Seattle Mariners Rumors
The Mariners are letting teams know that Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak are available in trade talks, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The report comes on the heels of the Mariners striking deals to add Corey Hart and Logan Morrison to their lineup.
As our Steve Adams pointed out on Wednesday, the signing of Hart and acquisition of Morrison called Montero's and Smoak's roles into question. While it's not clear exactly what position Seattle would be targeting in trade talks, the club clearly hopes to contend in 2014 and would likely prefer immedate contributors to prospects.
Both Montero and Smoak arrived in Seattle as part of major trades. Montero was acquired from the Yankees in a 2012 swap for Michael Pineda, while Smoak was part of the package the Mariners received from the Rangers in exchanged for Cliff Lee in 2010.
So far, neither player has produced as the M's had anticipated, though Smoak enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013, hitting .238/.334/.412 with 20 homers in 512 plate appearances. Montero had a disastrous campaign, underperforming early in the year before suffering a torn meniscus and then receiving a 50-game suspension as part of the Biogenesis case.
As Day Three of the Winter Meetings in Orlando comes to a close, plenty of free agents are still seeking new teams. Here are the latest updates on a few of them:
- Rockies people tell Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Twitter link) that nothing has changed with Nelson Cruz. There's interest in the free agent outfielder, but it's not being characterized as serious at this point.
- The Mariners have been ardent Cruz pursuers from the start of the winter, and one baseball source tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com they'll continue to be in the mix for him even after adding Robinson Cano, Corey Hart, and Logan Morrison.
- Teams believe reliever Joaquin Benoit's likeliest destinations are the Indians, Padres, Mariners, Cubs, or Yankees, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
- Agent Scott Boras says client Jose Valverde, who turns 36 in March, intends to continue his big league career and has drawn interest from two big league teams, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. The Tigers released their former closer in August after his Triple-A reboot didn't go as well as he hoped.
- Earlier in the evening, assistant GM Bobby Evans expressed optimism that San Francisco would find a left fielder by trade or free agency by the day's end, with Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com naming Franklin Gutierrez as a candidate. However, the Giants no longer expect resolution on their left field situation tonight, says Baggarly (via Twitter). The CSN Bay Area scribe also takes a more in-depth look at some of the club's options.
- Catcher Kurt Suzuki is talking with the Rockies, Cubs, and Twins, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
The Mariners long seemed destined to bring back Kendrys Morales after the first baseman/designated hitter declined his $14.1MM qualifying offer. With interest already likely limited to American League clubs since he is not generally viewed as a regular first baseman, Morales's market figured to be dragged down further by draft pick compensation. That, in turn, made a return to Seattle an obvious fit.
But now, after adding both Corey Hart and Logan Morrison in quick succession, Seattle may no longer be a real landing spot for Morales. Both of those players seem more likely to see time at first and DH than in the outfield, and the club still has Justin Smoak in the mix as well. (Smoak, of course, just had his best big league season at age 26.)
On the other hand, the M's could elect to deal Smoak and bring back Morales. But if they do not, the remaining market looks to be a tough one for the Cuban national. It may be fair to wonder whether he will be able to better the qualifying offer that he turned down. (It would not be the first time that something like this has happened: Jason Varitek declined arbitration, under the prior Type A/B compensation system, only to re-sign with the Red Sox for far less than he stood to earn via arbitration.) Indeed, one GM even told Peter Gammons that he "just cannot see Kendrys Morales signing until after the draft." (Twitter link.)
There are, of course, some other American League clubs that would seem to make sense as a landing spot for Morales. (Presumably, NL teams will remain disinterested given his defensive limitations, even if agent Scott Boras is pitching him as a regular in the field.) After all, the switch-hitter is capable from both sides of the plate and mashes righties in particular. He has hit thirty home runs and seems a good bet to knock over twenty on a regular basis. Since his first season as a regular in 2009, he has a 128 OPS+. There is a reason he received, and declined, a qualifying offer, and he begins to look more and more appealing the more top players depart the open market.
There is one team that, like the Mariners, could make a great deal of sense if they make a trade. The Yankees currently stand to give a lot of DH at-bats to Alfonso Soriano. If the club deals Brett Gardner -- however unlikely that may be -- Soriano would move back to the oufield and potentially open the door for Morales, who could also spell a recovering Mark Teixeira at first. Bear in mind, New York would have relatively little to lose in terms of sacrificing draft picks, having already given up its first rounder. And Yankee Stadium would make quite an appealing spot for Morales to up his power numbers.
Then, there are the Orioles and Angels, both of which could definitely use Morales' bat. Unfortunately, each of those teams would also be required to give up a first-round draft selection (the 15th and 17th overall, respectively) to bring him in. And that is before considering payroll limitations. Nevertheless, the Brewers ultimately proved willing last year to give up a top choice to bring in Kyle Lohse on a seemingly reasonable deal last year, so it would be unwise to count the Halos and O's out completely.
