Brandon Maurer Rumors

NL West Notes: Padres, Maurer, Rockies, Rosario

Padres GM A.J. Preller deserves much of the credit for the club’s surprising offseason, but ownership should get its due too, writes Matt Calkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune. While the decision to fire former GM Josh Byrnes prior to the trade deadline was roundly lampooned, it opened the door for Preller to prepare his staff for a flurry of offseason moves. Additional support from ownership, including an expanded payroll, helped to fuel Preller’s moves.

  • New Padre Brandon Maurer blossomed in a relief role last season, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Maurer features a 95 mph fastball and a biting curve. The Padres may give him a chance to start, but he appears to have the floor of a late innings reliever.
  • If the Rockies don’t make some bold moves, another 90 loss season could be on the horizon, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. Rockies GM Jeff Bridich says a couple moves were “close-ish,” but hasn’t yet found a major move to his liking. Saunders would target the rotation and bullpen for remodeling.
  • In a quick analysis piece of the 15 NL clubs, ESPN’s Jim Bowden (Insider required) opines that the Rockies need to trade Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The club has a lot of work to do before it can be considered a contender. From my perspective, I think they’re just waiting for the right offer, which may include both players proving themselves healthy and productive after their latest batch of injuries.
  • The Rockies and Rangers engaged in “significant” trade talks involving catcher Wilin Rosario, reports Saunders. However, a trade has yet to materialize. The Rockies are now saying they’re comfortable splitting Rosario’s time between catcher and first base, although that could be posturing.

Quick Hits: Red Sox, Maurer, Reds

It was on this day in 1986 that former White Sox, Indians and St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck passed away at the age of 71.  Veeck helped break the American League’s color barrier by signing Larry Doby in 1947 and he was the last owner to bring Cleveland a World Series title, though he is perhaps best remembered today for the wacky promotions he used to draw crowds and entertain fans at the ballpark.  My personal favorite was “Grandstand Managers Night,” when over a thousand St. Louis fans used placards to ‘manage’ the Browns to a victory over the A’s (Steve Wulf recently wrote about the promotion for ESPN The Magazine).

Here’s some news from around the league…

  • The Red Sox have made an effort to add more regulars between the prime ages of 26-30 over the last several months, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe writes, as the 2014 team suffered from a mix of too many inexperienced young players and too many 30+ players who had declining seasons.  “There’s no question that finding guys in that age range is appealing,” GM Ben Cherington said. “It’s a safer age range to be in if you’re investing in a player. To be clear, it’s not like we didn’t want that last year. It’s just, what were the alternatives? What were the possibilities? If we could build a team every year full of 26- to 30-year-olds, we would.”
  • The Padres‘ acquisition of Brandon Maurer could pay even bigger dividends if the team explores turning Maurer back into a starting pitcher, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes for FOXSports.com.  As Sullivan notes, Maurer is a decent comparable to Tyson Ross, who has enjoyed great success as a starter since coming to San Diego two years ago.
  • In a comparison that surely can’t excite Cincinnati fans, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only link) writes that “The Reds…are probably where the Phillies were a year ago, although they could use a decisive determination.”  Reds owner Bob Castellini is too competitive to commit to a brief rebuild, leaving the team in the difficult position of subtracting salaries (like Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon) but also adding win-now pieces (like Marlon Byrd) at the same time.
  • Also from Olney, “recent machinations within the Boston organization” seem to be leading to “less influence” for Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox president/CEO.
  • A number of Yankees topics are addressed in a fan mailbag piece by Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog, including a prediction by Axisa that New York will “go hard after Doug Fister” when the righty hits free agency next winter.  Fister was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2005 and he’d require a smaller salary than other impending free agent starters like Johnny Cueto or Jordan Zimmermann.
  • Also from Axisa, the Yankees could wait until after 2016 to make another big free agent splurge since the Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran contracts will be off the books.  The Yankees’ strategy seems to be to sign several major players in a single offseason (as they did in 2013-14) to sacrifice only one year’s worth of high draft picks, and going on a spending spree in 2014-15 could result in a payroll in the $250MM range.

