Everything from a couple of months ago said that Japanese phenom Shohei Otani had his heart set on playing in the U.S., with the Dodgers, Rangers and Red Sox all pursuing him. However, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times is told by a source that Otani may remain in Japan.
Otani, an 18-year-old right-hander, was selected by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the first round of Japan’s draft in October, but he’s still free to come to the U.S. if he wants. Despite the new rules governing international signings, Otani seems likely to land a deal north of $20 million if he chooses to make the jump across the Pacific.
Shane Victorino’s down 2012 season will likely prevent him from getting a five-year deal as a free agent, but he’s still a very popular free agent:
Cleveland is an interesting possible destination, given that the Indians are far from big spenders and already have Michael Brantley to play center field. Victorino would presumably start in left field for the team. The Red Sox would use him in right field.
If Lauber is right, then Victorino’s demands have already come down a bit since the start of the spring. He might be smart to sign soon rather than wait for Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan to come off the board and shorten the number of suitors.
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star says both the Mariners and Orioles are showing strong interest in Royals designated hitter Billy Butler.
Dutton sees the Mariners as the more likely trade partner, what with their stockpile of arms that includes Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
The Orioles also have some arms to deal from, such as Zach Britton and Chris Tillman, but their group isn’t quite as attractive as Seattle’s.
Most believe that the Royals will trade for a starter, probably using either Butler or top prospect Wil Myers. It’s doubtful that they’ll part with both.
If the Mariners acquired Butler, it’d seem to alter the plan that currently calls for Jesus Montero to get most of his time at DH next year. Montero could instead split time between catcher and first base and eventually become the regular first baseman if Justin Smoak fails to take a step forward.
Joel Hanrahan is an exceptional 76-for-84 saving games for the Pirates the last two years, but he isn’t drawing as much interest around the league as the team has hoped, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel.
The Pirates recently shopped Hanrahan to a pair of American League teams, only to get the response that neither was interested. They’ve also reportedly talked to the Dodgers about him without getting any bites.
Hanarhan is entering his last year of arbitration and is likely to make around $7 million before becoming a free agent next winter. He posted ERAs of 1.83 in 2011 and 2.72 in 2012. The Pirates are believed to be looking for starting pitching in return for him, though that would mean further gutting their bullpen. They traded Brad Lincoln to the Blue Jays in July and Chris Resop to the A’s before the non-tender deadline, plus they look like long shots to re-sign top setup man Jason Grilli.
Boston’s pursuit of Adam LaRoche ended with the signing of Mike Napoli, but the Red Sox are still talking to Nick Swisher, CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reports.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark says the Red Sox are also considering Cody Ross and Shane Victorino as they seek to round out their outfield. Signing one player from that group would leave them with Jonny Gomes, Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava battling for time in one spot.
The addition of Swisher would give the Red Sox even more flexibility after adding a catcher-first baseman in Napoli. Napoli will likely play first base most of the time, but when he catches, Swisher could move to first, which is probably his best position. Swisher would presumably start in right field the rest of the time.
Swisher is looking for a five- or six-year deal, but odds are that he’ll have to settle for four, perhaps at the same $13 million per year that Napoli just got from the Red Sox.
As for LaRoche, he can still return to the Nationals with Mike Morse seemingly on the block. The Rangers and Mariners are his other suitors, according to the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore.