Shohei Otani Rumors

Central Notes: Burnett, Kluber, Cardinals

A.J. Burnett will prove to be a bargain for the Pirates, Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writes. The Pirates have a great record with recent free agents like Russell Martin and Edinson Volquez, and Burnett is still a strikeout pitcher. He’ll also be recovered from a hernia issue that dogged him in 2014, and he’ll have a more favorable ballpark and defense than he had in Philadelphia. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • Potential offseason extension candidates include NL Central and AL Central players like Josh Harrison of the Pirates, Corey Kluber of the Indians, and Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas of the Royals, Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com writes. It will be awhile before Kluber can really cash in on his AL Cy Young award win, Castrovince notes — he isn’t eligible for free agency until after 2018, by which point he’ll be heading into his age-33 season. Extending him now would give the Indians cost certainty through his arbitration seasons. As Castrovince points out, extensions for Harrison, Hosmer and Moustakas don’t appear that likely — the Pirates would probably like to see how Harrison performs in 2015, and Hosmer and Moustakas are represented by Scott Boras, who may prefer to see what his players might get in free agency in a few years. Also, neither Hosmer nor Moustakas were nearly as impressive in the regular season as they were in the playoffs.
  • GM John Mozeliak says the Cardinals aren’t heavily involved in the market for Asian players right now, Fangraphs’ David Laurila tweets. Mozeliak does add that the Cardinals can’t totally ignore that market, however. The GM’s answer came in response to a question about Japanese phenom Shohei Otani, who struck out 179 batters in 155 1/3 innings and threw 101 MPH as a pitcher, as well as hitting .274/.338/.505 as an outfielder for the Nippon Ham Fighters last season. Otani is probably many years away from playing in the US, if he ever does, but MLB scouts are keeping an eye on him, for obvious reasons.

Quick Hits: Price, Rays, Otani, Dodgers, Dickey

It becomes increasingly difficult at this stage to see David Price signing a deal to stay with the Rays but it's not too late, agent Bo McKinnis told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.  Price is happy in Tampa Bay, but it doesn't sound as though they should bank on a hometown discount.  "He wants to have the best contract in baseball, however that may be defined. He expects to be the best in everything that he does. So hopefully we're able to make that marriage between the Rays and that best contract. But we also recognize the economics of the game may not allow that," McKinnis said.  Here's more from around baseball..

  • Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani announced that he will sign with NPB's Nippon Ham Fighters, but the youngster told reporters that he still wants to come over to MLB at some point, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  “I would eventually like to go to the major leagues,” Otani said. “It’s a place I admire. I would like the Fighters to teach me the road to get there.
  • The entire economic landscape of the game is going to change drastically because of the Dodgers' spending, one rival executive told Scott Miller of CBSSports.com.  The Dodgers have been able to spend freely thanks to the TV money that will be coming their way in the next contract.
  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels said via conference call that he is still looking to acquire a catcher, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com tries to identify trade possibilities for Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, including a deal with the Rangers for Mike Olt.
  • Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter) wonders if the Rangers will respond to the Zack Greinke signing by inking Josh Hamilton and also trading for Justin Upton.

Shohei Otani To Play In Japan

Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani announced that he will play for Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters rather than sign with a MLB team this winter, according to Yasuko Yanagita of Hochi Shimbun (via Twitter).  The 18-year-old hurler seemed likely to come stateside for quite some time but recently started leaning towards remaining in Japan.

The Dodgers, Rangers, and Yankees were among the teams known to be in on Otani.  The Dodgers reportedly would have been “shocked” if the right-hander signed with an MLB team other than them, but they were skeptical that he would come stateside at all.  The Nippon Ham Fighters have come out as the victor after selecting Otani with the first overall pick in the NPB draft.

The 6’4″ right-hander was often compared to Yu Darvish by MLB scouts.  Otani boasts a strong fastball that has been clocked in the 99-100 mph range and could have been the first top NPB draft pick to make the direct jump from high school in Japan to the U.S.


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NL West Rumors: Scutaro, Rockies, Otani, Minor

While the Dodgers have been linked to just about everyone this offseason, they won't be the only NL West club active in Nashville this week. Here are a few updates from around the division:

  • Chris Haft of MLB.com (Twitter link) heard from an agent earlier today that the Giants were "bending over backwards" to re-sign Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro. Haft wonders if Scutaro is next, now that the team has reached an agreement with Pagan.
  • The Rockies are targeting late-inning and closer-type pitchers this week, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Twitter).

