73 (11.0 K/9) and walking just 18 (2.7 BB/9). Left-handed batters had no chance against him that season, hitting just .095/.159/.111 with 28 strikeouts in 69 plate appearances. Kuo has had five elbow operations – including two Tommy John surgeries – and battled anxiety problems in 2011.

Seattle has already signed lefty reliever George Sherrill earlier this offseason.

Cafardo On Dodgers, Ethier, Red Sox, Cubs, Orioles

As demonstrated by the Red Sox last year, "winning" December and January doesn’t necessarily translate into winning when it counts, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.  With that said, Cafardo takes a look at where all 30 teams rank after making their moves thus far.  Unsurprisingly, the Angels top Cafardo's list, followed by the Yankees and Rangers.  The Tigers, after signing Prince Fielder, occupy the fifth spot in the rankings.  Cafardo writes that a Fielder-Miguel Cabrera middle of the order could be monstrous, but the club could use more bullpen help.  Here's more from today's column..

  • The Dodgers will soon decide whether to lock up Andre Ethier with a long-term deal as they did with Matt Kemp.  Earlier this month, it was reported that the club had yet to discuss extensions with Ethier and Clayton Kershaw.  The right fielder, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, avoided arbitration with the team by agreeing to a one-year, $10.7MM deal.
  • Three West Coast teams are kicking the tires on reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and the veteran seems like a good gamble.  The Dodgers, who non-tendered him earlier this month, are one of those three clubs.  Kuo once had great stuff but has undergone five elbow surgeries, including two Tommy Johns, and has also experienced anxiety issues.  
  • An AL GM who is not associated with the Red Sox or Cubs believes that Commissioner Bud Selig will give Boston a significant player in the compensation agreement:  "I don’t think MLB wants executives leaving their teams before their contracts are up and therefore he will try to deter teams from doing that again."
  • Cafardo credited Orioles VP of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette with doing a solid job of building the club thus far.  The next step for the club might be to add a DH such as Johnny Damon while hoping for the best when it comes to pitching.  By this time next year, Duquette will add a significant piece to the rotation.
  • Teams are now looking for "tack-on" guys, the ones who “can really make you look good," according to one AL assistant GM.  Raul Ibanez and Hideki Matsui could both be reasonably-priced  quality additions and the Yankees could be a fit for either one.  Serviceable relievers Mike Gonzalez, Chad Qualls, and Juan Cruz also remain on the open market.

Dodgers Eyeing MacDougal, Kuo

The Dodgers are done shopping for position players and are now looking for a reliever, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times (all Twitter links). The team continues to talk to free agent right-hander Mike MacDougal and has potential interest in left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo.

The Dodgers non-tendered Kuo last night, partly since they aren’t sure if he’s interested in pitching in 2012. "That's part of what we have to figure out," GM Ned Colletti said, according to Hernandez. Kuo, 30, struggled in 2011, when an anxiety disorder limited him to 27 innings. However, he has a career 3.73 ERA with 10.6 K/9, 3.9 BB/9 and a 40.9% ground ball rate.

MacDougal, an 11-year veteran, also spent the 2011 season with the Dodgers. He posted a 2.05 ERA with 6.5 K/9, 4.6 BB/9 and a 60.9% ground ball rate in 57 innings. Though MacDougal's ground ball rate ranked tenth in MLB among pitchers with 50 innings pitched, metrics like xFIP (4.02) and SIERA (3.80) suggest good luck held his ERA down this past season.