Seattle Mariners Rumors

Seattle Mariners trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Front Office Notes: Brewers, Reds, Levine, Mariners

Here are the latest notes involving front office (and managerial) matters around the league:

  • The Brewers are “finalizing” a list of candidates to interview for their open GM position, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. It seems that Milwaukee is preparing to take a close look at a variety of possibilities in finding a successor for Doug Melvin, though, so it’s likely that the process is still a long ways from completion.
  • Reds owner Bob Castellini said yesterday that the club will not make any moves regarding manager Bryan Price during the season, as John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. But Castellini did say that the organization will “look at everything after the season,” and declined to give any assurances as to how the team will handle Price and GM Walt Jocketty, each of whom remains under contract for one more year. Despite a tough year and questionable outlook, Castellini indicated that he still has hopes of contending in 2016. “We’re down but not out,” he said. “I don’t think next year will be a waste. We don’t have the mindset that we’re not going to contend. We’re not giving up on the year.”
  • Thad Levine has been an integral part of the Rangers front office, explains Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, who suggests the time may be right for the club to make him its general manager while moving Jon Daniels into the role of team president. Otherwise, warns Grant, Levine could be a prime candidate for the GM jobs opening elsewhere in the league.
  • Mariners president Kevin Mather clarified his comments from earlier today regarding manager Lloyd McClendon, as Larry Stone of the Seattle Times tweets. Mather said that the organization’s new GM will have final say as to the field staff, though he plans to recommend that McClendon be retained. Meanwhile, it would appear that Seattle is preparing to keep attempting to put a contending club on the field in the near future. Mather said that he’s not concerned that ownership will look to trim payroll for 2016, as the Times’ Ryan Divish notes on Twitter.
  • Mather also indicated that the Mariners will consider their internal options in the general manager hunt, including acting GM Jeff Kingston, as the AP’s Tim Booth tweets. But the organization’s preference is to find a candidate with more experience, Mather added.

Early Notes On The Mariners’ GM Search

Earlier today, the Mariners announced that they’ve dismissed GM Jack Zduriencik. Assistant GM Jeff Kingston will serve as GM on an interim basis as the Mariners look for a new GM. Here are some takeaways from president Kevin Mather’s press conference with the Seattle media and comments/rumors on the search for a new GM…

  • Mather will begin his search immediately and hopes to have a new GM in place by early October, tweets MLB.com’s Greg Johns. He plans to spend the month of September looking at and interviewing candidates.
  • Mather’s preference is to hire an experienced general manager, tweets Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. He will handle the search personally, Divish adds, and he specifically referenced that he doesn’t want to waste the remaining prime years of Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Nelson Cruz while a new GM learns on the job for an offseason or two. Meanwhile, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets that Mather will not wait for candidates that aren’t able to interview until after the postseason; he does not want to wait that long to have a new top decision-maker in place.
  • Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN tweets that Mather spoke to manager Lloyd McClendon and expressed full confidence in him, telling his skipper, “at the end of the day, you will work for [the] new GM.” It appears (particularly in light of his later comments) that Mather meant those words as an indication that McClendon’s fate will ultimately be determined by the organization’s new hire, rather than as an assurance of job security.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Mariners have already been quietly reaching out to potential GM candidates. Former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is one exec to whom Seattle has spoken. O’Dowd’s name has also come up in connection to the Red Sox’ GM opening.
  • ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick notes that former Marlins GM Larry Beinfest, who is looking to return to a front office, first broke in with the Mariners (Twitter links). Other names that have been speculatively linked to the Mariners include Rangers AGM Thad Levine, former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, Indians AGM Mike Chernoff and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler, he adds.
  • Zduriencik’s final move as GM was to option Mike Zunino to Triple-A, tweets Drayer. Zduriencik said the demotion was in Zunino’s best interest. “Just a breather, a break,” Zduriencik explained. “We would have liked to have done it sooner.” Zunino, of course, will likely be back before too long. Rosters expand on Sept. 1, and the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate will see its regular season close on Sept. 7. In the meantime, John Hicks will be promoted and make his Major League debut.

