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- The Pirates signed catcher Wyatt Toregas to a minor league contract with an invitation Spring Training according to a team press release. The 28-year-old spent the 2010 season in the Indians' farm system, hitting .227/.311/.383 in 148 plate appearances.
- The Cubs signed outfielder Lou Montanez to a minor league deal according to Baseball America's Matt Eddy (on Twitter). They drafted him third overall back way back in 2000. Montanez hit .223/.257/.323 in 266 plate appearances with the Orioles over the last three seasons.
- Former Indians manager Mike Hargrove is back with the team as a special advisor, the club announced today.
- The Marlins project to have an Opening Day payroll around $58MM according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. It will be the franchise's highest payroll since opening the 2005 season at $60.4MM.
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- The Royals are now projected to have a payroll around $40MM after Gil Meche's surprise retirement, tweets Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star. In a separate pair of tweets, Dutton says the team is unlikely to use the payroll savings from Meche's retirement on free agents, but will instead boost their draft and international free agent budgets.
Links for Saturday….
- The Red Sox initially bought the rights to Daniel Nava for what Randolph and Mortimer Duke would refer to as the "usual amount", writes Alex Speier of WEEI. Earlier at Fenway, Nava hit a grand slam on his very first major league pitch.
- Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star provides us with a breakdown of the Royals' performance thus far under Ned Yost.
- Bryan Smith of Fangraphs examined the top hurlers in the 2011 MLB Draft.
- Look for the Yankees to have smooth negotiations with first round pick Cito Culver, tweets Jack Curry of the YES Network. The Yanks can't officially sign the 32nd overall selection until he graduates on June 20th.
- The Astros signed three more draft picks today, per a team release. They've now signed 19 of their selections, including 11 of the 22 players they drafted in the first 20 rounds.
- ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider-only link) says there's "no bubbling, hot market right now for Mike Lowell." The teams who are interested in Lowell are hoping the Red Sox will give him away and eat his salary.
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe argues that Lowell still has value. Raul Ibanez, a friend of Lowell's, agrees that the 36-year-old's bat has some pop left, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald.
- Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks the Giants are just one slugger away from World Series contention.
- Addressing his team's bullpen struggles, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said he hoped the organization's current players could turn things around, but didn't rule out a trade. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald has the details.
- Fanhouse's John Hickey says that Mike Hargrove would be interested in managing the Orioles, though it's not known if that interest is mutual.
- The Dodgers signed four of their draft picks, including fifth-rounder Jacob Lemmerman, according to MLB.com's Ken Gurnick and Evan Drellich.
- In a video for FOX Sports, Jim Bowden gives his opinion on the winners and losers of the draft. He names the Nationals, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays as clubs that made out well.
- Jeff Zimmerman at Beyond the Box Score takes a look at which teams are paying the most money to players no longer on their rosters.
At this point, it’s a widely held belief that Kenji Johjima will be the starting catcher for the Mariners in 2006. Recently, I had an informative email exchange with a master of Japanese baseball and its players, Gary Garland. Gary runs JapanBaseballDaily.com and has a much deeper knowledge of cultural factors that might come into play with Johjima and Ichiro than any American sportswriter.
Among other things, Garland implies that Mike Hargrove could be fired after the 2006 season or earlier if he continues to offend his Japanese stars. Here are some excerpts of the email.
On the clash with Hargrove:
Given Johjima’s strong personality and the wrangling going on now between Ichiro and the M’s management, if Johjima and Ichiro don’t like what they see this coming season, I think Hargrove is getting the elbow. A few writers have said that there may be cultural reasons for what Ichiro has said and they are right, but unfortunately, they have little idea what those are. I do and I think it started back when Hargrove managed a team of MLB all stars that played in Japan and said that Ichiro would have trouble making an MLB team as a fifth outfielder. I believe that Ichiro feels that Hargrove not only insulted him, but also all Japanese baseball players.
On Johjima’s style and philosophy as a catcher:
Johjima is known for taking pitchers aside and challenging their manhood if he believes that they aren’t being aggressive enough on the mound. Johjima feels how his pitchers do reflects on how his ability to call a game is judged. To American players, they might resent Kenji’s forthrightness and his willingness to tell veteran pitchers they aren’t making the grade.
Thanks to Gary for the inside look at Kenji Johjima and the Mariners. One thought on Johjima’s challenging style: the dynamic between Johjima and the 20 year-old Felix Hernandez should be particularly engaging.