The most interesting alternative possibility, however, could be the Astros. Houston has begun spending after trimming payroll to minimal levels in years past, and an interesting bat would elevate interest and expectations. And the team would only lose a second round choice if they inked Morales. GM Jeff Luhnow said just yesterday that the first base/DH slot was an area that the club might consider upgrading. Brett Wallace and Chris Carter are both limited players, while top prospect Jonathan Singleton might still need time to develop. If Morales could be had at a low enough cost, Houston could slot his bat in the middle of the lineup and use Wallace and Carter in some manner of platoon (or shed one of them).
While a return to Seattle may not be in the cards, there's still a market out there for Morales, even if there isn't a clear odds-on favorite for his services.
Reports yesterday indicated that both the Diamondbacks and Tigers are likely out of the Shin-Soo Choo sweepstakes (though I personally question whether or not the signing of Rajai Davis truly removes Detroit from the equation). The Rangers are still said to be in the mix, however. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick provided a rundown of potential Choo suitors yesterday, cautioning never to bet against Scott Boras. Here are Wednesday's Choo rumors...
- A Rangers source says the club isn't optimistic about their chances of signing Choo, writes T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Texas doesn't have a seven-year offer out to the outfielder, tweets Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram.
- The Rangers have a seven-year offer on the table to Choo and he is giving it serious consideration, a source tells T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. The deal is worth less than the $153MM deal that Jacoby Ellsbury inked with the Yankees but it's strong enough for Choo to mull over.
- The general sense among teams involved in the Choo sweepstakes is whichever team goes to eight years will land him, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. He's believed to have a seven-year offer in hand already.
- The Mariners are likely out of the picture on Choo after adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison today, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
- Scott Boras spoke with more than 100 reporters today and said that he's received multiple offers for Choo, who wants to his time and discuss all of his options with his wife. Boras said he's received offers from teams that are rebuilding and also for teams that are looking to win in 2014. "He really is a player I think is revered," said Boras (ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett reporting).
- "I think we have to move on," Reds GM Walt Jocketty told C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer when asked about Choo (Twitter link).
- The Rangers like Choo but not at his asking price, which Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram hears is $22MM annually (Twitter link). Nelson Cruz is a more viable option for Texas, Wilson adds.
- Bob Nightengale of USA Today has heard that Choo is looking for $140MM over seven years (Twitter link). Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweets that he's heard the same.
- One executive told Joel Sherman of the New York Post that the Mariners and Rangers "are the lead dogs" in the Choo market (Twitter link).
- The Reds met to discuss Choo last night, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, their inability to clear some payroll by dealing Brandon Phillips first has dimmed their chances, he adds.
The Cubs are among the clubs with interest in free agent pitcher Mitchell Boggs, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. The Phillies, Indians, Mariners, and Mets are also in on him. The Rockies non-tendered the right-hander after a subpar 2013. Here's more from the NL Central...
- According to a club source, the Pirates' deal for Edinson Volquez won't preclude them from re-signing A.J. Burnett, tweets Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- A rival exec says that the one-year, $5MM pact for Volquez makes sense, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The exec says that Volquez boasts a Francisco Liriano-type profile with his strikeout rate and ability to induce groundballs.
- Tim Dierkes of MLBTR (on Twitter) wonders if the Volquez deal could hamstring Pittsburgh somewhat financially in their effort to re-sign Burnett if he calls for a $10-12MM commitment.
- The Cardinals signed right-hander Angel Castro for bullpen depth, tweets Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Terms of the deal aren't known, but it's presumably a minor league pact. Castro spent last season with the Dodgers' Triple- A affiliate, posting an ERA of 3.48 with 7.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 19 starts and six relief appearances.
A look at the AL West..
- The Mariners' plan for Corey Hart is to see time in the outfield and at DH and he's not necessarily slotted for first base despite his knee troubles, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
- Astros manager Bo Porter is pushing for Michael Morse in Houston, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Morse is said to be willing to do a one-year deal to re-establish his value.
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says that he has had a few conversations with Nelson Cruz's agent and will continue to talk with him, tweets Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
- The Angels aren't close to any free agents signings, so if Matt Garza is nearing a deal somewhere, it's not with the Halos, tweets Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.
4:25pm: Hart's deal is worth $6MM guaranteed with incentives that could earn him $13MM, according to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (on Twitter).
2:39pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that Hart's deal compares favorably to Mike Napoli's contract with the Red Sox last year. Napoli signed a one-year, $5MM deal with incentives that took the deal to $13MM.
