Seattle Mariners Rumors
As Opening Day drew near, veteran Randy Wolf appeared to be the frontrunner for the No. 5 spot in the Mariners' rotation. That's why it came as a bit of a surprise when he requested his release from the club on March 25th. It turned out that Wolf, who missed all of 2013 as he recovered from his second Tommy John surgery, refused to sign a 45-day advance-consent form. The form, for the uninitiated, would have allowed the M's to terminate the deal during that window for any reason except injury.
While sources tell MLBTR that these requests are common throughout MLB, Wolf told Bob Dutton of The News Tribune that he was quite upset about it. The 37-year-old felt as though he was put in a position where he had to renegotiate his deal just months after hammering out a team-friendly pact ($1MM for making big league roster with $3MM+ in incentives) days before the start of the season. “The fact that I essentially made the team, in theory, I’m proud of that accomplishment.” the veteran told Dutton. “But I’m really disappointed in how it ended. The day should have started with a handshake and congratulations instead of a 24-hour feeling of licking a D-cell battery. So, it’s a really hard time.”
Of course, the Mariners and General Manager Jack Zduriencik acted completely within the rights granted to them by the Collective Bargaining Agreement: the advance consent form has been in place since the end of the 1994/1995 strike. And, as expected, Wolf wasn't out of work for very long, as he signed a similar minor league deal with the Diamondbacks late last week. However, Wolf's ire about the relatively unknown clause raised some interesting questions about how frequently it's used, the ways it could be misused, and how it is viewed by executives, agents, players, and the players union.
"As a general matter, players hate it," one union source said. "These are players, needless to say, who did not have a lot of leverage in their negotiations in the offseason...There's no question that it is a distasteful process for players and their agents."
The use of the form varies greatly from club to club. One high-ranking executive told MLBTR that his club has asked a player to sign an advance consent form just once over the last decade. On the flipside, a National League executive said that anytime his team has a player with five or more years of major league service (the form cannot be extended to those with less service time per the CBA) who does not figure to be an everyday player, they will use the clause in order to give themselves as much flexibility as possible. In line with that thinking, the club often will push for players to agree to optional assignment rather than outright assignment. If the player consents to outright assignment, the club does not have to subject the player to waivers before demoting him. Again, per the CBA, both types are permitted.
Because the request is traditionally made of players who don't have a ton of leverage, they often agree to sign. The NL exec has found that there are times when agents will protest, but with the leverage being in the club's corner, they'll ultimately relent.
Of course, as in Wolf's case, some players do object, and agents will often consult with the union ("We act as a sounding board," the source explained) to talk through their different options. The form can allow for both types of assignments and the length can also be negotiated since the 45-day mark is not a hard number, but rather a maximum limit.
The union source explained that at the beginning of the season, about a dozen players are usually asked to sign a consent form. Over the course of the season, that number tends to grow to "30-to-36" requests. The distinction between the number of players who are asked to sign off and the number of requests is an important one. Several players in any given year will be asked to sign multiple consent forms, which can essentially keep them in a state of limbo.
The aforementioned executive told MLBTR that agents often fret over the possibility of their clients being asked to sign multiple forms, though he was unsure of whether that was common practice or just a fear of player reps. "It's absolutely a reality," the MLBPA source said. "There are players who have signed three advance consents in a season, which obviously covers the better part of a full season." It should be noted that while there have been cases of a player being churned through consecutive advanced consent forms, the union indicated that there aren't specific clubs who are routine offenders.
Wolf felt blindsided by the Mariners' request at the end of March, but the reality is that he wasn't guaranteed at the time of signing that he wouldn't be asked to sign an advance consent form as a condition of making the major league roster, agent Joel Wolfe confirmed to MLBTR. In this case, Wolfe and Wolf had non-roster offers from ten clubs this offseason after he impressed in his winter showcase. Wolf and Wolfe ultimately settled on the M's because they felt that they gave him the best chance to make a big league rotation. However, they were rebuffed when they asked for assurance that they wouldn't be asked to sign off on advance consent.
