- Rangers Release Ryan Ludwick
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Seattle Mariners Rumors
Mariners prospect Victor Sanchez has passed away, Jose Grasso of Finanzasdigital.com tweets. Sanchez was 20. Last month, Sanchez was swimming off the coast of his native Venezuela when he was hit by a boat. He suffered a fractured skull and a hematoma that caused a stroke, and he went into a coma.
“The Seattle Mariners are saddened to learn of the passing of Victor Sanchez,” says Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. “Victor was a tremendous young man and a wonderful teammate. He was a very talented player who was close to fulfilling his promise as a Major Leaguer. He will be missed by his teammates, and the coaches and staff at the Mariners.”
Sanchez had been in the midst of a promising career as a starting pitcher. The Mariners signed him for a $2.5MM bonus in 2011 and promoted him aggressively through their system. He threw a no-hitter in 2013 in Class A, then he held his own last year at Double-A as a 19-year-old. MLB.com ranked Sanchez as the 11th-best prospect in the Mariners’ system, praising his strike-throwing ability.
We at MLBTR offer our condolences to Sanchez’s family and to the Mariners organization.
Mariners Rule 5 Draft pick David Rollins has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Stanozolol, the league announced. Rollins, a 25-year-old lefty selected out of the Astros organization, had pitched exceptionally well in Spring Training and was considered likely to make the team’s bullpen. In eight innings, Rollins had yielded one run with seven strikeouts and no walks.
The Mariners will be allowed to keep Rollins and place him on the restricted list until his suspension has been served. He can head into extended Spring Training and work out there, eventually moving to a rehab assignment before ultimately joining the team, if the club wishes to retain him. That appears to be the likely outcome, as Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes that GM Jack Zduriencik has indicated the team is leaning toward keeping Rollins. Via Dutton, Rollins says that the mistake came following an injury in winter ball when he was trying to speed up the recovery process. Zduriencik released the following statement via press release: “Having spoken at length with David, I know that he is truly remorseful for his error in judgement. We will continue to work with him to get past this situation.”
In a statement released via the Players Association, Rollins apologized to the organization and thanked the Mariners for their support: “My positive test was the result of a serious error in judgment. I know I have disappointed my many supporters; and my sincerest apologies go out to everyone associated with the game of baseball, especially the Seattle Mariners organization, my teammates and the fans. I am truly grateful for the opportunity the Mariners have given me and never again want to compromise this trust. From the bottom of my heart, I deeply regret this mistake and give you my word it will never happen again.”
It’s possible that Rollins could eventually pitch for the Mariners this season, and the southpaw’s Minor League track record and solid spring indicate that he could indeed stick with the club. In four seasons since being selected in the 24th round by the Blue Jays (Rollins was sent from the Jays to the Astros in the 10-player J.A. Happ/Francisco Cordero trade), Rollins has worked to a 3.39 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 358 2/3 Minor League innings. The Mariners have a potential need for a second lefty in the bullpen behind Charlie Furbush, as the team did not re-sign Joe Beimel or add a second lefty on a big league deal.
Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart says his team doesn’t feel the need another lefty reliever to complement Oliver Perez, MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports. Instead, they’ll go with Andrew Chafin, Matt Reynolds, Dan Runzler, or possibly Robbie Ray. The 24-year-old Chafin struggled as a starter at Triple-A Reno after nine good starts at Double-A Mobile in 2014. Reynolds was recovering from Tommy John surgery, although he had success in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen in 2013 before getting hurt. Runzler pitched in the bullpen at the Triple-A level in the Giants system and is in Diamondbacks camp as a non-roster invite. Ray is in competition for the Diamondbacks’ last rotation spot, although that could go to Rubby De La Rosa, freeing Ray to work out of the bullpen. Here are more notes from throughout baseball.
- The Mariners are likely to try to trade pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes. Ramirez is out of options and doesn’t figure to make the team. The number of pitching injuries throughout the game could create a need for Ramirez somewhere. Since the Mariners will likely be forced to designate Ramirez for assignment if they don’t trade him, though, they don’t necessarily have much leverage.
- Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. isn’t likely to make the Red Sox coming out of camp, but he’s hit well in March while demonstrating a more level swing, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. That could make Bradley an attractive trade candidate again despite a tough 2014 season. The Red Sox can option Bradley, however, meaning the team doesn’t have to deal him even though it does have more outfielders than it needs right now.
Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe profiles Red Sox minor-leaguer J.T. Watkins, a 25-year-old backstop who hopes to become the first West Point grad to make it to the Majors. Watkins has spent two years in military service since being drafted, but was given the chance to pursue a baseball career by the Army. Of course, his odds of cracking the majors are somewhat longer those of, say, his 2012 teammate Mookie Betts — who just happened to be signed by Watkins’ father Danny. Here are more quick notes from the American League.
