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Seattle Mariners Rumors
Kickham, 26, was designated for assignment when the Cubs made their signing of Chris Denorfia official. Chicago had claimed the southpaw off waivers from the Giants earlier this winter. Kickham has struggled in 30 1/3 big league innings yielding a jarring 37 earned runs in that time. He’s fared better in the minors, where he sports a 4.37 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 259 innings at the Triple-A level. Presumably, he’ll provide the Mariners with some organizational depth that can be stashed at Triple-A, as he does have a minor league option remaining.
Huijer, who hails from the Netherlands, split his age-20 campaign (2014) between Class-A and Class-A Advanced. After strong seasons in Rookie ball (2012) and short-season Class-A (2013), Huijer posted respectable numbers at Class-A Clinton, registering a 4.02 ERA with 5.5 K/9 but a somewhat troublesome 4.3 BB/9 rate in 71 2/3 innings. The leap to High-A was more difficult, though that’s to be expected given the fact that he was roughly three years younger than the league average. In 52 1/3 innings in the California League, Huijer struggled to a 6.54 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9. He allowed eight homers in his short time there despite only having surrendered 11 in 228 2/3 prior career innings.
Baseball America ranked Huijer 28th among Mariners farmhands last offseason, prior to his struggles, noting that he figured to add to his 85-90 mph fastball as he filled out. BA noted at the time that he projected as a back-end starter with potential for more growth, though his development obviously didn’t go as planned in 2014. As Mike Salk of ESPN 710 in Seattle notes (Twitter link), this caps a bizarre scenario in which the Mariners acquired Justin Ruggiano from the Cubs to replace Denorfia, who then signed with the Cubs, prompting a DFA of Kickham, who was then dealt to Seattle.
The latest edition of the MLBTR Podcast focuses on the Padres‘ busy offseason, as Jeff Todd speaks with MLB.com’s Padres beat writer Corey Brock about all of San Diego’s transactions. Jeff also spends a few minutes on how the five NL West teams’ winter moves have created a varied set of expectations around the division. Here’s the latest from around the baseball world…
- The Angels weren’t eager to part with Ricardo Sanchez, but GM Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez) that the club’s young pitching depth made it easier to deal Sanchez to the Braves for third baseman Kyle Kubitza and reliever Nate Hyatt. “What we’ve done, in our draft or in the trades the way we’ve gathered players, is really focus these last three years on adding pitching,” Dipoto said. “Part of what I have talked to our guys about is, ‘If you tap into the pitching, you have the key to get the other things we need.’ “
- Dipoto also reiterated that Kubitza’s acquisition doesn’t necessarily spell the end of David Freese (a free agent next winter) in Anaheim. “David Freese is our third baseman; we’re not in a rush to move David Freese out. But we do feel like now we have someone we can build with,” Dipoto said.
- The Angels aren’t seriously exploring adding a notable starting pitcher since they expect Garrett Richards to be ready by “some point” in April, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi tweets.
- Also from Morosi, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said that his team is “always open” to the possibility of more moves, including another trade for a hitter.
- Endy Chavez or Franklin Gutierrez could potentially fit as candidates to return to the Mariners as minor league outfield depth, MLB.com’s Greg Johns writes as part of a reader mailbag.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich recently confirmed that he’d taken some calls about Drew Stubbs, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. “In general, there has been interest in Drew from teams looking for very specific fits in their outfield,” Bridich said. “Teams see him as a fit, but he’s a fit for us as well.” While Bridich didn’t give the impression that any trade was close or even being discussed, it was reported last month that the Rockies had spoken to the Orioles about a possible Stubbs deal.
- The Mets expect interest in their starting pitching to perk up, a team source tells Mike Puma of the New York Post, with Dillon Gee the likeliest candidate to be dealt. Without a trade, the Mets are prepared to use one of their starters out of the bullpen, as the source says a six-man rotation is “unlikely.”
- Also from Puma, Mets GM Sandy Alderson didn’t sound optimistic about his team’s chances of a shortstop upgrade. “We’ve continued to have conversations, but nothing is likely to occur,” Alderson said. “There is currently nothing imminent. I still believe at this point that we will go into spring training with what we have at shortstop.” The Mets never came close to a deal for Troy Tulowitzki, Puma writes, though they talked with Colorado during the Winter Meetings.
That the Phillies are interested in dealing away first baseman Ryan Howard and some portion of his contract is well-known. Howard, of course, is in the middle of a huge extension that still includes two years and a guaranteed $60MM (including a $10MM buyout of a $23MM club option in 2017). That contract includes a “most favored nation” clause that allows Howard to match the no-trade terms in Cliff Lee‘s deal, under which the player is permitted to designate all but nine clubs for no-trade protection.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports the details on Howard’s current list of competitors. The nine teams to which Howard cannot prevent a trade are the Tigers, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Yankees, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, and Red Sox. Crasnick suggests that the teams listed are not particularly strong potential suitors for Howard, as most are either small-payroll clubs and/or lack a present need for a player of Howard’s ilk.
