Ex-Cub Matt Murton an early-season start in Japan

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With the NPB season about 25 games in, let’s have a look at some of the early numbers from Japan:
Central League hitters
Matt Murton – .343/.398/.525 in 99 AB
Jose Castillo – .341/.371/.538 in 91 AB
Tony Blanco – .314/.385/.581 in 105 AB
Craig Brazell – .280/.344/.573 in 82 AB
Jamie D’Antona – .245/.296/.480 in 98 AB
Alex Ramirez – .243/.369/.524 in 103 AB
Aaron Guiel – .239/.396/.568 in 88 AB
Terrmel Sledge – .226/.308/.452 in 93 AB
Kenji Johjima – .226/.255/.355 in 93 AB
I’d like to see Matt Murton playing a significant role on a major league team, but at least he’s making decent money overseas and at age 28, he’s still young enough to come back to the U.S. and succeed someday. In the meantime, he’s sixth in the Central League in average and tied for fourth with 19 runs scored in 24 games.
Pacific League hitters
Alex Cabrera – .407/.500/.802 in 81 AB
Tadahito Iguchi – .366/.508/.584 in 101 AB
Jose Ortiz – .271/.328/.533 in 107 AB
Greg LaRocca – .237/.317/.427 in 89 AB
Dee Brown – .225/.295/.396 in 111 AB
Cabrera is another who would have hit in the majors, but when he looked to return to the States after the 2007 season, he didn’t find any suitable offers. It was understandable at the time, given that he was 36 and coming off the worst of his seven seasons in Japan. He’s 38 now and still a dominant force in Japan. He leads the Pacific League with eight homers, one more than Ortiz and two in front of Takeya Nakamura. No one else in the circuit has a slugging percentage within 200 points of his .802 mark.
The pitching numbers aren’t very interesting yet, so I’ll skip the full rundown. Two lines are worth of note: Yu Darvish is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA that ranks fourth in the Pacific League and a league-best 63 strikeouts in 46 innings and former Diamondbacks prospect Tony Barnette currently leads the Central League with a 1.73 ERA after four starts.
Barnette, 26, was 14-8 with a 5.79 ERA and a 121/62 K/BB ratio for Triple-A Reno last year.

Report: Rangers’ deal with Seung-hwan Oh is off

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The Rangers will not sign free agent reliever Seung-hwan Oh after all. Reports from MLB.com’s TR Sullivan indicate that negotiations were brought to a halt after a physical issue was found with the pitcher. While the specifics have yet to be released, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News says the issue was revealed on an MRI of the right-hander’s arm.

Oh was thought to be in talks with the Rangers last week, though a deal was never officially announced by the club. The 35-year-old righty is fresh off of a two-year run with the Cardinals, during which he posted a cumulative 39 saves, 2.85 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.2 SO/9 in 139 innings. He struggled with consistency in his sophomore season, however, and finished 2017 with a disappointing 4.10 ERA and 4.44 FIP in 62 appearances for the team.

While Oh hasn’t experienced any setbacks with his arm in the majors so far, he does have a history of prior injuries during his time in KBO. He sustained a shoulder injury in 2009 and underwent surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow in 2010. It’s possible that the Rangers saw an entirely different problem on the MRI, but clearly it was enough to give them strong reservations about inking the righty to a $2.75+ million deal. It’s still possible that another of Oh’s suitors will offer him a contract prior to Opening Day; the Giants were rumored to be interested in the veteran reliever, among other teams, though their recent acquisition of lefty reliever Tony Watson will likely take them out of the running now.