Seattle Mariners Rumors
Epifanio "Epi" Guerrero, one of the key figures in the history of Dominican baseball, passed today at age 71. Guerrero signed a number of notable international talents (including Cesar Cedeno, Carlos Delgado and Tony Fernandez) while working in the Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays and Brewers organizations as a scout and coach during a career that began in 1965. Guerrero was one of the first scouts to be involved in the development of the academy system that gave countless young Dominican prospects chances at a professional career. We here at MLBTR extend our condolences to Guerrero's friends and family on his passing.
Here are some news items from around the baseball world...
- While it has been assumed that the Cardinals will part ways with Carlos Beltran after this season, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks both Beltran and the Cardinals could benefit from Beltran re-signing a short-term contract, provided the veteran was willing to take a hometown discount. While Miklasz has a point that Beltran is a surer thing to produce for a contender than youngsters like Oscar Taveras or Matt Adams, I would be surprised if Beltran returned to St. Louis in 2014. If the Cards were confident enough in their young talent to let Albert Pujols and Kyle Lohse go, they'll do with the same with Beltran.
- The Diamondbacks may not need to make any major moves before the trade deadline, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. The Snakes have depth at several positions and further reinforcements are coming as some injured players return from the disabled list. The only possible area of need could be at closer given J.J. Putz's elbow problems but GM Kevin Towers is "100% confident" that Putz will recover.
- The Mariners talked with Jesus Montero about a long-term contract before he was linked to the Biogenesis scandal, but nothing came of those conversations, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets. Earlier today, the M's demoted the 23-year-old to Triple-A.
- If MLB announces that an international draft will take place in 2014, Baseball America's Ben Badler notes that teams like the Rangers, Yankees, Cardinals or Reds (who are likely to pick near the end of that draft's first round) could be wise to exceed the spending cap on international prospects this year. Such teams would lose their 2014 or '15 international draft first-rounder for going over the cap, but it could be worth it to get a jump on the non-North American talent market.
- MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo profiles some of the top corner infielders in the upcoming amateur draft, a list led by University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant.
- ESPN's Keith Law discusses draft prospects, minor leaguers and other moves from around the game in a live chat with fans.
- Andrew Cashner is making great strides as a starting pitcher for the Padres, MLB.com's Corey Brock writes. Cashner has a 2.80 ERA in six starts for the Friars in 2013 after being limited to mostly bullpen work over his first three seasons due to injuries and concerns about his arm strength. If Cashner develops into a solid starter, it will obviously give the Padres a much greater return on the Anthony Rizzo trade from January 2012.
- The Rays' pitching depth is the envy of baseball, MLB.com's Bill Chastain writes, and that depth at the Major League level gives all their minor league arms time to properly develop into the club's next generation of rotation stalwarts.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
Mariners catcher Jesus Montero will be sent to Triple-A Tacoma today, reports Ryan Divish of The News Tribune. Catcher Jesus Sucre will be selected to join the big league club, and it appears Montero won't do much catching at Triple-A.
It was a blockbuster challenge trade of two extremely promising and valuable young players. Montero had 18 excellent big league games for the Yankees under his belt when he was sent to the Mariners in January 2012. The principal player coming to New York in the deal was soon-to-be 23-year-old righty Michael Pineda, who had averaged nearly 95 miles per hour on his fastball as a rookie, made the All-Star team, and finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Young players of this caliber are rarely traded. Things went south quickly for Pineda, as decreased velocity in his second Spring Training start was a harbinger of a shoulder injury that would lead to surgery in May 2012. What's more, Pineda was arrested for a DUI in August of that year. Pineda continues to work his way back from the surgery, with the expectation of making his Yankee debut this year. Whether Pineda's rookie campaign was the high point in his career is anybody's guess.
Montero's first full season in 2012 was disappointing. Known almost entirely for his offensive prowess, he posted a .260/.298/.386 line in 553 plate appearances. Montero caught in 56 games, serving as DH in 78. In a full-time catching role this year, he did even less with the bat. As "a man without a position," as Divish puts it, the bar for Montero to become a regular designated hitter in the Majors is quite high. Oh, and the reported connection to Biogenesis doesn't help.
There were a couple of additional players in the Montero-Pineda swap. The Mariners acquired righty Hector Noesi, who hasn't impressed in 120 1/3 big league innings so far. The Yankees added prospect Jose Campos, rated their fifth-best by Baseball America prior to the season. Campos made only five starts last year in low A ball, missing most of the season due to a bone bruise or a small fracture in his elbow. The injury has Campos on an innings limit in the 85-90 range this year.