Hart, 32 in March, missed the entire 2013 campaign after undergoing surgery on both knees. In his most recent healthy season, Hart delivered his typical brad of strong pop from the right side of the dish, batting .270/.334/.507 with 30 home runs. In the three seasons prior to his injury, Hart slashed .279/.343/.514 and averaged 29 homers per season, meaning his 2012 campaign was a good representation of his talent level when healthy.
As Heyman notes, Hart will slot into the Mariners lineup behind Robinson Cano, adding some more much-needed offense to a club that has struggled to score runs in recent seasons. It's not clear at this time where the Mariners envision Hart; he has extensive experience in right field and at first base.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports (on Twitter) that the Brewers were willing to offer Hart a contract that could reach $8MM after incentives, but they will now turn their focus to Hart. At one point, Hart had said he would take a discount to remain with Milwaukee, but his ties to GM Jack Zduriencik (Milwaukee's scouting director when Hart was drafted), the recent addition of Cano and, presumably, a larger payday all could have factored into Hart's decision to head to the Pacific Northwest.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Morrison, 26, was a known trade candidate that was a near-lock to be traded at the Winter Meetings following the Marlins' signing of Garrett Jones to a two-year deal. The former top prospect has batted just .236/.321/.387 with 17 home runs in 178 games over the past two seasons after hitting .259/.351/.460 with 25 long balls in his first 185 big league games. Morrison's tenure with the Marlins has been rocky to this point. He's come under fire for his prolific and sometimes controversial Twitter presence and filed a grievance against the Marlins in 2011 after he was sent to the minor leagues in controversial fashion.
Morrison is under team control through the 2016 season and is projected to earn $1.7MM via arbitration by MLBTR's Matt Swartz.
Capps, 23, posted a 5.49 ERA with 10.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 40.1 percent ground-ball rate in 59 innings for the Mariners last season. Though his ERA is unsightly, Capps has averaged 96.5 mph on his fastball in his brief big league career. xFIP pegs a fluky homer-to-flyball ratio (18.8 percent) and a .365 batting average on balls in play as the reason for Capps' woes, suggesting that an ERA of 3.53 would've been more representative of his work in 2013.
Capps will join a Marlins bullpen that is anchored by closer Steve Cishek, lefty setup man Mike Dunn and right-hander A.J. Ramos. He provides a cheaper alternative to the recently departed right-handers Chad Qualls (free agency) and Ryan Webb (non-tendered).
Morrison is the second bat reeled in by Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik in the past hour, as the M's have also agreed to a one-year deal with Corey Hart. Should Morrison be able to rebound, he, Hart and recently inked Robinson Cano give the Mariners some added punch to their lineup. However, Hart and Morrison profile better as first basemen than outfielders, but one will now need to roam either right or left field at Safeco Field now that they're both in the fold.
The addition of these two bats calls into question the role of either Jesus Montero or Justin Smoak with the Mariners and could ensure that Kendrys Morales will need to find a new home this winter, which would net Seattle a draft pick.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Yesterday it was reported that the Mariners have a real opportunity to acquire David Price. Seattle would prefer to keep Taijuan Walker but could be willing to move Mike Zunino, according to those reports. Here's the latest on Price's trade market...
- The Giants have checked in on Price, according to ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter). The two sides have yet to get into any sort of exchange, however.
- The Blue Jays have also asked about Price, tweets Rosenthal, but they're not big on the idea of parting with Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports spoke with Price's agent, Bo McKinnis, this morning at the Winter Meetings and was told that Price would not sign a long-term deal if he were traded to the Mariners. McKinnis told Rosenthal that Price would consider signing an extension with other clubs, but wouldn't disclose which clubs in which Price would have interest. Rosenthal stresses that this doesn't preclude the Mariners from acquiring Price anyway (All Twitter links).
12:46pm: The Mariners are indeed in on Hart, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who notes that GM Jack Zduriencik drafted Hart when he was Milwaukee's scouting director back in 2000.
12:38pm: USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweets that Hart is torn between re-signing with the Brewers or signing with another team, which could be the Mariners.
9:39am: Hart is currently weighing offers from multiple teams, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).
WEDNESDAY, 7:24am: The Brewers are still waiting on word from Hart, but feel like they've done all they can do and are optimistic about their chances, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
TUESDAY, 8:25pm: Free agent first baseman Corey Hart could agree to terms with a team tonight, MLB.com's Adam McCalvy tweets. Earlier this week, a report indicated that the Brewers were prioritizing re-signing Hart. They also have a need at first base. Hart, meanwhile, has said he would be willing to take less money to stay in Milwaukee.
Hart missed the 2013 season and has recently had surgeries on both knees. He hit .270/.334/.507 for the Brewers in 2012. The Brewers currently have Juan Francisco atop their depth chart at first base.