"They told me, 'We don't do that' and, really, no team that I've dealt with does that. They don't even want to discuss that," Wolfe said. "The team made a decision as a policy, not singling out Randy, that a player in this position must sign an advance consent or he's not going to make the team."
One would be hard-pressed to find a team in MLB that explicitly warns players about a possible advance consent request. The union official indicated that while teams won't do it, agents usually give their low-leverage clients a heads up to brace for the possibility. The NL exec said he does not warn players of the possibility at the time of signing, but if an agent asks, he always answers truthfully.
In a lot of cases, being asked for advance consent is a blow to a player's ego and a very real source of frustration. However, there are certainly cases where it can work in a player's favor. Wolfe explained that he once had a client who seemed destined to either start the season in Double-A or get released. However, the player exceeded all expectations in Spring Training and wound up on course to make the big league roster. The club had Wolfe's client sign an advance consent form and soon after when he suffered an serious injury, he was protected from release since a player cannot be cut due to injury. While Wolf's situation put the notion of advance consent in a negative light, it can also be beneficial for players in a different position.
That doesn't mean that advance consent will be embraced by the majority of major leaguers. As Wolfe explained, an accomplished veteran like Wolf is accustomed to using Spring Training as an opportunity to shake off some offseason rust and get back in the swing of things. When that player is on a non-guaranteed deal, they now have to approach every at bat and every inning as though it were the regular season. After putting in that kind of effort, veteran players don't want to hear, "Hey, you made the team, but..." Whether they like it or not, players will be subjected to advance consent requests for at least a couple more years. Even then, it's far from guaranteed that the issue will be revisited or revised in the 2016 CBA discussions.
The Astros have made the promotion of George Springer and DFA of Lucas Harrell official by announcing each move via press release. As Houston fans (and fantasy baseball players) eagerly await Springer's big league debut, here's a look around the rest of the division...
- Springer won't be the only highly touted prospect to arrive in the Majors today; the Mariners will recall Nick Franklin from Triple-A Tacoma, reports Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who expects Logan Morrison to hit the DL in order to clear a 25-man roster spot. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter), Franklin could see some time in the outfield. Franklin, 23, got off to a blistering .395/.469/.744 start in 11 Triple-A games after an offseason loaded with trade speculation.
- Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker was scratched from last night's rehab start after complaining of stiffness in his arm, reports Don Ruiz of the Tacoma News Tribune. GM Jack Zduriencik said that Walker -- who is a consensus Top 10 prospect -- will be re-evaluated today. Seattle's rotation has been solid so far, but they've experienced a good deal of poor luck with injuries to Walker, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.
- Jerry Brewer of Athletics Nation looks at Josh Reddick's struggles this season and tracks the history of pitches he's seen in two-strike counts dating back to 2012. Brewer notes that Reddick has long struggled against good fastballs and curveballs, while feasting on sliders and changeups. Pitchers are hammering Reddick with fastballs and curves thus far, and the result has been a 33 percent strikeout rate to go along with his .098/.196/.098 batting line. The A's are in a clear jam as they decide what to do with Reddick, Brewer writes. Reddick has a minor league option remaining, but he could see as much or even more velocity in Triple-A, which will contain no shortage of up-and-coming power arms.
Kendrys Morales is still without an employer as he and agent Scott Boras appear willing to wait beyond the June draft in order to free a signing team from the burden of having to surrender a draft pick. However, Morales had the opportunity to sign a deal that would've kept him in Seattle through 2017 last summer, according to Todd Dybas of the Tacoma News Tribune. As Dybas writes, general manager Jack Zduriencik recently told fans at a meet-and-greet that the Mariners offered Morales a three-year, $30MM extension after last year's All-Star break.
