Tomo Ohka Rumors

Quick Hits: D’Backs, Red Sox, Extensions, Rincon

Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he hasn't had many trade talks about a shortstop given that Stephen Drew is still on the market, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports.  If Towers did feel compelled to move either Chris Owings, Didi Gregorius, Cliff Pennington or Nick Ahmed in "the right deal," Towers said that the team would likely target either a minor league pitcher who's close to the big leagues or a catcher.  "Our biggest needs in our system are catching," Towers said.  "If it’s the right, top-notch catching prospect. Someone we could have right behind Miggy [Miguel Montero]. More of an upper-level guy.”  Of the teams known to be looking for shortstop help, the Yankees stand out as a possible trade partner, especially since New York is known to be shopping its catching depth.

Here's some more from around the majors…

  • Also from Piecoro, the Red Sox are "at least monitoring the shortstop market."  The Sox currently aren't in negotiations with Stephen Drew, but it stands to reason they could still be looking for a cheaper infield option to back up Xander Bogaerts.
  • With more and more teams locking up their young stars to long-term extensions, SI.com's Tom Verducci writes that "what we are going to see is a further eroding of the free-agent market as a place of any kind of efficiency. Teams will continue to make bad deals on free agents because it mostly involves paying too long and too much for the decline years of star players."
  • Mike Trout is the most high-profile example yet of a team locking up its young superstar, and Verducci thinks that a seven-year extension (covering four of Trout's free agent years) could cost the Angels $204MM.
  • Juan Rincon is planning to work out for interested teams soon, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman tweets.  The 35-year-old righty posted a 4.03 ERA over 444 games (three of them starts) with the Twins, Indians, Tigers and Rockies from 2001-10, but hasn't appeared in the Majors since, spending the last three years with the Angels' Triple-A affiliate and for independent teams.  In December, we heard Rincon was looking for a minor league deal that would allow him to mentor young pitchers and then eventually turn into a scouting job. 
  • Tomo Ohka talks to the Toronto Star's Brad Lefton about adopting the knuckleball in order to save his career, and how he's hoping for one last crack at the Major Leagues with the Blue Jays.
  • Fangraphs' Wendy Thurm breaks down which teams spend the highest percentage of their payroll on their starting rotation, starting lineup, bullpen and bench, respectively.
  • The Astros (+18 WAR) and Red Sox (-16 WAR) project as the most- and least-improved teams in 2014, according to Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan, who lists a top ten in each category.  Of course, as Sullivan notes, these totals are respectively skewed by how poorly and how well the two clubs fared last season, as Sullivan still expects Boston to contend and Houston to be one of the league's lesser clubs.

Blue Jays Agree To Sign Tomo Ohka

The Blue Jays have a verbal agreement in place with Tomo Ohka on a minor league deal, according to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (via Twitter).  The Japanese pitcher, who last appeared in the big leagues in 2009, has reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher.

The 37-year-old may start at Double-A New Hampshire, according to Davidi.  Earlier this offseason, we heard that the Orioles were among the clubs with interest, but it appears that he'll be going to another AL East team.


AL Notes: Royals, Kinsler, Napoli, Rangers, Angels

It's a weak market for catchers now that the Yankees have taken Brian McCann off the board, an article by Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs shows. While teams such as the Red Sox, Rockies and Rangers are still in the market for backstop help, the best remaining option, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, will bring a large platoon split to the lineup of whichever team signs him. Here's the latest from around the AL, as a busy evening on MLBTR draws to a close:



Quick Hits: Jewett, Ohka, Cubs

Dioner Navarro and Geovany Soto represent the best values available at catcher at the start of the free agent season, ESPN's Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Soto, of course, already re-signed with the Rangers for one year and $3.05MM. Navarro, Law writes, should get paid "backup money," but he might put up a starter-caliber performance. His .300/.365/.492 line in part-time duty with the Cubs in 2013 almost surely isn't sustainable, but his skill set could make him a valuable player anyway. Here are more notes from around baseball.

  • The Nationals will allow the Mariners to interview Trent Jewett to be their third-base coach, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. Sherman, meanwhile, tweets that Jewett is "almost certain" to leave. Jewett was the Pirates' third-base coach for part of the time that new Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon managed in Pittsburgh. Jewett joined the Nationals' organization in 2009.
  • Former big-league pitcher Tomo Ohka is trying to make it back to the Majors as a knuckleballer, NikkanSports.com reports. Ohka began to rely on the pitch after having shoulder surgery in 2011. In 2013, he posted a 3.73 ERA in 21 games with the Toyama Thunderbirds in Japan's Baseball Challenge league. Ohka came to the U.S. in October to train in Arizona. "I threw a lot every day. I was able to confirm that I had been training properly on my own," Ohka says. "I want to give it another shot if given the chance, even if I have to start in the minors." Ohka last appeared in the Majors with the Indians in 2009.
  • Now that they've hired Rick Renteria to be their new manager, the Cubs might be done making big moves this offseason, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. "We’re realistic about where we are and the need to get better," says team president Theo Epstein. "But we’re also realistic about where we are and about where the market is likely to go." That means the Cubs won't trade for David Price, or sign Brian McCann. The Cubs are keeping all their options open, but Epstein notes that they're unlikely to spend as wildly as some other teams: "[W]e’re playing against the big boys, too. And there’s a lot of money out there."

