MLB rumors: Cubs, D-Backs eyeing Japanese free agent outfielder; Blue Jays in search of starting pitching

The general manager meetings just wrapped up and right on the heels of that the Pirates hired a general manager. We've seen one prominent move so far this offseason and that was the Braves signing reliever Will Smith to a three-year, $40 million deal. More are on the way, it's only a matter of when. The smart money is it'll be slow until after Thanksgiving, but I guess we can hope for quicker movement than the last two offseasons, right? 

For the time being, here are the rumors for Friday. 

Cubs, D-Backs in on Akiyama

The Cubs' biggest hole on the position player side -- well, arguably the entire roster -- is a center fielder who can lead off. It's been an issue since the departure of the Dexter Fowler following the World Series championship. On Friday, we learned that the Cubs have interest in Japanese import Shogo Akiyama, according to The Athletic (full story here and recommended).

Akiyama, 31, hit .303/.392/.471 with 20 homers and 12 steals in 143 games last season for Seibu. His last five seasons in OBP, respectively: .419, .385/.398/.403/.392. That would certainly play ahead of the Cubs' boppers. He also plays center field. 

The Cubs, obviously, won't be alone in pursuing Akiyama. 

Specifically, the Diamondbacks have interest, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic

At first glance, the Diamondbacks have superstar Ketel Marte (yes, he is, he just finished fourth in NL MVP voting at age 25) in center field and an option atop the order. Marte can handle second base, though, and is better suited in the two-hole with his power. 

Both of these places would be very nice fits for Akiyama. 

Blue Jays casting wide net for starters

Now, let's be clear: Nothing is a discussion at this point that is close to coming to fruition. Everything is preliminary. 

With that in mind, Shi Davidi of SportsNet mentions that the Blue Jays have at least "some degree of interest" in pursuing starting pitchers Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel, Tanner Roark, Michael Pineda, Rick Porcello, Kyle Gibson, Jordan Lyles and Wade Miley

Those starters aren't in the same class by any means. Wheeler is a frontline guy while Miley is more depth filler, so this is a good illustration at how much the Jays' need starting pitching. They need both good pitchers and depth pieces. 

Rangers, Volquez to re-connect? 

Right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez was with the Rangers from 2005-07 and then again last season. He pitched to a 6.75 ERA in 16 innings last season at the big-league level. The Rangers are exploring bringing him back on a minor-league deal, reports T.J. Sullivan of

No real harm here. Minor-league deals cost teams a veritable drop in the bucket and if there's any upside left in their at all, it's worth it to find out. 

It does seem like Volquez is cooked, but you never know. 

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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