- The Rockies quietly made a run at Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, knowing that Trevor Story, whose last game came on July 30, was ailing and could miss the remainder of the season. Talks continued into August, per Heyman, but Cozart’s own injury issues arose and made a deal more difficult. It’d have been interesting to see the Rox land Cozart, as he’d have once again become a trade chip for them in the offseason with Story expected to be ready to go for the 2017 season. While talks don’t seem likely to be revisited this winter, the note is another reminder that Cozart is a desirable trade chip for the Reds, who also had a near-swap that would’ve sent Cozart to the Mariners on Aug. 1. Heyman also reminds that longtime GM/president Walt Jocketty will step into an adviser role this winter, leaving GM Dick Williams as the top decision-maker in Cincinnati’s baseball ops department.
- The Mariners appear to be “leaning toward” picking up a $7MM option over outfielder Seth Smith. Smith, 34, isn’t quite an everyday player, but has received over 400 plate appearances in each of his two campaigns in Seattle. This year, he hit .249/.342/.415 with 16 home runs, just under his overall career marks. At $7MM, the M’s would be getting Smith for something like the going annual rate for a fourth outfielder, while limiting its commitment to a single season.
Mariners righty Taijuan Walker is headed for a medical consultation to determine whether he ought to undergo surgery on his troublesome right foot, as MLB.com’s Greg Johns reports. The 24-year-old has suffered with arch tendinitis, and may go in for a procedure to help address the problem over the offseason. Rest is the alternative, but a decision must be made soon. Walker says that the specialist he spoke with previously told him “it would be anywhere from a three- to four-month recovery to be ready to pitch.” Walker had a roller-coaster campaign — manager Scott Servais says he was “all over the board” with hot and cold stretches — but ultimately ended with a 4.22 ERA over 134 1/3 innings, with 8.0 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9. Seattle will hope that Walker can put the foot issue behind him and fully realize his talent in 2017.
- The Mariners will consider all of their free agents and club option players, GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters, though MLB.com’s Greg Johns believes “only a couple” will return to Seattle in 2017. Outfielder Seth Smith is likely to have his $7MM club option exercised, while the M’s could pass on Chris Iannetta’s $4.25MM club option since it’s a fairly high price for a backup catcher. Of the free agents, Adam Lind will likely be let go while outfielders Nori Aoki and Franklin Gutierrez could be better fits to be re-signed.
Lopes, 22, was a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft. He played the entire year at the Double-A level, posting a .284/.358/.355 slash line over 581 plate appearances. Though he obviously doesn’t deliver much pop, Lopes swiped 26 bags on the season. He has spent some time at shortstop, but predominantly lined up at second base during his time in the Mariners organization.
The endlessly fascinating Venditte hasn’t been terribly useful for the M’s, providing 11 1/3 innings of work but coughing up nine earned runs on 11 hits. He has struck out 11 in that span, but has also permitted five free passes. Venditte has been rather strong at Triple-A on the year, though, working to a 3.74 ERA with an excellent 13.1 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 over 43 1/3 frames.
- Mike Zunino has seen his production dip once again after a brilliant 26-game stretch upon his recall from Triple-A, but the Mariners still view him as its long-term catcher, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Zunino did slug a go-ahead homer in last night’s win to help keep Seattle’s postseason hopes alive, but he’s struggled tremendously dating back to Aug. 23, hitting just .159/.266/.293 in that time. Manager Scott Servais raved about Zunino’s defense, though, and the form that the former No. 3 overall pick showed upon his return to the Majors (.280/.393/.707) created some optimism about his ability to hit in the Majors. The question for the organization this offseason, Dutton writes, won’t be one of whether they need to upgrade over Zunino but whether his backup is already in the organization or not.
- Wednesday likely marked Doug Fister’s last start as a member of the Astros, writes Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle, noting that the impending free agent’s September was a dreadful month. Houston lost each of Fister’s final seven starts, Kaplan points out, and the righty surrendered 30 earned runs across 24 innings in his final month of the year (11.74 ERA). That’s hardly the note on which any pitcher wants to end a season, especially when things had been going fairly well for him for much of the season. Fister carried an ERA in the mid-3.00s throughout the entire summer but will conclude his 2016 campaign with a 4.64 ERA in 180 1/3 innings as he looks to improve upon the one-year, $7MM pact he signed with the ’Stros last winter.