Earlier updates:

  • The Dodgers would be "shocked" if Shohei Otani declares for MLB and doesn't sign with them, says Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (via Twitter). However, the Dodgers are skeptical that Otani will come stateside. We heard this morning that the 18-year-old was leaning toward remaining in Japan.
  • In discussing Dexter Fowler with the Braves, the Rockies asked for Mike Minor, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Twitter link).
  • Troy Renck of the Denver Post notes (via Twitter) that the Yankees had some interest in Chris Nelson last season, and wonders if their interest in the Rockies' infielder could be renewed now that Alex Rodriguez is undergoing hip surgery.
  • The Giants are one of five teams with "real interest" in Scott Hairston, according to Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The Cardinals, Tigers, Indians, and Yankees round out the list, and Hairston himself hasn't ruled out a return to the Mets.

Morning Rumors: Otani, Braves, Wang, Indians

The most fun week of baseball's offseason is here, as 2012's Winter Meetings get underway in Nashville. With a ton of activity expected over the next few days, we don't want to let anything fall through the cracks, so let's round up a few Monday morning updates from around MLB:

  • 18-year-old Japanese pitcher Shohei Otani, who announced in October that he intended to sign with an MLB team, may now be leaning toward staying in Japan, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter link), who cites reports out of Japan. A decision from Otani is expected this week, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
  • If the Braves make a move this week, it's more likely to be a trade than a signing, says Mark Bowman of MLB.com, who tweets that Atlanta has "minimal interest" in the outfielders on the free agent market. The team's interest in free agents could increase if asking prices drop, but that's not likely to happen this early in the offseason, tweets Bowman. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has more details on the Braves' search for a left fielder.
  • The Rays' agreement with James Loney makes them an unlikely fit for Eric Hosmer or Billy Butler now, tweets Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. If the Royals were to pursue a Rays pitcher via trade, Kansas City may have to offer Wil Myers, Dutton adds.
  • Given the weak third base market, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports thinks the Padres may be motivated to sell high on Chase Headley and send him to the Yankees (Twitter link).
  • Coming off an injury-shortened 2012 season, Chien-Ming Wang may not sign with an MLB team until midseason, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com (Twitter link).
  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer thinks the Reds will make a run at Dexter Fowler, but doesn't expect the team to give up Homer Bailey to make it happen.
  • The Dodgers may have a tricky time targeting an outfielder, since they need a starting-caliber player but can't promise a starting job, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.
  • If the Indians decide to go all-in on their rebuild, they could extract young pitching talent from a team like the Mariners or Diamondbacks, says ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Insider link). Cleveland's asking price for Asdrubal Cabrera is "steep in terms of young pitchers," according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Jim Bowden has identified a trade candidate for all 30 MLB teams, along with potential suitors for each player.
  • After a quiet Winter Meetings in 2011, the Red Sox figure to be more active this year, writes Tim Britton of the Providence Journal, as he explores a few of the team's potential targets.

Quick Hits: Leyland, Orioles, Chris Perez

Let's take a look at the latest news and notes on what could be the final day of the 2012 baseball season.

  • Jim Leyland's future as manager of the Tigers is still unclear, tweets Tom Gage of the Detroit News. Before tonight's World Series game, Leyland said nobody puts a team together better than team President/CEO/GM Dave Dombrowski adding "hopefully he feels I'm the guy to manage it."
  • The Orioles' most pressing needs for 2013 are a frontline starter, a second baseman, and dealing with the unsettled positions of left field and first base, writes MASN.com's Roch Kubatko
  • Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy are among the Orioles who could make a big step in 2013, according to Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
  • The Indians should only trade Chris Perez if they feel Vinnie Pestano can replace him as closer, opined Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer as he delved into his readers' mailbag. Hoynes also believes Lonnie Chisenhall will be given every opportunity to be the everyday third baseman and Sandy Alomar, Jr. would have been the slam-dunk choice as manager, if Terry Francona hadn’t been so adamant about getting back in the dugout.
  • In the wake of Shohei Otani's announced intention to pursue a MLB career rather than play in Japan, Japanese baseball officials are considering stricter rules for amateur players who want to do the same, reports the Associated Press (via the Boston Herald).
  • Tom Kotchman denied he was forced out by the Angels insisting his decision to leave was due to a desire to find something closer to his Tampa-St. Petersburg area home, reports Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times
  • Congratulations to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, who was named the first female president in the 104-year history of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
  • Manny Ramirez's quest to resurrect his baseball career has the slugger heading to the Dominican Republic in hopes of catching the eye of a potential suitor during a tryout for three Japanese teams, writes George A. King III of the New York Post

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.


