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There’s a push to get Ichiro into the 2018 Home Run Derby

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Mariners manager Scott Servais made an off-hand joke in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday, suggesting that Ichiro Suzuki should participate in the Home Run Derby. But fans ran with the idea and it’s now a topic that reporters have had to cover leading into Wednesday evening’s game between the Mariners and Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Servais said, “We started a campaign the other day, and maybe you guys can help. I know a lot of today’s players don’t want to get in the home run hitting contest. I think Ichiro would be a great addition to the home run hitting contest at the All-Star Game. He takes BP every day and he is launching balls. It’s really fun to watch. That would draw a lot of fans.”

Suzuki, of course, understood that Servais was kidding. Per MLB.com’s Greg Johns, Suzuki said, “I thought our skipper didn’t like to tell jokes, but I guess he does. That’s the funniest thing he’s said in the first half of the year.”

Suzuki, 44, struggled to open the season, so he decided to hang up his spikes — at least for the season — and join the Mariners’ front office as a Special Assistant to the Chairman. As Servais mentioned, Suzuki still takes on-field batting practice with the team, and he hasn’t ruled out coming back to play next year. He said, “Right now, I’m not a player. I’m going to be back, but right now, I think it’s just a joke, to be honest with you.” He continued, “I think if somebody like me entered, it would kind of harm the game. I’m not a player and with the long, great history MLB has, I don’t think it would be good for [the game]. But it’s fun and I’m happy it’s come up. It’s fun to have conversations like that. So I’m definitely happy about it.”

Though his power is the stuff of legend, Suzuki never hit more than 15 home runs in a season and reached double-digit home runs just three times in 18 seasons. He has never participated in the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. However, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports, Suzuki was invited to the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008, but didn’t go because he injured his finger.

When asked if he could choose a pitcher to throw to him if he participated in the Derby, Suzuki answered with Mark Buehrle, per Divish. Indeed, in 70 plate appearances against Buehrle, Ichiro hit .409, though he had only three extra-base hits, including one home run.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will be held on July 16 at Nationals Park as part of the All-Star Game festivities. While Suzuki didn’t outright decline participating, it doesn’t seem like we’re going to see him in the Derby. We’re also not going to see Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, or Mike Trout in the Derby.

What do the losers of the Gerrit Cole derby do now?

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Gerrit Cole is now a New York Yankee. Nine years and $324 million make that so. But though the Yankees are the only team who gets him, they weren’t the only team interested in him. So let’s take a look at what the losers of the Gerrit Cole derby — the Dodgers and the Angels — can do now that they know they’ve lost.

Dodgers

The Dodgers were hopeful they had a shot due to Cole’s Los Angeles ties. Welp, that didn’t pan out. Which is not a shock. I’m struggling to think of the last time that whole “he’s from [place] so he’ll want to sign with [team near place]” thing worked out. It didn’t happen with CC Sabathia in the Bay Area. It didn’t happen with Mark Teixeira in Baltimore. It didn’t even work out with Brandon Webb in Cincinnati. Money talks, geography walks.

But the Dodgers wanted Cole. They wanted to bolster a pitching staff that has relied on an aging and now free agent Rich Hill and on free agent Hyun-Jin Ryu. There’s a hole to fill, and without Cole available to fill that hole, they’ll have to do something. What is the something they can do?

How about sign their chief rival’s last big pitching star?

It’s certainly a decent plan. But it’s one that might get expensive for Los Angeles. USA Today reported on Monday that Bumgarner was seeking five years and $100 million-plus. Some raised their eyebrows at that report, but given how much Stephen Strasburg and Cole commanded, it seems downright reasonable now. That’s especially the case given that the Giants — despite being on the brink of a rebuild — probably don’t want to see their franchise hero sign with the hated Dodgers:

So it’ll be a bidding war. A war that will make Madison Bumgarner a very large amount of money.

 

Angels

The Angels made no secret of their desire to land Cole. Joe Maddon talked openly about him in his press conference here at the Winter Meetings on Monday. Cole talked openly during the 2019 season, and since it ended, about his connection to Orange County and the Big A.

But the Angels didn’t have the talent to entice Cole and to make him believe that they could contend like the Yankees can. If they made a competitive offer — and we don’t know if they did — they still would’ve had to convince him that they could win. And, really, there is no real basis to believe that they could make a credible case for that.

So where do the Angels go?

General Manager Billy Eppler said on Tuesday that the Angels did not have Gerrit Cole tunnel vision and that they could spend in excess of $20 million a year on multiple players, none of which had to be Cole. On Tuesday the Angels shed the contract of Zack Cozart and, with his $12 million+ and roster spot opened up, the Halos are said to be interested in third baseman Anthony Rendon or, as a fallback, Josh Donaldson.

As for pitching, the Angels will likely prove to be competition for  Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and perhaps free agent Dallas Keuchel. They could also pursue trade options such as affordable pitchers like Miami’s Caleb Smith or Detroit’s Matthew Boyd or less-affordable — but less-costly in a trade — options like David Price, who the Red Sox were rumored to be shopping in the name of salary relief. Which is to say, the Angels have options, even if their top option is off the table.

But both they and their counterparts up in Los Angeles County, now have to go back to the drawing board now that Gerrit Cole is New York bound.