Some Saturday Slices: Iwakuma, Free Agency, McCarthy, Olsen

No, they're not slices of pizza or pie. They're slices of knowledge, accompanied with some of my thoughts! Not that exciting, I know, but I thought it was more accurate than, "The Sexy Saturday Spectacular."

Let's dive into some things that are going on around the league and fill some time on this cloudy Saturday here in Washington, D.C.

AL West teams are reportedly competing for Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma

There's been a lot of reporting on the 29-year-old lately, as the Rakuten Golden Eagles have posted the pitcher apparently with hopes of receiving $16-17M in the posting process. Remember, any team that's awarded the right to Iwakuma will also have to sign him to a contract, so clearly these teams are willing to fork up significant cash. It shouldn't be too surprising, though: Iwakuma is 34-10 with a 2.50 ERA, 280 strikeouts and 79 walks in 370 innings over the past two seasons in Japan.

 

In August, Patrick Newman of FanGraphs called Iwakuma the best pitching prospect in the nation outside of Yu Darvish, thanks to a solid raw stuff and impressive command. Apparently Seattle, Oakland and Texas have all put in bids, with Oakland possibly putting in the highest bid according to a recent report by FOX Sports. According to the report, Oakland would then use their pitching depth to add some hitting, while specifically mentioning Milwaukee as a possible trade partner.

Oakland currently has a set rotation of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro, but adding Iwakuma would give them the ability to swap one of those starters for a young hitter that could presumably help at one of the team's corner spots. Clearly Oakland is enamored with Iwakuma, but you have to wonder if this could blow up in their face, Kei Igawa style.

Free agency officially begins tonight

At 12:01 am ET, the free agent market officially begins. We certainly don't know how a lot of things are going to play out, but with names like Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and Adrian Beltre on the market, teams will have the chance to land some serious impact talent. As shocking as this might sound, none of these guys is going to come cheap, though, so expect most of the interest to be resigned to big market teams.

I'm particularly interested in seeing how the Beltre situation plays out. He's obviously going to get big money after his MVP-quality 2010 performance, but then again we've seen Beltre do this kind of thing in a contract year before only to disappoint on some levels. You want to think that his offense won't seriously regress after leaving Boston, and we can't discount the negative effect that Safeco Field had on his numbers as a Mariner, but it's likely that we've already seen the third baseman's best two seasons already. Either way, he's a plus-plus glove with huge offensive upside, and it's nice to see that people are finally recognizing how good he is.

A couple of interesting former top-50 prospects hit the free agent market

Before the 2005 season, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Olsen, then of the White Sox and Marlins respectively, were regarded as two of the 50 best prospects in the game by Baseball America. But both failed to reach their potential before and after being included in trades, and now they're free agents hoping to redeem themselves after years of disappointment.

Both pitchers have battled injuries over the past couple years, but showed flashes of ability that at least make them worth taking a look at. McCarthy made 17 decent starts (4.70 FIP) with Texas in 2009, and after dealing with some injuries followed that up with some solid performance in Triple-A this season. Olsen actually looked alright in 2010 despite an ugly ERA- his 4.39 xFIP mark was the best since his breakout 2006 performance, and his velocity was up nearly 2 MPH after it took a dip in 2008-2009. Neither pitcher is likely to become anything resembling their previous upsides, but they're both intriguing options that could end up being bargains for someone next season.

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