The pursuit for Japan’s Masahiro Tanaka has reportedly reached U.S. soil.
Multiple international outlets have reported the sought-after righty arrived in America on Wednesday to begin taking meetings with a number of MLB clubs who hope to sign him.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports Tanaka could see approximately 12 teams by Friday in the L.A. area, with the Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Yankees and D-backs among those most interested. Heyman also reports Tanaka is scheduled to see an L.A. area doctor, who could provide a medical update to the interested teams.
Tanaka, 25, had a 2.30 ERA in seven seasons in Japan — including 24-0 and 1.27 last year — and is expected to fetch a contract in the $100M range. He was posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles in December and has until Jan. 24 to reach a deal. If he and agent Casey Close can’t work out an agreement, Tanaka will return to Japan to play next year.
Heyman reports there has also been interest from the Blue Jays, Mariners, Twins and Rangers, but says there has been no mention of any meetings between those parties.
– Joey Nowak
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage went on the radio Thursday morning and told 93.7 in Pittsburgh that he expects A.J. Burnett to retire.
“I’m on that percentage point where he’s not going to come back,” Searage said. “Right now I’m leaning that way, where he’s going to retire.”
There has been speculation since the Pirates were eliminated by the Cardinals in last year’s playoffs as to whether the veteran would return for his 16th season (third with the Pirates). After struggling during his time in New York, Burnett experienced a renaissance of sorts in Pittsburgh, where he’s gone 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA.
– Joey Nowak
Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday morning that the Padres have signed 33-year-old infielder Brooks Conrad to a minor league deal, though it does not include an invite to Major League Spring Training.
Conrad, who played in Japan last season and last appeared in the big leagues with the Rays in 2012, split time between Milwaukee and Tampa Bay in his last major league season. He has five years of Major League experience after debuting with the A’s in 2008 and then signing with Atlanta, where he played three seasons.
Conrad spent last year with the Japan Central League’s Hanshin Tigers, batting .175 (10-for-57) over 24 games.
– Joey Nowak
With cold weather and snow blanketing much of the country as the calendar turns over to 2014, baseball fans are growing more and more excited for Spring Training.
The Hot Stove quieted down over the holidays, but you can expect things to heat up again as teams make final pushes for the remaining free agents and cross the final items off their to-do lists before reporting to either Arizona or Florida. Here’s a recap of Friday’s Hot Stove action:
- The biggest news of the day came out of St. Petersburg, where the Rays officially inked first baseman James Loney to a three-year deal. It’s the largest deal awarded to a free agent by the Rays under the current ownership and was a priority for the team coming into the winter, executive vice president Andrew Friedman said.
- The other deal of the day came out of Baltimore, where the Orioles signed speedster Quintin Berry to a minor league deal. The outfielder has been valuable in stints with the Tiger and Red Sox, with whom he’s demonstrated a prowess in stealing bases. Berry, 29, has played all three outfield spots and is a close friend of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. But, perhaps most importantly, he is 29-for-29 in career stolen base attempts.
- The Reds, down an impact outfielder since losing Shin-Soo Choo to free agency, have reportedly explored adding Grady Sizemore, MLB.com‘s Mark Sheldon reported today. Sizemore hasn’t played in the big leagues since 2011 but has showed plenty of potential while healthy in his time with the Indians.
- Shortstop Stephen Drew remains a free agent, which comes as a bit of a surprise now that he’s proven healthy and capable of helping a club, Marc Nordmandin writes for Sports on Earth. There’s been more chatter about who Drew will not be playing for, Normandin writes, than who he will be playing for.
- CBS Sports‘ Jon Heyman reported the details of Houston’s one-year deal with reliever Jesse Crain on Friday, noting that the right-hander will receive $3.25 million in guaranteed money.
- There figure to be plenty of teams in the running for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal reports the D-backs will most assuredly be one of them. He writes that the money the team had earmarked to potentially spend on Choo is now available for other uses — namely a top-tier starting pitcher.
– Joey Nowak
Veteran pitcher Mark Mulder, who’s looking to make a comeback after five seasons out of the big leagues, apparently has a few suitors and is considering teams on the West Coast and that train in Arizona.
ESPN.com‘s Jerry Crasnick reports the Angels, D-backs and Giants were the first three teams to watch Mulder when he first worked off a mound in November. Crasnick says Mulder is “close” to finding a team. MLB.com‘s Alden Gonzalez has also reported the Angels are in the mix.
The 36-year-old former first-round pick (of the A’s in 1998) pitched nine seasons in the big leagues (five with Oakland, four with St. Louis) and was an All-Star in 2003 and 2004.
– Joey Nowak
With the departure of Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds have an outfield hole to fill and it sounds like it will be speedster and top prospect Billy Hamilton lending a hand.
Reds GM Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer‘s John Fay that the plan is for Hamilton to play center field and lead off next season.
“He’s the guy,” Jocketty reportedly told Fay. “We feel confident he can be a good leadoff hitter. He’ll give us great defense. The only question is how often he can get on base. He’ll start working on his bunting again after the first of the year. If he can master that, it will really help him.”
The 23-year-old stole 13 bases in 14 attempts last September as a call-up after stealing 75 in the minors. He also swiped a record-155 bases in 2012. Hamilton is considered the Reds’ No. 1 prospect by MLB.com.
– Joey Nowak
The Orioles have claimed right-hander Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Cubs before he could throw a pitch in the Chicago organization. And in the meantime, the Cubs have claimed right-hander Brett Marshall from the Yankees.
Hendriks was claimed by the Cubs from the Twins on Dec. 13. The righty appeared in 10 games (eight starts) for the Twins last year, going 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA in 47 1/3 innings. He also made 16 starts for Triple-A Rochester.
Hendriks was signed by the Twins as an international free agent in 2007, and will be the third Australian-born Oriole in club history (John Stephens in 2002 and Damian Moss in 2003) when he makes his Major League debut. Over six seasons in the Twins minor league system, Hendriks went 42-28 with a 2.99 ERA in 100 games (98 starts).
Marshall, 23, made his MLB debut last season in three relief appearances over two stints with the Yankees, posting a 4.50 ERA (six earned runs in 12 innings). He spent most of last season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 7-10 with a 5.13 ERA in 25 starts. He struck out 120 and walked 68.
Marshall was designated for assignment by the Yankees on Dec. 19. After the season, he was considered the Yankees’ sixth-best prospect by Baseball America.
– Joey Nowak
MLB teams may know sometime this week whether the Rakuten Golden Eagles will make prized right-hander Masahiro Tanaka available via the posting system.
Baseball America’s Ben Badler reported that a decision — which has drawn the attention of the baseball community the last few weeks — could come Tuesday or Wednesday.
Badler says Tanaka is currently away making appearances in Tokyo, but should hear from the Eagles in their next meeting when he will be posted. It’s expected to come by Christmas Day.
The deadline for the team to make the decision is Feb. 1.
The White Sox are closing in on a deal with lefty reliever Scott Downs, the FOX Sports duo of Rosenthal-Morosi reported on Thursday.
Ken Rosenthal tweeted Thursday that the one-year deal is in the $4 million range with a vesting option that could bring it to somewhere in the neighborhood of two years, $8 miliion. He added that the option will vest if Downs pitches to around his normal workload. The deal is pending a physical.
Downs, 37, went 4-4 with a 2.49 ERA in 68 appearances between the Angels and Braves last season.
– Joey Nowak