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Ichiro Suzuki Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
The latest from the AL East..
- The Red Sox spoke with the Tigers about a deal involving Yoenis Cespedes and Rick Porcello, but there wasn’t a match there, accoridng to Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com (via Twitter). Yesterday, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reported that those talks were “not hot” between the two teams.
- Ichiro Suzuki‘s agent John Boggs says his client isn’t in a rush to find a new home, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. However, if the right offer came along, he would sign “in two seconds.” Ichiro is entering his age 41 season after hitting .284/.324/.340 in 385 plate appearances with the Yankees.
- The Rays have reached an agreement with St. Petersburg that will allow the club to search for stadium sites in nearby Hillsborough County, reports Stephen Nohlgren of the Tampa Bay Times. Under the deal, the Rays will pay a set annual amount based on the amount of time remaining in their current lease of Tropicana Field, which expires in 2027. The Rays will pay $4MM per season until 2018, $3MM through 2022, and $2MM for the remainder of the term.
- MLB is still investigating the Cubs on charges of tampering with former manager Joe Maddon, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Maddon, now with the Cubs, opted out of his contract with the Rays earlier this offseason. Per Tampa GM Matt Silverman, “they’re handling it.”
Brad Johnson contributed to this post.
Reds pitcher and regular MLBTR reader Mike Leake keeps track of offseason trade whispers but tries not to worry about them, Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes. “I’m curious. I check MLB Trade Rumors every day just to see what’s new,” says Leake, a potential trade candidate this winter. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You sit and wait and see if your name is thrown in a trade.” Leake notes that he would be happy to remain with the Reds, but would be understanding if they traded him.
- If the Red Sox decide to deal Allen Craig, there will be interest despite his poor 2014 season, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. The Marlins and Brewers have had interest in the past, and one evaluator expresses confidence that Craig’s performance last season was derailed by injuries and not by a steep decline in ability.
- Also from Cafardo, Francisco Liriano would be a good fit in either the NL or AL, but teams are concerned about giving him more than a three-year deal since he’s never been an innings-eater. The Pirates remain interested in retaining him but not on a four-year contract. Some executives feel the “tipping point” of Liriano’s market will be if at least one team is willing to give that fourth year, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets.
- Liriano is one of the Pirates‘ top targets, sources tell Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Justin Masterson has received a lot of interest but no actual offers yet, Fangraphs’ David Laurila reports. Laurila suggested in a recent column that Masterson could be a good candidate to be converted to relief pitching, though no teams have approached him with that idea and Masterson wouldn’t be interested if they did.
- Also from Laurila’s piece, he talks to Burke Badenhop and the righty reliever said he felt he improved his free agent stock by posting strong numbers against left-handed batters in 2014.
- Ichiro Suzuki‘s market is “not hot,” agent John Boggs tells Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link). Boggs is trying to push his client’s ability to play all three outfield spots and a bat that delivered a .284 average in 2014, hoping that teams won’t shy away because Ichiro is entering his age-41 season.
- It would be surprising if the Rockies pulled off a blockbuster deal involving Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez during the Winter Meetings, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “If I was a betting man, I sure wouldn’t put down money on a trade,” a Major League executive tells Saunders. The likeliest scenario is that neither player is traded (if at all) until they’ve proven they’re healthy.