- Ron Roenicke was Jonathan Lucroy’s manager with the Brewers for over four seasons, and with Roenicke now serving as the Red Sox interim manager, he was the motivating factor in convincing Jonathan Lucroy to sign with Boston. “He called me and he wanted me to come. It was a big one,” Lucroy told reporters, including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo and MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “He’s like, you’ll get an opportunity to come here and make the team. Right now, that’s all you can ask for with a guy in my position.” Lucroy signed a minor league contract with the Sox after a pretty quiet stint in free agency, as Cotillo notes that Lucroy “negotiated with a few clubs who backed out of deals at the last minute.” This isn’t to say that Lucroy is surprised at how his trip through the free agent market went, given his struggles over the last three seasons: “Analytically, I’ve been terrible. Seriously. I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m not surprised I didn’t get a big league offer.” Now, Lucroy is reunited with his old skipper and will compete with Kevin Plawecki for the backup catching position.
- The Rays are known for cycling different players through a position rather than having a set everyday starter, and MLB.com’s Juan Toribio examines how the club will juggle its many third base options. Yandy Diaz, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Joey Wendle, Daniel Robertson, Nate Lowe, and Mike Brosseau could all factor into Tampa Bay’s choices at the hot corner, while also being rotated around to other positions on the diamond. Diaz is expected to get the majority of playing time, while Tsutsugo’s readiness at third base is perhaps the biggest wild card in the mix, as he hasn’t played the position since 2014 as a member of the Yokohama BayStars.
- The Blue Jays face some interesting decisions with their bench mix, as the Toronto Star’s Gregor Chisholm observes that slugger Rowdy Tellez might not make the Opening Day roster. Since minor league signing Joe Panik “is almost a sure bet to be included on the roster” as a utilityman and outfielders Derek Fisher and Anthony Alford are both out of options, this trio might have the advantage over Tellez, who is defensively limited to only first base. Tellez has shown some strong power (25 homers, .475 slugging percentage) over 482 MLB plate appearances, though is somewhat one-dimensional at the plate, as evidenced by his .241 career average and .299 OBP. Fisher and Alford will both need to perform well this spring to block Tellez, however, and Chisholm notes that Brandon Drury also isn’t a lock for the roster, as the Blue Jays could opt to cut Drury and just go with Panik as the primary utility player. Since Drury was an arbitration-eligible player, releasing him before Opening Day would leave the Jays on the hook for just a small portion of his $2.05MM salary. If Drury was released, Chisholm speculates Toronto could potentially put those savings towards signing another veteran player who might become available as teams trim their rosters in advance of the season opener.
The Yankees have had discussions about signing second baseman Joe Panik, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets, as New York continues to look for ways to both add infield depth and add left-handed balance to a lineup that is loaded with righty swingers. Panik is a left-handed bat, though he is coming off a pair of subpar years at the plate — the veteran has only a .249/.311/.334 slash line over 883 plate appearances since the start of the 2018 season. These struggles prompted the Giants to part ways with their longtime second baseman last summer, though Panik hit better after catching on with the Mets for 39 games in 2019. The 29-year-old Panik also has the bonus of being a native New Yorker, born in Yonkers and a product of St. John’s University.
With Gleyber Torres likely to shift from second base to shortstop, the keystone could be occupied by DJ LeMahieu if the Yankees don’t prefer to use LeMahieu primarily as a first baseman. Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada are the top in-house options for the utility infield or part-time second base jobs if LeMahieu is indeed slated mostly for first base work, though the Yankees could prefer to be as flexible as possible with LeMahieu based on matchups. In this sense, Panik’s lack of defensive versatility could be a detriment to his chances at a Yankees deal; Panik has played all but one of his 682 MLB games as a second baseman, with the lone exception being one game at first base for San Francisco in 2018.
Here’s more from around the AL East…
- The Rays’ two-year, $12MM contract with Yoshitomo Tsutsugo wasn’t the highest offer received by the outfielder, though the team’s strong courtship of the Japanese slugger eventually convinced him to come to Florida, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays were the first team to contact Tsutsugo after he was posted by Yokohama, they provided him with a thorough 20-page booklet about the club and the Tampa area, and a six-person crew that included manager Kevin Cash and GM Erik Neander visited Tsutsugo in person prior to the Winter Meetings, while Tsutsugo was working out in Los Angeles. All of the wooing paid off for the Rays, who now welcome a player with 185 homers over his last six seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball.
