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Report: High bid for Darvish exceeds Dice-K’s

The top bid for Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish’s negotiating rights will exceed the $51.1 million bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006 as the highest in the history of posting of Japanese players, according to

Citing Japanese baseball officials, Saturday’s report contradicts the previously reported amount of about $48 million to be paid to the Nippon-Ham Fighters, Darvish’s current team in Japan.

The Blue Jays, Mariners, Marlins, Nationals, Rangers, Red Sox and Yankees are among the Major League teams that have been mentioned as possibly in the sealed bidding for the negotiating rights for the right-hander’s services.

After the Red Sox won the right to bid for Matsuzaka’s services, they signed him to a six-year, $52 million deal that expires after the 2012 season. Darvish made the equivalent of $6.4 million dollars (U.S.) in 2011, according to

The team that wins the bidding for Darvish will have 30 days to negotiate a deal with him. The winning bid will be announced Tuesday.

– John Schlegel 

Brewers win posting bid on Aoki

The Brewers won the exclusive negotiating rights to Japanese outfielder Norichika Aoki, after posting a $2.5 million bid for the three-time Central League batting champion. Milwaukee will now have 30 days to sign Aoki or his rights will return to the Yakult Swallows.

The Brewers have not commented on the report or confirmed their status in the Aoki posting.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound left-handed hitter slipped to a .292 average and four homers in 2011, after going for career highs of a .358 average and 209 hits in 2010. He was the 2005 Central League Rookie of the Year, batting .344 in his first full season.

Sherrill reportedly inks deal with Mariners

Left-hander George Sherrill is reportedly set to rejoin the team he broke into the Major Leagues with back in 2004. According to CBS Sports, the reliever has agreed to a deal with the Seattle Mariners, after last pitching for the club in 2007.

The Mariners have not confirmed the report or announced any details of the contract.

Sherrill, 34, spent 2011 with the Braves, posting 3-1 record, 3.00 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 36 innings mostly as a middle reliever. The left-hander spent one and a half seasons with each the Orioles (’08-’09) and Dodgers (’09-’10), compiling a 6-8 record and 52 saves. Sherill went 10-8 with a 3.65 ERA and four saves in four seasons (195 appearances) with the Mariners.

– Jon Star

Red Sox ink Punto to two-year deal

Veteran infielder Nick Punto signed a two-year deal worth $3 million plus $500,000 in incentives with the Red Sox on Wednesday, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and CBS Sports.

Punto, a member of the 2011 World Series Champion Cardinals, instantly fills an infield void created earlier Wednesday afternoon when Boston sent infielder Jed Lowrie to Houston along with right-hander Kyle Weiland in exchange for reliever Mark Melancon.

Punto returns to the American League after spending one year in the Senior Circuit with the Cardinals. The 34-year-old enters his 12th season in the big leagues. He hit .278 with one home and 20 RBIs in 63 games with the Cardinals last season.

Punto is a career .249 hitter with 14 home runs and 218 RBI in 887 career games.

– Jon Star 

Twins, Willingham reportedly moving toward deal

The Twins are close to signing free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham, according to a tweet on Tuesday evening from Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network and FOX Sports. The Twins’ pursuit of Willingham comes as the club attempts to re-sign free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. Should one or both sign elsewhere, Willingham would likely fill the void in left field.

The Twins, however, would not confirm an agreement with Willingham. A team official would only say that the Twins have continued to talk with the free agent, but it’s not a done deal.

If signed, Willingham will suit up for his fourth team in five seasons, after spending last season in Oakland, where he hit .246 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs in 136 games — his first stint in the American League. Willingham, who is a career .262 hitter, spent the previous two seasons with the Nationals after playing his first five seasons with the Marlins.

According to Rosenthal, the Rockies are pushing to sign Cuddyer to a multiyear contract, possibly worth more than $10 million per season.

– Jon Star

Yankees, Wilson head toward meeting in NY

The Yankees pursuit of starting pitching appears to be gaining momentum. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reportedly reached out to Bob Garber, who represents both C.J. Wilson and Roy Oswalt, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger.

Carig reports that Cashman and Garber spoke at the GM Meetings in Milwaukee, and that a sit down with Hal Steinbrenner and director of pro personnel Billy Eppler in New York may be in the works.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post later added that a meeting could occur before next month’s Winter Meetings.

