Norichika Aoki Rumors
On this day last year, the Padres traded Brandon Gomes, Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, and Cole Figueroa to the Rays for Jason Bartlett and a player to be named later (though Tampa would eventually send cash instead). Here's some notes from around the league...
- The Reds have had conversations with Jason Kubel, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer (via Twitter). GM Walt Jocketty told Fay (Twitter link) that the club does not have the type of money to sign someone to a Josh Willingham-type deal.
- Even after trading for Mat Latos, Reds GM Walt Jocketty still plans on using Aroldis Chapman as a starter, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnatti Enquirer. Jocketty did leave room for a change of heart, however, noting that things could change later on.
- We should soon find out which team won the bidding for Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
- ESPN's Keith Law feels that the Rockies overpaid for Michael Cuddyer, who he considers to be a part-time player (ESPN Insider link). In Law's opinion, Colorado is receiving perhaps a one win upgrade over Seth Smith, but paying $7-8MM more than Smith would earn.
- In that same piece, Law says that he likes the Twins' gamble on Josh Willingham better, but notes that he should be a DH rather than an outfielder and that the contract is still a gamble because Willingham showed signs of decline in 2011.
- Willingham told MLB.com's Jane Lee that leaving the Athletics wasn't an easy decision, but GM Billy Beane was honest and up front about the fact that he could probably only offer a one-year deal through arbitration.
- Juan C. Rodriguez of the Miami Sun-Sentinel provides some details on the heavily backloaded contracts that Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle received from the Marlins. Bell's vesting option triggers if he finishes 55 games in 2014, or a combined 100 between 2013-14. He and Buehrle both took signing bonuses deferred withiout interest, and all three have contractual obligations to donate to charity each season.
- Law (via Twitter) prefers Aaron Cunningham to Cory Burns. The Indians acquired Cunningham from the Padres in exchange for Burns yesterday.
The Yakult Swallows have accepted a $2.5MM posting fee on outfielder Norichika Aoki, reports Yasuko Yanagita of Japanese newspaper Hochi Shimbun (Twitter link). The $2.5MM was the highest bid Yakult received and it is unknown which Major League team placed the winning bid.
Aoki, who turns 30 on January 5, is a three-time Central League batting champion and posted a career line of .336/.411/.472 in his first seven seasons in Japan. His numbers fell to 292/.358/.360 in 2011, which explains the modest size of the posting fee. Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan describes Aoki as "Ichiro Lite, emphasis on Lite," and thinks the top bidder got a "bargain" at $2.5MM. NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman (writing for Fangraphs) said in August 2010 that Aoki was "the best pure hitter Japan has produced since Ichiro" and has good defensive range, though a weak throwing arm will probably limit Aoki to left field in the majors.
Some links to check out as we await tomorrow night's non-tender deadline..
- As expected, the Yakult Swallows filed posting paperwork on outfielder Norichika Aoki Monday morning in Japan, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
- Free agent Michael Cuddyer's decision will be huge news and could happen soon, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Morosi adds that the decision will have a big impact on the Twins' and Rockies' plans.
- Chuck Garfien of CSNChicago.com spoke with Mark Buerhle who said that he hopes to return to the White Sox in some capacity after his four-year deal with Miami is through. The veteran also said that the Sox didn't make him an offer after the Marlins put their deal on the table.
- Free agent left-hander George Sherrill is drawing interest from the Royals, Phillies, Blue Jays, and Mariners, a source tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The Rockies were also said to be targeting the veteran last week.
- Even though the two sides were reportedly talking on Tuesday, the Red Sox aren't discussing a deal for Carlos Quentin with the White Sox, tweets Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. Earlier today we learned that Quentin has come up in talks with the Blue Jays, though those discussions have apparently cooled.
- The Indians are in on all "non-[Prince] Fielder" bats, including Josh Willingham, but don't have much financial flexibility, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Tribe is after a right-handed bat and the club has been linked to Derrek Lee, Andruw Jones, and Mike Cameron among others.
- Troy Renck of The Denver Post (via Twitter) doesn't see catcher Eliezer Alfonzo returning to the Rockies but could see the club going after someone like Jeff Mathis if he is non-tendered. Mathis, 28, was shipped from the Angels to the Blue Jays on December 3rd for left-hander Brad Mills.
- Craig Breslow, who was traded to the Diamondbacks along with starter Trevor Cahill on Friday, first heard of the deal via Twitter, not the A's front office, writes Katie Dowd of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips likes the Astros' hire of Jeff Luhnow as GM and believes that he understands how to operate a small market team, writes Stephen Goff of Examiner.com.
Here are Wednesday's updates on a few players on the free agent market:
- Takashi Saito's agent, Nez Balelo, says six to eight teams have shown interest in his client, who is open to playing in either league, tweets WEEI's Alex Speirer.
- Balelo also tells Speier that Japanese outfielder and six-time NPB All-Star Norichika Aoki will be posted next Monday (Twitter link).
- With milestones in reach, Vladimir Guerrero intends to keep playing, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (on Twitter).
- Scott Kazmir will make his Dominican Winter League debut with the Escogido Lions tonight, tweets Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes.
A "tense three-week period that will shape [baseball's] landscape for the following year" begins today, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. His latest:
- Agent Scott Boras has pared down Prince Fielder's sales pitch binder but still has 70 pages worth, he tells Morosi. Morosi says Fielder's suitors are believed to be the Cubs, Nationals, Rangers, and Mariners.
- The Cubs are open to moving Randy Wells, indicates Morosi as he lists available starting pitchers. Wells, 29, is under team control through 2014. MLBTR projects him to earn $2.2MM in 2012.
