Tag:2012 free agency
Posted on: December 17, 2011 12:26 am
Edited on: December 17, 2011 7:48 am
 

Swallows accept $2.5 million bid on OF Aoki

Norichika AokiBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Yakult Swallows have accepted a $2.5 million posting fee for outfielder Norichika Aoki, the team announced at a press conference on Saturday. Which team bid the $2.5 million on Aoki is not yet known. Whichever team it is will have 30 days to negotiate with Aoki, who will turn 30 next  month.

The three-time Central League batting champion hit just .292/.358/.360 in 2011, but was a career .336/.411/.472 in his first seven years. He is one of just four players to collect 200 hits in a season in Japan, joining Ichiro Suzuki, ALex Ramirez and Matt Murton.

"All I could do was wait, so I feel relieved now," Aoki said (via YakyuBaka.com). "I feel as if I am now one step closer to realizing my dream. I will allow my agent to handle the rest while I focus on my practices to make sure I am fully prepared." 

Yahoo's Jeff Passan tweets Aoki at $2.5 million is a bargain, calling him "Ichiro Lite, emphasis on Lite."

Aoki is a left-handed hitter, throwing right-handed. He won three Gold Gloves earlier in his career, but his throwing arm could limit him to left field in MLB.

Aoki appeared for Japan in both World Baseball Classics, earning All-Tournament honors in 2009, when he played left and batted third for Japan.

The Mets, Nationals and A's have all been rumored to be interested in Aoki.

Check out the CBSSports.com Free Agent Tracker to see all of the off-season's movements

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 11:50 pm
 

Hisashi Iwakuma drawing interest from 5 teams

Hisashi IwakumaBy C. Trent Rosecrans

While we all await official word on who won the Yu Darvish bidding, another Japanese pitcher is getting closer to picking his new team in Major League Baseball. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is expected to make a decision sometime around the new year, Iwakuma's agent, Paul Cobbe told Daily Sports in Japan (via YakyuBaka.com).

The Athletics, Twins, Pirates and Nationals -- and another, unnamed west-coast team, are mentioned as teams with interested in Iwakuma.

Last year the A's won the bidding when the Rakuten Golden Eagles posted Iwakuma. However, the two sides couldn't come to an agreement after the thirty-day negotiating period. The A's reportedly won the bidding with a $19.1 million bid, but couldn't come to an agreement. At the time, it was believed Iwakuma was looking for something around $12 million per year, while the A's were offering no more than $5 million. After returning to Japan for 2011, Iwakuma became an international free agent and will be able to chose his team. He has also hired a new agent.

Iwakuma went 6-7 with a 2.42 ERA in 119 innings in 2011 for the fifth-place (of six teams) Golden Eagles, but had some shoulder problems. He struck out 90 batters and walked 19 in his 17 starts. He is 107-69 with a 3.25 ERA in his career. He won Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award and the Pacific League MVP in 2008, when he went 21-4 with a 1.87 ERA.

In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Iwakuma started the championship game over Darvish, who closed out the game. Iwakuma finished the tournament with a 1.35 ERA -- the lowest of any pitcher who threw more than 15 innings in the tournament -- and was named to the All-Tournament team.

While not the potential ace that Darvish is, Iwakuma could be a good option for a team in search of help in the middle or back of the rotation.

Iwakuma will turn 31 in April.

Below is a video that focuses on his ground ball rate.



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Posted on: December 16, 2011 12:06 pm
 

La Russa talks about 'unavoidable' Pujols signing



By Matt Snyder


The Cardinals losing Albert Pujols was "unavoidable," says former manager Tony La Russa, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The now-retired manager seemed to defend both the Cardinals and Pujols -- who signed a 10-year, $254 million contract with the Angels -- and La Russa instead specifically blamed "the system."

"I know it was a painful decision and it pains [Pujols] now," La Russa said (Post-Dispatch). "He deserves what he got. He earned it. There's no bad guy here. I think the Cardinals went where they thought they should go. If they can't go farther, they shouldn't."