One year and four months after the exciting Montero-Pineda swap, the players involved in the trade are a mess across the board, which leads to today's poll: which pair of players do you prefer moving forward?
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly offered up some brutally honest and scathing remarks for his players and the team's upper management prior to Wednesday's game, and Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times has a recap. Mattingly benched $85MM right fielder Andre Ethier in favor of rookie Scott Van Slyke, commenting that to use his “most competitive lineup” and one that would “fight the hardest.” Mattingly wouldn't confirm whether or not he still viewed Ethier as an everyday player. He also noted that the front office tried to buy an All-Star team, stating: “All grit and no talent isn’t going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit is not going to get you there, either.” Here's more out of baseball's Western divisions...
- One rival general manager told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that it seems like Mattingly is trying to get himself fired.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes that Ethier is now "eminently available" and suggests some speculative trades. Cameron proposes a swap of Ethier and Jeff Francoeur, with the Dodgers picking up the tab (Twitter link) on Ethier's final two seasons. Doing so would save the Dodgers up to $40MM, allow them to call up Yasiel Puig and give Kansas City an upgrade over Francoeur. He also suggests a swap with Franklin Gutierrez of the Mariners or dumping Ethier on the Rangers.
- Jordan Norberto's preference is still to re-sign with the Athletics after being released earlier in the month, according to John Shea and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. Norberto was cut loose due to an elbow strain, and he's throwing again as he rehabs from the injury. The Cubs, Royals and Rays are all interested in Norberto, but he told Shea and Slusser: "I've never felt anything for a team before like I do about the A's - the teammates, the pitching coach, the manager, the fans."
- The Mariners need better than what Aaron Harang is giving them every five days, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who suggests that it's time to designate Harang for assignment and give Jeremy Bonderman a try. Bonderman has a 3.79 ERA in nine Triple-A starts.
- The Mariners are better than their record indicates, writes Rosenthal, but a number of their key offensive pieces are free agents. Rosenthal feels that the Mariners and GM Jack Zduriencik are at a crossroads, but an improved record could make Seattle a desirable destination for Northwest natives Jacoby Ellsbury and Tim Lincecum.
The Orioles made headlines last night by announcing the promotion of Kevin Gausman to the Majors. Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2012 draft, reached Double-A as a 22-year-old and posted a 3.11 ERA with a 49-to-5 K/BB ratio in 46 1/3 innings there. With that promotion, Gausman becomes the first member of last year's first round to make it to the Majors. Among 2012 first-rounders, only four other players have even reached the Double-A level to this point.
Mike Zunino, selected by the Mariners at No. 3 overall, has reached Triple-A, but the catcher is hitting just .220/.290/.496 through 33 games in Tacoma. Given the Mariners' need for offense, however, he could be a hot streak away. Promoting him would allow the Mariners to use Jesus Montero at DH, but that only adds to a roster crunch of corner OF/1B/DH types in Seattle.
Right-hander Michael Wacha, the No. 19 overall selection by the Cardinals, has also reached Triple-A. He's posted a 2.05 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 through 52 2/3 innings for the Memphis Redbirds to open the season, and the Cardinals have some injury problems in their rotation with Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook on the shelf. For now, they've gone with John Gast and Tyler Lyons over Wacha.
Marcus Stroman's 50-game suspension for a positive stimulant has finished, and the Blue Jays right-hander made a strong debut at Double-A with five scoreless innings in a start. Many pegged the Duke product to be the quickest first rounder to reach the Majors last year, and Baseball America's Ben Badler wrote Sunday that it "shouldn't take him long" before he's big league ready.
James Ramsey, the Cardinals' other selection (No. 23), is the only other player from the first round to reach Double-A or higher thus far. As an outfielder, he has an uphill battle to reach the Major Leagues given the presence of Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran and top prospect Oscar Taveras within the Cardinals organization. He's a huge long shot, but he's advanced further than most college players from the first round already.
Let's open this up to a poll...
The latest minor moves...
- The Rangers plan to purchase the contract of lefty reliever Neal Cotts if tonight's game is played, tweets Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest. The 33-year-old hasn't seen big league action since 2009, but he's been dominant in 23 Triple-A innings this year. The Rangers already have an open spot on their 40-man roster for him.
- The Hanshin Tigers have a basic agreement with righty reliever Blaine Boyer, according to Sanspo (via Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker). Boyer, 31, pitched 15 relief innings for the Royals' Triple-A affiliate before exercising his out clause to pursue the opportunity in Japan.
