Welcome back to Rumor Roundup!
As in the past couple of offseasons, this column will select a few rumors each day and take a deeper dive than you would find in insiders’ columns or other aggregators. It is not meant to be a comprehensive rundown—MLB Trade Rumors is your best bet for that—or to examine signings or trades that have already come to fruition: R.J. Anderson and the fantasy and prospect crews have you covered there.
Without any further ado, here are some of the latest rumblings from the rumor mill…
Cubs favored to land Russell Martin?
R.J.’s seventh-ranked free agent, Victor Martinez, is already off the board, and if a Sunday night report from Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal is any guide, no. 6 might soon join him. Citing “executives involved in the bidding,” Rosenthal tweeted that the Cubs are leading the pack for Martin, in whom they are prepared to invest $64 million over four years.
The former Pirate turns 32 in February, so a contract of that length would take him through his age-35 season. Generally regarded as a strong pitch framer and overall defender, Martin enjoyed a career-best offensive year in 2014, posting a .312 TAv on the strength of a .402 on-base percentage. He missed 21 games with a hamstring strain but nonetheless amassed 5.2 WARP. That was good for third among major-league backstops, behind only Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey.
In a Hot Stove scouting report on Martin last month, Chris Rodriguez profiled him as a role-65 player—a first-division backstop he sees as a “3-5 win player until age 35.” That would justify a $16 million annual investment from a Cubs team whose catchers combined for a .620 OPS in 2014, placing third worst in the majors.
Rosenthal later added that the Blue Jays can’t yet be counted out in the bidding:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 17, 2014
Finally, the Dodgers, who fared even worse (.544) than the Cubs in catcher hitting, have also been rumored as a possible landing place for Martin, but might have to look elsewhere for upgrades, based on Rosenthal’s reports.
Tigers moving on from Torii Hunter
Hunter rose to the majors at the age of 21, and by the time he was 36, he’d only worn two uniforms: the Twins’ and Angels’. A second tour of free agency sent Hunter to the Tigers on a two-year, $26 million deal. Now that it’s expired, the 39-year-old is set to don a fourth uni.
General Manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters, including MLB.com’s Jason Beck, that he’s already informed Hunter’s agent that both sides should see other people. The Tigers obtained center fielder Anthony Gose from the Blue Jays in a trade last week, so they could roll with Gose, Rajai Davis, J.D. Martinez, and Steven Moya covering three spots, or look for a different veteran. Hunter’s poor range had dragged down his overall value to the point where replacing him should not be tough.
In fact, at -10.8 FRAA and a .266 TAv, Hunter was worth just half a win in 2014, so his $13 million paycheck far eclipsed his performance. Nonetheless, and even with his 40th birthday upcoming in July, Hunter should have no trouble finding an employer for the coming year:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 15, 2014
Is Iwakuma on the market?
The starting pitcher trade market warmed up on Friday, when the Diamondbacks acquired Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays for two prospects. Bigger names, like Cole Hamels, could eventually be on the move, as well. But there’s one name we hadn’t heard much about until Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe floated it in his Sunday column.
Hisashi Iwakuma, a 33-year-old entering his fourth stateside season, is signed cheaply for the 2015 campaign, after the Mariners exercised a $7 million club option. He missed the first 27 games of the 2014 campaign with a strained tendon in his right middle finger, but returned to post a 3.52 ERA and 3.28 FIP, amassing 1.6 WARP in 179 innings. That represented a step back from Iwakuma’s outstanding first full year in the Seattle rotation, when he logged a 2.66 ERA in 219 2/3 innings, but it still made him a fine second fiddle to Felix Hernandez.
As the Mariners look to build on their 87-75 season, they have a cheap and effective no. 2 starter. Which would make it a bit surprising if they’d consider moving him.
Cafardo noted that Zduriencik has “fielded inquiries” from a few teams, including the Red Sox, who badly need starters because…
Red Sox have 1 pitcher on their 40-man roster, Clay Buchholz, who threw 110+ innings in MLB this year. So, yes, they need rotation help.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 15, 2014
But unless a club comes calling with a premium position player or tantalizing prospect bounty, Iwakuma is likely to play out his contract in Seattle, before GM Jack Zduriencik decides whether to keep him around for a third one. If the season started today, the Mariners rotation would feature Hernandez, Iwakuma, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and either Roenis Elias or Erasmo Ramirez, so a trade would leave them with little in the way of experience behind King Felix.