Seattle Mariners Rumors
Orioles pitcher Zach Clark was recently outrighted to Double-A Bowie. While he's there, he'll "experiment" with the knuckleball, the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly notes. He'll work with Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on Thursday. Clark joins Zach Staniewicz and Eddie Gamboa as knuckleball pitchers in the Orioles system. Here are more notes from the American League.
- As of Wednesday, Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. will have been in the minor leagues for 20 days this season, which ensures that he will not become a free agent after 2018, Alex Speier of WEEI.com notes. Bradley broke camp with the Red Sox, but they optioned him to Triple-A Pawtucket April 18 after a 3-for-31 start to his big-league career. Bradley is currently hitting .303/.400/.349 in Triple-A, but he's currently on the minor-league disabled list with biceps tendinitis.
- The Yankees have around $80MM worth of players rehabbing at their minor-league complex in Tampa, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports. Alex Rodriguez ($28MM), Mark Teixeira ($22.5MM), Curtis Granderson ($15MM) and Kevin Youkilis ($12MM) are all rehabbing, along with Francisco Cervelli, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda. (Derek Jeter, who is still in a walking boot, is not.) "We've got a team here," says Cervelli. "I could be the catcher."
- After signing a non-guaranteed deal with the Mariners this offseason, Jason Bay is embracing his role as a complementary player, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. While other clubs offered him more playing time, the veteran came to find that he enjoyed the challenge of earning his place on the team.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Earlier today, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts presented his plans for a $300MM renovation on Wrigley Field and made waves when he said that the club may have to move to a new park if certain requests are not met. After his presentation, Ricketts told David Kaplan of CSNChicago.com that his focus is still on making things work at Wrigley. "We also need to generate the revenue we need to compete as a franchise," Ricketts added. "There has been some question as to whether or not we can put up a revenue generating video board and signage in our own outfield and if we can't then at some point we've got to look at other options. But I don't think it's now. We really believe that we are going to be able to work this out and move forward." Here's more from around baseball..
- Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet looked at potential infield trade targets for the Blue Jays. BN-S suggests that Brendan Ryan of the Mariners and Alex Gonzalez of the Brewers are among those that could make sense for Toronto.
- High school shortstop Riley Unroe is seeing his stock soar as he was viewed to a fifth-to-seventh round talent but could now find himself going as early as late in the first round and in the sandwich round, at worst, writes Allan Simpson of Perfect Game. Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider sub. req'd) recently wrote that he personally sees Unroe as a third round talent but wouldn't be surprised to see him go higher.
- Despite their $148MM payroll and World Series expectations, it no longer seems like a fluke that the Angels are struggling, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. The Halos snapped a four-game losing streak earlier today to bring their record to 10-17.
We'll keep track of today's minor moves here.
- The Reds acquired infielder/outfielder Mark Teahen from the Diamondbacks for cash or a player to be named later, according to the D'Backs. Teahen, 31, was hitting .209/.321/.254 in 81 Triple-A plate appearances after struggling offensively in the Washington organization at that level last year. He was drafted in the first round by the A's in 2002 and spent five seasons with the Royals, hitting 18 home runs in '06.
- The Dodgers have signed pitcher Aaron Laffey to a minor-league deal, Chris Cotillo of CLNS Radio reports. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has confirmed the signing. Laffey has been designated for assignment by the Mets and Blue Jays so far this season, and he elected free agency yesterday instead of accepting an outright assignment from the Jays. Laffey has appeared in five big-league games so far this year.
- Rangers minor-leaguer Randy Wells has retired, FOX Sports Southwest's Anthony Andro reports (on Twitter). Wells, 30, finished sixth in NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2009, when he was with the Cubs. He appeared in 98 big-league games, mostly with Chicago, posting a 4.08 ERA, 5.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. He made five starts in 2013 for the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock.
- The Mariners have signed outfielder Corey Patterson to a minor-league deal, MLB.com's Greg Johns reports (on Twitter). Patterson will report to extended spring training. Patterson, 33, hit .251/.285/.410 for the Brewers' Triple-A team in Nashville in 2012. He has played for the Cubs, Orioles, Reds, Nationals, Brewers, Blue Jays and Cardinals.