Mariners Fire GM Jack Zduriencik

The Mariners announced today that general manager Jack Zduriencik has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately. Assistant GM Jeff Kingston will assume Zduriencik’s responsibilities on an interim basis through season’s end, according to the team. In a press release announcing the front office shakeup, Mariners president Kevin Mather offered the following statement:

Jack Zduriencik

“We have reached the point when change of leadership of our baseball operations is needed for the Seattle Mariners to reach our goal of winning championships. We are very disappointed with the results this season, and are not satisfied with the current operation. The search for a permanent general manager will begin immediately, and while there is no deadline, we expect to have a new GM in place as soon as practical. We have great respect for Jack and his work ethic. He was an excellent representative of the Mariners both within the game of baseball and in the community. On behalf of the entire organization, I wish him and (his wife) Debbie all the best, and thank him for all his efforts.”

Zduriencik came to the Mariners with a scouting background from his time with the Brewers, but Seattle hasn’t drafted well under his watch. The Mariners twice had the No. 2 overall pick under Zduriencik, but neither player selected — Dustin Ackley (2009) or Danny Hultzen (2011) — has contributed much, if anything, to the Mariners’ success. Seattle selection of Mike Zunino with the No. 3 overall pick in 2012 may yet prove to be a successful move, but Zunino was rushed to the Majors and has batted just .193/.252/.353 as a big leaguer. Of course, the selection of Kyle Seager in the third round back in 2009 will go down as one of the best picks made that year. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker may yet prove to be prudent selections, though both have battled health issues, and neither has established himself relative to his lofty prospect status just yet.

Building a productive lineup in an environment that naturally suppresses offense has long been an issue for the Mariners, and Zduriencik was unable to solve the problem either. His offseason signing of Nelson Cruz has helped guide the Mariners to their best offensive output in Zduriencik’s seven-year tenure as GM (at least in terms of park-adjusted metrics like wRC+ and OPS+), but the Mariners still rank 24th in runs scored this season. Under Zduriencik, Seattle has never ranked better than 19th in the Majors in runs scored (the only time they ranked better than the bottom third of the league), and they’ve twice scored the fewest runs in all of Major League Baseball.

The decision to sign Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM was made with an eye on winning immediately, and while the Mariners came very close in 2014, they’re nowhere near contention in 2015. That contract will likely hinder the organization for years to come, even if Cano can continue his second-half rebound and perform well over the next couple of seasons, and the opportunity to capitalize on his prime seasons will wane with each non-contending year.

Zduriencik, of course, did have his successes as a general manager. Under his watch, the team signed ace Felix Hernandez to a seven-year, $175MM contract that included five years and $135.5MM of new money. That contract runs through the 2019 season and includes a conditional $1MM club option that comes into play in the event that King Felix ever spends more than 130 consecutive days on the disabled list due to elbow surgery. To this point, Hernandez has made good on his end of the deal, which will conclude after his age-33 season. Zduriencik also made one of the most shrewd pitching acquisitions in recent history when he landed righty Hisashi Iwakuma on a one-year, $1.5MM contract prior to the 2012 season. Iwakuma proved to be an excellent buy, and the two-year, $14MM extension (which included a $7MM club option for the current season) yielded one of the highest returns on investment in recent memory.

On the trade front, Zduriencik notably oversaw the acquisition of Cliff Lee from the Phillies — a move in which he acquired one of baseball’s best arms but gave up virtually nothing in the way of future value. However, Zduriencik also failed to recoup much value when eventually dealing Lee away to the division-rival Rangers, as centerpiece Justin Smoak had a middling career with Seattle. Smoak was one of several high-profile hitting prospects that didn’t pan out with the Mariners; Jesus Montero stands out as another much-ballyhooed prospect that has not developed as hoped, and Zduriencik parted with Michael Pineda in order to bring him to the Pacific Northwest. Acquisitions of Austin Jackson and Mark Trumbo, more recently, have failed to yield dividends.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Cubs Acquire Fernando Rodney, Designate Brian Schlitter

The Mariners announced that they’ve traded right-hander Fernando Rodney to the Cubs in exchange for cash considerations (Twitter link). Lefty Zac Rosscup has been optioned to Triple-A, while righty Brian Schlitter has been designated for assignment, according to an announcement from the Cubs, which states that either a player to be named later or cash will head to Seattle in the deal.

Fernando Rodney

Signed to a two-year, $14MM contract prior to the 2014 season, Rodney served as the Mariners’ closer all last season and for parts of the 2015 campaign as well. However, while he worked to a strong 2.85 ERA with 10.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate in 2014, Rodney imploded in 2015, totaling a 5.68 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 4.4 BB/9 and a career-worst 1.4 HR/9 rate. Those struggles ultimately led to the 38-year-old being designated for assignment over the weekend. Rodney is owed about $1.49MM through season’s end as part of that $14MM pact.