- Mariners rookie first baseman Dan Vogelbach has already begun seeking out the coaching staff to ask for extra lessons and extra work on his defense, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Vogelbach, considered a bat-first prospect and labeled by some scouting reports as a future designated hitter due to his defensive limitations, candidly acknowledged to Dutton that he’s aware of how much work he needs to on his glove. “It’s definitely something I’m taking seriously, because it’s something I need to improve,” said Vogelbach, who sought out bench coach Tim Bogar for advice on his positioning and footwork. “…I’ve been doing it the wrong way for so long that now I’m making the correct muscle memory. Getting it to be a natural habit.” Vogelbach indicated that he plans to spend the offseason working on improving with the glove and, as Dutton points out, doing so could very well line him up to be Seattle’s first baseman next season, as both Adam Lind and Dae-ho Lee are free agents.
- The Mariners have announced that they’ve named Justin Hollander their director of baseball operations. The 37-year-old Hollander had previously worked with Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto with the Angels, and last year Hollander served as that organization’s director of player personnel.
The Mariners announced that catcher Steve Clevenger has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the season. Clevenger was the subject of a great deal of social media controversy yesterday following a pair of offensive, racially charged tweets.
“As soon as we became aware of the tweets posted by Steve yesterday we began to examine all of our options in regard to his standing on the team,” said GM Jerry Dipoto in the press release announcing the suspension. “Today we have informed him that he is suspended for the reminder of the season without pay.”
Clevenger, 30, was acquired in a lopsided offseason swap that sent Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in what amounted to a salary dump for the Mariners. Clevenger has been on the disabled list since late June to do a fractured hand and has appeared in just 22 games for the Mariners this year, batting .221/.303/.309 in 76 plate appearances. The former Cubs and Orioles backstop is a lifetime .227/.284/.324 hitter in 522 Major League plate appearances. The suspension will cost him about $28,000 — not an insignificant sum for a player that has yet to reach arbitration in his career — and it seems likely that it’s only a matter of time before the Mariners cut ties with him completely.
After joining the Mariners on a one-year, $5.5MM deal during the winter, left fielder Nori Aoki began the season in dreadful fashion. The former Brewer, Royal and Giant hit just .245/.323/.313 over his first 284 plate appearances, which led the Mariners to option him to Triple-A Tacoma on June 24. The demotion proved effective for Aoki, who returned to the majors in late July and has since slashed .317/.363/.468 in 136 trips to the plate. As a result, the Mariners hope Aoki sticks around in 2017, reports Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune.
“He’s been awesome,” said general manager Jerry Dipoto. “I don’t think he was ever out of our plans (for 2017). When we sent him to Triple-A, we explained to him that we were going to let him play. And whatever happens, happens.”
The Dipoto-led Mariners sent Aoki to the minors again in late August, but that trip only lasted 10 days and came on account of roster issues, per Dutton.
Whether Aoki is a Mariner in 2017 could come down to his player option. The soon-to-be 35-year-old needs another 60 PAs this season to trigger his $5MM option for next season, notes Dutton, who expects Aoki to see plenty of action during the final 15 games of the Mariners’ campaign as they try to overcome a three-game deficit in the American League wild-card race. Collecting 60 more plate trips could be difficult for Aoki, but it’s in his favor that Seattle is set to face plenty of right-handed pitchers, as Dutton writes. Aoki has slashed .292/.357/.413 and walked nearly as much as he has struck out (21 to 27) in 316 PAs versus righties this year.
“I’m doing a lot of things different,” Aoki said of his second-half success. “It’s not just one thing. I changed my bat. I changed my helmet. I changed the way I see the ball. I changed a lot of things.”
- With a group of talented, high-performing players on hand, the Mariners are “talking behind the scenes” about taking advantage of a window of contention, according to Heyman. That could position the club to strike out on the free agent market in search of a “complementary piece,” he says. There are several areas the team could target, but I wonder whether the time may be right to add a slugging first baseman; there are several available, and the team is set to lose its primary tandem of Adam Lind and Dae-ho Lee to free agency.