The Astros haven't yet decided who they're taking with the first overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports. Possible candidates for the top pick include college pitchers Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray and Sean Manaea; college hitter Kris Bryant; and high school outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows. "I think it's important to keep scouting them until the very end," says Astros scouting director Mike Elias. "We're making sure we're keeping the field as open as we can. We are not going to make that decision when there's no reason to, six weeks before the Draft." The Astros' draft signing bonus pool, which stands at $11.7MM this year, could play into their decision about who to draft. In 2012, the Astros took Carlos Correa first overall and signed him for significantly less than his bonus pool allotment, allowing them to take high-upside talents like Lance McCullers Jr. later in the draft. Here are more notes from around the American League.
- The Red Sox might be looking for Frazier to fall to them with the No. 7 overall pick, Conor Glassey of Baseball America writes in a draft breakdown for American League teams. Red Sox scout Tim Hyers was Frazier's neighbor growing up. Meanwhile, the Indians could look to add a college pitcher like Manaea or Nevada's Braden Shipley at No. 5.
- Mariners infielder Robert Andino was "a little bit" surprised when the Orioles traded him to "Alaska" (that is, Seattle) for Trayvon Robinson last November, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. Andino is hitting .200/.250/.267 for the Mariners this season. He has taken the team's starting shortstop job, or at least a portion of it, from Brendan Ryan.
- The Yankees have had trade talks with the Rockies regarding infielder Chris Nelson, but New York's interest in Nelson seems to be limited, says Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger (on Twitter). The Rockies designated Nelson for assignment Saturday night.
GM Jeff Luhnow and the Astros have some unusual methods, but don't believe everything you hear, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. There's no truth to the rumor that the Astros won't allow their minor-league hitters to swing at 3-2 pitches, for example. The Astros are using a piggyback system at all their minor-league levels, planning to use two starting pitchers, one after the other, in each game. The Astros feel that system allows them to distribute innings to their best pitchers, and to protect their health. But that system appears to be breaking down at the Triple-A level, since some Triple-A pitchers have already been promoted to the majors and another, John Ely, went down with Tommy John surgery. "Basically, the argument for having eight instead of five (at Triple A) is dissipating quickly," says Luhnow. Here are more notes from the AL West.
- Josh Hamilton's aggressive approach at the plate is clouding his future and could make his contract with the Angels a very bad one, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs argues. Cameron says that Hamilton needs to make adjustments and stop chasing bad pitches, because right now, "Hamilton is just a hack who has terrible at-bats and makes a lot of outs." Currently, Hamilton is hitting .202/.246/.298 while swinging at 45% of pitches outside the strike zone.
- The Mariners dodged a bullet when the Angels signed Hamilton, Cameron argues at USS Mariner. The Mariners reportedly offered Hamilton four years and $100MM, with two vesting options that would have brought the total value of the contract to $150MM. But Hamilton signed with the Angels for $125MM guaranteed instead.
After the Mariners moved in the fences at Safeco Field and acquired several veteran bats in the offseason, it has to be disheartening for the team and their fans that the M's are again struggling at the plate. The Mariners are near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories, carrying an overall team slash line of .233/.296/.371 heading into Friday's action.
The offensive slump can't be blamed on at least one of those newcomers. Kendrys Morales hit .253/.354/.422 with three homers though his first 96 PA, roughly on pace with the .787 OPS he posted with the Angels in 2012 though this season Morales has hit for less power and reached base more often. He's been one of the bright spots in the Seattle lineup but if the M's can't pull themselves together, Morales could be expendable come the July trade deadline.
Morales was acquired by the Mariners in December in a one-for-one swap with the Angels that sent Jason Vargas to Anaheim. It was a logical move for both teams as the Angels needed space at DH and the Mariners had an excess of starting pitching given the number of young arms in their system. Morales was a short-term investment for the M's since he is only under contract through this season, earning $5.25MM in his last year of arbitration eligibility. That's a very good price for a solid bat, and if Morales is a deadline pickup, a trade suitor would owe the switch-hitter just $1.75MM over the last two months of the season.
Here are some of the teams that could be a trade fit with the Mariners...