Reports last summer indicated that talks between the two sides never got serious due to the Mariners' surprise over the asking price from Boras and Morales. Interest in Morales on the open market was clearly never as high as the two had hoped, with the Mariners and Orioles being the teams that were the most frequently connected to the DH/first baseman.
Perhaps shedding the "draft pick compensation" label will aid Morales and get him a deal that is more to his liking, but it's tough to see him landing something north of Seattle's 2013 offer. In a now-controversial piece from ESPN, several executives offered their thoughts on Morales' value, but $8-10MM was as high as any were willing to go in terms of average annual value. (The MLBPA has asked the commissioner's office to investigate that situation, as the anonymous executives' comments are in violation of the collective bargaining agreement.)
The 30-year-old Morales batted .277/.336/.449 with 23 homers last season and earned $5.25MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility.
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Christina Kahrl looks at the difference between Albert Pujols' in 2013 and his hot start in 2014 with a pair of heat maps to demonstrate that Pujols is doing far more damage on pitches in the zone in the early-going than he was able to do last season. While it's a small sample and his .259/.322/.556 triple-slash isn't exactly vintage Pujols, his hot streak since hitting that first homer is a promising sign after a bleak 2013. Kahrl writes that the Angels' biggest need is for Pujols to fend off Father Time for a few more seasons. As "The Machine" closes in on 500 career home runs -- he's currently at 496 -- here are some more AL West links...
- Mariners left-hander Roenis Elias' dream has come true this season, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. The Cuban defector talked with Johns (via his interpreter) about the excitement of nailing down his first big league win and the inspiration he drew from his son. Elias impressed his manager, teammates and opponents in a win over the Rangers, as Lloyd McClendon and Elvis Andrus both offered high praise. Said McClendon: "I don't think facing Prince Fielder is really going to scare him that much. He was fighting for his life trying to make it to this country. He's shown a lot of poise."
- In an excellent piece from Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, Baker examines the Mariners' payroll in contrast with the team's overall value, noting a large discrepancy. Last year's purchase of a 71 percent stake in ROOT Sports Northwest more than doubled Seattle's TV revenue, and their growing revenue over the past few years was enough that BizofBaseball.com founder Maury Brown estimated to Baker that the Mariners could fetch $1 billion on the open market were ownership to sell. Recent estimates from Bloomberg pegged the club's value at $720MM, but that was prior to the ROOT acquisition. Brown told Baker that there "should be no limits" on the Mariners in free agency despite mammoth commitments to Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez. Baker concludes by calling baseball a "cash-drunk sport with only a vague notion of its financial ceiling" and noting that the Mariners "can't spot their ceiling with a telescope."
- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow tells Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that two weeks is the "bare minimum" amount of time needed to make evaluations of minor league players, but many other factors are involved. Among them are whether the player has moved up a level, if they played in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball, and what their Spring Training was like. Luhnow said he expects the club's "most famous prospects" -- presumably George Springer, Jonathan Singleton, Carlos Correa, Mark Appel and Michael Foltynewicz -- to move quickly. As far as the players themselves are concerned, Springer tells Drellich he's not really sure what Super Two status meant, while Singleton "had an idea."
"Sometimes you have to look underneath the surface and I tend to agree it has a lot to do with youth sports and travel teams and multiple travel teams and kids pitching to win when they're really young and throwing too many pitches. I think the more recent epidemic curiously might be tied to what they're doing before they even get here professionally."
Of course, Moore's injury is not the only injury facing the Rays' rotation, either. Jeremy Hellickson opened the season on the disabled list, and Alex Cobb is now out as long as six weeks after being placed on the DL with an oblique strain yesterday, writes Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune. Here's more from the AL East...
- The Mariners' decision to designate Shawn Kelley for assignment last Spring Training rather than pay him $935K has proven to be the Yankees' gain, writes John Harper of the New York Daily News. Kelley was a vital part of the bullpen in 2013 and has stepped up for the injured David Robertson in 2014 thus far. Kelley's strong 2013 season is part of the reason that the Yanks didn't add a right-handed setup arm this offseason, writes Harper, as they believed the two-time Tommy John victim to be capable of handling the role of Robertson's primary setup man.
