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 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 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 13, 2011 6:10 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 4:22 pm

Josh Willingham headed to Twins

By Matt Snyder

The Minnesota Twins has signed free agent outfielder Josh Willingham, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has confirmed. The deal, which is pending a physical, has been reported to be three years for $21 million by the Star Tribune.

The Twins preferred to have free agent Michael Cuddyer return to the club and were reportedly offering him a three-year, $25 million contract, but Cuddyer was initially seeking three years, $36 million -- reports CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler -- and has lowered his asking price to three years and $30 million.

Hot Stove Tuesday
Still, the Twins seem content to move on to Willingham as talks did not progress to their liking with Cuddyer.

Willingham, 32, hit .246/.332/.477 with 29 homers, 98 RBI and 26 doubles in 136 games last season for the A's.

The Twins still have several decisions to make with their outfield -- and designated hitter spot, for that matter -- so it's unclear exactly where what the depth chart looks like. That being said, Willingham will absolutely be an everyday starter, probably in left field. Ben Revere, Denard Span (long rumored in trade talks) are already on hand. At DH, the Twins can use some combination of Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit and Joe Mauer -- whichever of the three isn't playing the field -- or even Willingham. Jason Kubel is a free agent.

As for Cuddyer, as has previously been mentioned by Heyman, the Rockies have interest in him as well as Carlos Beltran. With the Twins off the board for Cuddyer, it would seem Cuddyer now needs to turn to Colorado. And the Rockies may just get to choose between the two. We'll see.

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Posted on: December 11, 2011 3:48 pm

Indians add Felix Pie on minor-league deal

Felix PieBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Indians have agreed to a minor-league deal with former Orioles outfielder Felix Pie, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets.

According to the report, Pie can earn up to $1 million in performance bonuses and can opt out by opening day.

Pie, a one-time top prospect of the Cubs, took a huge step back in 2011, hitting .220/.264/.280 in 85 games for the Orioles after hitting .270/.315/.424 with 14 homers and 60 RBI in his first two seasons in Baltimore. Pie offers debth in the outfield, as he can play all three positions. Clevelnad re-signed center fielder Grady Sizemore, who makes up the outfield, as of now, with Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley.

The Indians are reportedly still in on free-agent outfielder Josh Willingham. The Mariners, Rockies and Twins are also interested in Willigham. Minnesota and Colorado see Willingham as a fallback option if either loses out on Michael Cuddyer.

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Posted on: December 9, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 6:41 pm

Best free agents left after winter meetings

By C. Trent Rosecrans

The winter meetings are over and some of the biggest names on the free-agent market are off the table, but that doesn't mean the hot stove has died out. So, the day after Albert Pujols and the Angels shocked the baseball world, here's a look at the top five position players and pitchers left on the market:

Postition players

Prince Fielder1. Prince Fielder -- The 27-year-old Fielder is the biggest fish left on the market, averaging more than 38 home runs in his six full seasons in the big leagues and posting a .929 career OPS. Whoever lands Fielder will get a shot to the lineup. The knock is Fielder's weight and the length of a contract.

Possible landing spots: Brewers, Blue Jays, Cubs, Mariners, Marlins

Carlos Beltran2. Carlos Beltran -- Beltran's been a bit of a forgotten name in all the winter meetings talk. Beltran will be 35 in April and just finished a seven-year deal with the Mets. After being limited by injuries in his last two seasons, Beltran had a bounce-back year, hitting .300/.385/.525 with 22 homers and 84 RBI and doing that in two home ballparks not known to be friendly to hitters, Citi Field and AT&T Park. He can still play center field, but is probably better suited on a corner.

Possible landing spots: Cardinals, Nationals, Red Sox, Tigers, Braves, Mariners, Cubs

Aramis Ramirez3. Aramis Ramirez -- Even though he has 14 years in the big leagues under his belt, Ramirez is just 33 and coming off a .306/.361/.510 season with 26 homers and 93 RBI. A two-time All-Star, he's by far the best third baseman on the market -- and it's not even close.

