Ichiro Suzuki Rumors
New Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is virtually the peer of special advisor Jason Varitek -- the two are only four years apart in age. But Pierzynski has still sought out Varitek's advice this spring, Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes. "He’s one of those guys, he came before me, so you kind of always looked up to him," Pierzynski says. "To be able to be in the same organization and be able to talk to him and learn things from him, it's huge. You can always get better and he was one of the best, so anything he can bring to the table to help me I’m definitely going to take and use." Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Indians have told starting pitcher Aaron Harang, who had been competing for their fifth starter job, that he won't make the team's 25-man roster, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets. Harang has the ability to opt out of minor-league deal on Monday.
- The Yankees are willing to eat part of Ichiro Suzuki's $6.5MM 2014 salary in the right trade, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. No deal appears to be imminent, however. Ichiro, who hit .262/.297/.342 with the Yankees in 2013, does not have a starting role this season.
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter says "vultures" are interested in his team's out-of-options players, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. "I know a lot of vultures are lurking around with our out-of-option guys. We've got quite an attendance here," Showalter says. "I get a list of the scouts every day, and if anything, it's gotten more. We had 17 here the other day." Two weeks ago, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted that the Orioles' out-of-options players included Edgmer Escalona, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Troy Patton, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, David Lough, Brian Matusz, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero and Josh Stinson. Obviously, the Orioles are in no danger of losing someone like Davis, and Escalona and Peguero appear likely to start the season on the disabled list. But the Orioles will have to make decisions about players like Pearce and some of the pitchers. The team recently designated another out-of-options player, Kelvin De La Cruz, for assignment.
- "I thought way too short term with the Garza deal last year. That one's got a chance to haunt us and haunt me," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic in reference to his trade with the Cubs. Daniels gave up C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez for Garza. Olt could soon make an impact in the big leagues, but it's Edwards and Ramirez who might turn out to be the keys to the deal -- Edwards was terrific down the stretch last year for Class A+ Daytona, and Ramirez has pitched well in spring training after posting a terrific strikeout rate in Double-A last season.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
A year ago, Jon Lester was coming off a poor season and his long-term future in Boston looked in doubt. Now, as Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald writes, Lester has rebuilt his career following a rebound season and another World Series ring, and it seems he's in position for a nine-figure contract from either the Red Sox or another club as a free agent next winter. Lester and the Sox have discussed an extension, and Lauber notes that the Sox (for all their promising young arms on the farm) have nobody who can replace Lester's 200 innings in 2015, so the club needs their star southpaw back.
Here's the latest from around the AL East...
- Yankees officials tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Tigers haven't asked about Ichiro Suzuki in the wake of Andy Dirks' injury. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski tells Sherman that his team is "not actively seeking a big move," though they haven't decided if they'll use an internal or external player to platoon with Rajai Davis in left.
- Ichiro, for his part, had "nothing to say about" the subject of whether or not he would want to play for another team that could offer him more regular playing time. “But as far as being part of [trade rumors], when I first came to New York, I knew it was something that happens here," Suzuki said. "You have to be emotionally ready and prepare yourself for it."
- Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli seems somewhat torn between his desire for more playing time and his desire to remain with the Yankees. "I’ve been here forever. I don’t have that answer right now because this is, I feel like, my house," Cervelli told reporters, including Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News. "But if somebody wants me to go over there, I’ve got to make the adjustment. I told you guys many times that my dream is to be a starting catcher. Right now, my role is a backup. That’s what I’m playing for. But I’m never going to stop because an opportunity is going to come again." Cervelli has drawn interest from several teams (including the White Sox and Diamondbacks) as one of Yankees' backup catchers could be traded to bring infield help to the Bronx.
- The Blue Jays' lack of success in obtaining starting pitching this offseason leads Sportsnet.ca's Shi Davidi to re-evaluate the team's decisions to not tender a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and to pass on a potential trade for Brett Anderson due to medical concerns.
- According to some Red Sox players, Stephen Drew regrets not accepting Boston's $14.1MM qualifying offer, Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports. Drew has lingered on the free agent market in his search for a multiyear deal, and while the possibility of returning to the Sox as a veteran alternative for Xander Bogaerts or Will Middlebrooks seemed to have potential earlier this winter, the club seems to have moved on. Red Sox veterans, Abraham writes, no longer feel the team needs to re-sign Drew after seeing how Middlebrooks has conducted himself during Spring Training.
- No matter how well the Rays perform on the field or how much they spend on payroll, Cork Gaines of Rays Index notes that the team can't seem to top an average of 23,000 fans per game at Tropicana Field. Gaines speculates that even a World Series title could only bump the Rays over that 23K attendance threshold for a season or two, at most.
We already know that the 2013-14 free agent market has featured incredible spending levels, but what does that mean for how teams value a win (above replacement)? Dave Cameron of Fangraphs breaks down the cost of a projected win for each player that signed a major league deal. The results show that teams have spent at levels that, depending upon what discount rate and precise methodology is employed, value an expected win at between $5MM and $7MM. In a follow-up piece, Cameron observes that, at least for players who are expected to be regular contributors, the spending shows a non-linear escalation of the price of a win (i.e., teams are paying a premium to lock up high-WAR players). Then again, says Cameron, one team -- the Yankees -- bid on all and signed most of the top (3+-win) players who were on the market, which could have skewed the results. Be sure to read both pieces for all the details on this fascinating topic.
