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Ichiro Suzuki Rumors
The Angels are reportedly discussing a potential resolution to their standoff with Josh Hamilton, and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register examines some possible forms that resolution could take. Releasing or trading Hamilton are two possibilities, but not ones Fletcher thinks would be very attractive to the Angels — if they released Hamilton, they’d have to eat the entire rest of his contract, except a prorated portion of the league minimum once he signed elsewhere. And it’s very unlikely trading Hamilton would result in much salary relief for the Angels, since he hasn’t played yet this season (and, presumably, since the Angels’ issues with him are so well known). They could also, of course, settle with Hamilton for some portion of his remaining contract. Fletcher also suggests the possibility, though, of the Angels simply bringing Hamilton back and letting him play for awhile, which would allow him to build value, or at least give the Angels clarity by having Hamilton demonstrate how much value he has. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Marlins were mostly unknown to Ichiro Suzuki before he signed with them, the veteran outfielder tells Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. “I didn’t have that much information about the city or the team in general,” Ichiro says through an interpreter. “The Marlins are new, and they’re still trying to find that identity of what the Miami Marlins are all about.” Ichiro had played his whole big-league career in the American League, and at 41, he’s older than any MLB player except LaTroy Hawkins and Bartolo Colon. Kepner notes that Ichiro does not seem to intimidate the Marlins’ mostly young group of players, however.
- Jung-ho Kang has played only sparingly since the start of the season, but the Pirates are not considering sending him to Triple-A, Clint Hurdle tells Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (on Twitter). Before the season, the Bucs signed the 28-year-old Kang to a four-year deal with an option for a fifth, but there’s currently nowhere for him to start, and he has one hit in nine plate appearances so far. As a position player signed out of Korean pro baseball, Kang is in a unique position both on the field and off it, but it appears the Pirates will allow him to adjust at the big-league level rather than giving him regular playing time in the minors.
New Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki says being an older free agent is like being an older dog in a pet store, Brad Lefton of the Wall Street Journal writes. “Amongst all the cute little puppies jumping and tumbling for prospective owners, there’s one who’s a little older, a little more mature, who keeps getting passed over for the more adorable ones,” says Ichiro. “When someone finally comes along and points a finger at him, an undying loyalty is born.” The 41-year-old Ichiro’s offseason training routine helps him stay relevant, Lefton writes. Ichiro works out at the Orix Buffaloes’ home park in Japan, with a pitcher who throws batting practice for him and another player he plays catch with. Ichiro might take 150 swings against live pitching each day in the offseason. Here are more notes from the National League.
- GM Doug Melvin has recently discussed an extension to his contract with the Brewers, although it’s unlikely he and the team will agree to one before the season starts, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Melvin’s contract expires after the 2015 season. Counting his previous job with the Rangers, Melvin has now been a GM for about two decades, and it sounds like he remains at least somewhat enthusiastic about continuing. “I still think I’m good at what I do and I still enjoy it,” he says. “I like the draft-and-development part of the job and that’s something we’ll always have to do in our market.”
- The fact that he’s with the Dodgers now doesn’t mean Jimmy Rollins can’t relate to fans who dislike them, Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. “For a long time – you don’t hear ‘Beat the Dodgers,’ you don’t hear ‘Beat the Lakers,’ even the Clippers now – it’s ‘Beat L.A.,'” says Rollins. “It’s everything L.A. stands for. . . . I’ve heard [it] for the first time on this side, and I was cracking up. Because I know how the crowd feels, the fans feel, on the other side.” This isn’t the first interview Rollins has given about how strange it can feel for a player to spend years with one organization and then abruptly switch to another, but his perspective on a common but little-discussed situation is still refreshing to read.