- The Angels and Orioles discussed the possibility of a Jeremy Guthrie trade in recent days. Guthrie, 33 in April, projects to earn $8.3MM in 2012 before hitting free agency.
- Japanese players including righty Hisashi Iwakuma, lefties Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen, and second baseman Kensuke Tanaka can begotiate with MLB teams after free agency in Japan begins Thursday. The Yakult Swallows intend to post outfielder Norichika Aoki after the Winter Meetings, adds Morosi.
Here's the latest on Japanese players who could be coming to North America and a North American who's staying in South Korea...
- There is "a bit of concern" among executives that Yu Darvish won't decide to be posted this winter, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. It has been widely assumed that Darvish would be posted and immediately become one of the most sought-after pitchers on the market, despite the fact that it will cost a team at least $100MM to both win the posting bid and then sign Darvish to a contract.
- The transition to four days' rest from six days' rest between starts will be the biggest transition for Darvish if he comes to the Major Leagues, writes ESPN's Jason Coskrey. Coskrey also provides brief scouting reports of Wei-Yin Chen, Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada, three pitchers likely to make the jump from NPB to MLB this winter.
- Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via Twitter) suggests the Indians aren’t likely to pursue Norichika Aoki, the three-time Central League batting champion who will be posted this offseason. As Hoynes reported yesterday, however, the Indians are interested in Japanese right-hander Shinobu Fukuhara.
- Dustin Nippert has signed a new two-year deal with the Doosan Bears of the Korean Baseball Organization, reports Dan of MyKBO.net (Twitter link). Nippert originally signed with Doosan in March. The 30-year-old right-hander pitched three seasons each with the Diamondbacks and Rangers from 2005-2010 before being non-tendered by Texas last offseason.
MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post
The Royals acquired Vin Mazzaro from the Athletics for David DeJesus on this date last year. A few days ago, Kansas City acquired Jonathan Sanchez from the Bay Area's other team. Here are today's links...
- The A's, Nationals, Mets and Indians could be interested in Norichika Aoki, the three-time Central League batting champion who will be posted this offseason, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. SI.com's Jon Heyman suggests those same four teams could be interested in Grady Sizemore (Twitter links).
- ESPN.com's Keith Law previews the market for starting pitching and explains that if there's an available ace it's Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes previewed the market for starting pitching earlier this week.
- Ben Badler of Baseball America explains that international scouts have known about Yoenis Cespedes for a while. The recent showcase video and the subsequent reaction gave fans the impression that the center fielder appeared out of nowhere, but that’s not the case.
- Danny Knobler of CBS Sports hears from someone who expects Cespedes to sign for upwards of $30MM (Twitter link).
- The Yankees and Pirates had preliminary discussions about trades involving catchers, but the Pirates' deal with Rod Barajas makes a trade between the Pirates and Yankees seem unlikely, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post explains (on Twitter).
- Speaking of Pirates catchers, free agent Ryan Doumit has obtained multiple offers and expects to sign this month, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter links). The versatile 30-year-old is looking for a one-year deal.
The Tokyo Yakult Swallows are posting three-time Central League batting champion Norichika Aoki, according to the Japan Times (via Patrick Newman). Teams can now bid for the right to negotiate with the 29-year-old outfielder via the posting system. CAA agent Nez Balelo will represent Aoki, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
Aoki hit .292/.358/.360 in 643 plate appearances in 2011 -- a definite dropoff compared to 2010, when he won his third batting title. Last year Newman called Aoki "the best pure hitter Japan has produced since Ichiro," and explained that the outfielder has great range and a below-average arm.
Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker has scoured Japanese newspapers for the latest rumors.
- Yakult center fielder Norichika Aoki has asked to be posted. Aoki hit .292/.358/.360 in 643 plate appearances in 2011. Newman wrote last year that Aoki was "the best pure hitter Japan has produced since Ichiro," but that was before his numbers dropped off significantly in 2011. Despite great range, Newman thought last year that Aoki's weak arm could limit him to left field in MLB.
- Seibu shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will again ask to be posted this offseason. Nakajima was denied that request last winter, though the Orioles and Mariners were reportedly among the interested teams. The 29-year-old hit .297/.354/.433 with 16 home runs in 633 plate appearances this year. Newman considered Aoki Japan's second-best hitter in his August 2010 article.
- Chunichi southpaw Wei-Yin Chen was 50/50 on moving to MLB as of October 26th. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports dubbed Chen a "likely free agent" in a report this morning. The 26-year-old posted a 2.68 ERA, 5.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9, and 0.49 HR/9 in 164 2/3 innings this year. He's represented by Alan Nero of Octagon.
- The Hiroshima Carp have an offer out to Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda said he's happy to have received the offer from his former team. His plans for 2012 remain unknown though.
- Multiple Japanese teams have interest in Kei Igawa, who reached free agency after his five-year deal with the Yankees expired.
Links for Friday...
- ESPN's Jerry Crasnick examines Scott Boras' work so far this winter, as well as his remaining clients.
- RotoAuthority has first baseman rankings for fantasy leagues.
- Matthew Cerrone suggests the Mets might want to publicly rule out Manny Ramirez.
- Interesting WHIFF profile on Aaron Heilman.
- Patrick Newman introduces us to Norichika Aoki, perhaps the best hitter in Japan. Aoki may end up in MLB, but it probably won't be anytime soon.
- The Orioles agreed to a split contract with pitcher Brian Burres, says Troy Renck.