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Kenta Maeda Rumors
The Orioles announced today that they have selected the contract of first base prospect Christian Walker for the final few games of the season. Walker, 23, was Baltimore’s fourth-round pick in 2013 and batted a combined .288/.357/.489 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains, Baltimore will take a look at Walker while resting Steve Pearce over the remainder of the regular season. The team was hesitant to add Walker to the 40-man roster, as he did not need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, but they decided to give him a mini-audition of sorts (Twitter links). No moves were needed to clear a spot in light of the suspension of Chris Davis, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
Here’s more from the American League East…
- The Red Sox have interest in Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but that interest is similar to their interest in many free agent starters, including Francisco Liriano. That is to say, according to Bradford, that Boston considers him a middle-of-the-rotation arm rather than an ace to slot atop the team’s starting five.
- The struggles of Koji Uehara have not changed the interest of the Red Sox in bringing him back, GM Ben Cherington tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). After showing excellent form for much of the season, Uehara’s age-39 campaign took a quick downturn from mid-August onward. He remains a tantalizing free agent, however, given his recent track record of dominance.
- For the time being, of course, all eyes will be on Rusney Castillo tonight as he makes his debut for the Red Sox. But with so little time left in the season, his real work will come over the winter, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Castillo is expected to play in both the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rican Winter League as he looks to dial in his play in anticipation of competing for a starting job next spring.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos expects Melky Cabrera to test the free agent market rather than sign an extension, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. While reports have indicated that Cabrera will receive a qualifying offer and Toronto hopes to retain him on a new multi-year deal, Anthopoulos said that it just makes sense for most players who get to this point to see what’s out there. Anthopoulos added that he’s open to bringing back any of the team’s pending free agents if it makes financial sense.
- The Rays‘ immediate future is not promising, in the opinion of Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times. With the team expected to oversee a drop in payroll, it will take bounce-backs from several key players (such as Wil Myers and Evan Longoria) to improve the team moving forward. For his part, skipper Joe Maddon says that he foresees a return to form for Tampa, especially given the team’s talented pitching staff. “I just want to believe it’ll be more offensive,” Maddon said of next year’s club. “Whether it’s with the guys who are here or potential acquisitions.”
For those who missed it over the weekend, reports from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez pegged this coming Sunday (Sept. 21) as the date for Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase, which will be held at the Giants’ complex in the Dominican Republic. Here are a few notes on the international prospect front…
- Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, told Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald in Miami last week (Spanish link) that he expects to set a record this offseason when negotiating Tomas’ contract. Rusney Castillo‘s seven-year, $72.5MM contract currently stands as the most lucrative contract ever for a Cuban player, but Tomas’ combination of age and power will certainly give him a chance to top that figure. It would also seem possible that Tomas tops Jose Abreu‘s $11.33MM average annual salary as well.
- The Red Sox have scouted Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda extensively, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo says it would be a surprise if Boston didn’t make a bid for the 26-year-old, assuming he is posted this offseason (Cafardo makes the assumption that he will be). Maeda has posted a 2.71 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 156 innings for the Hiroshima Carp this season — his sixth straight season with an ERA south of 3.00. Set to turn 27 next April, Maeda has a career 2.45 ERA over seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Of course, Maeda is a rather high-profile arm, so it’s likely that a large amount of other clubs have been scouting him as well.
- Sanchez traveled to the Dominican Republic this weekend for a week-long Dominican Prospect League showcase — an event at which roughly 200 teenagers will be seen by scouts. According to Sanchez (Twitter links), 29 of baseball’s 30 clubs will be in attendance. The Indians, he says, are the lone club that is not expected to attend. Sanchez’s timeline currently has plenty of Vine clips of prospects performing drills for those who are interested in the event.
Here’s the latest out of the National League:
- The agent for Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval says that the free agent-to-be is still open to discussing a new deal, though no talks have occurred “in months,” according to a tweet from Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. Sandoval, who will hit the market before his age-28 season, has put up a solid walk year. In addition to a .283/.330/.438 line and 14 home runs through 463 plate appearances, Sandoval has impressed defensive metrics and scouts alike with his glovework on the hot corner. Even better, his primary competitor on the third base market, Chase Headley, has not impressed. Of course, many clubs will probably view Hanley Ramirez as a third base option at this point as well.
