Hisashi Iwakuma

Report: Hisashi Iwakuma leaning toward signing with Mariners

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According to a Sponichi report, Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma is leaning toward signing with the Mariners. The story was passed along by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker and the following translated quote from Iwakuma was published on MLB Trade Rumors.

“We’ve received terms from a number of clubs, but considering where I’m needed and an environment my family can live in, at present we’re closest to a contract with the Mariners,” Iwakuma said.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors reported yesterday that the Orioles are also interested in Iwakuma. Per a previous report by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, it’s believed that another American League team could be in the mix.

The Athletics won exclusive negotiating rights with Iwakuma last offseason by submitting a $19.1 million posting fee, but the two sides failed to agree on a contract. For what it’s worth, it was reported that the Mariners did not submit a bid for him last year. However, they are very much interested now that he’s available as a free agent.

Iwakuma, who turns 31 in April, posted a 2.42 ERA and 90/19 K/BB ratio in 119 innings this past year for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan’s Pacific League. He has a 3.25 ERA during his 11-year career.

Twins’ minor league pitcher Landa dies in Venezuela

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 05:  Yorman Landa #81 of the Minnesota Twins makes a throw to first base during the fourth inning of a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at Hammond Stadium on March 5, 2016 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins say minor league pitcher Yorman Landa has died in Venezuela. He was 22.

The club said in a statement that the Twins are “deeply saddened by the heartbreaking loss.” The team did not say how he died.

Landa pitched in the 2016 season with the Fort Meyers Miracle, going 2-2 with 7 saves and a 3.24 ERA in 41 2/3 innings pitched. His career minor-league ERA was 2.66.

Landa had been on the Twins’ 40-man roster, but was dropped after the season. The organization signed him to a minor-league contract last week.

Landa was signed by the Twins in 2010 as a 16-year old from Santa Teresa, Venezuela.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.