Koji Uehara Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Teams seeking bullpen depth have started calling the Rangers about possible trades, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. The Rangers may be able to part with a right-handed reliever now that left-hander Robbie Ross has made a strong case for a 25-man roster spot.
Right-handers Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe may be expendable in trades. They’ll earn $4MM and $1.7MM, respectively, before hitting free agency next offseason. The Rangers are still looking for a middle infielder who can play short and a right-handed hitting outfielder for the bench, according to Grant.
The Rangers "might prefer" to keep some of the extra arms on their pitching staff rather than make a trade, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Scott Feldman, Koji Uehara and Mark Lowe are cited as Rosenthal as the expendable members of the Rangers staff but they look likely to remain in Texas unless relievers Robert Ross or Tanner Scheppers perform well enough in Spring Training to earn jobs, which could convince the club to deal one of their veterans.
Most of the Rangers' rotation and bullpen jobs are set, and the presence of Alexi Ogando as a swingman gives Texas some backup if one of the starters falters. This leaves Feldman, who has battled both injuries and ineffectiveness since his breakout 2009 campaign. Feldman did pitch well in limited action in 2011 --- a 3.94 ERA and 2.20 K/BB ratio in 32 innings. The right-hander will earn $6.5MM this season and the Rangers hold a $9.25MM club option on him for 2013 that looks almost certain to be bought out (at a cost of $600K).
Feldman, Uehara and Lowe all drew trade buzz over the winter, with the Red Sox showing interest in the two relievers, and Uehara using his limited no-trade clause to reject a proposed deal to the Blue Jays. Uehara has posted better numbers than Lowe over the last three seasons but turns 37 in April and is earning $4MM in 2012; Lowe is eight years younger and a cheaper option at just $1.7MM.
Rosenthal notes that the Rangers received calls about Colby Lewis during the offseason as well, but the club preferred to keep the right-hander due to his durability (200+ IP in each of the last two seasons). It's no surprise Texas wanted to keep Lewis since their rotation, while deep and promising, has several question marks --- Matt Harrison and Derek Holland aren't yet completely proven entities as reliable starters, Neftali Feliz is transitioning to starting from the bullpen and Yu Darvish is making his debut to North American baseball.
On this date in 2000, the Rangers acquired David Segui and cash in a three-team trade. Texas sent Lee Stevens to the Expos, the Expos sent Brad Fullmer to the Blue Jays, and the Jays sent Segui and cash to the Rangers. Here's the latest from the two-time defending AL champs...
- The Rangers have gotten calls about Scott Feldman, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). They have a strong inclination to hang onto the versatile 29-year-old right-hander, however.
- Given their deep cache of right-handed relievers, Heyman says (on Twitter) that Texas could still trade Koji Uehara or Mark Lowe. Uehara invoked his no-trade clause to reject a deal to the Blue Jays in January.
- The Rangers rolled the dice with Brandon Webb last season, and ESPN's Buster Olney says (on Twitter) that the 32-year-old sinkerballer continues to work out with the intention of getting back on the mound for a team at some point.