Ichiro Suzuki Rumors

NL Notes: Desmond, Hamels, Padres, Ichiro, Rockies

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.

Marlins Notes: Ichiro, Haren, Payroll

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.

East Notes: Ichiro, Tillman, Blue Jays

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.


Free Agent Notes: Beachy, Ichiro, Red Sox Pen

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.

Marlins Interested In Nate Schierholtz, Ichiro Suzuki

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 DirksEndy 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.


Orioles Have Discussed Andre Ethier With Dodgers

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.


Orioles Notes: Rasmus, Ichiro, Bullpen

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.

AL East Notes: Scherzer, Rasmus, Ichiro, Orioles

Count Jon Morosi of FOX Sports among those who don’t believe that the Yankees are truly out of the race for Max Scherzer. Morosi sees a parallel between Scherzer’s free agency and the free agency of Mark Teixeira six years ago; the Yankees were said to be on the periphery of the market for each Scott Boras client, and in the end, Teixeira wound up spurning division rivals Boston and Baltimore to don Yankee pinstripes. Morosi reminds readers of the words of Red Sox owner John Henry following Teixeira’s signing with the Yanks: “There was no mention of the Yankees, but we felt all along that they were going to get the last call. That’s what you deal with in working with Scott.”

A few more notes from the American League East to enjoy with your Monday morning coffee…

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports lists nine possible landing spots for Scherzer based on team need and payroll, with the Red Sox topping his list. Boston is believed to like Scherzer very much, Heyman notes, and the team wouldn’t have to surrender its first-round pick due to poor results in 2014. Heyman rounds out his list with the Tigers, Giants, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Cardinals, Angels and Yankees. A few of those clubs — the Blue Jays, Cardinals and Angels — feel like a reach, though Heyman does outline his rationale for each suggestion.
  • The Orioles have ongoing dialogue with Colby Rasmus, among other left-handed hitting options, reports Morosi (Twitter links). Baltimore has also continued to show interest in Ichiro Suzuki, he adds. Rasmus would come with significantly more upside than Suzuki at this point, though the latter would come at a fraction of the price. Rasmus’ left-handed bat does appearto be a good fit in Baltimore, as Orioles Park at Camden Yards has favored left-handed hitters even more than Toronto’s Rogers Centre over the past few seasons, per Baseball Prospectus.
  • Sticking with the Orioles, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com hears that the Birds won’t host the 2016 All-Star Game. Baltimore has been believed by some to be a favorite to host the event, with retiring commissioner Bud Selig referring to the Orioles as a “very, very viable candidate” to host the Midsummer Classic.
  • The Orioles‘ acquisition of Brad Brach last year came with little fanfare but wound up netting a key bullpen piece, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. Brach notched a 3.18 ERA in 62 1/3 innings in Baltimore, showing the best control of his career (albeit with the lowest strikeout rate of his career as well). Brach explains to Encina that he’s focusing on a good Spring Training and good start to the season in his quest to carve out a prominent role in Baltimore’s bullpen. The 28-year-old notes that he followed up a promising 2012 with the Padres with a poor Spring Training and slow start in 2013, resulting in further time in the minors.

Orioles Notes: Young, Morse, Matusz, Suzuki

The Orioles are still hunting for outfield help, and Delmon Young is “absolutely” still in play, agent Joel Wolfe tells MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko. Wolfe says that all discussions with the O’s have been “very positive,” though Kubatko writes that Young’s preference is a multiyear deal, whereas the Orioles are more comfortable signing Young to a one-year deal, perhaps with an option.

Here’s some more from Baltimore…

  • The Orioles were also wary about committing multiple years to Michael Morse, Kubatko notes.  The O’s had “strong interest” in Morse earlier in the offseason but the veteran found a multiyear deal elsewhere, signing a two-year/$16MM contract with the Marlins.
  • In another Kubatko piece, he writes that the acquisition of left-hander Wesley Wright doesn’t necessarily mean the O’s will look to move Brian Matusz since Matusz is more of a lefty specialist.  This said, Baltimore does seemingly have a surplus of bullpen arms that could be used as trade bait, and Kubatko speculates that the Padres (with their surplus of outfielders) could be a fit as a trade partner.
  • The Orioles have given some consideration to signing Ichiro Suzuki, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes.
  • Chris Davis has received permission from Major League Baseball to take Adderall next season, Buck Showalter told reporters (including Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun).  Davis was issued a 25-game suspension last year for his unauthorized use of Adderall, and he still has one game remaining on his punishment.
  • The Orioles will interview Scott Coolbaugh about their vacant hitting coach position, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports.  Coolbaugh was the Rangers’ hitting coach from 2011-12 and is currently their minor league hitting coordinator.

Cafardo On Hamels, Astros, Howard, Craig

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that teams second guessing themselves is just a regular part of the offseason.  A lot of folks are second guessing the A’s, but manager Bob Melvin has confidence in GM Billy Beane.

We’re looking to get a little bit younger, yet if you want to look back to the end of 2011 and leading into 2012, we traded our last three All-Stars in [Trevor] Cahill[Andrew] Bailey, and [Gio] Gonzalez and we ended up winning the division,” said Melvin. “We’re looking to compete again. This isn’t something where we’re breaking it down and moving in a different direction. The players that we’re getting back we like. There’s always a balance here for us in that we have to look down the road. We lost quite a bit of talent the last couple of years, making some trades. Billy is about as good as it gets as far as being able to handle that balance and keep us competitive currently, yet also having to look down the road for the future.”

More from today’s column..

  • The Astros are a sleeper team in the Cole Hamels chase, Cafardo writes.  The Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, and Rangers are also interested in the Phillies left-hander, but Houston could join the bunch and the Giants may also be in if they can’t land James Shields.
  • The Phillies are trying to get teams interested in Ryan Howard, and a team source indicated to Cafardo that they are willing to pay a great majority of his contract to move him.  Howard is owed $60MM between 2015 and 2017, including a buyout.  The Rays and Orioles have DH needs and he could theoretically fit the bill.
  • Both the Marlins and the Brewers have active interest in Red Sox first baseman Allen Craig.  Craig, 30, had some strong years with the Cardinals before joining the Red Sox at last year’s deadline.
  • Agent John Boggs says that he’s having “discussions with several cubs” about client Ichiro Suzuki, though no deal is imminent at this time.
  • Dan Uggla’s agent, Terry Bross, was trying to market his client for a comeback at the Winter Meetings.  Cafardo hears that a lot of the 34-year-old’s decline may have had to do with an undetected concussion.