The Blue Jays already have one knuckleballer with 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and it sounds like they are about to add another one to the mix.
Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports that the Blue Jays have reached a verbal agreement on a minor league contract with Tomo Ohka, who has reinvented himself as a knuckleballer since he last appeared in the majors in 2009. The expectation is that he’ll begin the year with Double-A New Hampshire.
Ohka, now 37, had a 4.26 ERA over 10 seasons in the majors from 1999-2009 while making stops with the Red Sox, Expos, Nationals, Brewers, Blue Jays and Indians. He returned to Japan to pitch for the Yokohama Bay Stars from 2010-2011 before requiring shoulder surgery. MLB Trade Rumors relayed a story from NikkanSports.com last month that Ohka has been developing his knuckler ever since and came to the United States in October to begin training.
If Ohka is going to make a comeback as a knuckleballer, he might as well be as close to Dickey as possible. It should be a fun story to monitor in 2014.
Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.
Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.
The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.