- The Blue Jays made a similar big push to land Tanner Roark, as the right-hander told reporters (including Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic) that Toronto was the first team to get in contact with his representatives as free agency opened. “They knew what they wanted, and they wanted me and it’s exciting to have someone want you like that,” Roark said. Pitching coach Pete Walker also told McGrath that he and Roark “just seemed to hit it off” during a 25-minute phone call. Roark ended up inking a two-year, $24MM deal with the Jays, and is looking forward to being a veteran leader within Toronto’s young clubhouse.
- The Orioles had several conversations with Fernando Abad before the left-hander signed with the Nationals, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. With Abad now off the board, the O’s will continue to look for low-cost experience for their bullpen.
- Also from Kubatko, the Orioles have hired Darren Holmes as their new bullpen coach. Holmes worked in the same role with the Rockies for the previous five seasons. A veteran of 13 MLB seasons, Holmes’ playing career included a brief five-game stint as a member of the Orioles in 2000.
DECEMBER 16: Tampa Bay has announced the signing. Interestingly, it characterizes him as a third baseman and outfielder, which obviously suggests that Tsutsugo will be in the mix at the hot corner.
DECEMBER 13: The Rays are finalizing a two-year contract with Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports (via Twitter). The contract being discussed would guarantee the first baseman/outfielder about $12MM total, per Topkin. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman indicates that a deal has been agreed upon (Twitter links).
Because he was posted by the Yokohama DeNA BayStars and is not a pure free agent, Tsutsugo would require the Rays to pay a posting/release fee to his former team. Under the current iteration of that system, a fee equal to 20 percent of a player’s first $25MM in guarantees is owed to his former team. That’d be $2.4MM on a $12MM contract, meaning a deal of this type for Tsutsugo would cost the Rays a total of about $14.4MM.
Tsutsugo, who turned 28 on Nov. 26, has been one of Japan’s most prominent sluggers for the past four seasons, hitting a combined .293/.402/.574 with 139 home runs, 116 doubles, five triples, a 15.1 percent walk rate and a 20.4 percent strikeout rate. His best season came back in 2016, when he launched a career-high 44 home runs and slashed .322/.430/.680. It’s worth noting that Tsutsugo’s 2019 season was his weakest of the past four (.272/.388/.511, 29 home runs) and saw his strikeout rate climb to 25.3 percent.
Listed at 6’0″ and 209 pounds, the left-handed-hitting Tsutsugo has played some third base in his career but primarily has been deployed as a left fielder and first baseman. He’ll presumably become an option at first base and DH with Tampa Bay, although the Rays’ fluid rotation of defensive players could afford the slugger some reps in the corners as well, particularly if the team wants to give newly acquired Hunter Renfroe a day off against a tough right-handed opponent. Renfroe hit just .208/.274/.459 against righties in 2019. On the surface, the signing of Tsutsugo appears to be bad news for first base prospect Nate Lowe, who also hits from the left side of the dish but never got a full look in 2019 despite huge numbers in Triple-A and a solid showing in 169 MLB plate appearances.
There’s little doubting Tsutsugo’s power, but his glovework is a much more considerable question. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen wrote a bit more than a month ago that Tsutsugo is a potential everyday player but one with “no margin for error because of defensive limitations” even at first base. Sports Info Solutions’ Will Hoefer wrote in September that Tsutsugo has a plus throwing arm and could be “hidden” in an outfield corner with some proper positioning work. Those in the industry who’ve spoken to MLBTR about Tsutsugo offered similar concerns about his defensive home but praised his power as a legitimate tool.
Tsutsugo will now be added to an ever-changing cast of characters in a Tampa Bay lineup that has added Renfroe but subtracted Tommy Pham (Renfroe trade), Avisail Garcia (free agency) and Jesus Aguilar (waivers) to this point in the offseason. The signing of Tsutsugo could well put an end to any potential for a fit with free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who’d previously been a rumored target. Tsutsugo was also connected to the Tigers, Blue Jays, White Sox and Twins prior to today’s agreement with the Rays.
From a payroll vantage point, the deal should be a manageable one for the perennially low-spending Rays, who shed about $7.7MM in swapping out Pham for Renfroe and placing Aguilar on waivers. An even distribution of Tsutsugo’s $12MM guarantee would put the team’s Opening Day payroll at about $70.7MM (not including the posting fee), which would check in a bit south of last season’s $76MM Opening Day mark. The Rays have never opened the season with a payroll greater than 2014’s $77MM total.
