Koji Uehara Rumors

Koji Uehara’s 2014 Option Vests

Koji Uehara pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings last night and earned his third win of the season, but the appearance carried far more significance, as it triggered his vesting option for the 2014 season.

Uehara's contract was originally reported to be a one-year deal worth $4.25MM, but over the weekend, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that Uehara has a vesting option, and on Monday, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reported that it is valued at $4.25MM.

Uehara finished his 24th game of the season last night, bringing him within 11 games finished of a clause in his contract that boosts his 2014 salary to $5MM. The 38-year-old right-hander has a very good chance to finish 35 games for the Red Sox this season and make that happen, and the Red Sox will have no problem spending a little extra to keep Uehara around.

In 54 2/3 innings this season, the Osaka native has a 1.32 ERA with 12.3 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9. Uehara's 2.1 wins above replacement (per Fangraphs) are second among relief pitchers, and he leads the Majors in WHIP (0.68) and swinging-strike rate (16.9 percent).


Koji Uehara’s Contract Contains Vesting Option

When Koji Uehara signed with the Red Sox this offseason, the contract was reported as a one-year, $4.25MM contract. However, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently reported that Uehara has an option that will vest after his next appearance (Twitter link). Alex Speier of WEEI.com spoke with an industry source that pegged the value of the vesting option at $4.25MM.

Uehara, 38, is in the midst of another excellent season, having pitched to a 1.35 ERA with 12.5 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 53 1/3 innings this season. He's stepped up as the team's closer following injuries to both Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, recording 12 saves thus far. Speier adds that if Uehara finishes 12 more games (giving him 35 total), the value of his option will increase to $5MM.

That Uehara has finished 23 games for the Red Sox this season isn't insignificant in regards to his 2013 salary either; Uehara's contract contains incentives that call for him to earn an extra $125K for reaching 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 games finished (as noted at Cot's Contracts). In other words, he's already boosted his salary to $4.5MM and should see that figure rise noticeably in the season's final weeks.


AL East Links: Yankees, Cashman, Red Sox, O’s

In a piece for CBSSports.com, Danny Knobler notes that the Yankees are pinning their playoff hopes on strong returns from aging stars like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Knobler opines that a recent comment from GM Brian Cashman ("These guys are trying, but…") is an admission that the current Yankees' lineup may not be good enough to carry the team to the playoffs. Cashman also commented on A-Rod's eventual return, saying his production at third base should be "better than [what] we've gotten from third base, with all due respect." However, in a recent tweet, ESPN's Buster Olney suggests that Rodriguez is likely to spend more time at DH than at third when he rejoins the Yankees. On to tonight's AL East links…

  • Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News says Cashman needs to acquire a bat to bolster the team's fizzling attack, but Cashman reports that it's tough to find offense in this year's trade market. "The phone calls are taking place, but nothing to show for it,” Cashman said. “I think if you’re looking for offense, Exhibit A is, name me the bat that’s moved already? It hasn’t. Exhibit B is, look at all the big rumors out there – they’re involving pitchers … It’s just an offensive offense market." McCarron suggests that the addition of the second wild card slot may be causing more teams to consider themselves contenders later into the season.
  • Sources in the Red Sox organization tell Knobler that the team's top priority is relief pitching despite continuing uncertainty about starter Clay Buchholz, who hasn't pitched since June 8 and has no target return date. The Sox began the season with a strong bullpen, but injuries to Andrew BaileyJoel Hanrahan and Andrew Miller have thinned out the team's relief corps, leading GM Ben Cherington to acquire lefty Matt Thornton from the White Sox last week. The Sox appear to be content with Koji Uehara as their closer, Knobler observes.
  • The Red Sox also continue to monitor the trade market for third basemen, and it's believed they have significant interest in the Phillies' Michael Young, according to Knobler. However, Philadelphia's recent run of success means they don't appear to be in sell mode. The Brewers' Aramis Ramirez is a potential fit, but he's currently on the disabled list with a knee issue and may not return until right at the deadline, Knobler writes. Meanwhile, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who manned the hot corner for much of 2012 for the Sox, continues to post mediocre numbers at Triple-A Pawtucket. However, Knobler says some in the Boston organization continue to hope he'll put things together.
  • The Orioles are "tapped out" financially in terms of adding another player via trade, a team-connected source tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. GM Dan Duquette added righty Scott Feldman in a trade with the Cubs earlier this month. The O's aren't in the market for an ace pitcher, and any deal for a DH or outfielder would have to fit the team's limited budget. The Twins' Justin Morneau, who's owed $6MM for the remainder of the year, would be "too expensive," an Orioles source tells Heyman. Instead, O's fans should look for any help to come from within, Heyman says, citing the recently promoted outfield prospect Henry Urrutia and pitcher Kevin Gausman.
These guys are trying, but . . . "


Orioles Notes: Upton, Uehara, Urrutia

A few notes on the Orioles..

