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Seattle Mariners Rumors
A.J. Preller’s rise to GM of the Padres was nearly a lifetime in the making, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes in a long profile. Josh Boyd, the Rangers’ pro scouting director, says he knew Preller would become a GM since meeting him in 1999, when Preller was barely out of college. “He’s gonna be a GM in five years,” Boyd recalls telling his parents. Preller interned with the Phillies while at Cornell, then took a job in MLB’s offices, working with Frank Robinson. He then worked for the Dodgers before joining the Rangers, where his college roommate Jon Daniels was an assistant GM (and later their GM). Preller worked as a scouting director, director of player personnel and assistant GM before being hired by the Padres. Here’s more from the West divisions.
- The Mariners increased spending in 2014, and they’ll need to do it again in 2015, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. The Mariners have missed the postseason every year since 2001, and beyond Kyle Seager, the Mariners lack the sort of cheap young impact players who might justify a low overall payroll. Mariners president Kevin Mather recently said the team’s payroll would increase in 2015.
- With the Rangers‘ release of a list of candidates for their managerial job, it’s clear that their next manager will be a rookie, Evan Grant of Dallas Morning News writes. The new names include interim manager Tim Bogar, Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister, Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash, ESPN analyst (and former infielder) Alex Cora, Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo and White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing. Between them, there are plenty of connections to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, Indians manager Terry Francona and Red Sox manager John Farrell, all of whom are known for having the kind of powerful clubhouse presence that makes them strong leaders.
Earlier this week, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said that he felt he would have more financial resources to work with, and today Mariners president Kevin Mather confirmed as much in an appearance on 710 ESPN’s Brock and Salk show (Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN has transcribed some of the highlights). Mather explains that the Mariners spent $16MM more than they had budgeted for in 2014 (a total payroll of $107MM), but ownership has no intention of scaling that back after seeing the team’s performance this season:
“They’re fans and they seemed extremely pleased with the competitive nature of the games and September, meaningful baseball, and not one of them has said, ‘What are we going to do to get that $16 million back?’ They were all saying, ‘What are you going to do to get us six more wins next year?'”
Fresh off the signing of Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM contract, the Mariners posted an 87-75 record — their best since 2007 — and cleared two million fans at Safeco Field for the first time since 2010, which Mather says will help him to acquire more resources for Zduriencik.
If you have time to listen to the audio of the full interview (it’s roughly 21 minutes long), Mather’s interview is well worth hearing in its entirety. The first-year president was insightful and candid throughout as he discussed the extension of Zduriencik, the relationship between Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon, his own role with the team and the club’s approach at the trade deadline as they weighed a run at David Price.
Mather feels that Zduriencik’s contract extension was turned into a bigger deal than he’d expected. He echoed a story told by Zduriencik shortly after the extension, stating that he simply broached the topic casually at the end of a business lunch, asking the GM, “Does your wife like it in Seattle?” Zduriencik responded that she loves it, and Mather recalls, “I said, ‘Well, your contract’s up at the end of the year. Why don’t we talk about getting that extended?'” Mather does admit that Zduriencik’s rebuilding effort took longer than it should have, but he called the decision to extend him after the club’s success an “automatic.” Asked about Zduriencik’s best ability, Mather did not hesitate to say “personnel evaluation,” referring to evaluating young players.
Beyond that, he recalled his first test as a president — asking ownership for increased funding to sign Fernando Rodney late in the offseason. Unhappy with the asking prices of remaining starting pitchers and bats, Zduriencik suggested the idea of shortening the game. “The first thing I really tried to sell to ownership was, let’s take the ninth inning off the board,” said Mather, adding that he received little resistance on that front.
The team’s biggest desire moving forward, Mather says, is to avoid going through a “dip” like the Mariners went through from 2004-14:
“We need to be 85 to 95 wins every year, which means we need to draft well, we have to get our draft picks signed, we have to be strategic with our free agent signings, but we need to be competitive year-in, year-out. And you don’t do that by signing broken-down, middle-of-the-road free agents and hoping.”
Regarding the club’s summer interest in Price, Mather emphasized that with the team looking at a Wild Card spot, it was too difficult to mortgage the future. “Will you give up — and I shouldn’t use names — but will you give up [James] Paxton, or [Taijuan] Walker, or [D.J.] Peterson for David Price?” he asked, rhetorically. “…I want to be competitive in 2015, 2016, 2017 — these are young players that we control.”
Lastly, he discusses the impact that the team’s strong performance will have on attracting free agents. While he says it’s a selling point, the biggest red flag for the Mariners in attracting free agents, in Mather’s opinion, is the team’s travel schedule. Mather says he’s been assured by new commissioner Rob Manfred that MLB will look at the travel schedule in order to avoid scenarios like the one that came up this year where the team went from California to Houston to Toronto and back to Seattle without an off-day. He’s reminded Manfred about it multiple times, though he acknowledges that it may take a year or two in order to truly alleviate that pain for West Coast teams.
While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.” Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.
In other Oakland and AL West news…
- Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com. “Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
- The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
- Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
- Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.
In this morning’s Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that he feels a Josh Donaldson trade is likely for the Athletics this offseason. Billy Beane has shown a willingness to trade players at their peak value, Olney writes (citing the Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill trades, among others), and Donaldson’s salary will begin to rise quickly now that he’s hit arbitration. Olney looks at the rest of Oakland’s roster and notes that no other trade candidate has value as high as Donaldson’s, so while Jeff Samardzija would be an attractive chip, Donaldson could help Beane usher in his next roster reconstruction.
Some more news from the American League…
- The Red Sox won’t hold a private workout for Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, reports Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. The team did attend his showcase in the Dominican Republic and they’re intrigued by his power, but the team’s glut of outfielders and concerns over Tomas’ strikeout rate in Cuba have tempered their interest.
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal points to the Pirates’ success in reviving the careers of Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and points to some similar buy-low candidates that the Red Sox could try for on the free agent market. Of course, as he notes, the Sox are expected to pursue Jon Lester and James Shields, so his suggestions of Justin Masterson, Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana are intended to be secondary targets.
- Miguel Cabrera turned down his share of the team’s postseason bonus when the time came to sign the paperwork, reports Paul White of USA Today. Cabrera refused to sign, instead stating that he “just wants the ring.” As White points out, Cabrera could be turning down as much as $300K (though that figure pales in comparison to his salary), and that money could be reallocated to other players as well as Tigers staff such as clubhouse personnel, traveling secretaries, etc.
- Justin Smoak‘s contract to avoid arbitration last year contained a rare club option, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times writes that it’s a virtual lock that the Mariners will buy out his $3.65MM option for $150K and non-tender the first baseman. Smoak, the centerpiece of an ill-fated Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers, hit just .202/.275/.339 and has failed to establish himself as a regular in four seasons with Seattle.
- Also from Divish’s piece, GM Jack Zduriencik called the decision to pick up Hisashi Iwakuma‘s $7MM option a “no-brainer,” which certainly isn’t surprising.
With the regular season in the books, it’s worth assessing how things ultimately shook out from last winter’s Rule 5 draft. Only nine players were taken in this year’s draft. Here’s where things stand:
Remember, players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if they aren’t on the 40-man roster four or five years after signing, depending on the age at which they signed. If a team makes a selection, it pays the former team $50K and must keep that player on the Major League roster all season or offer him back to his original team for $25K. (Note that Rule 5 selections can change hands like any other player, with an acquiring team stepping into the shoes of the original selecting club. Click here for more details.)
- Patrick Schuster, LHP (taken first overall by the Astros from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. But not before a somewhat eventful tour. He was first dealt to the Padres, then placed on waivers and claimed by the Royals before finally being sent back. He never ended up throwing a big league inning, and ultimately struggled to 4.50 ERA in 18 frames at Triple-A once back with the D’backs.
- Adrian Nieto, C (taken third overall by the White Sox from the Nationals): Retained by Chicago. The switch-hitting, 24-year-old backstop hung on all year, posting a .236/.296/.340 line in his first 118 MLB plate appearances. He is now White Sox property.
- Kevin Munson, RHP (taken fourth overall by the Phillies from the Diamondbacks): Returned to Arizona. Munson never made it onto the active roster, and was sent back in mid-March. Though he never saw MLB action this year, he did post a rather dominant campaign at Triple-A: 2.60 ERA, 11.8 K/9, 3.2 BB/9.
- Tommy Kahnle, RHP (taken eighth overall by the Rockies from the Yankees): Retained by Colorado. The 25-year-old was an oft-used bullpen piece for the Rockies, posting a 4.19 ERA in 68 2/3 frames with 8.3 K/9 against 4.1 BB/9. Colorado owns his rights moving forward.
- Brian Moran, LHP (taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays from the Mariners): Still in limbo after season-ending surgery. Moran was dealt by Toronto to the Angels on the day of the draft, and opened the season DL’ed on the active roster. But his left elbow ultimately required Tommy John surgery, meaning that he ended up on the 60-day DL. The Halos do not yet own Moran’s rights permanently: to keep him, the club will need to carry him on the active roster without a DL stay for at least 90 days.
- Seth Rosin, RHP (taken tenth overall by the Mets from the Phillies): Returned to Philadelphia. Dealt immediately after the draft to the Dodgers, Rosin was claimed by the Rangers late in the spring and made three appearances before his roster spot was needed and he was returned. Back at Triple-A with the Phillies, he worked to a 3.86 ERA over 58 1/3 rames.