The Rays are looking at a variety of possibilities for improving their outfield mix, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter).
The Tampa Bay organization previously struck a deal that shipped out one outfielder (Tommy Pham) and brought in another (Hunter Renfroe). While there had been some whispers of hiccups in the deal, it is now fully locked up, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter).
While there isn’t exactly a new hole to be filled, then, the Rays are still looking to bolster a unit that is now missing Avisail Garcia and his 530 plate appearances from 2019. Garcia is, as previously rumored, one of the ongoing targets, per Sherman.
In addition to exploring a return for Garcia, the Rays have also turned their gaze to the west. A pair of left-handed-hitting Japanese players, rangy center fielder Shogo Akiyama and slugging corner outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, are each said to carry appeal. While they’re quite different players — from one another and from Garcia — it seems the Rays can conceive of ways that all would fit into their ever-adaptable roster.
The Blue Jays are weighing a pair of familiar names for their first base/DH vacancy, as Sportsnet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith (Twitter link) reports that Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak are “getting consideration” from the club. The Jays also continue to be “intrigued” by Japanese free agent Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, though it “certainly doesn’t seem like they’re close on anything” with the slugger.
A fractured right wrist and a strained oblique limited Encarnacion to only 109 games and 486 plate appearances in 2019, his lowest totals in either category since the 2010 season. When Encarnacion was healthy, however, he still wielded a formidable bat, hitting .244/.344/.531 with 34 homers for the Mariners and Yankees. Encarnacion turns 37 in January and would likely be used mostly as a DH in Toronto, owing to both his age, the Rogers Centre’s artificial surface, and the Jays’ desire to see what they have in first baseman Rowdy Tellez.
With a market likely limited to American League teams and a relative lack of DH openings among those teams, Encarnacion could likely be had on a one-year deal, which is surely attractive to a rebuilding Jays team. Bringing Encarnacion back would also undoubtedly be well-received by Toronto’s fans, as Encarnacion was a very popular figure while hitting 239 homers (the third-highest total in club history) for the Jays from 2009-16.
Smoak was another fan favorite for his five solid seasons with the Jays, most notably his 38-homer outburst in 2017. Despite being perhaps the unluckiest hitter in baseball in 2019, Smoak still managed a slightly above-average (101 wRC+ and OPS+) offensive showing of .208/.342/.406 with 22 homers over 500 PA. We haven’t heard much news on the 33-year-old Smoak this winter, though there was some indication after the season that the Blue Jays were thinking about a potential reunion as they weighed their first base options.
What could hurt both Encarnacion and Smoak, however, is that they are only first basemen, whereas GM Ross Atkins has a stated preference for first base “alternatives that are more flexible, can play other positions as well.” Tsutsugo has an advantage in this regard, as he has primarily played outfield for the last several seasons for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars while also having some first base and third base experience in his past. While Tsutsugo isn’t considered to be particularly adept defensively at any position, the Blue Jays might not mind since he’d be slated for a good chunk of DH time anyway.
The 28-year-old Tsutsugo has an impressive .285/.382/.528 slash line and 205 home runs over exactly 4000 PA during his 10 seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball. Major League teams have until December 19 to negotiate a contract with Tsutsugo, and clubs will then have to pay an additional posting fee (as determined by the size of the contract) to the BayStars under the MLB/NPB posting system.
Finding a catcher is the Tigers’ No. 1 priority this offseason, according to general manager Al Avila, who also named first base, corner outfield, the rotation and perhaps the middle infield as other areas of interest for the rebuilding club (via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News). Behind the plate, the belief is that Jason Castro – one of the best catchers remaining on the open market – is at the top of the Tigers’ list, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. The defensively adept Castro is coming off a quality all-around season as a member of one of the Tigers’ division rivals, the Twins, with whom he batted .232/.332/.435 and swatted 13 home runs over 275 plate appearances. Thanks in part to his 2019 showing, MLBTR forecasts a two-year, $10MM payday in free agency for Castro, 32. On paper, he’d be a marked upgrade over the catcher trio of Grayson Greiner–John Hicks–Jake Rogers trio the Tigers mostly relied on last season.