His 2015 struggles notwithstanding, Rodney enjoyed a late career resurgence from 2012-14, posting a 2.21 ERA in 207 2/3 innings. The Cubs will hope they can bring out some of that form to help what has been an up and down season for the team’s relief corps. The team is currently without Jason Motte, Neil Ramirez and Rafael Soriano, each of whom is on the disabled list, so Rodney will provide manager Joe Maddon with another veteran relief arm. Maddon, for that matter, is quite familiar with Rodney, having managed him in 2012-13 when Rodney posted a record-setting 0.60 ERA in 74 2/3 innings. While Rodney’s velocity isn’t as strong as the 96.3 mph he averaged over the course of those two seasons, he’s still averaged a very healthy 94.8 mph on his heater this season. Because he’s been acquired prior to Sept. 1, Rodney will be eligible for the Cubs’ postseason roster.

Schiltter, 29, has been up and down with the Cubs over the past six seasons after debuting as a 24-year-old back in 2010. The former 16th-round pick didn’t appear in the Majors from 2011-13 but resurfaced to deliver 56 1/3 innings of 4.15 ERA ball with 5.0 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. He’s totaled only 7 1/3 innings with the Chicago ‘pen in 2015, though, allowing six runs on 12 hits and a pair of walks with four strikeouts. Schlitter does have an outstanding 1.09 ERA in 41 1/3 Triple-A innings this season, though that seemingly pristine mark comes with just 7.0 K/9 against a troubling 5.0 BB/9.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Austin Jackson Clears Waivers, Generating Interest

Mariners outfielder Austin Jackson has cleared revocable trade waivers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. The free-agent-to-be has been discussed recently in trade talks, per the report.

Jackson, 28, has had something of an up-and-down season but has generally disappointed since coming to Seattle last summer in the three-team David Price deal. (The Mariners shipped Nick Franklin to the Rays to add Jackson from the Tigers.) All told, he’s slashed .259/.302/.365 on the year while adding seven home runs. Though Jackson has swiped 15 bags, he’s been caught on nine attempts.

With free agency looming, Jackson’s value is well down off its peak. Between 2010 and 2013, he compiled a cumulative .278/.344/.416 batting line while often tallying double-digit home runs and steals. With good defensive ratings in center field, he racked up an average of 4.7 rWAR in that span.

With that solid base of stats to work from, Jackson cost the M’s $7.7MM this year via arbitration. About $1.725MM of that still remains to be paid, but apparently no teams were interested in paying the full amount.

The right-handed hitter continues to put up roughly equivalent numbers against right-handed and left-handed pitching, so he’s not a clear platoon player, though he could certainly make sense for a contender as a fourth outfielder. Jackson is one of several outfielders who have now been reported to have cleared trade waivers. Click here for the full list of reportedly clearing players.


Mariners Designate Fernando Rodney For Assignment

The Mariners have designated former closer Fernando Rodney for assignment, the club announced following Saturday’s loss to the White Sox.  In corresponding moves, the M’s also optioned righty Danny Farquhar to Triple-A, called up southpaw Roenis Elias and purchased the contract of right-hander Logan Kensing.

Thanks in large part to a 1.42 HR/9 (more than double his career average) and his lowest K/9 total (7.6) in four seasons, Rodney posted a 5.68 ERA over 50 2/3 IP this season, a performance that cost him his job as the Mariners’ closer.  It’s probably unlikely that Rodney will be claimed or traded during his DFA period given that he already cleared revocable trade waivers last week.  Rodney is still averaging 94.8mph on his fastball (same as last season) so it’s possible another team could look to sign the 38-year-old veteran as bullpen depth before the rosters expand on September 1.

The Mariners are responsible for the approximately $1.5MM in salary still owed to Rodney for the remainder of the season, except for the pro-rated portion of the minimum salary should Rodney sign elsewhere.  The right-hander signed a two-year, $14MM free agent deal in the 2013-14 offseason and performed extremely well in the contract’s first year, posting a 2.85 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 2.71 K/BB rate over 66 1/3 innings en route to a league-best 48 saves.  Rodney and his new agents will undoubtedly point to his 2012-14 dominance when the righty looks for a new contract in free agency this year, though obviously this year’s numbers will greatly diminish his market.