- Harper also looks at the predictably injury-riddled Yankees infield and opines that it's time for the team to call Scott Boras to get a deal done with Stephen Drew. As Harper points out, the Yankees ran out an infield of Kelly Johnson, Dean Anna, Yangervis Solarte and Carlos Beltran last night, and patchwork mixes like that simply won't cut it. He suggests a two-year deal for Drew, to play second base and provide insurance for Jeter this season before taking the reins at shortstop in 2015.
- While much is made of Jon Lester's coming free agency by the Boston media, the Boston Herald's John Tomase writes that Jonny Gomes is also in the final year of his deal, and he spoke with the part-time Red Sox outfielder about that scenario. Gomes admits that it's difficult to play in a walk year due to the results-oriented nature of the game, adding that he knows being a good clubhouse presence won't necessarily get him a job next year. Tomase writes that ideally, Gomes' preference is to stay in Boston.
- WEEI.com's Alex Speier writes that Red Sox manager John Farrell isn't exactly thrilled with the early returns on baseball's instant replay system. "It's hard to have any faith in the system," said Farrell after being on the losing end of a pair of challenges this weekend. Saturday's call, in particular, looked to provide conclusive evidence in Boston's favor, but the umpires didn't agree. Said Farrell: "As much as they’re trying to help the human element inside this system, it seems like it’s added the human element at a different level."
The Rangers have announced that they have acquired pitcher Hector Noesi from the Mariners. The Mariners will receive cash in the deal, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets. The Mariners designated Noesi for assignment last week. To clear space on their 40-man roster for Noesi, the Rangers moved Jurickson Profar to the 60-day disabled list. The Rangers will have to make another move to add Noesi to their 25-man roster.
Noesi, 27, has a 5.64 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 191 1/3 career innings with the Mariners and Yankees. The Mariners acquired him from New York before the 2012 season in the Michael Pineda / Jesus Montero trade. There's no immediate word on Noesi's role in Texas, but the Rangers' pitching staff has struggled with injuries, and Noesi has experience with both starting and relieving.
The Angels have announced that lefty Brian Moran will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery. After being left unprotected by the Mariners, Moran was taken by the Blue Jays in the ninth position in the Rule 5 draft and immediately shipped to Los Angeles in exchange for an international bonus slot.
Moran is expected to remain with the Angels for the coming season while he rehabs from surgery, says MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. The club will be able to keep him while clearing a 40-man spot by placing him on the 60-day DL, and will then have the same rights over Moran as they do at present. Once Moran is activated, the Angels will need to clear a 40-man spot and then maintain him on the active roster for all of next season or offer him back to Seattle.
A similar situation occurred recently with Brad Meyers, who was selected by the Yankees from the Nationals. Meyers spent the entire year on the DL -- including time on the 60-day list -- and was ultimately returned to Washington in the fall following his surgery.
Moran, a 25-year-old lefty, spent the last three seasons in the upper minors with the Seattle organization. In 62 2/3 innings at Triple-A last year, he threw to a 3.45 ERA while striking out 12.2 and walking 2.9 per nine. While those K:BB numbers are quite impressive, Moran did allow 10.1 hits for every nine frames over his first full season at the highest level of the minors.
The Angels had hoped to use Moran as a lefty specialist out of the pen, Gonzalez notes. With fellow southpaw Sean Burnett also still on the shelf, the club has gone with Nick Maronde as its only lefty in relief. The Angels do have some options with MLB experience stashed at Triple-A, including Buddy Boshers, Wade LeBlanc, and Clay Rapada.
The Mariners announce that they have designated pitcher Hector Noesi for assignment. The move clears space to add reliever Dominic Leone to the 25-man roster. The Mariners used six pitchers, including Noesi, to get through six innings of relief in a 12-inning game yesterday. (Noesi took the loss, giving up a walk-off home run to Coco Crisp.) Leone provides the Mariners with an extra arm in their bullpen.