The list seems curious from a strategic perspective, in my view, since it includes only American League clubs. The prevailing sentiment around Howard seems to be that he might have some limited trade value as a designated hitter and left-handed bench bat, but it appears exceedingly unlikely that any National League team would have interest in adding him as a regular first baseman. And payroll is not likely to prevent any teams from pursuing Howard, as Philadelphia is expected to eat most or all of his remaining salary regardless of where he is dealt.
If anything, it could be that the list is simply made up of the American League teams that Howard would most like to play for. His money is earned, after all, and it is unlikely that he would be able to exert enough leverage to convince an acquiring team to provide him with some added benefit in exchange for waiving his no-trade protection. (The notion of demanding a guarantee of his option, for instance, seems far-fetched.) Rather than using the NTC as a means of opening the door to extracting concessions, then, the reported list seems to suggest that Howard is open to being dealt to a place where he is wanted and where he would like to play.
Reading the tea leaves for intent is only so possible and so useful, of course. And the bottom line remains the same: nine of the fifteen A.L. clubs can add Howard without receiving his permission.
The Angels are likely to trade Josh Hamilton before his contract expires, but not before letting him play out at least part of the 2015 season, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. Given Hamilton’s production (.263/.331/.414 last year) and contract, his value can’t slip much further, so the Angels might as well wait to see if they can recoup some of that value with a rebound season, Gonzalez suggests. And then, of course, there’s the fact that Hamilton has a full no-trade clause. The Angels reportedly discussed potential Hamilton deals with the Rangers and Padres this offseason, although those talks did not appear particularly likely to result in a trade. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- After reaching a deal with Nick Hundley last week, the Rockies could trade Wilin Rosario, or they could keep him and go with three catchers (Hundley, Rosario and Michael McKenry), MLB.com’s Thomas Harding writes. Many teams have two catchers but are reluctant to use the backup to pinch-hit, so having three would allow the Rockies to use their spare catchers more liberally. Also, they could have Rosario pick up playing time at first base or in the outfield. Harding adds that the Rockies have “checked in with” Max Scherzer and James Shields this offseason, although, unsurprisingly, they’re not likely to sign either one, and they’ll likely acquire a veteran to eat innings instead.
- Justin Ruggiano and Seth Smith should form a solid platoon for the Mariners, David Golebiewski writes for GammonsDaily.com. Neither one projects to be anything special if he plays every day, but Ruggiano has a .925 OPS against lefties in the last three seasons, while Smith has an .825 OPS against righties. Those are very strong numbers (even though we should probably expect regression for Ruggiano, and it’s impossible to completely hide any batter from same-handed pitching), and the Mariners should get effective production from right field while they wait for a long-term starter to come along.
We at MLBTR would like to extend our condolences to the friends and family of Bill Kearns, a veteran Mariners scout who passed away last night at age 94. Kearns was hired by the Mariners prior to their debut 1977 season and has been with the franchise for its entire history. A World War II veteran and former Brooklyn Dodgers minor leaguer, Kearns’ long career in baseball led him to scouting jobs with the Dodgers, White Sox and Royals before eventually joining the M’s. In a statement from the team, Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said “Bill was a gentleman, in the finest sense, and represented his family and the Mariners in a first-class manner. And he was an excellent scout, a true ambassador of the Mariners and the game of baseball. Bill was one of the most positive people I have ever met. He will be missed.”
Here’s some more notes from around the league as 2015 is now upon us…
- Left-hander Luis Avilan‘s name had recently come up in trade talks, though now that the Braves have traded another southpaw in Chasen Shreve, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman wonders (Twitter link) if Atlanta could keep Avilan in the fold. Earlier today, the Braves sent Shreve and David Carpenter to the Yankees in exchange for Manny Banuelos.
- Zduriencik and Seth Smith discussed the recent trade that brought Smith to the Mariners in a conference call with reporters (including Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune). The extension that Smith signed with the Padres last summer was a factor in the trade, as Zduriencik noted that “one of the things we tried to stay away from was giving up talent for one-year returns…I think you’re getting a player who can be with you for at least the next three years.”
- With Craig Breslow‘s physical scheduled for Monday, the Red Sox will face a tough decision in opening up a spot for the reliever on their 40-man roster, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford writes. Dan Butler, Tommy Layne, Zeke Spruill and Drake Britton are potential candidates to lose their 40-man spots, with Bradford citing Britton as maybe the most vulnerable because he’s out of options. There’s also “a very real scenario” where Boston makes a trade to free up roster space.
- A number of recent Orioles news items and rumors are recapped by MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, including the new information that the O’s would like to sign a right-handed reliever, possibly on a minor league deal.
- Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi recently said his team won’t be making any other major starting pitching signings, which worries Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times since he feels the rotation lacks depth beyond the top three of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. On the other hand, Dilbeck wonders if Zaidi’s statement was tactical, similar to how the GM denied that Dee Gordon was being shopped just before Gordon was dealt to Miami.