Here are more notes from around the league:
- The Yankees' rash of spending may have pushed him to the periphery of the team's roster, but Ichiro Suzuki is not changing his approach, writes Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger. "Whatever my role is here -- whether I'm a starter or not -- my preparation never changes," said Ichiro. "Every day I'm going to do the exact same thing regardless of what my role will be. ... If I was the type of player who changes the way I prepare myself, I wouldn't be the player I have been."
- Outfielder Andy Dirks of the Tigers will undergo back surgery and is expected to be out of action for three months, reports the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter). Dirks had been expected to be the left-handed-hitting side of a left field platoon with Rajai Davis. GM Dave Dombrowski indicated that the club hopes to rely on its internal options -- including Davis, the switch-hitting Steve Lombardozzi, and left-handed swinging Don Kelly -- to fill the void, James Schmehl of MLive.com reports. "We think we have some good candidates," said Dombrowski, "but we'll just have to wait and see. I don't want to proclaim that to be 100 percent, but we do have some people that we feel have the chance to play a bigger role for us."
- After coming over as the key piece in the Mark Trumbo deal, 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs is a key to a high-priced Angels club, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. "He's very important to our season, very important to our future," said GM Jerry Dipoto. "Tyler, being that he's the youngest and least-experienced of our starters, it's an important spring for him to take that next step and establish himself at the major league level."
Ichiro Suzuki is entering the last year of his contract with the Yankees and, though he turns 41 years old in October, the outfielder tells ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews that he plans to play "not just a few" but "many" seasons past the 2014 campaign. “Retirement from baseball is something I haven’t even thought about....For me, I feel there’s no reason for me to retire right now," Suzuki said.
Suzuki has hit just .273/.305/.356 in 1939 PA over the last three seasons, missing only 13 games during that stretch though he is no longer producing like an everyday player. His playing time will be drastically reduced this season given that the Yankees have Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano slated for the regular outfield and DH positions, respectively.
While Suzuki says “there’s no reason for me not to play every day" and is physically preparing himself for a full 162 games, he admits that "when I first signed here I knew what I was getting into. I knew every year there would be changes and things would happen that maybe we can’t control."
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel once the season starts. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. But right now, it doesn’t change the way I prepare myself throughout the spring."
Despite his decline at the plate, Suzuki still brings a lot of value as a backup, if not as a starter. He has provided excellent right field defense (UZR/150 scores of +16 and +17.8 in 2012 and 2013, respectively) as a Yankee and is still a stolen base threat, not to mention his durability. Suzuki is 258 hits away from the 3000-hit plateau and only 236 hits away from a symbolic tie with Pete Rose's record 4256 hits (though, of course, 1278 of Suzuki's hits came in Japan).
Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today; so, according to legend, there will be six more weeks of winter. But, for baseball fans, spring does begin early this year when pitchers and catchers for the Diamondbacks (February 6) and Dodgers (February 8) report one week earlier than the other 28 MLB teams because of their season-opening series in Australia. Here's today's news and notes from the National League:
- Marlins President David Samson told reporters, including MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, the team is still looking to add some depth. "Certainly, you're looking at some potential non-roster invites," said Samson. "We're looking to bring people in to compete, because you just don't know. What we've learned over the years is you have injuries. The more depth you can have going into a camp, the better it is." The Marlins have invited 26 non-roster players to camp and Frisaro notes another reliever or two could be added to that total.
- The Reds have had a lackluster offseason, but still have a good strong core of starting pitching and position players to be very competitive in the NL Central, according to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com in a readers inbox column.
- Within the same article, Sheldon shot down any notion the Reds would have interest in Ichiro Suzuki citing his age, salary, and defensive limitations.
- Suk-Min Yoon held a workout on the campus of UC-Irvine Friday attended by the Giants and Orioles, per a report from SBS (h/t Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net). Earlier this week, it was reported four clubs had extended offers to the Korean right-hander with negotiations underway with two of those teams. The Twins, Red Sox, and Indians have been linked to Yoon this offseason with varying degrees of interest.
Now that the Yankees have designated Vernon Wells for assignment, they're more likely to keep Ichiro Suzuki, NJ.com's Brendan Kuty writes. If Ichiro stays, it will be in a bench role, with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran holding the starting outfield roles and Alfonso Soriano mostly playing DH. There had been some whispers that the Yankees could trade Ichiro, although, as Kuty points out, it was unclear who the Yankees might trade him to. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- The recent re-signing of Alexi Casilla to a minor-league deal gives the Orioles another backup plan if Manny Machado is unable to completely recover from his knee injury by the beginning of the season, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun writes. If Machado isn't ready to go, the Orioles could move Ryan Flaherty to third and start either Casilla or Jemile Weeks at second. Jonathan Schoop might also be a possibility there, but Encina notes that the O's would like to give Schoop more time at Triple-A.