Noesi, 27, has a 5.64 career ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 191 1/3 innings, some of them as a starter. He pitched just 27 1/3 innings with the Mariners in 2013, spending much of the season in the minors. The Mariners acquired him from the Yankees in the Jesus Montero / Michael Pineda trade in early 2012.
We'll keep track of the day's minor moves here:
- The Mariners have signed lefty Clay Rapada and added him to the roster at Triple-A Tacoma, according to Rainiers announce Mike Curto (on Twitter). Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune first reported (via Twitter) that Rapada was working out for the team. The left-hander has a 4.06 ERA in 94 big league innings but has never been able to hold down a consistent big league job despite dominant numbers against left-handed hitters; Rapada has held lefties to a minuscule .164/.255/.231 batting line in his career. However, righties have roughed him up at a .345/.464/.611 clip.
- Catcher Chris Gimenez has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Round Rock, according to the Dallas Morning News' Evan Grant (Twitter link). Gimenez, who has been outrighted previously, has 72 hours to accept or reject the assignment. He was claimed off waivers by the Rangers last week but quickly designated for assignment when the club promoted Daniel McCutchen to the Majors.
- The Cubs have outrighted reliever Alberto Cabrera to Triple-A after he cleared waivers, reports Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). The 25-year-old righty was designated on Saturday.
- Outfielder Michael Taylor has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. The 28-year-old will take up residence in Sacramento for the fifth straight year since joining the Oakland organization.
- Brian Bogusevic has accepted an outright assignment from the Marlins, reports Cotillo (via Twitter). Bogusevic, a 30-year-old outfielder who was acquired over the offseason for Justin Ruggiano, could have elected free agency since he has previously been outrighted.
- The Red Sox have released outfielder Scott Cousins, Cotillo also tweets. Cousins, 29, has seen bit action in parts of four MLB seasons. The news was first reported yesterday by Mike Andrews of SoxProspects (via Twitter). According to Andrews, longtime minor leaguer Juan Carlos Linares was also among the players cut loose from the Boston system.
- Pitcher Armando Galarraga is working on securing a visa after receiving an offer from the Taiwanese club Brother Elephants, his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Cotillo tweeted earlier this morning that the former big leaguer was close to a deal to move to Taiwan. In 542 career MLB innings, Galarraga has a 4.78 ERA with 5.7 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9.
- Outfielder Dave Sappelt has been released by the Phillies, tweets Cotillo. Sappelt himself said on Twitter that he appreciates the club carrying him while undergoing offseason surgery. The 27-year-old has seen limited action in three big league seasons.
- The Astros have outrighted reliever Raul Valdes to Triple-A, according to the PCL transactions page. Though he lacks an extensive MLB track record at age 36, Valdes still has an intriguing recent stat line and looks to be a good bet to see time in Houston at some point. His ERA was a ghastly 7.46 last year, but he put up 9.5 K/9 (against just 2.1 BB/9), good for a 3.10 SIERA. Valdes posted numbers more line with those peripherals in 2012 and even during limited action this spring.
- Likewise, Hiroyuki Nakajima has been outrighted to the top affiliate of the Athletics, also via the PCL transactions page. The move is not surprising, given that Nakajima had only been added to the 40-man in the first place to fill it up to allow for the team to designate Taylor for assignment, according to a report from John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter).
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Dodgers have claimed shortstop Carlos Triunfel off waivers from the Mariners, the club announced via press release. Triunfel has been optioned to Triple-A.
That brings an end to a disappointing tenure for Triunfel in Seattle, which designated him for assignment on Friday. Once a consensus top-100 prospect, Triunfel saw only limited big league action with his former club. Last year, at Triple-A, he posted a .282/.328/.394 line in 383 trips to the plate.