Angels close to minor league deal with Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi

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After considering a move over to MLB following the 2010 season, Japanese reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi is finally headed stateside. According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, the 34-year-old right-hander is close to a minor league deal with the Angels. The deal is expected an invite to spring training.

Kobayashi has a 3.53 ERA over 12 seasons in Japan. He was an effective starter for a long time prior to moving to the bullpen in 2010, when he saved 29 games for the Chiba Lotte Marines. He moved on to the Hanshin Tigers from there, posting a 3.00 ERA and 45/19 K/BB ratio over 39 innings in 2011. However, he didn’t throw a pitch in Nippon Professional Baseball last year.

Kobayashi was never regarded as a top talent in Japan and wasn’t offered a major league contract last time around, so the Angels are likely looking at him as minor league bullpen depth.

Orioles “have begun fielding calls of interest” on Manny Machado

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports Thursday that the Orioles “are said to have begun fielding calls of interest” on superstar Manny Machado and “are close to the point of seriously weighing whether to trade him.”

You’d think it would be a no-brainer for the last-place O’s to flip Machado — an impending free agent — for prospects, but Heyman notes there is “still a question whether or not longtime Orioles owner Peter Angelos” will give the go-ahead. One person familiar with the situation put it a “50-50” likelihood. Another suggested that it would take a massive return, which, sure.

Machado entered play Thursday with a sensational .328/.405/.635 batting line, 15 home runs, and an MLB-leading 43 RBI in 49 games. It’d be a real shock if he’s still wearing an O’s uniform by the end of July.

Heyman reported previously that at least nine teams made aggressive plays for Machado this winter, including the Cubs, Phillies, Dodgers, Indians, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Cardinals. A whole lot of those teams still make sense here in late May — maybe all of them except the White Sox.