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Ichiro Suzuki Rumors
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.
12:53pm: Ichiro’s base salary will be exactly $2MM, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
12:03pm: The two sides are still hammering out the specifics of the performance bonuses that will be built into the contract before the deal becomes official, tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.
11:19am: The Marlins have agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, reports Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio (Twitter link). 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 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.
Lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes, who was a 2010 All-Star as a member of the Reds, has officially retired, tweets MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon. Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports takes a closer look at the 20-year career of Rhodes, whose last appearance was Game 7 of the 2011 World Series with the Cardinals winning him his only championship ring. Rhodes finishes with a mark of 87-70, 4.08 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and 33 saves in nearly 1,200 innings covering 900 outings (61 starts) for the Orioles, Mariners, A’s, Indians, Phillies, Marlins, Reds, Rangers, and Cardinals while earning nearly $39MM.
Since Rhodes finished his career in the National League, let’s take a look at the latest from the Senior Circuit:
- One team inquiring about Ian Desmond was told by the Nationals the All-Star shortstop will not be traded, tweets FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. However, Rosenthal adds in a second tweet, Washington GM Mike Rizzo is known to operate in a very direct fashion. If he wants a deal, he pursues it aggressively. If not, he will not waste another team’s time.
- Phillies AGM Scott Proefrock told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (audio link) the slow developing market for free agents Max Scherzer and James Shields is not affecting Cole Hamels‘ trade market adding “there’s some teams that haven’t been mentioned that are kicking the tires a little bit.” Those teams which have been mentioned are the Red Sox, Cardinals, Rangers and Padres.
- When asked about Hamels, Padres President/CEO Mike Dee spoke in general terms telling Duquette and Bowden (audio link) GM A.J. Preller “is looking to improve the team constantly…if we could add a starter of that All-Star caliber, clearly we would be in on that.” Dee also addressed “the new Padres’ approach” of aggressively being “in the discussion” regarding free agent, amateur, and international talent.
- Yesterday, we learned the Marlins‘ interest in Ichiro Suzuki is picking up steam. Today, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports the Marlins are open to offering Ichiro a two-year deal.
- Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post covers the 26 most pressing issues and questions (from A-to-Z) facing the Rockies in 2015. Most center around Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, pitching, and injuries.
- The Cardinals have announced they will renovate and upgrade a baseball field in the hometown of the late Oscar Taveras, in honor of the 22-year-old outfielder who perished in a car accident last October, writes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold.
We learned earlier today that the Marlins are showing interest in free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. Talks between the two parties are “progressing,”reports Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The Marlins do not have an obvious fourth outfielder on the 40-man roster at this time, so Ichiro would back up the trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich. Other internal candidates like Martin Prado and Michael Morse have experience in the outfield but seem unlikely to move from their primary positions. Tyler Colvin was also added earlier in the offseason on a minor league contract. A deal is not thought to be close at this time per Cotillo’s source.
- The Marlins are “wrestling” with a decision to trade starting pitcher Dan Haren, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. According to clubs speaking with Miami, the team prefers to keep him over selling low. Regardless of where Haren plays next year, it’s been previously reported that the Marlins intend to keep most or all of the $10MM the Dodgers will send to cover his contract.
- Miami has three arbitration eligible players who have yet to sign, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. With a combined $1.72MM discrepancy between the players and team, the club’s payroll is beginning to shape up. The club is said to be aiming at about $65MM and appears to be on pace. Including payments from the Dodgers, the Fish have $44.725MM committed to 11 players with the seven arbitration eligible players coming in at an additional $13.135MM to $14.875MM. Pending any other acquisitions (like Ichiro), the rest of the club is likely to be formed from players paid around the league minimum.
The Marlins‘ level of interest in free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has begun to increase, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. He adds that while the Marlins are set for outfield starters, they lack depth behind Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, and they can use Ichiro’s combination of experience and speed. The Blue Jays and Orioles have also been connected to the 41-year-old outfielder. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The Orioles have discussed extensions with a small handful of players, including starter Chris Tillman, and could revisit those talks in the future, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The Orioles signed Tillman to a one-year, $4.315MM deal earlier this week to avoid arbitration. MLBTR looked at the possibility of a long-term deal for Tillman in a recent extension candidate piece.
- Starter R.A. Dickey is cautiously optimistic about the the Blue Jays‘ upcoming season, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star writes. “I’m as excited as I was in 2013,” says Dickey, referring to the splashy offseason in which the Jays acquired him. “Now, we all know what happened in ’13.” Dickey says he’s excited about the Jays’ additions of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, although he’d still like to see them acquire bullpen help.
So far this offseason, an unusual amount of free agent spending has been made by teams that were less successful in 2014, Sam Miller writes for FOX Sports. While Miller acknowledges the possibility of a short-sample blip, he notes that last year showed a similar trend. And, as he explains, factors such as the addition of a second Wild Card suggest a reasonable explanation for a real shift in strategies. Those interested in broader market movement will certainly want to give this thoughtful piece a complete read.