Shortstop Trea Turner is technically still a member of the Padres, but it’s one of baseball’s worst-kept “secrets” that he’ll be headed to the Nationals in June as a player to be named later in the three-team Wil Myers trade once he’s a year removed from being drafted. Turner tells Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune that while he does find the situation to be a bit weird, he’s happy to have had a normal camp thus far. “A little bit. It’s been awesome, though, because a lot of my teammates don’t really care too much about it. They know the business side, and things like this can happen all the time, so I haven’t been treated differently than I thought I would.” Turner’s agent, Jeff Berry of CAA Sports, called the situation “unconscionable” at the time of the trade but released the following statement yesterday, per Lin: “Trea has put this matter behind him and is focusing on his development and being a productive member of the Padres organization.”
Some more notes pertaining to the NL East…
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. tells MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki that his team was in contact with Yoan Moncada‘s agent, David Hastings, right up until the end when Moncada agreed to sign with the Red Sox this week. However, Amaro declined to get into specifics or even give a “yes” or “no” answer when asked by Zolecki if the Phillies submitted a formal offer for the highly touted 19-year-old.
- Ichiro Suzuki is appreciative of how accommodating the Marlins were during negotiations, and the positive feelings he got from the organization are a large reason that he signed there, writes Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida. (For example, the Marlins have added facilities for Ichiro’s Pilates machine in their Spring Training and regular season homes, said Ichiro through a translator.) He’s also very accepting of his role as a fourth outfielder, which manager Mike Redmond said was a key component in the deal.
- New Braves right fielder Nick Markakis has been cleared for running and extensive workouts, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Markakis won’t be in the lineup for the early games in Spring Training and isn’t sure if he’ll be ready to compete come Opening Day, but he tells O’Brien that’s absolutely his goal. Manager Fredi Gonzalez tells O’Brien that he is optimistic that Markakis, who signed a four-year, $44MM contract this winter, will be ready for the opener come April 6.
If a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, does a baseball player by any other name peform better? B.J. Upton will answer that question this season as he will go by his given name of Melvin Upton Jr. and, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes, will have “Jr.” on the back of his uniform for the first time in his professional career. Upton has struggled since his arrival in Atlanta after signing a five-year, $75.25MM free agent contract in November 2012 slashing .198/.279/.314 with 21 home runs and 61 RBIs in those two years. John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, first tipped Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jeff Schultz to the name change (Twitter links). For those wondering, B.J. is short for Bossman Jr., his father’s nickname.
In other news from the NL East:
- Nationals centerfielder Denard Span is one of the team’s seven impending free agents and is looking forward to that opportunity, writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. “I’ve worked my whole career to get to this point, to be a free agent,” Span said. “But at the same time, I’m concentrating on trying to do the best that I can to help this ball club win. I feel like if I do my job and we do our jobs collectively I’ll get compensated and everything will fall into place.” Wagner adds the Nationals have not approached Span about a contract extension.
- With the increasing likelihood of Ryan Howard opening the season in Philadelphia, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is making amends for the comments he made about the Phillies being better off without the first baseman, reports Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. “Frankly, I apologized for those comments that I made that were public,” said Amaro. “And I think he appreciated that. Other than that, I want to keep the conversation private. It was a good talk.” Despite a willingness to eat a substantial portion of the $60MM remaining on Howard’s contract, no market has developed for the 35-year-old.
- Speaking publicly for the first time since being dealt from the Yankees in December, recent Marlins addition Martin Prado told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he “couldn’t be happier when I found out I was going to play with [Giancarlo] Stanton and [Jose] Fernandez and young kids coming up. Very happy to be here. Couldn’t be more excited. They have a good mix of young guys and veteran guys. I hope we can build a team around [Stanton] and take some pressure [off] him.”
- The Marlins believe the signing of Ichiro Suzuki already is paying off and he hasn’t even arrived from his native Japan yet, according to Tom D’Angelo of the Palm Beach Post. Over the weekend, President David Samson said at least 90 Marlins games will be televised in Japan. The 41-year-old won’t be play every day, but the $2MM deal is already paying dividends for Miami.
JAN. 29: Ichiro can earn up to $2.8MM in bonuses, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link). The outfielder will earn $400K for reaching the 300-plate appearance plateau, and then another $400K for each additional 50 PA up to 600 plate appearances.