More from the Motor City…
- Utilityman Niko Goodrum, likely the Tigers’ most valuable position player of 2019, has drawn quite a bit of trade interest from elsewhere, Avila revealed (link via McCosky). It’s unclear, though, how open the Tigers are to trading the 27-year-old switch-hitter, who’s the in-house favorite to start at shortstop for them next season. Goodrum saw time at short and six other positions in 2019, when he slashed .248/.322/.421 with 12 home runs, a dozen steals and 1.9 fWAR in 472 trips to the plate. He’s not eligible to reach arbitration until after next season.
- Detroit may not have a more obvious trade chip than 28-year-old left-hander Matthew Boyd, who’s been the subject of rumors for several months. Boyd’s still arbitration-eligible for another three years, though, and as of now, the Tigers aren’t “actively” looking to deal him, McCosky tweets. At the same time, the Tigers haven’t initiated extension talks with Boyd. However, Boyd’s agent, Scott Boras, has plenty of other matters to focus on at the moment.
- The Tigers are among those who have shown interest in Japanese free-agent outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, but it doesn’t appear he’ll end up wind up in Detroit. Avila suggested Monday that the Tigers are unlikely to make a serious run at Tsutsugo.
A couple notes related to Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball…
- The Rays have “expressed interest” in free-agent outfielders Shogo Akiyama and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Unlike Akiyama, the 28-year-old Tsutsugo was posted by his Nippon Professional Baseball team, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, so any major league team that signs him would have to pay a release fee determined by the size of his MLB deal. His 30-day posting window ends Dec. 19. Tsutsugo’s coming off a years-long run as one of Japan’s most powerful sluggers, as he eclipsed the 20-home run mark seven straight times and combined for 139 HRs over the past four seasons. Still, he didn’t crack MLBTR’s list of the top 50 free agents before the offseason, whereas Akiyama came in at No. 45 and is projected to earn a two-year, $6MM guarantee. Akiyama showed some power in Japan over the past half-decade in his own right, as he bashed 94 home runs and slashed .320/.398/.497. The 31-year-old also added 78 stolen bases, though he’s currently recovering from a broken foot suffered in October.
- Righty Angel Sanchez has inked a multi-year deal with Japan’s Yomiuri Giants, per Robert Murray (via Twitter). Interestingly, Murray says that Major League teams were willing to pay more than the $5.5MM over two years that Merrill Kelly received from the Diamondbacks last winter. However, Sanchez’s contract with the Yomiuri club topped those offers also. The hard-throwing Sanchez, who briefly appeared in the majors with the Pirates in 2017, was a successful part of SK Wyverns’ pitching staff in Korea Baseball Organization over the previous two seasons.
Past reports have already linked the Blue Jays and Marlins to Yoshitomo Tsutsugo’s market, and now MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that three AL Central teams are also in the mix. The White Sox, Tigers, and Twins all have some interest in the Japanese slugger, who has hit 185 homers for Yokohama since the start of the 2014 season. Tsutsugo’s left-handed power would fit in any of the three teams’ lineups, though his limited defensive capability as a first baseman or outfielder could see him mostly play first base if he wound up in Minnesota, since Nelson Cruz is locked into DH duties. Chicago could deploy Tsutsugo along with Jose Abreu in the first base/DH mix or play Tsutsugo in the outfield on days when Yasmani Grandal is getting a DH or first base day, while Tsutsugo would simply step right into an everyday role for the hitting-starved Tigers.
Any team that signs Tsutsugo will have to pay his former team, the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, a release fee that will be determined by the size of Tsutsugo’s eventual MLB contract. The 30-day posting window for Tsutsugo to find a contract in North America ends on December 19, so there is still lots of time for one of his five known suitors or perhaps other teams to strike a deal.
Here’s more from the AL Central….
- Morosi reports on another potential Detroit target in another tweet, noting that the Tigers and Angels are two of the teams interested in Josh Lindblom. The right-hander is looking to return to the majors on the heels of two outstanding seasons in South Korea’s KBO League, and some very impressive spin rate numbers on his four-seam fastball. Morosi writes that Lindblom has already received multi-year offers from more than one team, which isn’t surprising given how Lindblom would be an inexpensive yet high-ceiling addition to a lot of pitching staffs (such as rebuilding teams like the Tigers or hopeful contenders like the Angels).
