Nationals among teams hoping Yu Darvish heads to MLB

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When 24-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish was asked last winter if he was considering making the jump to Major League Baseball for the start of the 2012 season, he offered a “no comment.”

Several months later, Darvish still hasn’t commented on the matter. But that hasn’t stopped MLB teams from scouting him and dreaming of how he might fare near the top of a big league starting rotation.

In late June, Rangers GM Jon Daniels headed to Japan to see Darvish for himself. Many other front office executives have done the same. And every major league club is at least keeping some form of tabs on the 6-foot-5 right-hander.

According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, we can now add the Nationals to the list of teams that have expressed public interest in acquiring Darvish should he be made available to bidding in the United States.

Darvish registered a 1.82 ERA as a rookie in 2007, a 1.88 ERA in 2008, a 1.73 ERA in 2009, and a 1.78 ERA in 2010. This season, he is 13-2 with a 1.44 ERA for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Even with Daisuke Matsuzaka’s failures, Darvish stands to make millions upon millions if he agrees to test out the posting process. He is Japan’s highest-paid player at $6 million annually. In the U.S., he could easily double that.

Report: Braves extend Kurt Suzuki

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Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.

Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.

It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.

“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”

Mikie Mahtook is likely done for the season

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Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.

This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.

With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.