- Cubs starter Jake Arrieta says he is open to an extension with the club, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Though his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises his clients to go year-to-year until reaching free agency, Arrieta says he loves playing in Chicago and would be interested in a reasonable new contract. “I don’t think I’m a guy that’s going to ask for an astronomical amount of money,” he said. “But I think if there’s a fair deal to be reached, I’m in 100 percent.” Arrieta added that he felt Boras would not be any hindrance to a deal, but would instead arm him with the necessary advice and information to enable him to reach a decision. He did note that no talks had occurred to date: “I don’t think it’s out of the question. I don’t think there’s been anything formal in the works, but this is an organization that I’ve really seen a transformation take place … .” Arrieta will be arb-eligible for the first time next year, entering his age-29 season, and could not have set himself up much better. His current line: 2.77 ERA over 110 1/3 innings with 9.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9.
- The Diamondbacks will be in the market for starting pitching over the coming winter, and could look to the Japanese market to fill the need, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Having worked to increase the team’s presence in Japan, the D’backs have been among the many teams watching 26-year-old righty Kenta Maeda, says Piecoro.
- Braves righty Cody Martin drew plenty of interest as the club looked to bolster its bullpen and bench at the trade deadline, writes Bill Ballew of Baseball America. With a solid feel for multiple quality offerings, Martin has drawn comparisons to Kris Medlen and is viewed as a solid rotation or pen candidate despite his lack of a single plus pitch.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discusses the rash of injuries to pitchers. Some are suggesting that MLB lower the mound, which would reduce stress on the shoulder and elbow by reducing some of the downward force. Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves has a different idea. “You have to stop shrinking the strike zone,” he said. “It has to be expanded. It’s incredible what you’re asking of pitchers nowadays. You expect them to throw the baseball into this tiny box. Do you know how much stress that puts on a pitcher’s arm? Just remembering when I pitched, the strike zone is so tiny compared to back then. It’s impossible to think that you make a pitcher hit that tiny box and not have it affect the health of a pitcher over time.” Here’s more from today’s column..
- Baseball executives think they’ll have their eyes on Cliff Lee if the Phillies fall out of the race. The Yankees would have plenty of competition for Lee, perhaps even from the Red Sox, who have long coveted him, especially given his past relationship with John Farrell. The Red Sox also have more to give than the Yankees in terms of prospects. Lee, 35, will earn $25MM this season and next, and has a $27.5MM option for 2016, which vests with 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings in 2014-15.
- It’s expected that teams that missed out on Masahiro Tanaka will bid for Hiroshima Toyo Carp standout Kenta Maeda. The Red Sox have scouted Maeda quite a bit and he’s garnering attention, even though he is not as accomplished as Tanaka.
- Cafardo asked four GMs if they would rework John Lackey’s 2015 salary at the major league minimum if they were running the Red Sox. Three said no, that Lackey had agreed to play for the minimum in a sixth year if he lost a year to Tommy John surgery. The consensus was Lackey would be even more motivated to have a big year if he was playing for another big contract.
- The Phillies didn’t have any suitors for Jonathan Papelbon over the offseason, but now that he’s pitched through some difficulty he may have a market. The Phillies may not get a whole lot for him, however.
We've seen a continued rise in the prices of international stars over the past few years, and the 2013-14 offseason has been no exception with Masahiro Tanaka leading to a $175MM expenditure from the Yankees and the Dodgers dishing out a combined $53MM for Cuban infielders Erisbel Arruebarrena and Alexander Guerrero. Here's the latest on the international front…
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote last week that there are split opinions on whether or not Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda will be posted following the 2014 offseason. Maeda, 26 in April, has a career 2.41 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 1116 1/3 innings for the Hiroshima Carp. As Sherman notes, he's not as highly regarded as Tanaka or Yu Darvish, but Maeda is considered on of Japan's top two starters. He does have four years of team control remaining, so he's no guarantee to be posted.
- NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman looks at Maeda's strengths and weaknesses, noting that Maeda has gone on record as saying he wants to pitch in Major League Baseball. Newman feels that Maeda can hack it as a mid-rotation arm in the Majors, praising his durability, solid fastball and ability to spot two offspeed pitches.
- One club official who watched Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz's last workout told Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com that Diaz profiles as a utility infielder and may struggle at shortstop in the Majors (Twitter link). The Yankees have reportedly passed on Diaz, but multiple other clubs still have interest.
Acknowledging that he'd listen to offers for anyone and everyone on his roster in the right scenario, Indians GM Chris Antonetti suggested it'd be difficult to move Justin Masterson, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer details. Antonetti declined to comment on the possibility of offering Masterson an extension, but added, "What I can say is how much we appreciate the contributions that Justin has made to our organization and we’d love for him to be an Indian long term."