Albertageddon
The full story, written by Joe Strauss, is definitely worth a read and I'm not going to sit here and copy and paste the thing. Just go read his original version. La Russa was mostly being political in trying to defend both sides, though he certainly seemed intellectually and emotionally honest. It sounds like he truly loves the Cardinals organization, Cardinals fans and Pujols, so La Russa obviously wasn't going to bash anyone. He did point out one glaring mistake, though.

"I think he made a mistake when he said it wasn't about the money," La Russa said (Post-Dispatch). "If the Angels had offered the same exact thing he would have gone back to the Cardinals. I think his point was he was ready to sign for less than the best offer. I think he's sincere. I think he was trying to make it work. But you had a club that made an overwhelming offer."

And that's the point. People who make five figures a year don't want to hear about how it's not about the money when a player signs with the highest bidder. We aren't stupid. If you are going to say it's not all about the money, you better be like C.J. Wilson and actually leave money on the table -- putting your money where your mouth is, if you will. Taking the most money doesn't make someone a bad person. Far from it. I've long defended athletes who take the highest offer because most human beings would do the same. But if you sign the contract with the most money, patronize the fans in a different manner -- saying it's not about the money just doesn't sound honest. And there's no way to prove otherwise.

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 10:29 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 11:08 am
 

Rockies agree to sign Michael Cuddyer



By Matt Snyder


Free agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer has agreed to sign a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Colorado Rockies, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has learned. The final stages of the contract are currently being completed.

Cuddyer is an 11-year veteran and has only played for the Twins. But when the Twins and Cuddyer had two different figures in mind for a contract, the Twins went ahead and signed Josh Willingham, seemingly leaving no room for Cuddyer. The Rockies had been courting Cuddyer anyway, so when Willingham went to Minnesota, the door was open. Cuddyer had wanted at least $30 million over three years from the Twins -- who reportedly offered $25 million over three years -- so the Rockies came up with the figure needed. Minnesota, meanwhile, used $24 million in a three-year contract to net Willingham. 

Hot Stove
Cuddyer, 32, has played every position in a major-league game except shortstop and catcher. Yes, he's even pitched. But he's going to serve as a right fielder and first baseman for the Rockies. He'll become the everyday right fielder, while also spelling Todd Helton from time to time, likely eventually taking over for him.

The Rockies found Cuddyer to be a good fit both in terms of on-field performance and in the clubhouse. They were interested in Carlos Beltran as a backup plan, so he will now have to look elsewhere. Earlier this week, CBSSports.com's Scott Miller reported the Cardinals, Blue Jays and "at least two other unidentified clubs" are also interested in Beltran, so he's definitely not left out in the dark.

Cuddyer hit .284/.346/.459 with 20 homers, 70 RBI, 70 runs and 11 stolen bases last season. He made the All-Star team for the first time in his career, though he had very good seasons in 2006 and 2009 as well. He's not a marquee bat, but he doesn't have to be. The Rockies have Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki holding down the 3-4 spots in the order. We should also recognize that Cuddyer is moving from a pitcher's park in Target Field to Coors Field, which ranked as the top hitter's park in 2009-10 and second-best in 2011 behind Rangers Ballpark.

The move puts Gonzalez in left field and Seth Smith is now moved to the bench as the fourth outfielder. Smith has been mentioned throughout the offseason in trade rumors, so don't expect those to quiet down anytime soon.

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Posted on: December 15, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Cardinals sign J.C. Romero

By Matt Snyder

The St. Louis Cardinals have signed left-handed relief pitcher J.C. Romero, the ballclub announced Thursday afternoon. The contract is, unsurprisingly, a one-year deal.

“Romero is a proven lefty specialist, who has been a valuable bullpen piece for winning teams throughout his career,” Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement. “We felt that it was important to maintain versatility and depth within our bullpen and we feel that J.C will be a solid addition.”