- The Mariners signed 17-year-old Brazilian righty Daniel Missaki, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America. Badler notes that he was the youngest player in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
- The Athletics announced that first baseman Daric Barton cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A, after he was designated for assignment Saturday to open a spot for Chris Young. He's earning $1.1MM this year, which may have limited interest. Barton led the American League in walks as a 24-year-old in 2010, but has battled injuries since. He's still a walk machine at Triple-A, though, with a .422 OBP through 128 plate appearances.
- The Angels outrighted outfielder Scott Cousins to Triple-A yesterday, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. Cousins had been designated for assignment on Saturday to make room for Chris Nelson.
- The Yankees outrighted infielder Alberto Gonzalez to Triple-A yesterday, according to the International League transactions page. Gonzalez had been designated for assignment on Saturday to make room for Reid Brignac.
- Three players currently reside in DFA limbo: Jon Rauch of the Marlins, Derek Lowe of the Rangers, and Michael Bowden of the Cubs. Rauch and Lowe figure to be released by their clubs in the coming days, while Bowden will have to decide whether to accept an outright assignment if he clears waivers.
The Rangers have placed Ian Kinsler on the disabled list with an intercostal strain and recalled middle infielder and top prospect Jurickson Profar, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Profar already had a cup of coffee last September, collecting 17 big-league at-bats. But the promotion of the No. 1 player on recent top prospect listings from Baseball America, Keith Law, and MLB.com is cause for excitement. The Baseball America Prospect Handbook praises Profar's all-around game, particularly his bat speed, plate discipline and defense, noting that "Profar may not have the most power, the most speed or the strongest arm on the field, but he's typically the best player out there."
Profar, 20, has hit .278/.370/.438 for Triple-A Round Rock so far this year. He is already on the 40-man roster. If he sticks in the big leagues, he would be eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, and he would be a Super Two player, meaning that he would be arbitration-eligible after the 2015 season. Super Two status would only be an issue if the Rangers kept Profar in the big leagues much of the rest of the season, however, and it remains to be seen what they will do with Profar once Kinsler returns from injury.
Here are more notes from the AL West.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and owner Jim Crane watched a potential draft pick in Chapel Hill Saturday (likely UNC third baseman Colin Moran), and Luhnow says he's pleased that Crane came along, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. "We don't comment on Draft-eligible players for obvious reasons, but we continue to put in a lot of time against it, and it was great Jim was willing to go out and see a player with his own eyes," says Luhnow. "We might try another couple before it's all said and done."
- The Mariners blew it by missing out on Michael Bourn this winter, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times argues. "[T]he Bourn thing, for me, is a classic example of how this rebuilding process has played out for the Mariners," says Baker. "It’s taken a long time to get where we are and I do think we could have seen some better baseball a bit quicker had the Mariners spent some dough this winter and in prior ones to shore-up where they were lacking." Bourn is hitting .311/.363/.473 and has been a key contributor to one of baseball's best offenses with the Indians, while the Mariners have the worst offense in the American League. The Mariners do have the No. 12 overall pick in the upcoming draft, however, and they would have had to forfeit that pick if they had signed Bourn.
We will start the weekend off with a few notes from around baseball:
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets that the Pirates and Twins may have interest in infielder Reid Brignac. The Rockies recently designated Brignac for assignment to clear room for DJ LeMahieu. The 27-year-old Brignac had slashed .250/.294/.375 over 53 plate appearances in his first season in Colorado. He owns a career line of .228/.270/.321 in 719 plate appearances for the Rays and Rockies.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden (subscription required) suggests some key adjustments for the Mariners, who he believes can compete this season. Bowden argues that the Mariners could improve their disappointing offense by trading from their pitching depth, as well as by promoting top prospects Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino.
- Highly-rated prospect Jake Odorizzi could throw his first pitch for the Rays as soon as Monday, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, as he appears first in line to fill in for injured starter David Price. If he is called up, Odorizzi would become the first of the four prospects acquired in the James Shields trade to see action for the big club. Baseball America rated Odorizzi as the Rays' fifth-best prospect going into the season, and he has been solid at Triple-A so far, posting a 3.83 ERA over 44 2/3 innings to go with 9.5 K/9 and 3 BB/9.
Ben Badler of Baseball America recently profiled such top Venezuelan prospects as Yeltsin Gudino, Jose Herrera and Gleyber Torres as some of the top names to watch when the international signing period opens on July 2. Here are a few more notes from Badler about other 16-year-old prospects out of Venezuela and their possible Major League suitors...
