Braves take smart risk with Glaus over LaRoche

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I’m not a big fan of yesterday’s Javier Vazquez-for-Melky Cabrera (and prospects) swap from Atlanta’s point of view, but using some of the money saved on the deal to sign Troy Glaus to an incentive-laden one-year pact makes plenty of sense for the Braves.
Adam LaRoche was fantastic for the Braves after coming over in a July 31 trade for Casey Kotchman, hitting .325/.401/.557 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 57 games. No doubt Atlanta hoped to re-sign him, but with LaRoche reportedly looking for a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $30 million the Braves were absolutely right to move on.
LaRoche’s excellent second half led to his hitting .277/.355/.488 with 25 homers overall last season, which is remarkably similar to his hitting .270/.340/.500 with 25 homers in 2008. Toss in good defense at first base and that makes him a solidly above average all-around first baseman, but at 30 years old he’s not the type of guy at whom a cash-strapped team should be throwing $30 million.
Glaus missed nearly all of 2009 with shoulder problems and that makes him a question mark for 2010, but by moving from third base to first base his throwing is much less of an issue and he batted .270/.372/.483 with 27 homers in 2008. In fact, prior to the shoulder injury Glaus had posted an OPS above .800 in nine straight seasons, batting .259/.366/.513 during that time. He’s definitely a risk, but if healthy Glaus should be very similar to (and perhaps even slightly better than) LaRoche offensively for a fraction of the cost.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.