Romero, 35, certainly was a valuable member of the Phillies bullpen for several years, including their 2008 run to the World Series title. He worked in 4 2/3 innings that World Series, only allowing two hits while striking out four. He actually picked up two victories by being in the game when the Phillies took the lead.

Last season, though, was a game of musical chairs for Romero. He was released by the Phillies in June. He would then be picked up by and released by the Nationals and Yankees without appearing in a major-league game before sticking with the Rockies. So he appeared in games for four different organizations, but only two in the bigs.

The stat-line for Romero in 36 appearances, combining his stints with the Phillies and Rockies, was a 4.01 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 19 strikeouts and 15 walks in 24 2/3 innings. He had a 70.4 percent strand rate, but his control has been a major issue the past several years.

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Posted on: December 14, 2011 11:48 pm
 

Checking in on past products of posting system



By Matt Snyder


With Yu Darvish having been posted and the deadline to submit bids having passed, we now wait in anxious anticipation to see which team wins the honor to negotiate with the 6-foot-5 right-hander. Due to some of the past failures within the system, there seems to be a certain amount of stigma attached to paying so much money just to negotiate with a player. Let's check out the players who signed major-league contracts after going through the posting system and see how they fared.

Before we get to the players, though, let's clarify a few things. First of all, the posting system didn't begin until December of 1998. So Hideo Nomo, for example, was never posted. Also, not every single Japanese import since 1998 went through the system, either. Players who get to free agency in Japan become international free agents -- this is the route Hideki Matsui and Kosuke Fukudome, to name two, have taken. International free agents can sign with whatever MLB team they wish and have no posting fee paid to their former teams. And some players went through the posting system and either ended up signing minor-league contracts or not signing at all.

The following eight players did go through the posting process prior to last season and end up with a major-league contract. Let's look at each, chronologically.

(player, year posted, winning team, posting fee paid -- which does not include player salary)

Ichiro Suzuki, 2000, Mariners, $13.125 million
The 10-time All-Star won the MVP his first season in America. He's led the league in hits seven times and sports a career average of .326. He's become a franchise icon and could be headed to the Hall of Fame despite not playing in America until he was 27. So, yeah, this one worked out just fine.

Kaz Ishii, 2002, Dodgers, $11.26 million
The left-handed pitcher lasted just four seasons, with control being a major problem. Ishii led the majors with 106 walks his rookie year and then offered up 101 and 98, respectively the next two seasons. He ended with a 39-34 record, 4.44 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in his MLB career.

Akinori Otsuka, 2003, Padres, $300,000
This couldn't have turned out much better for the Padres. Not only did Otsuka post a sparkling 1.75 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 87 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings in 2004, but he was also a valuable member of the 2005 playoff NL West champs. Then, the Padres traded him to the Rangers with Adam Eaton in a move that landed both Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young (the pitcher). That's a pretty nice return for originally posting less than the current league minimum salary.

Shinji Mori, 2005, Rays, $750,000
The relief pitcher tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder and missed all of the 2006 season. He was then released by the Rays and returned to Japan, having never appeared in a major-league game.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2006, Red Sox, $51,111,111.11
Yes, "Dice-K" has been awful for the past three seasons and is now trying to recover from an injury. He might never be a valuable member of a rotation again, but he's still only 31 and did produce for two seasons. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2007, also pitching well in winning Game 3 of the World Series (which the Red Sox would sweep). Then in 2008, Dice-K went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA and finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting. So, yeah, he's been really bad the past three years, but to call him a complete and utter bust would be a stretch. Over the duration of his deal, he's definitely been way overpaid, but was still valuable for two seasons.

Darvish Posting
Akinori Iwamura, 2006, Rays, $4.5 million
He was helpful for two seasons for the Rays, including when he was the starting second baseman on the 2008 American League champions. He hit .281 with a .354 on-base percentage during his Rays' career, but he lost his job in 2009 to Ben Zobrist and then fizzled in 2010 for both the Pirates and A's. Iwamura was released by the A's at the end of the season.