  • The Orioles considered trading pitching for a hitter last offseason, but decided not to deal their young hurlers, Jayson Stark of ESPN reports. Stark says the Orioles would not include Dylan Bundy in a deal with the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton, and also ultimately passed on Jason Kubel. “Some of the bats that we could get would have improved our team,” says executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette. “But it wasn't a huge improvement. And we wanted to hold onto the pitching depth and see if we could utilize the pitching depth to have a competitive team. And we could always take a look at that [later].”
  • Koji Uehara thought he might return to Baltimore this offseason, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun reports. "I thought that there would be a possibility [of playing in Baltimore], but I didn't especially put a lot of weight on each team or one particular team," says Uehara. "I thought that every team had a chance." The Red Sox signed Uehara to a one-year, $4.25MM deal in December.
  • Outfielder Henry Urrutia has finally arrived in the United States, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports writes. The 26-year-old Cuban defector received a $779K bonus from the Orioles in 2012, but had been in Haiti and has only now received a work visa. He will take a physical, then head to Orioles minor-league camp in Sarasota. The O's had intended to send Urrutia to Double-A Bowie last year, Kubatko notes.

Red Sox Sign Koji Uehara

The Red Sox announced that they signed reliever Koji Uehara to a one-year deal.  Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News first reported the agreement, which includes a $4.25MM base salary, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  Uehara is represented by SFX.

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Uehara, 38 in April, posted a 1.75 ERA, 10.8 K/9, 0.8 BB/9, 1.00 HR/9, and 32.5% groundball rate in 36 innings this year, missing time with a strained lat muscle.  He'll join Andrew Bailey and Junichi Tazawa at the back end of Boston's bullpen.  Uehara came to MLB from Japan in 2009, and has dominated as a reliever when healthy despite an average fastball velocity below 89 miles per hour.  Among pitchers with at least 200 career innings, Uehara's 7.97 career K/BB ratio is the best in baseball history.  He ranked 35th on my top 50 free agents list.

The Red Sox have committed $150.95MM to free agents Uehara, Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Dempster and David Ross this offseason.  However, Napoli's $39MM deal hasn't been announced, as there appears to be something holding the agreement up.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Orioles Have Interest In Koji Uehara & Kameron Loe

The bullpen was a major strength for the Orioles this season, but that doesn't mean they won't look for upgrades this winter. Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun hears the team has some interest in Koji Uehara and Kameron Loe.

“He’s on our list, we like him. He’s been here before," said GM Dan Duquette of Uehara, who pitched in Baltimore from 2009 until being traded away at the 2011 deadline. 

The Orioles have inquired about several other relievers including Japanese free agent Kyuji Fujikawa, notes Connolly. Uehara, 37, pitched to a 1.75 ERA with 10.8 K/9 and 0.8 BB/9 in 36 innings for the Rangers last year. Loe, 31, posted a 4.61 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 68 1/3 innings for the Brewers. He started his career under Orioles manager Buck Showalter while with Texas.


Rosenthal On Royals, Uehara, D’Backs, Span, Catching

Here are the latest hot stove items from FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal….

  • Teams in search of bullpen help have been looking at Royals right-handers Greg Holland and Aaron Crow, though Kansas City isn't likely to trade any of its Major League players unless they can move Jeff Francoeur.
  • The Royals bolstered their pitching staff by re-signing Jeremy Guthrie and trading for Ervin Santana, but Rosenthal still feels the team needs a true ace.
  • The Phillies are interested in free agent reliever Koji Uehara.
  • The Diamondbacks could deal Jason Kubel instead of Justin Upton, which would be an easier move to make though Kubel would bring back a lesser return.  A source tells Rosenthal that the Rangers are still interested in Upton but are waiting for the D'Backs to back down on their demands for Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar in return.
  • Denard Span could be a good trade target for a club that doesn't want to pay for one of the expensive center fielders on the free market.  With the Twins desperate for pitching, Rosenthal speculates that a team like the Braves (who need a center fielder and have pitching depth) could be a trade partner.
  • The free agent catching market is stalled since the Red Sox and Blue Jays have catchers available for trade, plus the Yankees are waiting to address their pitching before making a decision on Russell Martin.
  • Speaking of the Blue Jays' catching depth, Rosenthal thinks that Toronto is in no hurry to deal J.P. Arencibia, as a dependable catcher is needed if top prospect Travis D'Arnaud hasn't recovered from his season-ending knee injury.
  • Reed Johnson is drawing interest from several teams, including the Braves, who acquired Johnson from the Cubs last July.