Kensing has spent the last two seasons with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate, and he has a 2.30 ERA, 6.6 K/9 and 2.56 K/BB rate over 31 1/3 innings this season.  Kensing has appeared in just one Major League game since 2009, pitching two-thirds of an inning for the Rockies in 2013.


West Notes: Padres, Morrow, Norris, Doolittle, Furbush, Freese

ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick provides an interesting look at mid-year starting pitcher rental trades, examining the risks and rewards inherent in such a decision. He reaches back into recent history to see how deals for high-end arms worked out for the teams that made them, and includes a variety of interesting quotes from executives involved in this year’s deals. It’s well worth a full read.

Here are some notes from the game’s western divisions:

  • The Padres passed on a chance to deal significant pitchers before and after the July 31 deadline, and now seem unlikely to make any further significant deals, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Many of San Diego’s potential trade chips have been claimed on waivers and subsequently withdrawn when a deal could not be arrived at. While starter James Shields has reportedly cleared, Ian Kennedy and Joaquin Benoit are two notable players who are said to be off limits at this point.
  • While his season ended with another surgery, righty Brandon Morrow could still be brought back by the Padres next year, assistant GM Josh Stein tells MLB.com’s Corey Brock“I think it’s early, but we acquired [Morrow] knowing that there was a risk of an injury and the contract was structured to take that into account,” explained Stein. “I certainly wouldn’t say that there’s not an opportunity to explore something similar going forward.” Morrow said that he “hope[s] to come back, for sure,” though he acknowledged that he is “a ways away from a decision.”
  • Meanwhile, just-signed Padres righty Bud Norris says he is enjoying working from the pen but still hopes to return to the rotation, Lin reports. Norris, 30, has had a nice four-inning scoreless streak to start his time with the Friars, and will certainly draw some interest on the free agent market this winter given his relative youth and track record of delivering solid innings.
  • With his velocity solid and results excellent, rehabbing Athletics closer Sean Doolittle could make it back to the bigs in the coming days, MLB.com’s Jane Lee writes. Doolittle, 28, has made just one appearance in the majors this year for the disappointing A’s, but it’s certainly a good sign for his long-term prospects that he’s responded so well to ongoing rotator cuff issues.
  • Mariners southpaw Charlie Furbush, meanwhile, has a partially torn rotator cuff of his own to deal with, Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports (Twitter links). Fortunately, Furbush says the injury appears to be relatively minor and may not require surgery. The 29-year-old has put up a 2.08 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 in 21 2/3 frames on the year. He played the year on a $1.3MM salary and can be controlled for two more seasons via arbitration.
  • The Angels can expect a return in relatively short order from third baseman David Freese, MLB.com’s David Adler reports. Freese has been out since July 22, and the Halos have struggled to find a replacement in his absence. The 32-year-old has hit at his usual league-average pace this year (.240/.309/.397) while providing steady defense. He’ll have a chance to bolster his stock before hitting the free agent market after the season.

Heyman’s Latest: GMs, Castro, Gomes, Hosmer

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com looks in depth at the still-developing front office market. There’s “no evidence” that the Mariners went after Dave Dombrowski, he says, and it remains entirely unclear what Seattle will look to do over the next several months. Likewise, there are a number of dugout swaps that could go down, per Heyman, who says as many as ten skippers are “on the hot seat.”

The piece is loaded with analysis and notes, but here are some of the most notable bits of hot stove information:

  • Cubs infielder Starlin Castro was placed on trade waivers recently, though it’s not yet known whether he’s cleared. Castro has shifted to a utility role for Chicago and is still owed $38MM, but is obviously a significant talent and is just 25 years old. While the Cubs now seem determined to go with Addison Russell at short in the near term and the long term, an August trade of Castro still seems unlikely.
  • Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes has cleared waivers and can freely be dealt. He’s playing on a $4MM salary this year and can be controlled in 2016 through a $3MM option. The 34-year-old doesn’t have a terribly impressive overall batting line, and has seen his power output drop, but is still slashing .231/.409/.385 against opposing lefties.
  • The Royals are “starting to think about” approaching Eric Hosmer to discuss an extension. He is already signed to a $8.25MM salary next year, and has one more year of arb control thereafter. Buying up additional years will not be easy or cheap for Kansas City: Hosmer is in the midst of a breakout .315/.379/.484 campaign, is just 25 years old, and is a client of Scott Boras.