* Rockies. While Morales has played some first base since his return from the leg injury that cost him almost the entirety of the 2010-11 seasons, he is best suited for a DH role. An NL team might not want to risk playing Morales in the field every day, but if the surprising Rockies stay in the NL West race, they could acquire Morales and only use him against right-handed starters. Colorado has the right-handed hitting Jordan Pacheco to use against southpaws as Morales only has a career .714 OPS against lefty pitching. Todd Helton (currently on the DL) is also still in the mix at first for the Rockies but the club can't expect much from their former franchise player given his recent injury history.
* Giants. Brandon Belt's struggles have left the Giants thin at first base, but I see Morales as very much a longshot fit for their needs.
* Tigers. If Victor Martinez still hasn't returned to form by midseason, Detroit might look to improve their designated hitter spot. Scott Boras, Morales' agent, could be a factor in such a trade given his good relationship with Tigers owner Mike Ilitch.
* Rays. Tampa Bay is another offensively-challenged team that has Wil Myers waiting in the wings for a call-up to play right field and Luke Scott on a minor league rehab assignment. Morales would be an upgrade over Scott at DH and, since Morales' remaining salary would be in the $1.75MM range, he'd fit into the Rays' limited payroll.
* Orioles. Nolan Reimold has been getting the majority of the DH at-bats with Wilson Betemit out until June. The O's could be in the market for an upgrade but it's doubtful given that a healthy Betemit hits right-handers well enough to make Morales redundant.
It could be argued that the Mariners should not only keep Morales but also pursue an extension with him, given that the 29-year-old is one of the team's few productive bats. Scott Boras clients, however, generally go to free agency and you wonder if Morales would want to remain at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field over the long term. Besides, the M's could always deal Morales at the deadline and then pursue him again as a free agent in the offseason. Trading Morales in June or July would net the Mariners a decent prospect or two as they may already be looking to reload for 2014.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports Images
One year ago Sunday, Mike Trout made his 2012 debut on the same day that Bryce Harper made his Major League debut. Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports polled executives around the game and asked which player each executive would prefer to build a franchise around, if they had to choose one. While the consensus was that there was no wrong answer -- one scout told Morosi, "That's like choosing between two $1 million bills" -- 36 of the 48 participants chose Trout. Morosi goes against the majority, agreeing with one scout who notes that you can't teach Harper's intensity, historic leverage and bat speed, among other factors. Morosi also adds that Harper is more conditioned to handle pressure, having been in the national spotlight since age 16.
Regardless of your preference, Harper and Trout have given fans a lifetime's worth of debates over the past year. Here's more from around the league for your Friday reading pleasure...
- Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the last-minute Marlins pitching change in Tuesday's double-header this week came directly from owner Jeffrey Loria. The owner insisted that Jose Fernandez start the day game while Ricky Nolasco start the night game, despite the fact that the opposite was supposed to happen. The move went over poorly with both pitchers and infuriated the Marlins' players. Loria overstepped his boundaries as "no other owner in baseball would dare," Passan writes, and in doing so embarrassed and undermined rookie manager Mike Redmond.
- Loria spoke to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and flatly denied the report, stating that he was engaged in discussions regarding his business as an art dealer at the time.
- Rays minor leaguer Jose Disla was suspended 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The 17-year-old was signed in March and has yet to play a pro game (Twitter links).
- A rival GM told Rosenthal that the 2013 version of the Pirates are the best Pirates team he's seen in 20 years (Twitter link).
- The Mariners can't panic yet and replace half their roster with prospects from Triple-A, writes Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. The Mariners' front office spent an entire winter devising a plan for the season, and pulling the plug in April would be akin to surrendering. The team hasn't played close to its potential, he writes, but there is time to turn the season around yet.
ESPN's Jim Bowden, a former GM of both the Reds and Expos/Nationals, recently took a look at Frank Wren's rise to general manager of the Braves. Within his ESPN Insider piece, Bowden identifies three front office executives who, like Wren, are being groomed as successors to their current GMs. He also identifies three candidates who will likely become GMs in other organizations. Here are some highlights from the piece and other GM news...
- Bowden feels that Rockies senior VP Bill Geivett, Tigers VP/assistant GM Al Avila and Athletics assistant GM David Forst are all next in line to become the GM of their respective franchises. Geivett, in particular, is already handling the day-to-day operations, and Bowden feels it's just a matter of time before he's given the official title of general manager.
- Bowden asked present GMs around the game who the top GM candidates outside of their own organizations were. The results, in order, were Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, Cubs VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod and Marlins assistant GM Dan Jennings. Bowden notes that each is blocked for one reason or another but would have plenty of interest from other clubs seeking a new GM.