- The Royals announced their 2020 coaching staff under new manager Mike Matheny, with a few new faces in the mix and some familiar faces returning in some different roles. Pitching coach Cal Eldred and hitting coach Terry Bradshaw will remain in their positions, while Pedro Grifol moves to bench coach from his past quality control/catching coach job, and Vance Wilson goes from bullpen coach to third base coach. Rusty Kuntz will become the Royals’ first base coach for the third time in his 12-year stint as a member of the K.C. organization, while Larry Carter will take over as bullpen coach after 22 years in various minor league roles for the club. John Mabry joins the staff as a Major League coach, after working under Matheny as the Cardinals’ hitting coach when Matheny was the St. Louis manager. Former coaches Dale Sveum and Mike Jirschele will remain with the Royals in as-yet-unassigned new roles.
- The Indians’ homegrown pitching has been the backbone of the team’s success in recent years, and The Athletic’s Zack Meisel (subscription link) looks at how the organization has been able to turn the likes of Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, and other relatively unheralded — none were drafted before the third round by the Tribe or other teams — arms into top-flight hurlers. Ruben Niebla, formerly the minor league pitching coordinator and now the big league team’s assistant pitching coach, has been a key figure in the system of finding what works for each pitcher, getting the pitcher to buy into the strategy, and then tailoring that development through all levels of the pitcher’s trip up the organizational ladder. “That communication is vitally important to us, that we make sure we have continuity and the same message as he goes through. There’s no confusion. It’s clear,” Niebla said.
In addition to the dozens of veteran free agents still looking for new homes this offseason, there are currently three decorated players from the Nippon Professional Baseball ranks who are currently available to stateside clubs via the MLB posting system. First baseman Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, pitcher Shun Yamaguchi, and second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi have already been posted this winter; a fourth player, outfielder Shogo Akiyama, is an international free agent. While none of these players promise, like countrymen Shohei Ohtani or Yu Darvish before them, to be franchise building blocks, each offers unique value to potential American suitors.
Looking for a lefty bat with pop? Tsutsugo is your man. Since 2014, the 6’0 slugger has blasted an average of 30.83 home runs per season while playing for the Yokohama BayStars, peaking with totals of 44 and 38 round-trippers in 2016 and 2018, respectively. The now-28-year-old couples that raw power with the patient approach modern clubs covet, recording a 15.1 percent walk rate over the last four seasons, while also doing a generally acceptable job of limiting strikeouts.
As for his defense? Well, Jason Coskrey of Baseball America recently said he’s “not a terrible fielder by any means, but he’s not a great one either”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a player who has shuttled between first, third, and left field in a ten-year Nipponese career. Clubs may be wary of committing multiple years, a hefty guarantee, and a posting fee (more on that in a moment) for a player who may end up suited for DH duties.
How about teams in search of a veteran starting pitcher to slot into their rotation’s back end? 32-year-old righty Shun Yamaguchi throws a fastball that sits around 90 mph, with a forkball representing his primary breaking pitch. That surely doesn’t sound like the most glamorous mix of attributes, but what Yamaguchi can offer is a wealth of experience and a good deal of forward momentum. Despite having pitched over 1000 innings stretching between the bullpen and the rotation in an NPB career dating back to 2006, Yamaguchi may have found another gear in 2019.
In addition to posting a 2.91 ERA over 26 starts, his 10.0 K/9 and 3.13 K/BB ratios last season marked personal bests as a starter. This offseason has already been slightly unpredictable when it comes to starting pitching, with Jake Odorizzi foregoing the open market and an inconsistent Kyle Gibson garnering a three-year, $30MM deal from the Rangers. For teams leery of even approaching the market’s top trifecta of starting arms, Yamaguchi, though likely not a world-beater, could represent an appealing value play.
Then there’s the slick-fielding Ryosuke Kikuchi. For teams in need of second base help and defensive improvement in the infield–and there are a few teams who fit within that category–Kikuchi may be a perfect match. The 29-year-old has won every Golden Glove at the keystone in the NPB’s Central League since 2013. While his defensive excellence seems to be universally upheld, there are some persistent questions as to how the bat will travel. Since debuting with the Hiroshima Carp in 2012, the righty swinger has logged a cumulative .271/.315/.391 line across a rather healthy sample of 4695 plate appearances.
Kikuchi’s .261/.313/.406 slash from last year would look acceptable in the majors from a defensively adept second baseman, but such production in the offensively friendly Japanese ranks may give some MLB front offices reason to pause; those that remember the trials of Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Munenori Kawasaki, two other former Golden Glove NPB infielders who proved unable to adapt to MLB pitching, may simply stay away altogether.