Quick Hits: GM Turnover, Williams, Zduriencik, Prospects

Baseball has experienced intense turnover in its front offices of late, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today notes in a column today, and there could be more to come. Nightengale cites Ruben Amaro Jr. of the Phillies, Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners, and Walt Jocketty of the Reds as candidates for dismissal. The frequency of change represents a “new state of the game,” argues Nightengale.

  • The Mariners could end up bringing in White Sox president Kenny Williams to head its front office, Nighengale reports. But Williams may also be in the running to become the new president of the Blue Jays. Reds special assistant Kevin Towers also increasingly seems to be an option for Seattle, Nightengale adds on Twitter.
  • Zduriencik says that he pays no heed to the rumor mill, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. Though he’s aware that there is chatter that he could be vulnerable, the Mariners general manager explains that he can’t let that affect his work. “I’ve got eyes,” said the seven-year veteran GM. I can see what’s going on here. I know what has not worked and what should be working and isn’t. For me to focus on any outside distractions (is non-productive).” Zduriencik stressed that he still believes in the talent base he’s compiled, explaining: “I think when you start to piece it together, there are things we need to do going forward, but I do think that there are some really solid pieces there.”
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs provides an overhauled, mid-season look at the game’s best prospects. He breaks down a series of different prospect classes. One of those is his list of the game’s premium pre-MLB players, which is made up of the 26 names who separated themselves from the pack. The usual suspects sit atop that list, but there are some quick-rising players as well, including shortstops Orlando Arcia (Brewers, #8), Franklin Barreto (Athletics, #14), and Trea Turner (Nationals, #15), outfielders Bradley Zimmer (Indians, #21) and Gleyber Torres (Cubs, #23), and Rays lefty Blake Snell, who shot all the way up to the 16th slot. McDaniel also lists the year’s newly-emerging prospects, the newly-professional crop of players added over the summer, and the impressive list of young players who no longer qualify as prospects.
  • Ben Badler of Baseball America takes a closer look at one such swiftly-rising prospect, Nationals outfielder Victor Robles. The 18-year-old drew the attention of the organization because of his quick-twitch athleticism and high energy, and the club’s $225K bonus has paid out amply so far. It’s a lengthy piece, but well worth a read for any prospect hounds or Nats fans.

AL West Notes: White, Hahn, A’s, Paxton, Venable

Astros first base prospect Tyler White is a triumph for the team’s scouting department, as Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. White, a 33rd-round selection that signed for $1,000 out of Western Carolina, has soared through the minors and reached Triple-A this year, where he’s hitting .396/.489/.617 with five homers and nearly as many walks (26) as strikeouts (28) in 178 plate appearances. Drellich spoke to Astros scouting director Mike Elias and the team’s director of decision sciences, Sig Mejdal, about the way in which they came to draft White. Drellich also wonders if the Astros, who are struggling with first base production, can afford to keep White in Triple-A. Though he doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, White could potentially boost the production of a team dedicated to winning right now, which may trump traditional roster concerns.

Here’s more from the AL West…

  • Athletics right-hander Jesse Hahn may not pitch again in 2015, manager Bob Melvin suggested to reporters, including John Hickey (Twitter link). Hahn has not yet begun playing catch since being shut down with a flexor tendon injury just over a month ago. Hahn, an offseason trade acquisition, was outstanding for the A’s through 96 2/3 innings this season, posting a 3.35 ERA with a 64-to-25 K/BB ratio. Durability, however, has long been a concern for Hahn, who totaled just 163 1/3 innings in a minor league career that spanned from 2012-14.
  • Billy Beane and his lieutenants have never had fewer than 74 wins in a season, but that number is in danger in 2015, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. A good deal has gone wrong for the A’s in 2015, but perhaps the most troubling fact is that the A’s have only received contributions from four players that are products of their own farm system. Two of those names — Max Muncy and Arnold Leon — have been fringe roster pieces this season.
  • Mariners southpaw James Paxton believes he’s ready to embark on a rehab assignment after throwing a pair of innings in a simulated game on Wednesday, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Paxton said it’s been “a couple of weeks” since he felt pain in the strained tendon in his finger that has sidelined him since May 28.
  • Talks between the Padres and the Rangers on Will Venable came together fairly quickly, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). Venable passed through waivers, and multiple teams showed interest, but the Rangers jumped into talks on Monday evening and had a deal completed by Tuesday evening.