AL West Notes: Rangers, M’s, Hamilton, Adams, Uehara

Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels says that the door is open for reliever Mike Adams to return, but he doesn't sound terribly optimistic about it happening, writes Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram.  "I think Mike's earned the right and put up performances indicative of a substantial contract," Daniels said. "Historically we haven't done those kinds of deals."  More on the Rangers and other items out of the AL West..

  • While some have speculated that the Red Sox and Rangers could partner up for a swap of Jacoby Ellsbury and Elvis Andrus, such a trade won't be happening, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com.
  • People familiar with the Mariners' thinking told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that the club could be a new entry into the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes.  Earlier today, we learned that the Orioles will be targeting Hamilton this winter.
  • Daniels also said that he wants to see Koji Uehara return in 2013, Wilson writes.  With the likely departure of Adams and Alexi Ogando's move to the rotation, the Rangers have three vacancies to fill in the bullpen.
  • The GM also confirmed that the club has discussed a minor league deal with right-hander Yoshinori Tateyama.  The Rangers declined their $1.2MM option on Tateyama last week.
  • Daniels believes that there is a perception that the Rangers do not want to retain Hamilton and said that it is inaccurate, Wilson writes.  The Rangers have maintained contact with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye, but contract terms have yet to be discussed.
  • Earlier tonight, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported that the Rangers are pursuing free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Rosenthal On Pirates, Astros, Rangers

The acquisition of right-handers Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom has proved integral to the Orioles' early season success. The same cannot be said for Jeremy Guthrie, sent to the Rockies by Baltimore in the same trade, as the right-hander has struggled in injury-limited action for Colorado. Let's check in with Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports as he catches us up on news and rumors from around the league in his latest column:

  • The Pirates may be strong candidates to trade pitching for hitting the way the Mariners did when they traded Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero. While the Pirates' offense averages fewer than three runs per game their pitching staff has offered glimmers of hope. More specifically, the Pirates' bullpen leads the league in relief ERA with a plethora of quality relievers waiting for an opportunity at Triple-A Indianapolis.
  • Count Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow among the believers who think that the Astros may be buyers at the trade deadline given their plus-11 run differential heading into Memorial Day. “I do think so,” Luhnow said. “I don’t necessarily know if we’ll take on a whole bunch of salary. But we’ll look at every opportunity that comes our way, evaluate it in terms of short-term impact and medium and long-term impact. Look for Houston to attempt to trade Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee and Brett Myers if the team begins to mimic last year's 106-loss club.
  • The inability to move right-hander Koji Uehara during the offseason and later during Spring Training has paid huge dividends for the Rangers this season. After struggling in Arlington upon being acquired from the Orioles, Uehara has rebounded nicely in 2012 by posting a 1.04 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9.

Quick Hits: Rangers, Dodgers, Rowand

On this date three years ago, the Padres returned Rule 5 selection Ivan Nova to the Yankees. The right-hander broke out with a 3.70 ERA in 165 1/3 innings last year, his first full season in the Major Leagues. Here are today's links…

  • The Rangers are looking to tinker, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. They’re looking to move Koji Uehara and/or Mark Lowe and aim to acquire a utility infielder and/or right-handed bat who can handle left field and first base. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported yesterday that other teams are calling about the Rangers’ relievers.
  • Magic Johnson, whose group won the bidding for the Dodgers, promises to invest in the team, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times reports (via the Baltimore Sun). "Teams are investing," the former NBA star said. "That's what you do when you put a winning team on the field. We're not going to be any different from those teams."
  • Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports argues that it would be good for baseball if more of the sport's stars remained involved in high-profile roles after their playing careers end. "Two trends — increasing player compensation and larger ownership groups — have combined to create more opportunities for players to become owners," Astros CEO George Postolos told Morosi. 
  • Teams with catching depth such as the Yankees, Padres, and Blue Jays aren’t inclined to make deals at this point, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports.
  • Aaron Rowand, who was released earlier today, says he'll "probably" retire if no team needs an outfielder, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports (Twitter link).