Aaron Steen contributed to this post.


Yokohama BayStars Sign Tomo Ohka

The Yokohama BayStars signed pitcher Tomo Ohka, according to a Sanspo report passed along by NPB Tracker's Patrick Newman on Twitter.  Newman notes that Ohka began his career with the BayStars.  The Red Sox purchased Ohka's contract from the team in '98 and started him at Double A the following year.

Ohka, 34, posted a 5.96 ERA, 3.9 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9 in 71 innings for the Indians last year, allowing 18 home runs.  Ohka had signed with a Mexican League team in March, but was quickly released.

I profiled Ohka in December of '06, back when he was holding out for a three-year deal.  He's an interesting character.


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Odds & Ends: Lowell, Ohka, Towers, Washburn

Leftover links for Tuesday evening….


International Links: Ohka, Chen, Gotay, Jamaica

All the best in non-Cuban baseball news…

  • Scouts from eight teams recently gathered to watch Taiwanese pitching prospect Min-Tzu Chen, according to Taiwan Baseball. Chen, a converted outfielder, has only been pitching for three months but reportedly already has offers in hand from the Royals and Padres.
  • Tomo Ohka has agreed to a deal with the Mexican League Quintana Roo Tigers, reports Japanese Ball Players.
  • Ruben Gotay isn't often mentioned in discussions about who will man third base for the Cardinals this season, and his .255/.315/.371 career numbers don't scream "slugging corner infielder." But the 28-year-old Puerto Rican utilityman tells Primera Hora's Esteban Rivera that the Cardinals signed him and invited him to spring training exclusively with the hot corner in mind. Gotay played his first full season at third at Triple A in the Diamondbacks system last season, showing newfound patience with a .272/.429/.450 line including 102 walks in 479 PAs. While he is fourth at best on the depth chart, the first two candidates, David Freese and Tyler Greene, have 150 Major League PAs combined, and Felipe Lopez has played 13 games at third in the last five years, all for the Cardinals in 2008.
  • In 11 Major League seasons, Ricardo Rincon managed a 3.59 ERA and logged 565 appearances in the "G" column, but look one column to the right at "GS," and cue the rolling tumbleweeds. That's changing in the Mexican League, where the 39-year-old is trying to crack the starting rotation of the Minatitlan Oilers, according to the league site.
  • MLB is partnering with the Jamaican government to build a stadium on the north side of the island in Trelawny, reports the Jamaica Observer. The complex will be the league's first-ever investment in the country, which is looking to expand its presence in international sports following the success of Usain Bolt. One current big league player, Indians pitcher Justin Masterson, was born in Jamaica.

Odds & Ends: Hillman, White Sox, Japanese Pitchers

Let's start the evening off by rounding up a few spare links…

  • According to The Associated Press (via ESPN), Royals manager Trey Hillman will return to the team next season. Kansas City GM Dayton Moore, who originally hired Hillman, had his contract extended through 2014 earlier this week.
  • White Sox GM Kenny Williams was asked if the Jim Thome and Jose Contreras trades indicate that he was throwing in the towel according to Scot Gregor of The Daily Herald, and Williams replied "Hell no. We're still in it to win it.”
  • Patrick at NPB Tracker passes along a report saying that the Yokohama BayStars are looking to import Japanese pitchers currently playing in the States. The article mentions that players like Tomo Ohka, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and Masahide Kobayashi could interest the BayStars, while Patrick throws the names of Kei Igawa and Takashi Saito into the ring.
  • ESPN's Jorge Arangure Jr. writes that Miguel Angel Sano is not the only big name Latin American free agent stuck in age investigation limbo. Venezuelan pitcher Daniel Sanchez, considered one of the best pitchers available this year, is stuck in the same boat after the Brewers put in a formal request to MLB to investigate his age. An age investigation is a prerequisite to signing any player from Latin America.

Indians Sign Tomo Ohka

According to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince, the Indians signed pitcher Tomo Ohka to a minor league deal.  He spent all of ’08 at Triple A, tossing 135.2 innings with a 4.18 ERA for the Triple A affiliate of the White Sox.  Ohka is an interesting character; I took a closer look at him in a post written two years ago.


Tomo Ohka Signs With White Sox

According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the White Sox have signed pitcher Tomo Ohka, who turns 32 in March.  Ohka made ten big league starts in ’07 for the Jays, and the results were not pretty.  He also pitched at Triple A for the Mariners and Cardinals, ineffectively.

Ohka is an interesting character.  I wrote this profile of him over a year ago, but it’s still a decent look at his history.  You might say he’s had a few attitude problems.  Regardless, it doesn’t hurt for the Sox to have him in Triple A as insurance.