- The Mariners have shown "heavy interest" in outfielder Greifer Andrade. The 6'1", 185-pound Andrade is expected to receive a contract worth more than $1MM with whichever team eventually signs him. Andrade is a right-hander who profiles as a corner outfielder, and scouts vary in their opinions of his long-term potential --- some believe he is one of the top internationals prospects available, while others have doubts about his throwing arm and ability to hit for power in the Major Leagues.
- The Rockies have been looking at shortstop Carlos Herrera. One international scouting director projects Herrera will be "an offensive, top-of-the-lineup guy with a really good idea at the plate." Badler says some scouts think Herrera can handle playing shortstop over the long term and Herrera also has above-average speed and is a solid contact hitter, if lacking in power right now.
- The Mets have been connected to Ali Sanchez, a catcher who is regarded as a solid defender though he "doesn’t have a lot of power now and scouts were mixed on his bat." Badler predicts Sanchez will sign for a little under $800K.
- The Royals have been linked to left-handed hitting outfielder Cristhian Vasquez, regarded as one of Venezuela's best young bats. While Vasquez has gap power, Badler notes that some scouts aren't sure if Vasquez has enough pop to be an everyday left fielder (he's limited to left field due to a lack of arm strength). Badler thinks Vasquez will sign for around $800K.
When players with significant Major League experience settle for minor league contracts, it's commonplace for these deals to contain opt-out clauses. If the player hasn't been added to the 25-man roster by a certain point, he can exercise the clause and seek employment with another organization. Such clauses aren't always made publicly available, but here's a list of some of the pitchers who have known opt-out dates that are nearing...
- Chien-Ming Wang, Yankees: Wang can opt out of his contract on May 31. In five starts spanning 31 2/3 innings at Triple-A thus far, the 33-year-old has a 2.84 ERA, 4.3 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9. The Yankees have said they don't feel Wang's minor league success will translate to the Majors just yet, as they want him to rely more on his breaking pitches than just his sinker.
- Tim Stauffer, Padres: Stauffer can opt out of his deal "around June 1," according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. He appeared in just one game for San Diego before needing season-ending surgery but posted a 3.24 ERA in 341 1/3 innings for the Friars from 2009-11. So far in Triple-A, the 30-year-old has a 3.16 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 42 2/3 innings.
- Sean O'Sullivan, Padres: Currently Stauffer's rotation-mate, O'Sullivan has the same opt-out clause in his contract (near June 1) despite being just 25 years of age. O'Sullivan has a 4.19 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 43 innings for Triple-A Tucson. He's had a rough time in the Majors, however, as evidenced by his 6.13 ERA in 193 2/3 big league innings.
- Jeremy Bonderman, Mariners: Bonderman's opt-out date is June 1, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. Still just 30 years of age, Bonderman has been solid for Triple-A Tacoma. He's pitched to a 3.70 ERA, 5.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in eight starts spanning 48 2/3 innings. Olney feels Bonderman will opt out if he's not called up in the next couple of weeks, and I'm inclined to agree.
- Jair Jurrjens, Orioles: Jurrjens has an opt-out date of June 15. After a drastic fall from grace in the Braves organization, the 27-year-old has looked sharp at Triple-A Norfolk in 2013. He's compiled a 2.62 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in seven starts spanning 44 2/3 innings.
All of the pitchers listed here have pitched well enough that they could make a case for helping a Major League team with a struggling rotation. It seems likely that by mid-June, each could force his way onto a Major League roster, even if it's with a new organization. If you see a notable omission with a known opt-out date, speak up in the comments section.
Today's minor moves from around the league...
- The Braves have released minor league left-hander Dusty Hughes, outfielder Jordan Parraz and right-hander Mark Pope, tweets Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Hughes, 30, last appeared with the Twins in 2011 but managed just a 9.95 ERA in 12 2/3 innings. He was solid in Triple-A for the Braves last year (3.31 ERA in 65 1/3 innings). Parraz, 28, is a career .270/.348/.416 hitter at the Triple-A level. He's seen time in the Royals, Astros, Yankees and Braves organizations. Pope, 23, has a 6.40 ERA in 166 minor league innings after being taken in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by the Padres.
- Eddy also reports (via Twitter) that the Mariners have released right-hander Tyler Blandford, whom they selected in the fifth round of the 2009 draft. Blandford has a 7.42 ERA in 77 2/3 innings and a 77-to-76 K/BB ratio in that time.
- Recent DFAs Fernando Martinez (Astros), Edgar Gonzalez (Blue Jays) and Corky Miller (Reds) currently reside in limbo as they wait to learn if they've been claimed on waivers, traded or outrighted to the minor leagues.