Here are a few more overnight links from around MLB:
- If Bronson Arroyo decides he wants to be in Minnesota, he'd be the Twins' top choice of their potential starting pitching targets, says Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter).
- The Rockies have expressed interest in free agent reliever Ryan Madson, but remain more likely to trade for a bullpen arm than sign one, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
- After missing most of last season, Brett Myers is healthy and is seeking a job this winter, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com.
- The Diamondbacks' acquisition of Mark Trumbo is the latest example of how the team operates, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. As Piecoro points out, Arizona generally doesn't care about getting what the industry would consider "full value" for their trade chips.
- The uncertainty surrounding Masahiro Tanaka continues to slow the pace of negotiations for the top starting pitchers already on the market, tweets Berardino.
- A Monday report suggested another NPB starter, Kenta Maeda, could play for an MLB team as soon as 2015, but the latest word on Maeda indicates the right-hander might even be posted this winter. Ben Badler of Baseball America has the details.
- Badler also writes that changes are coming to the limits on international spending in 2014, with MLB teams set to lose up to $300K in signing money that had previously been exempt from bonus pools.
Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz continues to draw heavy interest from Major League teams, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Some teams like Diaz, who can't sign until Feb. 19 due to falsifying his age last offseason, as a second baseman. Passan reports that Braves, Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays and Cardinals as teams who have been heavily represented at Diaz's most recent showcases in Mexico (Twitter links). Some more links from around the league…
- Jeff Francoeur, who recently underwent LASIK surgery, is seeking a job as a backup outfielder, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Frenchy will also abandon his use of a 35-ounce bat in 2013 — a weight only utilized by Orioles slugger Chris Davis.
- Felix Pie is nearing an agreement with Korea's Hanwah Eagles, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). Pie hasn't seen much big-league action in the last two years, recording just 31 plate appearances in 27 games with the Pirates in 2013.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Royals' offer to Carlos Beltran was slightly less than the Yankees' three-year, $45MM offer but would technically have paid Beltran more due to the tax differences between Missouri and New York.
- The Dodgers have not been involved in negotiations with Omar Infante, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
- As they search for starting pitching help, the Orioles will be open to multiyear contracts rather than just one-year deals, GM Dan Duquette confirmed today (Twitter link via Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com).
- The Twins pursued a catcher before the market dried up, but had no interest in going to three years for any of the free agents they targeted, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Minnesota "made that clear from the start," according to Berardino.
- Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along word, in a translated tweet, that Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda has expressed interest in playing in MLB, perhaps as soon as 2015.
Luke Adams contributed to this post.
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This offseason could see revisions of the posting system that allows players in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league to jump to MLB, Baseball America's Ben Badler reports. A memo from the commissioner's office earlier this year informed MLB clubs the two leagues were discussing possible changes to the system. Sources tell Badler that one potential new provision could be a cap to the posting fee, which could see more money funneled to players rather than the Japanese team and would also allow MLB to count more dollars against the luxury tax. Overall, however, it's not really clear what direction the posting system is headed in. “We’re just operating under the idea that everything’s going to be the same way it was last year," an international director told Badler. “That’s the same as everyone else I talked to.”
Several clubs expect that pitcher Masahiro Tanaka will look to join an MLB team this offseason, according to Badler, which confirms what we've heard in recent months. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has put together a sterling season this year for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, compiling a 1.20 ERA across 158 innings with 130 strikeouts and just 22 walks. With an arsenal that includes a low-90s fastball and two plus secondary offerings – including a splitter that grades out at a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale – some scouts project him as a potential No. 2 starter that could help a team immediately, Badler reports.
Badler's article reveals that both the Rangers and Yankees have sent top scouts to Japan to watch the 24-year-old pitch, and could be the favorites to sign him. However, they're not the only teams keeping tabs on the righty as the Red Sox and Twins have also been connected.
Some scouts believe Kenta Maeda, another Japanese righty, could attempt to migrate to the majors this offseason, though the majority believe there's less than a 50 percent chance of that happening, Badler adds. Maeda has a 2.26 ERA in 123 2/3 innings this year, but at just 6 feet and 160 pounds, he probably doesn't have the frame that projects to consistently hold up for 200 innings a season. Maeda might best be served by waiting a year to avoid being posted at the same time as Tanaka. However, several scouts tell Badler they see the 25-year-old as a back-end starter in the majors, and given his smaller size, that isn't likely to change.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.