NL West Notes: Diamondbacks, Maurer, Rockies

Grant Brisbee of SB Nation lists 13 of the biggest holes facing MLB clubs. Since the article was published, the Reds added a left fielder and the Phillies became even weaker. My favorite is Diamondbacks catcher. Currently, that’s Tuffy Gosewisch with Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez serving as the backup. Despite learning earlier tonight that the Orioles are seeking to add more catching depth, they do have five on the active roster. I’d be willing to bet somebody like Steve Clevenger, Ryan Lavarnway, or a cast-off from another organization will filter into Phoenix before the end of spring training.

  • Personal connections between players and evaluators can affect transactions, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Knowing an individual can create a comfort level because so much of baseball is based on character and competitive drive. One NL scout said: “If you just look around, there’s normally a connection there with somebody who is acquiring, they know the guy and sometimes it helps the trade develop.” The article is chock full of good quotes and observations on the topic. The opening is especially pertinent to fans of the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Padres.
  • The Seth Smith trade worked out nicely for San Diego, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. They get out from under $12MM owed to Smith while acquisition Brandon Maurer remains club controlled for five seasons. The Friars may give Maurer a chance to start, but he could also be groomed for late inning relief.
  • The Padres have overhauled their roster, but there’s still no clear leadoff hitter, writes Corey Brock of MLB.com. It’s possible that could be the next target for GM A.J. Preller. Internal candidates like Will Venable and Yangervis Solarte were discussed for the role prior to the flurry of trades. Both appear to be backups now. Catcher Derek Norris has the on base percentage for the job, if not the classic speed associated with batting first.
  • As the Rockies enter the new year, the attention is on newly signed catcher Nick Hundley, writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. It’s presumed that the move will make it easier to send bat-first catcher Wilin Rosario to the American League. While the Rockies claim they need to be blown away for Rosario, this type of move often presages a transaction.


Mariners Notes: Smith, Maurer, First Base

Here are a few notes on the Mariners, who shipped young righty Brandon Maurer to San Diego for Seth Smith yesterday.

  • Smith doesn’t have a broad skill set, but given how good he is at hitting right-handed pitching, he’s an excellent fit for the Mariners, Paul Swydan of Fangraphs writes. And unlike many good hitters against righties, Smith plays outfield and isn’t incredibly costly.
  • Still, the trade might not work out for Seattle, Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com writes. Smith is signed through 2016 (for $13MM, which isn’t prohibitive but also isn’t nothing for a part-time player) and might not hold up through age 33, while Maurer has plenty of upside and could benefit from joining up with PETCO Park and Bud Black. The Padres have gotten good value by acquiring pitchers like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross in trades, and they might do so again with Maurer, meaning the Padres might be selling high and buying low.
  • The Mariners don’t seem inclined to add another first baseman to back up Logan Morrison despite Morrison’s past injury issues, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” says GM Jack Zduriencik. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not.” Dutton adds that Brad Miller could be a factor at first if Chris Taylor wins the starting shortstop job.

Padres, Mariners Swap Seth Smith, Brandon Maurer

The Padres and Mariners have announced a trade that will send outfielder Seth Smith from San Diego to Seattle in exchange for right-hander Brandon Maurer.

Seth Smith

The 32-year-old Smith (pictured) unquestionably had an excellent 2014 campaign, and his career year earned him a two-year $13MM extension in early July. He’s slated to earn $6MM in 2015, $6.75MM in 2016 and has a $7MM club option ($250K buyout) for the 2017 season. The Padres, at the time of the signing, assured Smith that he wouldn’t be traded after signing, but that assurance was made by different leadership; GM A.J. Preller was not in place yet at that time.

Preller has taken a dogged approach to acquiring talent via trades this offseason, successfully obtaining an entirely new outfield of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. Those three additions have left Smith without regular at-bats, and his inability to handle center field makes him a poor choice as a fourth outfielder. Thus, despite hitting a strong .266/.367/.440 with 12 homers, he found himself a frequently mentioned trade candidate. Smith’s strong production was the best of his career, especially considering that it came at Petco Park, but the new Padres front office may have been wary of his ability to repeat a career year.

