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.

Mike Rizzo and Shawn Kelley almost got into a physical confrontation

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A few weeks back the Washington Nationals designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment the morning after he threw his glove into the ground and glared at the Nats dugout in frustration after giving up a homer in a blowout win against the Mets. He was later traded to the Athletics. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said at that time that he thought Kelley was trying to show up his manager and that there was no room for that sort of thing on the team, offering an “either you’re with us or you’re working against us” sentiment in the process.

Today the Washington Post talks about all of the Nationals’ bullpen woes of late, and touches on the departure of Kelley as being part of the problem. In so doing, we learn that, on the night of Kelley’s mound tantrum, he and Rizzo almost got into a physical confrontation:

Rizzo headed down to the clubhouse and confronted Kelley, according to people familiar with the situation. The argument became heated, including raised voices, and eventually it almost became physical, according to people familiar with the exchange. Adam Eaton got between the two of them and separated them before things could advance further . . .

Might I point out that, the fact of this emerging now helps to vindicate Brandon Kintzler who, the day before, was traded away, some say, for being the source for negative reports from inside the Nats’ clubhouse?

That aside, the article does not make anyone look good, really. Rizzo had the backing of his team with the Kelley incident, but the overall story — how did the Nats’ bullpen, which was once a strength — get so bad? — does no favors for Rizzo. Mostly because he seems to have thought that they had so much extra bullpen depth that they could afford to deal away Kintzler, which he says was a financial move, not a punitive trade for being a media source.

Question: when was the last time you heard a baseball man say he had too much relief pitching? Especially today, in which the bullpen has assumed such a prominent role? Seems rather unreasonable to cut relievers when you’re trying mightily to come back from a sizable deficit in the standings, yes?