- Wei-Chung Wang, LHP (taken eleventh overall by the Brewers from the Pirates): Retained by Milwaukee. It took some doing, but a contending Brewers club was able to hold onto Wang for the entirety of the season. Though he did miss 45 games with a DL stint, Wang ultimately made only 14 appearances for the club. The 22-year-old will presumably be stretched out as a starter again as he returns to his development track in the lower minors.
- Marcos Mateo, RHP (taken fifteenth overall by the Diamondbacks from the Cubs): Returned to Chicago. Mateo was the first player to be returned, heading back in mid-March. The 30-year-old threw to a 3.86 ERA in 37 1/3 innings upon his return to Triple-A with his original team.
- Michael Almanzar, 3B (taken sixteenth overall by the Orioles from the Red Sox): Returned to Boston … but ultimately traded back to Baltimore. Shelved with injury for much of the year, Almanzar was returned to the Red Sox in the middle of the summer after a rehab stint. But the O’s obviously wanted him back, and added him as part of the Kelly Johnson deal. Over 233 minor league plate appearances on the year, Almanzar posted a .245/.322/.389 slash.
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Here’s the latest from out west:
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says that he expects to be aggressive in adding offense to the ballclub while also adding some rotation depth, as Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN reports. “Offense is something we think we need,” said GM Jack Zduriencik. “We will explore every opportunity out there. I think we will be reasonably aggressive to try to add an offensive piece or two and you never have enough pitching.”
- Zduriencik added that he believes he’ll have additional cash to work with. “I think the payroll is going to rise,” he said. “What the exact number is I don’t know yet because we haven’t had that meeting, but I am encouraged that number will increase.” Seattle entered the year with about $90MM on its books. Looking forward, the club has nearly $62MM committed next year before accounting for several costly arbitration bumps (especially for Austin Jackson and Kyle Seager).
- The Diamondbacks have started interviewing managerial candidates with in-house options, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports. Double-A skipper Andy Green had the first chance to make his pitch. Other D’backs staffers who will interiew are hitting coach Turner Ward and Triple-A manager Phil Nevin.
- Meanwhile, the Rangers have announced that they sat down with Mike Maddux and Steve Buechele today as part of their own managerial search, as expected. As with Arizona’s initial batch of candidates, Maddux and Buechele come from within the Texas ranks.
The Mariners have re-instated Jesus Montero to their 40-man roster and designated pending free agent Corey Hart for assignment in order to make room, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (Twitter link).
Because Hart is a pending free agent, the move is a largely procedural one; he’d have been off the team’s 40-man roster following the postseason anyway and wasn’t a candidate for a qualifying offer base on a down season. The former Brewer batted just .203/.271/.319 in his lone season with the Mariners — a clear disappointment for a team that was undoubtedly hoping to have secured something closer to the .279/.343/.514 batting line he posted from 2010-12 in Milwaukee. Anything close to that production would’ve made his $6MM base salary a bargain, but Hart was a known risk after missing all of 2013 due to a pair of knee surgeries.
Athletics slugger Brandon Moss has been playing through a hip injury that will require surgery (possibly a microfracture procedure) in the offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. An MRI revealed so much torn cartilage in Moss’ right hip that he’s struggling with bone-on-bone issues in the joint. Moss tells Slusser that he received a cortisone shot which should help him for the rest of the season and through the playoffs, but surgery is the only way to truly fix the issue. Though the injury has plagued him for much of the season, Moss said he didn’t blame his struggles on his hip.
More on those struggles and more from the AL West below…
- Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris had an excellent conversation with Moss about that slump in the A’s clubhouse recently (note that the conversation does feature some expletives). Moss says he places virtually no stock in batting average, as it is luck-driven and doesn’t adjust for defensive shifts. He spoke candidly about holes in his swing — pitches he knows he cannot reach and has to fight to lay off — as well as his batted ball profile, the reasoning behind his stance and the importance of prepping for his at-bats with video work. “…as a power hitter that doesn’t have a high average, I know I have to make my swings count,” said Moss, who also discussed how playing first base, the outfield and DH each affect his approach differently. Moss also touched on his time in previous organizations, noting that the Phillies didn’t feel he could consistently hit a Major League fastball — a notion at which he now laughs, as fastballs are far and away his best pitch.
- Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is hopeful that he will receive an interview for the team’s managerial vacancy, and GM Jon Daniels expects to sit down with him at season’s end, writes MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Even if Maddux isn’t hired (or even interviewed), he’s expected to return to the club as a pitching cocah in 2015, a club official tells Sullivan, and he’s “certain” to return if interim manager Tim Bogar gets the job. Maddux’s contract is up after the current season.