“I told him where we were at, they understood, and want us to come out,” Garber told the Star-Ledger. “I think it’s a good fit. We have a lot of teams we have to narrow down. I think the Yankees are a team that we’ve narrowed down as a team we want to spend a little time with.”

Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York indicated that Cashman is not rushing negotiations, but that Garber was receptive to the GM’s outreach.

– Jon Star 

Hot Stove Nuggets

– The Mets are facing payroll cuts this offseason, but that should not stop them from tendering contracts to Angel Pagan and Mike Pelfrey, according to SI’s Jon Heyman.

– Heyman also added that Mets GM Sandy Alderson does not expect to trade third baseman David Wright, barring an offer that will significantly exceed their expectations.

– Similarly, the Phillies do not appear willing to trade LHP Cole Hamels barring an offer of “three small countries and two oceans,” as told to ESPN’s Buster Olney from the Phillies.

– The Marlins continue to be busy, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Mark Buehrle met with the Marlins on Tuesday at the GM Meetings in Milwaukee.

– Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals are also interested in Cuban 19-year-old outfielder Jorge Soler, in addition to Yoenis Cespedes.

– The Twins have reached out to free agent catcher Ryan Doumit, according to Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune. Doumit, who has already been contacted by the Dodgers, figures to have a number of suitors in this winter’s catching market. Christensen also reports that the Twins have talked to Josh Willingham’s agent. Both Doumit and Willingham are represented by Matt Sosnick.

– Jon Star 

Overnight Rumor Mill Roundup – 7/31

* FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the momentum for Astros CF Michael Bourn has subsided, but could pick up again before the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. Among potential trade partners include: Braves, Nationals and Giants.

Other Rosenthal notes include:

-The Angels are set with their current roster, though another reliever may be in the cards.

– The Padres may make another two or three trades today, including closer Heath Bell. However, RHP Aaron Harang is “unlikely” to be dealt. Rosenthal also says San Diego is leaning toward keeping setup man Mike Adams to replace Bell in the ninth inning.

– The White Sox are looking to add another starter after trading away Edwin Jackson last week.

– The Nationals and Twins are working on a deal that would send OF Denard Span to Washington and RHP Drew Storen to Minnesota. Talks remain preliminary.

– The D-backs have a list of “seven or eight” relievers they are looking at.

* FOX Sports Jon Morosi tweeted that the Rockies have reopened their interest in Twins RHP Kevin Slowey now that a roster spot has opened following the Jimenez trade.

* The Toronto Sun reports that the Blue Jays and Indians have both inquired about Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta.

Jon Star

Overnight Rumor Mill Roundup – 7/30

* The New York Post reports that talks between the Yankees and Rockies regarding Ubaldo Jimenez have “stalled”. The paper reports that the Rockies are asking for right-hander Ivan Nova and any two of LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP Dellin Betances or catcher Jesus Montero.

* ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that if there is a price drop of Ubaldo Jimenez‘s trade stock before Sunday at 4 p.m., it could bolster the Rockies urgency to trade the right-hander.

* Olney also tweeted that the Braves could pick up talks with the A’s regarding CF Coco Crisp.

* ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweeted that the Dodgers and Red Sox have talked about Hiroki Kuroda in exchange for a prospect.

* FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says the Braves are still likely to acquire an outfielder before the Trade Deadline. The names current being tossed about are: B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, Ryan Ludwick, Carlos Quentin and Josh Willingham.

* ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick confirms the Braves’ interest in Bourn, but he says Ludwick is further down the list.

— Jon Star

Overnight Rumor Mill Roundup – 7/23

* Buster Olney tweeted that the Red Sox acquisition of Carlos Beltran remains “a long shot”, as the Red Sox will focus on pitching.

David Lennon of Newsday tweets that San Francisco “fits” Beltran’s criteria.

* The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tweeted that the White Sox and Red Sox have been scouting each other beyond the typical advanced scouting ahead of their upcoming series.

* CSN Philly reports that Astros outfielder Hunter Pence is now the Phillies’ top target. Dominic Brown‘s name has popped up as the centerpiece of any potential package.

* Peter Gammons tweeted that the Red Sox have reached out to the A’s regarding Rich Harden.

* FOX Sports’ John Paul Morosi tweets that the D-backs have contacted the Blue Jays about Jason Frasor.

Jon Star