Big league teams interested in any of these players will have to pay their parent clubs posting fees proportional to the size of the player’s contract: 20 percent of the first $25MM guaranteed; 17.5 percent of the next $25MM, plus 15 percent of every dollar over $50MM. That release fee is separate from the guarantee itself (for instance, a $25MM guarantee for one of these players would result in an additional $5MM posting fee, bringing the MLB club’s total expense to $30MM).
Performance incentives and contract options will trigger a supplemental 15 percent release fee once unlocked. For a minor league deal, an MLB club will be required to give a parent club 25 percent of the player’s signing bonus, and the player’s MLB salary will be subject to a supplemental posting fee if he is added to the club’s 25-man roster.
Shogo Akiyama probably represents the most well-rounded player expected to make the leap this offseason, and he was the only expected NPB import from this offseason to land within our Top 50 MLB Free Agent list. Considered a true center fielder and leadoff man by most, Akiyama set the NPB single-season record for hits (216) in the 2015 season. He’s won six Golden Gloves in his home country, hit 69 home runs over his last three seasons with the Seibu Lions, and holds a 10.8 percent walk rate since 2016. Two problems: Akiyama will be 32 next April, a rather advanced age for an up-the-middle player, and he suffered a broken bone in his foot during an exhibition on Oct 31 and will need to show he is healthy in order to sign with an MLB team.
There’s certainly a chance some of these players may not come stateside this offseason, but each seems to represent a coveted potential asset in their own right. This year’s free agent market is generally slim pickings when it comes to center fielders, so Akiyama’s availability, in particular, is probably a welcome development for a number of clubs; better yet, he is free to sign a new deal with any club without being subject to the posting system and its concomitant fees.
Still, it’s fair to wonder if he can truly be considered the most viable play here. Tsutsugo offers immense immense power and relative youth, while there seems to be a fair number of clubs circling starting pitching options like Yamaguchi this offseason.
Which one do you believe is likely to receive the healthiest contract guarantee this winter? (Poll link for app users)
As we approach the non-tender deadline and the Rule 5 draft, many of the 40-man roster changes may seem inconsequential from a league perspective. But for those players involved, a spot on a 40-man roster can be life-changing. As noted by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, a minor league player’s pay will jump from $2000 a month to at least $46,000 for the year once added to the 40-man. That’s a significant pay bump, but their potential for future earnings also gets a jolt as they receive an invite to spring camp and a longer look from major league coaches and executives. Even one day on the ML roster during the season will earn a player more in a week than he’d likely ever made in a month of minor league ball. Given the roster churn that happens over the course of a season and the high rate of injuries, a spot on the 40-man roster gives a player a pretty decent chance of making an appearance in the show. Feel free to take a moment this morning to reflect on baseball’s greater economic landscape, then follow up with a couple quick hits from around the league.
- The Cubs are in the market for pitching, but probably not the top names on the free agent market, per The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney. The Cubs haven’t been able to put together a pitching staff like the one that took them to a World Series title in 2016, and they no longer have the financial leeway to make a big splash like they did with the signing of Jon Lester. Only Kyle Hendricks remains close to the guy he was in 2016 when Hendricks, Lester, and Jake Arrieta each put together seasons worthy of Cy Young consideration en route to the curse-breaking championship. The Cubs of today will have to hit on below-the-radar type acquisitions, as they did in acquiring Arrieta and Hendricks in the first place. Willson Contreras could fetch a noteworthy piece, but that’s a theoretical valuation that requires a trading partner willing to move the right young arm.
- While ardent fans are familiar with most of the names in the free agent pool, there are a few newcomers from Japanese professional baseball who remain relatively unknown commodities to American followers. Thankfully, Jason Coskrey of Baseball America provides scouting reports on a host of Japanese ballplayers who could find themselves on MLB rosters in the not-too-distant future. It’s a list that includes three players who have already been posted—Ryosuke Kikuchi, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, and Shun Yamaguchi—and Shogo Akiyama, an international free agent, all of whom are eligible to negotiate with big league clubs. Coskrey also names a number of players who could be next in line to make it stateside via the posting system or international free agency, including the famed Tetsuto Yamada. For those readers who are interested in familiarizing themselves with the newest influx of international talent to the MLB landscape, Coskrey’s piece is worth a look.