- The Marlins are unlikely to re-sign outfielder Chris Coghlan, says MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. They non-tendered him last month, and have since added Brian Bogusevic, who looks likely to occupy an outfield bench role. The Marlins could have a starting outfield of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton.
- Adam Lind is glad the Blue Jays exercised his $7MM option this offseason, Shi Davidi of SportsNet.ca reports. "I was really hoping I was going to be back, but for some reason you never find out until the last minute, and I’m really excited and pumped to be able to stay here for another season," Lind says. There have also been trade rumors about Lind this offseason, but Davidi writes that the Blue Jays never really wanted to trade him.
The Angels are likely to eclipse the $189MM luxury-tax threshold eventually, despite their efforts to avoid doing so this offseason, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. Sources tell the columnist that the Angels have between $13MM and $15MM of space left beneath the cap, figures that are much lower than what will be required to sign Masahiro Tanaka. However, extending Mike Trout at, say, $300MM over 10 years would make it difficult to avoid surpassing the threshold anyway, so the Angels may as well do so now, Rosenthal surmises. Here's more from his new column:
- This offseason's big contracts for less-than-durable stars like Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson and Brian McCann show that position players can earn more as free agents than they would with club-friendly, long-term deals. Meanwhile, clubs appear increasingly willing to move players who resist extensions. For example, sources tell Rosenthal that rival teams have asked about Astros catcher Jason Castro, who could be moved if Houston is unable to ink him long-term.
- Qualifying offers appear to have suppressed the market for players such as Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales, frustrating player representatives. Potential fixes to the system include guaranteeing that free agents receive a qualifying offer only once, or ensuring that teams signing free agents who received qualifying offers lose only draft picks and not their associated bonus-pool amounts. The current system will remain in place for another two offseasons, Rosenthal notes.
- Stephen Drew appears to be a fit for the Mets, rival executives say, despite the club's insistence that it will consider Ruben Tejada for its starting shortstop job.
- The Blue Jays remain among the favorites to sign either Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez, despite their quiet offseason thus far. The Jays could acquire as many as two starters before the offseason is over, Rosenthal reports. In addition to upgrading through free agency, the club has also discussed trades for the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija and other starters.
- The Diamondbacks could trade J.J. Putz after acquiring Addison Reed from the White Sox. Swapping the righty for Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki is one potential deal, or Putz could be packaged with other players in a deal for a starter such as Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers.
With the additions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the Yankees have a surplus in their outfield. They're not likely to address that surplus by trading Brett Gardner, however, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports. The Yankees like the idea of having both Ellsbury and Gardner in their outfield, and they will likely focus on trading Ichiro Suzuki instead.
As Heyman points out, however, there isn't likely to be a particularly robust market for Ichiro. The 40-year-old hit .262/.297/.342 in 2013.
In an Insider post (subscription required), Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio names eight players who could be traded during the Winter Meetings. The Rays' David Price tops the list with Bowden's possible destinations starting with the Dodgers. The Dodgers also have two of their own on the list: outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Here's more on the Boys in Blue and the rest of the NL West:
- Re-signing Juan Uribe figures to be at or near the top of the Dodgers' to-do list at the Winter Meetings, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
- Uribe is not seeking a three-year contract and the holdup with the Dodgers is either their desire for a one-year deal or money, tweets ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post tweeted confirmation of an earlier report the Rockies are interested in Raul Ibanez, but cautioned nothing is serious at this point. Renck also noted Michael Young is on the club's radar for a bench role.
- The Rockies are also becoming more serious about Michael Morse along with the Giants, Marlins, and Rangers, reports the New York Post's Joel Sherman (Twitter links).
- There's been speculation the Giants could be a fit for Ichiro Suzuki, but Ken Davidoff of the New York Post tweets he doesn't believe that's the case.
- The demands of the trade market will determine what course Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers takes during the Winter Meetings, reports azcentral.com's Nick Piecoro. "Most people are asking for quite a bit right now, I'm not real excited about what I'd have to give up in the trade market," Towers said. "I'm hoping maybe the price starts to come down. If not, then I'll turn to more free agents."
- Left-hander Erick Threets is looking to play in Asia, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. The 32-year-old spent 2013 with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League pitching to a 7.04 ERA, 5.9 K/9, and 7.5 BB/9 in 23 innings covering 27 relief outings. Threets' last MLB affiliation was with the Dodgers' Triple-A team 2012 and his last appearance in a big league game was in 2010 for the White Sox.
The Yankees have begun discussing Ichiro Suzuki in trade talks with other clubs, Chad Jennings of the Journal News reports. Jennings notes that this does not mean an Ichiro deal is imminent. The Yankees now have a surplus of outfielders after agreeing to terms with Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Since the news of the Beltran acquisition, it's also emerged that the Yankees would be open to trading Brett Gardner, who would make a far more attractive trade candidate than Ichiro would.
Jennings notes that other teams are likely to view Ichiro as a bench player. The 40-year-old outfielder hit just .262/.297/.342 last season, although he was effective defensively. Ichiro will make $6.5MM in 2014 in the second year of a two-year deal.