Could Ubaldo Jimenez return to the Indians?

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At the start of the offseason, Ubaldo Jimenez appeared poised to leave the Indians for a big money contract in free agency, but he’s still trying to find a home with spring training just a few weeks away. Perhaps things will pick up now that Masahiro Tanaka has signed with the Yankees, but Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer envisions a scenario where the 30-year-old right-hander could return to Cleveland:

If Jimenez can’t get a three to four year deal, and comes knocking on the Tribe’s door, I bet both parties would jump at the chance to sign a one-year deal at or below $14 million. It would allow the Indians to keep a grip on their payroll and add a key arm to their rotation, while giving Jimenez a chance to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and take another bite of the free-agent apple after the 2014 season.

Jimenez had a 4.56 ERA through the All-Star break last season, but he appeared rejuvenated with a 1.82 ERA and 100/27 K/BB ratio in 84 innings across 13 starts during the second half. There’s risk involved with making a big investment based on a small sample, especially when teams have to give up a top draft pick along with it, so there’s no guarantee he’ll find the contract he’s looking for. If Jimenez returns to Cleveland on a one-year deal and has another big season under the tutelage of pitching coach Mickey Callaway, teams would likely line up with confidence next winter. It’s something to keep in mind, anyway.

Mariners sign Ichiro to a minor league deal

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USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports that the Mariners will sign Ichiro Suzuki to a minor-league deal. If he makes the roster he’ll make $750,000. At least until he retires.

I say that because it seems quite clear that the idea here, telegraphed since last season, is to activate Ichiro for the Mariners’ series against the Oakland Athletics in Tokyo on March 20-21 and for hoopla surrounding it all. The Mariners and A’s will have a 28-man roster for that series, which is officially part of the regular season schedule, but it will be pared back down to 25 once games begin in the United States.

Suzuki, 45, hit .205/.255/.205 in 47 plate appearances through May 2 last season, at which point he agreed to be deactivated to join the Mariners’ front office. Many assumed Ichiro would announce his retirement later that season or during the offseason, but the Japan Series soon crystalized as an obvious way for him to offer his final farewell to both his American and his Japanese fans.

Unless of course he goes 6-10 with three doubles in that series, at which point everyone will be tempted to keep him on the roster past Japan. Which, given the Mariners’ rebuild and likely poor performance this coming season, wouldn’t exactly be hurting anyone, would it?