- Jack Zduriencik's time as GM of the Mariners may be running out, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Mariners once again find themselves last in the American League in runs scored -- the same place they've been for the previous four years under Zduriencik's watch. Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero have yet to establish themselves as big leaguers, and the trades of Cliff Lee and Doug Fister look poor in hindsight. Rosenthal notes that Hisashi Iwakuma is a coup for Zduriencik, and that help is close with Mike Zunino, Nick Franklin, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen at Triple-A. A breakthrough is needed soon, however, and Zduriencik conceded that he knows it.
Rick Ankiel could be nearing the end of his well-documented but still-surreal path through baseball, writes Joe Posnanski of NBCSports.com. Evoking the poet Dylan Thomas ("rage, rage against the dying of the light ... do not go gentle into that good night"), Posnanski notes that Ankiel's journey has taken one more incredible turn. In 42 plate appearances this season prior to this evening's game, Ankiel posted a remarkable 26:0 strikeout to walk ratio, but was slugging over .600 thanks to his five home runs and two doubles. While long known as a free swinger with contact issues, Ankiel appears to be bringing both those labels to heretofore unseen extremes for the struggling Astros. Elsewhere around the American League:
- It is time to wonder whether and when the Mariners will start firing people, writes Dave Cameron at U.S.S. Mariner. While Cameron is no fan of manager Eric Wedge, he feels that there is little to be gained from a mid-season firing of the team's skipper. And while the team might be tempted to can GM Jack Zduriencik, that could create major logistical difficulties with the upcoming draft and then trade deadline. Ultimately, says Cameron, Seattle will be hard pressed to avoid reaping what it sowed in a confounding offseason.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan says it was "just happenstance" that this offseason saw the club acquire a series of groundball-inducing righties (Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, and Kevin Correia), Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reports. Ryan has a background in what Berardino describes as "old-school scouting principles." Nevertheless, the GM says that he does not make any decisions without consulting his statistics guru, Jack Goin, whose official title is manager of major league administration and baseball research.
- The Angels have outrighted right-handed Elvin Ramirez to Triple-A after the pitcher cleared waivers, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (via Twitter). Ramirez was acquired from the Mets for cash about a month back. The move means that the club has cleared a spot on its 40-man roster, Gonzalez also notes.
- After being designated for assignment to make room for Aaron Laffey, pitcher Ramon Ortiz has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A by the Blue Jays, according to the club's Buffalo affiliate (on Twitter). He made one appearance for Toronto this year after spending all of 2012 in the Yankees' system.
Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has been hit by an incredible nine pitches already, which, combined with a very discerning eye at the plate, has lead to an MLB-best .523 OBP. SB Nation's Rob Neyer opines that the Reds correctly assessed that the gap between Choo's offense and Drew Stubbs' offense would outweigh the defensive downgrade. While Choo won't keep this pace up, Neyer points out that Reds leadoff men combined for a .254 OBP last season, making the addition of Choo a worthwhile move.
Choo currently ranks third on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, and a career-year in terms of OBP would certainly help keep him near the top of that list. Here's more from around the league...
- MLB.com's Lyle Spencer writes that Miguel Cabrera was nearly traded to the Angels prior to the 2007 trade that sent him to the Tigers. Cabrera himself told Spencer that he thought he was being traded to Anaheim. The Angels and Marlins discussed Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders in the deal as well as young infielders Howie Kendrick and Brandon Wood. Ultimately, Cabrera said that he thinks he wound up in Detroit because the Tigers were more willing to take on Dontrelle Willis and his $7MM salary.
- Former Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden implied via Twitter that he could be entertaining a comeback attempt. Braden, now 29 years old, made just three starts in the 2011 season and hasn't pitched since thanks to a pair of shoulder surgeries. Braden famously threw a perfect game against the Rays on May 9, 2010 with his grandmother in attendance.
- The Mariners' offensive woes present the "biggest crisis of the Jack Zduriencik era," writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. While he concedes that it's a small sample, Zduriencik made several moves to bolster the lineup this offseason but the Mariners find themselves in 29th place in nearly every offensive category. The collapse of Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero -- who were supposed to be the team's young core -- is a major setback in Zduriencik's blueprint.