- Mariners starting pitcher Kevin Correia has an April 1 opt-out date in his minor-league deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. Correia almost surely won’t crack the Mariners’ rotation (which looks like it will be Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Hisashi Iwakuma, J.A. Happ and Taijuan Walker), but given the number of pitching injuries elsewhere, Heyman is of the opinion that there could be plenty of interest in him.
- Due to a roster crunch, the White Sox have made lefty reliever Eric Surkamp available in a trade, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com writes. Given the presence of Zach Duke and Dan Jennings, the White Sox don’t have an immediate spot for Surkamp. The reliever will be 28 in July and doesn’t have a strong big-league track record, but he’s pitched reasonably well at Triple-A and has an option remaining, so perhaps the White Sox will be able to get something in return for him.
Ken Williams lost out on a chance to become the Blue Jays’ new president and CEO this offseason, but he’s enjoying his current role with the White Sox, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “I can’t worry about something that I have no control over,” he says, but he’s clearly thrilled about this year’s team after adding Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche and Zach Duke in the offseason. “I hesitate to say, because I don’t want to disrespect any of the other teams we’ve had, but I don’t know if I’ve been this optimistic and excited to see a team play on a day-to-day basis,” he says. Here’s more from the American League.
- One player worth watching in Mariners camp is pitcher Erasmo Ramirez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Ramirez is out of options. The Mariners will likely try to get him through waivers since there’s no space for him on the team (unless the Mariners option both Carson Smith and Dominic Leone), but another team is likely to claim him. (Ramirez posted an underwhelming 5.26 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 2014, but since he’s 24, has big-league experience, and can start or relieve, some team might find him to be an attractive waiver claim.) The M’s could deal Ramirez, but since he could wind up on the waiver wire anyway, there isn’t much incentive for teams to give up much for him.
- Angels reliever Cory Rasmus has a core injury that will cause him to miss six to eight weeks, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes (Twitter links). That will leave two open spots in the team’s bullpen. One of those will likely go to Vinnie Pestano, and Gonzalez thinks it’s possible that the other will be occupied by Matt Lindstrom, who is an Article XX(B) free agent.
- Nonetheless, the Angels are impressed with Scott Snodgress, who they see as a potential hard-throwing lefty bullpen option, Gonzalez writes. They signed Snodgress as a minor-league free agent over the winter. Snodgress spent most of last season as a stater with Double-A Birmingham in the White Sox system, posting a 3.89 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9, but the Angels saw him as a reliever. “This is a team that, for the most part, has gone through the last year and a half without a consistent presence on the left-handed side of the bullpen,” says GM Jerry Dipoto. “From Day 1, we’ve talked about bullpen being a role, and I think that intrigued him.”
The Mariners‘ additions of Justin Ruggiano, Rickie Weeks and Nelson Cruz should help them hit fastballs better this season, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. MLB hitters batted .272 against fastballs last year, but Ruggiano, Weeks and Cruz were all well above .300. The Mariners batted .267 against fastballs last year, but the team felt they were too passive against them. “I bet we were the worst fastball-hitting team last season,” a Mariners employee tells Rosenthal. That might be an exaggeration, but there surely is room for improvement — FanGraphs ranked the Mariners offense the 12th-worst in baseball against the fastball last year. Here’s more from the American League.
- The Rays have David DeJesus available in a trade, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes (Twitter links). Heyman also points out, though, that this isn’t the easiest time to trade outfielders, with the Red Sox, Padres and other teams having plenty available. DeJesus does, however, remain useful, hitting .248/.344/.403 while playing mostly DH last season. With the team having added Steven Souza and the left-handed John Jaso this offseason, though, there’s currently no clear role for DeJesus in Tampa (although news broke this afternoon that Souza will undergo a precautionary MRI for forearm tightness).
- The Rangers are not likely to trade for an outfielder, and will likely instead try to fill the position from inside their organization, Rosenthal tweets. The team considered adding Mark Trumbo of the Diamondbacks, but did not like the idea of Trumbo patrolling the large left field in Globe Life Park. The team is currently considering a variety of options in left, including Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski and Ryan Ludwick, all of them righties, along with lefties Nate Schierholtz and Carlos Peguero.
The career of 2011 No. 5 overall pick Bubba Starling hasn’t gone according to plan, but the Royals remain patient with the now-22-year-old, Alan Eskew writes for Baseball America (subscription required). “He’s got the type of body and athleticism that will be able to play for a long, long time,” says assistant GM J.J. Picollo. “So whether he gets to the big leagues at 24, 25, 26—that’s not really a factor because he’s going to be able to play for a long time.” Starling hit .218/.304/.338 while striking out 150 times in 549 plate appearances for Class A+ Wilmington in 2014. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Once Chris Capuano recovers from a quad strain, he’ll be a serviceable pitcher who provides the Yankees with flexibility, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues writes. Capuano will miss the start of the season and might not have a rotation spot waiting for him when he returns, but he can also pitch out of the bullpen, as he did last season for the Red Sox and once did on occasion for the Brewers. Axisa suggests Capuano might work well in a swingman role. As a pitcher who can work in a variety of roles without worries, he could provide reasonable value on his $5MM contract.