Possible landing spots: Brewers, Phillies, Marlins

Michael Cuddyer4. Michael Cuddyer -- Cuddyer will be 33 in March and can play both the corner outfield and infield spots, offering teams a versatile player. He hit .284/.346/.459 with 20 homers last season and hit 32 homers in 2009 before the Twins moved to spacious Target Field. The Twins have reportedly already offered him a three-year deal, as have the Rockies.

Possible landing spots: Rockies, Twins, Phillies, Giants, Red Sox

Jimmy Rollins5. Jimmy Rollins -- It seems odd to consider the 2007 MVP in anything but a Phillies uniform, but Pujols is now in California, so anything's possible. Rollins' offensive numbers have dropped off since his MVP season, but he still plays a premium position -- and one a couple of teams need to fill. A three-time Gold Glove winner, Rollins turned 33 last month. If he re-signs with the Phillies, it could be his last contract. Rollins is reportedly searching for a five-year contract, a tactic that may scare away every team other than the Phillies.

Possible landing spots: Phillies, Cardinals


Yu Darvish1. Yu Darvish -- The 25-year-old Japanese right-hander will reportedly be posted and has been seen as perhaps the best starter available. There's no shortage of teams that could be interested in Darvish, but the history of recent big-ticket Japanese pitchers could scare off some suitors and keep the posting fee lower than expected. Once his team in Japan, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighers, accept the posting, the winning team still has to negotiate with Darvish. The posting system, though, gives a chance for a surprise team to emerge the winner.

Possible landing spots: Rangers, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Nationals, Royals

Hiroki Kuroda2. Hiroki Kuroda -- There's no question of how Kuroda will perform in the big leagues -- he's gone 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA in four seasons with the Dodgers. Kuroda had a 13-16 record in 2011, despite putting up just a 3.07 ERA. He told the team he wouldn't give up his no-trade protection at the trade deadline, but the Dodgers have already found replacements for him in the rotation. He has one offer on the table already from the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, but would make more money in the U.S.

Possible landing spots: Cubs, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, Carp

Edwin Jackson3. Edwin Jackson -- The fact that Jackson has already played for six different teams and he's just 28 may raise some flags, but he's also had six teams want him at some point and for good reason. Although Jackson has battled inconsistency, he's still had results at times. He was 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA for the Cardinals and White Sox last season. He's not a No. 1, but he's younger than some of the other second-tier starters on the market, increasing his value.

Possible landing spots: Twins, Rangers, Yankees, Cubs, Royals, Nationals, Pirates, Rockies, Orioles

Ryan Madson4. Ryan Madson -- Even though there were reports the right-hander had agreed to return to the Phillies earlier this offseason, the team turned to Jonathan Papelbon instead. The Red Sox, who along with the Reds, are still searching for a closer could end up signing Madson and seem the best fit. In his firs tseason as the Phillies' closer, Madson recorded 32 saves, going 4-2 with a 2.37 ERA, striking out 62 batters in 60 2/3 innings.

Possible landing spots: Red Sox, Reds, Phillies

Francisco Cordero5. Francisco Cordero -- Like Madson, Cordero seems to be on the outside of the closer game of musical chairs. The Red Sox and Reds are the only team left looking for a closer. The Reds were interested in bringing back Cordero with a discount after declining their $12 million option on the 36-year-old right-hander. Cordero converted 37 saves last season and 150 in four years in Cincinnati.

Possible landing spots: Red Sox, Reds, Twins

Follow all the free agent moves with the CBSSports.com Free Agent Tracker 

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 5:39 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 5:46 pm

12 players taken in Rule 5 Draft

By C. Trent Rosecrans
MLB Winter Meetings

You may have missed it -- and for good reasons -- but 12 players were taken in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, in what usually signals the end of the winter meetings. It was the fewest number of players taken in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft since 2005

The Rule 5 Draft allows teams to take eligible players left unprotected on other teams' 40-man roster for $50,000. A player has to stay on a team's active Major League roster for the entire next season or be offered back to the original club for $25,000. Teams can also work out a trade with their old team to keep the player and send him to the minors. There have been some huge names selected in the Rule 5 Draft, including Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista and Dan Uggla, but more often than not, players don't even make it out of spring training. Chances are one or two of the 12 selected on Thursday will make it on an opening day roster, but it's unlikely any of them will stick, based on previous numbers.