Kei Igawa, 2006, Yankees, $26,000,194
If you want to find a colossal waste of money in the posting system attached to a gigantic bust, this is the guy you're looking for. He's far more a "bust" than Dice-K. In 16 major-league appearances, Igawa went 2-4 with a 6.66 ERA (which just looks eerie, no?) and 1.76 WHIP. And get this, Igawa hadn't pitched in the majors since 2008, yet still made $4 million from the Yankees this past season as he played out the duration of his five-year contract. The left-handed pitcher appeared in four Triple-A games and 16 Double-A games. And the Yankees paid more than $45 million total for him. Wow.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, 2010, Twins, $5.329 million
It was a season to forget for the skinny middle infielder. Nishioka broke his leg during the first series as Nick Swisher took him out on a potential double-play turn. When Nishioka healed up and came back, he was one of the worst offensive players in the majors, hitting .226/.278/.249. He was so bad, in fact, that the Twins went out and signed Jamey Carroll to be the everyday shortstop while Alexi Casilla will play second. So the posting fee and $9.25 million contract (which is a three-year deal) is for a backup that they definitely never want stepping in the box for any important at-bats. That's money not-very-well spent.

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Posted on: December 14, 2011 5:54 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 11:56 pm
 

Yu Darvish bids in, several teams have shot

By Matt Snyder

The time in which Major League Baseball teams could place a bid for the rights to negotiate with Japanese pitching phenom Yu Darvish has come and gone. At least one team has done so, according to MLB officials. It's not just one, though. Darvish is coveted.

From here, the team that submitted the highest bid will then pay the fee to the Nippon Ham Fighters for the rights to negotiate an MLB contract with Darvish. The Fighters do have the right to reject such an offer, but it's likely to be lucrative enough that they'll take the money. They have four business days to make a decision, so 5 p.m. ET Tuesday is the deadline.

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If the Fighters do accept the offer, the MLB team with the highest bid will then attempt to sign Darvish. None of the posting bid fee goes to Darvish, so the negotiations are independent. If the team is unable to sign Darvish, they wouldn't have to pay the posting fee.

Major League Baseball won't announce the team with the winning bid until the Fighters have made their decision, but it's possible a reporter uncovers the winner in the meantime.

It's not the Red Sox (per Boston Globe), Orioles (per MASN.com), the Twins (per Star Tribune), the Rays (St. Petersburg Times), Angels (MLB.com), Mets (Journal News), Giants (San Francisco Chronicle), A's (San Francisco Chronicle) or Marlins (Miami Herald). We'll update this paragraph as more names start to be named as non-suitors.  

Teams in the bidding have guessed the Blue Jays and Rangers would be among the highest bidders (according to CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler), based upon the respective scouts having been to see Darvish pitch so many times. Also, the general manager for each club went to Japan. The Nationals and Cubs are also said to be interested. CBSSports.com' Jon Heyman says the Yankees entered a "modest" bid for Darvish and are not expected to win.

Also, sources told Knobler that the Fighters were very impressed with how high the bid was. So brace yourselves.

Darvish, a 25-year-old right-hander, has been the ace of the Ham Fighters for several years. In 164 career starts, Darvish is 93-38 with a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP with just about one strikeout per inning pitched. He's also thrown 55 complete games and 18 shutouts. In 2011, Darvish went 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 276 strikeouts in 232 innings with 10 complete games and six shutouts.

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Posted on: December 14, 2011 5:06 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Giants re-sign Guillermo Mota

By Matt Snyder

The Giants have re-signed right-handed relief pitcher Guillermo Mota, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has learned. The deal is for one year and $1 million.

Mota, 38, had a 3.81 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings last season for San Francisco. The signing helps keep most of the Giants' elite bullpen together for the 2012 season. Only the Braves had a better bullpen ERA in 2011 than the Giants, and it was only 3.03 to 3.04. The Giants traded Ramon Ramirez to the the Mets during the Winter Meetings, but the rest of the key components are coming back.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com