Takashi Saito Rumors

Cafardo’s Latest: Red Sox, Upton, Minaya, Saito

After extending Adrian Gonzalez this week, the Red Sox have guaranteed nearly $300MM to their two big offseason acquisitions, Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. However, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, some baseball people feel that Jayson Werth would have made more sense for the Sox than Crawford. One AL GM says he's "not sure that many of us are unhappy they chose Crawford over Werth," adding that Werth seemed to be a better fit for Boston's lefty-heavy lineup. Here are the rest of the highlights from Cafardo's Sunday Notes:

  • The Red Sox may not have even been in on Crawford or Werth this winter if they had re-signed Jason Bay a year earlier. A National League GM calls Bay leaving Boston "one of the worst decisions both by a team and by the player," suggesting that both sides miss each other.
  • According to Cafardo, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers was willing to deal Justin Upton to the Red Sox in the offseason, but only if he got the Adrian Gonzalez package or Clay Buchholz in return.
  • Several teams have spoken to Omar Minaya about potential job openings. Minaya, who dubs himself a "free agent," says he's still sorting through everything and searching for the best fit, but he could make a decision soon.
  • Cafardo points out that spending time on the disabled list could cost Takashi Saito a good chunk of money this season. Currently on the shelf with a hamstring injury, Saito can earn up to five $100K bonuses based on time spent on the active roster.

NL Central Notes: Brewers, Cubs, Hendry, Pujols

Notes from the NL Central as we wish the best of luck to all those affected by the earthquake in Japan…

  • Brewers reliever Takashi Saito won't have to return to Japan, since his family has been safely accounted for, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (on Twitter).
  • Outfielder Brett Jackson headlines MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's list of the top 10 prospects in the Cubs organization.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times shows that the CubsWhite Sox rivalry doesn't seem fierce now, since White Sox GM Kenny Williams supports the Cubs and Cubs GM Jim Hendry has nice things to say about the White Sox. 
  • Baseball writers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch weigh in on the following question: will Albert Pujols play even better than usual in 2011? The Cardinals slugger is months away from hitting free agency for the first time in his career.

Contract Details: Votto, Saito, Thome, Bloomquist

Updates to a few recently completed contracts…

Relief Rumors: Saito, Fuentes, Burton, Nationals

As MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker shows, lots of free agent relievers remain unsigned. Here's the latest on the relief market:

Contract Details: Saito, Beltre, Capuano, Hudson

Here are some recent updates on contracts from around the majors:

Brewers Sign Takashi Saito

The Brewers signed reliever Takashi Saito to a one-year deal, the team announced today. The contract guarantees Saito $1.75MM and gives him the chance to earn $1.5MM more through incentives, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Saito has a chance to match last year's $3.2MM salary through appearance and roster bonuses; his physical is already done.  Nikkan Sports was first to report the possible deal, which NPB Tracker passed along on TwitterKen Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the agreement.  Saito is represented by CAA.    

Saito, 41 in February, posted a 2.83 ERA, 11.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9, and 43.6% groundball rate in 54 innings for the Braves this year.  He dealt with hamstring and shoulder injuries and has had serious elbow issues in the past, so the deal reflects the health uncertainty despite Saito's fantastic numbers.

The Brewers' bullpen ranked 12th in the NL with a 4.48 ERA this year.  Saito will join John Axford, Kameron Loe, LaTroy Hawkins, and Sean Green in the 2011 pen.  Todd Coffey, Trevor Hoffman, Carlos Villanueva, and others have departed.

Braves Release Saito, Drop Boscan

In addition to their release of Melky Cabrera earlier today, the Braves have also released reliever Takashi Saito and dropped catcher J.C. Boscan from the 40-man roster, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  

Though Saito still has a year of arbitration eligibility left, the one-year deal he signed with Atlanta last winter stipulated that he be granted free agency at its conclusion.  Most Japanese veterans have similar clauses in their contracts allowing them to pursue free agency rather than go through the arbirtration process.  His official release is a procedural move that was widely expected — MLBTR's Tim Dierkes even examined Saito's stock on the free agent market last week.

Boscan began his pro career in 1997 at age 17.  After 14 years in the Atlanta, Milwaukee and Cincinnati systems, Boscan finally made his major league debut this season, walking and scoring a run in his only plate appearance.  O'Brien points out that the Braves could re-sign Boscan to a minor league deal. 

Free Agent Stock Watch: Takashi Saito

Reliever Takashi Saito told reporters today he's uncertain about his future, but still believes he can pitch, according to Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Free agent stock watch time!

The Pros

  • Back in the National League, Saito's numbers this year were reminiscent of his Dodgers days: 2.83 ERA, 11.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and four home runs allowed in 54 innings.  Unlike last year with the Red Sox, Saito was particularly tough on right-handed hitters.
  • Saito is likely to sign a one-year deal.
  • He could handle a closing job, and that strict usage would effectively limit his workload.

The Cons

  • Saito turns 41 in February.  Back in 2008 he became the first pitcher known to receive a platelet-rich plasma injection into his elbow, which allowed for a quick recovery from a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  With the Braves this year he dealt with hamstring and shoulder ailments.  At this point in his career Saito cannot be counted on for 50 innings.  I'm no doctor, but you'd have to worry about that ligament fully tearing.
  • 2009 may have been a fluke, but Saito's periperhals suffered in the American League.

The Verdict

Saito signed with the Braves for a $3.2MM base salary and another $2.3MM in incentives.  If his shoulder and elbow check out, there's no reason he should sign for less this time around.  In fact, he'd have a case for a raise.  He'll be appealing to most teams looking for a tough late-game reliever, but clubs will attempt to keep the base salary low and sign him to an incentive-laden deal given his age and recent injury history.

Odds & Ends: Brewers, Dodgers, Fielder, Konerko

Links for Sunday as Phil Hughes takes the mound against Boston..

Rosenthal’s Full Count Video: Lowell, D’Backs

FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal has a new Full Count video up, so let's dive in…

  • If the Red Sox decide to give Mike Lowell more at-bats at the expense of David Ortiz, don't be surprised if it happens soon. Just six of their next 26 games are on the road, and Lowell is a .303/.361/.513 career hitter at Fenway. Yesterday we heard that the Sox would probably release Ortiz before keeping him on the bench.
  • Should the Orioles decide to part ways with manager Dave Trembley, Rosenthal calls Greg Maddux an outside the box replacement candidate. Andy MacPhail has long admired Maddux's baseball smarts, and thinks he could succeed in any role. Keep in mind that the 355 game winner is currently working for Cubs GM Jim Hendry, and his only tie to the O's is MacPhail, his former GM with Chicago.
  • The Diamondbacks' rotation depth remains an issue, but they have minimal interest in Jarrod Washburn. They only have so much money to spend, and Washburn is coming off knee surgery and hasn't been through Spring Training. Arizona believes they're better off waiting until other teams fall out of the race and the trade market begins to develop.
  • The concern in Atlanta is about Bobby Cox's bullpen management. The 38-year-old Billy Wagner and 40-year-old Takashi Saito have been worked hard in the early going.