Masahiro Tanaka

Talks regarding changes to the Japanese player posting system have hit a snag


We heard more details on proposed changes to the Japanese player posting system earlier this week, but it’s not a done deal yet. In fact, Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief operating officer, indicated today that an agreement is not close.

Barry M. Bloom of has the details from Orlando, Florida:

“What I would tell you is that we made a proposal to the Japanese,” Manfred said at the end of the year’s final quarterly Owners Meetings. “When we made that proposal, we told them it was important that they give us a timely response. Unfortunately, they have not been able to do that.”

MLB waited several weeks for approval of its proposal by Japanese baseball officials, but sentiment among a growing number of Major League owners has turned to ending the posting system entirely.

“In today’s meeting there was discussion that will require us to go back to the Japanese and have some further conversation about the proposal we made to them,” Manfred said. “It sat out there for a long time. They couldn’t give us an answer and we’re going to have to go back to them and talk to them about where we are right now.”

According to David Waldstein of the New York Times, the snag isn’t from the Japanese side of things, but rather that small market MLB teams want the posting fee for players to count toward the luxury tax. This would be relevant to the Yankees and their goal to stay under $189 million in payroll next season, as they are expected to be one of the highest bidders on Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka when he’s posted this winter. However, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News points out, this would require reopening the collective bargaining agreement to change the rules. And that’s not going to happen.

It should be noted that both Waldstein and Feinsand expect that something will eventually be worked out and that Tanaka will be posted at some point this winter, but it will be interesting to see if the timing of the posting will have an impact on offseason plans. Putting all of your eggs in the Tanaka basket could be risky once significant free agent starting pitchers begin to come off the board.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.