JAN. 28: Ichiro’s deal could reach up to $5MM if he receives enough plate appearances, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported earlier this week (on Twitter). That, of course, is only likely in the event of a significant injury to another outfielder, as Jackson notes.
JAN. 27: The Marlins have officially announced the signing of free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year contract that is reportedly worth $2MM. The 41-year-old Ichiro, a client of John Boggs & Associates, should serve as Miami’s fourth outfielder in 2015.
Though his skills have clearly eroded somewhat with age, Ichiro posted a respectable .284/.324/.340 batting line in 385 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2014. He also swiped 15 bases in 18 tries, continuing a career-long trend of pronounced efficiency in that regard. Defensive metrics pegged him as an average right fielder, and he slid over to center field for a brief, 19-inning cameo as well, suggesting that he’s capable of doing so in a pinch should the Marlins require such a move on occasion in 2015.
The Marlins’ primary outfield will consist of Christian Yelich in left field, Marcell Ozuna in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right — an excellent young trio that will limit Ichiro’s playing time and make it highly unlikely that he reaches the 156 hits he needs to reach 3,000 in his Major League career (he also had 1,278 hits in his Japanese career prior to jumping to MLB). However, there’s been no indication from his camp that this will be the likely Hall of Famer’s final season, so he could yet reach the plateau if he remains reasonably productive and secures another big league deal next offseason.
The addition of Ichiro merely adds to what has been a highly active season for the Marlins. In addition to this move, executives Dan Jennings and Michael Hill have added Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Martin Prado and Aaron Crow via trade while also signing free agent slugger Mike Morse to upgrade the team’s offense at first base.
Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio first reported the agreement (Twitter link). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that there were no options on the deal (Twitter links). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted the guarantee.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Pat Gillick is a curious choice to serve as the Phillies‘ president, writes David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Murphy feels that the decision to move David Montgomery from president to chairman, with Gillick remaining president, was little more than a cosmetic change to buy time before a larger restructuring. That, he writes, would seem to suggest that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is capable of doing something to save his job, as the reason for that evaluation would be to determine which of these three options are the best: replace Amaro, extend Amaro, or hire a new permanent president and let that newcomer determine the front office situation. As Murphy notes, no evaluation of the moves Amaro will make over the coming months will be able to be judged immediately (he’ll be acquiring prospects that will take years to properly evaluate), making the recent shuffle all the more puzzling. Gillick has expressed no interest in overseeing a lengthy rebuild, per Murphy, who adds that he may not be well-equipped to do so anyway based on his lack of success in the draft.
Other items pertaining to the National League East:
- The Nationals are nearing — and will likely exceed — $160MM in Opening Day commitments for the coming season, writes Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. That would put the team amongst the five highest salary tabs in the league, a level of spending that seemed hard to imagine in the not-so-distant past. GM Mike Rizzo told MLBTR at the GM Meetings that the organization would make baseball decisions without payroll restrictions, and that has indeed seemed largely to be the case.
- Marlins righty Jarred Cosart is now represented by agent Erik Burkhardt, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. Burkhardt is best known, perhaps, for repping NFL quarterback (and recent MLB draftee) Johnny Manziel. Cosart had previously been a client of Excel Sports Management. The 24-year-old will not be arbitration eligible until after the 2016 campaign.
- There is no denying the excellence that Ichiro Suzuki has displayed over his outstanding career, but it is fair to ask what kind of production — and presence — he will deliver to the Marlins in 2015. Crasnick spoke with various talent evaluators and executives around the game, with the consensus seeming to be that Ichiro is certainly still capable of being a useful big league player.
The White Sox rank at the very top of the list of offseason winners compiled by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. GM Rick Hahn ticked through many of the team’s questions this winter and should have a competitive team to show for it, says Heyman. Of course, despite plenty of praise, there are still some non-believers out there. They can point to this year’s PECOTA projections from Baseball Prospectus, which see Chicago as a 78-win team. Also of note from PECOTA, which is rather down on the division on the whole: the Tigers are tabbed as a .500 club, while the Royals project to win just 72 wins after appearing in the World Series last year.
