Rangers interested in Korean free agent Suk-Min Yoon
Korean free agent Suk-Min Yoon, a 27-year-old right-hander who pitched for the Kia Tigers last year, has been a forgotten man this offseason, but he could provide a boost to the back of a team’s rotation or bullpen. Clubs unwilling to shell out big bucks for Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana might view him as a desirable option as the winter winds down.
Reports out of Korea on Saturday indicated that Yoon held a 30-pitch workout for scouts from the Giants and Orioles on the campus of the University of California, Irvine. The Giants are an unlikely suitor for Yoon, having already added Tim Hudson to their rotation and brought back both Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong, but the Orioles are expected to find a way to bolster their starting staff in the coming days.
According to Andrew Rickli of SportsReel Boston, though, they will need to compete with another suitor: the Rangers, who are still hoping to pad their rotation after losing Derek Holland to a knee injury earlier this winter. Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net, who translates Korean-language reports via Twitter, relayed one on January 28 that suggested that four teams have already tendered contract offers to Yoon and that two of them are in serious talks with him. Shawn Ferris of OutsidePitchMLB shared another report from Korea JoongAng, which identified the Orioles and Rangers as the frontrunners.
Scouting information on Yoon is limited, but Keith Law—who ranked Yoon 37th, ahead of Bronson Arroyo and Jason Hammel, in his listing of the top 50 free agents—wrote that he relies heavily on a good changeup and slider to overcome a fringy fastball, which now comes in below 90 mph. Law believes that Yoon might make a smoother transition to the majors as a reliever, the role in which he served for the Kia Tigers after a shoulder injury, but he added that the 6-foot, 190-pound righty’s deep arsenal gives him a chance to stick as a back-end starter.
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to spring training within the next 10 days, expect Yoon, who is represented by Scott Boras, to settle on his first big-league home very soon.
Of course, Marmol wasn’t so fortunate in his 27 2/3 innings with the Cubs, over which he walked 21 batters and watched his ERA balloon to 5.86. That effort got Marmol designated for assignment. He was subsequently acquired by the Dodgers, outrighted to Triple-A, and then promoted back to the majors on July 23.
Marmol’s three-year, $20 million extension with the Cubs, which bought out his last two years of arbitration eligibility plus one free-agent year, didn’t end well for Chicago, as he regressed into a replacement-level reliever and ultimately lost his job. But Marmol is still just 31 years old, and that—plus his wipeout slider—will convince some team to look past his erratic control and give him a chance.
In fact, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, three clubs have their sights set on Marmol, and one of them is likely to come away with the right-hander in short order. The Bonao native made three Dominican Winter League appearances for Tigres de Licey and, true to form, he doled out a couple of free passes but was charged with only one earned run. Marmol also recorded a clean inning against Puerto Rico in Caribbean Series play last weekend, so his suitors have now had several chances to watch him pitch since the end of the season.
Gordon Wittenmyer, who covers the Cubs for the Chicago Sun-Times, heard during the Winter Meetings that the Brewers and Red Sox were among 3-4 teams in play for Marmol. It’s unclear whether Milwaukee and Boston remain possible landing spots for the righty; if they are, he would seem to have a better chance of cracking the Brewers’ Opening Day roster, because the Red Sox have already added Burke Badenhop and Edward Mujica this offseason.
Rays likely to stay internal to replace Jeremy Hellickson
While the Rangers may need to scramble to supplant Holland for the first half or more of the season, the Rays appear to have the depth to withstand an injury to their no. 4 starter. Word surfaced on Monday that Jeremy Hellickson underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery last week so that Dr. Koco Eaton could remove loose bodies from his arm. The recovery timetable figures to cost Hellickson the first 6-8 weeks of the regular season, per Tampa Bay Times beat writer Marc Topkin.
The timing of the surgery gives the Rays all of spring training to evaluate their candidates to take Hellickson’s spot until late May or early June, and each of their top three prospects from Jason Parks’ late-December list could have a shot to earn the job. Jake Odorizzi, who ranked second, is the heavy favorite—and the only one with more than three big-league starts on his résumé. The 23-year-old Odorizzi, whom the Rays acquired from the Royals in the James Shields deal, posted a 3.94 ERA over 29 2/3 innings in the majors last year, walking eight and fanning 22.
Enny Romero, who topped Parks’ top 10, and Alex Colome, who was no. 3, are also expected to compete, but both are hindered by below-average command. Odorizzi is the only member of the trio whose realistic role is in the rotation, and he’s the safest bet to perform adequately until Hellickson returns.
Peter Gammons tweeted last week that the Rays are “in” on Burnett, but they were not among the finalists mentioned by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. At this point, the Burnett derby appears to be down to the Orioles, Phillies, and Pirates. The Rays could look at some of the lower-end options still on the market, but it appears much more likely that the replacement for Hellickson will come from their farm system.