While fans, pundits and other teams all try to parse the Mariners’ flurry of offseason moves, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto chatted with Fancred’s Jon Heyman and made a few definitive statements. Dipoto went on the record to indicate that the Mariners won’t be adding star right fielder Mitch Haniger to any trades as a means of persuading another team to take on a bad contract, nor will Seattle give any consideration to the thought of releasing Felix Hernandez this offseason, as some have speculated. Dipoto says there’s “zero” chance the Mariners would release King Felix this winter, adding that “out of respect to the career he’s had he deserves the opportunity” to right the ship in 2019. Heyman suggests that any of Ryon Healy, Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak or Mike Leake could be the next to go as the Mariners look to further reshape the organization.
Some more rumblings on both the trade and free-agent markets…
- Michael Brantley’s agents are telling interested teams that the left fielder is willing to play some first base next season, tweets Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Brantley hasn’t played the position since a brief crash course there in the minors back in ’08, and no club is looking at him as a regular at first, Rosenthal notes. That said, Brantley’s willingness to play a new position won’t make him any less appealing to interested parties. One thing that could push suitors away, however, would be his asking price. David O’Brien of The Athletic suggests that Brantley could be looking for a Carlos Santana-esque salary of $20MM over a three-year term — a lofty ask for a player with his injury history. The 31-year-old was undeniably terrific at the plate in 2018, as he typically is when healthy, but shoulder and ankle injuries wiped out most of his 2016-17 seasons. O’Brien further tweets that the Braves might be willing to go to three years for Brantley, but not at an annual value anywhere near that rate.
- Max Kepler’s name is commonly brought up when rival clubs call the Twins about potential trades, per Dan Hayes of The Athletic (subscription required). That’s been the case for more than a year now, Hayes notes, reporting that Kepler was one of the numerous pieces the Rays sought last winter when chatting Chris Archer with Minnesota. But the Twins still believe that Kepler, an excellent outfielder defender who has displayed some power but not authored a genuine breakout season just yet, is capable of taking his game to a new level. As chief baseball officer Derek Falvey explains to Hayes, it’s tough to judge Kepler’s development as one would with a traditional prospect given that he was born in Berlin, Germany and has still accrued fewer at-bats than many players who are several years younger but come from places where baseball is commonly played year-round. A strong right fielder who can play center as well, Kepler won’t turn 26 until February and still has four years of team control remaining.
- The Rangers are doing their homework on Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi, GM Jon Daniels tells T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Daniels declined to comment on the Rangers’ specific level of interest in Kikuchi but suggested that his scouts are “obviously” aware of the Seibu Lions ace, who was posted for MLB clubs earlier this week. While early rumors have suggested that Kikuchi may prefer a West Coast club, the Rangers are no strangers to pursuing high-profile NPB talent, as evidenced by their acquisition of Yu Darvish several years ago (admittedly under a different posting system). While Texas isn’t in position to contend next season, the 27-year-old Kikuchi is a logical target even for non-contending clubs, as his relative youth means that he could still be in his prime when a rebuilding club turns the corner. And, given Texas’ utter dearth of pitching, it’s only logical that they’d have interest in a youthful option with a fair bit of upside.