More from the south side and the AL Central:
- The White Sox are a much improved team heading into the 2015 season, but much of the optimism surrounding the club relies on the contributions of right fielder Avisail Garcia, writes Fangraphs’ Neil Weinberg. Perception appears to be that Garcia can handily outperform the just-designated Dayan Viciedo, but Weinberg cautions that we shouldn’t readily accept that as fact. Garcia’s stats to date tell a similar tale to that of Viciedo — modest on-base percentage with some power and below-average base-running and defensive skills. While Garcia’s track record is clearly smaller, the two are excellent statistical comps even when looking at their production through the age of 23. Weinberg notes that scouts have long questioned whether or not Garcia would be able to resist bad pitches and make enough contact to succeed, and the assumption that he will outperform Viciedo is based largely on perceived ceiling as opposed to likely outcomes.
- Newly-designated White Sox slugger Dayan Viciedo should generate plenty of interest, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The American League West offers the best matches, Morosi argues, with the Mariners, Athletics, and Rangers all potentially making sense as landing spots.
- Despite some apparent suggestions, the Twins are not interested in free agent second baseman Rickie Weeks, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets. That is not terribly surprising, given that the right-handed-hitting Weeks does not play short and would presumably have needed to serve as a backup to two right-handed hitters in Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe.
- Ichiro Suzuki‘s representatives (who he shares with Twins skipper Paul Molitor) tried to generate interest in the veteran from Minnesota, but the club never saw a fit, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. As Berardino explains, Ichiro and Molitor — both incredible pure hitters — share an interesting relationship.
Today featured some important front office moves for a Phillies club that is facing some significant challenges — albeit with quite substantial resources — in the coming years. The team announced that longtime executive David Montgomery will return from a health-related hiatus to become the organization’s chairman, while current president Pat Gillick will retain that role.
Here’s the latest out of Philadelphia and the rest of the NL East:
- Gillick leaves the impression that he is prepared to stay on board past the coming season, per Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times (Twitter links). “I’ll do it as long as it is a challenge to me and [I am] capable of doing it,” said Gillick. “Age is just a number.” The 77-year-old Hall of Fame inductee reiterated that sentiment, and then some, in speaking with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. “I’m going to probably stay in this position as long as ownership wants me to stay in it,” he said. Emphasizing that his prior expectation had been that Montgomery would return to the full-time president’s chair, Gillick said that he is “not really setting a timetable” on his time in office, though he does not expect to be “a long, long-term replacement.”
- While Gillick has obviously earned quite a bit of respect over his years in the game, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News asks whether he really is the right man for to lead a rebuild at this juncture. While moving veteran assets for the best return possible is a straightforward-enough function, says Murphy, it will be much more tricky to make the right decisions in applying Philadelphia’s financial might to acquire the right new talent. Though Gillick oversaw many winning clubs, and adeptly constructed big league rosters, Murphy also points out that the organizations he guided tended not to be set up well for the long haul and that the baseline circumstances (rules, modes of analysis, and the like) were quite different in his heyday.
- The Marlins obviously were interested in adding Ichiro Suzuki as a veteran presence to their young outfield and hopefully getting a late-career renaissance from an all-time great ballplayer, but the club also was interested in his nationality, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. President of baseball operations Michael Hill and president David Samson both emphasized the fact that Ichiro’s Japanese heritage was a factor in his signing. Indeed, the front office traveled to Tokyo to announced the deal. “It’s a bonus he’s a Hall of Famer and a Japanese player,” said Samson, who noted that Miami was one of only two teams (the Reds being the other) that had yet to employ a Japanese ballplayer. (For what it’s worth, Cincinnati has fielded a Korean player.)
- Bringing in veteran reliever Casey Janssen fills the final hole for the Nationals, writes MLB.com’s Phil Rogers. The veteran should slot in nicely in a setup capacity while also providing some insurance in the closer position, says Rogers.