- Kendrys Morales has interest in bypassing free agency to sign a new deal with the Mariners, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. However, the caveat is that he’d like a multi-year deal, which would obviously give the team pause. Morales, who sat out through the June draft this season to avoid being stuck with another qualifying offer, has batted just .217/.266/.330 between Seattle and Minnesota. Some of those struggles, of course, are likely due to the long layoff between Major League appearances. Morales did enter 2014 as a lifetime .280/.333/.480 hitter, making the extreme drop-off in his production rather surprising. One rival exec whose team is in need of a run-producing bat expressed concern over a multi-year deal for Morales when asked by Dutton, though he did concede that there’s upside to the idea: “He’s a big risk. I doubt he gets more than two (years) after the year he’s had. But if he bounces back, a year from now we could all be talking about what a steal he was.”
Rangers middle infielder Jurickson Profar will (again) be shut down for a few months with the hope of bringing his shoulder issues to an end, writes Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. Despite already missing all of this season, Profar remains a question mark heading into the offseason, according to GM Jon Daniels. “Bottom line is we’ve gone down a similar path before and [there is] definitely a level of frustration that we haven’t been able to get better answers and to get him back to this point,” said Daniels. He went on to say that it was premature to discuss whether Profar would have a big league roster spot next year: “That’s getting way ahead of ourselves. I wouldn’t even venture a guess. … That’s probably two or three steps beyond where we are right now.”
Here’s more from the AL West:
- Former Rangers star Michael Young has bowed out of consideration for the team’s managerial opening, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. After speaking with Daniels about the position, Young said he was honored to be considered but preferred to spend more time with his family at this stage.
- Third baseman Kyle Seager has put together a complete season for the Mariners, writes MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Manager Lloyd McClendon rightly credits the 26-year-old with taking the next step after very good 2012-13 campaigns. Indeed, his power output — 25 home runs and a .192 ISO — both rate within the top thirty in the game. Eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season, Seager should be in line for a handsome payday and certainly seems to be an intriguing extension candidate.
- The Angels could give righty Cory Rasmus a chance to earn a rotation spot next year, writes MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. Rasmus, 26, had been shifted to the bullpen full-time in the minors after battling injury issues, but his multiple quality offerings hold the promise of success as a starter. (He actually has five starts on the year, but those came in “bullpen games;” Rasmus has not gone past 59 pitches in any of them.) One of the team’s pleasant surprises this year, Rasmus has thrown 53 innings of 2.38 ERA ball, notching 9.2 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9.
Three clubs in the league’s western division may have the greatest trade deadline regrets, in the opinion of MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince (writing for Sports On Earth). The Athletics have seen their fortunes fade since dealing away Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, though of course Lester has been outstanding. The Mariners‘ three key additions — Austin Jackson, Kendrys Morales, and Chris Denorfia — have generally failed to hit. And the Dodgers passed on a chance to add an impact starter.
- Of course, it is eminently arguable that the Athletics‘ underperformance since the deadline is really not a reflection on Cespedes-Lester swap at all, as Tony Blengino of Fangraphs explains. The team has failed to score runs, to be sure, but that is due in large part to the production fall-offs from key first-half contributors like Brandon Moss, Derek Norris, and John Jaso (the latter, in large part, due to injury).
- The one-year extensions signed before the season by Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson and then-GM Kevin Towers contain rollover clauses that provide for automatic re-extensions if they are not dismissed by a certain date, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. (Such an anti-lame duck provision is also a feature of the Blue Jays’ contract with manager John Gibbons.) Player support for Gibson is “all but gone,” sources tell Rosenthal, but he could still be retained by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa.
- Meanwhile, Rosenthal joins others in reporting that Dave Stewart is the leading candidate to take over as GM. Stewart says he is “very interested” in the position, and his hiring would make it likely that Towers stays on in a senior scouting role, according to Rosenthal.
- Of course, the status of Stewart’s agency business (Sports Management Partners) would be up in the air if he takes the job. Rosenthal reports that some key clients such as Matt Kemp of the Dodgers have said they would stay on with SMP if the agency continues without Stewart.
- The Angels‘ run to the AL West crown represents a remarkable turnaround for GM Jerry Dipoto, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. One year after most of his moves backfired, Dipoto has pulled off a series of largely successful trades and signings that helped fuel the team’s success. Most remarkably, perhaps, the team has received solid production from a variety of arms that have generally outperformed expectations.
- Another remarkable turnaround in Halos land is the working relationship between Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia, as Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register writes. Last August, it was even reported that things had deteriorated to the point that one or the other would have to go, though Scioscia shot down the suggestion at the time. Now, Dipoto credits Scioscia with doing an “unbelievable job” at making adjustments and acting on new information — as reflected in the team’s lineup construction and use of defensive shifts.