In acquiring Smith, the Mariners have netted a platoon partner for fellow trade acquisition Justin Ruggiano. Smith’s platoon problems are well known; he’s a lifetime .205/.291/.314 hitter against fellow lefties, but he’s crushed right-handers to the tune of a .277/.358/.481 batting line. That will pair well with Ruggiano’s .288/.357/.569 triple slash against southpaws over the past three seasons.

Upon first glance Maurer’s stats aren’t particularly appealing, but the 24-year-old became a different pitcher upon moving to the bullpen midway through the season. Maurer’s heater averaged better than 95 mph as a reliever, and he posted a 2.17 ERA with a 38-to-5 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings out of the Seattle ‘pen in 2014.

The Padres’ pursuit of Maurer has been ongoing for about a year, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Some within the organization feel he could return to a starting role, though the Padres likely will rely on Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy atop their rotation, with a combination of Robbie Erlin, Odrisamer Despaigne, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson (once his deal is finalized) fighting for the final two spots. San Diego will control Maurer through the 2019 season, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration for another two years.

Maurer is the second arm acquired by the Padres to deepen the bullpen this week, as the Friars struck a deal to acquire Shawn Kelley from the Yankees yesterday. Maurer and Kelley will give manager Bud Black a pair of strikeout arms to add to a bullpen that already featured Joaquin Benoit, Kevin Quackenbush, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Alex Torres. That creates a deep and formidable bullpen, though we of course shouldn’t rule out that possibility that Preller will deal some of those arms in further trades. Benoit, in particular, seems like a possible trade candidate to me, given his $8MM salary and the presence of other closing options in the Padres’ bullpen.

Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN in Seattle was the first to report that a trade of Smith to the Mariners was close (Twitter link). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first mentioned Maurer’s possible involvement in the deal (on Twitter). ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the swap was complete (on Twitter). 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Mariners, Giants Interested In Dayan Viciedo

The Mariners and Giants are among the teams who have talked to the White Sox about acquiring outfielder Dayan Viciedo, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes reports.  The Mariners have considered sending righty Brandon Maurer and another player to Chicago in exchange for Viciedo, while the extent of the Giants’ interest in the Cuban slugger isn’t known.

Viciedo has struggled to a .242/.294/.404 slash line over 326 PA this season, hitting nine homers and producing only an 89 wRC+.  He has roughly $1.4MM remaining on his contract for this season, and he is controlled through 2017 as a Super Two player.  Viciedo is still just 25 years old and posted some big power numbers in the minors, so a change of scenery could help, though moving from hitter-friendly US Cellular Field to pitcher-friendly parks in Seattle and San Francisco doesn’t seem ideal for a batter looking to realize his potential.

This isn’t the first time Seattle has been linked to Viciedo, as the M’s and Sox explored a swap during Spring Training.  The Mariners are still looking for some outfield power, as while Michael Saunders (RF) and James Jones (CF) have mostly locked down everyday roles, former top prospect Dustin Ackley has contributed only a .640 OPS while getting the bulk of playing time in left field.  Since all three of these players are left-handed batters, Viciedo would add some balance from the right side.

Maurer, who just turned 24 yesterday, has a 6.51 ERA in 37 1/3 IP (seven starts and three relief outings) for Seattle this season.  A 23rd-round draft pick in 2008, Maurer has recorded a 3.79 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 2.7 K/BB rate over 389 minor league innings.

Brandon Belt returns from the DL today, leaving the Giants with an ideal regular lineup of Belt at first base, Michael Morse in left and Hunter Pence in right.  If Viciedo were to go to San Francisco, then, it would be as a bench bat and DH option for interleague games in AL stadiums.  Viciedo has graded out as a below-average outfielder over his career, so it’s hard to see him getting much playing time in the spacious AT&T Park outfield.