The competition for the Mariners’ utility infield job is down to Shawn O’Malley and Taylor Motter for the time being now that Mike Freeman has been designated for assignment, writes MLB.com’s Greg Johns. Seattle hopes that Freeman will clear waivers and remain in the organization, but the 29-year-old does have a strong track record of hitting for average and getting on base in Triple-A, to say nothing of some defensive versatility, so that outcome isn’t a guarantee. GM Jerry Dipoto said the ultimate decision came down to which utility candidate he considered to have the best chance of passing through waivers. That proved to be Freeman, due largely to the fact that he’s the oldest of the three competitors and has the least MLB time. Johns notes that those in competition for the utility infield role will see plenty of opportunity to prove themselves this spring, as starting shortstop Jean Segura will be playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
A few more notes on some competitions for the final roster spots around the league…
- The Tigers are facing a tough decision with powerful outfielder Steven Moya and versatile infielder Dixon Machado, writes MLive.com’s Evan Woodbery. Both players are out of minor league options, but there’s likely only one open spot on the Tigers’ bench. Alex Avila is on hand to back up James McCann behind the dish, while Andrew Romine has one utility infield job locked down. One of Tyler Collins and Mikie Mahtook is likely to be on the bench each day as well, as they’re poised to form a center field platoon. Manager Brad Ausmus noted that it’s a particularly difficult situation, as it’d be tough to get either player any sort of consistent at-bats during the regular season. But, as Woodbery notes, both could have clearer paths to playing time in 2018. Ausmus specifically noted that he can’t see Moya passing through waivers, so perhaps the team has a slight inclination to keep the 25-year-old slugger. Moya slugged 25 homers in 526 plate appearances between Triple-A and the Majors last season.
- Parting with Brett Lawrie surely reflects a variety of factors for the White Sox, including his uninspiring performance, injury uncertainty, and rate of pay. But GM Rick Hahn (video via the Chicago Tribune) emphasized the importance the organization places on freeing playing opportunities for players who could have a longer future with the club. Hahn specifically mentioned Tyler Saladino, Carlos Sanchez, Leury Garcia, and Matt Davidson as players who he’d like to see have a chance at the majors. Of course, that was all known to the team when it agreed to terms with Lawrie to avoid arbitration; what wasn’t then clear, perhaps, was what would become of third baseman Todd Frazier, who remains with Chicago. Hahn notes, interestingly, that the team “can’t really control the pace or timing of these transactions,” saying that it had “envisioned various transactions” taking place that would have opened playing time both for Lawrie and the other names mentioned.
- While the White Sox have suggested that nothing is amiss with lefty Carlos Rodon, as Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago explains on Twitter, his handling this spring is raising some eyebrows. Rodon threw his first pen session today, which means he’s on track to be ready to start the year, and the team has said that it’s merely keeping some restraints on an important young pitcher who’ll be expected to throw more innings than he did last year (165). But there are also some vague, slightly ominous hints emanating from the organization, as Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports (Twitter links). Manager Rick Renteria says that the hope is Rodon will be ready to join the Opening Day roster “without any concern,” which at least obliquely suggests there’s at least some health-related concern. And pitching coach Don Cooper referenced “arm stuff” that bothered Rodon in 2016, leading Hahn to clarify it was simply a fatigue-related matter that had been dealt with by modifications to Rodon’s preparation regimen.
- The Astros are bullish on righty Charlie Morton, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports. Houston placed a fairly substantial bet (two years, $14MM) on the 33-year-old, a groundball-heavy hurler who has dealt with his fair share of injuries. That was based not just on the team’s assessment of Morton’s abilities, but also its belief that it could help him get more out of them through improvements to his mechanics and pitch selection. Morton showed well today, McTaggart notes; he worked in the mid-nineties, a fair bit higher than his typical average fastball of 91 or 92 mph.