- Among the players the Mariners sent to minor-league camp today were lefties Lucas Luetge and Rafael Perez. That leaves David Rollins, a Rule 5 pick from the Astros, in competition with Joe Saunders and Tyler Olson to join Charlie Furbush as the Mariners’ second lefty out of the bullpen, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Rollins has pitched well so far in Spring Training, striking out seven batters and walking none in his first 6 1/3 innings.
The Phillies and Red Sox have made “virtually no headway” on a Cole Hamels trade, and that’s because the Red Sox refuse to include top catching prospect Blake Swihart, Jayson Stark of ESPN writes. Of course, that didn’t stop media speculation when Swihart joined the Red Sox’ starting lineup as they took on the Phillies in Clearwater Sunday. “I think it’s funny just like you guys do,” says Swihart. In the meantime, manager John Farrell expresses confidence in another young Red Sox catcher, Christian Vazquez. “Blake is the name that’s always been in the rumors, because of what he potentially could be attached to,” says Farrell. “But the guy who is as good as anybody in the game right now, as far as catching, receiving and throwing, is Christian Vazquez.” Vazquez will start for the Red Sox while Swihart appears likely to begin the season at Triple-A, a level at which he has only 18 games of experience. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Cubs slugger Kris Bryant is eager to prove he belongs in the big leagues, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. “I want to build on what I’ve done so far. Now I’ve got the gas to the floor, and I’m not going to let up,” Bryant says. The Cubs want Bryant to work on his defense, and he likely won’t start the year in the Majors. Heyman suggests that’s not due to service-time concerns, but the fact that the Cubs will gain an extra year of service time by holding Bryant back for a couple weeks of the regular season is surely, at the very least, a happy byproduct of their likely development plan. Whenever Bryant’s promotion to the big leagues arrives, it will be a momentous occasion. By hitting six homers in his first 23 Spring Training plate appearances, Bryant has done nothing to quiet the hype that swirled around him last year.
- Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners are hoping to improve on a 2014 season in which they fell just short of a playoff berth, MLB.com’s Mike Bauman writes. “I like what should be our 25-man roster,” says Zduriencik after an offseason in which the Mariners added Nelson Cruz, Seth Smith, J.A. Happ, Justin Ruggiano and Rickie Weeks. He adds that he feels the Mariners’ depth in the minors is also an asset. “We hoped we could have a good, competitive club year in and year out, a good Minor League system that could continue to fill the void when you have a need, instead of what we had a few years ago, when we had 16, 17, 18 players that debuted in the big leagues in one year.”
Padres outfielder Justin Upton could be a linchpin for the club, writes Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. The former top prospect and MVP candidate is still just 27. GM A.J. Preller hinted that the club could extend Upton depending on how the relationship develops. “We made this deal with eyes open, knowing that this may be a long-term relationship and it may end up being a one-year relationship…We’re not really sure, but that’s the benefit of getting around a player like that that’s obviously going to command big dollars and big value on the open market.” MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Upton the top name in the 2016 free agent market. He implied that a $200MM contract is possible.
Here’s more from out West:
- With Padres backup catcher Tim Federowicz sidelined for three to six months, the club could turn to veteran Wil Nieves, Lin reports. The 37-year-old claims to be in the best shape of his life with coaches and teammates supporting the assertion. He’s a career .243/.281/.317 hitter in over 1,200 plate appearances. However, the role of backup catcher is often more about defense and forming a rapport with the pitching staff. If GM A.J. Preller opts for somebody other than Nieves, he’ll probably have to look outside of the organization. Prospect Austin Hedges is major league ready behind the plate, but scouts say his bat lags behind his glove.
- The Mariners are aiming to score 700 runs this season, reports Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. The M’s are the only AL club to not pass the 700 run threshold since 2007. As Kepner notes, only eight teams scored that many runs in 2014, with five reaching the postseason. While the arbitrary threshold is not required for a playoff bound club, it would dramatically improve their odds. Seattle has to contend with the star-laden Angels and the pesky Athletics.
The Mariners have announced that shortstop Chris Taylor has a right wrist fracture and will be in a brace for seven to ten days, at which point he will receive additional treatment. He is expected to resume baseball activities in four to six weeks. One might think the injury could hamper Taylor’s offense well beyond the four-to-six-week time frame, given how long wrist injuries sometimes affect hitters. Taylor had an MRI after a ball struck his wrist on a foul tip yesterday.
Taylor had been competing with Brad Miller for the Mariners’ starting shortstop job, and there had been trade rumors about both of them this offseason. Those rumors had already quieted down this spring, but with Taylor’s injury, it appears especially unlikely that the Mariners will trade either of them before the start of the season. The 24-year-old Taylor hit .287/.347/.346 in 151 plate appearances in his rookie season in 2014.