Multiple reports have indicated that there’s “zero” chance the Marlins will sign James Shields, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that there are some within the front office that are trying to sell owner Jeffrey Loria on making the financial investment necessary to add Shields to the rotation (the linked piece is an updated version of Rosenthal’s column from last night). As Rosenthal points out, GM D an Jennings drafted Shields when he worked for the Rays in 2000, and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez worked with Shields as a minor leaguer in the Rays system, so he does have fans in the organization. Rosenthal adds that the departure of Mat Latos next season should seemingly increase Shields’ appeal to Miami, and I’d add that parting with their top MLB-ready pitching prospect, Andrew Heaney, could factor into that thinking as well. Then again, next offseason’s crop of free agent starters features many enticing options — most of whom will be younger than Shields is now — and MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that a Shields signing remains a longshot.
Here’s more on the Marlins…
- In a lengthy but well-crafted and insightful piece, Grantland’s Jonah Keri examines the Marlins’ origins and the distrust among fans that has spawned from a number of fire sales. Keri spoke to team president David Samson, who noted that the initial fire sale following the team’s World Series win in 1997 was a catalyst for many of the team’s struggles in subsequent years. “That led to a lot of hurt, frustrated fans,” Samson said. “So [the team] never got that bounce, that sustained success that should come with winning a World Series.” As Keri notes, however, then-owner Wayne Huizenga had stated after spending exorbitantly the previous offseason that he would blow the team up regardless of success if local government didn’t approve a new stadium. That proved to be exactly the case, and Huizenga stayed true to his word. Keri examines the subsequent sell-offs from the Marlins and how each has contributed, in a way, to positioning the club for sustained success now.
- Samson also expressed some frustration to Keri regarding the fact that teams like the Athletics are lauded in the media for selling high on players and re-tooling their roster, while the perception surrounding the Marlins’ most recent retooling was largely negative. Samson and Loria hope that the results of the last sell-off can help convince fans that sometimes such tactics are a necessary evil in an effort to build sustained success. “We want to make them recognize that it’s not doom and gloom,” Samson explained to Keri. “We want to make people understand that we’re a normal team. We’ll have good years and bad years, but in the end, they’re just years. We’ll break your heart sometimes, but also make you jump for joy other times. That’s what being a sports fan is.”
- The Marlins added Ichiro Suzuki earlier today on a one-year, $2MM contract to serve as their fourth outfielder, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that Jennings has been pursuing Ichiro for about a month. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that while the deal is just a one-year pact without an option, the team wants to keep the door open for Ichiro to return in 2016 as he chases his 3,000th hit.
The Marlins have made a one-year, $2MM offer to Ichiro Suzuki, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami is “optimistic, but not certain” that it will reach agreement with the veteran. If not, it could look to Nate Schierholtz or the trade market. Ichiro could be the next domino to fall now that Colby Rasmus has signed with the Astros.
- The Orioles offered Rasmus a one-year, $7MM deal that might have included an option, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. After missing on Rasmus, Baltimore is looking down its list for other left-handed outfield options. Schierholtz is a possibility, as is Ichiro.
- Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com also discusses the club’s efforts to add another outfielder, explaining that the uncertainty surrounding executive VP Dan Duquette has not been the reason that the team has missed on its outfield targets thus far. Instead, Baltimore is focused on only striking the right deal, and could take its current roster into camp with at least some hope that youngster Dariel Alvarez would be ready to contribute by the summer. As Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs wrote yesterday in his breakdown of the O’s minor league system, the club is much higher on Alvarez than outside evaluators.
- In spite of making several outfield additions, the Mariners are interested in a reunion with Endy Chavez, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). The 36-year-old, who spent each of the last two seasons in Seattle, might need to fight for a roster spot out of camp, says Crasnick.
- Blue Jays star right fielder Jose Bautista says that his next contract is not the first thing on his mind right now, as Mackenzie Liddell of Sportsnet.ca writes (comments via an appearance on Brady and Walker of Sportsnet 590). Bautista did acknowledge that he is intrigued by the possibility of becoming a free agent after the 2016 season, but says his focus is on playing winning baseball this year.