But hey, it happened today and some teams got some guys -- while the Angels added Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. So, who are the 12? Here we go, listed by their new team and their old team in parentheses:

Astros: RHP Rhiner Cruz (Mets) -- A reliever, Cruz when 5-3 with seven saves and a 3.89 ERA at High-A and Double-A.

Twins: RHP Terry Doyle (White Sox) -- Doyle went 8-10 at High-A and Double-A with a 3.07 ERA in 26 starts, striking out 122 and walking 33 in 173 innings.

Mariners: LHP Lucas Luetge (Brewers) -- In his second year in Double-A, he struck out exactly a batter an inning and finsihed with a 3.13 ERA.

Orioles: 2B Ryan Flaherty (Cubs) -- A former first-rounder, the left-handed hitter hit .305/.384/.523 with 14 homers at Double-A, but then struggled at Triple-A, hitting .237/.277/.399 with five home runs.

Yankees: LHP Cesar Cabral (Red Sox) -- Actually picked by the Royals, but traded to the Yankees for cash, Cabral struck out 70 batters in 55 innings, walking 21. He was 3-4 overall in 36 games in relief with a 2.95 ERA at High-A and Double-A.

Cubs: RHP Lendy Castillo (Phillies) -- A former infielder, Castillo started two of his 21 games at Low-A Lakewood in 2011, going 4-2 with a 2.54 ERA, striking out 46 batters in as many innings.

Pirates: SS Gustavo Nunez (Tigers) -- The switch-hitter hit a combined .276/.333/.386 at High-A and Double-A, but struggled at the higher level.

Braves: LHP Robert Fish (Angels) -- Fish throws 95 mph and struck out 44 batters in 33 1/3 innings in Rookie ball and Double-A. Most of his time was spent at Double-A where he was 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA and two saves.

Cardinals: OF Erik Komatsu (Nationals) -- The Nationals acquired the speedy outfielder in the middle of 2011. He hit a combined .277/.367/.382 with seven home runs and 21 stolen bases between two different Double-A teams. 

Red Sox: SS Marwin Gonzalez (Cubs) -- The switch-hitter hit .288/.343/.400 with 30 doubles between Double-A and Triple-A. 

Diamondbacks: RHP Brett Lorin (Pirates) -- The 24-year-old stands 6-foot-7 and went 7-6 with a 2.84 ERA at High-A Bradenton, striking out 7.6 batters per nine innings.

Yankees: RHP Brad Meyers (Nationals) --  The starter pitched at three different levels in 2011, the majority coming at Triple-A, where he was 6-5 with a 3.48 ERA and struck out 74 in 95 2/3 innings.

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Posted on: December 8, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2011 5:43 pm

News, notes from final day of Winter Meetings

By Matt Snyder

MLB Winter Meetings
DALLAS -- Other than the two gigantic signings Thursday morning, the activity at the Winter Meetings has slowed to a crawl as everything wraps up. Still, there is never a complete void of buzz, so here are some of the latest news and notes from the media room, courtesy of CBSSports.com senior writers Scott Miller and Danny Knobler.

• The Marlins are going to be in on top remaining free agent Prince Fielder and Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. One thing to keep in mind, the Marlins were ready to spend almost $100 million on C.J. Wilson, so there's no reason to believe they're done spending -- or at least trying to spend.

• One Nationals person said there's a "95 percent chance" prospect Bryce Harper opens the season with the big-league club.

• The Angels are not trading anyone. They're all in with what they have. They are expecting Kendrys Morales to start the season injured and Mark Trumbo can either play third base or be the designated hitter.

• The Reds are heavily pursuing starting pitching via trade, with their top targets being Jair Jurrjens and a few guys from the Rays' staff. No real progress was made during the meetings, however.

Also of note:

Troy Renck of the Denver Post reports the Rockies have become a serious suitor for free agent outfielder/corner infielder Michael Cuddyer. The Twins have reportedly offered Cuddyer three years and $25 million, but Renck says the Rockies are willing to go three years as well. 

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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