Here’s the latest on the current market:
- Second-time Tommy John patient Brandon Beachy remains available, unlike similarly-situated former teammate Kris Medlen and most other high-upside rebound candidates. Recent reports suggest his market is reaching maturation, and the Braves remain interested and involved, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via Twitter). After checking in on the 28-year-old, however, the Rangers are out of the pursuit, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
- The Blue Jays have joined the Marlins and Orioles in expressing interest in outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. For what it’s worth, the left-handed-hitting Ichiro’s historically neutral splits have skewed toward a significant reverse platoon advantage in recent seasons, though he has seen fairly limited action against southpaws.
- Toronto’s strongest AL East competition could come from the Red Sox, who like their Canadian rivals are still in the hunt for bullpen upgrades, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. GM Ben Cherington says that he is “still working” to build out the Boston relief corps.
The Marlins have checked in on Ichiro Suzuki as a possible fourth outfield option, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). Additionally, Nate Schierholtz is also an option for the Marlins in their quest for a backup outfielder, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro (also via Twitter).
Ichiro’s name has been most frequently connected to the Orioles in recent weeks, but his market has been otherwise limited. The 41-year-old batted .284/.324/.340 in 385 plate appearances for the Yankees last season. Ichiro is clearly no longer the player he once was, but both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved pegged him as an average defender in right field this season, and he’s still a skilled baserunner, as evidenced in part by his 15-for-18 mark in stolen bases. (Fangraphs valued his baserunning at +2.5 runs on the whole.)
Schierholtz, meanwhile, is coming off a dreadful season in which he batted just .195/.243/.309. Schierholtz’s strikeout rate did jump to 21.9 percent, but that figure isn’t so high that it can completely explain a 60-point dip in his batting average (especially considering the fact that he hit .251 with an 18.7 percent whiff rate a year prior). A portion of Schierholtz’s struggles does appear to be BABIP-driven, as his average on balls in play plummeted to .231 last season despite a career mark of .288. Perhaps not surprisingly, he was unable to sustain a stark increase in his homer-to-flyball rate from 2013 that led to a career-high 21 homers. He’s historically graded out as a solid right fielder and did so again in 2014.
As Frisaro notes, that Miami is looking at Schierholtz and Suzuki suggests that they’re prioritizing a left-handed bat in their search for extra outfielders. If that’s the case, then I’d speculate that free agents such as Andy Dirks, Endy Chavez and Tyler Colvin could also hold some interest in Miami’s eyes. The switch-hitting Eric Young Jr. would be another option as a bench player. As far as the trade market goes, Will Venable and David Murphy strike me as a pair of obvious trade candidates that come without exorbitant salaries.
The Orioles have had discussions about Andre Ethier with the Dodgers, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Baltimore is in search of a left-handed hitting outfielder and the 32-year-old (33 in April) could be a fit.
While Ethier has been prominently mentioned in trade rumors throughout the winter, it would be somewhat surprising to see the Dodgers part with him after dealing Matt Kemp just weeks ago. Ethier was relegated to the bench last season and while he took it in stride, he made it clear to Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times in early December that he wanted to start in 2015 – whether that was in Los Angeles or elsewhere. The former two-time All-Star hit just .249/.322/.370 with four homers in 380 plate appearances last season.
As Kubatko notes, the Orioles checked on Kemp earlier this winter but decided against pursuing him due to his contract and health issues and the Dodgers’ insistence on getting Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in return. Ethier would not require that same kind of haul, though he also comes with a hefty contract. He’s owed $53.5MM over the next three more years and has a $17.5MM vesting option for 2018 with a $2.5 million buyout, adding up to a full $56MM guarantee.
While there is some degree of interest in Ethier, Kubatko says that the Orioles apparently still rate Colby Rasmus as the most likely possibility of their left-handed hitting outfield targets. The O’s also have interest in fellow free agent Nori Aoki. Baltimore reportedly has interest in 41-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, but Kubatko hears he’d be a tough sell for some in the organization.
Here’s the latest out of Baltimore:
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter is scheduled to meet with free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus, tweets Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Rasmus has been frequently connected to the Orioles in recent weeks. His power is a good fit for notably home run friendly Camden Yards. There are plenty of red flags with Rasmus, such as the Blue Jays decision to bench him down the stretch last season. Chemistry is important to Showalter, which is why he’ll go to meet Rasmus at his Georgia home.
- The Orioles missed on one of their outfield targets – Seth Smith – but they’re still in on Rasmus and Ichiro Suzuki, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. The O’s hope to lure Rasmus with a one-year platform deal, much as they did with Nelson Cruz last season. If they’re forced to turned to Ichiro, he could potentially fill their void at leadoff.
- Baltimore is looking to add depth to the bullpen and at catcher, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. As Kubatko alludes, the interest in catcher is curious since there are already five on the 40-man roster. The club is exploring major and minor league deals, which could indicate a need for minor league backstops.