- In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Tony Blengino describes Adam LaRoche signing with the White Sox as “a perfect marriage of club, player, ballpark and contract.” Using analyses of LaRoche’s swing and U.S. Cellular Field’s park factor, Blengino thinks the veteran first baseman could challenge for the AL homer crown if he stays healthy.
- 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.
The Angels employ a young quartet of analysts in their baseball operations department, and the four young executives took some time to talk about the work they do with the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura. Jeremy Zoll, Jonathan Strangio, Nate Horowitz and Mike LaCassa (whose ages range from 24 to 28) discuss their efforts, which include seeing if trends translate from college to minor league ball and grouping players by swing path and testing splits for trends. Manager Mike Scioscia spoke with Moura as well regarding the team’s increased usage of information: “As we’ve organized and analyzed numbers better, it’s helped us, primarily on the defensive front. It’s also helped with some lineup issues or determinations. I think our decisiveness was noticeable last year.” GM Jerry Dipoto said that each of Zoll, Strangio, Horowitz and LaCassa is future GM material and offered high praise for his young lieutenants.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- New Rangers special assistant Michael Young sat down with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News to discuss his new role with the team. Among the topics they discussed were Young’s involvement in the hiring of manager Jeff Banister — Young particularly praised Banister’s communication prowess — and the problems with the 2014 club. Young said that in addition to injuries, the Rangers lacked leadership with their best players out, which sometimes led to a poor collective approach to the daily grind of a 162-game season.
- In a piece for Baseball America, the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s Jeff Wilson writes that Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. will be given an opportunity to make the Rangers‘ Opening Day roster as a backup center field option. GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson that he likes “the combination of now and the future” with DeShields, whom he can envision getting some time in left field in addition to backing up Leonys Martin. DeShields’ work ethic has been questioned in the past, but Wilson writes that the Rangers feel the environment fostered by Banister will help turn that around.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik told reporters today, including the Tacoma News Tribune’s Bob Dutton, that he isn’t concerned about adding a backup first baseman to serve as a safety net in the event that Logan Morrison is again injured in 2015. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” Zduriencik said. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not. That’s going to be up to him, and we’ll see what happens.” Dutton also mentions Brad Miller as a backup possibility at first, although Zduriencik didn’t list Miller specifically.
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.
4:30pm: Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune hears from officials with both clubs that a trade is indeed close, but the Mariners are pushing to include a reliever other than Maurer, for whom the Padres are strongly pushing in talks.
12:03pm: The Mariners are close to a trade for Padres outfielder Seth Smith, Shannon Drayer of 710AM ESPN in Seattle tweets. The Padres are trying to get righty Brandon Maurer for Smith, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.
The Padres, of course, have a surplus of outfielders after their recent string of trades for Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, and the Mariners lost out on Melky Cabrera and have been known to be looking for outfield help, so a trade involving Smith would appear to make sense for both sides. The lefty Smith would fit well in right field, where the Mariners can use a platoon partner for the newly acquired Justin Ruggiano.
Smith, 32, is coming off a strong season for San Diego in which he hit .266/.367/.440, and in July, the Padres’ previous management signed Smith to a two-year, $13MM extension with a club option for 2017. After that, though, Smith tailed off in the second half, and in any case, the Padres’ current glut of outfielders makes him an obvious trade candidate — Kemp, Upton and Myers are all arguably best best utilized in the corner outfield spots, and Smith has played exclusively corner outfield in the Majors since 2008.
Maurer, 24, had a 4.65 ERA in 2014, but with fairly good peripherals (7.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9) and a big fastball (averaging 94.4 MPH). Maurer also got much better results pitching in relief (9.2 K/9, 1.2 BB/9) than starting. If the trade is completed, he could compete for the Padres’ fifth starter job, but he might ultimately be best suited for relief. He also has fly ball tendencies, which could make him a good fit for PETCO Park.
The Tigers suffered a notable bullpen collapse last season, but they may find one bullpen solution internally, writes Chris Iott of MLive.com. Righty Angel Nesbitt brings upper-90’s gas and improving secondary pitches, according to assistant GM Al Avila. While the 24-year-old Nesbitt is expected to open the season in the minors, he’s currently on the 40-man roster and isn’t the type of prospect whose club control needs to be closely managed. Nesbitt reached Double-A for the first time last season, posting a 2.23 ERA, 10.02 K/9, and 4.18 BB/9. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Mariners Rule 5 pick David Rollins will likely compete for a lefty relief role this season, Ryan Divish writes for Baseball America. Seattle drafted Rollins in both 2009 and 2010 but didn’t sign him. He posted a 3.81 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 78 innings pitching in the Astros’ Double-A Corpus Christi affiliate last season. “He could be a starter. He could be a bullpen guy,” says GM Jack Zduriencik. “But it’s a pretty good fastball. He’s got a breaking ball. He’s got velocity. He’s a tough kid. We have history with him.”
- The AL East has spent heavily this offseason, but its teams still have plenty of work to be done, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. The Blue Jays will likely hunt for relief help and possibly also for a second baseman, the Red Sox and Yankees could still be contenders for top starting pitching, the Orioles can use outfield help, and the Rays have historically often added talent late in the offseason.