Dodgers Notes: League, Fujikawa, Otani

Yesterday, Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti ran down a number of topics during the club's formal introductory press conference for Carl Crawford.  During the presser, Colletti said that the Dodgers would target both starting and relief pitching this winter, plus outfield depth.  Here's more out of Los Angeles from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times..

  • Colletti reiterated that Brandon League has interest in returning to the Dodgers and the club would like to keep him.  League's representatives told Hernandez that the two sides are currently discussing a three-year pact.  The 29-year-old is able to hit the open market for the first time after earning $5MM in his final season as an arbitration eligible player.
  • People familiar with the Dodgers' thinking say they are interested in Japanese free-agent reliever Kyuji Fujikawa.  The right-hander boasts a mid-90s fastball and has been considered the Japanese league's top closer in recent years.  Fujikawa is expected to pitch in the major leagues next season after recently completing his contract with the Hanshin Tigers.
  • The Dodgers are also known to be in on 18-year-old Shohei Otani along with the Red Sox and Rangers.  Hernandez notes that the Dodgers may have to approach the situation carefully as they have a longstanding relationship with Japanese baseball.  The Nippon Ham Fighters, who selected Otani first overall in the NPB draft, have until the end of March to negotiate with him.  Any team that signs him before then could hurt MLB's relationship with the top league in Japan.
  • The Dodgers are still looking for a hitting coach and Mickey Hatcher, who assisted Dave Hansen late this year, is not in the mix.

AL East Links: Peterson, A-Rod, Otani, Orioles, Loney

The Red Sox will interview Rick Peterson for their pitching coach job, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Twitter).  The Orioles granted Boston permission to interview Peterson, who is currently Baltimore's director of pitching development and is a former pitching coach with the A's, Mets and Brewers.

Here's the latest from around the AL East…


Otani, Fujinami Selected In NPB Draft

3:11pm: Otani can sign with an MLB team at any time, an MLB official confirmed to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Signing with an MLB team at this stage would likely irk the Fighters and other Japanese baseball officials, however. If the Fighters sign Otani then attempt to post him, he'd still count against teams' $2.9MM international bonus pools, Badler reports. Fujinami expects to start his professional career in Japan, according to Badler.

8:10am: Shohei Otani, the Japanese pitching prospect who's drawing interest from Major League teams, won't be able to sign with an MLB franchise before April of 2013. As expected, the Nippon Ham Fighters selected the 18-year-old right-hander with the first overall pick in the NPB draft, Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker reports (on Twitter).

The Fighters won’t necessarily be able to sign Otani, who has said he intends to pursue a career in MLB. They have until the end of March to agree to terms with the hard-throwing prospect under an agreement between MLB and NPB. If Otani declines to sign with the Fighters, MLB teams will be able to bid on him as a free agent, though they’ll be subject to international spending restrictions.

The Hanshin Tigers selected Shintaro Fujinami, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America (on Twitter). Some scouts prefer Fujinami to Otani, Badler writes.


MLB Teams May Have To Wait For Otani

Shohei Otani intends to pursue a career in MLB, but that won’t stop a Japanese team from selecting him in the upcoming amateur draft for NPB teams. Masao Yamada, the general manager for the Nippon Ham Fighters, said he intends to select the highly-regarded 18-year-old with the first overall selection in the upcoming draft, according to a Sanspo report passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker.

If an NPB team drafts Otani, he would be prevented from signing with an MLB team for several months. The drafting team would have the rights to the right-hander until the end of March, 2013 under an agreement between MLB and NPB. If he declines to sign with an NPB team, MLB teams will be able to bid on his as a free agent. Teams will be subject to international spending restrictions, but as Jim Callis of Baseball America explained this week, those restrictions won’t necessarily be a major deterrent.

The Red Sox, Rangers and Dodgers appear to have some interest in Otani. The Angels don’t seem interested.


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